They weren’t ready to forgive Kori L. Kincaid for the death of Joshua R. Syck, but they still wanted Kincaid to turn her life around.
Connie Kottwitz, Syck’s sister, and Jessica Gault, Syck’s girlfriend who found him dead from an overdose on the UW-Whitewater campus two years ago, spoke directly to Kincaid at a sentencing hearing Tuesday.
They didn’t want Kincaid to see her children years from now sit where she sat—before a judge—because they followed their mother’s path.
“I’m a mom. I am a grandma. I am a sister. I am a daughter, and I want you to be there for your family—all of them,” Kottwitz told Kincaid, who pleaded guilty to delivering heroin to Syck. “I want you to turn this around.”
It had been exactly one year since Jessica Gault held her boyfriend, Joshua Robert Syck, after he died of a heroin overdose in Whitewater. It’s a moment she can’t escape.
Kincaid’s attorney, Melissa Frost, agreed with that sentiment. Her client was not going to get her life back without being sober from a heroin addiction that started, like many others, with prescription pain pills.
And given the lack of accessible inpatient treatment facilities, she said prison would be the best place for Kincaid to do that.
“The prison is a strange place to ask for it to be done, but it’s all we have,” Frost said. “We don’t have any other resources to do it any other way.”
In a rare move, Frost asked Walworth County Judge Kristine Drettwan to sentence her client to prison, even though a Department of Corrections presentence investigation called for jail and probation.
“The reason that she’s sober now is because she’s in custody,” Frost said. “The reason that she’ll stay sober in the foreseeable future is because she’s going to be in custody.”
The judge sentenced Kincaid, 41, of 522 E. Clay St., Whitewater, to four years in prison and four more of extended supervision—all followed by two years of probation.
Drettwan gave Kincaid more prison time than Frost asked for, but the judge agreed with Frost’s request to make Kincaid eligible for a substance abuse treatment program while in prison.
Reminders of the man Joshua Syck was filled the courtroom Friday, but discussion of the prison sentence for the man who gave Syck drugs sparked broader critiques of harsh sentences.
District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld did not want Kincaid ruled eligible because he said it would not be appropriate for her to get her sentence reduced through the program because of the serious nature of the charges.
He said there were other options for her to find treatment.
Frost said the idea that Kincaid could find comparable treatment elsewhere was “absurd,” arguing the addiction treatment resources in Walworth County are “woefully short.” She also said there’s also a lack of programming for women specifically.
Kincaid pleaded guilty Aug. 12 to delivering heroin, possessing drug paraphernalia, neglecting a child and felony bail jumping.
A jury convicted the other defendant in the case, Jeremy D. Meyer, of the same drug and child neglect charges, as well as theft from a corpse. Judge Phillip Koss sentenced Meyer, 38, also of Whitewater, to six years in prison and six years of extended supervision.
A Whitewater man is not guilty of reckless homicide following another man’s drug overdose death in 2017, a Walworth County jury decided Thursday.
Meyer and Kincaid were convicted of going to Rockford, Illinois, and picking up heroin they delivered to Syck, who later died of a suspected fentanyl overdose the day before his 35th birthday.
The jury did not convict Meyer of reckless homicide by delivering drugs, and that charge was reduced as part of Kincaid’s plea agreement.
David Syck was also not ready to forgive Kincaid. He asked her why, when his brother showed signs of overdosing at Meyer and Kincaid’s home, would they kick out someone they called a friend instead of try and help him?
Kottwitz said their mom, who was present Tuesday, was too shaken to speak like she did at Meyer’s sentencing.
Wiedenfeld, the district attorney, said Kincaid and Meyer would make drug runs for six or seven other people. When the court modified Kincaid’s bond so she could attend treatment, he said she failed to follow rules, skipped treatment and sneaked Suboxone into the jail.
“Her character that has been shown through the case is that she lies, she’s a drug user and that she’s selfish and makes selfish choices—putting drugs before everything else, including herself, her family and Josh Syck,” he said.
Wiedenfeld showed Drettwan photos of Kincaid and Meyer’s home from about a month after Syck’s death. There were needles everywhere, including in places their children could access.
Kincaid spoke briefly Tuesday and said she never thought “in a million years” that she would be a drug addict.
Drettwan said the circumstances of this case made it more aggravated than a simple drug delivery. But she also was “surprised” and “impressed” with Gault and Kottwitz’s “very generous statements.”
“Looking through their pain and wanting you to get better, to heal yourself, and when this is all over to maintain your sobriety and be a mother to those children, those are very selfless statements on their part,” she said.
“It would be very easy for those women to come in here, full of pain and anger,” she continued. “They don’t want your children to end up where you are or to end up where Josh is.”