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Press Release

Catawba Woman Pleads Guilty to Federal Firearm and Drug Charges Following Fatal Fentanyl Overdose

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia

ROANOKE, Va. – A Catawba, Virginia woman, who sold a fatal dose of fentanyl in October 2021, pleaded guilty last week to a series of federal charges.

Ashley Blankenship, 38, pleaded guilty last week to one count of possession with the intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, one count of possession with the intent to distribute fentanyl, and one count of possession of one or more firearms in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.

“While we have seen some progress in the fight against drug overdose deaths, fentanyl and other opioid poisoning-related injuries continue to be an issue in the Western District of Virginia,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “There are multiple tools to fight these issues, and my Office will continue utilizing all of them, including prosecution, support for recovery programs, community outreach, and other results-oriented solutions to these difficult community problems.”

“Combating violent crime, illegal firearm possession and narcotics distribution within our communities is challenging, but we are prepared to face each of them head on,” ATF Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Weddel said. “ATF will continue leveraging our expertise as we coordinate and combine efforts with our local, state and federal partners to ensure that more illegal firearms and deadly narcotics are removed from our streets.”

According to court documents, in the early morning hours of October 19, 2021, a regular user of opioids was found unresponsive by law enforcement. Following the user’s death from a fentanyl overdose, further investigation by law enforcement revealed Blankenship to be the deceased user’s source of supply.

Officers made a series of controlled drug purchases from Blankenship in October and November of 2021, culminating in the execution of a search warrant at Blankenship’s residence. During that search, authorities recovered a large quantity of methamphetamine and fentanyl, as well as six firearms, including two rifles. A subsequent search of her home was conducted at the time of her arrest, and additional narcotics and firearms were found.

Blankenship faces a potential sentence of fifteen to seventeen years in prison pursuant to a written plea agreement with the United States. A United States District Court Judge will determine the final sentence after consideration of the federal sentencing guidelines and the sentencing factors set forth by Congress.   

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigated the case, with assistance from the Roanoke Valley Regional Drug Unit, the Roanoke County Police Department, the Craig County Sheriff’s Office, and the Virginia State Police.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin B. Johnson is prosecuting the case.

Updated March 29, 2023

Firearms Offenses