A female prisoner who distributed heroin to several other Lake County Jail inmates — one of whom died — was sentenced Aug. 18 to the maximum seven years behind bars.

Christine Martin, 31, of Mentor, was the second of three defendants to be sentenced in the Dec. 22 death of fellow inmate Kristi Jean Ellis, a 25-year-old Mentor woman.

Martin overdosed the same day as Ellis, but was revived after officials administered a drug to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.  “A message must be sent that drugs cannot be brought into our jail,” Assistant Lake County Prosecutor Jacqueline O’Donnell said.

Martin, who was originally in jail for petty theft, previously admitted participating in a plan to buy and smuggle drugs into the facility.  She pleaded guilty to one count each of illegal conveyance of drugs of abuse onto the grounds of a detention facility, attempted corrupting another with drugs and trafficking in heroin in Lake County Common Pleas Court.

Her two co-defendants also pleaded guilty to similar charges.  Michael Beachler, 24, of Parma, is serving 30 months in prison for supplying the drugs that led to Ellis’ death.  Jessica Sari, 22, of Willoughby, will be sentenced Sept. 22 for hiding heroin in her body cavity after returning to the jail from a medical furlough.

Judge Eugene A. Lucci found Martin to be more culpable than Beachler but less so than Sari.  He ordered Martin to pay Ellis’ family back more than $12,600 for their funeral expenses.

Defense attorney Thomas Tatarunas argued Martin was the least culpable of the three defendants. “She has a serious addiction problem going back to 14 years old,” he said. “Her parents were serious addicts. They would bribe her with opiates to do her chores.”

Martin begged the judge to consider intensive drug treatment instead of prison to allow her to see her children, ages 3 and 4.   “I’m not a lost cause,” she said. “I’m not a bad person. I just made some really bad choices. Please help me help myself.”

Lucci noted that although Martin had no prior felony record, she had several misdemeanor convictions and multiple failed attempts at rehab.  Ellis was in jail awaiting sentencing on a felony theft case when she overdosed.

Martin’s children are now reportedly in a safe home in the custody of a loving couple.

Published by the News-Herald