This Virginia Beach resident ran a dog fighting ring, then trafficked drugs that killed a woman

Michelle Best (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Western Tidewater Regional Jail)
Michelle Best (Southside Daily/Courtesy of Western Tidewater Regional Jail)

VIRGINIA BEACH — A local woman convicted of dog fighting and trafficked drugs from her beach-front home learned her fate Thursday.

Michelle Renee Best, 44, was sentenced in a federal courtroom in Norfolk to 30 years in prison for her role in a heroin and fentanyl distribution conspiracy that resulted in an overdose death, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

“The callousness of Michelle Best is hard to overstate considering her knowledge of the death she helped cause and her desire to continue ‘business as usual,’” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “As a high-level regional supplier, she was attributed with enough fentanyl to supply 20,000 potentially lethal doses. The sentence in this case should serve as a reminder of what can happen to those who make it their business to exploit and profit by spreading poison in our communities. We will remain relentless in our efforts to hold drug dealers accountable.”

Court records indicated Best, also known as Michelle Smith, dealt cocaine, heroin and the synthetic-opioid fentanyl from her home in the Croatan neighborhood from 2016 until her March 2018 arrest.

“Best was dealing death from the comforts of her beach-front neighborhood,” Terwilliger said. “Heroin and fentanyl do not discriminate across economic boundaries, and nor do we. We will remain vigilant in our pursuit of drug dealers who pump poison into our communities, no matter who they are or where they are.”

In December 2017, co-conspirator Christopher Bardall sold fentanyl to a woman who used it and subsequently went into a 17-hour coma and died. Virginia Beach Police arrested Bardall.

Local police and DEA investigators later learned Bardall got his supply of fentanyl from co-conspirator Darin Milligan, who in turn got his fentanyl from his regional supplier, Best.

Best knew the drugs she was distributing were strong and had resulted in multiple overdoses, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

When she learned of the overdose death, she told Milligan to keep the information to himself and that it would be “business as usual.”

According to court documents, police raided her home in March 2018 and found drugs, a ledger detailing past purchases and about $42,000 in cash. Best was charged in 2005 but never convicted in connection with the death of her husband, 27-year-old Alexander M. Smith. He disappeared in 2000.

Bardall and Milligan pleaded guilty for their roles in the conspiracy.

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John Mangalonzo (john@localvoicemedia.com) is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.