Sentencing continued for musical director convicted of inappropriate behavior with former students: lawyer says client was “popular teacher”

Sentencing for a former Crystal Lake high school musical director found guilty of making unwanted advances on two former female students and providing alcohol to minors, who also were formerly his students, was continued Friday at his attorney’s request.

Justin Hubly, 36, was found guilty last month at the conclusion of a a bench trial before McHenry County judge Robert Wilbrandt. He was convicted of misdemeanor battery involving two separate females who had previously been his students at Crystal Lake Central High School. The judge also found Hubly guilty of providing alcohol to the same females and others at parties in Hubly’s then Crystal Lake home.

On Friday with a courtroom packed with his accusers as well as several ex-students there to support him, his attorney Henry Sugden asked for continuance to allow time for a pre-sentencing investigation, a rare request in a misdemeanor case. Sugden also asked the judge to read 23 support letters that Hubly has received in recent weeks. Sugden said the letters have been coming in from “all over the country” from Hubly’s ex students and former colleagues.

At the time of the offenses for which he was found guilty the individuals were no longer his students, Sugden has argued repeatedly. He said because they were no longer his students school officials, who learned of the encounters and called police, should never have been involved.

Sugden also said that it was the students who initiated contact with Hubly, “a popular teacher,” and often brought their own alcohol to his home.

During the trial the two women at the center of the battery charges each testified that they had graduated high school in 2014. On separate occasions in 2016 while home on breaks from college they each had gone to his home. Each female said Hubly gave them tequila and other alcoholic drinks and made unwanted advances toward them.

Outside the courtroom on Friday parents of the accusers, who once loved and supported Hubly, said they were “furious” that Hubly was allowed an extension on his sentencing.

Wilbrandt wrote that “…crossed the sometimes blurry line between being a friendly mentor and becoming and active participant in his es-students socially questionably activities.”

Prosecutors have said he faces a sentence from probation up to one year in jail.
Sentencing has been rescheduled for 1:30 July 6.

UPDATE: Judge allows day passes for mentally-ill man who set woman on fire

Leslie Blankenship thought her mother’s murderer would be put away in the state’s custody until 2099 only to find she would bare through numerous fitness hearings quietly looking on as he attempts to get more privileges and freedoms.

On Thursday Blankenship’s worst fear came true as Hucksteadt’s request to go out into the community on reintegration day trips was granted.

In 2004 Lawrence Hucksteadt doused 69-year-old Ellen Polivka with gasoline and set her on fire as she sat at her receptionist desk at the Centegra Behavioral Health center in Woodstock. She died weeks later.

In 2010, Hucksteadt was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services and confined at the Elgin Mental Health Center.

Last year Hucksteadt was in court asking that he be allowed to go out into the community on these supervised group reintegration trips. The excursions that last about four hours and occur three times a year typically include eight patients and three therapy aides. The group takes a bus from the facility and visits Elgin’s Gail Borden library, the recreation center and they have lunch in a local restaurant.

The purpose of these “highly structured” day trips is to reintroduce the patients, without cuffs or waist chains, to living among the community in order to, at some point, place them in housing outside the facility, explained Dr. Richard Malis at a hearing last month. Malis treats Hucksteadt at the facility.

He currently is clinically and behaviorally stable, allowed unsupervised passes between buildings on the property, and has had no violations, Malis said.

Last year, McHenry County judge Michael Feetterer ruled that he would only grant the off-site request if Hucksteadt were escorted by two security guards.

But authorities initially said due to staffing and the concern that uniformed guards would alter the nature of the trips, Hucksteadt has not been allowed on the day trips.

Malis said the presence of a uniformed security guard on those tips would be “detrimental” to the other patients and “counterproductive.”

Assistant Public Defender Kim Messer described Hucksteadt as a “leader” within the facility and argued that he has been compliant with all his treatments, has had no altercations, takes his medications and attends mental illness and AA meetings. He also successfully completed an off-site substance abuse program last year while escorted by a security guard without incident.

Messer said it is “unnecessary” to require security guards.

Hucksteadt has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression, has experienced psychosis, visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions, Malis has testified.

However, Malis and the facility’s chief of security William Epperson each testified that Hucksteadt is compliant with his treatment, has not had any violent outbursts in recent years and is not a threat to the community.

Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs cautioned Judge James Cowlin, now is hearing the case, to be careful in his ruling noting the horrific crime Hucksteadt committed. “This is your name going on this …,” Combs told Cowlin.

Combs said asking for un-uniformed security guards is “not unreasonable” to protect the community.

Cowlin asked Epperson if it would be possible to provide one or two plain clothed security guards to which Epperson said “I could make it work.”

In his written ruling issued Thursday, Cowlin said he would allow the off-site day passes as long as there was at least one plain clothed security guard with him. Cowlin wrote that he believed Hucksteadt has made progress. He said these outings are not seen as rewards but as part his “therapeutic plan” to reincorporate him into the community.

Upon learning of Cowlin’s ruling Thursday, Blankenship said she is “very disappointed… our hearts are broken.”

“This is pretty sad to hear,” she said. “They are using the community as a guinea pig. Hopefully he doesn’t  act out and hurt anybody, (that) no child or anybody sees what he is capable of. … It is difficult to digest. It’s like a free pass if you are insane you get a free pass to commit murder. This is the beginning of him being allowed to reintegrate. I hope they know what they are doing because he is very dangerous.”

Mentally ill man who set woman on fire in 2004 asking judge to allow him day trips

Leslie Blankenship thought her mother’s murderer would be put away in the state’s custody until 2099 only to find herself agonizing through numerous fitness hearings quietly looking on as he attempts to get more privileges and freedoms.

In 2004, Lawrence Hucksteadt doused 69-year-old Ellen Polivka with gasoline and set her on fire as she sat at her receptionist desk at the Centegra Behavioral Health center in Woodstock. She died weeks later.

Six years later, Hucksteadt was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services. He has since been confined to the Elgin Mental Health Center.

Blankenship said over the years she has sat through more than a dozen hearings as her mother’s killer attempts to get more freedoms, all part of th process to eventually re-acclimate back into society.

Last year Hucksteadt was in court asking that he be allowed to go out into the community on supervised group “reintegration trips.” The excursions that last about four hours and occur three times a year typically include eight patients and three therapy aides. The group takes a bus from the facility and visits Elgin’s Gail Borden library, the recreation center and they have lunch in a local restaurant.

The purpose of these “highly structured” day trips is to reintroduce the patients, without cuffs or waist chains, to living among the community in order to, at some point, place them in housing outside the facility, explained Dr. Richard Malis who treats Hucksteadt at the facility.

He currently is clinically and behaviorally stable, allowed unsupervised passes between buildings on the property, and has had no violations, Malis said.

Last year, McHenry County judge Michael Feetterer ruled that he would only grant the off-site request if Hucksteadt were escorted by two security guards.

But at a hearing held in McHenry County courthouse last month, authorities said due to staffing and the concern that uniformed guards would alter the nature of the trips, Hucksteadt has not been allowed on the day trips.

Malis said the presence of a uniformed security guard on those tips would be “detrimental” to the other patients and “counterproductive” to the purpose of the outings.

Assistant Public Defender Kim Messer described Hucksteadt as a “leader” within the facility and argued that he has been compliant with all his treatments, has had no altercations, properly takes his medications and attends mental illness and AA meetings. He also successfully completed an off-site substance abuse program last year at the Renz Addiction Center while escorted by a security guard without incident.

Messer said it is “unnecessary” to require security guards. She said no other patient has required such an escort.

Hucksteadt has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression, has experienced psychosis, visual and auditory hallucinations and delusions, Malis has testified.

However, Malis and the facility’s chief of security William Epperson each testified that Hucksteadt is compliant with his treatment, has not had any violent outbursts in recent years and is not a threat to the community.

At the hearing, Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs cautioned Judge James Cowlin, (currently hearing the case since Feetterer has been assigned to another courtroom)to be careful in his ruling noting the horrific crime Hucksteadt committed. “This is your name going on this …,” Combs told Cowlin.

Combs said asking for un-uniformed security guards is “not unreasonable” to protect the community.

Cowlin asked Epperson if it would be possible to provide one or two plain clothed security guards to which Epperson said “I could make it work.”

But this did little to ease Blankenship’s anguish. She said she is “drained” by the never-ending court hearings. She believed that once he was committed she would not have to ever worry about him being among the public.

Outside the courtroom Blankenship wept as she said she feared him being near small children or families. She also fears for her own safety if he ever is released.

“It’s not right,” she said adding that he is mentally ill and that it is not a curable disease. “This is just the first step to integrating him into society. He is very unstable. He’s a murderer.”

Cowlin could rule March 22.

At murder trial defendant claiming insanity says he heard voices and “smoked pot with God”

A 29-year-old man was hearing voices that someone was going to kill him the day he strangled and stabbed his 53-year-old roommate in their Woodstock apartment, according to recent testimony in a McHenry County courtroom.

Expert witnesses testified in the beginning of a bench trial for Branden Napolitan accused of killing Daryl K. Fox Oct. 23, 2015.

Napolitan’s lawyers argued that he is not guilty by reason of insanity while prosecutors counter he is guilty but mentally insane, meaning he knew the criminality of his actions.

Defense attorneys called to the stand Robert Meyers, a clinical psychologist, who said Napolitan was having a “psychotic break” at the time of the murder, hearing voices and experiencing hallucinations.

“He knew killing … was wrong but in his mind he was acting in self defense,” Meyers said.

Meyers said Napolitan called 911 and told responders he is schizophrenic, was hearing voices and he was scared. Napolitan, who admitted to some cocaine use, was taken to a local hospital where he was evaluated, but released. He then walked home and killed Daryl K. Fox, attorneys said.

After killing him, Napolitan stole Fox’s wallet, cellphone, charger and his car and fled to Madison Wis. where he was later apprehended.

Meyers said Napolitan, who was “quite psychotic and confused” at the time of the murder, is a paranoid schizophrenic. He said there is “no way he’s faking” his illness.

He testified Napolitan has been mentally ill since about 18 years old. He has been in inpatient care multiple times since 2007. Napolitan told Meyers he hears threatening voices, and others that guide him such as Adam.

He also said Satan talks to him and is “dragging him to his destiny to be in hell.”

Napolitan also reported having hallucinations of smoking pot with God and seeing God and other shadows in the clouds.

When arrested Napolitan was agitated and showing “dramatic mood swings” and making “bizarre comments,” the doctor said.

Terrance Lichtenwald, psychologist for the prosecution, disputes Meyers’ assessment. He didn’t believe Napolitan was hearing voices or suffering a psychotic break. He believes he is a paranoid schizophrenic, but said mental illness does not make one a killer.

“Spontaneous, random assaults are uncommon,” Lichtenwald said. “He did appreciate the criminality of his actions.”

The doctor said Napolitan took substantial steps to cover up the murder including closing the blinds in the apartment to conceal the body before he fled. He also continued to answer Fox’s phone as if everything was OK, saying a Fox could not come to the phone.

Regarding his many hospital stays the doctor said Napolitan had a pattern of admitting himself when he was broke and homeless.

The bench trial will continue March 9.

Man withdraws petition to be formally declared innocent by his prosecutors in infamous 2002 Johnsburg murder of teen — still seeks millions

A former Fox Lake man once imprisoned for his suspected role in the murder of a Johnsburg teen more than 15 years ago has ended his fight with the state to be officially declared innocent.

Mario Casciaro, 34, who now lives in Chicago, spent 22 months in prison – part of a 26-year sentence – handed down in 2013 after being convicted in the murder of 17-year-old Brian Carrick.

The sordid tale rocked the small McHenry County town near the Wisconsin border as well as the Johnsburg grocery store where the two worked at the time.

Authorities have long believed that an altercation inside a produce cooler involving another man, Shane Lamb, led to the presumed murder on Dec. 20, 2002. Carrick’s body has never been found but his blood was found in and around the cooler.

More than a decade, one perjury trial and two murder trials would go by before Casciaro was found guilty of the rarely used charge of first-degree murder by intimidation.

Prosecutors said Casciaro, the suspected ring leader in a local drug business operating out of the grocery store known at the time as Val’s, told Lamb to “talk” to Carrick over a drug dealing debt of about $500.

Lamb, at both murder trials – the first ending in a mistrial – testified that he became angry, punched and knocked out Carrick. As he saw the small-framed boy lying unconscious and bleeding on the cooler floor, Lamb said, Casciaro told him to leave the store and he would take care of the body. Carrick was never seen alive after that night, authorities, witnesses and his family members said.

Lamb – accusing prosecutors of telling him what to say in exchange for total immunity and lesser prison time in an unrelated cocaine charge he was facing a the time – later retracted his testimony. Prosecutors have vehemently denied such accusations and stand by their case even today.

In 2015 an appellate court overturned Casciaro’s conviction. Casciaro’s attorneys have publicly blamed a third man, another co-worker at the grocery store, for Carrick’s murder. But this man died of a drug overdose during the months between the two murder trials. He was never charged with murder in the Carrick case.

Over the last 20 months Casciaro had argued with McHenry County State’s Attorney to grant him a certificate of innocence. This certificate would have resulted in a payment of $20,000 but on Friday Casciaro withdrew his petition.

“Mr. Casciaro believes the appellate court decision … establishes his innocence,” his attorney Kathleen Zellner wrote in a statement.

Citing the already $50,000 settlement the county has paid to Casciaro she added that “The obvious bias against Mr. Casciaro by the Mchenry County State’s Attorney’s Office would result in protracted expensive litigation over at most $20,000 in compensation.”

Zellner explained that with the expectation that Casciaro would have been denied, he would have then had to spend an additional $75,000 in appeals.

Casciaro also has a civil lawsuit of $6 million pending against Johnsburg. Zellner said should Johnsburg not settle and the case goes to trial she will pursue $18 million.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said suddenly dismissing the petition “after nearly a year of proceedings and just prior to the final hearing is disgraceful.

“Casciaro has said a lot of things and pointed a lot of fingers,” Kenneally wrote. “He claimed he is innocent.  He claimed prosecutors acted inappropriately.  He claimed a witness, who conveniently has since died and can no longer defend himself, is the real culprit.  All anyone really needs to know, however, is that on the day prior to the final hearing, when he would have been required to actually “prove” these claims, he tellingly cut bait and dismissed his Petition.”            
 
Casciaro is attending law school in Chicago and working for the city’s public defender’s office.

Carrick was one of 17 children raised in an Irish Catholic family. He was raised in a large white, two story home that set across the street from the grocery store where he was last seen alive. His parents have both died not knowing where there son is.

(If interested in Lamb’s lawsuit please visit me at Bittersweet: http://www.chicagonow.com/bittersweet/2017/09/star-witness-in-infamous-2002-disappearance-and-presumed-murder-of-johnsburg-teen-sues-mchenry-county-authorities-cites-coercion-and-intimidation-to-testify/

Drug Induced Homicide Trial: Dealer, days away from delivering child, found guilty of delivering a fatal dose

Just after 8 p.m. on Oct. 6, 2015 a 20-year-old woman was found blue, unresponsive and slumped over the edge of a bed in the basement of a Marengo home where she lived with her boyfriend and his mother.

“I tried to pull her up, I started screaming,” said Laurie Cool tearfully describing finding her son Brandon Smedley’s girlfriend, who overdosed after shooting a syringe full of heroin into her jugular vein.

Cool gave her emotional testimony Thursday during the drug-induced homicide trial of Durelle Hall who sat stoically.

Hall, who still faces additional drug-related charges she racked up while out on pre-trial bond, was found guilty Thursday after little more than an hour of jury deliberation. And as she has been throughout the lengthy trial, Hall showed no emotion as the verdict was read, but her parents wept behind her.

She faces up to 30 years in prison in Kumm’s death when sentenced in September.
During opening arguments this week in McHenry County, Ill., prosecutors said Hall, 26, sold Chelsie Kumm a lethal dose of heroin.

However, Hall’s defense attorneys said the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hall sold Kumm the lethal dose.

Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese said Hall, who is days away from delivering a baby, has chosen to make a living as a drug dealer, “selling … poison” and feeding the addiction of addicts.

“You are going to hear about Chelsie Kumm … who had her entire life ahead of her when (Hall) gave her a fatal dose of heroin.” Freese said

Kumm woke up that morning “heroin sick,” Freese said.

Her boyfriend, Smedley boarded a train in Crystal Lake headed to Chicago to buy heroin, but Kumm stayed behind because she said she could get the heroin locally. Smedley never saw her alive again.

Freese said Kumm called a friend to pick her up and she went back to his apartment in Crystal Lake where he gave her $50. Freese said Kumm told the friend the money was so she could buy her “medicine.” The friend gave her the money and 20 minutes later he saw Kumm go outside and make a quick exchange with someone who showed up in a gray vehicle, Freese said.

Kumm then told her friend she had to go home and “prepare” her medicine. The friend told police when he drove her home she went into the basement and never came back upstairs. When he called out to her and she didn’t respond, he left.

Police collected various colored baggies, needles and cooking instruments in the bedroom where Kumm was found. Among the paraphernalia were pink baggies later tested and proved positive for heroin and fentanyl.

Freese said the pink baggies are Hall’s signature drug dealing baggies. Prosecutors showed jurors text messages showing Kumm and Hall set up the drug deal that day. Other texts show Kumm telling Smedley she got heroin from Hall.

“It is very clear who sold (Kumm) the heroin … that killed her,” Freese said.

But defense attorney Vanessa Sheehan told jurors that though the whole story is “very sad” and Kumm and her family have been “ravished” by drugs and addiction -as has Hall’s own family- the state cannot prove it was Hall who sold the fatal dose of heroin to Kumm.

Even if they could prove she sold her heroin that night they could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was Hall’s drugs that killed her. During the trial jurors saw police photos showing various baggies in the room where Kumm was found, implying the couple bought heroin from other drug dealers.

Sheehan said Kumm’s addiction began at age 15 and when one is addicted “you live solely to feed that addiction.”

She added Kumm and Hall were friends who ran in the same social circles and that Kumm “was living solely to find her next fix. … She connected with a lot of people that day.”

Sheehan said Kumm was asking “everyone she knew to hook her up.”

Authorities found “a cocktail of substances … in Chelsie’s blood,” Sheehan said.

Noting additional drugs in her system, unaccounted periods of time and missing evidence Sheehan said the state “cannot prove who killed her. … There is nothing good coming out of this case.”

Smedley, 33, said he has battled a heroin addiction for 17 years and has been in recovery the past year. He testified that he and Kumm ingested heroin intravenously, several times daily throughout their relationship. They had made a pact in 2014 that they would work together daily to find heroin to use together. He said they could do between three and seven bags of heroin a day.

He said that morning they “ransacked” his mother’s home hoping to find heroin to help Kumm feel better. Later, he got a ride into Crystal Lake where he sold his mother’s Percocet and made $60, but when he could not score enough heroin for him and Kumm locally, he boarded a train to Chicago.

About 40 minutes into the trip he got a text from Kumm saying she had gotten $50 and was waiting to meet with Hall to bring her heroin. Smedley also said he and Kumm often bought heroin from Hall, including once while her young son was present in her car near his school.

He said Hall sold her heroin in pink or purple baggies, then identified the pink baggies in the room where Kumm overdosed in police photos.

When his mother called to tell him his girlfriend overdosed and to come home, Smedley was at Chicago Avenue and Cicero Avenue on Chicago’s westside.  Though he was not charged in her death he said he did not want to return home that night.

“I didn’t want to come home. I didn’t want to live anymore,” Smedley said adding he planned to ingest the heroin he scored and commit suicide. “I didn’t want to go to jail, be drug sick … I lost my lover.”

In closing arguments, Thursday Freese said Kumm had five times the lethal dose of heroin in her system.

She also noted Hall had overdosed herself in 2009 and claims to have last sold heroin around that time.

Freese referred to a police interview, which jurors saw this week, where Hall was crying saying she does not sell heroin and talking about her own overdose and her sister’s drug addiction. But, Freese said, she has no problem selling it “to someone else daughter or sister.”

“Someone who knows the power of that drug and sells it to others is just awful,” Freese said.

About a month after Kumm died police searched Hall’s apartment where they found no heroin but did find crack cocaine and five cell phones that prosecutors said were used for her drug business.

In closings, Sheehan said the state did not prove who had been texting with Kumm that day from phones that belonged to Hall. She sought to cast doubt on witnesses who are known felons and drug addicts including Smedley, who during his second day of testimony appeared to be nodding off just after receiving a methadone treatment.

She also cast doubt on whether Smedley went into the city that day and highlighted the fact that not all drug related items found in the home were tested including two syringes, one found in the basement near where Kumm overdosed that appeared to have water in it.

“That’s reasonable doubt,” Sheehan said.

Hall’s dad Michael, of Lake in the Hills, Ill., said he is “disappointed” with the verdict and doesn’t feel the state had the evidence to convict his daughter. He also expressed sadness for Kumm’s death and her family.

“We are devastated and so worried about the children,” he said of his 6-year-old grandson and Hall’s unborn baby.

Michael Hall, whose younger daughter also is a heroin addict currently in recovery, added that the heroin epidemic needs more attention and the county needs to do more for the addicts.

As she walked out of the courtroom, Kumm’s mom, Kristine Hensley of McHenry, Ill., said she was “very pleased” with the verdict though the ordeal has been “very stressful.”

While she said she is not a vindictive person, she hopes Hall gets a strict sentence though she knows “it’s not gonna bring her back … I just wanted justice.”

Woman who admitted to driving while high on heroin when she struck a motorcycle and killed a beloved mom and nurse sentenced to 16 years in prison

After apologizing to a packed courtroom of friends and family members of a woman she killed while driving under the influence of heroin last year, a 46-year-old woman was sentenced this week to 16 years in prison.

Sheree Ann Shaw of Twin Lakes, Wis., pleaded guilty in April to two counts of aggravated driving under the influence.

She admitted to driving a Ford Taurus, without a valid driver’s license, and crossing over the center lines along Richmond Road in McHenry, Ill., on the seemingly perfect dry and sunny afternoon of May 6, 2016.

Shaw struck a Harley-Davidson Rode Glide motorcycle driven by Michael Thornton who was traveling with a passenger, Amy Thornton, 42, his wife of nearly 20 years.

Michael Thornton, 40, has undergone several surgeries and painful rehabilitation since the crash. His wife, a well-known nurse at Centegra Hospital in Woodstock, never resumed consciousness. She died from her injuries nine days later in the hospital.

During the hourlong sentencing hearing, where Shaw and others often wept quietly, Michael Thornton broke down into tears detailing the “devastating” loss of his wife, multiple surgeries his painful emotional and physical rehabilitation and months of lost work.

He also said there has been a deep divide among once close family and friends and he has had to to rely on his son’s to help him with such basic tasks as showering. He said he has “screws in place to hold my left side together” and has “no use of his left foot.”

Michael Thornton said the day started out for the the two of them taking advantage of overdue vacation time from their jobs. They rode the motorcycle and had lunch in Lake Geneva, Wis., where they discussed their older son’s college plans. The Woodstock couple, who once enjoyed riding the motorcycle together, were on their way to his parents’ house in McHenry when they were struck.

He described the moments before the crash saying “I can’t stop hearing her voice saying ‘Mike’ … squeezing me (while I was) trying to avoid the collision.”

He then recalls lying on the pavement, seeing red knowing it was his own blood, and calling out for his wife who did not respond. Shaw broke down as he described these devastating moments.

The next time he would see her would be three days later “unresponsive to my voice” in an intensive care unit on a ventilator. She was braindead, he said.
He described his wife as his “best friend … (someone) who thought of others before herself.”

Michael Thornton said this was no accident as some have said. He said it “could have been avoided” but Shaw had “zero respect for the law that day” when she chose to drive a vehicle under the influence of heroin. Had she not done that “I would not have lost Amy.”

Michael Thornton read letters from his two sons who also sat in the courtroom.

His son Zachary Thornton said “I wish we could return to the way we once were.”
He said his mother “was the cohesiveness of our family. (Our family) was centered around our mom. We have to live without our mother for the rest of our lives.”

Younger son Michael Thornton wrote that his mom “was the nicest person … and (Shaw) took her away.”

Other family members spoke of her humor and selflessness. Her mother Susan Sweet said her daughter would have been one who would have helped Shaw with her addiction.

“The defendant will never know what she has taken from us,” Sweet said. “I hold her memory close to my heart because that is all I have.”

Shaw’s daughter Alexandria Burdette of Las Vegas said her mom is a “wonderful … person who has fallen to … drug addiction.”

She said her mother, also a nurse, had a difficult childhood with her own parents and a hard life. She suffered bipolar and depression and they often lived paycheck to paycheck, but her mother was always there for her and her two younger siblings and a “great mom” who showered them with “unconditional love.”

“She is my mentor, confidant, strength … dearest friend,” Burdette said.

But, Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs described Shaw as a “selfish drug addict” and said the crime was “outrageous” and asked for the maximum prison sentence of 26 years.

“It was her choice to drive,” Combs said. “It was her choice to destroy that family.”

Assistant Public Defender Angelo Mourelatos said Shaw is remorseful for what she has done and by choosing to plead guilty and not drag the family through a trial shows she has “taken accountability.”

He said her drug addiction began with prescription drugs prescribed for health issues He said she began with amphetamines and cocaine in 2014 which lead to heroin and her addiction spiraled. In asking for leniency he said she has been in treatment since being in jail. He said she had a difficult childhood and was emotionally abused and is a caring person with “very limited” criminal history and unlike.y to commit another criminal act.

Shaw stood and said “I was not in my right mind at the time of the accident.”
She said she has had sleepless nights and will continue to “carry the burden of knowing” she killed Amy Thornton.

Shaw asked the judge for leniency and apologized to the nearly 30 family and friends in the courtroom who were wearing T-shirts with Amy Thornton’s picture on the front and angel wings on the back.

“Please give me a chance to right my wrong … I am not a bad person. I’m begging you to forgive me even though I cannot give back what you have lost.”

In handing down the sentence Judge Sharon Prather said she believed Shaw was remorseful. She noted Shaw’s long history of drug addiction and said “it’s a shame that it got to this point.”

She gave condolences to the family and acknowledged that no sentence will bring back Amy Thornton.

“This is a horrendous crime,” Prather said. “This is a serious crime.”

She is required to serve 85 percent of her sentence and will receive credit for time served in jail since last year.