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

Aunt of the late Jesika L. Skelton says she 'should have known better.'
Cary Ashby
Apr 25, 2013


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.


swiss family

ok... first off.. you can not blame the drug problems on TV.. I remember years ago , when it seemed like every commercial break had at least one spot for "hooked on phonics" and every spot had an ad for a device or implant that women could use to stop any chance of pregnancy for up to so many months.. and yet during that time there were still plenty of people who could not read or write, and still plenty of girls getting pregnant... so it doesn't add up that because of all of the drugs available from a Doctor, the more the illegal trade increases

Then for the people upset that they wrote Jesika's name in this story.. sadly it is a big part of the story, because she is her aunt.Then you have the people who continue to say that the reason so many drug dealers go free in Huron county is because they become "Narcs" I say then , if all of these criminals are becoming narcs, why have they NOT cleared out all of the big dealers by now... with so much information??? I do not think they become "Narcs" I think the Justice team of Leffler and Conway and all of their famous plea deals is the reason for the increase in the local drug trade

Finally to thiose who are saying she "made a mistake"...WRONG.. she deliberately decided to steal drugs from her job, which was a position of honor and trust .. she chose to try to cheat them.. She deserves to do Prison time in my opinion.. She might be a sweetheart as so many (probably relatives) keep saying.. but maybe the girl that brought the deadly drugs into the jail that her niece OD"d on was a sweetheart too?? But the bottom line is that drugs are dangerous, and anyone who steals or sells them is not thinking of the consequences that might follow.. someone might OD, someone might kill someone else either intentionally or by accident...everyone should know that, so to deliberately decide to play the odds is NOT a Mistake.. it is a deadly and felonious choice.. and she and everyone else who distributes this stuff needs to be in prison in my opinion


Very true. And isn't doing drugs or drinking a choice? It is not a disease...Cancer is a disease.. You choose to do drugs-EACH TIME YOU DO THEM-. Tired of people saying it's this or that. It is the person who is doing them. It is their fault. People need to stop being so damn politically correct and "man up". And Swiss your right about the narcs. If that's the case there would be narcs behind every door. The people saying that are usually the ones that got jail time for something and are po'd about it. They are not "making mistakes". They are making the decision to rob and steal and do all the other illegal stuff by choice.

Yall Make Me Sick

You do the crime you should do the time. Every time the judge just slaps someone on the wrist it just goes to show that ANYBODY can do the crime that was just committed & get away with it also. Huron county needs to take their county & towns back from these judges who keep letting these people get away with all this trash!!!!


What a bunch of self righteous and judgmental whining crying ignorant arses! Every effing day all I see are people who think their crap doesn't stink. I was an addict and have 17 years of sobriety! Why? Because I was given a second chance! I pay taxes,a mortgage,provide quite well for my children and help others in my community. If all of you who sit on here complaining would do something productive in the community, to take back their community, then maybe things would change. NONE of you are any better than anyone else- so you've never done drugs or been in jail or any of the other things you condemn others for,so effing what! Your condemnations and judgments don't prove you have morals or standards or values, all it shows is how ugly of a person you are. As for living next door to a thief or a junkie or any of the other labels you so easily fling around- I have lived next to them and fed them and housed them and basically let them know that they too can stop living a life that's hell on Earth- that there are 2nd chances and a way out of the misery they've bestowed upon themselves. And yes there are some who want to continue their lifestyle but not all of them. You don't wake up one morning and say today I'll become a junkie or crackhead or a meth head today, that's my goal in life.


Kudos to you. If it was up to these self-righteous hypocrites, you'd be in jail for the rest of your days for smoking a joint.


Weed is illegal. Or didn't you know that.


Is that a question? Try punctuation. I know weed is illegal, but you think someone should go to jail for life for smoking a joint. Ah, if only there was a place society could send the stupid people away for life...

free and clean 2 yrs

Happy Feet you are completely right. I have only been clean almost 2 years ( july 13 th 2011) and I too was givin a second chance. I manage a business own my home have 2 cars and the respect of the people around me. I did not wake up one day and say "I want to destroy norwalk by selling heroin to all" that was not my intention. All though i am convicted for doing so I was convicted to 12 months with CBCF and i will say that CBCF was my second chance. I learned so much and truly do owe my life to judge conway for sending me there instead of prison. I do not have food stamps or welfare because of the chance i was givin. Please do not look so harshly on the strugling addict. It is hard to determine which ones hate their life and which ones still love to get high. Conway does his best to not ruin the lives of the ones that truly have the potential to live up to that second chance. some take it for granted and some actually do really well. and even if they do end up doing real well.. they come back to norwalk after CBCF only to be tore down time and time again by every single person in that small society. BUT you know whose there to comfort them or give them a free hit when they feel weak??... their "friends". instead of having a place for them to go to when they feel weak or need a person to talk to . they call on someone who makes them feel comfortable and then the cycle just starts all over again.. its horrible and i am glad i do not live in that town and have found the resources i needed to stay clean. ( i dont take suboxone or methadone or go to meetings) just pure simple will and the true hatred of that life. along with sponsor and sober friends that help. norwalk doesnt have to many sober people that can actually give non- hypocrytical advice..


Nobody is saying she doesn't deserve a second chance. We (the normal crowd...aka non thief's, drug users and sellers) are tired of the excuses. Thats it....plain and simple.


Um, yes you are. You and your self-righteous friends are all suggesting she needs to go to prison for the rest of her life because she just won't learn otherwise! Hail the righteous Armcorn!


It took me a little while to come up with how to answer the last few that have called a bunch of us self rightous and judgemental. If you are an addict or an alcoholic or whatever, then at that point you really are a piece of crap to me and society. When you rob and steal you are a nobody. I don't care how sweet or wonderful people say you are. You suck. You need to get help and STAY clean and not do it for the court. You have to do it yourself. I do not owe it to you and neither do these other self rightious know it alls. The gov't doesn't owe it to you. You put yourself in the position so you need to get yourself out. Stop using everyone and excuses as a crutch. I will judge you. I will call you a piece. I'm sure people called me a piece of sht and a no good and everything else. In fact I know they did. I proved all those people wrong by getting sober 15 years ago. So I know where they come from. I know how they think. I know the life they live. So they can use and say whatever they want. They are trash until they stop and get their life together. I will also tell them exactly what they are and I will tell them they can get sober and yes I will even tell them I will help. To an extent. I will not baby them. I will not hold their hand through withdrawl. I will not tell them life is easy. It's not easy but until society quits kissing their as* and letting them off with no reperccussions then they will fail. They need to ball up and do what is right no matter how difficult it is. Period. So all the sober people that want to cry and give them a baby bottle to suck on and tell them how great they are-STOP- you are not helping them. You are giving them false feelings. If they are strong, they will come out alive. If they are not strong, then they will die. THAT is the choice. I lived. I live today. Until they do what is right and are serious about life and getting sober then I have no use for them. People had no use for me and when I knew what I was I took a hard look and figured it out. Stop enableing and crying in their beer with them. That doesn't do a damn thing except tell them at least one person doesn't care that they rape, rob and pillage freely. So now you can come back at me and say I'm cold or whatever. I will stand by my statement as always. Get clean and stay clean and become a part of our society or you are nothing on my scale. I didn't make the rules for society. I just have to live by them.


For the second time in a week, you have proven you are the ultimate hypocrite. Do as I say, not as I do. You don't work and collect welfare and/or foodstamps for years, but now that you don't anymore, you bash people that do. Now you admit that you were an addict, but now that you're clean, all other addicts are trash. I am just blown away. You are everything that is wrong with society today.


You really are stupid and don't read any post correctly. If you make welfare your life commitment you suck. That is about the 5th time you didn't read correctly, so short and sweet for you. When you are an addict and steal ect, you are trash. As I was when I was drinking. I changed. But I also worked for my booze and didn't resort to thieving. It really gets old repeating the same thing to you because your an idiot and don't read the post correctly, even when I explained and typed slowly for you. As a hypocrite I am not. I explained to you that I was on welfare and got off and bettered myself so I will judge the peolple that abuse the system. I also have said if you are an addict and steal, rob and pillage you are sht and trash. Until such time that you change your life for the better you will be. Now re-read my posts and see if you understand so I don't have to try to chissel anymore stupidity off you. Really don't feel like explaining myself to you anymore. Dam(n)


You're suggesting that everyone except you LIVES on the system. You're suggesting that this woman is a drug addict. She is not. Again, you are a hypocrite. You've been an addict, and you've lived off the system. Now you wanna complain about other addicts and others who live off the system (which you suggest is everyone.) The stupidity is astounding. Soooo self-righteous.


Actually betrump, I have read and reread all WASP71 post (which has gotten pretty old saying the same thing over and over) and I believe you need to do the same. He stated quite clearly that if you live on the system forever you need to change and if your an addict until you change you are crap. Which, to an certain extent, he is correct. Not sure why you can't understand this. Pretty simple I thought. Now stop fighting about it and get over it.


What don't you understand? She, without proof, is suggesting that everyone that has ever used a benefit (except her) is living off the system. She is also falsely accusing someone of being a drug addict.


ALL OF U SOUND LIKE IDIOTS! U truely feel like ur better than everyone else? Let me guess ur a bunch of old as* hags that finally learned how to use a computer and this is the only site u know how to use?? lol.. u are pathetic! Here's a wonderful idea... get off the computer and get a real life!! Now here is a comment ur welcome to spell cheack and get ur jollys off talkin crap about cus unlike you.. I dont give a (u know wat)!!! Have a great day! Hopefully ur day can get a lil more productive! Its nice out get off ur high horse and go get some fresh air.. it might make u feel better abour urself more than puttin others down, ya never know! Or im bettin most of u r fat old ladies.. GO FOR A WALK u prolly need it! As for Norma... She did wat she felt was right & reguardless of wat u all think should or should not have been done.. she was handed her punishment so get over it. Move on cus by next week u will have forgotten all about this post & be on to talkin about someone else! LOL.. SMH @ u 2 goods!!

swiss family

I hope that you can see the irony, in you telling us to get off the computer (while you are telling us ON your computer) and you are saying get outside and take a walk... um it is 7:00 pm maybe you should get off your computer, go outside and do what you tell us to do????

You claim that "we" think we are better than everyone... that is not true...we are SMARTER than all of the drug addicts... and Smarter than anyone who decides to get a job at a drug store Pharmacy, and decide to steal drugs there... did she not think that they keep close inventory on the drugs??? did she think that all of the cameras that were in every corner where she worked, were NOT working and would not record her theft???? she is stupid... and so is any other druggie , in my opinion... By now, everyone knows that some drugs are habit forming sometimes after just one use... so US smart people know to NEVER try it in the first place, because we might get addicted to it....I will make an exception for alcohol here.. many many people drink and drink to excess with their friends, without any long term addiction, but to the unfortunate addicts, they often lack the good judgement of seeing the problem because they and their friends all drink in bars and at friends houses to be social... but if getting high with your friend through drugs is your entertainment, then you are already a loser, and it again is NOT that we are "better" than you.. I guess we just have better judgement, and do a better job of thinking "long term" instead of the loser mentality of "if it feels good, do it" like these addicts are..

And please.. go ahead and throw your statement that they have a disease... because by doing so , you are not making them take the responsibility for their actions.. which is what got them addicted in the first place.... the only way that addiction is a disease... is if they classify stupidity a disease as well..

Kottage Kat

Excuse me, what language was that? And could someone please translate.
Thought I had seen some poorly written comments, that one sure rates in the top five


Congrats Free and Clean- for taking your life back! And you are right about CBCF-it will give you the tools to become sober and maintain that sobriety but unfortunately, there is no aftercare. When released, you go right back to the environment that helped put you in the same situation you left. Lorain County has a mentorship program where ex-addicts can obtain a mentor that shows the addicts that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I'm still getting details on how it works and would like to introduce it here in Huron County. And another valid point you made is true. If you're clean and other addicts know this they will do anything to sabotage your sobriety- first one is always free. I fell into that trap numerous times. Also, it took me over a period of 6 years with a $400 a day habit( paid for by tattooing) at least 10 times of being incarcerated before I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I would get clean, be released,stay clean for a few days or a few weeks and be off and running again. It is Hell on Earth. As for addicts being stupid to try drugs in the first place- not so. When you do any opiates, you are removing any emotions that you have-you become numb. And, sometimes being numb and having to deal with reality and the pain is very,very difficult. Unless you have experienced that kind of inner pain on a personal level, then you have NO right to say "deal with it"! I guarantee the majority of you wouldn't be able to "deal with it" yourselves. But, I am a strong person and quite intelligent with common sense and decided to give myself my life back,that my life is a blessing no matter how chaotic it is/was! And that's how I maintain my sanity and sobriety. And it works. I will NEVER forget where I've come from and all the roads I've traveled and if I can help just ONE person , then that's good enough for me. I go to bed every night with a sense of accomplishment,loving my job and having feelings of peace and serenity-How many of you out there can say the same?


Its only ignorant when you get caught......RIGHHTTTTTT????


@ ladydye_5 I am happy to hear that you are fortunate to be a stay at home mom. That would be such a joy if it were possible in my life. Unfortunately it is not, I'm not going to argue with anyone on this site either because everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however.... i would really like to stress that people in this world are not perfect. We sometimes do things that we believe will better ourselves no matter the risk, I knowingly made a very poor decision and I am (and have been) taking full responsibilty for my ignorant actions. I make no excuses for what i did. I was raised to know the difference between right and wrong and i was raised to know that stealing from anyone is wrong....PERIOD!

To all of you that say "throw her in jail"... may I ask what is that going to do? I have never been in trouble other than speeding tickets. I have been a hard working productive member of society for the past 16 years. I am a single mother raising my 2 young children .... pretty much by myself. I don't spoil my children because i don't have the means to do so, however i like my children to enjoy the few extras that they do get to do. It tears me up to tell them they cant do something because mommy has no money. I made a choice, a very bad choice. at a huge risk...... i have personally apologized to each and every person affected by mistake including those that i worked with at rite aid. so no matter what i say or what else happens from here, you people will never be happy.

I could ask to sit my 60 days, would that make you think that i got what i deserve? Probably not. You'll find another reason to criticize me .... I'm trying to do better for myself and my children.

Thank you to my friends and family that have stood by my side thru this but please, stop wasting your time on this article. Let's move forward .... I can't change my past, that's why i don't live there.....

swiss family

nosair... I am going to assume that you are Norma, the one that this article is about..correct..?? I will give you credit, you seem to know all of the "buzz words" that are supposed to make people believe that it was a simple mistake on your part, or that you had no choice but to do it, because you have"2 young children" that you are raising "pretty much by yourself"............ sorry their.. but the Judge might fall for that "poor you" story, but I see it in a totally different way

BECAUSE you have 2 small children that you are raising pretty much by yourself, is exactly why you should go to Prison.. it is your job as a mother, and especially as a mother raising her kids alone.. to make sure that these kids are raised knowing right from wrong, good from evil, legal against illegal, and yet youy use them as an excuse to steal, and to probably sell that poison to other kids who are curious, and , because of you might be hooked on that stuff forever, or might OD on it...

Please explain yur statement where you said that "you sometimes do things that "we" believe will better ourselves"????? are you saying stealing and then selling drugs was your plan to "better yourself???" if so, you should have your 2 children that you are raising yourself taken away from you for keeps.. Please do not think that your "learned statements" that work on the Judge will work on any citizen.. If you read these blogs the majority of bloggers are upset that the Judge gives people like you , criminals, a slap on the hand...you are NOT taking full responsibility, unless you consider that to mean , throw out every catch phrase, that you think will make us all sympathize with you and your struggle all alone with 2 young children.. you said it yourself, you were raised to know the difference between right and wrong... it was your job to teach your kids that just as your parents taught you that...it might be better for them if they were taken from you, because you obviously do know what is right, but deliberately choose NOT to do that.

You say that you have apologized to everyone who was affected by your criminal actions.. not true.. you know how they say it takes a village, well that is true, so every kid that bought the drugs from you and who's lives were screwed up because of you, and the other kids that they sold the stuff to and the trouble and addictions that you started with them, I am sure you have not apologized to ANY of them... so please do not try to fluff this off as something in the "past that you have moved on from" ity is exactly that attitude right there that tells me that you do not get it.. and that you need prison or at the very least jail in your future to make sure you totally understand the depth of your crime


Re: Swiss Family-Prison? losing custody of her children? Please! #1- she's not an addict! #2 selling to children to get them strung out? Please where do you get all this and why do you consistently group everything and everyone as big time junkies, strung out on dope? You watch way too much TV! As for apologies- who are you to dictate who she should apologize to? You can doubt her sincerity all you want but to want her thrown in prison and lose her children? So it's your opinion she's blowing smoke up the judge's arse? Because he received a PSI that probably indicated she would likely not reoffend and gave her probation? You really need to stop b**ching about the sentencing guidelines and do your research! Again I will repeat myself-JUDGE CONWAY HAS NO CHOICE WHEN HE GRANTS PROBATION TO ANYONE,THANX TO OUR GOV. WHO SIGNED A LAW A FEW YEARS AGO THAT IF YOU HAVE NO PRIOR FELONIES HE CANNOT SENTENCE SOMEONE TO PRISON-ONLY CBCF OR INTENSIVE PROBATION.Keep repeating this as a mantra to yourself until you reach level of comprehension!

swiss family

I would also suggest that you do your homework.... how many times woul;d the criminals be exposed to harsher punishments, because of their prior criminal past, but most of those charges , especially in Huron county, have been plead down as low as they possibly can go, because our county Judicial team is too lazy to put the time in, that we pay them for, to do their proper job...


And that is a big step forward Norma. I, too have been in the position also of raising my children as a single mom and it does hurt when you have to explain why you can't do things for them that others can do for their children. I know that you've never been in trouble before. And you taking responsibility for your mistakes is more than admirable. Unlike others on here who carry their negativity around like a shield , I understand. As for the NR putting in the reference to Jesika,that is a cheap shot on their part. I knew Jesika and although she had made mistakes she was an extraordinary young woman. I looked forward to her finding her sense f self which she would've if given the chance. My sympathies to your family.

swiss family

yes by all means praise her for doing the right thing...how about giving her a cookie for doing what is necessary to make her children happy.. I guess it doesn't matter that she lied, stole, probably sold drugs and who knows what other desperate things she did as well??? you see people are supposed to NOT steal, they atre supposed to NOT SELL DRUGS... they are not supposed to rob medications, which obviously , other people needed, but she needed them to, to pay for whatever her children wanted...Happy you are the perfect enabler... and I am sure that you know that enabling anyone does NOT help them one bit.. she is a criminal, she may be able to "not live in the past" but I can bet that all of her neighbors, and any employer will be living in the present.. and see a criminal, drug thief and possible dealer.... not someone to be so proud of, like you seem to be


Hahahaha. Do us a favor and shhhhhhh


Just shut up.


I tell my children no sometimes too. They get a few extras, yes, but NOT living the high life by any means. I am sorry that I still cannot justify STEALING narcotics to sell on the street. No matter how bad it is. The risk of going to jail and never seeing my children or watching them grow up (which as we all can see doesn't really happen in Huron county) would be enough to STOP ME FROM STEALING DRUGS. I just really cannot believe all the people who seem to be ok with this situation and bashing those of us that do not support drug thieves or drug dealers (that is what you did you stole drugs to sell). How would you or the other "supporters" feel if the very drugs you stole ended up in the hands of a child/teen and they died? You are ok with that just to "better yourself"? What if someone sells some of these drugs to YOUR KID? No people are not perfect. We all make mistakes, some of these people CHOOSE to make mistakes that can lead to arrest, jail, hurt or even kill others.