Admitted Hope heroin addict gets prison for meth possession

A confessed heroin addict who is seven months pregnant turned down an opportunity to serve her sentence in the Bartholomew County Jail instead of a state prison.

After Clorissa J. Clemmons, 34, accepted a plea bargain and pleaded guilty April 14 to possession of methamphetamine as a Level 5 felony, her sentencing was delayed because she was still being evaluated for the Women Recovering with a Purpose (WRAP) program.

While a favorable evaluation was given to the judge, Clemmons declined after being told her acceptance would prevent her from bonding with her child for at least four months, according to her attorney, Andrew C. Maternowski.

Instead, Clemmons requested house arrest at her mother’s residence during a Thursday hearing. That request could not be granted because another person already living in that home is a paroled felon, Bartholomew Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann said.

“WRAP is the best program we have,” Heimann told Clemmons. “But you declined it.”

With few options left, the judge sentenced Clemmons to 4½ years with the Indiana Department of Corrections.

On Jan. 19, Clemmons was one of five people arrested after investigators learned illegal narcotics were being sold out of a home in the Eastridge Manor subdivision, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed a week later.

Tips came from an anonymous caller who saw vehicles coming in and out of a Virginia Street residence at all hours of the night, as well as a confidential police informant who claimed heroin was being sold there, the affidavit stated.

At the time, Clemmons and a male companion, Levi Underwood, were living in an RV parked in the driveway of the residence, the affidavit stated.

During the surveillance, the driver of a car seen visiting the premises was stopped away from the home, and a search turned up illegal narcotics, which gave investigators probable cause to conduct searches, investigators wrote.

Inside the RV, investigators found multiple syringes, a spoon with a white residue on it, and a prescription bottle containing marijuana, the affidavit stated.

During a strip search at the jail, it was discovered Clemmons had 12 grams of methamphetamine and 3.5 grams of heroin hidden beneath her undergarments, according to investigators.

Clemmons was originally charged with dealing in a narcotic drug, as well as possession of methamphetamine as Level 4 felonies. In addition, she was also charged with possession of a narcotic drug and unlawful possession of syringe as Level 6 felonies.

However, all but one of the four felony counts were dismissed as part of the plea agreement, court documents state.

Had she been convicted of all the original formal charges, Clemmons could have received 26½ years in prison.

The Hope woman had led a law-abiding life up until age 29, but circumstances changed in 2010 after Clemmons sustained back injuries in a work-related accident, Maternowski said.

After becoming addicted to fentanyl, which she took for chronic pain management, Clemmons turned to heroin after a widespread crackdown was launched against physicians prescribing pain killers, the judge said.

That type of scenario is both common and accurate regarding heroin users in Bartholomew County, according to both law enforcement officials and emergency room physicians.

Clemmons voluntarily gave up custody of her two children due to her drug dependency, Heimann said while quoting a presentence report.

Upon questioning by deputy prosecutor Kathleen Burns, Clemmons testified her daughter had not spoken to her in two years, while another child has also developed some form of drug problem.

Heimann brought up those points again after the woman told him she wanted to stay out of prison in order to devote herself to her baby that has already been determined to be a boy.

“You say you want to care for the new child, but you are not going to be able to do that until you learn to take care of yourself,” Heimann said.

It will be up to prison officials to determine how much care Clemmons will be able to devote to the infant, due to be born Sept. 17.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.