By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — A Mishawaka man will serve 40 years in prison after dealing drugs to a Kosciusko County Jail inmate who overdosed and died.
On top of that, he’s still facing similar charges in Kosciusko and St. Joesph Counties for attempting to sneak drugs into correctional facilities.
Christopher Aaron Susaraba, 31, was found guilty in a June jury trial of dealing in a controlled substance resulting in death, a level 1 felony; trafficking with an inmate, a level 5 felony; and a habitual offender enhancement. Through the enhancement, judges can enhance a jail or prison sentence.
Susaraba has two prior unrelated felony convictions for burglary and dealing methamphetamine. Because of these convictions, a habitual offender enhancement was added to Susaraba’s case.
He was sentenced in Kosciusko Circuit Court on Friday, July 23.
According to court documents, on March 9, 2019, Kosciusko County Jail officers responded to a report of an unresponsive inmate. Officers entered a cell block to find an inmate performing CPR on Dennis McCrory, 39, Michigan. The inmate told officers McCrory was overdosing on heroin.
Officers continued CPR until medical personnel arrived, performed CPR and administered Narcan with no success. McCrory was later pronounced dead in Fort Wayne.
On March 11, 2019, a pathologist ruled the cause of death as acute mixed drug intoxication. A drug screen showed methamphetamine and narcotics were in McCrory’s body.
Several witnesses said Susaraba brought a large amount of heroin and methamphetamine into the jail. Witnesses said Susaraba was dealing heroin and methamphetamine to multiple inmates in exchange for money. Exactly how he snuck the drugs into the jail was not revealed during the trial.
Susaraba provided a large amount of methamphetamine and heroin to McCrory, who used the drugs, became lethargic and eventually overdosed and died.
During court proceedings, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Buehler focused on Susaraba’s significant criminal history, saying that and a probation violation at the time of the offense are substantial aggravators.
He noted that Susaraba has five additional convictions aside from the two used by the state for the habitual offender enhancement.
Buehler also noted out that Susaraba has two other pending cases in which he allegedly tried to bring drugs into correctional facilities.
He faces a Level 5 felony for trafficking with an inmate after an incident in Kosciusko County following McCrory’s death. Susaraba is accused of trying to coordinate the passage of drugs into the jail with the help of others. The scheme did not work successfully.
Susaraba is also facing two felony charges in St. Joseph County for dealing in a narcotic drug and trafficking with an inmate following the death of an inmate in the Ducomb Center.
On Dec. 24, 2017, responding emergency personnel found an unresponsive man in a Ducomb Center dormitory. The man, Cody Woody, 28, Mishawaka, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Two days later, Alexander Traxler, an inmate at the facility, requested to speak with officers about the incident. Traxler said Woody got narcotic drugs from Susaraba and that the three of them used the drugs together.
Susaraba denied having anything to do with Woody receiving drugs and said Traxler administered the drugs. Traxler is also facing the same charges that Susaraba is in that matter.
Defense Attorney Everett Newman argued for mitigators in Susaraba’s case. He said there was no evidence that Susaraba contemplated harming someone with drugs. Newman also argued the St. Joseph County case cannot be used as an aggravator since the charges are pending and Susaraba has a presumption of innocence. He asked the court to consider a sentence less than the advisory sentence of 30 years.
“I’ll take what you give me and make better of myself while I’m down there,” said Susaraba to Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed.
Judge Reed remarked on Susaraba’s “terrible” criminal history.
“If not contemplated, your actions were severe,” said Judge Reed. “I’ve never once heard you at least say sorry that a man died. That disturbs me and concerns me a lot. Your failure to take accountability is your own fault.”
For dealing in a controlled substance resulting in death, Judge Reed sentenced Susaraba to 30 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections. The trafficking with an inmate charge merges into the Level 1 felony. He also added an additional 10 years to Susaraba’s sentence through the habitual offender enhancement.
In total, Susaraba will serve 40 years in IDoC. He has 762 days, or roughly two years, of jail time credit. Susaraba said he intends to appeal the sentence and requested Newman act as his counsel through the appeal process.