The second day of the jury trial of Christopher Aaron Susaraba continued with testimony Wednesday about an apparent rampant drug problem in the county jail.
Susaraba, 30, of Mishawaka, is accused of fatally dealing a mix of heroin and meth to fellow inmate Dennis McCrory on March 9, 2019, in the jail’s K block. Susaraba is charged with Level 1 felony dealing in a controlled substance resulting in death and Level 5 felony trafficking with an inmate and is being represented at trial by Everett and Helen Newman.
Kosciusko Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Buehler is arguing on behalf of the state in Kosciusko Circuit Court, where Judge Mike Reed is presiding.
The state rested its case Wednesday afternoon after calling several more witnesses, including inmates at the jail.
The first witness was Michelle Hyden, an employee of the sheriff’s office who handles financial transactions and reports at the office and for the jail.
Hyden testified that $150 was deposited by McCrory’s girlfriend, Jodie Springer, into Susaraba’s inmate account on March 8, 2019, something prosecutors allege was money for the drugs.
Springer, when she was called to testify, said McCrory had asked her to make the deposit and she did not know what the money was to be used for.
Jurors also heard from Kevin Shanks, a forensic toxicologist, who testified methamphetamine and morphine were found in McCrory’s system.
Dr. Darin Wolfe testified he is the forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy on McCrory and found his brain and lungs to be extremely swollen.
Wolfe ruled McCrory’s cause of death as acute mixed drug intoxication due to extremely high levels of methamphetamine and morphine found in McCrory’s system. Wolfe said the weight of McCrory’s lungs were three times more than what the average person’s should weigh due to the swelling and fluid and that McCrory’s brain was so swollen it was flat on top when the top of the skull was removed.
“His level was well past the toxic level,” Wolfe said.
Next, the state called Daniel Swafford, who showed up in a jail jumpsuit and shackled at the feet as an inmate of the Whitley County Jail.
Swafford said he was in the K block of KCJ at the time of the incident and that he knew Susaraba before they were incarcerated together.
An admitted heroin user, Swafford said Susaraba had “dope” on him when he arrived in the block and that he asked to buy some. He did buy some, Swafford admitted, and said he paid Susaraba using commissary money, and recalled a time when he, Susaraba and a few other inmates went into Susaraba’s jail cell and got high with a mix of meth and heroin they snorted in lines.
McCrory was allegedly involved in that drug use and there was some concern as to the amount McCrory was consuming.
“It was pretty hefty lines,” Swafford said.
However, a mix of inmates then got brought into the story by their nicknames, including one main character named “Red.”
“Red” supposedly handed the drugs Swafford bought to Swafford and also allegedly dealt some drugs to McCrory.
After that, Swafford said, McCrory was angry because he felt “Red” had ripped him off, so McCrory went and got “Big Country” to fight “Red,” subsequently resulting in “Red” getting moved off the block.
After that, Swafford said Susaraba commented that he “was going to make things right with Dennis, we all three did drugs together.”
Swafford said there were no drugs available in K block before Susaraba’s arrival.
Next, James Walsh, who also appeared in a jail jumpsuit and shackled as an inmate at KCJ, took the stand.
He said he did not know Susaraba before jail and said Susaraba gave him meth in the jail and he offered to purchase drugs from Susaraba but that transaction never went through because McCrory’s death ended up happening.
The drugs in the K block were apparently so bad that Walsh wrote a letter to Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle Dukes alerting him that drugs were in the jail.
Walsh testified that no one else in K block was dealing drugs except Susaraba.
The state rested its case and the defense fired up their case by calling two inmates from KCJ.
The first was Daniel Holbrook who said he was in the L block at the time of the fatal incident in K block. Holbrook said he got caught with meth in the L block. Meth Holbrook said he purchased from “Red.”
Holbrook then provided several examples of drug activity in the jail walls that he witnessed, saying drug deals went down between blocks during church services and recreational times, and passed through empty chip bags “if you’re lucky.”
Holbrook said people would smoke drugs, snort drugs and he would personally use a syringe to shoot meth up while an inmate. He later got caught when jail officers suspected he had homemade alcohol in his cell and conducted a search and found Holbrook’s meth in a jar.
The defense has claimed that not only did Susaraba not smuggle or peddle drugs into and in the jail but rather he made money – including receiving that $150 deposit from McCrory’s girlfriend – for tattoo work he did on inmates.
Holbrook, who was covered in tattoos all the way over his face, told jurors with pride that “every single piece of ink you see on me was done by him (Susaraba).”
McCrory had gotten a new tattoo right before the incident.
When cross-examined by Buehler, it came to light that Holbrook is also currently Susaraba’s cellmate at the jail.
Next, the defense called Kevin Gibson to the stand, also currently incarcerated at KCJ and who was in the K block at the time of the overdose.
Gibson said he would see Susaraba doing tattoos but never saw him with drugs or selling drugs.
The defense will continue calling witnesses at 8:30 a.m. today.