Local News

Rescued Drowning Victims were Brothers

(Berrien County, Michigan) - Two of the four juveniles pulled from Lake Michigan at Warren Dunes in Berrien County, Michigan, have died.

 

Police said the victims were swimming in the lake when emergency crews were called to the shoreline near Sawyer around 6 p.m. on Sunday. Bystanders helped bring two of the juveniles to shore.

 

The U.S. Coast Guard helped local first responders get the others out of the water. All four were taken to the hospital, authorities said.

 

The two juveniles who died were brothers and attended St. Joseph High School in South Bend. It's believed they were cousins of the juveniles whose conditions were not revealed. 

 

According to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Saint Joseph High School in South Bend, High School Principal John Kennedy ensured that support and counseling were available to students and staff today. That support will continue to be available in the future. In addition, an all-school Mass was held on Monday morning, and a Divine Mercy Chaplet was held in the afternoon.

 

“We will walk through this grief together and call upon our faith to guide and strengthen us at this time. We ask for your prayers for the family, our students, faculty, and staff,” Kennedy said.

Missing Girl Who Drowned Identified

(Michigan City, IN) - A three-year-old girl pronounced dead after being pulled from a body of water in Michigan City last week has been identified.

 

Ivy Allen was found along the shoreline of Clare Lake in the area of U.S 12 and Karwick Road near Long Beach during a search for a child reported missing on May 12. Attempts were made for several hours to revive the girl by paramedics rushing the girl to the hospital and doctors at the medical facility, police said. The young girl was last seen at her home in the 400 block of Long Beach Lane, not far from the lake.

 

LaPorte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said the cause of death revealed during an autopsy was drowning. She said there were no signs of trauma on the girl’s body.

 

Michigan City Police have not shed light on the findings of the investigation. However, Swanson revealed the girl’s mother explained the last time she saw her daughter was when she was watching television after breakfast.

 

The mother said she left the room to begin cleaning up, and at some point, her daughter apparently went out the back door, according to Swanson. However, the mother explained she didn’t know her daughter had left the residence because the alarm on the door wasn’t working correctly.

 

The search began after police were called about the missing girl at about 11:30 a.m.

Gas Reaches $4.99 a Gallon

(La Porte County, IN) - Gas is nearly $5 a gallon now at many stations in LaPorte County. 

 

Bob Rudd of Michigan City had this reaction when he drove past the Family Express at Johnson Road and U.S 20 and saw the gas price at $4.99 late this morning.

 

“I just couldn’t believe it. I cannot believe it’s that much money here in Michigan City. I know it’s other places, but it’s hit us now. It’s just absolutely crazy. It’s just too much," Rudd said. 

The semi-retired Rudd is a delivery man for an auto parts store. Rudd said being on a fixed income means limiting his driving even further since gas prices started going up rapidly several months ago. 

 

According to GasBuddy.com, gas is also $4.99 at some stations in Valparaiso. Gas was still anywhere from $4.35 to $4.99 a gallon in New Buffalo and below $4.50 in South Bend.

Narcotics Found in Cancer Center Bathroom.

(Michigan City, IN) - A good-sized amount of street drugs were located in the bathroom of a La Porte County medical facility.

 

According to La Porte County Police, officers responded to the Woodland Cancer Center outside Michigan City last week. A security officer spotted a package wrapped in plastic next to a toilet, and there was an overpowering smell of marijuana in the bathroom. The package contained close to two ounces of marijuana and over eight ounces of methamphetamine.

 

According to police, more than a dozen cancer patients were in and out of the facility that day, so it was hard to determine who the drugs belonged. The drugs have since been destroyed.

People Rescued from Lake Michigan

(Berrien County, IN) - Four people were pulled from the water of Lake Michigan last evening while swimming at Warren Dunes State Park in Berrien County, Michigan.

 

According to local police, the call came in just after 6 p.m., eight minutes later. Two people were pulled from the water during a search. 

 

The conditions of the individuals all taken to the hospital are not known publicly at this time. We'll provide more information once it becomes available.

Sneaky Gambler's Luck Runs Out

(Michigan City, IN) - A delinquent dad was picked up in a La Porte County casino and charged with trying to cash in on his winnings illegally.

 

According to court documents, Billy J. Butler of Mishawaka was at Blue Chip Casino on April 20. He won at a table game, but his winnings were intercepted because he allegedly owes $48,000 in child support.

 

When he later won over $1,000 at a slot machine, casino police say he tried paying a woman to collect it for him. The unsuspecting woman was let go, but Butler was later charged with a Level 6 Felony in La Porte Superior Court 4.

 

Things only got worse for Butler. On Tuesday he was arrested at his home in Mishawaka for unlawfully having a firearm and possession of cocaine.

Road Workers Unearth Piece of History

(Lakeville, IN) - An area road construction crew went back in time recently while doing repairs to an old highway.  Some excavation work to replace pipes under old U.S. 31 north of Lakeville recently turned up pieces of the original highway dating back about two hundred years.

 

Cassandra Bajek is this area’s public relations director for the Indiana Department of Transportation. She said remnants of an old plank road were found earlier this week well beneath the modern roadway. “We’re doing a few pipe replacements, so for that they have to dig pretty deep into the ground,” she said. “About four or five feet in, they found an old wooden road, also called a corduroy road, so it’s probably the original roadway placed there.”

 

Corduroy roads were timber trackways made of logs, often from trees cut down to clear the roadway’s path. They were frequently used in low swampy areas.

 

According to Bajek, a good number of the old log planks were carefully extracted. “We were able to pull up probably a couple dozen planks that were in pretty decent condition,” she said. “They’re not particularly wide or long but basically enough for a horse-drawn carriage to go over them.”

 

Bajek said other similar artifacts have been found in the area, but these were better preserved than most. Some of the pieces are being offered to the library and the elementary school in Lakeville for display.

 

The pipe replacement project near Lakeville will be going on all summer. Who knows? Perhaps more interesting discoveries await.

Memorial for Fallen Officers

(Michigan City, IN) - Local law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty were remembered Friday in a special ceremony in Michigan City.

 

The La Porte County Peace Officer’s Memorial Service took place at the Holdcraft Performing Arts Center in the old Elston High School.

 

U.S District Attorney Clifford Johnson was the keynote speaker. This event commemorated the 15 Line of Duty Deaths in LaPorte County over the years.

 

It kicked off Police Week 2022, in which communities across the country honor those officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as the family members, friends and fellow officers they left behind.

 

A similar ceremony was held in St. Joseph County Friday afternoon. A candlelight vigil was held at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Friday night.

 

Escapee Shot in Standoff With Police

(Kentland, IN) - Indiana State Police are investigating a police-involved shooting that happened in northwest Indiana on Wednesday.

 

According to a press release, officers were delivering an inmate from Illinois to Newton County, when the prisoner escaped from the transport vehicle in Kentland. Less than two hours later, officers located the fugitive, who had obtained a firearm, in an apartment building.

 

After opening fire on officers, the inmate was shot by a Jasper County Sheriff’s deputy. The escapee, 36-year-old Jayme Lopez of Gary, was flown by helicopter to a South Bend hospital for treatment.

Nursing Home Chain Downsizing

(Warsaw, IN) - A nursing home operator familiar to area families is downsizing.

 

Miller’s Merry Manor will be transferring ownership of eight of its facilities statewide. This will not affect the facilities in La Porte, New Carlisle, or Walkerton.

 

Miller’s Health Systems, Inc. says the change has to do with changes in the operating leases at those eight locations.

 

Miller’s runs about 30 senior care facilities throughout Indiana. Nearly 700 workers stand to be affected by the downsizing. However, most, if not all of them, are expected to keep their jobs under new management.

Flags Lowered for COVID Deaths

(Indianapolis, IN) - Flags are flying at half-staff this weekend. Not for one person in particular, but for a million.

 

Governor Eric Holcomb has ordered the observance in memory of the one million American lives that have been lost to COVID-19.

 

The order coincides with a similar federal directive to fly flags at half-mast until sunset Monday.

Charges in Bank Account Fraud Attempt

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed against a woman suspected of identity theft related to her activities at banks in the area.  Danielle Schoonmaker, 39, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Fraud and Identity Deception.

 

According to court documents, she stole the identities of other people to try and withdraw money from their bank accounts.

 

On May 4, she was caught attempting to withdraw $4,000 from an account belonging to someone else at a Horizon Bank branch in Michigan City, police said.  Police said a suspicious clerk notified authorities who greeted Schoonmaker while she was walking out of the branch empty handed.

 

According to court documents, she was being transported to the La Porte County Jail when she began slurring her words and told the officer she had taken a large amount of heroin earlier in the day.  She was taken to a hospital.  Then after given medical clearance several hours later, she was locked up at the jail.  Her booking information does not contain a listed address but she told the officer she was from New York City.

 

Evidence in the case indicates she was suspected of similar activity at Horizon Bank branches in Lake County and southwest Michigan.

PNW Winners of Competition Announced

(Hammond, IN) - Purdue University Northwest’s College of Business and College of Technology hosted 12 finalists on April 30 during the 11th annual PNW Big Sell pitch competition.  The top three winners in the competition  were announced.

 

Richard Christakes was awarded first place and $10,000 for his business, Ship My Plants, which matches plant enthusiasts with the closest possible sellers based on geolocation. The business model is intended to minimize stress on plants, save shipping time and costs and reduce carbon emissions.

 

Pair Drew Jarvis and Cindy Belardo took home second place and $3,000 for their product, Sunny Cup, a reusable feminine hygiene product that is lower in cost, better for the environment and free from harmful chemicals and dyes, when compared to similar feminine hygiene products on the market.

 

Dan Durochik received third place and $1,000 for Alert Lift, an automatic garage door opener with an integrated carbon monoxide detector. The device would detect high levels of carbon monoxide and trigger a garage to open and ventilate. Durochik is a 1986 PNW alumnus who earned a bachelor’s degree in Managerial Studies.

 

“Year after year the PNW Big Sell showcases the innovation and entrepreneurship in Northwest Indiana,” said Kristin Burton, assistant professor of Entrepreneurship.

 

“Each year I am excited to see what business ideas and concepts will be presented.  We are so grateful to NIPSCO for sponsoring this event and their commitment to helping small businesses.  I encourage all aspiring entrepreneurs to consider presenting their business ideas at the PNW Big Sell next year,” she said. 

 

Burton and Mont Handley, Entrepreneur in Residence and associate director of the Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center (CMEC), jointly directed the event.

 

The 12 finalists delivered six-minute pitches to a three-member panel of judges. The PNW Big Sell final pitch competition can be viewed on-demand at jedtv.com.

 

PNW has campuses in Hammond and near Westville. 

Alleged Crossbow Shoplifter Charged

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is looking at potential time in prison for going big in his alleged shoplifting.  27 year old Sky Fall is charged in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to court documents, he was inside Rural King in La Porte last month and walked out without paying for three crossbows.  Police say he was captured by store surveillance cameras and recognized from previous encounters with law enforcement.  The crossbows were valued at more than $2,000.

 

He could face an up to 30 month sentence on a Level 6 Felony charge of Theft.

Search Still On for Convicted Molester

(La Porte, IN) - Authorities are still looking for a man convicted by a jury of child molesting in La Porte Circuit Court this week.  50 year old David Powers, II, did not show up for his trial but the trial was held anyway.  He was convicted on four courts of child molesting.

 

Authorities say Powers did show up for a court hearing a week before the trial but has not been seen or heard from since.  According to courtroom officials, he was living in the Lake Station/Portage area just prior to the start of his trial.

 

Police, armed with an arrest warrant issued by Judge Tom Alevizos, are actively looking for leads on his whereabouts.

 

According to the evidence, Powers is a body builder who met a woman on an internet dating site.  While living her at a home outside La Porte, authorities said he molested her 12 year old daughter on more than one occasion.  He’s facing an up to 40 year sentence on each of the two most serious counts.

Death of Child Under Investigation

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are investigating the death of a three year old girl.  Police say the child was found along the shoreline of Clare Lake just off Fairway Drive.

 

The child was found during a search after officers were called to the 400 block of Long Beach Lane close to noon.  She was pulled from the water and transported to the hospital.  Medical personnel tried for hours but were not able to revive the girl.

 

Police are not releasing additional information at this time but they are looking for anyone who might have surveillance video to try and further the investigation.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police. 

Hotel Guest Arrested at Pool

(La Porte County, IN) - A man was barely awake and fully clothed but managed to survive his rocky dip in a motel swimming pool in La Porte County this morning.  He can thank police officers for pulling him out of the water before something tragic, perhaps, could have happened.

 

Rodrigo Coxcahua, 23, is charged with Public Intoxication and Disorderly Conduct.

 

According to La Porte County Police, officers about 2:30 a.m. were called to Quality Inn near Interstate 94 outside the corporate boundaries of Michigan City.  A call from the hotel indicated Coxcahua was a guest at the hotel who refused to get out of the swimming pool, which was closed.  He was also reported as belligerent and threw a chair into the water.

 

Police said officers found him holding onto the steps of the pool for support and wearing jeans, a shirt and boots.  Officers also described him as “barely conscious.”  The officers lifted him out of the pool.

 

He was being held in the La Porte County Jail on $255 bond. A record at the jail for Coxcahua contained no listed address.

Home Surveillance Camera Leads to Arrest

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is in jail after allegedly caught stealing by a home surveillance camera.  Jason Hurt, 43, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 Felony Theft and Class A Misdemeanor Criminal Trespass.

 

According to court documents, Hurt pulled into the driveway of a home Monday afternoon in La Porte near Kesling Park.  The garage door was open.  Police said he walked into the garage and walked out a minute later holding a bag containing drills and various hand tools.

 

According to police, the victim after being told a suspicious vehicle in his driveway reviewed the video on his home surveillance system.  There was an image of a man and the vehicle he was driving.  A few hours later, police spotted the vehicle on E. Lincolnway.

 

Police said Hurt, who looked like the suspect captured in the video, was taken into custody.

 

According to court records, Hurt has at least one prior theft related conviction.

CPR Classes Offered to Public

(La Porte, IN) - People seeking CPR certification can take advantage of free classes offered by City of La Porte firefighters, according to Fire Chief Andy Snyder.

 

From now until the end of the year,  the City of La Porte Fire Department is offering free monthly CPR classes to La Porte County residents.  Fire Chief Andy Snyder said CPR can often be the difference between life and death in emergency situations.  "Not only do participants walk away from these classes with their certification, but also the confidence they need to potentially save a life," Snyder said.

 

The instructors are firefighters at the department and each course is about four hours long.  "Though we hope no one ever needs to use CPR, we know that the more people we can teach, the safer our community becomes. Our team is proud to offer this service to county residents and hope many will take advantage of this free program," he said.

 

The courses at Fire Station #1 at 809 W. 18th St. are offered on the following days:

  • May 20 @ 8 a.m.
  • June 23 @ 4 p.m.
  • July 18 @ 4 p.m.
  • August 23 @ noon and 4 p.m.
  • September 12 @ noon and 4 p.m.
  • October 2 @ 8:00 AM
  • November 14 @ 4 p.m.
  • December 4 @ 4 p.m.

 Snyder said this program is made possible in part by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.  Those interested can learn more and sign up by contacting Firefighter Michael Mulcrone at mike.mulcrone@laportefire.com or 219-362-3456.

Steakhouse Reopens After Fire

(Michigan City, IN) - A popular chain restaurant in Michigan City has reopened after a fire this week.  The Sunday night fire was at Texas Corral on U.S. 421 near Interstate 94. 

 

According to investigators, the exterior of the building caught fire and, fortunately, the flames did not spread to the inside of the structure for the most part.

 

Michigan City Fire Department Public information officer Nicholas Pabon said an employee outside saw smoke.   Had the fire not been noticed quickly, he said it’s very possible the entire building could have been lost.

 

"With fires, minutes matter. In about 3 to 4 minutes from the time of dispatch, crews arrived on scene and 16 minutes later we had the fire knocked down.  The quick and aggressive actions from the crews saved this business," Pabon said. 

 

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Pabon said. 

Absent Man Convicted of Molesting

(La Porte, IN) - Authorities are looking for a man who was found guilty of child molesting yesterday in La Porte Circuit Court.  David Powers, II, 50, was convicted by a jury of two Level 1 Felony counts and two Level 4 Felony counts.

 

According to court documents, he molested the 12 year old daughter of his girlfriend.  The man and woman met on an internet dating site.

 

Powers was in court last week for a hearing but never showed up for trial.  The trial was held anyway and a bench warrant is out for his arrest..

 

Powers lives in the Lake Station area.

Stabosz Brushes Off State Party Scolding

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz seems to be rolling his eyes over what appears to be a scolding by the Indiana Democratic Party, which alleges he’s using public office for political gain.

 

Stabosz claims La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman wrote the words in the written tongue lashing contained in a press release. He also claimed Friedman, using his influence within the party, arm twisted top Democrats in the state to release the document to media members.

 

“This press release was written by Shaw Friedman.  It’s got all of his lingo, all of his style, and all of his language.  This is basically a political hit piece,” Stabosz said.

Stabosz also questioned why quotes in the press release are not attributed to specific individuals.  Instead, the quotes are attributed to the “Indiana Democratic Party.”

 

“This press release is an embarrassment and joke to the Democratic Party of the State of Indiana, frankly,” Stabosz said.

Stabosz said he’s also not alarmed or intimidated by a press release from such a high-ranking political organization. He felt it was typical for one party to criticize a member from another party.

 

“I’m amused and modestly irritated,” Stabosz said.

Stabosz also strongly denied allegations that he’s simply settling personal and political vendettas.

 

“I stand for integrity. I will not have my integrity attacked. That’s not what goes on here,” Stabosz said.

Stabosz and Commissioner Joe Haney have been alleging wrongdoing and corruption within county government and linking it to Friedman since they took office in January 2021. Haney had a similar view of the press release.

 

“I think it’s another political game.  It sounds eerily similar to what I’ve seen Shaw Friedman write in the past. The verbiage here is very similar,” Haney said. “It’s just another political stunt to dissuade from Tim’s desire to protect the taxpayers here of La Porte County." 

 

Friedman said he did not write the press release, but the information was provided to the state party on what’s transpired since Stabosz took office. He also denied using any influence whatsoever in the creation or release of the statement.

 

“No arm twisting necessary. They have called out a local official who has done nothing but insult, name call, and drop the ball on his obligations to the taxpayers. That’s newsworthy,” Friedman said.

Stabosz Scolded by State Party Leaders

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana Democratic Party, in a tongue lashing, is telling the La Porte County Auditor to stop using public office to score personal and political vendettas at the expense of taxpayers.

 

In a prepared statement, the party said Tim Stabosz, a Republican, is attacking a variety of public officials while making costly mistakes himself.

 

The party cited his late bond payment last year, costing the county government $200,000 in a refinancing opportunity lost because of the oversight and the recent mistake on property tax bills estimated to cost $100,000 or more to correct.

 

“Stabosz is proving that just like the far right-wing of the party he identifies with, he has no plans for his county or the state’s future – just more raw partisanship, conflict, and turmoil,” the press release stated.

 

The party also recommended that Stabosz “focus on his full-time job rather than leading the charge as a partisan hack for the local GOP.”

 

“He has claimed for over a year his partisan crusade was against corruption and fraud in county government without bringing forward any evidence to government agencies like Indiana State Police, State Board of Accounts, and even the FBI,” the party said.

 

Stabosz, along with Commissioner Joe Haney, has been targeting County Attorney Shaw Friedman and Commissioners Rich Mrozinski and Sheila Matias.

 

Last year, Stabosz was sued by Friedman for defamation of character in a still-undecided lawsuit for alleging Friedman runs county government by controlling elected officials.

 

The auditor has also been withholding payment to Friedman & Associates on some of their claims.  Stabosz alleges Friedman is billing on those claims for work performed outside the scope of the duties of a county attorney.

 

A majority of the commissioners recently entertained a measure to start the process of having Stabosz removed as the county auditor. However, the proposal was put on the shelf until the property tax error is resolved.

 

"Most county officials around the state take off their party jerseys once the election is over and get to work rolling up their sleeves to work for taxpayers - not Timothy Stabosz," the party said. 

Support for Success Grows for Students

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte High School students are receiving extra help with their academics.

 

The Virtual Learning Academy provides La Porte High School students experiencing significant academic and personal challenges the opportunity to reset their life trajectory toward achieving success.

 

Most recently, the Youth Assistance Program (YAP) has been added to work in conjunction with the VLA to support each student and provide the resources and sounding board to monitor goal attainment, make necessary adjustments, and encourage students as they work toward their goals, officials said.

 

Additionally, the Youth Assistance Program provides workshops on topics like drug prevention, finance, employment skill-building, and life skills pertinent to successfully transitioning into young adulthood.

 

In terms of success, in the first semester of the 2021-2022 school year, the VLA/YAP served 64 students, including those working toward their diplomas, after failing to graduate during their senior year.

 

In the first semester of this school year, 17 of 19 students who failed to graduate on time completed all required classwork to obtain their diplomas. Another student in the same category graduated before the start of the school year.

 

Officials said the program’s success is made possible by staff, students, parents, and the community as all parties form a network of support that fill the gaps where roadblocks once stood.

 

The Virtual Learning Academy is funded through the Indiana Department of Education under the umbrella of Alternative Education. The Youth Assistance Program is funded by the Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana Youth Service Association.

School Bus Filters for Better Air Quality

(La Porte, IN) - Buses in the La Porte Community School Corporation will have better air quality.

 

The school district has partnered with Lumin-Air to install MERV-13 equivalent filters and UV-C in the buses. The system will clean recirculated air, remove airborne contaminants, and maintain the safety of students and bus drivers.

 

“Cleaning and filtering the air on our school buses is another layer of protection in helping to mitigate the spread of illness while better protecting our students and drivers,” said Cary Brinkman, Transportation Director for the school corporation.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urges limiting diesel exhaust inhalation, especially for children who still have developing pulmonary systems.

 

School officials said the Lumin-Air solution includes MERV-13 equivalent filtration and UV-C lights in an enclosure, which cleans and filters recirculated air throughout an occupied bus. Officials said it does not put ions, hydroxyl radicals, gases, or harmful chemicals that claim to kill virus or bacteria cells into the air.

 

The UV-C is entirely contained in an enclosure and safe for occupied spaces.

 

“We are excited to make a positive impact on the air quality of our buses. Thanks to Lumin-Air for all of their work and services, which brought this project to fruition,” said La Porte Schools Superintendent Mark Francesconi.

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