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Woman sentenced for massive meth operation

Published 2:05pm Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cassopolis Vigilant

As Cass County circuit court judge Michael Dodge read through her laundry list of convictions, Debra Cheatham sat not showing any emotion at her sentencing Friday.

Cheatham, 51, of Calvin Township, had pleaded guilty to six counts related to methampetamine and five felony firearm charges.

Dodge handed Cheatham a 51-month to 40-year prison term with credit for 130 days already served on the meth charges and a consecutive two-year prison sentence on the gun charges.

Cheatham and two others were arrested in November 2009 when the Cass County Drug Enforcement Team investigated Cheatham’s home and found about 174 single-pot methamphetamine labs and 260 gas generators that are used to produce meth.

The drug team received the tip from a Calvin Township resident who found a large dump of meth components on his property, which led the team to Cheatham’s residence at 64989 Calvin Center Rd.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Frank Machnik said he was told Cheatham’s residence was home to the largest number of one-pot meth cooks in the state of Michigan.

“She claimed she was doing this to pay rent,” Machnik said. “But it was later discovered she was also doing it to support a gambling habit.”

Machnik said the prosecution has become aware of Cheatham’s VIP status at casinos from the money she has made through her drug house.

Defense attorney James Miller said his client had “taken some steps” in jail drug rehab programs.

Dodge gave her a stricter sentence than her co-defendant David Blankenship of Cassopolis, who last week was sentenced to two to 20 years in prison on meth charges and two years on gun charges.

“Your responsibility is significant because it was your home,” Dodge said.

Cheatham didn’t show much emotion throughout the sentencing.

“I’ve been addicted for 37 years to some substance or another,” she said. “I can’t change that. All I can do is change the future, not the past.”

Much of her immediate future will be spent behind bars.

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