A former Wichita third-grade teacher caught dealing cocaine out of her kitchen won't go to prison for now — but she will have to serve a 60-day jail sanction as a condition of her probation.
Heather K. Jones, 49, pleaded guilty on March 16 to one count of distributing cocaine and one count of using a phone for drug sales or purchases. Other drug distribution charges she originally faced were dismissed as part of her plea agreement with prosecutors.
Sedgwick County District Court Judge Bruce Brown on Thursday granted Jones' request for probation after hearing a lengthy argument for it from her defense attorney, and testimony from several women who painted her as a gifted educator and generous friend.
But, he said in court, he was doing so "with some hesitancy." Prosecutors asked that she be sent to prison.
"You're a teacher. You know the issues drugs have in schools," Brown told Jones before announcing her sentence.
“This is a very serious crime. ... The effects of the crime of distribution of cocaine has on this community and on the individual lives of people — it’s horrendous. It’s a scourge on this community," he said, adding that drug use and sales is the driving force behind much of Wichita's crime.
Jones was teaching at Enders Open Magnet Elementary School in south Wichita when she was arrested in the drug case on July 11, 2017. By then she had worked for Wichita Public Schools for just shy of 10 years.
Law enforcement say she sold more than 100 grams of cocaine for just over $3,700 to an undercover Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office detective who met her seven times at her home between June 7 and July 11.
During one of the sales, Jones told the detective that she liked to pack cocaine for her customers into pink jewelry boxes that sometimes included a necklace, according to a law enforcement affidavit that provided justification for the criminal charges filed against her..
Once she gave the detective a Kit Kat candy bar bag filled with packets of the drug, the affidavit said.
According to court documents, Jones started buying cocaine for her own use in 2012 – while she was a Wichita public schools employee. Later she started providing it to a male friend, the documents say.
That friend eventually introduced her to the undercover detective, her defense attorney, Trevor Riddle, said in court.
A psychologist hired by Jones also testified Thursday that childhood abuse and trauma involving men that carried into her adulthood played a key role in her decision to buy and sell cocaine.
In Jones’ mind, she was providing the drugs to men so they would like her, the psychologist, Lance Parker, testified.
"Heather truly believed the only way to keep these men in their lives was to do what they asked — which was to obtain cocaine," Riddle said.
Sedgwick County Assistant District Attorney Mandee Schauf argued that money was the reason Jones sold drugs.
“This is about $3,000. … It’s not about pleasing these men," Schauf said.
When it was her turn to speak, Jones apologized and blamed herself for her crimes. "I honestly believe in myself that I can be better," she said.
In addition to serving probation and the sanction, the judge told Jones she had to pay $3,730 to the Sheriff’s Office’s narcotics restitution fund – which is the amount of money she accepted from the undercover detective during the drug deals.
He also ordered her to attend substance abuse treatment meetings three times a week for at least 90 days.
Jones is no longer a teacher with Wichita public schools and lost her teaching certification. If she violates the terms of her probation, she could be sent to prison for 25 months.