VALPARAISO | A graduate of the Porter County drug treatment court, who pleaded guilty in April to dealing heroin, was given the maximum 12-year sentence Monday and a reprimand by the judge.
"You basically wasted this community's resources," Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford said to 28-year-old Stephanie Burgess.
Less than a year after completing the 20-month intensive program, Burgess was arrested after providing a confidential informant with six packets of heroin. When the informant asked for collateral before providing her with $200 as part of the deal, the Valparaiso woman reportedly turned over a ring she said her mother had given her upon completing drug court.
Burgess reportedly told police she had been traveling two or three times a day to Chicago to bring heroin back to the area because that is what she does, to which Bradford responded Monday after handing down the maximum sentence that that is what he does.
Burgess, who will spend eight years on probation after she is released from prison, apologized before sentencing and said she has had a lot of time to think about the impact of her actions upon the community. She said she plans to use her time behind bars to improve herself.
Psychologist Stan Lelek testified on behalf of the defense, saying relapses are common among heroin users not following a structured program.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matt Frost said the real issue in this case is that Burgess was funding her relapses by selling heroin to others.
"It is a very dangerous act that can feed the loss of life in this community," he said.
Defense attorney Katrina Spence requested a six-year sentence, arguing that psychological testing shows Burgess is improving.
She said a maximum sentence will do nothing to benefit Burgess.
Barb Spangelo took the witness stand and accused Burgess of providing her son with the heroin and needles that led to his death on the same day she was arrested on this latest charge, April 20, 2012.
The defense challenged the claim, but Bradford said the accusation illustrates the county's heroin problem.
"It is killing our young people," Bradford said.