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Two Vidor women plead guilty to selling pills that caused three deaths

Catherine Ardis, 62, and Michelle Lea Harrington, 51, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance

ORANGE COUNTY, Texas — Two Vidor women pleaded guilty to drug charges after investigators say three people died after purchasing opiates from them. 

Catherine Ardis, 62, and Michelle Lea Harrington, 51, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance. 

Harrington lived on FM 150 North in Vidor, along with several other people including Ardis according to a Department of Justice news release.  

Medical examination of the three victims showed they died from poly-drug toxicity from using hydromorphone pills, or Dilaudid. 

As part of the plea, Ardis admitted to selling the pills that resulted in the three deaths according to the release. 

RELATED: Orange County mother says son overdosed at house where two women arrested for selling drugs

Shelly Caney says the drugs took the life of her son, Zackary Marshall. 

"It's total hell, I keep thinking, what should I have done different? But there's nothing, there's nothing," Caney said. "We all miss him indescribably much."

He's one of the three victims who died as a result of overdosing on drugs purchased from the Orange County home investigators say the two women were using. It's located in the 6500 block of North FM 105.

"I know that my son was responsible for going there but they were just putting the bullet in his hand," Caney said. "I'd like to think that if maybe they weren't there maybe he would have a chance, I don't know."

From a Department of Justice news release:

Two Vidor, Texas women have pleaded guilty to federal drug trafficking violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox today.

Catherine Ardis, 62, and Michelle Lea Harrington, 51, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, namely hydromorphone, before U.S. District Judge Marcia A. Crone.

 According to information presented in court, Harrington lived at a home located on FM 105 North in Vidor, Texas, in which several other persons, including Ardis, also resided.  Federal agents began their investigation of Harrington and Ardis in June of 2019 after three persons died as a result of opiates purchased from Ardis at this home.  Medical examination of the deceased persons determined that the victims died from poly-drug toxicity resulting from the use of hydromorphone pills, also referred to as Dilaudid.  As part of the factual basis for the plea, Ardis admitted to selling the hydromorphone pills that resulted in the death of the three victims.

“Trafficking of drugs ordinarily only available by prescription places the public at great risk,” said U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Cox.  “The United States is committed to punishing those that seek to profit by distributing such drugs outside the watchful care of a doctor.”

Credit: Orange County Sheriff's Office
Cathy Ardis, left, Michelle Lea Harrington

“The drug trafficker who provides the drug that causes or contributes to the overdose death of a person will be held accountable,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven S. Whipple of the DEA Houston Division.  “The DEA and our law enforcement partners will continue to commit significant resources to the identification and investigation of those who cause the death of another human, whether by violence or overdose.”

A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging the defendants with federal drug trafficking crimes on March 4, 2020.  Under federal statutes, Ardis and Harrington face up to 20 years in federal prison.  The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.  A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Vidor Police Department, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Beaumont Police Department, Port Arthur Police Department, and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. Anderson.

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