ASHEVILLE – A Marion woman convicted of driving while impaired seven times was convicted again Thursday after being found guilty of aggravated driving while impaired stemming from a 2016 incident, Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams said Friday.
Superior Court Judge Mark Powell sentenced Barbara Anderson, 62, to serve an active prison term of 36 months minimum and 36 maximum in the North Carolina Division of Adult Corrections Thursday. She was also ordered to pay costs of court of $1,950.
She had been in custody for 423 days before her trial but received no pretrial credit against her sentence, Williams said.
The incident took place Feb. 9, 2016. At the time, North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Kelly Rhodes, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol's western office, said the incident could have ended tragically for the arresting trooper.
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A trooper was on the side of Interstate 40, dealing with a car that needed to be towed, when Anderson's vehicle approached.
"She dropped off the shoulder and hit the rumble strips, and barely avoided him," Rhodes said.
The trooper followed her and observed erratic driving and initiated a stop of the vehicle.
A blood sample taken from Anderson showed a presence of oxycodone, or commonly referred to under trade-name Percocet.
"She was very cooperative and made a statement that she had just lost her mother, and her husband is in bad health and she is having to take care of him," Rhodes. "She also complained about a leg problem and said that's why she's taking pain medication."
Rhodes said the scenario obviously was frightening for the trooper, but it's also terrifying for the general traveling public.
"This is becoming more and more commonplace," Rhodes said. "It's not that people who are impaired are doing heroin and marijuana and other illegal drugs; it's the abuse of prescription medications."
A blood sample taken from Anderson and analyzed by the State Bureau of Investigation showed the presence of oxycodone.
At the time of her 2016 arrest, she had five pending DWI cases against her — four in McDowell County and one in Burke County, according to court documents.
The oldest, in McDowell, occurred Oct. 10, 2014, with the most recent, also in McDowell, on Oct. 31, 2015.
She also was charged in 2015 with DWIs on Nov. 25 in McDowell County and June 20 in Burke County.
“Ms. Anderson was arrested and immediately locked up on Feb. 9, 2016," Williams said. "Due to the extreme threat her repeat impaired driving poses the state is pleased that the court imposed the maximum sentenced authorized under law. Drivers who will not get the message must be dealt with harshly to ensure our mutual safety on public roads."
Before Thursday's conviction, Anderson had been convicted of seven driving while impaired charges, Williams said.