Vanessa Sherrod, 39, was born in Guam and has lived for most of her life in Salem, many of those years alongside her husband and three kids. Her youngest daughter got cancer when she was just 4 years old, and after a couple of surgeries of her own, Vanessa quickly developed an addiction to Oxycodone.
“I didn't have them, I felt like I would die,” Sherrod said. “That was exactly what it would feel like. So when it came to stealing or making decisions to commit crimes, it was a given. I couldn't die.”
During the spring of 2015, she was writing up rental contracts as a landlord in Marion County, but upon receiving deposits, she would disappear. There would be no home for those renters to move into, and Vanessa would keep the money for herself. According to court documents, she did this to several different prospective renters.
A few months later, she began stealing merchandise from Lowe’s and returning it for cash.
“When it came to stealing or making decisions to commit crimes, it was a given. Every day to keep going, my role in my life was to meet my addiction," she said. "Everything else fell through.”
In an interview with KGW, Vanessa was brutally honest about the addiction’s toll on her behavior as a mother.
“I was numb to my whole situation during my daughter’s treatment. It’s no excuse for where my life fell into," she said. "I couldn’t make a logical decision because I was under the influence.”
Vanessa was convicted in 2016 on multiple theft counts and is serving a 62-month sentence at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.
She often thinks about what life after prison will entail, but the guilt of paying back her victims a court-ordered restitution looms heavy.
“I wish more than anything I could have been paying them back this whole time instead of sitting here and just waiting for that chance to make it right,” she said. “They dealt with my demise … [the drugs] I was taking daily could have killed me any day.”
Myriah Williams, 27, was sentenced to 70 months in prison on arson and assault charges. She was out with friends at a Portland bar in 2015 when they met another group of people and went to their apartment for a house party.
An argument quickly led to a physical fight, and Myriah and her friends left. Police say Myriah and her friends returned to that same apartment in the early morning hours and set fire to it. Six people, including two kids, were asleep inside. Two people were injured with second- and third-degree burns.
Myriah grew up in Alaska and spent time in Oregon and Washington. She said after the fire, she briefly fled to Snohomish, Washington while her mother worried for her well-being.
“I felt really guilty for not seeing her before I turned myself in,” Myriah said. “I knew that was something I needed to do. I didn’t want to face her because I had already put her through so much.”
Myriah was in her mid-20s when she entered Coffee Creek, and it has significantly altered her worldview.
“Seventy months is a long time for someone my age. That’s a big chunk of my life,” she said. “Considering I wasn’t going around committing crimes prior to this, it was a life-changing incident for me.”
Amy Lorenzo, a mother of three, is serving a 66-month sentence on forgery charges. She was convicted of cashing fraudulent payroll checks and says, much like Vanessa, her drug addiction led to her crimes.
She was on the verge of divorce with her husband, who at the time started using meth. Eventually his addiction spread to Amy, who admitted all she wanted to do was to get high.
“I did anything and everything to support that,” Amy said. “Whether it was stealing a car or cashing a check, I did whatever I could to feed my addiction.”
Now a mother of two teenagers and one toddler, Amy desperately just wants to be a mom again.
“I used to think that I had to take them to Disneyland to show them I love them,” Amy said. “Now I just want to hold them and watch a movie with them. That would be the best day.”