Denise Michelle Shaver, 39, of Keswick pleaded guilty Tuesday to the July 7, 2014, abduction of her 15-year-old son from his foster home in Level Run.
Shaver, who voluntarily gave up her son for adoption in 2013, was one of three people charged in the kidnapping.
Her daughter, Kayla Michelle Hoy, 21, of Amherst, and boyfriend, Kevin Scott Parrish, 24, of Keswick, both pleaded no contest to felony abduction charges Feb. 3 in Pittsylvania County Circuit Court.
The abduction charge stemmed from an Amber Alert issued by the Pittsylvania County Sheriff’s Office after Dustin Wade Shaver went missing during the early morning hours of July 7 from a home in Hurt, where he had spent the night with an approved guardian.
The teenager was found unharmed about a week after he disappeared at Parrish’s aunt’s home in Benson, N.C.
On Tuesday, Shaver’s attorney, Michael Nicholas, waived a pre-sentence report and asked that his client be sentenced.
“Ms. Shaver immediately upon her arrest accepted responsibility for this crime. She admitted right away that she knew she didn’t have rights to him,” said Nicholas.
“Dustin called her and said he was in trouble. Her motivation was love for her child, not malice or anything else. It was a mother’s love for her son that drove her to do this,” he said.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Molly Burke pointed out that Shaver kept Dustin hidden for several days before police caught up with them.
In her allocution prior to sentencing, Shaver, who has no prior felony record, said, “Your honor, my son needed me. I apologize. What I did was wrong.”
Judge Stacey W. Moreau fired back at Shaver, saying, “You had no rights at all to him; you gave him up. He gets in trouble going into an abandoned home and you undermined the foster parents. You were the catalyst to remove him out of a safe environment. That’s not acting out of love; that’s selfishness.
“You tried to justify it by saying, I’m his mother. Instead, you amplified all of the problems he had. You didn’t cooperate until you were caught hiding him,” the judge said.
“In September 2013, you authorized placement for adoption, then at a pivotal point, you come and take him away. If you really cared about him, you would have called social services, not plotted to abduct him,” said Moreau.
The judge then sentenced Shaver to five years in prison, all suspended except for six months.
She gave the defendant, who has been in jail since the incident, credit for time served and placed her on 24 months probation and good behavior for eight years.
The judge also ordered Shaver to have “absolutely no contact, direct or indirect, with Dustin Shaver.”
According to the evidence, Dustin Shaver had been causing trouble with the neighbors near his foster parents’ home and had learned two weeks prior to his disappearance that he was most likely going to be moved to a group home.
On the morning of July 7, he called his biological mother and told her to pick him up at Wayside Park in Hurt.
He had just returned from vacation with his foster family and had spent the night at their daughter and son-in-law’s home in Hurt.
Shaver, Hoy, and Parrish picked him up between 6 and 7 a.m. and then drove him to the foster parents’ home to get his dog before taking off to North Carolina where Parrish’s parents lived.
The foster family did not get worried until around 2 p.m. that afternoon, because the teenager was known for taking walks in the woods.
It was after that that Deputy Devin Taylor of the Pittsylvania County sheriff’s office issued an amber alert.
Authorities eventually tracked down the juvenile by checking an unidentified phone number on the foster family’s cell phone. The boy had called Kevin Parrish’s phone to give directions to his mother.