Local News Archives for 2021-07

The SOUND OFF Podcast: (Another) Conversation with Mayor Tom Dermody

(LAPORTE, INDIANA) - Our guest today is an old friend of the show. He's a former State Representative and current Mayor of the City of LaPorte. His name? Tom Dermody. In this episode, Mayor Dermody talks about LakeFest, the former Don George Ford property, the proposed bridge on Tipton Street, homelessness in LaPorte, and much more. 

Listen to the full episode below: 



CREDITS: Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor), Nate Loucks (Host), Tom Dermody (Guest)


SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Suspicious Death Probe in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Police Department is investigating a death. Officers on Thursday were called to Maple Tree Apartments on W. 18th Street on the city’s southwest side.


Police are not releasing specifics about the case yet. However, police did say the death appeared suspicious, and a person of interest was detained until the case is further investigated.

Blues Legend in La Porte Tonight

(La Porte, IN) - Wayne Baker Brooks grew up and performed with several Blues legends, played in front of an audience of 47,000 at the MLB All-Star Game, and now he's playing in La Porte this evening as part of LakeFest.


He’s the son of another Blues legend, Lonnie Brooks, and has connections to other big names like B.B. King and Muddy Waters. In a recent interview, Brooks said, “A lot of these people I had the pleasure to tour with through my dad and everything and got to learn some stuff as well." 


Brooks, 51, grew up in Chicago, where he developed the unique Chicago Blues sound as a musical specialty. He’s going to be at Fox Park tonight as part of Lakefest. The free concert is scheduled to begin at 9 P.M. 

Location of City Council Meeting Switched

The La Porte City Council meets on Monday but not at City Hall.


The City Council meeting will be at the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.

During the meeting, Mayor Tom Dermody said there will be a presentation on what the organization does for the city.


“Give them an opportunity to update the community as part of the meeting on all of the great things they are doing to help us become a healthier community,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.


The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte has given over $6 million to the city over the past several years.


The group has also provided more than $20 million for projects in rural areas of La Porte County.


The money has funded projects like trails to give people access to more healthy living options.


The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte is inside a new facility at 140 East Shore Court.


HFL Executive Director Maria Fruth said the organization has more than $200 million in assets or close to double the amount it started with several years ago from proceeds tied to the sale of La Porte Hospital to I-U Health.

Jet Ski Racing in La Porte This Weekend

(La Porte, IN) - Professional and amateur Jet-ski racers are heading to La Porte's Stone Lake. 


They’ll be racing on Stone Lake Saturday and Sunday as part of the city’s inaugural Lakefest. The La Porte County Convention and Visitors Bureau (LCCVB) signed the deal to bring the Aqua-X jet-ski races to LaPorte.


LCCVB Executive Director Jack Arnett says it’s too early to say just how many racers are coming, but it should be a very good number. Arnett said he’ll take a count while he’s helping to welcome the racers during a private gathering in La Porte this evening.


“They’ll be trickling in all day today,” he said.


The jetski racing will run from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. both days this weekend. Admission is free.

Multiple Death Investigation

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police Department is investigating three bodies found inside an apartment. The discovery was made Thursday afternoon at the Michigan City Boulevard Gardens, located on 6th Street. The Michigan City Housing Authority manages Boulevard Gardens.


At this point, police said drug overdoses had not been ruled out as a cause of death in each case.  Police discovered drug paraphernalia in the early investigation. The victims had been there for quite a while, according to MCPD. 


Fish Kill Probe

(Michigan City, IN) - Officials are trying to determine why so many fish died in a body of water in Michigan City.


According to Mayor Duane Parry's office, dead carp were discovered in Striebel Pond, located on 1100 West south of Earl Road, just after noon yesterday. Officials say the fish was far from the shoreline. 


Early test results indicate the oxygen level in the water was a bit low and, combined with low water levels and stress from the recent hot, dry weather, officials said. "Striebel Pond is a flood control facility that includes family and dog-friendly outdoor recreational space and a 1.5-mile trail for public use," as stated by the city's parks website.

Vaccinations Minimal Despite Uptick

(La Porte County, IN) - The number of people getting vaccinated across the country and locally seems to have hit a wall. Amanda Lahners, Administrator of the La Porte County Health Department, says vaccinations at the health department clinics have been fallen steep downward.


Lahners said the highest number of people being vaccinated in April at health department clinics in a single day topped 500 people but in June reached a low of 20. She says the decline has been "dramatic." Slightly more than 51-percent of La Porte County residents are fully vaccinated compared to just over 50-percent statewide.


The drop in vaccinations comes despite the vaccine still being available at clinics like the one at the former La Porte Hospital and other locations such as Walgreens and Walmart, according to Lahners. 

Signs of COVID Surge in La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - COVID-19 cases are going up locally.


The positivity rate here had dropped to a low of slightly more than one percent in recent weeks. However, according to the Indiana State Department of Health, that number has increased to over five percent of people tested over the past seven days testing positive in La Porte County. 


In St. Joseph, Porter and Starke counties, the positivity rates are below four percent, according to the ISDH. Sandra Deausy, La Porte County Health Officer, said, “This is turning into a pandemic of the unvaccinated." 


Deausy said 98-percent of new cases statewide are in people who have not been vaccinated. She also said the chances of winding up in the hospital are 80 times higher in people not fully immunized against the virus.

Rats Turning Up in Survey

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Figures are being compiled on what residents believe is a major problem with rats in the Rolling Prairie area.


Amanda Runion said an online survey shows 43-percent of residents in Rolling Prairie are having issues with rats while the figure is 57-percent just outside the unincorporated community. Runion said some people have also sought help from professional exterminators. In addition, she’s been in touch with the health department to try and get the matter addressed.


Runion said mice at times are expected, but not rats. Runion stated, “We expect to have coons, and skunks and squirrels and birds and deers and groundhogs. Foxes. All of those.  We expect that out in the country. We don’t expect to have rats." 


Rats started being seen in March. Runion plans to present the survey findings to the health department tomorrow and hopes the cause of the problem is identified and solved soon.

Masks Required In Michigan City Schools

(Michigan City, IN) - Masks will be required when school begins in Michigan City next month. The school board decided to follow new CDC guidelines in response to rising case numbers nationwide.


Masks will have to be worn inside school buildings by everyone, even for those who are vaccinated. However, masks can be taken off during recess and other outdoor activities. Social distancing guidelines will also be in effect.


Michigan City Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Barbara Eason Watkins said students should have a clean cloth mask each day. In addition, Watson said, “Masks will be required at school and on school buses." 


Eason Watkins said young children should practice using masks now, so students are comfortable wearing masks when they return to school. The start of school in Michigan City is scheduled to begin on August 18.


New Prairie Community School Corporation and South Central Community School Corporation recently announced they would not require students and staff to wear masks this Fall. 

Tree Lands on House During Storm

(La Porte, IN) - There were some fallen trees and limbs locally from last night’s heavy rainstorm.


25-year old Alex Stormer lives in the 100 block of I Street in La Porte. He came home from work to see a tree on top of his house. Another large section of the tree landed between his house and a residence next door and damaged his neighbor’s fence.


“I came home from work with a tree on my roof,” Stormer said.


There was some damage to his roof, but the extent of the damage was not immediately known. There were also limbs down just a short distance away at I Street and 4th Street.


La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said just a handful of trees came down out in the rural areas. He was not aware of any major damage.

Problem Renter Crackdown Ongoing

(La Porte, IN) - Another home in La Porte where criminal activity regularly occurred has been condemned. The latest case involves a home on 13th Street near Handley Elementary School.


La Porte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor says a search warrant was executed by police and a suspect taken into custody. Mayor Tom Dermody has made improving neighborhoods a major priority since taking office more than 18 months ago.


“Criminal activity. Drug Activity. This will not be acceptable in La Porte and allowed in our community if we have to go house by house,” he said.


Batchelor says homes in La Porte can be condemned to force unruly renters out if police are called there at least five times over a certain period. Several rental properties on Grove Street and one other location were condemned because of calls for service to the police repeatedly.

Pine Lake Avenue Site Leveled for 7-Eleven

(La Porte, IN) - A former used car lot building in La Porte has been torn down. The building that housed Spoor’s Auto Sales at Pine Lake Avenue and Truesdell Avenue for several decades is no more. 


At one of the busiest intersections in the city, the demolition was done yesterday to make way for a 7-Eleven convenience store and gas station. The 7-Eleven will not have a traditional look as other stores in the chain.


At the city’s request, the design will reflect a more modern look to compliment the appearance of the city’s lakes and other aspects of nature.

Possible Pig in the Poke

(La Porte County, IN) - Police are investigating a report of a missing pig from the La Porte County Fair. According to police, after competing in the show arena, the pig was sold at the fair auction for $1,000.


However, there’s no record of the pig showing up for processing by the company that purchased it during the auction. The owner also revealed he had not yet received payment for the animal. 


According to police, the owner said he had other pigs auctioned off at the fair, and they were delivered for processing. He also received payment for them. Police said the matter is still being looked into.

Old Baseball Cards Found in Road

(La Porte County, IN) - A collection of vintage baseball cards was among the items found along a La Porte County roadway.


According to police, a 35-year woman made the discovery at 650 North and 50 West around 5 P.M. on Saturday. There was a suitcase containing two binders of vintage baseball cards and two boxes of vintage baseball cards. A hamper of clothing was also among the items at the scene.


As of this posting, the owner and how the items wound up there are not known, police said. However, the items were taken to the sheriff’s office for safekeeping. No further details about the baseball cards were released. 

Barker Mansion Being Renovated

(Michigan City, IN) - Historic Barker Mansion in Michigan City is being renovated.


Ownership of the well over century-old mansion has been transferred from the city to a not-for-profit group responsible for maintaining the property. The mansion is closed right now because it’s undergoing a $2 million restoration.


Despite the renovation, officials say the structure is expected to reopen for the annual Christmas at Barker Mansion. The mansion is also used for other public events and private gatherings such as weddings. New exhibits are also planned for the reopening. 


The mansion was built by John Barker, who made a fortune in Michigan City in the railroad industry.

Middle Ground for Local Workforce Matters

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County government will take a more in-house approach to investigate employee complaints better and boost efforts to increase diversity in the workforce.


The La Porte County Council turned down a request to hire a full-time Equal Employee Opportunity Commission officer Monday night. The request was made by the La Porte County Commissioners, who felt the new position would create the time needed to look into workforce-related complaints more thoroughly and increase the hiring of minorities. In addition, they felt the Human Resources Department now handling those matters was too short-staffed to meet the goal.


Council President Randy Novak said he feels both tasks can be accomplished without spending more than $40,000 on another full-time salary. The council authorized the Human Resources Department to hire a part-time worker to assist in handling employee complaints. Novak said someone from the outside would be hired to handle more specialized workforce-related allegations.


“I think we can hire a local attorney to be independent of the county to do those investigations as needed,” said Councilman Earl Cunningham.


Novak said he believes extending the outreach to minorities and other groups to apply for job openings can still be done in-house with some changes in the current approach. “I don’t think we’ve exhausted all of our resources,” he stated.


Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said there had been an effort to hire more minorities, but not many have applied when job openings in the county government are advertised. He said a possible solution could be letting minority communities know directly when vacancies in the workforce occur and how to apply.


Commissioner Sheila Matias said the makeup of a workforce should reflect minorities and other groups locally. “A population of government employees should represent the community they serve. I feel very strongly about that.  It’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Local Political Volcano Erupts Again

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman is asking a public official to drop his affiliation with what he described as a radical group implicated in the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building.


Friedman said La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney is associated with The Oath Keepers, an alleged American far-right militia organization known for its anti-government views and conspiracy theories.

“Now we understand why Commissioner Joe Haney has, since coming to office January 1st, trafficked in conspiracy theories and simply makes up stories alleging all kinds of corruption, sleaze, and wrongdoing in La Porte County government with not a shred of evidence to back up his claims,” Friedman said, “I’m today calling on him to publicly renounce claims to the Oath Keepers and start acting like a public servant whose only loyalties are to the people of La Porte County." 

The two men, along with La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, have been embroiled in controversy since January, which resulted in Friedman suing Stabosz on defamation of character claims. Stabosz has accused Friedman of unduly running the county government. His claims have been supported by Haney but rejected by other county officials. The lawsuit has not been decided in the courts.


Haney is President of 13C Gun Reviews, a gun rights organization. Haney said he is not connected to the Oath Keepers, and the picture of him holding the machine gun was taken over 10-years ago. A picture of Haney holding the firearm is posted on the 13C Gun Reviews website, and a caption underneath the picture refers to Haney as an "Oath Keeper."

Haney said the term "Oath Keeper" was taken out of context by Friedman and means that he is an oath keeper regarding his dedication to upholding gun rights and the U.S. Constitution, not a member of the official Oath Keeper organization. 

Haney claims that Friedman is trying to paint him as some "wacko," but he’s proud of his work in defending gun rights, his work in promoting gun safety, and the U.S. Constitution.

“To try and somehow paint me and associate me with some other group that I have absolutely no affiliation with whatsoever is preposterous. It just goes to show how desperate Shaw Friedman is to personally attack me. This is part of the seedy underbelly of La Porte County politics I talked about when I ran,” Haney said.

Haney was elected in November and took his seat on the three-member county commission in January. The friction between the political figures who all spoke last night during the La Porte County Council meeting boiled over. A five-minute break was taken in the meeting so the charged atmosphere could simmer down.

Stabosz questioned the legal advice of Friedman over a $1.5 million no-bid contract awarded last week for repairs to the Frankin Street drawbridge in Michigan City. The Commissioners approved the contract on a 2-1 vote, with Haney voting against it and publicly questioning Friedman's legal judgment on the issue.

Friedman said the no-bid contract was justified under state guidelines because of the emergency nature of a bridge vital to the economy of Michigan City and the contractor being a longtime caretaker of the bridge and specialist in its upkeep and maintenance. 

Stabosz said one of his duties is to pay the bills for the county, and he won’t pay unless the Indiana State Board of Accounts confirms Friedman’s claims that a no-bid contract was appropriate under state guidelines.

Pay Increase for La Porte County Government's Part-Time Employees

(La Porte, IN) - Part-time workers for the La Porte County government will see a pay increase. Last night, the La Porte County Council voted to pay part-time employees anywhere from $13 to $15 an hour.

La Porte County Council President Randy Novak said any part-time current worker making less right now will be increased to at least $13 an hour. Novak said department heads would decide how much higher up the maximum to go with the hourly rate paid to each part-time employee.

“Anybody hired in will start in that range,” he said.

Novak said the idea is to attract more part-time applicants and create a pool of part-time employees who could be considered when full-time positions open up.

Traffic Stop Leads to Drug Charges

(La Porte, IN) - A man stopped in La Porte for a license plate violation now looks at potential time in prison. Shane Wilson, 33, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 felony Possession of Methamphetamine and Possession of Paraphernalia as a misdemeanor. 


According to court documents, the La Porte man was pulled over on East Lincolnway in February for snow covering the license plate on his vehicle. Police said the license plate was also registered to the owner of another vehicle. A K-9 dog alerted officers to the presence of drugs, and a search turned up several smoking pipes in the vehicle. Police said the pipes contained a residue of methamphetamine.


Wilson, arrested July 23 on a gamut of charges, was held in the La Porte County Jail on a $755 bond.

Suspect in Wild Chase a Drug User

(La Porte, IN) - A Knox man accused of battering a police officer and leading what turned out to be a wild foot chase in La Porte was allegedly a drug user.


Jerris Pezzuto, 20, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with battery, resisting law enforcement, criminal mischief, and possession of methamphetamine.


According to court documents, Pezzuto was stopped for a traffic violation on July 21 near Lewis Bakeries in the 800 block of Boyd Boulevard. After stepping out of the vehicle, Pezzuto punched the officer several times in the head then landed more blows to his head after the officer fell to the ground, police said. While being chased by officers, he scaled the bakery's roof, then jumped down and entered the building.


Police said Pezzuto, like an acrobat, made his way to the ceiling and hanged from the water lines in the ceiling, then from a metal bracket tried to get back on the roof through the exhaust system. Pezzuto also ripped out the electrical wiring to the exhaust system. He was taken into custody after a La Porte County Sheriff’s Deputy trying to grab him fell from a pallet rack.


The officer suffered a possible sprain ankle severe enough for him to see a specialist and wear an air cast around his swollen ankle, court documents revealed. Police said less than a gram of methamphetamine and a glass smoking pipe were recovered from his vehicle. The officer he allegedly assaulted was treated and released for swelling, redness, and abrasions.  

Transformer Car Thrills Fairgoers

(Valparaiso, IN) Many oohs and aahs came from the crowd as a car transformed into a 16-foot robot at the Porter County Fair on Monday.

The robot rose from underneath the body of what looked like a Chevy Camaro after what appeared to be smoke began rising from the tailpipe.

The noise of a loud engine revving and music similar to the theme from the movie “Jaws” began playing to heighten the intensity as the entire front end began lifting and the robot started to emerge. The sounds of a police siren then blared as lights began flashing from the robot's eyes standing tall above the audience. Within minutes, the robot disappeared as the front end of the car began closing.


“It was definitely a unique experience,” said Todd Hepworth, who grew up in the Valparaiso area.

He brought his wife and three children from Manhattan, Illinois, to the fair. They made their way over close to the free entertainment tent to see the transformer car in action.

“It was pretty exciting,” he said.

Melissa Garmon from Valparaiso brought her 13-year old daughter and 9-year old son along with the friends. They only caught the end of the show a few days ago and came back to watch the car transform from start to finish. 

“It was good. The kids liked it. As long as they like it, it’s good enough for me,” Garmon said.

Peggy Irzyk, also of Valparaiso, showed up with her husband, Jeff, because he wanted to see the car in action. “I was impressed,” she said.

The yellow and black transformer car was custom made from the body of a Volkswagon Beetle, said owner Walter Murcia. Murcia said he and eight friends in Texas extended the frame to the size of a Camaro to provide room for the robot underneath the hood. The body was made from sheets of fiberglass molded and cut into the shape and size of the panels of a Camaro. Hydraulics and electric motors allow the robot to extend from beneath the hood and fold back down in what’s usually the engine compartment of a vehicle. His friends made four other transformer cars they also use at fairs and other shows, he said. 

Murcia said a Volkswagon Beetle was used because the four-cylinder engine of that car is in the back. So they wanted the robot to be underneath the hood.

“It looks like a Camaro, but it’s not a real Camaro,” he said.

Murcia said the car runs but is not street legal because the windows were replaced by hard plastic, making seeing out of them difficult. The steering wheel, accelerator, and brake pedal are also in the back. The car was driven to the grandstands where country music singer Miranda Lambert performed a few days ago to allow more people to see. 

Murcia said he created the car six months ago to provide his family another entertainment option at fairs and other special events. He’s the 5th-generation in a family that also operates traveling circuses and high wire acts.

They take their shows throughout the nation and other countries like Canada, Japan, Jamaica, and the Middle East.

“We always try to do something different,” he said.

Murcia grew up in South America and now lives in Florida. He and his wife, Victoria, have four children, ages 6 to 23, who are also involved in the family business.

“They see the car. They think it’s real, and they don’t expect it to transform into a robot. It’s really cool,” Murcia said.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: South Bend Cubs President Joe Hart

(LAPORTE, IN) - We have a special guest today on SOUND OFF! Since 2012, he’s been the President of the South Bend Cubs (formerly the Silver Hawks) and has helped lead a strong resurgence of Minor League baseball in the region and economic development in South Bend. He was twice named Midwest League Executive of the Year. Our guest today was South Bend Cubs President Joe Hart. 


Topics included the MLB trade deadline, congressional support for Minor League Baseball, growth of the South Bend Cubs franchise, and much more. Listen to the full episode below: 



CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Joe Hart (Guest), Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor)


SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Bad Crash Linked to Drugs

(La Porte, IN) - A Michigan City man is charged with a bad motor vehicle crash in La Porte County last year. 39-year-old Sean Van Meter was allegedly driving a vehicle while on methamphetamine.


In September, police said he veered over the center line on Johnson Road in the Waterford area and struck an oncoming vehicle head-on. According to court documents, the other driver, Hannah Musgraves, suffered a broken ankle. Van Meter had to have surgery because of internal injuries.


After the crash, police said Van Meter revealed he’s a drug addict. While being transported to the hospital, police said he was given Narcan because he seemed to be overdosing.


Van Meter could receive anywhere from a one to six-year sentence if convicted of driving impaired causing serious bodily injury. Charges were filed in La Porte Circuit Court. 

Another Charge for Alleged Escapee

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is charged after allegedly escaping from two correctional officers in La Porte. 41-year old Jacob Borders made his initial court appearance Friday on a burglary charge.


Authorities say he and the two correctional officers were at the Family Express on J Street over two months ago. Borders was allowed to use an ATM then fled on foot. Authorities say Borders walked inside a home in the 700 block of 4th Street and asked to use the telephone. Soon, two people showed up at the residence. Borders left with them in a vehicle. He was arrested six weeks later in St. Joseph County.


Authorities said he’s charged with burglary from walking inside the unlocked doors of the home without permission. The two correctional officers are also charged with aiding or assisting in the escape. David Winter, of Valparaiso, and Carly Searing, of LaPorte, are charged in LaPorte Circuit Court with level 5 felony aiding, inducing, or causing escape; assisting a criminal, obstruction of justice; and official misconduct, all level 6 felonies, and Class A misdemeanor false informing.


According to authorities, they should not have stopped at the store while transporting Borders from the work release center to the county jail and failed to chase after Borders once he started running.

Historic Draw Bridge Working Again

(Michigan City, IN) - The draw bridge in Michigan City was stuck open yesterday when the beach was packed from the hot and humid conditions. La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said Marquiss Electric was there in ten minutes and soon had the bridge working again.

The LaPorte County electric contractor was recently awarded a no-bid contract to do some permanent emergency repairs on the historic bridge during the winter.

Commissioner Joe Haney voted against the job not going out for bids. He raised questions and refused to accept explanations from his colleagues on the reason for awarding the contract outright to Marquiss Electric. 

Mrozinski said Marquiss Electric had been the caretaker of the bridge for many years and demonstrated why they were given the job exclusively. Another company from Chicago, Mrozinski believes, would not have been able to get the bridge working again in such short order because nobody is as familiar with the aging bridge as Marquiss Electric.

“We had a little controversy about that at our last meeting from our new commissioner who doesn’t understand how business is done in La Porte County. This is a good example of how lucky we are to have this situation with Marquiss,” Mrozinski said.

The main route to and from the beach, Washington Park Zoo, and the marina is over the draw bridge. Mrozinski believes that a bridge stuck open for a long time would lead to a huge traffic bottleneck from people using a little-known alternate route nestled in the dunes to and from the beach.

High on the Hog with Pigs at Fair

(Valparaiso, IN) - Judging by the laughter from the crowd, pigs doing tricks had Porter County fairgoers Sunday living high on the hog.


Xavier Emmons, 7, of Cedar Lake, was allowed into the show arena to help sing the popular nursery rhyme “Old McDonald Had a Farm.”


A pig next to him loudly grunted when it was time for the porker to sing the “oink, oink” portion of the song.


“I liked it,” Emmons said.


“He loves pigs. That’s why he wanted to come out,” said his father, Josh Emmons.


“Cousin Grumpy’s Pork Chop Revue” is a 20-minute show presented several times a day near the free entertainment tent at the fair, which runs through Saturday.


The show features tricks ranging from a pig pushing a baby stroller containing a baby pig and a pig walking through a tunnel. There were also goats walking a narrow platform five feet above the ground.


Beverly McCann of Chesterton said a llama jumping high through a hoop is what she liked best. She was there with her husband, Eric, their children, Amelia and Emma, ages five and one. They had their pictures taken with the animals following the 1:30 P.M. show. 


“We thought it was great. The kids loved it. It was cute,” McCann said.


The ringmaster is Les Kimes, who took over for his father, Boyd, who started the traveling show in 1956. His father made such a name that he occasionally appeared with his trained animals on late-night television shows like The Tonight Show and the Ed Sullivan Show. Then, when he was two, Kimes became part of the show, then at 14, took over when his father passed away.


He also found fame with performances on television shows like Animal Planet and America’s Got Talent, where he advanced to the quarter-finals. Kimes, 56, said he mostly travels to fairs and festivals but sometimes theme parks, circuses, boats, recreational vehicles, and pet shows.


He’s been to every state except for Alaska. 


“Our motto has always been no matter what the gig, think pig,” he said.


During his spare time, he and his wife, Nina, live near Tampa, Florida, where they have a hobby farm for their dozen or so animals. Kimes said the animals are kept in a climate-controlled environment when they all hit the road together.


“These guys are our family. We adopt them. They stay with us their entire lives,” he said.

Charge Increased to Murder in La Porte Shooting

(La Porte, IN) - A suspect in a fatal shooting in La Porte now faces the potential of significantly more prison time.

Davion Jones was originally charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 5 felony reckless homicide. However, prosecutors on Friday upped the charge to murder. The 22-year old Chesterton man is charged with killing 20-year-old Tyler Terusiak last year in the 1400 block of Jefferson Ave.

According to authorities, Jones, during a disturbance, fired a gun several times. Terusiak was shot in the heart by one of the rounds. In addition, 21-year old Stanley Henderson was shot multiple times and survived.

Originally, Jones was facing the possibility of one to six years on the reckless homicide charge. Now, he could face anywhere from a 45 to 65-year sentence for murder. Jones is also charged with attempted murder and aggravated battery.

Rat Problems in Rolling Prairie

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Forget cicadas; In Rolling Prairie, it's a rat invasion they're worried about this summer. Many Rolling Prairie area residents have reported large rats, in the dozens or more, making themselves at home.


The rodent onslaught isn’t exactly of Biblical proportions, but it is a problem. Amanda Runion is spearheading an effort to report the vermin activity to the county. She says the health department identified the pests as Norway rats, which can be sixteen inches long from head to tail. Runion started noticing the large pests a few weeks ago. Others say the rats have been around since March or longer. One resident who lives on State Road 2 south of town claims to have caught nearly 50 rats, while another in-town resident says she has spent hundreds of dollars having them professionally trapped.


Some residents blame the municipal sewer system that recently went through town, but county officials say that isn’t likely. County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski says he investigated that possibility. "I talked to the Sewer Board about it. They said absolutely not. The sewer line's got absolutely nothing to do with the rat problem. Period."


Others link the problem to a couple of recently demolished grain silos. Steve Mrozinski, with the LaPorte County Co-op, says the county health department visited their facility Thursday and found no rats. The Co-op, Mrozinski says, has not stored grain for over six years, nor has it dismantled any silos.


Commissioner Mrozinski offers a different theory. He thinks garbage and debris left by county residents in yards and roadways are inviting a pest problem. In addition, he has received numerous complaints about untidy properties. "There's a lot of people here that are in need of a wake-up call from code enforcement," Mrozinski says. "Maybe that's got something to do with the rats. I don't know." Mrozinski has been outspoken in recent years about enforcing stricter property maintenance standards in the county.


Whatever the cause, Mrozinski says they’ll get to the bottom of the problem as more information is collected. "We're going to find out what's going on; we'll get to a conclusion because you don't want rats. That's not a good thing."


For now, county health officials need a tally of rat sightings. Runion has created a form to collect data and turn it over to the health department next Friday.


For the survey tracking vermin activity in Rolling Prairie, follow this link:

https://forms.gle/Be874vUx3NN2tMCH9. Your identity does not have to be disclosed, as long as general information about the problem can be collected.

Regional Refs Get Local Preseason Training

(New Carlisle, IN) - High school football season is just around the corner. LaPorte and New Prairie kick off their seasons against each other in less than a month. Michigan City will open up against South Bend Riley on August 20.


Practices and scrimmages are already underway.


But it’s not just players who are gearing up. During a three-team scrimmage at New Prairie this week, a herd of zebras also took the field. Football officials from across the area got some training in too.


Jeff Dunham of the St. Joe Valley Officials Association was leading the training for about twenty referees. "This is an active certification clinic," he said, "where we coach the officials through their positions that they officiate, and we go through rule interpretations and other points of emphasis for 2021." While football players from New Prairie, Michigan City, and Mishawaka worked on their plays, the referees worked on their calls. "We're going through drills, and we're working our five-man mechanics as if it's a Friday night game," Dunham said.


Multiple training sessions and a 100-question written test are required to qualify to referee state tournament games. This week's training drew referees from all over northern Indiana. But, according to Dunham, a 23-year veteran of officiating, it's the first time they've met at New Prairie.


Dunham says the IHSAA has a shortage of football referees so far this year. As a result, some schools may have to reschedule a traditional Friday night game due to a lack of officials. Dunham says the shortage is not COVID-related; just not enough young officials are stepping up to replace the many that have retired.

Michigan City Lifeguards Back on Duty

(Michigan City, IN) - Effective immediately, lifeguards will be back on duty in Michigan City, according to the Washington Park Lifeguard Facebook page. Lifeguards are expected to resume this weekend. 


This follows an executive order issued two weeks ago by Mayor Duane Parry raising wages for Michigan City lifeguards by nearly $10 an hour. Lifeguards will now be on duty Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM and on weekends from 10 AM to 6 PM.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Dr. Vidya Kora & Dr. Dafer Haddadin

(LAPORTE, IN) -  Joining the show today was Drs. Vidya Kora and Dafer Haddadin to answer any questions and respond to myths about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines. Questions were asked about masking, long-haul systems, schools, and more. 


Dr. Vidya Kora is a Franciscan Physician Network member specializing in Internal Medicine and Northern Regional Board of Franciscan Alliance. 


Dr. Dafer Haddadin is a member of the Franciscan Physician Network specializing in Infectious Disease.


Listen to the full episode below: 



CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Jeff Wuggazer (Producer/Editor), Dr. Vidya Kora (Guest), Dr. Dafer Haddadin (Guest)


SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Mucho Mas Details in Mucho Mas Burglary

(La Porte, IN) - Drugs could be linked to a downtown La Porte restaurant burglary that happened nearly two weeks ago.

22-year old Mykl Cheffer is charged in La Porte Circuit Court. According to police, two laptops, a cash drawer, and a credit card were among the items taken from Mucho Mas at 609 Lincolnway.

According to police, a major break in the case came when Cheffer tried using the stolen credit card at a nearby gas station. He was captured on video. Police say he was also captured on video at several other locations where he used the credit card.

When arrested a few days later, police say he was found smoking a pipe and with more than four grams of methamphetamine. The La Porte man was still being held in the La Porte County Jail to face the charges.

Trial Scheduled for Murder Suspect

(Michigan City, IN) - A trial date has been set for a man who allegedly shot two people within minutes of each other in Michigan City.


Joshua Cornelison, 40, of Michigan City is charged with murder and attempted murder in La Porte Superior Court 1 for the July 13 shootings.


He is also charged with burglary, theft and criminal mischief.


Aaron Luncsford, 39, died from a gunshot wound to the head suffered inside a residence at 1116 Buffalo St, according to court documents.


According to court documents, Cornelison rang the doorbell and Luncsford after coming to the door was shot.


Paul Jones was inside a parked car when shot in the neck outside his home at 116 W. Homer St.


About one-hour later, police said officers were called to The River of Life Church at 516 Decatur Street.


A basement door was kicked-in and Cornelison found inside was taken into custody at gunpoint.


Police said Cornelison bared a strong resemblance to the tattooed and scruffy looking man described as the suspect in both shootings.


He was also riding a red Harley Davidson motorcycle described as the vehicle spotted where both of the shootings occurred.


According to court documents, Cornelison told investigators he went to the church to shoot the pastor he remembered as a child.


The pastor, though, was no longer alive.


Cornelison also revealed he was going to kill another man next but police showed up before he left the church, according to court documents.


Police said a motive was not clear.


Cornelison, though, cried while stating “these people probably did nothing wrong,” according to court documents.


He was appointed a public defender and ordered to remain held without bond during his initial court hearing on July 20.


Cornelison was also given a December 20 trial date.

Political Friction Flaring Up Again

(La Porte County, IN) - Some local public officials are butting heads again, adding to a longstanding and dramatic governmental feud. 


La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz was sued several months ago by County Attorney Shaw Friedman. Friedman is alleging defamation of character against Stabosz, who alleges Friedman oversteps his roles as the county attorney. No decision has been made on the lawsuit which was filed in St. Joseph County.


During the La Porte County Commissioners meeting this week, Shaw Friedman’s judgment as an attorney was questioned by Stabosz over a $1.5 million no-bid contract for repairing the Franklin St. bridge in Michigan City. No-bid contracts are allowed by state guidelines under certain conditions, which Friedman claims fits this situation. 

The attorney asserts that the repairs being an emergency and the bridge having a major economic impact on Michigan City are among the qualifiers for a no-bid contract.

Stabosz asked Friedman if the attorney had ever dealt with the state no-bid contract guidelines before. But, while Friedman was responding, Stabosz kept interrupting him with other statements and questions, adding to the moment's frustration. 

"We do our due diligence. We provide our best advice to the county. We've done that. We've given a basis to move forward," Friedman said. 

Commissioner Joe Haney, a supporter of Stabosz, also questioned Friedman’s legal ruling.

The two other commissioners, Rich Mrozinski and Sheila Matias, along with La Porte County Council President Randy Novak, agreed with Friedman's evaluation.

The contract was awarded to an engineering firm and local company, Marquiss Electric.

Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said Marquiss Electric has been the caretaker of the bridge for many years and has significant experience working on the bridge. Mrozinski believes that hiring another company to perform emergency repairs with no experience with the bridge did not make sense, could be more costly, and lead to a longer downtime for the bridge. 

Medical Use Again for Old Hospital

(Michigan City, IN) - A dedication was held Thursday for part of the old Franciscan Health hospital in Michigan City that will be put back to medical use.


About two-thirds of the former hospital at 301 West Homer Street is currently being demolished.


The over 100,000 square feet of remaining space will be used by Franciscan Health for prenatal care, inpatient behavioral health, and adult medical daycare. According to hospital officials, the cost of demolition scheduled to be completed in December and repurposing what is left of the facility is $20 million.


“This is going to be a nice, vibrant, beautiful hospital.  Smaller but beautiful and doing a great job,” said Sister Jane Marie Klein, Chairman of the Board of Franciscan Alliance.

Dean Mazzoni

Dean Mazzoni, President of Franciscan Health in Michigan City, said the 14-bed inpatient Behavioral Medicine Unit would be open later this summer. A Program for the All-Inclusive Care (PACE) for the Elderly will open in the fall, then soon after that, the Prenatal Care Unit will begin operating.


Mazzoni said that the need for those services was the determining factor in deciding to use the old hospital abandoned in January of 2019 when Franciscan Health opened a new hospital outside Michigan City along Interstate 94. In addition, the Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) will be for individuals who need a higher level of psychological care in areas like depression than what can be provided as an outpatient. The BHU used to be at the former hospital then moved to the new facility.


Mazzoni said the mental health facility is moving back to create room at the new hospital for adding a medical-surgical unit.


PACE will be for 55 and over who need care during the day while a loved one taking care of them at home is typically at work. Those patients will be given the care and medicine they need by trained professionals while being in a social setting before returning home in the evening. Franciscan Health has two other PACE facilities in Indianapolis and Lafayette but had none in this area.


“It’s a higher level of care, but it still keeps people at home in their communities and able to stay out of a nursing home a little longer,” he said.


Dr. Vidya Kora, a member of the Northern Indiana Regional Board for Franciscan Health, said the prenatal care unit would offer expanded services than what’s currently provided. Expectant mothers at high risk of a “bad outcome” will be targeted and given the care needed to elevate their chances of giving birth to a healthy baby. Pregnant women qualifying financially will also be enrolled in Medicaid, he said.


Kora stated the program is especially needed in LaPorte County, which ranks near the bottom in the state for infant mortality and low birth weight babies. “I think it’ll be good for our community,” he said.


Forty to sixty new jobs are expected to be created from putting a portion of the facility back to use, officials said. The site was a provider of medical care since 1904.

Vintage Plane Rides Coming to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A week-long celebration of the airport in La Porte is coming up.


Beginning the 9th of next month, rides and tours will be offered on a B-25J Mitchell “Maid in the Shade” vintage aircraft. The plane is scheduled to arrive on Monday the 9th. Tours and rides will be offered every day until the following Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.


Other things will be happening like an antique car display, food trucks, and pancake breakfast on August 14 and 15.


The La Porte airport was established 75 years ago. For more information, visit laporteairport.com. 

Contract Awarded to Fix Draw Bridge

(La Porte County, IN) - Repairs will be made to the Franklin Street Bridge in Michigan City this Winter.


Last night, the county commissioners approved the $1.5 million contract. Marquiss Electric out of Michigan City will be involved in the project.


No bids were sought for the work.


The repairs being an emergency given the importance of the bridge to Michigan City and Marquiss Electric being the historical caretakers of the bridge were among the reasons cited for the project not going out for bids. County Attorney Shaw Friedman says those are among the reasons permitted by state law for awarding no-bid contracts.


Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said the draw bridge would continue to operate throughout the summer and fall. However, the bridge will be closed for the work to occur during the winter to reopen in the spring, he said.


Commissioner Joe Haney voted against awarding the contract after questioning whether the circumstances met state guidelines for awarding no-bid contracts.

Local Vaccination Rate Above 50-percent

(La Porte, IN) - More than half of the residents in La Porte County are now vaccinated, according to Amanda Lahners, administrator of the LaPorte County Health Department.


Lahners says 51.6 percent of local citizens are fully protected, above the 50 percent Indiana state average.


The health department continues to operate the vaccination clinic at the former La Porte Hospital building. However, beginning August 1, Lahners said the clinic would be open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

Trail Extension for Clear Lake

(La Porte, IN) - Clear Lake is becoming more of a centerpiece in LaPorte from an upcoming trail extension and other improvements to the shoreline. The work scheduled to begin in October is the latest in a series of projects turning the lakes in the city into more of an economic driver.


A trail on Lakeshore Drive beside Stone Lake and a nearby kayak launch along with a boardwalk on the southern edge of Clear Lake are among the recent water-related enhancements. Others include the Chessie Trail that begins at Pine Lake, which has long been a major attraction for recreational boating and fishing.


“We want to be the capital of quality of life in Indiana,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.


Dermody said Clear Lake would play a significant role in the ongoing transformation of the city built on manufacturing because of its proximity to the downtown.


Two hundred resort-type apartments beside Clear Lake are presently going up. In addition, plans include a pedestrian bridge over the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks from Clear Lake to downtown.


“Between our natural resources, our parks, our trails, we will be the destination for anyone looking to enjoy the great outdoors and live a healthy life,” Dermody said.


City Engineer Nick Minich said the current trail going about one-third of the way around Clear Lake would be extended to form a loop around the entire body of water. The trail extension will have a mostly asphalt surface with signs containing information about the history of Clear Lake and the surrounding area once dominated by heavy industry. He said the loop trail will also be connected to the Chessie Trail, which now ends at nearby NewPorte Landing.


Eventually, the Chessie Trail will be extended to the downtown and double back toward Soldiers Memorial Park. Minich said fishing piers in different spots around Clear Lake and native species planted along the shoreline are included in the project.


Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said Clear Lake has never been regarded as highly as Pine and Stone lakes, but that is changing. The lake was once a source of discharges from Allis Chalmers, which closed in the 1980s and is too shallow for motorboats.


“It’s just very gratifying to finally see us loving Clear Lake just as much,” he said.


The enhancements would not be possible without a $2.2 million grant from the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte paying the entire cost. Maria Fruth, President and CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of LaPorte, said the project reflects the group’s mission of LaPorte County being among the 10 healthiest counties in the state by 2030 from encouraging people to get outside and engage in physical activity. She said nearly $6.5 million had been awarded by the foundation for similar projects in the city since 2017.


“These investments keep bringing us closer to the goal,” Fruth said.

Wild Chase at La Porte Bakery

(La Porte, IN) - Police arrested a man at a factory in La Porte last night during a more than half-hour foot pursuit.


According to LaPorte City Police, the man was stopped for a traffic violation and punched the patrol officer several times in the head, then fled on foot to Lewis Bakery on the city’s east side. Chief Paul Brettin said the man at one point climbed on the roof and fell then went back inside the plant where he was apprehended. Brettin said the man was admitted to the hospital with injuries suffered in the fall and from his other actions at the company.


“He was going berserk inside the factory, from falling off the roofs, jumping over things.  I mean, there’s a lot of sharp metal. It was dark. You can imagine what kind of injuries he would have. None of them were from the officers,” he said.


Brooke Gearheart, who works in shipping at the bakery, said she was just an arm’s length from the man who never threatened her. “He took off and ended up on top of our office building and decided to climb on the pipes, and he was trying to break the pipes," Gearheart stated.


So far, the name of the suspect has not been released. Brettin said the officer assaulted suffered a concussion and is on leave indefinitely until he’s ready to return to work. A La Porte County Sheriff’s Deputy also suffered a badly sprained leg.  

Scholarship Eligibility for Renters Proposed

(Michigan City, IN) - There was more discussion last night about opening a scholarship program to additional students in Michigan City. Currently, families must live in Michigan City and own a home to qualify. Adding renters who live in the city is now being proposed.


City Councilman Angie Nelson Deuitch said adding renters makes good sense considering how they contribute to the community. “I just think it should be open to any resident of Michigan City as long as they go to school within Michigan City,” she said.


Resident Andrew White said he’s a lifelong renter, and renters should not be treated any differently. “Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to own a home, but there are a lot of us that have lived in this community for a long time, and I think that there’s a lot of us who’ve done a lot to contribute to this community,” White said.


Allowing students from parochial schools in Michigan City to qualify is also proposed.


Just a tiny percentage of students have been awarded scholarships since the program began four years ago. The $5,000 per year scholarships for high school graduates with a grade point average of 2.5 and higher are paid for with funds from Blue Chip casino.

Mayor Vows to Catch Graffiti "Idiots"

(La Porte, IN) - The public is being asked to help law enforcement catch people who vandalized the skate park in La Porte. The amount of graffiti was extensive at the skate park at Fox Park.


Mayor Tom Dermody asks citizens to contact the police if they have any information that could produce leads in the case. “We had idiots that went out and graffitied the skate park. We will catch them, and we will ask the public for support,” the mayor said.


Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said the vandalism was discouraging but won’t stop the city from undertaking what he expects to be a large clean-up at the facility. So far, no suspects have been reported.


Anyone with information is asked to contact La Porte Police at 219-362-9446.

Door Opens for Possibly More Sewers

(La Porte County, IN) - More homes in La Porte County could be served by sewers.


On Tuesday, the La Porte County Regional Water and Sewer Board voted to extend sewer lines from Rolling Prairie to Saugany Lake and Hudson Lake.


La Porte County Commission President Rich Mrozinski said extending sewer lines to those locations will now be formally looked at with cost estimates for the work and financial impact on residents to pay for the project being part of the upcoming review. Mrozinski said running sewer lines to Saugany Lake and Hudson Lake might be ready to start happening sometime next year. He said there are more than 1,000 homes in Saugany Lake on septic systems.


Fortunately, Mrozinski said the water quality of Saugany Lake remains high despite the high number of septic systems. The most recent work in connecting more homes to sewer lines in Rolling Prairie is wrapping up.

Police Department Back to Full Strength

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Police Department is back to full strength. It’s been years since there have been 44 officers in the city, according to LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody.


During Tuesday's Board of Public Works and Safety meeting, Mayor Dermody said the numbers were restored from 31 officers in just over a year. He credited Police Chief Paul Brettin and other members of his administration for the additional officers. Dermody made law enforcement one of his top priorities and found the dollars needed to hire the additional officers.


The latest to join the department, Taylor Atkinson, was sworn into his patrol officer position yesterday.

New Buffalo High School Expanding

(New Buffalo, MI) - Robotics students at New Buffalo High School will have their own facility in a building going up soon across the street. A 10,000 square foot structure will be constructed on a narrow strip of land between Clay St. and the railroad tracks.


New Buffalo Area Schools Superintendent Jeff Leslie said the facility is also for the Performing Arts Center. Leslie said current conditions are too cramped for the robotics class and some of the work related to the Performing Arts Center.


“We’re just really crushed for space,” he said.


During the peak of their school year activities, Robotics students are moved into the library to provide the room needed for projects and prepare for competitions. The robotics students for the rest of the school year occupy one of the science classrooms.


Leslie said the new facility would also contain a woodshop and metal shop used by robotics students and Dwayne Whitmyer, Director of the Performing Arts Center. Whitmyer now uses the back of the stage to build sets and furniture for plays and musicals.


“It’s just not an acceptable space for him for what he’s trying to accomplish,” Leslie said.


The new facility also includes plenty of room for storage by the Performing Arts Center.


“As these programs grow, we just got to have the space to grow along with them,” Leslie said.


Leslie said a retention pond about half the size of the building would also be constructed for drainage because of how high the water table is in that part of the city. He said the metal-sided building should begin going up in October, with completion likely next summer.


The work also includes constructing six pickleball courts in a grassy area between the existing tennis courts and the school district transportation building. Leslie said the three existing pickleball courts used heavily in a sport growing in popularity would be replaced by an expanded basketball court and skate park.


The current basketball court will have two goals at each end, and a soft sport court surface will also be laid over the existing concrete. A pavilion with restroom facilities and drinking fountains will also go up close to the new pickleball courts.


Leslie said the price tag for all of the work should be about $4 million.

Lakefest Includes 5K Run

(La Porte, IN) - A 5K run/walk sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of LaPorte is part of the first-ever Lakefest in La Porte. The 5K run/walk is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. on July 31st.


It will begin and end at the Dennis Smith Amphitheatre at Fox Park. Sign-ups for the run/walk will begin at 7 AM. People can also register in advance at laportelakefest.com


Proceeds of the 5K run/walk will help fund Kiwanis Club projects benefitting local youth.

Step Taken to Increase Minority Hiring

(La Porte, IN) - A new position could be created to establish a more diverse workforce in the LaPorte County government. The LaPorte County Commissioners have approved the hiring of an Equal Economic Opportunity Commission (EEOC) officer. With an annual salary of more than $40,000, the position will be given final consideration by the LaPorte County Council on Monday, July 26.


Commission President Rich Mrozinski said there hadn’t been many minority applicants when job openings in county government are advertised in newspapers and online. He said letting minority communities know directly when vacancies occur in the workforce and how to apply is what he envisions if the new position is funded.


“We need to find how to reach those people,” Mrozinski said.


Several job openings in the county government currently exist in areas like the LaPorte County Highway Department and LaPorte County Emergency Medical Service. Mrozinski said many of the recent openings are from employees leaving for higher pay elsewhere. He plans to ask the county council to increase wages to try and slow the turnover.


“We want to hire people. As long as they’re qualified and can pass a drug test, we want to do that,” he said.


Commissioner Sheila Matias said the new position would join the Humans Resources Department, too stretched right now to become more active in recruiting minorities and members of any other groups not equally represented in the workforce.


“A population of government employees should represent the community they serve. I feel very strongly about that. It’s the right thing to do,” she said.


The new position would also help the two-member Human Resources Department investigate labor-related complaints from any of the nearly 800 employees in county government work.  Mrozinski said another objective is to reduce the threat of having a lawsuit filed over what seems to be a racial imbalance of the workforce.


“We’ve been accused that LaPorte County hires only white people. That’s not true. That’s not true at all.  However, we want to make sure we are proactive,” Mrozinski said.

Matias Running for Reelection

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County Commissioner is seeking a second term in the 2022 election. 


If re-elected, Democrat Sheila Matias says she will continue to be a voice for families, children, and senior citizens and keep using common sense along with her business leadership experience in representing citizens.


Matias is a former school teacher and mayor of Michigan City for nearly two terms.


“I will be the Sheila you always count upon and continue to speak for families, children, and our elders using a combination of good old-fashioned common sense and my business leadership experience while representing you respectfully to the best of my ability,” she said.


As county commissioner, Matias's accomplishments include spearheading a new county government website and forming a task force to extend broadband to unserved and underserved areas of the county.

Suspect in Shootings Also Targeted Pastor

(Michigan City, IN) - More details are known about two recent shootings on the same night in Michigan City. Joshua Cornelison is charged with murder and attempted murder along with burglary.


According to court documents, the first victim, Aaron Luncsford, was found with a gunshot wound to the head inside a residence at 1116 Buffalo Street. Just over ten minutes later, Paul Jones was inside his car when shot in the neck at 116 West Homer Street. A red Harley Davidson-style motorcycle was seen leaving the scene of both shootings.


Approximately one hour later, police said officers were called to The River of Life Church at 516 Decatur Street. A basement door was kicked in at the church, and Cornelison was taken into custody. Police said he bared a strong resemblance to the tattooed man described as the suspect in both shootings.


According to court documents, Cornelison told investigators he went to the church to shoot the pastor. The pastor he named as the target of his aggression, however, was already deceased.


The motive for the shootings is still under investigation.

Indiana Again Issuing Higher Unemployment Benefits

(Indianapolis, IN) - The State of Indiana is once again paying weekly $300 enhanced federal supplement unemployment benefits.


The additional unemployment payments were stopped last month. But an appeals court ruled against the state of Indiana, forcing the state to continue unemployment benefits until the lawsuit ran its course in court. 


Indiana's unemployment rate is currently at 4.1%. It was 16.9 percent during the peak of the pandemic in April of last year. The supplemental benefits, which were part of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package signed into law by President Joe Biden, are set to expire in September.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: LaPorte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski

(LAPORTE, IN) - Joining Nate Loucks in the studio is LaPorte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski. The discussion included economic development, the LaPorte County fair, feuds in the LaPorte County government, the Rolling Prairie EMS base, and more. 


Listen to the full episode below: 



CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Rich Mrozinski (Guest), Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor)


SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Raising Cattle a True Family Affair

(La Porte County, IN) - A LaPorte County girl is following in her mother’s footsteps and then some in raising award-winning cattle. Madison Scarborough, 12, came away from the 175th LaPorte County Fair with the Grand Champion steer.


Her mother, Denise, raised the Grand Champion steer during the 150th LaPorte County Fair. Their happy trip down memory lane started when the Scarboroughs were preparing for the fair in the cattle barn, and Denise saw her name on a banner listing Grand Champion steer winners from previous years. She pointed out her name to her daughter, who did not expect her 1,300-pound steer to achieve Grand Champion status.


Denise cried tears of joy and excitement on July 13 when this year’s Grand Champion steer winner was announced.


“It’s an honor. It’s just strange. It’s very peculiar how it happened 25-years apart,” said Madison, who’s entering the 7th grade at South Central School in the farming community of Union Mills.


Her Simmental cow three days later sold for $13,600, a record for the beef auction at the fair. The family raises corn, soybeans, and wheat at their farm in LaCrosse, about 30 miles from the southern tip of Lake Michigan.


Denise Scarborough said her husband, Mark, works the row crop operation full-time. She’s employed full-time as an agricultural loan officer at the First National Bank of Monterrey. Denise works nights and weekends, keeping the books at the farm and doing other chores. Madison and her younger brother, Parker, also help whenever needed.


Just a handful of animals used strictly for the show during the fair are kept at the farm. Madison feels her steer circling the show arena gracefully is what made the difference in the scoring by judges.


“He was square when he walked,” she said. The steer was also given a good washing and combing to help him stand out among the beef cows.


Madison also won Grand Champion gilt, Supreme Ewe, and the Intermediate Showmanship Award for her work in the show arena in each of the three animal categories she competed in at this year’s fair. However, she was still trying to overcome the shock from all of her success.


“It was very unbelievable,” she said. Madison will show her 260-pound female pig at the Indiana State Fair, which begins July 30. Her female sheep is staying at the farm for breeding.


Mrs. Scarborough said she never had more than one animal win top prize at the fair and doesn’t mind, whatsoever, being surpassed by her daughter.


“As much as I see her work, I’m OK with that. She definitely puts in the hours of hard work that goes with raising good animals,” she said.


Denise grew up on a farm outside La Porte while Mark runs the farm he was raised on. Both of them were showing animals at the fair when they first met as teenagers. His stalls were across from hers, and soon they began dating. They were married seven years later.


“We actually showed cattle against each other.  I think we made a pretty good team early on,” she said.

Heroin Arrests Beside Highway

(La Porte County, IN) - Two suspected heroin users were arrested near Union Mills over the weekend. Omar Quintana and Lemuel Santiago were found sleeping in a car Friday afternoon along Route 6 near 300 West.


Police said a syringe containing heroin along with a plastic bag containing a small amount of the drug was found in the vehicle.


The 34-year-old men from Chicago told police they were heading to work in Mishawaka and decided to nap. 

Former Prosecutor Charged with OWI

(La Porte County, IN) - He used to try criminal cases in LaPorte County, but now he's charged with a crime. Steven Fenton is now charged with operating while intoxicated following a five-vehicle crash yesterday. The crash happened about 5 P.M. at U.S 20 and State Road 39.


According to LaPorte County Police, officers were responding to a report of a vehicle all over the roadway. The crash happened about five minutes later. Before officers arrived, police say the 77-year old Fenton tried fleeing on foot but was stopped by individuals at the accident scene. 


The former La Porte County Deputy Prosecutor had an alleged blood alcohol level about two times the legal limit. Police say empty bottles of vodka were recovered from the vehicle. There were no injuries in the crash.

School Year COVID-19 Strategy Undecided

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte School Corporation is still working on its COVID-19 strategy for the upcoming school year.


Superintendent Mark Francesconi said whether students would have to wear masks has not been decided because COVID-19 protocols will weigh heavily on the recommendations of local health officials. Francesconi said he’s still waiting to hear from the La Porte County Health Department and health officials at the state and federal levels on their suggestions on proceeding with the school year.


With the number of cases locally remaining very low, Francesconi said he sees no reason to begin the school year with many restrictions. “To do all of these restrictions and interrupt and get in the way of education to me doesn’t make sense, especially in days when people can vaccinate. We’ll see what the guidance says,” he said.


Francesconi said the only thing for certain right now is vaccinated students will not have to quarantine if they’ve had contact with someone infected. The school year in La Porte begins August 11


The New Prairie School Corporation recently decided to start the school year without requiring masks for students. 

Charges in Recent Michigan City Shootings

(Michigan City, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a fatal shooting and near-fatal shooting in Michigan City. 37-year old Joshua Cornelison is charged with murder and attempted murder. Cornelison is also charged with burglary.


According to police, 39-year-old Aaron Luncsford died from a gunshot wound to the head. Tuesday night in the 1100 block of Buffalo St. Less than an hour later, a 43-year-old victim was found with a gunshot wound to the neck. That individual was last reported in critical condition.


So far, police have not released further details. Cornelison of Michigan City was being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond.

Cops Cycle Through La Porte in Memory of Fallen Comrades

(La Porte, County, IN) - A memorial bike ride for fallen law enforcement officers passed through La Porte County Friday.  It’s a yearly state-wide event that raises awareness and money in memory of officers killed in the line of duty.


Aarie Szuba was one of the riders. For her, the event was personal. Her husband is a St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Deputy. Her father-in-law, James Szuba, was killed in the line of duty eleven years ago. "I never got the opportunity to meet my father-in-law," she said during a break in the riding, "so I am riding for the survivors in my family-- that includes my husband, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, and my kids, who never got to meet their grandfather." Szuba, who is a veterinarian in Rolling Prairie, joined the ride in Elkhart on Thursday.


Over a dozen riders representing various police forces and police families stopped in New Carlisle Friday morning to pay their respects at the grave of Neil Thompson, a La Porte County Sheriff’s Deputy who was killed while on patrol in 1980. Some of the money raised from the ride benefits a local scholarship named in Thompson’s honor. Retired La Porte County officer Mike Kellems, a Sheriff's cadet when Thompson was killed, led a brief ceremony.


The cyclists then rode through La Porte County en route to Merrillville. Heavy rains Friday slowed their progress but did not dampen their spirits. The group made stops at several cemeteries to honor fallen officers.


The riders, who took off from Indianapolis on Monday, encircle the state and return to the Circle City next Saturday.

Close Call for State Trooper

(Lake County, IN) - Indiana State Troopers saved a life after one of them almost lost his own.


Trooper Riley Hieb was responding to a crash on westbound I-80/94 early Thursday morning.  As Hieb was investigating, a 2009 Chrysler 300 crashed into the back of the trooper’s car, and the Chrysler burst into flames.


Other troopers broke the Chrysler’s passenger window and rescued the semi-conscious driver, 42-year-old Latresha Williamson of East Chicago.  She was transported to the hospital with severe injuries. Alcohol or drugs is suspected as a factor in the crash. The Lake County Prosecutor’s Office says charges are pending.

Teens Caught Poaching

(Princeton, IN) - Conservation officers in southern Indiana have busted a gang of teenage animal poachers.  Following a six-month investigation, police have filed charges against four juveniles from Illinois, who were allegedly hunting illegally both there and in Indiana.


The four teens are charged with 119 wildlife violations during a two-year span.  Authorities say the group killed more than 20 deer.  Multiple deer was allegedly shot from trucks, run over by a vehicle, or just beaten and stabbed to death. The hunting violations took place in Gibson County, north of Evansville.

Hoosier Money Matters

(Indianapolis, IN) - The state of Indiana has turned the spigot back on for increased unemployment payments from the federal government.  After opting out of the funding program in June, a court ordered the state to resume the extra $300 payments, which it did on Friday.


According to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, 25,000 payments totaling more than $33 million went out to unemployed Hoosiers.  Thousands of more payments are expected in the coming days.


In related news, Hoosier taxpayers can expect a refund from the state.  Tax revenues have exceeded projections due to a stronger-than-expected economic bounce-back from the pandemic. In addition, the state’s record-high $3.9 billion cash reserve triggers an automatic refund to taxpayers totaling $545 million.


The amount of the refund, which will be applied to next year’s returns, won’t be known until the state determines the number of tax filers.

Child Tax Credit Funds Start Flowing

(Washington, DC) - Parents should be checking their bank accounts for child tax credit money.

Payments from the IRS started going out Thursday.


According to the IRS, $15 billion has gone out to tens of millions of families.  It’s the first wave of monthly installments to taxpayers with children.  The payments of up to $300 per child aren’t exactly free money. They’re an advance on the tax credit that people can claim on their yearly returns.


That credit, however, has been increased, and some lawmakers in Washington are trying to make it a permanent benefit.  For now, the payments will be deposited on the 15th of every month through December, unless recipients opt out of the process.

Wellness Fair in La Porte Features Heart Screenings

(La Porte, IN) - Two Hearts, One Mission. One hundred heart screenings.  That was the motto and the goal at a Community Wellness Fair happening Saturday at La Porte’s Civic Auditorium.


The Play for Jake Foundation and the Zac Mago Foundation have teamed up to prevent sudden cardiac arrest.  Their partnership is called Team 265, named after the jersey numbers of two area high-schoolers who died from undetected heart conditions.


One of the moms, Julie West, was encouraged by the response to Saturday’s event. She says all 100 heart screening appointments were filled. The testing included both an electrocardiogram and an echocardiogram, so only a limited number of screenings could be scheduled.


West says they hope to host more events like this going forward. Team 265 says heart screenings are one of the best ways to detect a problem before it's too late, and they recommend screening young people every two years.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Mark Schreiber

(LAPORTE, IN) -- On SOUND OFF today was City of LaPorte Parks Superintendent Mark Schreiber. He talked about the upcoming LakeFest, the Stone Lake and Chessie trails, the Civic Auditorium's future, and more. To find out more about LakeFest, visit LaPorteLakeFest.com


Listen to the entire episode of SOUND OFF below. 



CREDITS: Nate Loucks (host), Dennis Siddall (producer), Jeff Wuggazer (editor), Mark Schreiber (guest)


SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Heroin Dealer Allegedly Turns Burglar

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte County burglary suspect made his initial court appearance today.

27-year old Tyler Lukac is allegedly one of the people involved in the crime.


In 2019, police said a barn on Division Road was broken into by cutting a padlock and stolen

were two four wheelers.


According to police, a DNA sample was taken from flashlight left at the crime scene.


The results of DNA testing and other evidence like a shoe print in the mud allegedly matching a shoe worn by Lukac helped close the books on the case, police said.


In 2012, Lukac was given a 12 year prison sentence for dealing heroin.

Alleged Meth Dealer Faces Judge

(La Porte, IN) - A suspected La Porte drug dealer appeared before a judge today.


41-year old Brian Wilkinson is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 4 felony Dealing Methamphetamine.


According to court documents, he was caught selling 250 dollars in meth at his home at 196 W. McClung Road over two months ago.


If convicted, Wilkinson could receive anywhere from a two to 12 year sentence.

Popular Distillery Turns to Kentucky Style Aging

(Three Oaks, MI) - A maker of handcrafted whiskey featuring a restaurant could become even more of a destination for residents of Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area.


Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan is planning to construct a Kentucky-style rickhouse for storing and aging up to 7,000 barrels of whiskey.


The over 9,000 square foot wood framed, metal sided structure would also contain space for weddings and other gatherings along with a tasting room.


The facility would also be open for tours.


Owner Bill Welter said the rickhouse should give people even more of a reason to visit since rickhouses are typically found only in Kentucky. 


The Bluegrass State produces and ages about 95-percent of the world’s bourbon whiskey, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.


“I think it’ll be a huge tourist attraction.  Michigan’s first and only Kentucky style rickhouse,” Welter said.


Journeyman Distillery founded in 2010 makes about a half dozen whiskey products including bourbon.


Distribution has grown from 19 to 30 states.


Welter said the goal is to have product on shelves in 10 more states by the end of 2022.


The Three Oaks Village Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a zoning change on 17 acres for the project close to the existing facility at the historic Featherbone Factory building.


Final approval rests with the Three Oaks Planning Commission after it reviews and decides the site plans.


Welter said production would not increase since the distillery already stores up to 7,000 barrels of whiskey.


Currently, storage is done on site and inside other nearby buildings.


Welter said the unheated rickhouse would provide the proper environment for whiskey to age since they’re designed to maximize air flow, changes in outside temperature, humidity and other related elements believed to impact flavor.


The oak charred barrels of whiskey will be stored on five levels of racks anywhere from three to eight-years prior to bottling.


Welter said the product is already high quality but existing storage lacks what rick houses could bring in terms of taste.

“We actually think it’s going to help enhance our product,” he said.


The plans also include an outdoor trail and pickle ball courts open for customers and public use.


Resident Jason Milovich, owner of Bluefish Vacation Rentals, said the distillery being a popular tourist destination is a major factor in the revitalization of downtown.


“I’ve been here long enough to see a town that was bankrupt and a downtown that was anything but thriving.  It’s what we need to continue this commerce,” he said.

Daughter Like Mother at Fair

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte County girl earned the exact same award that her mother did 25 years ago.


12-year old Madison Scarborough raised the Grand Champion steer at the La Porte County Fair this week.

Her mother, Denise, also raised a steer declared Grand Champion at the 150th La Porte County Fair.

“It wasn’t something we were anticipating going into the fair this year.  Some tears of happiness and excitement came out at the same time, too,” she said.


Denise Scarborough said she and her family were also surprised when her steer was named Grand Champion.

Madison, entering the 7th grade at South Central School, was also a top prize this winner in raising pigs and sheep this year at the fair.


The family has a row crop farm in La Crosse.

Casino Job Fair in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A job fair is scheduled in La Porte next week.

It’s going to be hosted by Four Winds Casino.


Officials say people showing up can learn how to become a table games dealer and other jobs available.

Information will also be shared on how to earn a $2,000 bonus.


The job fair is scheduled Tuesday, July 20th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Civic Auditorium.

Police Too Much for Mucho Mas Suspect

(La Porte, IN) - An arrest has been made for a recent burglary at a downtown La Porte restaurant.

So far, police have not released the name of the suspect or any other details in the case.


The burglary happened over the weekend at Mucho Mas on Lincolnway just east of the courthouse.

According to a social media post by the popular Mexican restaurant, a cash register and safe containing two days worth of receipts were among the items stolen.

Reports also indicate that a credit card was also taken.


A break in the case came from the suspect possibly using the credit card at a nearby gas station.

Shootings Fatal and Near Fatal in Michigan City

(MICHIGAN CITY, IN) - Police in Michigan City are investigating two more shootings including one that was fatal. Both incidents occurred Tuesday night.


Just after 9 p.m., police said 39-year old Aaron Luncsford was found with a severe head injury in the 1100 block of Buffalo St.

He barely had a pulse and later died at the hospital.

About 45 minutes later, police said officers were called to the 100 block of W. Homer St. and the 43-year old victim from that location was last reported in critical condition.


According to police, a person of interest in both cases developed and was detained.

The La Porte County Prosecutor’s Office is reviewing the case to determine if there’s enough evidence to file charges.

Latest Drowning Victim Identified

(Michigan City, IN) - The body of a man found in Lake Michigan at Michigan City was from southern Indiana.


The victim was identified as Robert J. Iatarola, 34, of Bloomington, according to La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson.

Swanson said an autopsy revealed cause of death was drowning.

He was wearing a t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes when his body was recovered Tuesday afternoon roughly 500 yards from the lighthouse, she said.


Swanson said how he wound up in the water and who he might have been with prior to his disappearance were not known but those are among the answers being sought in the ongoing investigation.

She said it appears Iatarola came here with friends during the July 4 weekend and he last spoke to his father, who also lives in Bloomington, on July 9.      

“Apparently, his father had been trying to contact Michigan City Police to file a missing person’s report,” Swanson said.  


She also went on to say that pathologist conducting the autopsy estimated Iatarola died three to four days prior to the recovery of his body.


The results of a toxicology test to determine if alcohol or drugs were in his bloodstream will not be known for a couple of weeks, Swanson said.

So Close But Still Sunnyside Up.

(La Porte, IN) - Close but no cigar was the story for a young boy in two farm animal contests today at the La Porte County Fair.


Ryder Wroblewski, 10, entered a White Rock chicken in the annual rooster crowing competition held outside the Poultry Barn.


His bird crowed 13 times in 15 minutes which was good enough for a tie with a chicken belonging to 16-year old Sydney Hill.


His chicken, despite Wroblewski resorting to different techniques to encourage his bird to crow, fell just short during a two minute run-off.


The boy also finished in second place when his turkey gobbled one less time than a turkey belonging to Joe Pumroy, 16, of Rolling Prairie.


Pumroy’s turkey gobbled just twice before the 10 minute time clock ran out.


Wroblewski, who lives in the Fish Lake area, also especially hard to try and coax his normally quiet turkey into just one or two more gobbles. 


He seemed to take it all in stride, though. 


“I don’t really get frustrated when I lose.  As long as I try my hardest,” he said.

COVID-19 Still Low Locally Despite Variant

(La Porte County, IN) - COVID-19 numbers are starting to creep up in different parts of the country because of the more contagious Delta variant but cases are still low and holding steady in La Porte County.


According to Indiana State Department of Health, 2.2 percent of people tested the past seven days in La Porte County have come up positive.


Dr. Vidya Kora, who has a medical practice in Michigan City, said there hasn’t been many hospitalizations locally in recent weeks and people becoming seriously ill from the virus have all been unvaccinated individuals.


“I think we are in a good place right now,” he said.


The rising number of cases worldwide are reported to be in areas with low vaccination rates.


Kora said more people getting vaccinated is the key to further reducing the risk of contracting the virus.


According to ISDH, there are still several Indiana counties with double digit positivity rates with the closest to here being Newton County.


All of the counties surrounding LaPorte have similarly low positivity rates.


Kora assured people hesitant about being immunized the vaccines are safe and far less risky than not being vaccinated.

Siblings Repeat in Poultry Contest

(La Porte, IN) - A brother and sister have repeated as La Porte County fair champions.


Georgia Pumroy, 15, of Rolling Prairie sounded more like a rooster and turkey than over a dozen other 4-H competitors based on the scoring by judges in the crowing and gobbling contest this morning.


“It feels amazing,” was her reaction to winning both wings of the competition.


Joe Pumroy, 16, had a turkey that gobbled just twice in 10 minutes but it was one more than the other turkey in the gobbling competition.

The siblings are past winners in the contest but Georgia said her major focus this year was beating her brother on sounding like a turkey gobbling.


Her brother was defending champion in minicking a turkey gobbling.


The Pumroys have turkeys and roosters at their home in the Rolling Prairie area.

Overtime Decides Rooster Competition

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte area girl had a rooster crowned a La Porte County Fair champion today.


Sydney Hill, 16, had a chicken that tied another chicken with 13 crows in 15 minutes during the popular competition held annually outside the Poultry Barn.


Her chicken then out crowed the other chicken by two crows during a two minute run off.


Hill said especially rewarding was her bird normally much quieter at home came from behind to win the contest.


“I’m proud of him,” she said.


There were seven roosters in this year’s crowing competition.

Body Recovered from Lake Michigan

(Michigan City, IN) - A body was found yesterday afternoon in Lake Michigan at Michigan City.


The U.S. Coast Guard responded around 4:30 p.m. to the area close to the Lighthouse.


According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, that’s where the body of a man was recovered.


The victim was white or Hispanic with dark hair, wearing dark-colored shorts and tennis shoes.


His identity was not immediately determined. 


Anyone with information is asked to contact local authorities.

Face Added to Shelter Name

(La Porte, IN) - Unwanted pets went from being mostly euthanized to finding new homes on her long running watch.


Her legacy is reflected on the new name of the facility.


The former La Porte County Small Animal Shelter is now the Jane Bernard Animal Adoption Center.


Bernard retired in February after more than 30-years as director of the shelter beside the La Porte County Fairgrounds on Indiana 2.            

“Never in a million years did I ever think that was going to happen,” she said.


Bernard, 60, gave much of the credit for the honor to staff members and support from elected officials and the public during her tenure.


“That’s why we succeeded and were able to improve the shelter in so many ways,” she said.


After coming here from Wisconsin, Bernard was a receptionist for a local veterinarian when tapped to get the La Porte County government owned shelter plagued by poor record keeping, cock roach infestation and lack of maintenance heading in the right direction.


A high rate of animals euthanized under a five day adoption deadline also began to change.

Now, dogs and cats stay until they’re adopted and euthanized only if they’re suffering or aggressive toward humans.


A major help in the transformation of the facility was the addition of the Stevens Treatment Center in 2014.


The center staffed by local veterinarians makes sure animals are healthy, spayed or neutered and micro-chipped prior to adoption.

The medical facility was made possible by $1 million willed to the shelter by local animal lovers the late Delbert and Virginia Stevens.


“That totally changed the make-up of how we were able to take care of the shelter animals,” Bernard said.


Mike Kellems was a La Porte County Police Officer noticing the impact Bernard had on the shelter especially on calls related to animal abuse.


He said Bernard or another representative from the shelter were always quick to respond no matter what the time to arrange medical care for animals or assist with investigations.

“That shelter has set the standard for what community animal shelters should be like,” Kellems said.


“You talk about dedicated employees.  They’re just great people,” said La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski.


Bernard recently came back to the shelter as a volunteer doing things like cleaning and feeding the animals about once a week.


She said seeing her name on the facility is also surprising because such honors are often extended to people after they passed away.


“To be alive and see this take place, I’m truly honored,” Bernard said.

Correctional Officers Accused in Escape

(La Porte, IN) - Two LaPorte County Correctional officers are facing criminal charges.


David Winter and Carly Searing made their initial appearances in La Porte Circuit Court on Friday.

Two months ago, the officers were transporting an offender from the work release center near the fairgrounds to the La Porte County Jail, police said.


While enroute to the jail, they allegedly stopped at a Family Express to let the offender, Jacob Borders, go inside unrestrained to use an ATM and purchase a drink, according to police.


Authorities said the offender took off and the correctional officers did nothing to stop him and even failed to call for assistance.


According to police, the officers claimed the offender escaped by unlocking the door on the transport van at a stop light.


However, the correctional officers were allegedly caught lying by video surveillance at the Family Express that showed the offender stepping out of the transport van unrestrained in the parking lot.


The charges against Searing from La Porte and Winter of Valparaiso including Level 5 felony Aiding, Inducing or Causing Escape and Level 5 felony Assisting a Criminal.


Borders was booked into the La Porte County Jail about six weeks later on charges of escape and several counts of violating probation.


La Porte Man Convicted of Rape

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man will likely be going to prison.


36-year old Earl Moore was convicted of Level 3 felony Rape by a LaPorte Circuit Court jury last week.  He was also found guilty on Level 5 and Level 6 counts of Battery.


According to court documents, the victim met Moore at Mickey’s Bar in December of 2019 and was already very intoxicated before having a few more drinks with Moore.


Authorities said they left the bar together but Moore had to help her out because she could barely stand.   He allegedly raped the woman inside a vehicle parked outside his residence in the 500 block of Porter St.


According to court documents, the woman after waking up felt something wasn’t right and was taken to the hospital where an examination revealed she had been sexually assaulted.


Police said Moore denied having any contact with the woman but DNA and other evidence implicated him in the alleged crime.


Moore could face anywhere from 3 to 16 years on the rape charge and as much as eight and a half years on the two other counts.


No sentencing date has been set.

Expanding Scholarship Eligibility Being Examined

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City officials are looking for ways to give city funded college scholarships to more students.


Officials say just 20 or so students a year have received $5,000 a year scholarships for post-secondary education since the program funded with riverboat money started in 2017.


Qualifications include having a 2.5 grade point average when graduating from high school and living within the city limits.


The families of students must also be homeowners.


Councilman Paul Pryzbylinski says students from rented homes should also qualify.


Right now, parochial school students are not eligible for the scholarships and Councilman Don Pryzbylinski feels that should also be changed.


Just 20 or so scholarships have been issued annually despite Michigan City High School having more than 300 graduates each year.


A workshop has been called to discuss potential changes which would have to be presented and voted on by the city council to take effect. 

Local Banker Earns Recognition

(Michigan City, IN) - A local banker is being recognized statewide.

James Neff is president of Horizon Bank at Michigan City and its parent company. Horizon Bancorp.


Officials say Neff is being honored by the Indiana Bankers Association with its Banking Excellence Award.


Neff has been with Horizon Bank since 1999 and involved in banking locally since the late 1970’s.


Officials say he’s overseen the completion of 14 bank mergers and acquisitions

during his tenure at Horizon Bank.


He and six others involved in banking in Indiana will be presented with the Banking Excellence Award in French Lick next month.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation about Voting and Election Reform

(LAPORTE, IN) -- Everybody is talking about election reform, so we spent hours digging into the FOR THE PEOPLE ACT and the Texas voting bills.


Congressional Democrats are still determined to pass the FOR THE PEOPLE ACT, sweeping voting and election bill blocked by Senate Republicans through the filibuster. The bill would allow same-day voter registration, require voting machines to be made in America and expand vote-by-mail allowances, among other things. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is similarly working on getting legislation passed in his state that would limit early voting hours, add increased identification requirements, and empower partisan poll watchers to make challenges.


So, we asked what our listeners thought? What kinds of reforms do you think America should institute in elections and voting rights? Listen to the full episode below: 



CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Dennis Siddall (Producer), Jeff Wuggazer (Editor)


SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Upcoming Lane Closures on U.S. 20

(La Porte County, IN) - The Indiana Department of Transportation has announced upcoming lane closures for U.S. 20 in Rolling Prairie.  According to INDOT officials, the lane closure will occur between Byron Rd/C.R. N 400 W and Prairie St/C.R. N 450 E beginning July 19.


The U.S. 20 bridge over Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks will be reduced to one lane in each direction for a bridge deck overlay project through late August, officials said.  Lane closures will alternate so motorists should be prepared for changing traffic patterns in the area.  A bridge deck overlay is a protective treatment done to extend the life of a bridge deck, INDOT officials said.   


INDOT urges drivers to stay alert near crews and follow traffic directions carefully.  Motorists are also encouraged to allow extra time when driving through this area and should slow down and drive distraction-free through all work zones.

Rookie Takes Chicken Flying Contest

(La Porte, IN) - A rookie at chicken flying came away from this week’s La Porte County Fair as grand champion.


“It feels awesome and I’m so excited,” said Katelyn Peterson, 14, of La Porte.  Her Welsummer chicken, “Goldy,” won the bantamweight division with a 39 foot long flight in the draft horse arena next to Pioneer Land.


The winner in each of four weight divisions returned to compete for grand champion and Goldy outdistanced them all with a flight of just over 22 feet.


Peterson, a six-year member of 4-H, said she didn’t expect her bird to win but knew the hen had talent from flying over a fence to eat corn belonging to her neighbor’s chickens.  She was driven to enter the competition for the first time from watching a chicken belonging to her sister compete in the popular contest during the fair two-years ago.  “I thought it was cool,” she said.


The reserve grand champion was a Rainbow chicken winning the heavyweight division with a flight of just over 25 feet.  The chicken, “Fire,” owned by Nichole Brown, 11, flew slightly more than 18 feet in the grand champion portion of the competition.  Brown, who recently moved to South Carolina from La Porte, made the drive with her family to take part in the contest for her first time.  “It just sounded like something fun and Fire is a little stinker so I thought she would enjoy it,” she said.


Chickens weighing more than five pounds are not eligible to compete.  Each chicken in the competition was gently shoved from behind out of a wooden mailbox resting on a more than 10 foot high platform.    “We fly nothing over five pounds because it could endanger the bird or breaking a leg or something and we don’t want that,” said Carolyn Krause, who was in charge of the chicken flying competition hosted by the fair’s Poultry Committee.


The competition featuring a whopping 38 chickens this year has been a staple at the fair since the late 1980’s.  Krause said some chickens in previous competitions have flown greater distances including a few that made it in the air to the draft horse barn some 100 feet away.


Spectators always get a kick out of the many chickens that ran away after landing then have to be caught by volunteers scrambling to catch the fleet footed birds with nets.  “The crowd always loves to see them run,” Krause said.


Krause said most chickens are better gliders than flyers.  She said chickens could fly greater distances, though, if they flapped their wings more to build up muscle strength.  However, Krause said chickens typically use their wings only when feeling threatened by a predator or some other potential source of danger.  “They just walk around all of the time. They’re out of shape,” she said.

More Gun Related Arrests Locally

(La Porte County, IN) - More arrests related to firearms were recently made during a traffic stop in La Porte County.


According to the sheriff’s office, a vehicle was pulled over Friday for veering over the center line on U.S. 20 near 400 West.  Police say a 45 caliber pistol and two nine millimeter handguns were seized during a search of the vehicle.  Each of the weapons was fully loaded and one was reported stolen.


Two men in their 20’s from Gary, Mustafaa S. El Malik and Justin Burnside, were arrested carrying a handgun without a license, police said.


One of the suspects was also charged with theft.  

Popular La Porte Restaurant Burglarized

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte Mexican restaurant is trying to recover from a burglary.  The break in happened over the weekend at Mucho Mas Fresh Mex Grill on Lincolnway just east of the courthouse.


According to the restaurant’s post on Facebook, the business’ point of sale system was stolen.  The system includes credit card machines and computers to ring in orders.


Anyone with information is asked to contact police.

La Porte County Fair Queen Crowned

(La Porte, IN) - This year’s La Porte County Fair queen was crowned over the weekend.


Reann Grusak is a graduate of South Central High School.  She will visit and preside over numerous events this week at the fair.


Currently, Grusak is a student at Valparaiso University majoring in Communication with hopes of becoming a journalist.

175th La Porte County Fair Underway

(La Porte, IN) - The 175th La Porte County Fair is this week.


Among the activities today is the annual chicken flying contest at 10 a.m.  There’s also the figure 8 demolition derby in the grandstands at 7 p.m.


Other attractions include the very popular Pioneer Land along with live music at various times in the entertainment tent.

Mayor Addressing Employment Problems with Executive Orders

(Michigan City, IN) - Finding municipal workers in Michigan City has gotten so difficult that the mayor has issued executive orders to address the understaffing.


On Friday, Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry took executive action by raising wages for city positions that have gone unfilled.  By mayoral decree, CDL Drivers and Operators with the Street Department will now earn $19-21 per hour.


Addressing the critical need for beach safety, lifeguard wages are also going up to $25-27 an hour.


The new wages take effect Sunday, July 11.  Parry says he has confirmed with the City Controller that the increases can be covered in the current budget.  He hopes to put permanent increases into future budgets.


Willing workers can apply in person at the City Hall at 100 E. Michigan Blvd. Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or online here.

It's Fair Time!

(La Porte, IN) - Last weekend no fewer than four big events in La Porte ushered in the 4th of July.  Turns out, that was just a warm-up for an event people have been waiting two years for: the 175th LaPorte County Fair.  It started Saturday.

We checked in with Catherine Mrozinski, who is the is the fair’s treasurer, to see what’s in store for the coming week. "With it being the 175th, we have a ton of things going on," she said. "There's a lot of movement out here, a lot of excitement just to get back to normal."


4-H kids have been showing projects all week, a County Fair Queen will be crowned, carnival rides are ready to ride. Mrozinski notes there are some new food vendors.  And the big new attraction this year is an interactive show called Dino Encounters. "It's a 40-minute interactive dinosaur adventure," Mrozinski said. "And the neatest thing is there's three shows per day running Sunday through Saturday, and it's completely free with gate admission."


Skerbeck’s Carnival will be offering $30 unlimited rides from 1 p.m. to close.


The fair opens Saturday at noon. Admission for Saturday only is a symbolic $1.75. Rides open at 1:00.  Also you have one more chance to see the Budweiser Clydesdales. They’ll be at the fair Saturday from 2 until 4. 


The famous ham and bean dinner at Pioneer Land rounds out the weekend. It takes place Sunday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Cost of the dinner is $5 each. Proceeds go toward maintenance and improvements at Pioneer Land.

Ag Confidence Wanes

(West Lafayette, IN) - Financial confidence within the agricultural community appears to be waning.  That’s according to a monthly survey conducted by Purdue University.


The Ag Economy Barometer measures how optimistic farmers are about their future prospects.  It looks at things like plans to expand farm operations or buy new equipment.


According to Purdue, farmer optimism was steadily trending up since 2016, hitting a high point last summer.  For the second straight month, however, confidence has tumbled.  A big reason is rising input costs, which eats into potential profits.


You can check the Purdue Ag Barometer here.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Another Conversation with John Lake

(LAPORTE, IN)Today's guest on SOUND OFF was LaPorte County Prosecuting Attorney John Lake. The conversation included topics like gun rights/violence, the battle between Governor Eric Holcomb and Attorney General Todd Rokita, First Amendment violations and social media companies, COVID-19 mandates, and more. 


Listen to the full episode below: 



CREDITS: Nate Loucks (host), John Lake (guest), Jeff Wuggazer (producer/editor)


SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Bernard Honored for Her Efforts

(La Porte, IN) - "God love her-- there's a special place in heaven for somebody like Jane Bernard." County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski waxed theological praising former animal shelter Jane Bernard.  Perhaps "Saint Bernard" is a glib title to bestow on her, but to many people it's appropriate.


In honor of the woman who transformed it, La Porte's animal shelter was named after her Thursday.  The shelter on West State Road 2 is now the Jane Bernard Animal Adoption Center.  A crowd gathered there Thursday afternoon for a ceremony in which a new sign was unveiled. 


After taking over a dilapidated facility, Bernard oversaw its tripling in size, as well as the addition of a treatment center. Now, it’s a model shelter.


County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski spearheaded the effort to rename the facility. "Compared to what this place was when I got on the advisory board in '07 to now," he said, "it's state-of-the-art, and it's all a reflection of Jane's leadership." He said her recent departure is bittersweet. "On the one hand I'm really sad that she doesn't work here anymore, but on the other hand I'm so glad for her that she can finally get out and enjoy life."


Bernard retired in February.  In 31 years of running the shelter, she cared for animals ranging from stray cats and dogs to an abandoned tortoise.


Thursday she was dealing with a different kind of critter.  "My stomach is in butterflies," she said right after the unveiling.  "It's just absolutely amazing to look up and see your name on a sign.  I'm truly honored."


Bernard says she’ll continue to volunteer at the shelter. Otherwise, she hopes to enjoy life by playing more pickleball.

4-H Kids Return to the Fairgrounds

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Fairgrounds have been buzzing with 4-H activity.  Project turn-ins and judging have been going on all week.


The pandemic drove last year’s 4-H activities online, which was a bummer.  Gayle O’Connor is a La Porte County 4-H Educator.  She’s thrilled to be back to normal. "It's been exciting to see everyone in person again," she said. "The excitement on their faces has been fun to see."


O'Connor said last year's virtual 4-H was better than nothing, but was no substitute for the normal in-person experience. "Last year's online event was the worst we ever want to have it," she said, "because it still provided an opportunity for projects, but, boy, it still does not fulfill the full experience of being live in front of a judge, having your project on exhibit for everyone to see."


Usually, about 1400 kids participate in 4-H in LaPorte County.  O’Connor estimates there are 20-30% fewer kids this year.  One reason is that the status of in-person exhibiting was still up in the air until May.


The up-side, says O’Connor is that many kids seem to have used the extra time in quarantine to work on their projects. "New project ideas!  There has been a lot of time for creative thinking over the pandemic," she said, "because I have seen some new projects I have never seen before."


Jill Wozniak is a volunteer helping set up exhibits this week. Sitting in on photography judging, she noticed a greater diversity in projects, likely because kids have spent more time working on them. "With photography, you are to take pictures since last fair," she said, "so some of them, having more time at home, I think we saw more fall and winter pictures going in. We had kids home from school, people thinking about it, and getting ready."


Exhibits are on display in two building at the fairgrounds. O'Connor said the Small Projects Building has been reorganized. A new area called Demonstration Station has hands-on activities for kids to do. And don’t forget the livestock. Be sure to check out all the kids’ (and volunteers') hard work when you go out there next week.

Purdue Announces Reopening Plan

(West Lafayette, IN) - Purdue University has announced that it will return to normal operations at all campuses next school year. 


The Board of Trustees on Wednesday approved a plan for students returning to campus.  Full occupancy of classrooms and other venues tops the list.  Alumni and visitors will be welcomed back.  Masks will not be required. 


As for vaccinations, they will be encouraged, but optional. However, according to Purdue’s plan proof of vaccination will be required by August 13, or else “routine surveillance testing and contact tracing” will apply.


The full list of policies are outlined here.  All of the policies are subject to change if the COVID situation worsens.

Indiana Ranks High for Places to Retire

(New York, NY) - Most people wouldn’t peg the Hoosier State as a great place to retire, but according to a recent survey, Indiana is one of the best states to retire in.


According to the financial planning website Bankrate, Indiana is among the top 10 states in the nation for retirement.  Their study looks at affordability, wellness, culture, weather, and crime.  All things considered, Indiana ranks 9th, mostly due to affordability.


The best states to retire in are Georgia and Florida.  The worst states, in case you’re curious, are Alaska, Montana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Maryland.


To see the all the details from the study, click here.

State Chips in to Lure Business to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Efforts to lure a multinational employer to La Porte involved incentives from the state level.


Matt Saltanovitz represents this region for the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.  He spoke to the City Council Tuesday night about the state’s involvement in offering tax incentives. "This was a no-brainer for the state," he told the council. "We love it when Indiana companies, especially successful, long-time companies like Patrick Industries, are expanding.  But we really like it when they choose Indiana for their expansion."  According to Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, Chicago was the other front-runner to land Patrick.


Saltanovitz praised the council for being pro-business. "It's so easy to do a project in La Porte," he said. "The business climate you've created in the city here is a testament to the work that you've all done."


The state is offering Patrick Industries tax credits worth up to $360,000. The credits are contingent upon the company hiring at least 31 Hoosier workers. 


Finding workers these days is hard enough. But according to Saltanovitz, finding available space is even harder for growing companies like Patrick Industries.  "In my line of work, I speak to a lot of companies that are looking to expand or locate here in northwest Indiana," he told the council.  "And the number one challenge by far is inventory and available space for them to come."


The new Thomas Rose Industrial Park building, which isn’t even fully finished, was a primary reason for Patrick Industries to pick La Porte.

Man Wanted in La Porte Dies in Police Chase

(Porter County, IN) - A man wanted by the law in La Porte County died following an interstate police chase.


It started Wednesday morning just before 9:00 a.m..  A State Trooper pulled over a 2012 Ford Focus in an I-94 construction zone in La Porte County.  The driver, identified as 22-year-old Vernell Muhammad, had an outstanding warrant for Domestic Battery and Strangulation from back in March.  Police reports say Muhammad was from Chicago, but court records tie him to Michigan City.


Rather than surrender, Muhammad drove off, leading police on a nearly-20-mile chase west.  Near Burns Harbor, Muhammad crashed into the back of a semi.  He was ejected from his vehicle and was later pronounced dead at a Chicago hospital.


Westbound I-94 was closed for about two hours following the crash.

Arnold to Run for Sheriff

(La Porte County, IN) - Another candidate has officially thrown his hat in the ring for next year’s LaPorte County Sheriff election.  James Arnold has filed paperwork with the La Porte County Clerk.


Arnold has been with the Sheriff’s Department for 20 years, first as a jail officer, then joining the patrol division in 2001.  He now serves as a patrol sergeant.


In a press release, Arnold alluded to “internal issues that need direct attention and action.” His statement continued: “The current morale is at a low point. I will help foster a happier and more positive workplace that would have a direct and immediate impact on all of the employees at the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office as well as the communities they serve.”  He said he will issue more specific details in the coming weeks.


Arnold is running as a Democrat.

Officer Ambushed and Killed in Terre Haute

(Terre Haute, IN) - A police officer in Terre Haute was shot and killed in what authorities have dubbed an ambush.


The incident happened Wednesday around 2:15 p.m. outside an FBI office in Terre Haute.  The officer involved has been identified as Detective Greg Ferency, a 30-year veteran of the Terre Haute Police Department.


Reports indicate Ferency was assigned to an FBI task force there.  Authorities say he was shot and killed ambush-style.  An FBI agent shot and wounded the assailant, who is in custody following surgery.

Holcomb Busy with Legal Battles

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb finds himself embroiled in two different legal battles.


This week a Marion County Superior Court sided with Holcomb in allowing him to fight legislation passed earlier this year.  Overriding his veto, the General Assembly passed a law allowing them to call their own special session to review emergency orders.  The law effectively checks the Executive’s emergency powers, which Holcomb says is unconstitutional.  State Attorney General Todd Rokita claimed only his office, and the not the Governor, could sue the state. A judge disagreed.


Holcomb is also appealing a different Marion county court ruling which ordered the state to continue doling out extra unemployment from the federal CARES Act.  Holcomb opted the state out of that program last month.

A Rosie Day for La Porte's Rotary Club

(South Bend, IN) - La Porte’s Rotary Club stepped up in a big way to help a unique organization that helps La Porte County families.


A Rosie Place for Children is an oasis of care for medically fragile kids. They help give a little break to families of children with extreme medical needs.  It’s located on five scenic acres between New Carlisle and South Bend.  Some La Porte County families take advantage of their services.


Recently, a team of workers representing the La Porte County Rotary Club donned their work gloves and helped build a backyard nature habitat for the kids to enjoy.  Mark McGill is Communications Director for a Rosie Place. "They brought about twenty people in," he said. "And, honestly, I've never seen a harder working group of people." McGill said they dug and planted trees and shrubs, spread mulch, moved rocks, and painted. "It was literally four hours of nonstop dirty, sweaty work, and they were just incredible."


The Rotary Club raised $4,000 for the project and of course invested their own time, talent, and sweat.

Nalox Box Comes to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A public dispenser of Naloxone is now in La Porte. 


A state-wide initiative launched in February seeks to provide access to free doses of Naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan. The drug reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.  Porter-Starke Services have placed a box of Naloxone at each of its northern Indiana locations, including Valparaiso, Knox, and La Porte.


The box contains six to eight doses, instructions for use, and referral information for addiction treatment. In La Porte, it’s located at the Porter-Starke offices on West State Road 2.

La Porte Native Reffing NBA Finals

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte native is refereeing the NBA Finals.  James Williams is in his 11th season as an NBA official. 


A 1997 La Porte High School graduate, Williams began refereeing basketball games while a student at Purdue.  He stuck with it, and has now called over 500 NBA regular season games and many playoff games. 


This year he finally made it to the biggest stage in basketball.  Williams, who now lives in Chicago, made the cut this week as one of the fourteen referees selected to call the NBA Finals.

Results of Distracted Driving Law Enforcement

(Indianapolis, IN) - Last July a new law went into effect in Indiana prohibiting the use of phones while driving.  The Hands Free Driving Law aimed to reduce traffic accidents by keeping drivers’ eyes on the road and not on their electronic devices.


According to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, over 5,400 citations have been issued for the infraction, and 10,500 warnings have been given out.  Violations are a Class C infraction.


This July the BMV begins adding points to people’s driving records for Hands Free driving violations.

Growing Manufacturer Bringing Jobs to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A multinational manufacturing company is landing in La Porte.  Patrick Industries plans to open a new 60,000 square-foot facility at Thomas Rose Industrial Park.


On Tuesday night, La Porte’s City Council approved tax abatements on property investments over ten years.  In return, Patrick Industries will make an initial capital investment of $8 million, with the hopes of investing another $9 million down the road. Also, the company pledges to create up to 35 new jobs, with an average wage of $26 an hour plus benefits.


La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody says the move shows that La Porte’s arrow is pointing up.  "Patrick Industries is a well-known company, throughout the United State and throughout the world," he said after Tuesday night's meeting,  "and for them to want to expand and grow in the city of La Porte, we're excited."  Dermody said the quality of the jobs is just as important as the quantity. "These are the type of jobs that we want people to be excited about.  People are recognizing the business-friendly community that we have here in La Porte. And with the quality of life that we have, we can compete with a lot of different communities."


Patrick Industries manufactures mostly flat-surface components and fixtures for recreational vehicles and manufactured housing.  They operate over 170 facilities in the US and abroad.  Hugo Gonzalez is Patrick Industries’ Senior Vice President.  He says La Porte stood out because of its location between Chicago and Elkhart and because it has space ready to occupy.


Gonzalez says they hope to start up in the next few months.  Manufacturing machinery will soon be on its way from Italy, which will take six to eight weeks to arrive and be installed.

He says the company is finalizing job descriptions and will look to start gathering a workforce in a month or two.

Clydesdales the Mane Attraction in the Area this Weekend

(La Porte County, IN) - You’ve seen them on billboards, on television. Who can forget those Super Bowl commercials?  The Budweiser Clydesdales are perhaps the most iconic horse team in America.  And this week, they’re parading all over the area.


On Friday night, they made their first stop at an idyllic pasture outside La Porte as a sideshow to a country music concert.  On Sunday, they were the “mane” attraction at La Porte’s 75th 4th of July Parade.


David West is one of the Clydesdale handlers.  He's been on the team traveling with the horses for about seven-and-a-half years.  He said the Clydesdales are as special as they look. "These guys are about 2,000 pounds," he said. "[They are] right around 18 hands tall at the shoulder; that would be right around six feet or better. And very well-trained."


West said these Clydesdales are specially bred for their role as beer ambassadors. "We start training them from the time they're babies, all the way up until they're about four or five years old."  West says the horses come form an official breeding facility for Budweiser located in Boonville, Missouri. The horses are carefully selected for their size and color markings. Wagon drivers are trained there, as well.


The Clydesdales are also making appearances in South Bend this week, visiting the St. Joseph County Fair and Four Winds Field for a Cubs game.

Summer Rains Have Mixed Effect on U-Pick Season

(La Porte County, IN) - U-pick season is underway for many locally-grown farm products.  Recent heavy rains had mixed effects on local growers.


Dean Ott operates three blueberry farms in northern La Porte County.  He said recent rains were the least of his problems, after dealing with an early frost and a dry spring. "We don't really have any standing water," he said after the skies cleared last week. "So the ground needed it. You know, we run five wells out here, so I'm happy to get anything I can down there." Ott said his farm also avoided serious flooding thanks to some recent ditch cleaning done by the county nearby. As for the weather, Ott is a realist. "As a farmer, and I've been doing this 23 years, you count your blessings, and you don't worry about the things you can't control. And the weather is not one of those things that I can control."   His primary u-pick farm opened as hoped late last week.


Another small farm, however, wasn’t so lucky.  Melissa Ripley owns Field to Vase Farm on Tulip Road east of La Porte County.  She grows flowers and other annuals.  Heavy rains a week ago wiped out 1,800 plants, despite some last-minute trenching and help from the local fire department. "The damage was already done," she said. "By the time we realized how bad it was, digging the trenches didn't really help. They [the flowers] were already so water-logged, they just couldn't-- they're babies right now. If this would have happened in August, it would have been okay, but happening now was too soon."


Ripley said her strawflower crop went from being her best ever to 90% wiped out.  After expanding her planting, she was hoping for her biggest year yet. Now it will just be average.

But the flooded flowers haven’t dampened her spirits. Field to Vase opened this weekend and will be open every weekend until October.  Ripley said that next year she plans to relocate some of her flowerbeds to areas not as prone to flooding.

Michigan City Vaccine Clinic Moved

(Michigan City, IN) - Franciscan Hospital in Michigan City has relocated its COVID-19 vaccination clinic.


Vaccines had been administered at the hospital since last December. As of Tuesday, the vaccination clinic is located in Franciscan’s Coolspring Health Center at 1225 E. Coolspring Avenue.


The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Walk-ins are welcome.

Church Bus Crashes on US 31

(Fulton County, IN) - A church bus was involved in a serious crash Monday afternoon on US 31.

The accident happened just south of Rochester.


According to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, a Cadillac driven by an 18-year-old collided with a bus containing 14 people. Photos from the scene show the bus on its side in the roadway.

Police say most of the injuries were minor.  One 17-year-old was airlifted to South Bend Memorial Hospital.

Weekend Lake Michigan Drowning

(Gary, IN) - Another drowning occurred in Lake Michigan over the weekend. This time, it was near Gary.


At about 5:00 p.m. Sunday, a lifeguard at Lake Street Beach saw two adult males struggling in the water. One man was rescued by the lifeguard, but the other, a 20-year-old from Bensenville, Illinois, slipped under the water and did not resurface.


Rescuers in a search helicopter spotted his body a few hours later in about seven feet of water.

Traveling Wall Commemorates Recent War Losses

(Michigan City, IN) - A special veterans’ memorial stopped in Michigan City this weekend.

The Gold Star Tribute Wall was on display at Ames Field. The traveling memorial honors Americans killed in action during the Gulf War and in Iraq and Afghanistan.


For Karen Durnell of Michigan City, who stopped by Sunday morning after church, the memorial is personal. She has a son-in-law in the U.S. Army who is on his way to Afghanistan, and her 18-year-old granddaughter just enlisted in the Marines. "So, being patriotic in many, many ways and for many, many reasons," she said, "I just felt I had to come and pray for those that have lost their lives so that we can have freedom."


For Sam Nicoara of Georgia, who created the display, it’s a labor of love. Nicoara is a commercial pilot who uses his free time to tour the memorial around the country. He only makes it to about 10 locations per year, so Michigan City was fortunate to see it. The Gold Star Wall was scheduled to visit last year, but was delayed due to COVID-19.


Nicoara says he built the wall because the government takes too long to create war memorials. He said Congress takes at least ten years after the official closing of a conflict to even consider a monument. The WWII Memorial, for example, took 62 years to create.  Nicoara believes recent fallen heroes and their families deserve honor now, especially since conflict in the Middle East has dragged on for so long. "Do a little math," Nicoara said. "Most KIAs [Killed in Action] are late teens, early 20s; their parents are in their 40s. Sixty years later, they're never seeing anything to memorialize their child's sacrifice. We build this now," Nicoara continued, "We're going to take this as far and wide as we can afford to take it, and God gives us the strength and financial ability to make it happen, so that the Gold Stars, the families of the fallen can see that their child's sacrifice and their sacrifices have not been forgotten."


Unfortunately, the number of casualties from the War on Terror continues to grow. And Nicoara will continue adding to the over 7,400 names. He already has enough names from the past few years to add three more panels.


He’s also sensitive to the number of veterans who take their own lives after military service. Nicoara is working on a display to raise awareness for the 22 veterans a day who commit suicide.


To learn more about the Gold Star Tribute Wall or to support its mission, visit the website www.TributeWall.org.

La Porte Capitalizes on 75th 4th Parade

(La Porte, IN) - When you're the state capital for a day, you might as well throw a party.  That's just what La Porte did Sunday with its 4th of July Parade festivities.


Last year the celebration was canceled; earlier this year, its fate was uncertain, as the Jaycees stepped back from organizing it.  But La Porte’s Kiwanis Club took the handoff and saw the event through its 75th year.


Indiana State Representative Jim Pressel summed up the day’s excitement.  "To see so many people come out and celebrate, it kind of gives me goosebumps," he said just before the parade, "because we missed 2020, so now we have to make up for it.  That's what we see today. People have got smiles on their faces. It's just an exciting day."


The festivities started in the morning at Plaza 618 with a Kids' Korner fun zone.  Two A-10 Warthogs from Ft. Wayne's 122nd Fighter Wing flew over at 10:15.  Other aircraft, including a medical helicopter, flew over during the parade, which began at 1:00.


Over 85 units paraded down Lincolnway.  The lineup included all the necessary ingredients: classic cars, local businesses, beauty queens, marching bands, politicians, lots of American flags, and even Budweiser’s Clydesdale horses.


Up and down the parade route, people were brimming with pent-up patriotism, after missing out on a proper 4th of July last year.  Bri Travis and Summer Logan of LaPorte said they were particularly proud of America's essential workers, from doctors and nurses to truck drivers and grocery clerks, who kept everything together during the pandemic.


Nick Pollock of Carpenters Local 1485 was thankful for the freedom that everyone enjoys to live and work they way they see fit. "Me personally," he said, "I get to join a trade union, so I get the good wages and the benefits.  And that gives me the opportunity to raise my family the way I want to."


For local Democratic Party Chair Dr. Vidya Kora, America is all about decency. "As an immigrant who came from India over 35 years ago, I have felt that this is the most welcoming society," he said before Sunday's parade.  Quoting Alexis de Tocqueville, Kora said, "America is great because America is good."  He continued, "We need to continue to be good; we need to be the beacon of hope in this world. And we'll continue to be great."

Rising Country Star Taking a Liking to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - After performing here twice recently, Dillon Carmichael is kind of sweet on La Porte. "I love it up here," said Carmichael after his set at Friday night's Red, Wine, and Brew.  "I love the orchards and all the agriculture around here, all the corn."  Carmichael said he has found a little time to live the lake life.  "Obviously Stone and Pine Lake are beautiful, clear, see-through," he said. "I've been on a boat out there.  I kind of feel like this is maybe my second or third home.  I love this county."


Carmichael played a concert overlooking Pine Lake back in September.  As for Friday’s show, he was impressed with the La Porte crowd's enthusiasm. "It's unreal," he said after his early evening set. "I mean, y'all don't mess around, buddy.  Y'all have a good time out here."


Frankly, Carmichael is happy to be out playing anywhere after over a year of musical quarantine. "It's not back to normal," he admits.  "It's picking up, though. I mean, this time last year, we weren't even close to doing anything like this."


Friday's concert was a benefit to support local first responders organized by Bethany Lutheran Church.

Red, Wine, and "I Do!"

(La Porte, IN) - Top-notch country music was the featured attraction at Friday night’s Red, Wine, and Brew.  But it was a marriage proposal that stole the show.


During intermission following Dillon Carmichael’s set, two local police officers came on stage with their loved ones to be recognized for their efforts. One of them dropped to his knee.  Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Morse had been dating Elizabeth Berg for about five years, and he decided that on-stage at a country music concert was the perfect time to pop the question.


It was a rather spontaneous plan, Morse said.  He went ring shopping Thursday and approached concert organizers about staging the proposal.  "I asked Carey [Garwood] and Dennis [Meyer] to help me out," he said, "and they gracefully did it. It was cool-- more than I can imagine."


No one was more surprised than Berg. "I'm completely in shock," she said right after the big moment. "I did not expect this." Neither did Berg's sister or her mother, Julie Fetters, who were both stage-side at the concert.  "I'm her mom, and I've been trying to push it for a long time," said Fetters, "No way would I ever expect this. Only Andy could do it that good."


Friday’s concert was a benefit for La Porte’s first responders. Luckily for officer Morse,  Berg's first response was "Yes!"

Multiple Flyovers Confirmed for 4th Festivities

(La Porte, IN) - Parade organizers say there will be a military flyover for the parade.  In fact, there will be a couple of them.


The traditional visit by the big guns, namely two A-10 Warthogs, is scheduled for 10:15 Sunday morning. The Thunderbolts are part of the 122nd Fighter Wing out of Fort Wayne.


According to parade co-chair Joy Zigler, with post-pandemic military planning being what it is, the morning flyover was the best they could do.  Fortunately, the Kiwanis Club is hosting a Kids Korner activity zone at Plaza 618 all morning, so downtown spectators will have things to while they look to the skies over Lincolnway.


The parade itself, however, will not lack air support.  At the beginning of the parade, vintage aircraft will fly the parade route.  To honor first responders, a medical helicopter from the Lutheran Air flight program will fly over, as well.

Police on Patrol for Drunk Boaters

(La Porte County, IN) - If you’re enjoying the open waters this weekend, expect to see Indiana Conservation Officers out patrolling.


They’ve launched Operation Dry Water to scope out intoxicated boaters.  Special drunk boating patrols are happening all weekend across the state. The La Porte County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol Division will also be participating locally.


Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal on all bodies of water and can lead to serious injuries, death, and of course legal consequences.  In Indiana, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.  Indiana Conservation Officers remind boaters always to boat sober and to wear a life jacket when on or around the water.

New Home for Healthcare Foundation

(La Porte, IN) - The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte cut the ribbon this week on their new Conference and Learning Center.


After breaking ground nearly two years ago, the foundation opened the doors to local nonprofits on Wednesday.  The nearly 13,000 square-foot building is a handsome and versatile facility designed to be a hub for La Porte County nonprofit, government, and health and wellness groups.

It features state-of-the-art equipment for presentations, videoconferencing, working, and communicating.


Conference rooms can accommodate between 10 and 200 people.  A large exterior patio overlooks Fish Trap Lake.  The center also features office and meeting spaces for nonprofits, especially fledgling ones that need a little professional space to work in.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation about Donald Trump in 2024

(LAPORTE, IN) - Today's topic on SOUND OFF was about former President Donald Trump seeking re-election in 2024. In an interview this week, President Trump stated that he had decided whether he would run for president again in 2024, though he didn't say what his decision is. However, with the announcement that he will do a national tour with Bill O'Reilly in December and has plans to continue public rallies and appearances, many believe he will, in fact, run again in 2024. In this episode, we talked about whether our listeners believe Trump will run for re-election and if people believe he should run.


Show note: here is the link to the speech by former President Dwight Eisenhower that Nate Loucks read at the beginning of the show. 


Listen to the full episode below:




CREDITS: Dennis Siddall (Producer), Rik Anthony (Editor), Nate Loucks (Host)


SOUND OFF is a community conversation show that airs every Monday and Friday on 96.7 the Eagle in LaPorte County, Indiana. SOUND OFF is a Spoon River Media production.

Tax Incentives Approved for New La Porte Development

(La Porte, IN) - A new industrial development in La Porte got another official push toward the finish line.  On Wednesday night, LaPorte’s Redevelopment Commission approved tax incentives for the new industrial building currently under construction at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park.


Under the agreement, the developers of the $6.5 million building will recoup their property tax amount, estimated to be about $136,000 per year, for a term of four years. A fifth year of tax rebate will kick in if the business occupying the space is new to the La Porte area and offers high-paying jobs.


The structure is currently 150,000 square feet.  However, it is easily expandable to twice that size. Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, told the Redevelopment Commission that such an expansion is likely to happen.  "In speaking with the developer and based on demand for the space as it stands right now," he said, "it's highly likely I'll be back in front of you in very short order to announce that they're going to double the size of the building."


According to LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody, a major jobs announcement will be forthcoming from his office next Tuesday.  That news could be tied to the development at Thomas Rose Industrial Park.

Indiana's Public Health Emergency Extended

(Indianapolis, IN) - Although the number of COVID-19 cases statewide continues to decline, Governor Eric Holcomb has extended the state’s public health emergency.

After another executive order signed Wednesday, the emergency status will continue through July.

The governor also extended certain COVID-related policies, such as emergency healthcare licensing and vaccination procedures.

Loosening of regulations related to accessing state-provided healthcare and unemployment was also extended as part of the order.

For complete details on the executive order, click the link below:



Fireworks This Weekend Across the Area

(La Porte County, IN) - Here’s a rundown of fireworks displays in the area this weekend…


A brief fireworks show will conclude Friday night’s Red, Wine, and Brew event out on Johnson Rd. Those will follow the last performance around 9:30pm.


The big LaPorte Jaycee’s fireworks show is out at the fairgrounds Saturday night. It’s $5 per carload to get in, or $1 per person walking through the gates.


And on the 4th, there will be fireworks over Pine Lake.


The skies will also light up over Washington Park in Michigan City Sunday at dusk.  North Liberty and Walkerton will also put on displays Sunday night.


And there will be fireworks in South Bend at the St. Jo County Fairgrounds Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Sunday nights. Those fireworks are in conjunction with the St. Joseph County Fair.


Former Michigan City Basketball Player Going Pro

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City basketball standout is going pro.  Rob Howard has signed to play professional hoops in Europe.  Howard will be playing for the Unger Steel Gunners of Oberwart, Austria.


The 6-8 forward, who was born in Gary, played his senior year at Michigan City in 2016.  He went on to play at the University of Illinois Chicago, where he graduated with a degree in psychology. Although he already has his own investment business,  Howard is pursuing his hoop dreams and keeping his options open for the 2022 NBA draft.

FAQ for Red Wine & Brew

(LaPorte, IN) - Red, Wine, and Brew is Friday.  Excitement is building for the musical extravaganza, and so are the questions about attending.  In response to some frequently asked questions, Red, Wine, and Brew organizers have provided the following tips and reminders…


This is a rain or shine benefit event with no refunds. 


We encourage you to find safe transportation to and from the event. 

Uber credits and taxis are available for call but not intended to transport everyone. 

There is plenty of parking in the adjacent farm field. 

Uber voucher: https://r.uber.com/r5Qca0PFUKu

Blue Ribbon Taxi: 574-233-4040


The Event Address for GPS
2110 N. 500 West, LaPorte, IN


All event parking is on the North side of the event. Watch for event signage and patriotic crosses. Please do not park on the street blocking traffic. 



The VIP Ticket Areas for Early Admission Beer and Wine Tasting are SOLD OUT


On Friday the General Admission Gate Tickets are for entry at 5pm or after for $50. 

($10 for children under 12 and designated drivers)


Bring your own chair.

No outside food, drink, or coolers allowed.

Cash Bar and Food includes several drink choices, pulled pork, sweet corn, brats, hot dogs, and boneless wings. 


VIP Tasting SOLD OUT Opens at 3pm

General Admission (Gate Ticket) 5pm

The Budweiser Clydesdales 4-6pm

The RE/MAX Hot Air Balloon 6-8pm

Walker Montgomery 4:30pm

Dillon Carmichael 5:30pm

John Michael Montgomery 6:45

Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry 8:15

Melrose Fireworks 9:30pm


This show has a fireworks finale of just 5-6 minutes.


Please remember that this is a completely volunteer run and organized event for local first responders made possible through the generosity of local sponsors. If you are coming with a free ticket, thank your sponsor who made it possible, and be patient and kind to the volunteers and other patrons at the event. 

La Porte County on Alert for Mysterious Bird Deaths

(Indianapolis, IN) - La Porte is now on the list of counties with songbirds dying of an unknown sickness.  By last weekend, the Department of Natural Resources had identified fifteen counties with mysterious bird deaths.  Now that list is 50 counties long.


People are advised to remove their outdoor bird feeders until the situation is brought under control.   The unknown sickness is effecting birds like blue jays, robins, grackles, starlings, and cardinals.  According to the DNR, sick birds show neurological signs of illness as well as eye swelling and crusty discharge.


Tissue samples have tested negative for avian influenza and West Nile virus.

Loucks Among Area's 40 Under 40

(South Bend, IN) - Some LaPorte area professionals have been recognized for their success.

The 15th annual 40 Under 40 Awards given out by the South Bend Chamber of Commerce includes these four local leaders:


  • Nate Loucks, CEO of Pax Center and Host of Sound Off on 96.7 The Eagle
  • Rochelle Brown, Executive Director of La Porte County Community Corrections
  • Kelly Friend, Acting Vice-Chancellor and Executive Director of Student Success at Ivy Tech
  • Jessica O’Brien, Michigan City Salvation Army, and MC Area Schools

The award recognizes career success and community involvement achieved by people before the age of 40. 180 northern Indiana business professionals were nominated for the 40 Under 40 Award.

Area High Schools Improve Athletic Facilities

(La Porte County, IN) - Two La Porte area schools are undergoing major renovations to their sports facilities this summer.


Michigan City High Schools are working on several upgrades.  After replacing the turf at Ames Field in the spring, a half-million dollar project, the track will be replaced later this summer.  Set to begin soon is a $100,000 weight room improvement.


Also, the Wolves’ Den bleachers will be replaced in July. Although the seating will be new and improved, it will be diminished by over 1,000 seats, knocking the gym out of the top 10 biggest gyms in Indiana.


Out at New Prairie, a field house is being constructed for the football and track teams.

The building, adjacent to Amzie Miller Field, will include locker rooms, a training room, and storage.  Previously, the cougars met in part of a pole barn during games, while opposing teams often huddled in an end zone.

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