Columbus woman accused of selling heroin avoids prison time, given opportunity to attend recovery program

A Columbus woman originally accused of selling heroin has been given another chance to get her life in order.

While Nicole L. Childers, 29, 745 California St., was sentenced to 27 months and four days Thursday in Bartholomew Circuit Court, special judge Stephen Heimann suspended any time she would have to serve with the Indiana Department of Correction.

But to stay out of prison, Childers will have to successfully complete the Women Recovering with a Purpose program during a 15-month probationary period, Heimann ordered.

The local court-ordered drug treatment program for female offenders, known as WRAP, has been highly lauded statewide and nationally for its record in helping women recover from their addictions.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice selected the WRAP program in Columbus as one of three mentoring sites nationally for other communities to emulate.

Childers was accused of selling almost a gram of heroin twice over two consecutive days last February. Both buys were conducted under police surveillance, and took place in vehicles parked off a residential street in southeast Columbus.

After being kept under surveillance for several months, Childers was among 16 people arrested in mid-August during what Bartholomew County prosecutor Bill Nash described as one of the largest drug-warrant sweeps in local history.

The roundup occurred after 11 heroin-related deaths had taken place in Bartholomew County during the first seven months of 2016. Virtually all those who were arrested were accused heroin and methamphetamine dealers.

Childers was formally charged with dealing in a narcotic drug as a Level 5 felony, as well as dealing in a controlled substance as a Level 6 felony.

On Jan. 3, she accepted a plea agreement that allowed her to plead guilty to the lesser charge, which is punishable by up to two-and-a-half years in prison.

But just two days after completing her evaluation, Childers was accepted for admittance into the WRAP program on Feb. 2, court records state.

Heimann also could have sentenced Childers to pay up to a $10,000 fine.  But instead, he ordered her to reimburse the Bartholomew County Joint Narcotics Enforcement Team $225, the amount she received from the two drug buys, the judge said.

Childers also will have to pay more than $400 in various court fees.

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