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September 2014


Essmann sentenced for role in death

Kandice Essmann, 19, of Ixonia was sentenced to eight years in jail and seven years of extended supervision in Waukesha County Circuit Courts on Monday for her role in the death of a Hartland man in 2011.

Essmann pleaded no contest to first-degree reckless homicide in October in connection with the heroin overdose and death of Dustin Williams, 24, in July 2011.

According to the criminal complaint, Essmann drove Williams to Milwaukee so they could both buy heroin. Williams gave her prescription drugs in exchange for driving, the complaint said. When they returned to Williams' home, they consumed the heroin, and Williams died from an overdose.

An autopsy revealed that heroin was the only drug in his system.

Judge William Domina said that while Essmann was no longer the "train wreck" he had seen during previous hearings, he still believed her to be a danger to society while under the influence of drugs.

The prosecution had recommended 10 years in prison and five years of extended supervision. Prosecuting attorney Susan Opper shared Essmann's history of diluted drug samples and failed drug tests while under state supervision, calling her actions deceitful and filled with denial. Essmann also failed to communicate with state-appointed agents or follow through with rehabilitation centers and halfway houses, she said.

Opper shared letters from Dustin Williams' mother, Nancy Williams, who was present and spoke before the sentencing. Friends of the family, including friends from church and Williams' girlfriend, were also present.

"I love my son. My only child. My only family member. There is no one else," Nancy Williams said.

She described her son as having a learning disability, which made it easy for others to take advantage of him. Williams also said that she's lived in Wisconsin for 67 years but will now be selling her house and moving.

"I am begging the court to send a loud message to the community that drug users and drug dealers will not be tolerated," Williams said.

Opper also shared with the court that a witness (a confidant of Essmann) had come forward who alleged that Essmann knew the incident to be Williams' first heroin experience and apparently left knowing that Williams was not well. There was also some question as to whether Essmann injected Williams directly because it may have been his first time; the autopsy showed marks on his right elbow - Williams was right handed.

Discussion was cut short, however, because the testimony was submitted after the Oct. 3 plea hearing and because it was the first time that defense attorney Robert D'Arruda had heard it. Regardless, when Essmann was asked about these details, she denied them.

D'Arruda argued that the drug dealer in Milwaukee should be held responsible, not Essmann. He added that Essmann has no juvenile record, comes from a good family and graduated from high school.

D'Arruda noted that Essmann is pregnant, expecting a child in March 2013, and should be involved in her child's life while she is still young. In the meantime, he would like to make arrangements to put the child in the family's custody.

Some of Essmann's family members read letters of support. They said Williams had a history of drug use and described Essmann as an addict, not a dealer.

Speaking before her sentencing, Essmann said that she plans to take college courses while incarcerated. "As much as I wish I could bring Dustin (Williams) back or trade places with him, I can't," Essmann said.

Domina sentenced Essmann to eight years in jail and an additional seven years of extended supervision. She is not eligible to challenge incarceration.

Domina pointed out that he reserved the right to place Essmann in jail for the full 15 year sentence if she failed the conditions of her eventual release, that is, if she failed to maintain complete sobriety or proper communication with her physicians or state-appointed agents during those seven years of extended supervision.

A restitution hearing for Williams' family has been arranged for Jan. 16.

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