By Linda Cicoira
Over several months in 2020, a Cheriton drug dealer caused the death of a young Northampton woman with heroin and fentanyl, slammed a puppy onto a concrete path injuring it so severely it had to be euthanized, and continued to sell illegal drugs.
Thirty-one-year-old Corey Nequan Reid, of Cheriton Crossroad, told Northampton Circuit Court Monday that the death of his friend made him a changed and remorseful man who plans to attend anger management and substance abuse programs. He wants to change his identity and already cut off his dreadlocks and was contemplating amends to the community. “It was a severe tragedy … I think of it often … I can’t change what happened,” the defendant said.
Judge W. Revell Lewis III had other ideas. “I’m not buying it, sir,” he told Reid. “You had an opportunity over more than five years” to change your life. Eighteen-year-old Melanie Renee Baum dying “wasn’t enough to turn it around. … I think you need to go away for a while,” the judge said before sentencing the defendant to 18 years and eight months of active time in prison.
Reid and Baum were described by both the defense and the prosecution as drug addicts. Reid was initially charged with the second-degree murder of Baum, possession with intent to distribute Schedule I or II drugs, conspiracy to distribute the drugs, and soliciting Baum to distribute the drugs.
A plea agreement with Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jack Thornton allowed Reid to plead guilty to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter and to possession with intent to distribute illegal drugs, a second offense for the defendant. Reid was convicted in Accomack, in 2017, for selling cocaine. His criminal career dated back to 2015, when he was accused of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, Lewis said.
Thornton quoted a famous philosopher when speaking about the animal cruelty conviction. “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals,” the prosecutor said.
Baum’s death was not thought to be deliberate. But “there is no doubt she would still be here if he hadn’t left drugs with her,” Thornton said at the trial. The prosecutor said Baum was selling drugs for Reid while he was in North Carolina working at his regular job as a dump truck operator. Evidence showed buyers sent Baum texts saying Reid sent them and that she asked Reid and her cousin how much to charge. Cocaine, heroin, meth, and fentanyl were found at the couple’s home along with packaging and compression materials.
Reid said Monday that Baum did not live at his house. The two were “really good friends,” Reid contended. He said he decided to plead guilty rather than ask a jury to find him innocent in an effort to accept responsibility for what happened.
Dr. James Fedderman, President of the Virginia Education Association, was a character witness for Reid. “I’ve been able to see that he owns things instead of finding excuses,” Fedderman said of the change in Reid since he has been incarcerated.
A defense lawyer said injury to the puppy was an accident in which Reid dropped the pet while going down the steps and then stepped on it.