Couple sentenced to 15 years

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Daniel and Melinda Sparks, ages 48 and 45 respectively, were each sentenced to 15 years in prison on drug charges Friday, Feb. 21.

The two were set to appear in Marion County District Court regarding a motion to suppress, which was originally intended to bar evidence gathered by the Knoxville Police Department during a search of their home. They were in possession of less than five grams of methamphetamine and hydrocodone tablets. This was at least the third drug arrest for each of them.

The Marion County Attorney’s Office agreed to reduce the original charges to possession with intent to deliver less than five grams of meth and possession of a controlled substance. One count incurred a sentence of 10 years, the other a sentence of five, with associated court costs.

Judge Brad McCall approved the plea agreement and put forth that sentence. Judges are not bound by plea agreements made by attorneys. After both defendants agreed to waive their rights, they pleaded guilty and agreed to be sentenced that morning.

“I had a hydrocodone pill on my desk that was not mine,” Mindy Sparks told McCall. Her previous drug convictions include conspiracy to manufacture meth and possession with intent to deliver. These crimes were 15 years apart.

“I had a couple of hydrocodone pills in a non-descript pill bottle,” Daniel Sparks said. His prior offenses include manufacturing meth and possession with intent to deliver meth.

Both admitted to knowingly being in possession of hydrocodone on Oct. 14, 2019, when the KPD search was executed.

“They are not bad people,” Assistant County Attorney Jared Harmon said. He asked McCall to follow the plea agreement.

“She knows she messed up, Judge,” Mindy’s attorney, Brian Tingle, told McCall. Daniel’s attorney, Jon Heinecke, requested fines be suspended, due to the couple’s incarceration.

“I don’t want to go through this anymore,” Mindy said. She was sent to prison 20 years ago and stayed sober for nearly 15 years.

“I embrace this opportunity to come off the streets,” Daniel said. He wants to avoid some of his associates.

McCall suspended the financial penalties. He told the defendants that he was pleased to hear them recognize and acknowledge their substance abuse issues.

“Apparently, when you’re not using, you are productive,” McCall said. “Best of luck to both of you.”

They were remanded to the custody of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office to be transported to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Oakdale. They were ordered to go through substance abuse treatment while in prison.

Tingle said he believes the couple did the right thing. He hopes the sentence works out best for them.