URBANA — A 36-year-old Urbana woman who died after having a seizure at the Champaign County Jail on Monday was plagued by illegal drug use much of her adult life.
But Melissa S. Lackey had successfully graduated from Champaign County's drug-court program in 2008 and even inspired her husband to go through it, and won praise from a circuit judge for her work at a drug treatment center.
On Friday, Mrs. Lackey was sentenced to five years in prison for retail theft for stealing from the Meijer store in Champaign on June 18. She pleaded guilty in November and her sentencing had originally been scheduled in mid-December but was continued when her attorney told Judge Harry Clem he thought she was getting residential drug treatment at the time.
Sheriff's Capt. Allen Jones, who oversees the jail, said Mrs. Lackey's most recent admission to the jail came on Friday after her sentencing.
In a release, Sheriff Dan Walsh said correctional officers were alerted at 2:12 a.m. that she was having a seizure and, before firefighters and paramedics arrived, began CPR and revival attempts using an automated external defibrillator.
Jones said it was Mrs. Lackey's cellmate who alerted the officers, two men and a woman.
"This was an unpreventable occurrence that our officers responded to with extreme competence. I'm really proud of them," Jones said.
Mrs. Lackey was admitted to Carle Foundation Hospital, where doctors determined she suffered a brain aneurysm. She was pronounced dead at 5:34 p.m. Monday.
Walsh said preliminary medical reports indicate she died as a result of bleeding in the brain from the aneurysm. The coroner has scheduled an autopsy for Wednesday.
Mrs. Lackey was the mother of three children.
In a December 2009 interview with The News-Gazette, she revealed that she had started drinking alcohol at 12 and moved on to crack cocaine and heroin use in her late 20s before entering and graduating from the drug-court program.
The affable Mrs. Lackey even landed a job at Prairie Center, a drug treatment center, after graduating from drug court in 2008.
"She did a good job for us when she was at Prairie Center," said Judge Jeff Ford, who oversees drug court. "She was a case manager for drug court. She could relate to them real well."
"Something happened in her personal life and she was gone," said Ford, who did not know the details of her termination from the drug-treatment agency.
Court records indicate she had been charged in three criminal cases during 2011 for shoplifting-related burglaries, retail theft and a battery.
Her husband, Anthony Lackey, 42, was sentenced in August to six years in prison for burglary for entering a store at Market Place Mall in January 2011, intending to steal.
He was so inspired by his wife's 2008 success in drug court that he practically begged his way in to the program, officials said. In December 2009, Anthony Lackey also graduated from drug court. He and his wife then went to work for Mrs. Lackey's brother in a local food-delivery business.
The two of them had a daughter together. Mrs. Lackey also had two older children from a previous marriage.