Local News Archives for 2020-01

Juveniles in Shooting from Out of Town

There’s new information to report on the recent shooting of a juvenile in La Porte.  Both the victim and suspect also a juvenile are from St. Joseph County. 

 

At the board of works meeting this week,  Mayor Tom Dermody congratulated the police for the quick arrest. 

 

Police chief Paul Brettin said the sheriff’s office assisted.  The juvenile suffered a non-life threatening wound early Sunday at F and 4th street.  The chain of events leading up to the shooting and other details have still not been released by authorities.

Robots Milking Cows

Cows being milked by robots is happening more and more. At Fair Oaks Farms here in Northwest Indiana, 12 robots have been milking close to 800 cows since March.

 

The cows step in, the robots clean their teats, then slap on the milking machines.  Michael McCloskey is the owner of the popular tourist destination. He says it’s really worked out especially for the cows, and their comfort.  McCloskey says the robotic milking operation should be open to the public in April.

 

Experts say cows like it so much, they give more milk and robotic milking helps with labor being in short supply.

Police Looking for Bank Card Thief

If you’re in Michigan City, you might want to watch your bank cards like a hawk. Police are looking for man who is stealing debit and credit cards from the elderly.

 

This has been occurring at grocery stores. Police say the cards are then used to make large purchases. A picture of the suspect has been released by the police. He’s black and appears to be in his 50’s or 60’s. He’s holding a cell phone and wearing a gold, black and white stocking cap.

 

On Facebook, one person posted he ought to get a job and stop being a burden on society.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Michigan City Police.

LaPorte Opens Arms to HGTV

The city of La Porte wants a popular TV network to come and do a makeover. HGTV will pick one community.

 

Hosts of the long-running show, "Home Town" will go to the selected community and renovate

several historic homes, and maybe a few other buildings.

 

Wednesday afternoon, about 75 people gathered outside City Hall. They were filmed saying “Welcome to LaPorte” and “Thank You HGTV” for a video being produced to try and win over the cable network.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody says he was impressed by the turnout. The video must be in by February 8.

Officials believe La Porte has a good chance to be chosen because of the historic architecture and rich history here.

Cherry Dumping has Growers Worried

Michigan produces 70 percent of the nation’s cherries but has been hurting from much cheaper cherries from Turkey being dumped here.

 

The federal government was placing tariffs on dried tart cherries from Turkey, the world’s largest producer.  But, the government decided to no longer place those tariffs.  Combined with some very rainy years and bug infestation causing many cherries to rot, many growers in Michigan now wonder if they can survive.

Jail Shedding Offenders

Fewer people are housed in the La Porte County Jail since a new state law took effect. Under the law, more people who can’t afford to post bond can be released on their own recognizance.

 

Steve Eyrick, Chief Probation Officer in La Porte Circuit Court says his office is interviewing offenders to decide which ones should be released while their cases are still pending in court.

 

Eyrick says offenders who pose more of a concern are not considered. He says the jail population has dropped from 385 to 346 since the state law went into effect January 1st.

Corona Virus in China Possibly Here

The deadly coronavirus in China may have surfaced here in northwest Indiana.   The Porter County health department says it’s waiting for test results on a person who was traveling through the area.

 

That person has been placed in isolation and is under medical supervision pending the outcome of the test results.

LaPorte Wants a HGTV Makeover

The city of La Porte is entering a Network TV contest. HGTV goes into homes to do complete makeovers and property owners here are invited to apply. A gathering is scheduled at 2 p.m. this afternoon for interested residents to take part in a video shoot application for the contest the city is putting together.

 

Today’s gathering will be at city hall. Officials are hoping LaPorte is chosen for one or more property owners to have an HGTV makeover.

LaPorte Targeting Contractors Paying Cash

 

The city of La Porte is going after contractors who pay workers cash.

An ordinance was passed by the city council this week.

It’s for residential and commercial construction valued at 250 thousand dollars or more.

Companies caught paying workers cash will be banned from receiving a building permit for

three years.

City councilman Paul Vincent says the measure supports contractors taking out taxes and providing

workman’s compensation….

Cash payment doesn’t do that…..

Officials say paying with cash gives companies an advantage in bidding for projects because they’re

not paying taxes and providing workman’s compensation insurance.

And the country loses billions in tax revenue from paying workers with just cash

Police Looking for Liquor Thief

 

In Michigan City, police on Wednesday were looking for a thief with a major craving for alcohol.

At about 11 a.m., officers were called to King Richards on Franklin Street. The suspect went to the counter like he was going to pay for three half-gallon bottles of liquor then fled.

 

Louise Meska was working the counter. She says the man was the only person in the store at the time. It was Tequila he ran off with and she chased after him before he fled in a silver-colored car.

 

Meska further described the man in his 20’s wearing blue jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. She says the half-gallon bottles were priced at 89 dollars apiece.

Tie Leads to Novak Remaining Council President

The president of the La Porte County Council will stay put this year. Last month, there was a tie vote between council members Mike Mollenhauer and Jeff Santana.

 

The vote for council president last night again ended a tie. So,  Santana and Mollenhauer nominated Randy Novak to remain council president. Novak, council president the past two years, said he was glad things worked out in a peaceful manner.

 

The tie vote was from a member of the council being out of town the past two meetings.

SOLAR ENERGY SAVINGS AT WASTE PLANT

 

Energy from the sun is like money in the bank for the wastewater treatment plant in La Porte.

The plant started running on solar energy last summer.

 

Wastewater superintendent Jerry Jackson says enough energy is produced to sometimes to run

the entire plant. He said there’s about a $15,000 a month saving on the energy bill at the plant.

Jackson says it should take about 12 years for the investment to pay for itself from the

energy savings.

Gravity Drain Keeping Lakes at Bay

 

The lakes in La Porte could be at record flooding again if not for the city’s gravity drain.  The gravity drain was put in when the lakes were extremely high in the 90s. 

 

Wastewater superintendent Jerry Jackson says the drain wasn’t needed until about four years ago It’s been very rainy ever since resulting in more than a billion gallons of water to be drained

from the lakes. The drain sends lake water into the storm sewer system then Travis Ditch which flows into the Kankakee River.

Interest in Old School Building

There’s interest in an old school building in La Porte.  Some people from Michigan City are looking at the old Maple Elementary School, located on North Street, just south of E. Lincolnway.

 

City councilman Roger Galloway says the interested buyers are looking at using the place

for private events like weddings,  workout rooms and possibly living on one of the floors. He says more will be known on the plans as the approvals process runs its course and a sale goes through.

 

Galloway says an electric company occupied the building in more recent years but it’s been

empty for several years now.

Prison for Drug Dealer

 

A Starke County woman is going to prison for selling drugs.  Sarah Jaskowiak was arrested just over a year ago for dealing methamphetamine in Wanatah. The Hamlet woman was given a 17-year prison sentence. Prosecutors say they sought a stiff sentence because she had been arrested on more than 20 prior occasions.

Local Unemployment Near the Top

La Porte County has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the state. According to Workforce Development,  the rate here is 4.2 percent. That’s slightly higher than Starke County, which has the 7th highest unemployment rate.

 

In comparison, ake County has the second-highest unemployment rate at 4.9 percent. Porter County is  15th at 3.6 percent and St. Joseph County is 25th with an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent.

 

The lowest rate at 2.0 percent is in Dubois County east of Evansville.

Bank Robbery Suspect Arrested

 

A suspect in a recent Michigan City bank robbery is in custody. 49-year-old Thomas Breese, Jr. allegedly robbed La Porte Community Federal Credit Union two weeks ago.

 

Police say he was apprehended near Chicago. Breese fits the description of the white heavyset robber. Police say he was identified from video surveillance of the hold-up and his arrest

follows an extensive search ever since.

 

Breese is also wanted for theft in Porter County. He was still being held in Chicago. At some point, he will be brought back to face charges here.

Black Ice Causes Accidents

Black ice resulted in several motor vehicle accidents this morning. About 6:30 a.m., Emergency Responders were called to a rollover on U.S 20 near Rolling Prairie. At least two people were said to be inside vehicles near 200 East. 

 

Police say, they had asked for street crews to apply salt on a stretch of Roeske Ave. in Michigan City,  described as a "sheet of ice for" about an hour.  There was a mist in the air freezing on the pavement with temperatures just below freezing at the time.

"Regular Guy" Running for Congress

A Michigan City man is running for a seat in Congress.  Dion Bergeron is running for the Republican nomination for the seat now held by Democrat Pete Visclosky. Visclosky of Merrillville is not running again after more than 30 years in the U.S House of Representatives. 

 

The former truck driver and correctional officer describes himself as a ‘’regular guy.’’’

He expressed opposition to the Green New Deal, saying it would cripple the economy here in northwest Indiana.

Possible Lead in Murder

A suspect in a local insurance fraud case was the last person to see a man alive.  That’s what authorities are saying in the, still ongoing, investigation into the death.

 

Three weeks ago,  man was found dead in Fish Lake in about two feet of water. According to court documents, Joseph Clopton had a strap around his waist fastened to a cinder block to apparently keep the body submerged.  He also had been shot multiple times.

 

According to court documents, Darren Johnson last saw the victim alive and the two men apparently argued prior to his death. Police say both men were from Chicago.  

 

The investigation also indicates they were involved in drug activity here and in Chicago. At least one of the men allegedly has ties to a gang. So far, no charges have been filed for the murder.

 

Johnson is charged with receiving $25,000 for damage sustained in a motor vehicle crash. Police say the owner of the damaged vehicle should have received those dollars.

Juvenile Shot, Juvenile Arrested

A juvenile is recovering from a gunshot wound suffered in La Porte. Another juvenile is in custody.

That’s according to La Porte City Police.

 

Early yesterday, police responded to a "shots fired" call at F and 4th streets. Police say the victim was taken to La Porte Hosptial with a non-life threatening injury.

 

Less than an hour later, the suspect was taken into custody. A gun was also confiscated.

 

Police say both parties involved knew each other. So far, police have not released any further details.

Arrest Following Chase

 

Police arrested a man following a vehicle and foot chase in La Porte early today. About 2 a police say an officer tried making a traffic stop but the driver was fleeing in the area of Ridge St. and E. Maple Ave.

 

The driver soon stopped and was ordered out at gunpoint. Police say the man ran back to the vehicle then was tasered and fled on foot. 25-year old Robert Mannia, Jr. was caught a short time later.  So far, further details have not been provided.

Long Beach Fights Back Lake Michigan

1,500 pound steel pilings are being driven into the sand at Long Beach for new seawalls to protect seven homes threatened by a high Lake Michigan washing up closer to doorsteps.

            At least one house was shored up by placing steel pilings and concrete under the partially undermined foundation.

            “We’re just repairing and saving the houses,” said Tony Lindquist with JCI Bridge Group out of LaPorte.

            At least ten homes were recently ordered to disconnect from septic tanks because of the advancing waters.

            Those tanks will have to be pumped instead of the waste percolating into the soil.

            “Their systems are in jeopardy of falling in, have already fallen or will be compromised,” said Amanda Lahners, supervisor of the environmental health, foods and water laboratory divisions of the LaPorte County Health Department.

The emergency steps along Lakeshore Drive are from lack of ice cover from a mild winter allowing waves during severe storms to crash into the eroded shoreline.

The new seawalls are replacing ones that failed during recent storms.

Larry Wall, the building commissioner for the town, said the new seawalls will be able to better withstand the forces of Mother Nature from pilings driven into the ground deeper than the ones they’re replacing.

They were also designed for better drainage to keep sand in the waves crashing over them from piling up behind the walls and the weight causing them to bow.

Regardless, he said the fix is only buying time until hopefully water levels start going back down again.

“It’s temporary.  We don’t know if this high lake level is the new norm,” he said.

Mayor Targets In-House Thieves

The new mayor of Michigan City says he’s not playing games. Anyone caught stealing will be given the ax. His tough stance is in response to allegations last year of city property being stolen

under the previous administration.

 

Parry told the city council week he issued the ultimatum on Friday. There’s been some dispute whether anything was taken at all. But, Parry says he found enough evidence to ask for a criminal investigation.

Mayor Orders Budget Freeze

Strict budget tightening measures are being taken in Michigan City. New mayor Duane Parry says the recent examination of the books revealed the budget shortfall originally estimated at 1.6 million dollars is actually 3.4 million.

 

Parry says department heads have been ordered to tighten the ship and if their budgets

end up in the red they will be relieved from their positions. Parry also said 50 percent of the operating budget last year was paid for with riverboat money, an amount he called unacceptable.

Large Marijuana Seizure on Toll Road

Enough marijuana to fill a bunch of sandbags was seized by La Porte County Police during two separate traffic stops this week.

 

Two days ago, police say the vehicles were pulled over for traffic violations on the Indiana Toll Road near Rolling Prairie.

 

Most of the marijuana was found on 34-year-old Amanda Salmons of Ohio. Two hours later, Tshaka Brown of New York was found with marijuana. Police say a K-9 assisted in the largest bust.

 

How much the marijuana weighed was not disclosed, but a picture taken by police shows what looks like at least 30 garbage bags of pot stacked on top of each other.

Community Rallies Behind Restaurant Owners

The Pecanac family came here from a Civil War torn Croatia with just suitcases and a desire to realize the American dream.           

            25-years later, a net of support is being extended to help the family rebuild its beloved Westville restaurant destroyed by fire three days before Christmas.

            “Everyone wants to help.  It’s hard not to,” said Blake Vissing.

            He was among friends and other supporters during a Tuesday night give back at Burn ‘Em Brewing in Michigan City.

            All of the proceeds from a specialty brew went toward helping Olga Pothorski and her mother, Esada Pecanac, get back on their feet.

            Pothorski said she and her mother will decide their next steps after hearing back from their insurance company on the amount of coverage.

“We’re just going to take it one day at a time but we know if we do get the opportunity we’re going to rebuild.  That’s the goal,” Pothorski said.

The Collective, a group of northwest Indiana business owners helping each other in areas like customer service and marketing, contributed another $2 for every pint of specialty brew sold.

            The group also created a Go Fund Me Page and has two other give back nights scheduled with the goal of raising $10,000, said Mandy Krickhahn, a member of the The Collective.

            Krickhahn, owner of The Spoiled Housewife, offers organic skin care products out of her home in LaPorte, online and in various markets and stores.

            “She’s just a very caring and giving person so when this happened all of us came together and wanted to do something,” she said.

            Olga was just 5 when she came here with her mother and father helped in establishing roots here by a cousin from Valparaiso.

            Her mother just graduated from a culinary school in Austria with the goal of starting a restaurant.

            Opportunity knocked more than 10-years later at an old Ford dealership her father renovated into Olga’s Place serving Mediterranean style dishes like pizza, pasta, pierogis, stuffed cabbage and seafood.

            Pathorski worked in the restaurant while attending high school and Purdue North Central where she received a marketing degree.

            She and other mother have experienced a roller coaster of emotions ever since the blaze.

The outpouring of support has helped keep them going.

“We just served great food.  Homemade.  I didn’t know it was going to make that big of an impact on them,” Pathorski said.

“We was not rich but people’s were very happy.  I was happy doing my job,” said Pecanac.

Greg Coulter, a former classmate who once worked at the restaurant, said the staff and customers were treated like family.

He said Olga and the people she comes into contact with seem to gravitate toward each other.

“Very friendly.  She’s a friend to everybody,” Coulter said. 

Willie Nelson Coming Here

A country music legend is coming to New Buffalo.

Willie Nelson will be putting on a show.

He’s scheduled to be at Four Winds Casino on the 26th of April.

Officials say tickets go on sale starting Friday. Seats are anywhere from 99 to 179 dollars.

Land Bought for Possible Train Station

St. Joseph County government is buying a mobile home park

on the east side of New Carlisle.

The reason is to build a possible South Shore commuter line station.

Reports indicate the purchase price was just over 400 thousand dollars.

Officials say the need is from an expected increase in ridership from a proposed

double track, increasing travel times to and from Chicago.

A new train station there would eliminate the current one in nearby Hudson Lake.

According to a study, four riders a day use the Hudson Lake station but with a

double track, use of a New Carlisle station would be anywhere from 120 to 670 riders

per day by 2040.

MCHS ATHLETE CHARGED WITH ATTEMPTED ROBBERY

A high school football player is charged with a robbery attempt in Michigan City.

17 year old Michael Bradford allegedly tried holding up Rios Mexican Grill.

Authorities say he went to the restaurant on Franklin St two weeks ago and

put a gun to the face of a drive thru worker.

Police say she knew Bradford from school and told him no.

He allegedly took off running.

Bradford was a quarterback then later a running back this past season

on the Michigan City High School football team.

He was being held on 25 thousand dollars bond.

Telephone Scams Claim Victims

A Kingsford Heights area woman fell victim to a telephone scam. According to the sheriff’s office, a man claiming to be from the social security office told her a warrant was out for her arrest.

 

To avoid arrest, he needed her name, date of birth and social security number.

Later, police say there were attempts to reach the caller on the number from her caller ID.

But, nobody answered.

 

A Kingsbury area woman was soaked for $500 in a telephone scam. According to county police, a woman claiming to be from NIPSCO told the victim her power was about to be cut off because she owed 500 dollars. She went out and put the money on a pre-paid card. Then gave the number of the card to the NIPSCO imposter. Police say the woman realized it was a scam when told she owed another $200.

Heavy Losses in Fire

A recent fire outside LaPorte caused tens of thousands of dollars in losses.

Last Wednesday, Center Township firefighters were called to 772 W. 350 North.

Police say James Ross, Jr. was working on a BMW and using a kerosene heater to heat

the barn he was working in.

The heater near the car began smoking and caught the floor on fire.

The flames quickly spread.

Police say the BMW was a total loss.

Also destroyed or heavily damaged was another car worth more than 30 thousand dollars.

Other losses including about 30 thousand dollars in tools.

Firefighters credited a quick response for preventing further damage.

Former Commissioner Passes Away

A former La Porte County Commissioner has passed away.

Bill Hager died Sunday.

He was 84.

Hager, known for wearing a cowboy hat and homespun behavior, served two terms

on the county commission during the early to mid 2000’s

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said Hager was an interesting character

who spoke from his heart.

He said Hager wore a cowboy hat practically everywhere including behind the wheel of

a tow truck.

Hager owned Ace Towing which has locations in La Porte and Michigan City

“He was a very good businessman,’’ Mrozinski said.

Arrangements are pending with the Lakeview Funeral Home and Crematory.

Former Officer Sentenced for Child Pornography

A former courthouse security officer in La Porte County has been sentenced for having

child pornography.

Joe Lopez received two years on work release and two years probation Friday in

La Porte Circuit Court.

Therapy is one of the requirements of his probation.

According to court documents…the 50 year old Lopez had thousands of digital images

of child pornography at his home in La Porte.

Authorities say Lopez admitted downloading the images for three years as a hobby.

He worked for the sheriff’s office for close to 20 years prior to his arrest.

Leg Lost When Snowmobiles Collide

A southwest Michigan man lost a leg during a snowmobile accident over the weekend.

The crash happened Sunday night in Three Oaks.

 

Police say two snowmobiles crashed into each other on Stickles Road. The man’s right leg was cut off just above the knee when one sled drove over the other, police said. Police said the other driver suffered a back injury.

SUV TAKES RIVER BATH

In New Buffalo, alcohol is suspected in a vehicle winding up in the Galien River over the weekend.

Police say the driver was traveling Marquette Drive along the lakeshore Friday night.

 

Instead of turning left on the curve at Whittaker St., police said the SUV went straight

and into the river. Police say both occupants were helped to shore by witnesses. No serious injuries were reported.

DEMOLITION FOR COMMERCIAL REDEVELOPMENT

More houses along Pine Lake Ave. in La Porte will be torn down soon.  One was just recently demolished.  City engineer Nick Minich says a developer bought the properties and plans to use the ground for commercial purposes.  Minich says he doesn't know a lot of specifics but there could be something like a strip mall going in there.  The house recently torn down is across from Culvers.  Minich says the entire site eyed for redevelopment is about two and a half acres.

RIVER FLOODING SOLUTIONS TARGETED

Flooding along the Kankakee River is being tackled more aggressively.  Scott Pelath is the executive director of the Kankakee River Basin Commission.  He says 2.3 million in state funding has been received.  Farmers along the river are also being assessed a fee to provide additional dollars toward solutions toward flooding that many feel have gotten worse over the years.  Pelath said dollars are now being allocated.

 

Pelath, a former state representative from Michigan City, was praised for bringing about solutions faster than ever before.  The funds are going toward a 40 year river maintenance plan.

CIGARETTES TO MINORS FINES COULD TIGHTEN

Retailers would face stiff fines for selling tobacco to minors under proposed legislation downstate.  A Senate committee has endorsed a bill to triple the fines.  Under the measure, retailers would be fined between $600 to $3,000 depending on the number of violations over a six month period.'  The proposal now moves on to the full Senate for further consideration.

BERGERSON SEEKS 2ND TERM ON BENCH

A La Porte County judge is seeking reelection.  Michael Bergerson is in the final year of his first term in La Porte Superior Court 1 in Michigan City.  Bergerson says his courtroom is one of the busiest in the state, with 19 criminal and civil trials last year alone. 

 

Bergerson says among his successes is a streamlined court calendar to eliminate case backlog.  His goals for a second term include expanding mental health treatment for defendants and foreclosure assistance for homeowners.  Bergerson, a democrat, was a deputy prosecutor prior to becoming a judge in 2015.

LAW ENFORCEMENT IMPOSTER ALLEGED

A man is accused of posing as a law enforcement officer.  47-year-old Jeremy Brenman is charged at the courthouse in Michigan City.  He allegedly claimed he was a deputy prosecutor from Chicago working on a federal case and asked to see a deputy prosecutor from here.  Police say he also flashed a badge.  The deputy prosecutor ran a background check to make sure he was who he said he was, then he asked him to leave when she learned he was an imposter.  LaPorte County Prosecutor John Lake says he's asked for an outside prosecutor to handle the case since his office was involved in the alleged crime, Brenman from Valparaiso, may have been trying to argue recent charges filed against him for allegedly violating a protective order in Michigan City.

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