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Irwin woman's admission scuttles plea deal

| Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A plea bargain hearing for an Irwin woman charged with helping to sell heroin last spring was cut short Thursday when prosecutors said a proposed jail sentence may be too short for the amount of drugs involved.

Katelyn Jones, 23, was in the process of entering a guilty plea when she disclosed to Westmoreland County Judge Al Bell that she helped to sell “760 bags” of heroin.

Bell halted the hearing and directed Assistant District Attorney Tom Grace to re-evaluate the sentence being offered in exchange for the plea.

About 30 minutes later, Grace said there was no offer on the table for Jones, who faces charges of drug dealing following her April 10 arrest.

“There was never an offer. That's just what the guidelines called for,” Grace said of the plea deal that was abandoned.

Police said they seized $7,600 worth of heroin, marijuana, a loaded .45-caliber pistol and a large amount of cash when Jones was arrested along with two teenage boys.

Grace said Jones could face a substantially longer sentence once investigators determined the exact amount of drugs involved in the case.

Her case will be listed for a possible trial, according to Public Defender Matt Schimizzi.

Jones was arrested along with two Allegheny County teenagers in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Irwin. Police said the trio had just returned from a trip to Pittsburgh to pick up the drugs.

According to court records, Jones told officers she had allowed the juveniles to use her apartment to sell heroin for five days if they paid her $50 per day.

Earlier this summer, she testified at a hearing for one of her juvenile codefendants that she met the 16-year-old Turtle Creek boy in early April and agreed to the arrangement.

While both teens stayed at her apartment, the Turtle Creek teen set up drug deals and a teen from Penn Hills met with customers in the parking lot, Jones testified.

Westmoreland County Judge Michele Bononi last month denied a prosecution request to transfer the case of the Turtle Creek teen to adult court.

A hearing for the other boy is pending.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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