Crime & Courts

McHenry woman accepts plea deal on heroin charge tied to overdose death

Nicole A. Free, 29, of the 2700 block of Stilling Boulevard, McHenry.
Nicole A. Free, 29, of the 2700 block of Stilling Boulevard, McHenry.

A woman accused of delivering the heroin that killed a McHenry man in August received a probation sentence Friday in what a judge called the woman’s “last chance.”

Nicole Free accepted an offer from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office on Dec. 19 and pleaded guilty to possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. Free, 29, faced as many as 15 years in prison for allegedly delivering heroin to 35-year-old Alan Lippert, who died from an overdose Aug. 26. On Friday, she agreed to a sentence of specialized drug probation, 100 hours of public service and continued drug addiction treatment. She will receive credit for time she already has served in the county jail.

McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt told Free that the probation sentence could save her life.

“Ms. Free, this is kind of your last chance,” Wilbrandt said. “You understand that?”

McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather agreed in September to temporarily release Free on a nonmonetary bond so the 29-year-old could attend an in-patient treatment program in Chicago. Free now is staying at a halfway house and, under the terms of her probation, will continue seeking counseling and addiction treatment, as well as submitting to drug and alcohol testing.

Wilbrandt advised Free not to “blow” her probation sentence, adding that with another arrest, she’d “be right in [jail], and my guess is you won’t be walking out.”

McHenry County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Free in August on charges including possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance and obstructing justice.

The charges stemmed from a police investigation that began Aug. 26, when sheriff’s deputies responded to a McHenry home for a report of a possible overdose.

When officers arrived, they spotted Free “hiding narcotics in a tree,” according to a criminal complaint. She also was accused of deleting phone calls and text messages to hinder the officers’ investigation, the complaint stated.

Prosecutors filed additional drug-induced homicide charges against Free in September, claiming she played a role in delivering the heroin to Lippert.

Another man, Rashon Davis also was charged in December in connection with Lippert’s death.

Davis’ case is ongoing. Prosecutors have declined to say whether Free has agreed to testify against Davis at a potential trial. He is due back in court Feb. 1.

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