However, after serving a year in jail and being released on supervised probation, Bessey did resume the illegal behavior: overdosing on morphine in January 2011, then playing a supporting role in a robbery of prescription medications and separately using bogus phone calls to steal painkillers from a neighbor in March 2012.
And so a month ago — some four years after being sentenced for the pharmacy burglaries — the 24-year-old Bessey appeared again before Judge Skar to answer for the crimes he’d committed while on probation.
“There are not any excuses for what I have done ... what I have done is inexcusable,” Bessey apologized, adding, “I never knew that the drugs were completely so powerful to drive a person ... to completely throw their morals and their ethics right out the window as I have.”
Skar accepted a deal reached between Bessey’s court-appointed attorneys, Scott Kath and Bill Simpson, and Park County Attorney Bryan Skoric. The judge ordered Bessey to serve eight to 10 years in prison; he was transferred to the custody of the Wyoming Department of Corrections on June 7.
At the April 24 sentencing hearing, Skar said he wasn’t going to to lecture Bessey about the dangers of controlled substances.
“The importance of your sobriety, you’ve seen. You’ve seen how this stuff can take over your persona and change you from someone that is law-abiding and moving forward to someone that is devious and conniving — and it’s not you,” Skar said.
Bessey and close friend Tyler Stonehouse had stolen close to 10,000 pills from the Coe Medical Center over the course of two 2008 break-ins.
Both young Cody men later said they’d been severely addicted to painkillers at the time.
Stonehouse, now 23, received six months of jail time for the burglaries; Bessey, a year.
According to law enforcement, it wasn’t long after their releases from jail that both fell back into addictions and crime.
In September 2010, Bessey tested positive for Adderall — a stimulant used to treat ADHD or narcolepsy — and reportedly told his probation agent the pills came from Stonehouse’s prescription.
Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agents then apparently approached Bessey about becoming an informant on Stonehouse.
Under the supervision of DCI, Bessey bought cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone from Stonehouse in November and December 2010, charging documents say.
At an April 2012 sentencing hearing for the sales to Bessey, Stonehouse said his initial reaction had been anger about his “best friend in the whole world” informing on him and that he believed he’d been entrapped. However, Stonehouse told the judge he’d later come to believe the arrest “was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, because I was alive. I’m still alive.”
Admitting to having been an addict since the age of 14, Stonehouse also said he wished he’d been more honest when he addressed Skar about the pharmacy break-ins years earlier. Stonehouse described himself as having “weaseled” his way out of substance abuse treatment in that case.
“I didn’t change anything,” Stonehouse said. “I didn’t take any steps to remove the drugs and the alcohol from my life, because aside from that, your honor, I am able to lead a pretty amazing life.”
Skar sentenced Stonehouse to three to five years in prison. That was less than the six to nine years asked for by Skoric but more than the roughly a year requested by Stonehouse’s attorney, Travis Smith of Cody’s Goppert, Smith and Beduhn.
“I don’t buy this, ‘You were set up’ business, OK?” Skar told Stonehouse. “You could easily have said no, but you were using. You were involved again. You didn’t take it to heart.”
DCI agents had been concerned about Stonehouse overdosing while making the controlled buys, but it was Bessey who actually did in January 2010. An ambulance was called to Bessey’s Cody home, where he was found unconscious and unresponsive from morphine abuse.
Bessey was charged with possession of a controlled substance, and he posted bond while the case was pending. In January 2012, a year removed from the overdose, Bessey tested positive for oxycodone, court records say. Then on March 6, he helped provide transportation for a man, Ryan Hodkoski, who’d just robbed a woman of some prescription medication at knife-point, records say.
Later in the month, Bessey used bogus phone calls to get his elderly neighbor out of his house. That allowed Bessey to steal pain pills and patches from the home, Cody police say.
In one instance, Bessey pretended to be one of the neighbor’s friends and asked him to meet for lunch at the Irma Hotel; the neighbor showed up to find no one there. Other calls told the neighbor to go to Wells Fargo to sign some paperwork, to claim a prize at Dairy Queen and have blood drawn for a doctor. In each instance, the neighbor went to the locations to find no one knew what he was talking about. Cody police said Bessey’s phone records implicated him in the calls.
At his sentencing in April, Bessey specifically apologized to the neighbor and pledged to take advantage of any treatment opportunities he can.
“I will turn myself around 180 degrees,” he told Skar.
A few friends and family attended the hearing in support of Bessey.
“They see a young man who’s been a part of their lives for a long time, and they don’t see this other side,” said Judge Skar. “It’s a side that’s gotten you into this much trouble, as it has done other people — other very smart people.”
Much like he’d advised Stonehouse a year earlier, Skar warned Bessey that he’ll have to completely stay away from drugs — including legal drinking and pain medication.
“It’s going to be up to you to say, ‘I can’t go there.’ Because if you don’t say no, you’ll find yourself down this path again,” Skar said.
At both hearings, the judge also reaffirmed his belief in the young men’s potential. A corrections spokesman said Stonehouse has progressed to a halfway house type of program over the past year in state custody.