The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced that a federal grand jury returned a 19-Count Fourth Superseding Indictment yesterday charging Krystal Whitcomb, 28, formerly of Waterford, VT, Michael Hayes a.k.a. Moe, 38, formerly of Washington, DC, and John Welch, 34, formerly of Woodsville, NH, with using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, during which Whitcomb, Hayes and Welch caused the death of Michael Pimental by murder. Whitcomb, Hayes and Welch were also charged with discharging a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime and conspiracy to use and carry a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. Two new defendants were added to the indictment: Michael Ashford, 31, of Ryegate, VT, who is charged in a cocaine conspiracy with Hayes and Welch; and a sealed defendant who is charged as an accessory after the fact along with Hayes. The defendants will be arraigned on the indictment before U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy at a date to be scheduled in the future.
According to court documents and proceedings, on October 14, 2018, the body of Michael Pimental was found along the side of the road in Concord, VT. Pimental had been shot and his death has been ruled a homicide. Pimental was the boyfriend of Krystal Whitcomb and investigation revealed that Whitcomb and Pimental had been distributing heroin out of their residence in Waterford, VT. Michael Hayes, Michael Ashford and John Welch, all acquaintances of Whitcomb’s, were also involved in the sale of drugs. In and around the weekend of October 12, 2018, Whitcomb, Hayes and Welch planned the homicide of Pimental and on October 13, 2018, John Welch shot Pimental in connection with a drug trafficking crime. On October 14, 2018, Whitcomb and Hayes were stopped in New Hampshire in a Cadillac registered to Pimental. A search of the vehicle recovered firearms, and a large quantity of drugs and U.S. currency. Pimental’s blood was also found in the trunk of the car.
In February 2019, John Welch offered to sell a firearm to a person in NH. Shortly thereafter, law enforcement found Welch along the side of the road in Bath, NH, attempting to dig in the ground with a shovel. Because it was February and the ground was frozen, law enforcement was not able to search the area where Welch had been digging. However, in June 2019, law enforcement returned to the same location where Welch had been digging and ultimately found a backpack containing a firearm believed to be the murder weapon.
The death resulting charge, 18 U.S.C. § 924(j), is punishable either by death or up to life imprisonment. The government has notified the court and the parties that the government will not seek the death penalty against the defendants. On the death resulting charge, Whitcomb, Hayes and Welch therefore each face a possible life sentence and up to a $250,000 fine.
Whitcomb, Hayes and Welch also face a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, a maximum of life, and up to a $250,000 fine on the charge of discharging a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime. On the cocaine conspiracy charge, Ashford faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years, a maximum sentence of 40 years, and up to a $5,000,000 fine. The accessory after the fact charge carries a maximum of 15 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. The actual sentences would be determined by the Court with guidance from the advisory Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The United States Attorney emphasizes that the charges in the indictment are merely accusations, and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty.
This case was investigated by the Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit, the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, the New Hampshire State Police, the Bath New Hampshire Police Department and the Grafton County Sheriff’s Department.
“Today’s indictment is the result of a longstanding and successful collaboration between state and federal law enforcement,” said Maj. Dan Trudeau, commander of the Vermont State Police Criminal Division. “The Vermont State Police would like to thank all the investigators for their tireless work on this case.” U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan stated: “The grand jury indictment is the product of a relentless focus by law enforcement on combatting violent crime and the strong partnerships amongst Vermont law enforcement at all levels.”
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.
The United States is represented in this matter by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Wendy L. Fuller and John J. Boscia. Krystal Whitcomb is represented by Michael Straub, Esq. Michael Hayes a.k.a. Moe is represented by Tom Sherrer, Esq. John Welch is represented by Robert S. Behrens, Esq. Michael Ashford is represented by Gordon Gebauer, Esq.
This case is part of Project Guardian, the Department of Justice’s signature initiative to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws. Initiated by the Attorney General in the fall of 2019, Project Guardian enhances coordination of federal, state, local, and tribal authorities in investigating and prosecuting firearm use and possession crimes; prioritizes prosecuting persons who make false statements when attempting to obtain firearms; improves information-sharing by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives concerning persons who attempt to obtain firearms illegally; coordinates responses to persons prevented from obtaining firearms for mental health reasons; and ensures the use of modern intelligence tools and technology to focus on the criminals posing the greatest threat to our communities.
For more information, please see https://www.justice.gov/projectguardian.