Florence man sentenced on drug charge


Staff Writer

FLORENCE, Wis. – A Florence man accused of possessing various controlled substances from a pharmacy burglary has been sentenced to serve one year in the Florence County Jail.

Sheldon Burkart, 27, also must serve three years of probation, perform 100 hours of community service, submit to an alcohol and drug assessment, and pay a $500 fine.

Burkart faced two felony drug possession charges and 10 misdemeanor drug possession charges before he accepted a plea deal in Florence County Court on Tuesday.

Pursuant to the plea deal, Burkart agreed to plea no contest to one felony count of possession of narcotic drugs, one amended misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana, two misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance, and four misdemeanor counts of possession of an illegally obtained prescription.

Four additional misdemeanor counts were dismissed.

The charges stem from a Dec. 29 incident in Florence.

According to the criminal complaint in the case, deputies from the Forest County Sheriff’s Office were investigating a burglary at the Laona Pharmacy when they obtained a search warrant for Burkart’s apartment in Florence.

They discovered numerous controlled substances in the apartment, some of which they believed to be stolen from the Laona Pharmacy.

During the plea and sentencing hearing on Tuesday, Florence County District Attorney Douglas Drexler said that deputies found a variety of pills, marijuana, heroin, and burnt spoons and syringes in Burkart’s possession.

Drexler thought that Burkart should be punished with some jail time because of his prior felony convictions in Michigan, but he should also serve probation in order to get his life back on track. He recommended a sentence of 10 months in jail and three years of probation.

Burkart’s attorney Julie LaCost said that her client is a nice, responsible person with the exception of his drug addiction.

She added that the recent death of Charles Hetzer, Burkart’s codefendant in the Laona Pharmacy burglary case in Forest County, has really had an impact on Burkart.

When given a chance to speak, Burkart apologized.

“I’d just like to apologize to the community and my family and friends for what I’ve put them through,” he said.

Judge Leon D. Stenz noted that Burkart seemed cooperative, was apologetic, and has accepted responsibility for his actions.

However, he also pointed out Burkart’s past criminal record.

“I would be justified in sending you to prison today,” Judge Stenz told Burkart.

Judge Stenz ordered that Burkart spend 12 months in the Florence County Jail. An additional jail sentence of 60 days would be covered by the time Burkart has already served.

Burkart will report to the Florence County Jail on Friday, then go to Forest County Court for a plea and sentencing hearing on the Laona Pharmacy burglary charges on May 15.

There, Burkart faces one felony count of burglary to a building or dwelling, one felony count of criminal damage to property, and seven misdemeanor counts of theft of movable property.

The same charges against Hetzer were dismissed last week following his death.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is