Judge Robert O. Bowen approved an agreement reached between Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Nelson Chipman and defense attorney Joseph V. Simanski, which left the sentence up to Judge Bowen with a maximum of twelve years imprisonment at the Indiana Department of Corrections.
The case began when Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Hollopeter, then a member of the Marshall County Undercover Narcotics Investigative Team, observed on October 21, 2012 suspicious drug making activity at a home located in the 5000 block of 18th Road. Included in his observations was the strong aroma of ammonia emitting from the home. This smell is commonly associated with the manufacturing of methamphetamine.
Nothing more happened on the case until December 27 of 2012 when an informant notified Officer Hollopeter that Mark Howard of the 18th Road address wanted to sell methamphetamine. A controlled buy was then arranged and completed with video and audio equipment recording the transaction.
A second controlled buy of methamphetamine was initiated and completed on January 3, 2013 at the same location with Howard. This time an individual later identified as Shawn Speirs assisted in the sale of methamphetamine. Speirs was previously sentenced to ten years of imprisonment, with two years suspended. Speirs also agreed to testify against Howard.
An hour long sentencing hearing took place today with several members of Howard’s family testifying. Howard also testified asking for less than the maximum sentence provided in the plea agreement. Simanski argued that with intensive treatment Howard could still be a productive member of society and would be available to raise his children.
Chipman argued that at age 30, Howard has been in and out of the criminal justice system since age 16. He had been sentenced to jail or prison for over five years and put on probation numerous times only to violate the terms of probation every time. Chipman emphasized that Howard had been arrested for meth possession in September of 2011 and was out of jail on bond when these offenses were committed.
After taking evidence and hearing argument, Bowen pointed out that Howard admitted that at times he would be under the influence of methamphetamine while around his very young children. Howard stated on the stand, “you take one puff and you’re awake for 3 days, so of course you will be around family and children while high.” Howard identified methamphetamine as Satan’s drug. In response, Bowen sentenced Howard to the maximum under the plea agreement of 12 years of imprisonment with no part of the time suspended.
Chipman credited Officer Hollopeter for his persistence after first discovering the house on 18th Road and thoroughly investigating and preparing the case over the course of several months to a successful conclusion.