<p>Shown, from left, are defendant Donald Collins, attorneys Conrad Curren and Kathryn Hapner and defendant Kimberly Collins.&nbsp;</p>

Shown, from left, are defendant Donald Collins, attorneys Conrad Curren and Kathryn Hapner and defendant Kimberly Collins. 

A husband and wife have pleaded guilty to charges of operating a meth lab in the vicinity of a child, and have each been sentenced to three years in prison.

Donald Collins and Kimberly Collins, of Hillsboro, were each indicted in March on first-degree felony charges of illegal manufacture of drugs in the vicinity of a juvenile; illegal assembly, felonies of the second degree; endangering children, felonies of the third degree; and a forfeiture specification.

They appeared in Highland County Common Pleas Court on Monday for a scheduled motion to suppress hearing regarding an alleged unlawful search. However, the defendants ultimately entered into the plea agreements.

Donald Collins pleaded guilty to one count of illegal assembly in the vicinity a juvenile, a felony of the second degree. As a result of the plea, the state dismissed the remaining charges.

Kimberly Collins pleaded guilty to one count of illegal assembly in the vicinity a juvenile, a felony of the second degree. As a result of the plea, the state dismissed the remaining charges.

Both of the defendants cried at times during the hearing, and as Donald Collins watched his wife enter her guilty plea, he wiped tears from his face.

Prosecutor Anneka Collins told the court that, "There was a 4-year-old child in the next room from where there was an active meth lab."

A 17-year-old had also been in the home, she said. 

Kimberly Collins, who was represented by attorney Kathryn Hapner, was convicted in Hillsboro Municipal Court in March of purchasing more than the legal amount of Pseudoephedrine, an ingredient that can be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Hapner said that her client denies she purchased the medication to be used in the manufacture of meth. The legal amount that can be purchased is .9 grams and Collins purchased .10 grams, according to Hapner.

Conrad Curren, attorney for Donald Collins, said that his client "only had a fourth grade education in West Virginia," and that he is "illiterate."

It was stated that Donald Collins did not have a previous criminal record other than traffic violations.

There was a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years on the charges, with a maximum of eight years that was possible for each defendant. No pre-sentence investigation was ordered, and the court proceeded to sentencing.

The state recommended that Donald Collins be sentenced to five years in prison and that Kimberly Collins be sentenced to three years in prison.

Highland County Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss asked the prosecution to explain why different sentences had been recommended.

Anneka Collins said that had the case proceeded to trial, "the evidence would have shown that (Donald Collins) was the cooker and (Kimberly Collins) was the (Pseudoephedrine) supplier. (Investigators found an active lab in a bedroom where he was staying. She was staying on the couch."

The prosecutor said that initially investigators with the Highland County Sheriff's Office did not know if Kimberly Collins was involved in the meth operation, but following investigation, "there was no question she knew what was going on, and that's what the evidence would have shown."

Coss said that under the law a co-conspirator can be subject to the same sentence.

The judge said, "Although I understand the state's reasoning," he ruled that it was appropriate to sentence both defendants to the same amount of prison time. While he considering "splitting the difference" with a four year sentence, Coss said that ultimately that would not be fair to Kimberly Collins.

Coss sentenced both defendants to three years in prison, and a suspension of driving privileges. The mandatory fine was waived, as neither defendant is employed and were found indigent. They are to begin serving the sentence immediately.

Another co-defendant in the case, Chad Price, is scheduled for a final pretrial hearing May 16, with a jury trial scheduled for June 11.