Crime and Justice

Waterford woman admits to drug, firearms charges linked to Northeast Kingdom murder

A mugshot of Krystal Whitcomb from an arrest in 2015. Photo courtesy Vermont State Police

Three years after a Waterford man’s body was found on the side of a rural Vermont dirt road, his girlfriend pleaded guilty to federal charges linked to his death.

Krystal Whitcomb, 30, looked on from a window as her boyfriend, Michael Pimental, 37, was fatally shot in a home they shared on Duck Pond Road in Waterford in October 2018, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Boscia said Tuesday during a federal court hearing.

“At or around 3 a.m., Krystal Whitcomb drove with John Welch to Duck Pond Road, where Krystal Whitcomb’s residence with Michael Pimental was located,” Boscia said in court. “John Welch shot Michael Pimental. Krystal Whitcomb watched through a window as Welch shot Pimental.”

Whitcomb entered her guilty pleas to drug and firearms charges during a video federal court hearing, in which she appeared from a room inside the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington, where she is in custody. Attorney Michael Straub, representing Whitcomb, sat next to her in the room at the prison.

As part of a plea deal with prosecutors, Whitcomb pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute heroin and fentanyl and to possessing a firearm in a drug trafficking crime. Whitcomb will face a mandatory 10-year prison term and up to life behind bars when she is sentenced next year.

Judge Christina Reiss walked Whitcomb through the terms of the agreement, ensuring that Whitcomb understood the rights she was giving up by entering her pleas.

“Guilty,” Whitcomb said twice when Reiss asked her how she wanted to plead to each of the two charges that were part of the plea deal. 

Whitcomb had been charged in a federal indictment naming several other co-defendants, including John Welch, formerly of Woodsville, New Hampshire, who prosecutors have identified as the alleged shooter, and Michael Hayes, of Washington, D.C.

Welch, Whitcomb and Hayes had all been charged in that indictment with using and carrying a firearm “during and in relation” to a drug-trafficking crime during which the three “caused the death of Michael Pimental by murder.”

That is a federal charge that carries the possibility of the death penalty. However, prosecutors last year notified the court they would not seek the death penalty in the case.

Prosecutors alleged that “in and around” the weekend of Oct. 12, 2018, the three planned the homicide, and on Oct. 13, 2018, Welch shot Pimental. The next day, Oct. 14, 2018, Pimental’s body was found on the side of a road in Concord, about 15 miles from his home in Waterford. He had been shot multiple times, according to authorities, and his death was ruled a homicide. 

Investigators have said Whitcomb and Pimental had been distributing heroin out of their home on Duck Pond Road in Waterford, with Hayes and Welch, both acquaintances of Whitcomb’s, also involved in selling drugs.

On Oct. 14, 2018, the day Pimental’s body was discovered in Concord, Whitcomb and Hayes were stopped in New Hampshire in a Cadillac registered to Pimental, according to court filings. Police searching the vehicle found drugs and guns, and investigators found Pimental’s blood in the car’s trunk.

A prosecutor said at a court hearing last year in the case that Whitcomb told investigators Pimental had been physically abusive to her.

Reiss read a letter during Tuesday’s hearing from Caledonia County State’s Attorney Jessica Zaleski. In that letter, Zaleski stated that, as a result of the plea agreement in the federal case, she would not bring any state criminal charges against Whitcomb in connection with Pimental’s death.

Hayes is set for a change-of-plea hearing Friday. Terms of that plea agreement were not available.
Welch has pleaded not guilty to federal charges in connection with Pimental’s death and is in custody, awaiting trial.

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Alan J. Keays

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