18 year old Hope Sykes was arrested on January 13 along with her cousin, Ronald Cummings, Misty Croslin, Hank (Tommy) Croslin Jr. and Donna Brock on drug charges as a result of a month long undercover operation in Putnam County.

Hope had been arrested earlier on January 3 on a drug possession charge and she was released on her own recognizance, which I guess didn’t look so good on her when later she was also charged with drug trafficking too.

Hope appeared in court Tuesday morning and she plead no contest to one count of drug trafficking in narcotics. The judge presiding over the case, Circuit Judge Terry LaRue sentenced her to 15 years in prison which is the minimum mandatory sentence for this crime.

Apparently Hope was looking to only be sentenced to probation and drug therapy as a youthful offender. She stood before the judge and told him that she wanted to get her GED, go to college and become a physical therapist. She told him, “I let drugs control my life. I let my family down. I know I messed up. I want help. I don’t want to live this life no more.”

Hope’s family and friends were in court to testify for her including her cousin Ronald Cummings, who was never called up to testify. They told the court that Hope had learned her lesson and that she had just gotten caught up in drugs.

Jacksonville.com is reporting that since Hope had only been out of jail for less than two weeks on the possession charge when she was arrested on the drug trafficking charge, she was not eligible for the youthful offender consideration which she would have received a much shorter sentence. LaRue says the youthful offender statute is for young people who are pressured or led astray by peers. “This is not the case here,” he said going farther in explaining that this second charge was not a simple possession charge. “What she did was engage in trafficking.”

The prosecutors used a recording of Hope talking to her mother in a jailhouse conversation. She appeared on the audio as being angry and unremorseful and even told her mother, “If they think I am bad now wait until I get out of here.” Prosecutors claimed that the audio proved her lack of remorse for the crime she was being charged for.

When Judge LaRue announced the sentence Hope and her family were quite shaken as can be expected from her family. It is reported that she was also fined $250,000.

The one thing that makes me wonder here is will this news have any effect on the others that were arrested along with Hope. I mean think about it, Hope was the one with the lesser charges. If she is being sentenced for 15 years on her charges then what will the others receive on theirs. Will they worry more now and give some second thoughts about withholding information that they might have about the night Haleigh disappeared?

I do feel bad for these people. They had their whole lives ahead of them and they have thrown it away by getting involved with drugs. I feel even sorrier for the innocent children involved in all this too. Poor little Haleigh may have just have lost her life because of her family’s lifestyle. (And I am not pointing my finger at just one side, they are all alike and I don’t think it is fair to blame only one side when they all seem to have the same problem)

My prayers and concerns are for the little ones that are in the middle of all this at no choice of their own. They are the ones that are going to be hurt more. As I said, Haleigh seems to have paid with her life, if she is indeed gone. (Sorry I still can’t let go of the thought that she could still be out there somewhere) Let’s pray none of the others will have to follow in her footsteps before this family finally gets help, if they ever do. I pray asking God to watch over them!

Jan Barrett

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