ELKHORN

Modesto Esparza had a rough upbringing. His father wasn’t around, and Esparza raised his five siblings while his mother worked.

Esparza, 42, of 842 Carter St., Genoa City, said he got caught up in the wrong crowd as a youth. At age 20, he met his “soulmate,” who kept him away from his dangerous lifestyle for the next 20 years.

But when she died of cervical cancer in 2017, he turned back to drugs.

An emotional Esparza was sentenced Wednesday in Walworth County Court to five years in prison and seven years probation for possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver.

“She was my whole world,” Esparza said through tears at his sentencing hearing. “My whole life was turned upside down, and I didn’t know what to do, so I turned to drugs again.”

Police reported finding 4 ounces of meth at his home in February, court records show. At the time, it was thought to be the largest seizure of meth in the county’s history.

Esparza was released on bond, but evidence of more drug activity surfaced a few months later.

Police began looking for Esparza, and he eluded them until he was arrested in May. Four days later, he was found with meth in his jail cell.

Assistant District Attorney Haley Jo Johnson didn’t ask the court for a specific sentence Wednesday, but she said the recommended sentence of four years in prison wasn’t sufficient.

Johnson mentioned the fear among the public on the day Esparza was arrested and his past criminal record from 1998 and 2008.

She listed all of the Facebook posts about Esparza running from police at a Lake Geneva Home Depot.

“It’s serious,” Johnson said of the offense, pointing to the large amount of meth, the presence of children in his home and the fact that he had a loaded gun in the home as a convicted felon.

She said while most drug cases affect only a few people, this one caused panic because Esparza ran from police and people thought he might be armed.

Defense attorney Stephen Compton asked for the recommended sentence and said a meth addiction can be beat with treatment.

“It’s an awful, awful drug to the people that get addicted to it,” he said.

Compton pointed to Esparza’s 20 years of sobriety and the importance of his family.

“Now that he’s been here a while … he is absolutely delightful when he is clean and sober,” Compton said.

When Compton read a letter to the court from Esparza’s daughter, Compton said Esparza cried.

“When your daughter tells you you’re her hero and you’re sitting in jail, it doesn’t make you feel very good,” Compton said.

Esparza said he is determined to get his life back after prison.

“I’m going to be better,” he said.

Judge Phillip Koss said he would follow the state’s recommendation of more than four years in prison because of the seriousness of the offense.

But Koss said he has hope for Esparza, especially because he seems to be taking responsibility.

“I know that there is value in everybody,” Koss said.

“There is value in this defendant as well, and I hope that the programming … works and that he can return as he was the last 12 years in being a productive member” of society.