A Life Remembered: Drug court graduate touched many lives

A Life Remembered: Drug court graduate touched many lives

URBANA — Melissa "Missy" Mullins Lackey is being remembered as a person who helped others cope with the very demons that haunted parts of her life.

The 36-year-old Urbana woman died Monday evening after suffering a seizure earlier that day at the Champaign County Jail.

The cause of her death hasn't been pinpointed.

A mother of three children, Mrs. Lackey had been sentenced Jan. 27 to five years in prison for retail theft.

Mike Carey, the Champaign County probation officer assigned to drug court, said he's had clients in his office sobbing this week because Mrs. Lackey helped many of them by sharing the details of her drug usage.

Of the approximately 500 people sentenced to drug court since 1999, Mrs. Lackey was one of only a very few to get a second chance at the program, Carey said.

Carey said she walked away in 2006, left her husband and children, and went to California for several months. A year later, she walked back into a Monday drug court session.

"She said, 'I can't stand the life I'm living right now.' From that point on, she was probably one of the best drug court clients we've ever had," Carey said.

After graduating from drug court in June 2008, Mrs. Lackey inspired her husband to participate and was even hired as a case manager at Prairie Center to advocate for drug court clients.

"If they needed mental health or doctors' appointments or transportation to those, she would get them. She would take them to the township offices to apply for assistance. She absolutely shined at doing these things for other drug court clients and got paid for it. This is the part of the life where she was such a help to the community," Carey said.

In 2010, he invited her to speak to the Celebrate Recovery program he helps with at the Windsor Road Christian Church.

"She talked about how bad her life was in California, how she was missing her children," he said, adding she had become homeless there.

"She told me ... if she was ever going to get her life together, she had to face up to her past," said Carey, whose wife also became close to Mrs. Lackey through the church program. "Her first marriage was abusive. A lot of the women related to that. She became acquainted with many of the attendees and helped them during their recovery."

Leslie Mullins said she had long recognized the giving side of her daughter's nature.

"She really did want to help people and was a good person," said the 66-year-old Urbana woman. "She helped people who were arguing with their parents, some family members. She was the cool mom."

Longtime friend Karla Anderson-Shelby of Urbana, agreed. The two of them met in grade school and were "inseparable" through high school. They were "Tigerettes" together and always part of the "fun crowd."

"Everybody wanted to be with us, whether we were at each other's houses, in the mall. We always had a good time. In all the years I've known her, I can't say there was a time we were ever mad at each other," Anderson-Shelby said.

She and two other friends are accepting donations to pay for their friend's funeral and help her children at her family's business, Bundles of Joy Learning Center, 1508 N. Ridgeway Ave., C.

Anderson-Shelby said she and Mrs. Lackey went in different directions after graduating high school in 1993, but kept in touch.

"I respect the fact she had two different sets of people she ran with. I wasn't there to judge her," Anderson-Shelby said.

Mullins said her daughter's plans to become a lawyer were put on hold when, at 17, Mrs. Lackey gave birth to her daughter. Before her first marriage ended, she also had a son, who is now 16. Her older daughter is 18. She also had another daughter, now 10, by her second husband.

Mullins said her daughter held many jobs over the years: at a fast-food restaurant, as a motel maid, a gas-station clerk, a sales representative at a printing business, and working for her brother's food delivery business before the opportunity arose at Prairie Center. She was let go from the drug treatment center about six months ago.

Carey said he spoke to Mrs. Lackey in December, and she told him of her relapse into drugs in mid-2011.

"She dropped out of sight for two or three months. When I did have a chance to talk to her, she said she was holed up in her home, too embarrassed to see me, her boss, the judge. This is against the tools of recovery. She couldn't reach out to the people who were holding her accountable because of embarrassment. She lost her entire support group, which sent her further down into her addiction," he said.

As for her latest conviction, Mrs. Lackey pleaded guilty to retail theft in exchange for the dismissal of more serious charges that would have meant a longer prison term. Carey said she was hoping for probation and yet another chance at drug treatment.

Leslie Mullins said her last contact with her daughter was Friday before her sentencing.

"She texted me and said she was sorry she had disappointed me and loved me. I said, 'You're not a disappointment. You'll always be my baby girl,'" Mullins said.

That same day, Mrs. Lackey gave her wedding ring to her younger daughter. After her sentence, she spoke with her children on the phone from the jail but cut the conversation short saying she didn't feel well, according to her mother.

Carey said while many people are struggling with Mrs. Lackey's death, "her story is one that needs to be told in its entirety."

"You've got to be careful. I hate the statement: 'Relapse is part of recovery.' Relapse can occur if you let it," Carey said. "The one downside to drug court is that you work hard and people get this mentality that 'I've succeeded.' Anybody who's succeeded for a long time in recovery knows you stay in recovery. You may not have to go to daily meetings, but you have to remind yourself where you came from."

"You cannot be cured of an addiction. It will be there the rest of your life. It's how you choose to handle it that's the difference between success and failure."

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Illini4Lyfe wrote on February 04, 2012 at 1:02 pm

This updated article of Missy was a tear jerker for me!  Thank you for showing the real Missy despite her troubles! :)


Joe American wrote on February 04, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Nice story.

Now let's see how many of the trolls who ripped apart the first story say something complimentary.

champ17 wrote on February 04, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Who care's what other people say's about Missy !!!

Missy was a good friend she will always be remembered


Joe American wrote on February 05, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Apparently YOU do after seeing your scathing remarks on the last news piece.

mommabird1960 wrote on February 04, 2012 at 6:02 pm

This was the article that should have been written in the first place.  I am still upset about the earlier article printed, but I will say this is a beautiful tribute to her.  This is the Missy I knew, loved and will miss.

wcostley wrote on February 05, 2012 at 12:02 am

First I would like to say "thank you", for submitting this article. Missy has such a beautiful soul; full of kindness, laughter, and smiles that could light up the darkest room. Today and always; she is loved, she is missed, and she will forever be wanted and needed by many. May God heal the pain of those that are most dearest and nearest to her, for I only continue to pray that you find peace in his calling for Missy. Though gone....Never forgotten!

Local Yocal wrote on February 05, 2012 at 5:02 am
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Thanks to the "trolls", Miss Mary realized she goofed with her first article. Thanks to the mother and a long-time friend coming forward, a more complete picture has been set for the record of someone who clearly meant much to many. Has the The News-Gazette learned a lesson? Doubt it. The News-Gazette and it's ace crime reporter will likely continue to be ruthless toward anyone who struggles with drug addiction, and the N-G will likely continue to help law enforcement sell the propaganda of the racist, ineffective "Drug War." Mrs. Lackey did more to take responsibility for putting the heroin in her body than the United States government does bringing it to her from Afghanistan.

Chambana_Dude wrote on February 05, 2012 at 8:02 am


I'm not sure why you imply that this article or previous articles have anything to do whatsoever with "racism". I'm not naive enough to think that racism doesn't exist. But what I do tire from is the racism "card" being played at any and every opportunity. The truth of the matter is, if it rains on you, its not because of the color of your skin. Thats life. People of every color make opportunities for themselves and fall to vices and addictions. Life doesn't discriminate. Get over it and stop crying "racist" at every corner in order to get something for nothing and help propel your agenda, whatever that may be. 

Always Yours,

Chambana Dude

Local Yocal wrote on February 05, 2012 at 10:02 am
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Chambana Dude,

Trusting in your belief that racism does exist, I highly recommend you read attorney Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow, to understand the truth of the 40-year "Drug War." The rain and life don't discriminate, but the criminal justice system does. There are numerous studies from all over the country with facts and stats to shows that while everybody falls to vices and addictions, it's only certain populations that are targeted for surveillance, arrest, and prosecution. For whatever the ancient reasons are, those populations are identified by the criminal justice system according to race. And media outlets like The News-Gazette refuses to track that phenomena.

As for getting "something for nothing", I recommend reading reporter Dan Baum's book, Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and The Politics of Failure to understand that it is the criminal justice system who wants a lot of your tax dollars for no results whatsoever. 

I suggest you "get into it", stop sticking your head into the self-righteous sand, and learn that the current criminal justice agenda does not aid recovery- but rather profits off the failure to recover- and might be aiding and abedding the distribution of foreign-imported drugs. Perhaps this education would further your agenda of justice, compassion, and keeping good people like Mrs. Lackey alive.

See you at the meetings,

Local Yocal



Chambana_Dude wrote on February 05, 2012 at 11:02 am

I agree that the "war on drugs" is flawed. However, drug possession and distribution is a crime, none the less, and while I further agree that not all drug crimes warrant a prison sentence, there are certainly some that do. 

To be on either side of the spectrum in the sense that all drug users are criminals and deserve prison or all drug users are sick and need treatment would be ignorant and futile. Drug offenses need to be considered on a case by case basis and many different componants should be considered when handing down a sentence. Should first time offenders being given a second chance? Yes. Should (multiple) repeat offenders go to prison? Yes. 

I would like to think that we could at least agree that all drug dealers in fact do warrant prison sentences, as they have no excuse and are the most wreckless of the wreckless, and selfish of the selfish. 

However, there is one part of your argument that I whole heartedly disagree with and that is the argument that there is some sort of nation-wide criminal justice conspiracy to prosecute minorities over caucasions. 

I will give you the benefit of the doubt and for the sake of this argument say that minorities, specifically blacks, are "targeted" more often than other races, specifically whites, as I'm assuming you're implying. If that is in fact true, the very last thing I would attribute that fact to is that law enforcement agents are operating on the agenda that they'd rather target and arrest a black man as opposed to a white man. Rather, I would attribute it to a culmination of several things that our society has evolved into and become. Such as media. Social class. Culture. Poverty. Etc. 

Local Yocal wrote on February 05, 2012 at 1:02 pm
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I would again encourage you to do the above reading assignments to familiarize yourself with the criminal justice system before deciding you are certain there is no conspiracy. You are correct that the ideals of law enforcement should have no racial bias, or conspiracies, but what is the reality? The books I suggest have done some research into the question. I have errored greatly to suggest "the entire" criminal justice system is at fault for any conspiracy or insistance on a "flawed" policy. If you type in    www.leap.cc    and read what's on that website, you will see that the entire criminal justice system is not at fault. 

At approximately $17,000-30,000 a year at your and I's expense, what are the recidivism rates of multiple offenders after prison? What do multiple offenders do all day while they are in prison? How much money do you and I spend on a multiple offender voluntarily entering treatment or a 12 step program? What are the success rates with those alternative programs? And of all the multiple offenders out there right now, who are using drugs again today, what affect has this on our lives today? How is it they deserve cops with guns to go get them and place them in a 9 X 5 cinder block cell, and lawyers and judges spend months prosecuting them? There may be good reasons for intervention, but will the above prescription really solve their multiple offending? Is that how you want your bad habits treated? If it helps you to overcome your bad habits, give me your address and I'll send the cops over now if you want me to.

"...all drug dealers in fact do warrant prison sentences, as they have no excuse and are the most wreckless of the wreckless, and selfish of the selfish." Well now, you are making those of us who work for extremely wealthy corporations dealing the most destructive drugs, employing millions of people, very nervous with that comment. We would like you, Dude, to quit with the class warfare and understand that in a free enterprise system, we who deal toxic, recreational drugs always have an excuse: it's called consumer demand. So rather than call us selfish and wreckless, we would rather you enjoy our well-made Super Bowl commercials today; and honor our First Amendment right to have a cartoon character, like the beloved Joe Camel, be the spokesman for our many fine products. Rest assured we do not oppose your state legislatures, city councils and school districts from balancing their budgets with extra taxes on the most destructive drugs in society. Consumers enjoy! But remember, be responsible! Personal responsibility is far more effective than a ever-growing Nanny Government. Wrecklessness is on you little people. It is not selfish of us to be successful at getting rich off of other people's addictions to the most destructive drugs in society. Your regulatatory, jail-the-job-creators mentality is a hindrance to the freedom our good soldiers fought for.

As the above paragraph points out, you are right that our media and culture sure has us confused, or forgetful anyway. The question for people like you, Dude, who have a passion for justice and fairness, is: In this here transparent democracy, will the criminal justice system allow for researchers to compare patrol details, SWAT raids, traffic stops, and the prosecutorial outcomes for blacks and whites charged with the same drug crimes? If there is no conspiracy, the criminal justice system should welcome the chance to shut loudmouth local yocals up once and for all.

To the family of Mrs. Lacky, I apologize if this discussion has departed from more important matters. I hope you will grant that seeking effective solutions toward drug addiction, in a public forum, might be something related to Mrs. Lackey's life. If it does not, this local yocal really will shut up and we can debate some other time, Dude. 



Joe American wrote on February 05, 2012 at 12:02 pm

"Racism" is alive and well in the minds of those who want it to be for political purposes.  It's arguably the most misused term in the entire English glossary, sadly carrying little weight where it really needs to be.  Does "the boy who cried wolf" ring any bells?

ClearVision wrote on February 08, 2012 at 9:02 am

Absolutely. The article I first read said nothing about race, and had no photograph. Those who try to make this a racial issue are the ones making it into a problem. There's so much "cryng wolf" from certain frequent contributors here that their message is ignored when it may really be a problem.

james33 wrote on February 05, 2012 at 9:02 am

It's obvious there more "local" drug court canidates!

boo2ng wrote on February 06, 2012 at 9:02 am

Thank you Mary Schenk for this article, this article is much more approprite for her family to read. Well done.