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Jury finds woman guilty of dealing 'magic mushrooms'

Cary Ashby • Apr 14, 2014 at 11:32 PM

A jury found a Norwalk woman guilty of selling "mushrooms" on three occasions to a confidential informant, a man whom she later dated and lived with.

Heather M. Hodgkinson, 33, of 107 E. Main St., Apt. 2, was convicted Thursday of three counts of trafficking in psilocybin for controlled drug purchases on Sept. 11, 13 and 17, 2012. Huron County Common Pleas Judge Jim Conway revoked her bond, meaning Hodgkinson will remain in the Huron County Jail until she is sentenced May 22.

The jurors deliberated for about one hour and 50 minutes Thursday. Hodgkinson didn't testify and her attorney didn't present any witnesses.

Huron County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Josh Querin coordinated the controlled buys. All the transactions happened in or just outside a North Street apartment in Monroeville while Querin and another deputy or detective maintained nearby surveillance.

The informant told Hodgkinson the drugs were for the same guy and he was buying more because he enjoyed them so much, Huron County Assistant Prosecutor Dina Shenker said.

During the Sept. 13, 2012 transaction, Hodgkinson's 10-year-old daughter was doing her homework when the transaction took place and while Hodgkinson's then-apartment mate's son smoked marijuana, Shenker said. The prosecutor, in her closing argument, said Hodgkinson offered the informant "a hit" of the marijuana, but he turned her down.

In each of the buys, Querin said the informant was dropped off north of the apartment complex and he paid $30 for 3 grams of psilocybin, which he received in plastic sandwich bags. Psilocybin is a solid hallucinogenic crystalline and the main ingredient in what's known as "magic mushrooms."

Defense attorney James Joel Sitterly said the sheriff's office didn't have any video of the transactions, which would have helped confirm detectives' testimony.

"A picture would have painted a thousand words. I'm not hearing a lot of words on those (audio) recordings," Sitterly said.

The informant dated Hodgkinson's then-apartment mate before the buys and later started dating the defendant.

"They didn't have sex until after the third buy," Shenker told the jurors.

Citing the recording of the Sept. 17, 2012 incident, Shenker said Hodgkinson "casually suggested" to the informant she could move in with him since she was about to move out of the Monroeville apartment. The pair lived together for about 18 months after the three transactions.

Hodgkinson's attorney, Sitterly, said when it comes to confidential informants, "you have to get in the bed with the devil" and told the jury this case epitomized that. He accused the informant of not being "interested in telling the truth" about his relationship with Hodgkinson and during his testimony, he said the man reportedly was unclear about the sequence of events.

Shenker, in her rebuttal, said Sitterly provided an "alternate story of what happened." The prosecutor credited the informant with being forthcoming and honest when he testified -- about how he knew Hodgkinson, her former apartment mate and his various struggles with substance abuse.

The informant started working for the sheriff's office in June 2012.

"He worked hard for 12 to 18 months. ... I think there were 26 (controlled buys) in the 12 to 18 months. ... I think there were about nine different defendants," Querin said.

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