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Drug thief avoids jail time, says 'crime of opportunity' was an ignorant thing to do

Cary Ashby • Apr 26, 2013 at 3:05 PM

The defendant said stealing hydrocodone from the pharmacy where she worked was an ignorant thing to do -- especially since her niece died of a drug overdose.

"This is not something I would normally do," Norma J. Zapata said at Wednesday's sentencing hearing in Huron County Common Pleas Court. "I should have known better and not gone down that route."

Judge Jim Conway agreed with her assessment.

"You don't know whose hands those drugs will get in. We can't have that," Conway said.

Zapata's niece, Norwalk resident Jesika L. Skelton, 20, died March 11, 2012 after a drug overdose related to a drug-trafficking ring at the Huron County Jail. Several women went to prison for their crimes related to the circumstances.

Last month, Zapata, 30, of 230 Whittlesey Ave., Lot 10, pleaded guilty to theft of hydrocodone for the Aug. 15 incident. It is her first felony conviction. Defense attorney T. Douglas Clifford said the theft was "a crime of opportunity" for Zapata to make money and help support her two children and her family.

When Zapata was working at Rite Aid, store officials determined they were missing some drugs, prosecutors said. Internal security workers performed an audit and analyzed video surveillance footage.

When police recovered one of the bottles, there were pills missing.

"She's presently working; that's a good sign. Perhaps the court could impose some discretionary jail time," Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Woodruff told the judge.

And that's exactly what Conway did.

Zapata faces 60 days in jail that her probation officer can impose at his or her discretion. She was fined $250 and must pay $279 in restitution to Rite Aid.

If Zapata violates her three years of probation, which includes random drug screens, she faces 18 months in prison.

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