It’s not something you see everyday—meth makers with Master’s degrees—but a judge in South Bend Tuesday, saw and sentenced two.
Twin sisters Michelle and Maria Stancati were both teaching in the Elkhart Community Schools last November when they were arrested on meth making charges after a fire at their South Bend home.
In court Tuesday, prosecutors suggested that the typical meth case involved someone who was not well educated, who was jobless, and who had little support from family and friends.
The circumstances surrounding the Stancati sisters were just the opposite.
Both had family members to support them in court today and the judge received what he called a “plethora” of letters on the Stancati sister’s behalf.
Maria and Michelle Stancati were both visibly shaken during today’s sentencing proceedings. Each received a sentence that essentially called for 20-years behind bars.
That, despite the fact that their roles in the meth making operation differed greatly.
Statements made in court today indicate that Michelle Stancati owned the home where the lab was discovered, and that she was addicted to meth.
Statements indicate that Maria merely lived at her sister’s home, and didn’t use meth.
Michelle told the court that she didn’t sell or deal meth. She said she only made enough of the drug for herself and friends.
Maria admitted that she sometimes helped buy the ingredients her sister needed.
The judge decided that the sisters were a danger to society—in part—because Michelle allowed a friend with an 11-year old child to live at the home while the meth lab was operating.
On the night of the fire, the child was sleeping in the downstairs portion of the home.
The judge indicated that Maria’s problem was her indifference to the meth, a prior criminal arrest for DUI, and a “serious addiction to alcohol.”
Despite the serious legal problems that came to light after the November meth fire, both sisters were re-arrested months later.
Michelle was charged with meth making in Elkhart County. Maria was charged with DUI.
Both sisters made a statement to the judge today.
Michelle Stancati apologized to her family and the community before saying “I need help.”
Maria Stancati said she didn’t see the situation for what it was, “enabling her sister.” Maria told the court, “I regret my actions.”
On paper, both sisters received similar sentences that called for 20-years behind bars. With credit for good behavior each sister would actually serve about ten years.
Both Maria and Michelle can also file for a sentence modification to have their time behind bars reduced.
The judge Tuesday indicated that he expected to entertain such a request, at least in Maria’s case. Judge Jerome Frese even told Maria Stancati that the earliest she could seek such a modification would be in one year.
Under the exact terms of her sentence, Maria Stancati received 32 years for one count of Dealing in Methamphetamine Within One Thousand Feet of School Property. The court suspended the sentence and ordered the defendant to serve 20-years in the Indiana Department of Correction as a condition of probation.
Michelle Stancati was sentenced to 40-years, but the judge ordered that 20-years be suspended.