Commonwealth v. Ronald Layne Meredith
Pulaski County Circuit Court
Case Numbers CR04-875 through CR04-877
and CR04-1106 through CR04-1113
Case tried to a jury by K. Mike Fleenor, Jr.
Solicitation to Commit Murder, Conspiracy, Attempted Escape, Possession of a Silencer; Serving 43 years
In the early morning hours of July 22, 2004, a 911 call came into the Sheriff’’s Office from a man that said he was outside the WalMart in Fairlawn, Virginia and had been ordered to purchase bullets so that Ronald Meredith could kill several individuals that owed him money for drugs. Deputies immediately went to the scene and found the caller in the store. He directed them to a van parked in the lot. As they approached the van, Ronald Meredith opened the door and he was taken into custody pending a search of the vehicle. Deputies found a firearm and drugs in the vehicle. Based on statements made by the caller, a search warrant was obtained for Meredith’s residence. During the search, authorities found more drugs, stolen inspection stickers, a home-made silencer and a 5 pound bag of sugar with a funnel (that had been used to put sugar in his neighbor’s vehicle).
The caller told investigators that Meredith was a drug dealer that was owed money by individuals who lived in Parrott, Virginia. After numerous requests and threats to be paid for his drugs, Meredith had decided to kill them. Meredith recruited the caller to assist by purchasing the bullets at the local Wal-Mart and to go with him during the killing. While in the store to purchase the bullets, the caller got “cold feet” and called authorities. Meredith was charged with solicitation to commit murder, possession of a silencer, brandishing a firearm, and two counts of destruction of property.
While awaiting trial on these charges, an informant at the jail advised Sheriff’s investigators that there was an individual that wanted to hire someone to break him out of jail. It was determined that the inmate was Meredith. The informant agreed to assist law enforcement in devising a plan. The informant told Meredith that he had a friend who could do the job and to call a particular telephone number. Meredith arranged for his wife to call the number to make the arrangements. Little did she know that she was speaking to a Federal ATF Special Agent. The Agent told her that for $5,000 he would help Meredith escape while he was being brought from the jail to court. Meredith’s wife simply needed to bring him the money and meet him at another location on the day of the escape. The Agent met with Meredith’s wife and collected a down payment. On the day of the planned “escape” Meredith was deliberately left at the jail and his wife was arrested at the meeting spot. A search of his wife’s vehicle produced a duffel bag with cash, a firearm, food, and clothing including a shirt with the phrase “Get out of jail free” on the front. Meredith was indicted for attempted escape and conspiracy to commit escape.
If the facts of this case are not unusual enough, the trial was even more bizarre. Meredith’s original attorney sought to have a mental evaluation performed. Meredith was originally found not competent to stand trial, but after a period of time at Central State Mental Health Hospital in Petersburg, he was restored to competency. Thereafter Meredith quarreled with his attorneys. After two attorneys withdrew, finally Meredith insisted on representing himself at the jury trial. Despite warnings not to do so, the Trial Judge eventually granted Meredith’s request, but appointed a “stand-by” counsel as is required under the law.
Finally on November 8, 2007 a four day jury trial began in Pulaski County Circuit Court. Numerous instances of inappropriate conduct exhibited by Meredith, including an outburst claiming Commonwealth’s Attorney Fleenor was having an affair with his wife and that Fleenor was “an agent of the horned winged one.” Although prosecuting a case against a disruptive defendant who represents himself is a difficult challenge, in the end Meredith was found guilty by the jury and sentenced to 43 years.