Two sentenced for drug charges in Cass County

CASSOPOLIS – A Middlebury man found with methamphetamine after fleeing police in late July is going to prison.

Travis Eldon Ritchie, 34, of Middlebury, was sentenced Friday in Cass County Circuit Court for both possession of meth and fourth degree fleeing police. He received a sentence of 19 months to 10 years in prison on the meth charge and credit for time served — 126 days — on the fleeing police charge. He must pay $1,228.

He can serve his sentence in any penal institution.

The incident occurred July 28 in Edwardsburg. Police saw Ritchie almost cause an accident at M-62 and U.S. 12 and pulled him over. He gave a false name and then sped away. He ended up stopping when he struck a pole. Police found meth and other items in his vehicle.

“You were on a meth binge and headed to see your wife and kids in Cass County,” Cass Circuit Judge Mark Herman said. “You had your 6- year-old sister killed by a drunk driver. I can’t imagine why you would drive after using drugs. … You’re not showing concern for others’ lives.”

Judge Herman ruled out sentencing Ritchie to Swift & Sure probation, noting that he is facing an outstanding burglary charge as well as a probation violation charge in Elkhart and thus does not qualify.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz called Ritchie a danger to the community and noted that he has a past record of five felonies, five misdemeanors and juvenile charges.

“He’s done some pretty serious stuff, including resisting police and armed robbery,” he said.

Ritchie acknowledged that he has made mistakes in the past and spent time in jail and prison. “I’ve been using since I was 14 and I haven’t dealt with my addiction,” he said. “I’ve had longer and longer periods of sobriety and I need help.”

In another case, a Dowagiac man found with meth and drug paraphernalia at a Dowagiac apartment complex was sentenced to a year in jail.

Anthony Allen Miller, 28, of Sherwood Street in Dowagiac, pleaded guilty to possession of methamphetamine and was sentenced to 365 days in jail with credit for 29 days served. He must
pay $1,548.

He was also sentenced to a concurrent 330-day jail term for violating his probation from an earlier 2018 drug charge by absconding from the Twin County Probation Center. He has credit for 82 days already served there.

The most recent incident occurred Sept. 10 at Vineyard Place in Dowagiac. Police were called to remove him from an apartment there and discovered there was a bench warrant out on him.

Fitz called Miller a “poster child” for what is wrong with society when it comes to drugs.

“He started using meth at age 23, cocaine at age 17, alcohol at age 13 and marijuana at age 10,” he said. “Marijuana is a gateway drug … and now all the chickens are coming home to roost for society and for him.”

Judge Herman advised Miller, who still has pending fleeing police charges from another incident, to take advantage of programs in the jail to turn his life around. “If you don’t make changes, you’ll be running in circles,” he said.

An Elkhart man who drove away from a gas station without paying the $71 bill ended up in a lot of trouble.

Oliver Eugene Cooper Jr., 37, of Elkhart, pleaded guilty to three felony and two misdemeanor charges: unlawful driving away of an automobile, altered/forged registration plates, fourth degree fleeing police, driving with a suspended license and larceny under $200.

He was sentenced to three concurrent terms of 365 days in jail with credit for 277 days served for the unlawful driving away, altered/forged plates and fleeing police charges. He was given credit for time served — 93 days — for the suspended license and petty larceny charges. He must pay $2,555 in fines, costs and restitution.

The incident took place over a couple of months in 2017, from when Cooper left an area gas station without paying and then fled from police when he was stopped in Cassopolis. He fled into Indiana, with speeds reaching 100 miles per hour. He then was arrested June 25, 2017, in Indiana and spent about a year in jail.

“What you need to realize is that when you flee from state to state, you’re penalized in both states and you compound your issues,” Judge Herman said. “All this today is over $71. You put yourself and others in danger.”

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