Local News Archives for 2021-12

2021 HTNN Year in Review

(LAPORTE, IN) - Since 2020, hometownnewsnow.com has brought LaPorte County and the surrounding areas dependable news stories, podcasts, and weather reports. From 2020 to 2021, our site has seen an increase of over 100%. Our viewers consumed over 1,800,000 pages of news in 2021 alone. We are grateful for the continued support and trust from the HTNN readers to provide accurate, punctual, and accessible news stories. We hope to do even more in 2022. 


The following are the most viewed news stories from each month in 2021. 


JANUARY: Suspect Develops in Weekend Bar Shooting
La Porte Police investigated a shooting at a Lucky Bar in downtown LaPorte. Keith Davis, Jr. was eventually charged with a level 1 felony attempted murder for shooting Jeremy Simmons in the face. 


FEBRUARY: Pedestrian Killed on U.S. 12
Michigan City Police responded to the 3500 block of East U.S. Highway 12. Officers attempted to revive 57-year-old Michigan City resident Raymond Gaston but were unsuccessful. The victim was struck by an eastbound vehicle while removing an animal carcass from the middle of the eastbound lanes. 20-year-old Parker DePalma of Michigan City was arrested for operating while intoxicated.


MARCH: Michigan City Mayor Asked to Resign Over Alleged Racial Comments
Protests happened after Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry left a voicemail with Michigan City Pastor James Lane saying, "They want a f____ing audience. You know, these black guys. They all want a f___ing audience." Parry didn't know the voicemail was recording. Instead of resigning, the Mayor pledged to take sensitivity training. 

APRIL: U.S. 35 Closed by Fatal Crash
A stretch of U.S. 35 north of La Porte was closed because of a fatal motor vehicle accident. The crash occurred on a hilly and curvy stretch of the road and required extensive clean-up of the area afterward. 


MAY: Phone Blamed for Chief Crashing Police Vehicle
Michigan City Police Chief Dion Campbell struck a light pole at Mariners Way and Cobblestone Boulevard on the city's west side south of U.S. 20. after reading a text message while driving. Damage to the vehicle was estimated at $2500. 


JUNE: Charges in Water Park Disturbance
After making a scene at a church water park, Jessica Foster was charged in LaPorte Circuit Court with Disorderly Conduct, Battery, and Resisting Law Enforcement. After causing a scene in the water park, Foster asked to leave the park but refused then hopped a fence when police officers showed up. After a struggle with police to place her inside a squad car, Foster spit in the face of one of the officers.


JULY: Wild Chase at LaPorte Bakery
Police arrested a man at a factory in La Porte after a half-hour foot pursuit. Eventually, the police apprehended the man at 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. 20-year old Jerris Pezzuto of Knox was charged in La Porte Circuit Court with battery, resisting law enforcement, criminal mischief, and possession of methamphetamine.


AUGUST: Murder Charge in Husband's Grisly Death
A La Porte woman allegedly murdered her husband and dismembered his body. 34-year old Thessalonica Allen was charged with murder and other counts in La Porte Circuit Court after her husband, Randy Allen, was shot at the couple's home at Maple Tree Apartments on West 18th Street. Evidence obtained from the investigation shows the woman and her children, at the suspect's request, tried placing the body into the victim's vehicle but were unable. Instead, Allen allegedly used an ax to amputate his legs then put the body into a tote. 


SEPTEMBER: Charges Filed Against Former Coach
A coach for LaPorte High School's Color and Winter Guard allegedly couldn't keep his hands off one of his 16-year old students. As a result, Lorenzo Medrano was charged in La Porte Circuit Court with child seduction. The victim told police Medrano touched her sexually outside of her clothing practically every day during the 2019 season.


OCTOBER: Details on Wednesday's Rollover Crash in Rolling Prairie
Emergency responders were called to respond to a rollover accident. A semi-truck collided with a silver SUV at U.S. 20 and CR 400 East. The westbound semi veered into the opposite lane following the collision while the SUV rolled onto its top.


NOVEMBER: La Porte on Menu of Restaurant Chain
The city of LaPorte announced that a national restaurant chain has plans on coming to La Porte. Officials described it as a nationally known "fast-casual restaurant." The restaurant plans to occupy a 12 unit strip mall-like facility that will be constructed sometime in 2022 along Pine Lake Avenue beside the La Porte Park and Recreation Office.


DECEMBER: Commissioner Named as Man in Snake Video
It wasn't exactly an early Christmas present, but video surveillance showed Santa Claus didn't leave the package that could be viewed as threatening. Instead, the man in the video is alleged to be La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski. La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz said he opened a large white envelope outside his office, and inside was a green rubber snake. Stabosz said the find was disturbing, and he took it as a threat from Mrozinski.

Fire Destroys Mobile Home Near Kingsford Heights

(LaPorte County, IN) - Multiple fire crews battled a residential blaze south of LaPorte Wednesday afternoon.


A little after 4:15 p.m., emergency responders were dispatched to Deerfield Estates mobile home park near Kingsford Heights. Smoke billowed from the rear of a mobile home there.


Entering the residence, firefighters encountered thick smoke and flames coming from the kitchen area. Residents and pets were able to escape safely. No injuries were reported.


Four area fire departments responded, as well as LaPorte EMS and the Sheriff’s Department.

Shooting Spree Clears Northwest Indiana Mall

(Hobart, IN) - A shooting at a northwest Indiana mall is still under investigation.


Shots rang out in the food court of Hobart’s Southlake Mall Thursday afternoon around 11:20 a.m. The mall was placed on lockdown by Hobart police who searched and identified those still in the building.


Police say five shots were fired by an unidentified suspect who is still at large. No injuries were reported. The gunfire caused damage to glass windows and building fixtures.


Southlake mall was closed for the rest of the day but is scheduled to reopen Friday.


Anyone with any information, photos, or videos is urged to contact Hobart Detective Wendell Hite at 219-942-1125 extension 1145, or via email at white@cityofhobart.org.

Family Feud Leads to Charges

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - La Porte County Police had to use a taser gun and handcuffs following a fight between two brothers early on Thursday.


Just before 1 p.m., officers responded to a disturbance report involving a knife in the 100 block of North Depot Street in Rolling Prairie. Responding officers stopped a vehicle leaving the residence and a passenger in the vehicle, Ian Wurster, became combative. 


Eventually, the 34-year old Wurster, after becoming more aggressive with his behavior, had to be tasered for him to start complying with the demands of officers.


According to police, early investigation findings revealed tensions between Wurster and his older brother and two women in the home, resulting in a fight. The suspect’s older brother sustained just mild injuries and turned down a request for medical attention. The friction appeared to be over the younger Wurster and his girlfriend recently moving in and having a history of drug use. 


Ian Wurster is charged with Level 6 Felony battery and Class A Misdemeanor Resisting Law Enforcement.

COVID Restrictions Back at City Hall

(Michigan City, IN) - COVID-19 restrictions will be imposed again at City Hall in Michigan City. 


According to the mayor's office, City Hall will be open by appointment only starting on Monday. In addition, all city government meetings will be held virtually again.


Mayor Duane Parry made the decision in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases. Parry said the restrictions would remain as long as Governor Eric Holcomb extends the state's public health emergency.


On Wednesday, Governor Holcomb extended Indiana's public health emergency through January. 




Census Worker Badly Hurt in Dog Attack

(Kingsbury, IN) - A U.S. Census Bureau worker in La Porte County is recovering from injuries delivered by a dog.


61-year-old Barbara Smeltzer knocked on the door of a home at 309 S. Main Street in Kingsbury late Tuesday afternoon. A man answered the door, and his Labrador Retriever bolted out, attacking the woman.


Police said the woman had a laceration to the top of her hand deep enough to expose the veins and bone. She was bleeding heavily and drove herself to the hospital.


Officers did not go inside the home for safety reasons but heard the dog barking the entire time they were on the scene. Animal control is now investigating to decide possible action in the case.

Kettle Drive Goal Surpassed

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Salvation Army exceeded its Christmas fundraising goal in the kettles this year.


More than $87,000 was dropped into kettles at Kroger, Walmart, Al’s Supermarket, Rural King, and other locations in the city, said La Porte Salvation Army Capt. Charles Pinkston. The goal was $80,000.


Pinkston said the amount of money collected was about $300 short of the goal until the final kettles from Thursday and Friday were counted.

Drug Charges Against Overdose Patient

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte area man on the brink of death is charged with having drugs on him at the hospital.


According to court documents, it took four doses of Narcan to save the life of Robert Baxley. He was allegedly overdosing just over three weeks ago inside a garage on Quail Ridge Drive near Fail Road just east of the La Porte city limits.


He was still unconscious at the hospital in La Porte when a large amount of methamphetamine was allegedly discovered by a staff member in his coat pocket.


Baxley could face an up to two and a half year sentence on the Level 6 felony charge of Possession of Methamphetamine.

Caregiver Charged with Siphoning Funds

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a bank account being drained by a caregiver in La Porte.


Lisa Alexander is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Theft. Police said she was helping to take care of a man who uses a wheelchair who recently discovered his bank account was overdrawn.


The victim called his bank and learned Alexander withdrew more than $6,000 from his account, according to court documents. Police said she used a cash app to withdraw the money without the victim’s permission. The alleged withdrawals began in late January.


Alexander could face anywhere from six months to two and a half years on the Level 6 felony charge.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A December Conversation with Mayor Tom Dermody

(LAPORTE, IN) -- Mayor Tom Dermody stopped by the WCOE Studios to talk about the North/South Corridor, the local income tax, low-income housing, and more. This is the final SOUND OFF episode of 2021. We'll see you in the new year!


Listen to the entire episode here: 



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


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.

Beatles Tribute Concert Tomorrow Night

(La Porte, IN) - A Beatles tribute band, the Mega Beatles, is scheduled to perform tomorrow night in La Porte at the Civic Auditorium.


Civic Auditorium Director Brett Binversie says plenty of tickets are still available given the large seating capacity, but he expects a good-sized crowd.


“The Civic Auditorium can hold over 2,500 and we’ll probably have less than a third of the capacity. It’s going to be a great event,” Binversie said.

The concert stems from a commitment by the city to stage more major events at the Civic Auditorium, which will host a three-day college-prep basketball tournament beginning January 6. ESPN will televise the games.


More tribute bands are scheduled to perform at the Civic Auditorium in 2022. Tom Petty and John Cougar Mellencamp tribute bands performed at the nearly century-old facility in the fall. 


Tickets for the Mega Beatles are $20 for a balcony seat, $25 for a seat on the floor, and $300 for a table with eight seats on the floor. The doors Thursday open at 5:45 p.m. The concert begins at 7 p.m.

Federal Dollars Sought to Replace Bridge

(Michigan City, IN) - Federal funding is being sought to replace the historic Franklin Street draw bridge in Michigan City.


Whether replacing or rehabilitating the 1932 lakefront bridge over Trail Creek has been debated for years. However, the issue appears to have been settled by recent reports the condition of the bridge is declining more rapidly than expected.


“This is falling apart. I just see the deterioration going too fast, too quick,” said La Porte County Councilman Mark Yagelski.

The LaPorte County Commissioners are asking Congressman Frank Mrvan (D) of Hammond to try and secure money from the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill signed last month by President Joe Biden.


The money, if obtained, will pay for an estimated six to eight million dollar cost of engineering and designing a new bridge. Mrvan was also informed by the commissioners his office will be relied on again to pursue funding to pay for actual construction.


La Porte County government, which is responsible for the bridge's upkeep, recently allocated $1.5 million annually over the next five years to maintain it. But, a feasibility study from 2017 estimated the cost of a new draw bridge at $80 million and $45 million for a complete rehabilitation of the existing span.


The bridge is the main route to and from the lakefront. It must open to allow U.S. Coast Guard vessels and masts on sailboats traveling to and from the lake to clear the bridge deck. The fear is the money set aside for maintenance will not be enough now to keep the bridge moving up and down, when necessary, every time.


Mrozinski said the bridge already with a history of failing, occasionally, could be ordered by the U.S. Coast to remain open if problems with lowering and raising it start happening more frequently. However, that would force motorists to use Center Street, a narrow and winding route through residential areas nestled in the dunes, to get to and from the lakefront.


Mrozinski said rehabilitating the bridge is still a possibility if federal dollars for a new bridge, for example, are not obtained or fall short of paying the entire cost. He said the plan is to schedule a meeting between local officials and Mrvan or representatives from the congressman's office to address the bridge.


“We need to start looking at it now because the bridge is not going to last forever. There’s going to come a time when we have to replace it. I’ll be anxious to see what they’re willing to come up with,” he said.

Satellites Flying High in Rankings

(Union Mills, IN) - South Central High School's girls' basketball team is still undefeated, with just a month to go in the regular season. The Satellites are also ranked second in the most recent Class 2A girls' high school basketball rankings.


Two of their most recent wins were against much larger schools, Valparaiso and Shelbyville, in the Valparaiso Holiday Tournament won last week by the Satellites.


First-year head coach Ben Anderson said several of his players are not only very skilled but have played together for years. "I think the sky is the limit for this group," he said.


Anderson said the team must get through a very competitive sectional tournament to advance to the regionals and, perhaps, beyond. However, his players have the drive to do whatever it takes.


“They’re hard-working. They’re hungry. They want it. They’ve been an exciting group to coach,” Anderson said.

The Satellites are led by senior guards Abigail Tomblin and Delanie Gale, averaging 16.7 and 13 points per game, respectively. Junior forward Olivia Marks adds 12.1 points per game and 7.5 rebounds. The team with all five starters back from last season is 15 and 0 on the season. 

Victim Identified from Weather Related Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - An out-of-state man was killed in a weather-related crash in La Porte County yesterday. 22-year old Chance Van Dyne was from Omaha, Nebraska.


La Porte County Police said he was eastbound on U.S 20 when his car began sliding on the snow-covered pavement and veered into the eastbound lanes, where he struck the trailer on an oncoming semi. Another westbound tractor-trailer then hit the vehicle.


According to officials, the entire driver’s side was removed from the impact. Van Dyne was pronounced dead at the scene. The truck drivers were not injured.


The crash on U.S 20 happened about noon near Wilhelm Road.

COVID Deaths Set Record

(Indianapolis, IN) - The number of COVID-19 deaths reported in a single day in Indiana has set a new record. 


According to the Indiana Department of Health, thirty-four deaths were reported statewide on Christmas Day. Thirty-four additional deaths were reported across the state on Sunday. In addition, one new death was reported from La Porte County. The IDH reported 5,815 new positive coronavirus cases and 170 additional deaths statewide in its most recent update.


IDH officials report over 18 thousand people have died from COVID-19 in Indiana since the start of the pandemic 21 months ago.

La Lumiere in Top 10 National Rankings

(La Porte County, IN) - The college prep school basketball team at La Lumiere is going into the New Year ranked No. 6 in the National Top 20 basketball rankings.


The only loss suffered by the Lakers (9-1) was to No. 1 ranked Sunrise Christian Academy out of Kansas on December 11. However, head Coach Pat Holmes said this year’s team nestled in the rolling hills of northern LaPorte County has the potential to reach the National Tournament, which La Lumiere won in 2017.


“So far, so good. We still have plenty of work yet to do,” Holmes said.

Holmes said the most challenging part of the schedule, perhaps, coming up will be a significant test for his team filled with players recruited by major college basketball programs.


The Lakers face Indianapolis Cathedral in the Mac Jelks Invitational at Hammond Central High School on January 1. La Lumiere then plays three games between January 6-8 in the U.S. Marines National Interscholastic Basketball Conference Invitational. The invitational will be played at the La Porte Civic Auditorium and televised by ESPN.


More than 30 of the top 100 NCAA Division 1 recruits are members of the eight teams taking part in the basketball extravaganza.


“We can lose to any one of these teams but we’re very capable of beating every one of these teams. We got to bring it every single night,” Holmes said.

This year, the starters for La Lumiere are 6’ 0” junior guard Jeremy Fears, Jr., from Joliet, Illinois, and J.J. Starling, a 6’5” senior guard from Baldwinsville N w York. Starling has committed to play at the University of Notre Dame next season. Fears is being pursued by the University of Illinois, Michigan State, and the University of Michigan.


Rounding out the starting line-up are Ryan Mabrey, Chisom Okpara, and Kebba Njie.


The 6’4” Mabrey, a senior guard from Lincroft, New Jersey, is being recruited by the University of Washington and other colleges like Valparaiso University. Okpara, a 6’7” senior forward out of Saxtons River, Vermont, is signed to play next season at Harvard University. Njie, a 6’10” senior forward from Dayton, Ohio, has committed to Penn State University.


Holmes said this year’s team is stronger than last year’s squad, which was 10-10 during a COVID-19 shortened season.


“This is a great team we have here. We’re just trying to stay healthy and keep getting better every single day,” he said.

Homicide Declared in Fatal Shooting

(Michigan City, IN) - The latest fatal shooting in Michigan City has been declared a homicide. Michigan City Police today revealed there are no suspects at this time.


During the afternoon on Christmas Eve, hearing what they believed to be gunfire, officers responded to the area where they suspected the rounds were being fired.


London Long, 20, of Michigan City was soon discovered deceased on a sidewalk in the area of 11th and Wabash streets on the west side. La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said Long died from an apparent gunshot wound to his upper body.


The shooting remains under investigation. Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to contact lead detective Det. Mark Galetti at (219) 874-3221 ext. 1088. Galetti can also be mailed at mgaletti@emichigancity.com.


Information can also be shared on the department’s Crime Tip Hotline at (219) 873-1488 or the department’s Facebook page.

Catalytic Converters Still Mouth Watering for Thieves

(La Porte County, IN) - For thieves, catalytic converters are still like cookies in a cookie jar. This time, four vehicles at one location yesterday had their catalytic converters stolen.


According to the La Porte County Sheriff's Office, the exhaust system components were cut from three trucks and a van on 875 East near Walkerton.


Police say the vehicles were there because they were scheduled to be auctioned off soon. The discovery was made when workers at the auction house were going through the inventory. There is no video of the suspects because the security surveillance system at the auction house was not working at the time of the thefts. 


Catalytic converters nationwide are targeted because they contain precious metals and bring a few hundred dollars apiece when sold for scrap.

Snow Leads to Possible Fatal Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - Late morning snowfall today has resulted in several motor vehicle collisions, including a possible fatality in La Porte County.


The La Porte County Coroner’s Office was called about noon to investigate a semi-truck and two passenger vehicles on U.S 20 near Wilhelm Road. So far, the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office has not provided further details about the crash. 


Other weather-related collisions included one involving two vehicles with possible injuries in the 2800 block of N. Indiana 39 and a pick-up truck pulling a trailer that struck a sign and tree in the 6600 block of W. U.S. 6. A man and woman inside the truck complained of pain in their chest and arms.


There are reports of other collisions, such as a vehicle sliding into a ditch on U.S. 421 near Wanatah.


La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said close to one inch of snow had fallen throughout the county by 1 p.m.


“Roadways are becoming snow-covered and slick,” Werner said.

Werner also said it’s the first time his crews have been called out with plows and snow melting materials this season.


The forecast is calling for anywhere from one to three inches of snow.

Police Officer Saves Life

(La Porte County, IN) - A 31-year-old woman was brought back to life by a La Porte County Police officer.


Police said the woman was inside a motor vehicle on Christmas Eve in the area of U.S 35 and 250 South, not breathing. After not finding a pulse, Deputy Tyler Oberholtzer began performing CPR. The woman started to regain her color and took deep breaths soon after being placed into an ambulance.


The woman was hospitalized in stable condition three days later, police said. No light was shed on why the woman stopped breathing.

No Walk-ins at Michigan City COVID Testing Site

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City COVID-19 testing site will temporarily not be accepting walk-in clients due to severe staffing shortages and an increased volume of patients. 


Danielle Glasgow, the Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the La Porte County Health Department, sent out a press release stating: 


"COVID-19 Testing at the Michigan City Health Department will temporarily NOT accept any walk-ins due to overwhelming numbers of patients coming in and severe staffing shortages at this time. This service will open back up as soon as they are feasibly able to do so.


Please make your appointment AND pre-register for your test by going to: www.coronavirus.in.gov. Please select a Community Testing Site and complete the entire registration online. This cuts down on your wait time in the clinic and drastically speeds everything up for staff during this high-volume time. Thank you!"

Civic Auditorium Ready for ESPN Televised Games

(La Porte, IN) - Tickets are selling fast for an upcoming high school basketball invitational featuring some of the best major college basketball recruits in the nation.


La Lumiere is one of the eight teams in the U.S. Marines National Interscholastic Basketball Conference Invitational to be televised by ESPN. During the three-day invitational beginning January 6, teams will play games at the near century-old Civic Auditorium.


La Porte Civic Auditorium Director Brett Binversie said more tickets had been sold for the games on January 8, which he expects to sell out by the end of the week. Ticket sales are not too far behind for games scheduled the first two days of the invitational.


“Thursday and Saturday are going to be some great days as well as Friday,” Binversie said.

The Civic Auditorium, which used to be home to the La Porte High School boys’ basketball team until the 1970s, has more than 1,300 seats. Nearly 1,000 seats will be available for the invitational to provide social distancing because of the latest COVID-19 surge at the request of the invitational committee.


Masks will be provided to people who want one but are not mandated.


"We’re going to reduce the capacity by 25-percent just to help with things,” Binversie explained.

Extra glass backboards have also been obtained in case any of the ones used during the games are shattered from a slam dunk by the high-quality athletes.


"We’re trying to plan accordingly just in case,” Binversie said.

Binversie said the Paragon Marketing Group, which is putting on the event, along with crews from ESPN, have visited the Civic Auditorium several times in recent weeks to help prepare for the invitational and telecasts.


“The behind-the-scenes work on this has been extensive,” he said. He and other city employees have also invested extra time making sure the always well-maintained Civic Auditorium is as spotless and ready to go for the invitational as possible.


“This is our chance to shine on a national spotlight as well, so, a lot of effort has been put into making sure everything is perfect,” he said.

The NIBC is a new high school basketball conference including local LaPorte private school La Lumiere and seven other basketball teams from college prep schools from Maryland to Utah and as far south as Florida.


Tickets are $20 for each day, with games scheduled Thursday at 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday games are scheduled at 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m., and 8 p.m.


Tickets are available at www.civictix.eventbrite.com. or at the Civic Auditorium, the LaPorte Park and Recreation Office, and the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Injuries in Crashes During Chase

(La Porte County, IN) - A high-speed chase of a suspected impaired driver in La Porte County resulted in a crash and injuries to a police officer and suspect on Christmas Eve.


According to La Porte County Police, the pursuit began about 10 p.m. in the City of La Porte and veered westbound on Johnson Road. The suspect passed an SUV on the right side of the two-lane road at high speeds.


The passenger vehicle driver, 18-year-old Isaac Fielder, turned left toward Jongkind Park Subdivision. His SUV was sideswiped by La Porte County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Austin Howell, pursuing the suspect. The suspect, Gary Southward of Michigan City, was captured after he crashed his vehicle just over a mile later at Johnson Road and Dana Road.


The officer involved in the first collision suffered an injury to his arm. No details were given on the suspect’s injuries, but sources close to the investigation revealed a medical helicopter was called to transport Southward to a hospital outside the area.


More details will be provided once they’re made available.

Fatal Shooting in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - A fatal shooting in Michigan City happened on Christmas Eve.


According to the La Porte County Coroner’s Office, the victim was 20-year-old London Long. Coroner Lynn Swanson said the Michigan City man was pronounced dead at the scene on the city’s west side. The shooting occurred in the area of Marquette High School between 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday.


Swanson said it appears Long died from a single gunshot wound to his upper body, and an autopsy is being performed today to try and undercover more specifics about the cause of the death.


So far, Michigan City Police have released no details about the fatal shooting.

Officers Viewed as Life Savers

(Long Beach, IN) - Two Long Beach Police officers have been recognized for saving the lives of several people, including a woman after she drove her car into Lake Michigan.


Deputy Marshals Jason Yagelski and Toby Babcock were awarded the Long Beach Police Department’s Life-Saving Award. The awards were issued on December 22 by Chief Marshal Mark Swistek.


On July 23, Babcock and Swistek waded out to a partially submerged 2016 Mazda sport utility vehicle drifting further out into the water off Lakeshore Dr.  The 33-year old female driver still inside the vehicle refused to unlock the doors, police said.


According to police, Babcock held on to the vehicle to keep it from floating deeper into the water while Swistek broke out a passenger side window with a hammer.


The suicidal woman telling officers to leave her alone was forcibly removed from the SUV and turned over to firefighters and ambulance workers for medical treatment, police said.


Police said she was the same woman who abandoned her 10-year old daughter along a roadside in Porter County before driving into the lake.


Yagelski saved the lives of three drug overdose victims turning blue from a weak pulse and shallow breathing in April, May, and June. Police said Yagelski administered two doses of the heroin antidote Narcan to a 20-year-old man inside a home on Hideaway Point in Long Beach.


While assisting other departments, Yagelski also gave two doses of Narcan to a female on the floor of a bathroom at Green Acres Trailer Park on Indiana 212 on Michigan City’s east side and one dose of Narcan to a male in the 3500 block of W. 1000 North in Springfield Township.

Driver In Crash Allegedly "Sloshed"

(La Porte County, IN) - A Chicago area man spent Christmas in the La Porte County Jail.


After wrecking his vehicle, La Porte County Police said the blood alcohol test results were practically off the charts. Officers found his 2012 Kia slightly in a ditch about 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve on State Road 39 near U.S 20. Fortunately, there were no injuries.


66-year old Michael Fec of Western Springs, Illinois, claimed he had been drinking wine. His alleged blood alcohol level was .47%, nearly six times the .08% legal BAC limit.


According to police, Fec was taken to Northwest Health to have a blood sample taken to test his alcohol consumption level, and he couldn’t walk without assistance from a sheriff’s deputy.

Speed Blamed for Major Crash

(Berrien County, MI) - Speed is suspected in a serious injury motor vehicle crash in Berrien County on Christmas Day.


Police said the driver went off the road to her right, went airborne, and struck a utility power near Niles. The vehicle rolled before coming to rest on its roof. A 60-year-old woman from Niles was hospitalized with severe injuries.


The immediate area around the crash site was left without power.


Police said speed is believed to be a contributing factor in the crash, which occurred about 8 p.m. Alcohol or drugs are not suspected in the accident.


HTNN Weekly Roundup

(LAPORTE, IN) - Did you miss any stories this week? Here are the top-5 stories that received the most attention on social media and hometownnewsnow.com last week. HTNN is the #1 source of news and information in La Porte County and neighboring communities.


1. Crashed Blamed on Alleged Booze Hound
An alleged alcohol-soaked driver caused a motor vehicle crash in La Porte County.


2. Rock Stops Suspected Drunk Driver
A La Porte County woman heading home from a Christmas Party is charged with operating while intoxicated.


3. Appeals Court Upholds Molester's Sentence
A convicted LaPorte child molester got no sympathy from the Indiana Court of Appeals.


4. Apartments Emptied Last Christmas Now Setting a New Standard
A year ago, residents were made to evacuate the 701 Maple Avenue building after its condemnation. Now, the apartment complex is nearing its renovation completion.


5. LaPorte Man Leads Christmas Convoy to Kentucky
It was a simple plan: gather a truckload of emergency supplies and lend a helping hand to storm-ravaged Kentucky.


Stay up to date with our stories by following HTNN on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Santa Makes an Early Stop in LaPorte

(LaPorte, IN) - As the Center Township Trustee, Lisa Pierzakowski is many things to many people. On Thursday night, she was a Christmas elf on a special mission.


“We had a little boy, who is five and autistic,” Pierzakowski explained. “And he wrote a letter to Santa Claus— the Santa Claus downtown— and Santa and Mrs. Claus came to my office with the letter and asked if I could help out the little boy.”


The boy’s single mother told Pierzakowski that she’s also taking care of an elderly grandmother and doesn’t have much support. Pierzakowski and her team put together a Christmas care package, including a holiday feast and of course presents for everyone, even grandma.


Thursday night, Pierzakowski accompanied Santa Claus in a fire truck to make the delivery. Sleighbells sounded their arrival. “When Santa got there with those bells, the little boy was so excited,” Pierzakowski said. “He didn’t want to give those bells up.” Then the Center Township Fire Department gave Santa and the little boy a ride in their fire truck. “He was just so excited,” said Pierzakowski. “The mom said this was the best Christmas ever for him.”


The encounter was also special for Pierzakowski and her helpers. “It really brought back the true meaning of Christmas for me, because it’s just been a rough year. There was not a dry eye at our first stop.” The Center Township elves went on to visit one more family before they drove out of sight.


Some would say the Santa Claus who made Thursday night’s deliveries looked remarkably like State Representative Jim Pressel. But that’s probably just a coincidence. What’s for sure is that Christmas means something in LaPorte, a small town full of big hearts.

Apartments Emptied Last Christmas Now Setting a New Standard

(LaPorte, IN) - This time last year, there was a scramble to relocate a handful of residents from the apartments at 701 Maple Avenue in LaPorte. Christmas Eve was the deadline for vacating the condemned property. But some residents and nearly twenty animals lingered until the last minute. Some called it an eviction, others dubbed it an evacuation.


Either way, what a difference a year makes.


LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody says, under new ownership, the transformation of the building is tremendous. "It was an amazing transition," Dermody said. "It's brand new, affordable, and most importantly, respectful living with new standards of how people behave."


The property is being rehabbed under the name Maple Commons by local developer Thomas Viere. Dermody said he is amazed by the amount of work that has been done. "New appliances, new flooring, many areas taken down to the studs and built back up," he noted. "Some walls have been knocked out to make two-bedroom units."


Dermody says the transformation of 701 Maple reflects the improvements throughout the city, as well as the teamwork it takes to make it happen. "City Council, police department, fire department, code enforcement-- if they hadn't enforced that new standard," Dermody emphasized, "we wouldn't be where we are today."


Dermody said he can't wait for people to see the improvements for themselves once the work is finished. A completion date for the new Maple Commons apartments has not been set, but Dermody says it should be in the first quarter of the upcoming year.

Larkin's Appeals Running Out

(LaPorte County, IN) - A Long Beach man convicted of killing his wife is inching closer to actually serving jail time. John Larkin’s appeals are running out.


In 2019 Larkin was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter related to the 2012 shooting of Stacey Larkin. Back in September, the Indiana Supreme Court overruled the acquittal issued by the state Court of Appeals last year.


While Larkin continues to appeal, he has asked to delay serving his two-year prison sentence. On Tuesday, a judge in LaPorte County denied the request and ordered Larkin to turn himself in to LaPorte County Jail by February 1.

Appeals Court Upholds Molester's Sentence

(Indianapolis, IN) - A convicted LaPorte child molester got no sympathy from the Indiana Court of Appeals.


According to records, 48-year-old Kristopher Blouir pled guilty to felony charges of child molesting and sexual misconduct earlier this year. LaPorte Circuit Judge Tom Alevizos issued a 36-year sentence, with 30 years to be served in prison. Blouir appealed the decision, requesting the 20-year minimum.


The appeals court heard testimony that Blouir had disparaged the victim, his daughter, while in prison, which cast doubt on his remorse. The court also cited Blouir's already-reduced sentence, his previous brushes with the law, reported alcohol abuse, and psychiatric evaluations as reasons that leniency was not warranted.


The three-member court upheld the 30-year prison term.

LaPorte County Lilly Scholars Named

(LaPorte County, IN) - Two LaPorte County students have earned free rides to college.


Jolie Klimczak and Macy Mrozinski are this year’s Lilly Endowment scholarship winners.


Klimczak is at the top of her class at South Central High School. She is active in FFA and 4H, and she plans to study veterinary medicine. Mrozinski is a senior at LaPorte. Also, at the top of her class, Macy plays volleyball and tennis.


Each student will receive tuition to an in-state public or private college of her choice, along with an annual stipend of $900 for books and equipment. 


They were selected from over 70 applications. The Unity Foundation of LaPorte coordinated the selection process. Nine other finalists also received $2,000 Unity Foundation scholarships.

Health Department Issues Mask Advisory

(LaPorte, IN) - LaPorte's chief health officer, with approval from the LaPorte County Commissioners, has issued a mask advisory, meaning mask-wearing is recommended in all indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status.


Dr. Sandra Deausy issued the statement Tuesday in response to LaPorte County still being in the Red Covid category. According to the report, LaPorte County has logged 500 new cases of COVID-19 per week this month.


The advisory echoes the advice of the CDC, which recommends "the use of face masks while indoors near others outside of your family unit, regardless of vaccination status, in areas of high transmission." Such an advisory is non-binding. Earlier this year, the State Legislature removed the authority to mandate from local health officials unless elected officials, like County Commissioners, authorize it.


LaPorte County Commissioner Sheila Matias says they have not reached a consensus on the matter.


"Last week, I spoke via email with Dr. Deausy," she said. "And she indicated that she believes, based on her experience, that we should have a mask mandate or a mask advisory. I got Commissioner Mrozinski and myself to support a mask advisory; Commissioner Haney did not support anything like that."

The Health Department's mask advisory recommends masking in schools and continued testing and quarantining.

New K-9 on Patrol

(Lowell, IN) - The tollway in this area has a new K-9 on patrol.


A Belgian Malinois/ German Shepard named Zeus recently graduated from the Indiana State Police K9 Academy. Zeus was partnered with Trooper Tyson Waldron in Fort Wayne until Waldron was promoted to sergeant. The pair are now stationed at the Lowell District, patrolling the Indiana Toll Road.


Currently, 42 K-9 teams are serving the Indiana State Police.

Deputies Recover Stolen Car

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - LaPorte County Sheriff’s deputies recovered a stolen car on State Road 2 last Thursday.


An observant officer ran a plate check on a car driving suspiciously east of Rolling Prairie. The 2015 Ford Taurus had been reported stolen out of Illinois. After stopping the vehicle and interviewing the occupants, police arrested 33-year-old Nelson Chaparro of Chicago for auto theft and driving without a license.


Two passengers, a man and a woman from Chicago denied any knowledge of the theft and were released. The car was impounded, pending the owner claiming it.

Beloved Loeffler Named Partner of Year

(La Porte, IN) - A high honor has been paid to a woman who has worked under several different mayors in La Porte. Annette Loeffler is this year’s “Partner of the Year.” 


La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership gives the award to a worthy recipient annually. LEAP Executive Director Bert Cook praised Loeffler in various ways during last night’s La Porte City Council meeting, where Loeffler received a plaque.


“Annette has filled many roles for us.  Organizer, connector, administrator, sounding board, insulator, defender, cheerleader, friend, and family. The list goes on and on.  You will not find someone more protective of her people. Her knowledge of how to get things done is invaluable,” Cook said.

While addressing the city council, Loeffler was approached from behind by former LaPorte Mayor Kathy Chroback, who she described as her best friend.


“Honestly, I don’t know what to say. I wouldn’t have stayed so long if I didn’t love this job and love all of the people I got to work with and everybody that I got to meet,” she said.

After leaving office, Loeffler said Chroback stayed her best friend “forever and ever and ever.” She also thanked the current and previous administrations for allowing her to be herself while doing her job the way she thought it should be done.


Loeffler began in 1991 as the Administrative Assistant for then-Mayor Elmo Gonzalez. Current Mayor Tom Dermody fondly calls her “the glue that holds everything together.”

Haney Calls Invitation "Laughable"

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney is declining an invitation from local Democrats to break free of an angry, self-righteous group not working for the county's best interests.


Haney said he will not stop "trying to dismantle years of a systematic destruction of morals and ethics in La Porte County government."


Examples of this decay, according to Haney, include "career politicians" such as Commissioners Sheila Matias and Rich Mrozinski, former Commissioners Dr. Vidya Kora, and County Attorney Shaw Friedman dismantling the county ethics ordinance and refusing to enact a new ethics ordinance.


Haney also alleged, "we've seen them fight tooth and nail against whistleblower protection earlier this year. I'm not going to stop fighting for decent, honest, and open government here."


“I’m going to tear down this corrupt house of cards here in La Porte County,” Haney said.

Haney also defended Stabosz for filing a police report and asking fingerprints be taken of the package to try and uncover who placed it outside his office. Haney believes an anonymous package should be taken seriously, especially in a "post 911 world", especially in a government building.


“That is not a laughing matter,” he said.

Mrozinski seemed to deny placing the package but later confessed after being caught on surveillance video after hours entering the building with a package and soon leaving the building without the package.


Haney said the corruption he's talking about is "right on the borderline of illegal. [It's] not quite illegal, but it's certainly immoral, it's certainly unethical, and it's certainly not right." He also called the request by Democrats to join Matias and Mrozinski, who they described as problem solvers, "absolutely laughable."


“I am the only commissioner who works hand-in-hand with the La Porte County Council. Every single member of that La Porte County Council, Democrat or Republican, I have a very good working relationship with,” Haney said.

Democrats Appeal to "Angry, Self Righteous" Leaders

(La Porte, IN) - The local democrat party is calling on LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz and County Commissioner Joe Haney to give up membership in what it called the "Angry, Self-Righteous Caucus."


The party also called on the elected officials to join "Bipartisan Problem Solvers" like County Commissioner Sheila Matias and County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski. LaPorte County Democrat Party spokesman Corey Campbell said Matias and Mrozinski are getting things done for LaPorte County rather than using taxpayer-funded public office to settle "personal or political scores."

Campbell said a prime example of government waste is when Stabosz demanded the Sheriff's Office test an envelope containing a rubber snake for fingerprints to try and find evidence of who left the snake outside his office door. Surveillance video later revealed it was Mrozinski who placed the snake. Campbell said Haney going on "an anger-fueled rant" about the "little green snake" at the last commissioners' meeting "just takes the cake."


"They need to get off their high horses and learn how to work across the aisle to get things done, just like their predecessors," Campbell said. 

Haney replaced Kora, and Stabosz is in the seat vacated by Winski, who was elected county treasurer.


"Neither Stabosz nor Haney have any accomplishments to show for all their anger, manufactured controversies, and name-calling this year. Nothing,"  Campbell said. 

By contrast, Campbell cited Matias with proposing and implementing the eviction rental assistance program to help those hurting from the pandemic, pushing broadband expansion and playing a pivotal role in job creation efforts. 


Campbell also said Mrozinski, a decorated war veteran, implemented a change along with Congressman Frank Mrvan (D-1st District) that makes it easier for veterans all across the country to get mental health services by one push of a button. 


"Matias and Mrozinski have worked across the aisle to get things done," he said. 

Campbell also said local residents are sick of Stabosz and Haney making repeated claims of corruption in county government with nothing to back it up. Campbell said a Republican Judge from Elkhart County hearing the defamation case filed by the County Attorney confirmed that Stabosz has not presented one fact to back up his claims against Friedman. 


"It's long past time these two put up or shut up as Councilman Yagelski urged them eight months ago.  Get down to doing the people's work and stop this insane, angry name-calling at EVERY meeting," he said.

Dermody Beats Parry in Kettle Contest

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody defended his bell-ringing title by raising more money in his Salvation Army kettle than Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry.


Dermody and members of his administration had $6,044 in their kettle outside Kroger, where they rang the bell Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. $3,128 was dropped into the kettle that Parry and his helpers from City Hall volunteered at Al’s Supermarket on Franklin Street from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“We came into this expecting victory and, so, we’re excited to see that we won,” Dermody said.

Dermody still came out on top despite his total being far less than the over $12,000 slipped into his kettle last year.  His goal this year was $15,000.


“While we did not get $15,000, we did just over $6,000 which was amazing. It will make a difference for those who need it,” Dermody said.               

Parry exceeded his over $2,400 total from last year. Dermody and Parry were busy manning kettles then leaving to conduct work-related business while helpers took over until they returned.


One of Dermody’s team highlights was four-year-old Kane Glanders of LaPorte dropping a $10 bill given to him by his mother into their kettle.


“We’re happy to help those in need around LaPorte,” said his mother, Brandi, who was giggling and smiling with the bell ringers when her bundled-up son walked up to the kettle.


For Parry’s team, big moments included a line of a half dozen people with shopping carts waiting to give when they first started ringing the bell. After that, there was a steady stream of donors, including some depositing larger bills, the rest of the day.


“There’s been quite a bit of fives, tens, and twenties going inside the bucket,” said Chris Yagelski, administrative assistant for Mayor Parry.

Crashed Blamed on Alleged Booze Hound

(La Porte County, IN) - An alleged alcohol-soaked driver caused a motor vehicle crash last evening in La Porte County.


About 5:30 p.m., officers responded to U.S. 20 and State Road 39 in Springville. Police said 58-year-old Daniel Budig made a wide turn in his Jeep Wrangler and struck a pick-up truck sitting at the traffic light. The La Porte area man was arrested with an alleged blood alcohol level nearly five times the legal limit.


According to police, Budig was looked over by medical personnel at Northwest Health because of his extreme alcohol consumption. He was taken to the La Porte County Jail when given medical clearance.


There were no injuries in the collision.


Rock Stops Suspected Drunk Driver

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County woman heading home from a Christmas Party is charged with operating while intoxicated.

According to La Porte County Police, 46-year old Tracy Humphrey was still behind the wheel and sleeping when an officer showed up and woke her up. Humphrey said she was at a Christmas Party Thursday night in New Buffalo.


Police say it appears she was making a right-hand turn when the front tire on her SUV ran over a large rock at East Chicago Road and Lotus Drive in the Hudson Lake area. She came to a screeching halt near her home because her tires were above the ground from the undercarriage of her SUV resting on top of the rock.


Her alleged blood alcohol level was more than two times the legal limit.

Commissioner Urges Peace for New Year

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official says she hopes the New Year brings an end to what she described as the worst hate-filled politics she's ever experienced.


Commissioner Sheila Matias was on the city council in Michigan City in the 1980s before being elected to two terms as mayor.


“Let’s get past this already. This is not the way the government is supposed to work.  I say we need to turn the page and go into 2022 committed to being kinder, to being more professional. We as a community deserve better and that’s what I want to stand for. Common sense, good values, and taking care of people,” Matias said on SOUND OFF.

Matias believes a rubber snake placed outside the office of La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz recently is a symptom of not being able to take any more of what's been spewed constantly all year.


“I’m a grandmother. I’m a teacher. I’ve been called more names for the last 12 months than I have in my entire career. Using profanity and e-mails charging people with all kinds of rubbish. It’s got to wear on people and I think that’s what happened. The result of being just being fed up,” Matias said.

What's been like a political nuclear bomb has resulted in two lawsuits being filed against Stabosz and exchanges of needling and insults on a regular basis during meetings between Matias and Commissioner Joe Haney and between Haney and Commission President Rich Mrozinski. 


The outbursts have also involved La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman.


Cartoons portraying elected officials as clowns, puppets, and idiots have also ramped up in recent weeks from online sources as the political tensions have kept escalating.


Listen to Matias' episode on SOUND OFF here

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Commissioner Sheila Matias

(LAPORTE, IN) -- Today, LaPorte County Commissioner Sheila Matias visited the WCOE studio to talk about the Michigan City drawbridge, bonuses for county employees, #snakegate, mask mandates, and more. 


Listen to the full episode: 



CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Sheila Matias (Commissioner), 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.

Semi Drivers Killed in Wrong Way Crash

(Elkhart, IN) - Both drivers were killed in a crash between semi-trucks over the weekend on the Indiana Toll Road near Elkhart.


According to Indiana State Police, a westbound semi crossed into the eastbound lanes. The eastbound semi then struck the trailer on the oncoming truck in the opposite lanes, where one semi burst into flames.


One of the drivers died at the scene, while the other driver died at the hospital, police said. The Toll Road was closed in both directions for several hours following the early Saturday morning collision.


The names of the deceased have not been released. 

Bison Top Century Mark in Points

(New Buffalo, MI) - The New Buffalo High School boys’ basketball squad topped the century mark in points to remain undefeated going into Christmas break.


The Bison (3-0) defeated Countryside Academy at home Friday night 101-71. Jeremiah Mitchell led the Bison with 28 points. Kaden Parmley scored 25 points, while Zack Forker added 21 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocked shots.


Head Coach Nate Tripp said he was not happy about the play of his team on defense and his players giving up too many second shots.  


“I think we had a solid game but they weren’t supposed to score that many points and they killed us on the offensive glass. That’s not how we rebound the basketball so we got a lot we got to work on,” Tripp said.

The 6’9” Forker, looking unstoppable when he shot the ball, scored the first seven points for the Bison, then Mitchell and Parmley began scoring buckets in droves.


Parmley sank a three-point shot just before the first-quarter buzzer. He and Mitchell started the second quarter by quickly hitting a pair of buckets to give the Bison a 31-14 lead extended to 47 to 24 at halftime.


Parmley started the third-quarter scoring with a lay-up off a steal. After having his shot blocked, the crowd roared when Forker hustled to the other side of the court in time to record a blocked shot of his own. The emergence of Forker as a major force should work to the advantage of the Bison, with all five starters back from last year’s District 4 championship squad.


Tripp said Forker and the bulky 6’ 1” Vinson in the game at the same time would give teams give trouble on offense and defense.


“Both guys know where the gaps are. They know how to rebound. That’s going to create a match-up problem sometimes when we go to our twin towers,” he said.

$20 Bills Sought for Kettles Today

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Salvation Army is asking people to place $20 bills inside the kettles today, on the 20th of December. Capt. Charles Pinkston says he hopes the first-time promotion goes well.


"I’ve thought about trying it at other locations. We’ve just had never gotten to it. It’s something we’re promoting this year, though,” Pinkston said.

The goal for the kettle drive in La Porte this season is $80,000. As of Friday, the total stood at more than $54,000.

Omicron Variant Surfaces in Indiana

(Indianapolis, IN) - The first case of the Omicron variant has been found in Indiana.


According to the Indiana Department of Health, the variant was detected in an unvaccinated Indiana resident. State Health Commissioner Kris Box said the Omicron variant "underscores the importance" of residents getting vaccinated and taking other preventative measures to stop the spread.


The condition of the patient and exactly where in the state the Omicron variant was detected was not released.

Mayors Competing at Kettles Today

(La Porte County, IN) - The mayors of La Porte and Michigan City are competing at the Salvation Kettles today.


Last year, La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody and his team won by raising over $12,000, while Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry and his team collected over $2,400.  Dermody said he’s looking forward to another big victory.


“Any time we can blow Michigan City out of the water, that’s a good thing. We love that competition. Appreciate Mayor Parry and his efforts, and we’re looking to do it again,” Dermody said.


Dermody will be at Kroger, and Parry will be at Al’s Supermarket on Karwick Road from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Dermody said his goal this year is to raise $15,000 in his kettles.

HTNN Weekly Roundup

(LAPORTE, IN) - Did you miss any stories this week? Here are the top-5 stories that received the most attention on social media and hometownnewsnow.com last week. HTNN is the #1 source of news and information in La Porte County and neighboring communities.


1. Commissioner Named as Man in Snake Video
It wasn’t exactly an early Christmas present, but video surveillance shows the package that could be viewed as threatening wasn’t left by Santa Claus. Instead, the man in the video is alleged to be La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski.

2. Chase Ends with Crash in Downtown
A police chase ended with a crash in downtown La Porte yesterday afternoon. Two men fled from the vehicle but were arrested during a foot pursuit. The fleeing vehicle struck a building about 3:30 p.m. at Lincolnway and Clay Street. 

3. Citizen Praised for Helping Lock-Up Predator
A La Porte man is being praised for helping to put a child predator behind bars again. Michael Christianson is now serving a 15-year prison sentence for Transporting Obscene Materials.


4. Alcohol Detours Traveler to Jail
A woman trying to drive to Indianapolis with a Bloody Mary practically flowing through her veins took a detour to the La Porte County Jail.


5. Head-On Collision Stops Traffic in LaPorte
A head-on collision stopped traffic on J Street in LaPorte Friday afternoon.


Stay up to date with our stories by following HTNN on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

LaPorte Man Leads Christmas Convoy to Kentucky

(LaPorte, IN) - It was a simple plan: gather a truckload of emergency supplies and lend a helping hand to storm-ravaged Kentucky.


LaPorte’s Matt Mrozinski watched last week's news reports intently. He lived in the South for many years and still has connections in Tennessee and Kentucky. Mrozinski’s son is a volunteer firefighter locally. Seeing the devastation propelled them into action. “My son wanted to go so bad, and he asked me if I would take him down there,” Mrozinski said. “And I told him if we can get a trailer full of stuff, I’ll drive down with you.”


After a Facebook post and a few days’ time, the single trailer has become a convoy.


Mrozinski says he has been flooded with donations and offers to help. At last count, he has lined up three semis and eight trucks with cargo trailers. Supplies have poured in from Knox, Plymouth, Valparaiso, St. John, and Berrien Springs. Mrozinski has received monetary donations from friends in Alabama, Colorado, and California. The donated goods include 570 bales of hay for livestock, a full semi of people food, pet supplies, clothes, and Christmas toys for children. A local business even threw in extra wrapping paper.


On Saturday volunteers are sorting donations to save the Kentucky recipients the trouble of organizing down there. “A lot of people who came out and donated brought laundry baskets and garbage bags full of stuff, and we don’t want them [in Kentucky] to be burdened with sorting,” Mrozinski said. “So we’re going to be putting boxes together; we’re going to be sorting everything, and we’ll mark it so we know what is going to which location.”


Through a LaPorte connection, most of the donations are destined for Bremen, Kentucky, a rural area between Evansville and Bowling Green. Mrozinski said the town of just 350 residents suffered eleven deaths with nearly 70 children and their families left homeless.


Mrozinski views the trip as an opportunity for unity and healing. “Having lived in the South, I understand Southern hospitality,” he said while picking up donations at a LaPorte doctor’s office Friday. “They’re the nicest, God-fearing, compassionate people. And I know they wouldn’t hesitate to do the same thing. So I said I want to show Southern hospitality what Hoosier hospitality is like.”


LaPorte’s Christmas convoy will leave town Sunday at noon. Mrozinski says he will return in a couple of days but plans to go back to Kentucky with a handful of family members next weekend.

New Prairie Lineman Signs with Fighting Illini

(New Carlisle, IN) - A LaPorte County football standout has signed on the dotted line to play for a Division I program.


New Prairie’s Hunter Whitenack made it official on Wednesday, signing his letter of intent to suit up for the University of Illinois next year.


The 6-7, 290-pound Whitenack was a three-time all-state, all-area, and all-conference offensive lineman for the Cougars.


He chose Illinois over Ball State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati, among others.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: State Senator Rodney Pol, Jr.

(LAPORTE, IN) - Indiana State Senator Rodney Pol Jr. got lost getting to the studio but eventually made it in for a 15-20 minute conversation about marijuana legalization, environmental work, workers compensation reform, and more. 


Listen to the full episode below: 



CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Rodney Pol, Jr. (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.

Grain Forecast for 2022 a Mixed Bag

(West Lafayette, IN) - There are reasons for corn and soybean growers to be optimistic and concerned about prices heading into the New Year.


That’s was the message from agricultural economists at Purdue University during their monthly corn and soybean outlook report on December 15 from the Indiana Farm Equipment and Technology Expo at Westfield.


Jim Mintert, the Director of the Center for Commercial Agriculture at the West Lafayette campus, said the most recent USDA projections are more favorable for corn than soybeans. However, potential factors primarily involving China and South America work to the advantage of growers of both crops in the U.S.


USDA is projecting exports for U.S. corn to be about 250 million bushels lower than 2021, which is a slight reduction. However, if projections hold, total exports are still higher than any year dating back to 2005.


Mintert said commitments and shipments of U.S. corn to all countries in the current marketing year are close to 10-percent lower than 2020, but exports to China are slightly higher than the previous year.


USDA is projecting ending stocks for 2022 to be 10.1-percent, up from 8.3 percent the previous year. Mintert said the projection still means relatively tight supplies, and there’s potential for ending stocks to be lower than the current USDA forecast.  He pointed to USDA projecting a slight increase in the use of corn for ethanol production and profit margins at ethanol plants still being strong despite a drop from $1.54 per gallon in late October to $1.12 per gallon in November.


Mintert also said an uptick in the economy would likely mean higher ethanol production and a need for more corn to produce it. He said the latest projections from USDA are not as favorable to soybeans but still provide soybean producers reason for optimism.


The USDA projects a 260 million bushel drop in U.S. soybean exports. However, Mintert said USDA might have underestimated the decline considering there’s been a 27-percent drop in U.S. soybean exports from all countries and a 30-percent decrease in U.S. soybean exports just from China, so far, in the current marketing year.


Mintert said exports of U.S. soybeans, though, could also rise above projections. He said the outcome for corn and soybeans depends mainly on what happens in China and South America.


Mintert said its possible demand next year from China, which is extremely difficult to gauge, could rise above projections.


“I don’t think any of us have a special insight really with respect to what China is going to do. I think that continues to be a source of tremendous uncertainty.  So, that’s going to be a wildcard,” he said.

Mintert said the weather in major grain-producing South America plays a role in how much corn and soybeans the continent imports from the U.S.  He also pointed out the 7.8-percent ending stocks projected for soybeans in 2022 is lower than corn but still above 5.7-percent from this year.


However, Mintert said he’s concerned that the ending stocks projection by USDA for soybeans will be higher because supply this year is above what was initially predicted several months ago.


He said demand for soybean oil and meal has been very good, though, which could help end stocks if the trend continues.


“On the soybean side, trade is a concern.  The exports have been weak.  If you’re really going to get optimistic about soybeans, you really want to see a stronger export value.  The good news is the crush is looking good both from an oil and a meal standpoint,” Mintert said.

Kettle Drive Inching Toward Goal

(La Porte, IN) - There is a good chance Salvation Army kettles in La Porte will meet the funding-raising goal this Christmas season.


Area civic, religious, and workgroups are helping to try and make that happen. La Porte Salvation Army Capt. Charles Pinkston said the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office members are volunteering with the kettles at Kroger on Friday, while members of the La Porte Fire Department today are ringing the bell at kettles outside Walmart. In addition, Knights of Columbus volunteers will work the kettles at all eight locations in La Porte on Saturday.


Pinkston said more than $54,000 had been dropped into kettles in La Porte, so far, during the annual fundraising drive. The goal is $80,000.


“We’re tracking just above where we were last year. I’m optimistic,” he said.

Vaccinations the Focus of Mayor

(La Porte, IN) - Don’t expect any mask mandates in the city of La Porte, at least for right now.


Mayor Tom Dermody believes the key to putting the pandemic behind us is getting more LaPorte residents vaccinated. Dermody has been involved with the La Porte County Health Department in offering protection against the virus to residents by bringing it to their doorsteps.


“We’ve teamed up several times now to go door to door and offer vaccines to those that may want them or have questions answered and that, obviously, is the long term priority so people get vaccinated. That’s where our focus is,” Dermody said.

Dermody and health department workers have also gone to apartment complexes to offer vaccines.


Earlier this week, a cartoon posted on Facebook criticized Dermody and other elected officials for not imposing a mask mandate while area COVID-19 transmission numbers and hospitalization rates continue to soar. 


The image has Dermody, and three other elected officials in a floating barrel called the SS COVID about to go over Niagara Falls. The image includes LaPorte County Commissioners Joe Haney and Rich Mrozinski and Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry. 


“We focus on the good things. We’re too busy trying to improve the community to worry about silly things like that,” the mayor said.

Snake Fuels Production of Political Cartoons

(La Porte, IN) - A rubber snake and the elected official who allegedly placed it at the doorstep of another elected official is providing ammunition for more political satire in La Porte County. The latest political cartoon features La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski beside a giant snake.


Mrozinski is accused of placing the rubber snake inside an envelope and leaving the envelope at the office door of La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz during the night in early December.


Stabosz confronted Mrozinski about the toy snake during this week's commissioner's meeting. Attending by Zoom from his vacation home in Florida, Mrozinski told Stabosz he was in Florida when Stabosz found the snake.


After the meeting, Stabosz played a surveillance video of a man fitting Mrozinski's profile going into the La Porte County Administration building at night and carrying an envelope, then exiting the front door without the envelope. Stabosz alleges that Mrozinski caught a flight to Florida after the toy snake was put in front of his door. 


Stabosz claims to have felt threatened by the snake because of all the political turmoil this year and recent words by Mrozinski that he viewed as a threat to him and Commissioner Joe Haney. As a result, the Auditor is now asking the La Porte County Council to censure Mrozinski for conduct unbecoming of an elected official.


When reached for comment this morning, Mrozinski declined.  


In other LaPorte County meme news, Jeff Miller of LaPorte posted the image of Mrozinski and the snake just days after featuring a cartoon of Mrozinski, Haney, La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody, and Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry floating in a barrel called the S.S. COVID.


The barrel is about to go over what appears to be Niagara Falls. Miller was critical of the elected officials for not imposing mask mandates in public places in response to the latest surge of COVID-19.

Chase Ends with Crash in Downtown

(La Porte, IN) - A police chase ended with a crash in downtown La Porte yesterday afternoon.


Two men fled from the vehicle but were arrested during a foot pursuit. The fleeing vehicle struck a building about 3:30 p.m. at Lincolnway and Clay Street. 


La Porte Police Chief Paul Brettin said a state police trooper was pursuing. Brettin said he got involved when the oncoming chase went past him in the area of Lincolnway and Audley Street on the city’s east side.


One of the men was apprehended about 10 minutes later in an alley between State and Washington streets. The driver was captured somewhere to the north of the crash scene.


“The trooper got the driver and our department caught the passenger,” Brettin said.

The building hit by the vehicle houses The Country Caterers. State Police said the chase happened when the driver failed to pull over for a traffic violation on State Road 2 near Rolling Prairie. The names of the suspects have not been released.

New COVID Hospital Visitor Guidelines

(La Porte, IN) - Beginning Friday, December 17, Northwest Health has new visitation restrictions in place at all three Northwest Health hospitals and their outpatient centers. This change is aimed to protect its patients, visitors, and staff from unnecessary exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Northwest Health’s new visitor guidelines state:


  • For all patients, one (1) visitor is permitted to visit. The following are exceptions:
    • Pediatric patients may have both parents/guardians visit at the same time
    • Maternity patients may have two visitors at a time
    • Exceptions may be made for end-of-life and other special situations.
  • Visitors under age 18 are not permitted to visit hospital patients.
  • Visiting hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.


The new visitor guidelines are in effect at all Northwest Health hospital facilities, which include: Northwest Health – La Porte, Northwest Health – Porter, Northwest Health – Starke, Northwest Health – Michigan City, Northwest Health – Portage, and Northwest Health – Valparaiso, and Northwest Health – Chesterton.


The community is asked to please continue wearing masks when in public, practicing social distancing, and washing hands frequently. To find a covid-19 vaccination site visit, http://ourshot.in.gov.

Increased Holiday Patrols Update

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff's Office announces that it will be increasing patrols during the holiday season as part of a statewide crackdown on impaired driving.


Starting this week until January 1, deputies will be on high alert for anyone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Deputies will also be watching for seat belt violations and other forms of dangerous driving.


This effort is part of the Safe Family Travel campaign to reduce crashes and traffic fatalities around the holidays when statistics show an increased potential for impaired driving. The high-visibility patrols are funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with a grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI).


"This holiday season, we'll have a strong and visible presence focused on keeping people safe and dangerous drivers off the roads," said Captain Derek J. Allen. "This announcement is a reminder about the dangers of impaired driving, but it also serves as a warning. If you choose to drive impaired on drugs or alcohol, you will be arrested."

Every year, more than 10,000 people die in drunk-driving crashes in the U.S. That's approximately one person every 52 minutes. While driving under the influence is a daily concern, it's more prevalent around certain holidays, with Christmas and New Year's among the deadliest.


Last December, 73 people lost their lives in fatal collisions in Indiana. Of those, 11 involved a drunk driver, according to ICJI.


"It's important to remember that these aren't just numbers we're talking about," said Robert Duckworth, ICJI Traffic Safety Director. "These are people with loved ones whose lives were cut short due to impaired driving. Your choices behind the wheel matter, and they can have serious consequences."

Throughout the campaign, deputies will be working overtime to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired driving, which includes more than just drugs and alcohol. For example, certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can affect a person's ability to drive safely, so it's essential to read and follow all warning labels or consult a doctor before driving.


The LCSO is asking for the public's help to keep Indiana roads safe this holiday season by designating a sober driver or using a ride service, public transportation, or taxi if alcohol is consumed. Motorists are also encouraged to wear a seat belt, slow down, put down the cell phone, and make sure kids are properly buckled up. In addition to being required by law, wearing a seat belt also reduces the risk of injury or death in a crash.


"If your holiday celebrations include alcohol, make arrangements ahead of time to get home safely – don't wait until after you've had a couple of drinks," said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. "One wrong decision behind the wheel is all it takes to cause a tragedy."

Motorists can report suspected impaired drivers by calling 911 or contacting the LCSO.

Funds Sought to Replace Drawbridge

(Michigan City, IN) - Talk of replacing the Franklin Street drawbridge in Michigan City seems to be getting more serious. 


On Wednesday night, the La Porte County Commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter to Representative Frank Mrvan asking Mrvan to secure $6 to $8 million in federal infrastructure funds to pay for the engineering and design of a new bridge.


“Now, the time has come to replace this asset,” the letter stated.

The decision to seek funding was in response to reports the condition of the bridge is declining more rapidly than anticipated despite millions of dollars in repairs over the past several years.


La Porte County Councilman Mark Yagelski mentioned falling concrete as one of the signs of the bridge having a narrowing life span.


“I just see the deterioration going too fast. Too quick,” he said.

Yagelski says that Mrvan requested the letter. Mrvan doesn't have any other projects in his congressional district to pursue dollars from President Joe Biden's recently passed federal infrastructure spending package.


Commissioner Joe Haney said he believes the nearly century-old bridge can keep running for another decade or more but at what cost since the need for repairs seem to be escalating. According to a 2017 study, full rehabilitation of the bridge was estimated at $45 million, while a new bridge could be as much as $80 million.


The letter also informed Mrvan that the county would need additional federal dollars to help pay for new construction.

Commissioner Named as Man in Snake Video

(La Porte, IN) - It wasn’t exactly an early Christmas present, but video surveillance shows the package that could be viewed as threatening wasn’t left by Santa Claus. Instead, the man in the video is alleged to be La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski.


La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz said he opened a large white envelope recently outside his office, and inside was a green rubber snake. Stabosz said the find was disturbing, and he took it as a threat from Mrozinski.


Attending the La Porte County Commissioners meeting from Florida on Wednesday night on Zoom, Mrozinski seemed to deny he left the snake when questioned twice by Stabosz. Instead, he said he was in Florida when Stabosz found the snake, implying it could not be him. 


However, Stabosz said he has proof on video that Mrozinski left the snake the night before catching his flight. 


“The video is clearly Rich Mrozinski. He’s a tall man. He wears cowboy boots. He wore a baseball cap. He clearly had the envelope, the padded white envelope that was in his arms. It’s Rich Mrozinski,” Stabosz said.

In addition, Stabosz claims that Mrozinski used a county government-issued security card to enter the county administration building at that time, judging from a printout listing his name and title as commissioner at the time of entry. Stabosz said the time reflected on the video also matches the time reflected on the printout. 


“He logged into the building. He checked into an otherwise locked building,” he said.

Commissioner Joe Haney said catching Mrozinski in the act verifies that threats and intimidation are used in county government, just like they’ve been alleging this past year. 


“This is not something that’s new. This is something that we’ve been talking about for months on end and now we have video evidence of again, another high ranking elected official, this time, Commissioner Mrozinski, dropping an anonymous package in an attempt to influence, intimidate, threaten and coerce the auditor on his behavior in trying to perform his duties,” Haney said.  

Haney said he had the surveillance video played when learning about the snake and was disappointed when he saw the image that he’s convinced is Mrozinski.


The three men and other political figures have been engaged in a nasty year-long political battle over Shaw Friedman, and his law firm Friedman & Associates, Inc, being chosen as legal representation for La Porte County at the beginning of the year.

Settlement in County Attorney Payment Dispute

(La Porte, IN) - An out-of-court settlement has been reached in a lawsuit between the La Porte County Auditor and the La Porte County Commissioners.  The lawsuit was originally filed in October by the commissioners after Auditor Tim Stabosz ignored their executive orders to pay the county attorney, Friedman & Associates.  The La Porte County Commissioners unanimously approved the settlement agreement on Wednesday night, which was finalized about 90 minutes prior to the scheduled Commissioners meeting. 


Under the settlement, Stabosz will release payments of $26,169 to Friedman & Associates.  However, Stabosz will not be required to release the remaining $2,500 that has been withheld from Friedman's September, October and November invoices.  Stabosz claims this portion has been withheld because County Attorney Shaw Friedman and his law firm have not provided the information Stabosz has requested to verify or reject the disputed billings.   Friedman cites attorney client privilege for withholding the requested information as the work was performed for his client, the La Porte County Commissioners.  Stabosz argued he has ultimate authority over claims until they’re been fully audited.  Meanwhile, the majority of the commissioners reported seeing no problems with the billings after reviewing the disputed claims.


In addition, the settlement mandates whoever is named county attorney for 2022 will be required to work under a written contract that specifies the duties to be performed.  The county attorney is appointed by the commissioners annually and has historically worked solely at their direction and without a contract.  For months, Stabosz and Commissioner Joe Haney have publicly demanded a contract for Shaw Friedman and his firm, whom they allege has billed the county for political and other non-legal work.


Haney said payments to Friedman & Associates will be released once the commissioners grant approval at their meeting on January 5, or sooner if clearance to expedite the procedure is given by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.


“We’re all in the mood to get this thing settled and done with,” said La Porte County Commission President Rich Mrozinski.


The settlement also stipulates the agreement will not be given weight in deciding a civil lawsuit filed by Friedman against Stabosz in February.  Friedman is claiming defamation of character against Stabosz for alleging Friedman runs county government by having undue influence over elected officials.

Donations Sought for Kentucky Tornado Victims

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte church accepts donations to help people in tornado-ravaged Kentucky. Bethany Lutheran Church is collecting food, blankets, and other things needed by the victims of the recent devastation.


Donations can be taken to La Park, across from the church at 102 G Street. 


Church member Carey Garwood said a couple of semi-trucks have been lined up to haul donated materials from La Porte to the Bluegrass State. In addition, at least six more drivers have volunteered to pull smaller trailers containing supplies.


Garwood said donations can be taken to La Porte from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily until Sunday, when the trucks are scheduled to leave. Then, another truck will remain on the grounds to accept more donations and go two days later.


Garwood said the need lies mainly with food, blankets, plastic storage totes, tarps, bungee cords, and toys, along with children's undergarments.


“It’s really a great way to help rural Kentucky and glad the folks of La Porte are stepping up to do this,” she said.

Garwood said people could donate money on the Bethany Church website. Cash donations will be used to purchase gift cards for victims and gas and hotel rooms for drivers delivering the assistance.

Citizen Praised for Helping Lock Up Predator

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is being praised for helping to put a child predator behind bars again. Michael Christianson is now serving a 15-year prison sentence for Transporting Obscene Materials.


The La Porte man sentenced last month tried to have a book published, but it was not published because the book contained naked pictures of children. Christopher Throgmorton is credited for alerting local authorities about the man and assisting with the investigation from his research of Christianson.


During Monday night's council meeting, La Porte Council president Randy Novak commended Throgmorton.


“That’s what the community needs is people to be engaged. If you see something that doesn’t look right, by God, tell somebody. Thank you, sir,” Throgmorton said.


Throgmorton, who has two young children, said he did what everyone should do and thanked other people involved in getting the man off the streets.


“Our community did an outstanding job of spreading awareness through social media, a very powerful tool for the ordinary citizens when used properly, for letting this monster know that we are keeping an eye on things,” Throgmorton said.


Christianson was released in 2016 after spending 14 years in prison for child molesting. In addition to this current 15-year sentence, he will also be followed by a lifetime of supervision by the court’s probation staff.

More Cartoons Aimed at Public Officials

(La Porte, IN) - More cartoons blasting elected officials in La Porte County have been created.


This one features La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody, Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry, and County Commissioners Rich Mrozinski and Joe Haney. They're in a floating barrel called the S.S. COVID, and they're heading toward a waterfall in the cartoon. 


Jeff Miller of La Porte posted the meme he created on his Facebook group. He also calls the four elected officials "idiots" and "stupid" for not imposing a mask mandate in public places in response to the latest COVID-19 surge and continuing to promote special events despite the risk of community spread. 


A flyer featuring cartoon images of elected officials like Commissioners Rich Mrozinski and Sheila Matias along La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman is also being published and pushed through the community. The fifth edition of the flyer was mailed to select individuals earlier this week.


The unknown publisher casts Mrozinski and Matias as puppets of Friedman portrayed as puppeteer. An anonymous group called "Let's Go Brandon" created the fliers. "Let's Go Brandon" is a political slogan used by Republican politicians and critics of President Joe Biden.

Mustangs Route Bison

 (New Buffalo, MI) - River Valley remained undefeated by beating New Buffalo 62-12 on Tuesday night in girls’ high school basketball.


The game at New Buffalo was tied midway through the first quarter when Aaron James hit a crowd-pleasing three-point shot for the Bison. However, the Mustangs used superior ball handling and shooting skills to begin taking control at the end of the first quarter after a steal and lay-up by Natalyn Heckathorn.


Macey Springer opened the second quarter for the Mustangs by dribbling her way the entire length of the court around Bison defenders for a bucket. The Mustangs quickly added to their lead on a pass leading to baseline lay-up by Kursten Smith.


River Valley later went up by 21-points on a pair of three-point buckets from Hanah Lynch and Annekah Witter.


The score was 34 to 9 at halftime. In the third quarter, the lead grew to 32 points when Lexie McCarty fouled and sank a free throw after driving the court for a lay-up.


Springer led the River Valley attack with 13 points. Lynch and Witter each contributed 12 points. Witter scored all of her points on three-point shots.


Georgia Arvanitis scored seven points for the Bison, who fell to 0-3.

Charges in Fatal Drive-By Shooting

(Michigan City, IN) - An arrest has been made for a shooting death earlier this year in Michigan City.


30-year old Amond Nixon is also accused of trying to kill four other individuals in May. Nixon allegedly fired the shots from inside a passing vehicle in the 200 block of North Ridgeland Avenue.


21-year old Tyrese Morris-Cross was airlifted to a hospital in South Bend and later died from gunshot wounds. Police have not released the names of the four other shooting victims.


Nixon is charged with Murder and four counts of Attempted Murder along with a serious violent felon in possession of a firearm. According to court records, he has a criminal history dating back to a teenager for crimes like robbery and dealing cocaine. Nixon was being held on a one million dollars cash bond.

Holiday Drunk Driving Crackdown

(La Porte County, IN) - Police are cracking down more on drinking and driving right now because of the holidays. La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd has extra patrols out until after the New Year.


Boyd said the focus is on drivers exhibiting symptoms of being impaired along with aggressive forms of driving like speeding.  Drivers operating a vehicle in such a fashion are sometimes impaired by alcohol or drugs.


“We continue to go out and find those aggressive drivers and impaired drivers and hold them accountable,” he said.

Over the weekend, several drivers stopped for speeding by sheriff’s deputies were arrested for operating while intoxicated.

Alcohol Detours Traveler to Jail

(La Porte County, IN) - A woman trying to drive to Indianapolis with a Bloody Mary practically flowing through her veins took a detour to the La Porte County Jail.


Police said her blood-alcohol level was nearly five times the legal limit, explaining why she ended up in a ditch near Westville. 32-year-old Brooke Bolen went off the road Sunday afternoon at U.S. 421 and Indiana Toll Road. She told police she was driving from her boyfriend’s house to her residence in Indianapolis.


Some people would have passed out or even died from alcohol poisoning had they drank as much as she allegedly consumed, suggesting she had a high tolerance for alcohol. Police said the woman could walk, though she swayed a bit and nearly fell during a road test to verify their suspicions that she was intoxicated.


In her glove box was not hot coffee but, instead, a slightly more than 12 ounce nearly empty bottle of vodka. Officers brought her to Northwest Health for a blood test revealing a blood alcohol level of .395-percent.

Dog Helps Snare Dangerous Driver

(La Porte County, IN) - If he was not on drugs, he sure drove like it.


According to the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office, at about 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, a driver went into a ditch, returned to the pavement, and crossed the center line before nearly going back into a ditch. An officer responded to a report of a reckless driver westbound from St. Joseph County with his hazard lights flashing clocked him at more than 90 miles per hour on U.S 20 near Fail Road.


During a traffic stop, the glove box was open, and spotted inside were three capped syringes. With help from a police dog, three more needles were found in the vehicle, along with three plastic baggies containing a residue of cocaine.


23-year old Lucas Bennett was arrested for Level 6 felony Possession of a Syringe and Class C misdemeanor Reckless Driving. The Dowagiac, Michigan man told the officer he was heading to South Bend, but his SUV was traveling in the opposite direction.

Bonuses Approved for County Employees

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County government workers are receiving a bonus in addition to a pay increase adopted last month. 


The La Porte County Council last night voted to give a $2,000 bonus to employees next year and in 2023. The bonuses will be reflected in paychecks over the next two years.


Councilman Mike Mollenhauer said the goal now is increasing wages in future years above the five percent and six percent levels approved recently. However, he said salaries are not where they should be due to very little increase in pay for several years when money was tight from a lingering countywide property tax reassessment. 


“We’ve talked about trying to get this money up in salaries. I hope we’re going to continue discussing it all this coming year, 2022, and maybe be able to get something done by 2023,” Mollenhauer said.

The bonuses will cost the county 2.6 million dollars. Many people feel the bonuses and a recent increase in pay are not enough to stop workers from leaving for higher pay elsewhere. Though Steve Holifield, a farmer in Mill Creek, voiced concerns while council members were in the process of making a decision.  Holifield said he’s also been feeling the pinch from inflation and higher taxes. 


“When do we get to keep some of our money. If they’re not happy they can leave. There are jobs everywhere,” he said.

Council President Randy Novak challenged Holifield to walk in their shoes and the shoes of county employees. 


“Mr. Holifield, I just want to tell you we are responsible and I would encourage you, sir, to spend the day with any one of these people listed on this sheet and follow them around and see what they do,” he said. 

Holifield then encouraged the county workers to spend a day with him as well. 


The council also approved significant increases in pay for several department heads like the Building Maintenance Director, whose earnings will grow by more than $10,000 to $70,000 for 2022.


Council members said department head salaries are still below what’s paid for similar positions in other similar-sized counties.

Hiding Fugitive on Ice

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police found fugitive hiding inside a refrigerator.


According to police, someone about 8:30 p.m. on Sunday called 911 and hung up.  Officers went to the home where the call was placed in the 2900 block of S. U.S 35 after learning a woman with outstanding arrest warrants was possibly there.  Police said a sheet tied into a rope was fastened to a kitchen table and extended out of a window.


According to police, deputies soon located 39-year old Rebecca Rudd hiding inside a refrigerator.  She was taken into custody.  The outstanding warrants were for misdemeanor counts of battery, criminal mischief, and possession of paraphernalia.

Amtrak Connection Proposed Outside New Buffalo

(New Buffalo, MI) - Amtrak is looking to speed up travel to and from Chicago in parts of Michigan with a rail connection outside New Buffalo.


The New Buffalo City Council has joined St. Joseph and other municipalities in southwest Michigan to support an environmental and engineering study for a rail connection with the CSX tracks.


“There is a lot of momentum behind this,” said New Buffalo City Manager Darwin Watson.

Watson said the connection would be north of New Buffalo and join the Pere Marquette and Wolverine/Blue Water services routes. Passengers from the west could use the Amtrak station in downtown New Buffalo to switch from trains heading north to St. Joseph, Bangor, Holland, and Grand Rapids to trains going east as far as Detroit.


Passengers from the east could stop in New Buffalo and switch to trains heading as far north as Grand Rapids.


“The impact to this community and southwest Michigan would be marvelous,” he said.

The environmental and engineering study is necessary to establish the proposed rail connection and obtain federal money to help with the cost. Support from municipalities in southwest Michigan is being sought to put up a united front in seeking financial help from Washington D.C. Watson said the amount of dollars being targeted by the current administration for infrastructure nationwide increases the odds of securing federal funding.


New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey said the proposed connection would positively impact, but how much was too early to speculate. However, he said there would be an incentive for some people to live in New Buffalo and work elsewhere.


Humphrey also sees potential for increased visitors and commercial development, though it wouldn't be only about increasing tourism. Instead, he believes the benefits would be better if stops were scheduled at the most sought-after times.


“The eleven o’clock in the morning train doesn’t make it the most convenient if you were trying to work in Chicago,” he said.

Bison Off to Spectacular Start

(New Buffalo, MI) - The Hickory Huskers from the movie "Hoosiers" were not on the basketball court. Still, a small school unexpectedly beat a larger team anyway, as the New Buffalo Bison took down the Sturgis Trojans.


In their December 7 season opener, the Class D New Buffalo Bison outscored Class A Sturgis 77-73 on the road. Head Coach Nate Tripp said good defense, accurate shooting, and determination were major keys to success in his team's fast-paced style of play.  


“The boys were definitely celebrating afterward,” said Bison Head Coach Nate Tripp.

Tripp said the game against Sturgis was scheduled to help the defending District 4 champions with five returning starters getting used to stiffer competition for preparing to go deeper this year's postseason. The Bison lost in the first round of the regionals by four points last year to Howardsville Christian.


Tripp said he was hoping to have a chance at defeating Sturgis in the final period.  However, Sturgis never had the lead and trailed the Bison by 12 points at the end of the third quarter. Tripp believes that the outcome showed New Buffalo should be mentioned as one of the state's toughest Class D basketball teams.


"We're tough.  We are gritty, and we're not scared, but it also told us we got a long way to go. We got a lot of things we got to clean up," he said.

Kayden Parmley paved the way with 24 points for the Bison, while Jeremiah Mitchell added 14 points. Mark Shaw and Zack Forker contributed 12 points apiece. Forker also grabbed ten rebounds.


Tripp said the strategy on defense this year is to be more aggressive with players trapping ball handlers more often when there's an opportunity and during critical moments in games. Tripp, who has coached many of the players since middle school, said another goal this season is to achieve a high level of performance from the team on a more consistent basis.


“This is a team that has had their ups and their downs and their peaks and their valleys. We’re trying to mature and grow so we don’t have those dips,” he said.

Tripp cautioned his players should not overlook talented teams like River Valley and Countryside Academy that will also be competing for the District 4 tournament.


“While it was a nice victory, this team understands where we want to go,” Tripp said.

The Bison on December 10 defeated Covert on the road 94-40. Mitchell was the leading scorer for the Bison with 19 points. Anthony Lijewski, Forker, Mark Shaw, Ryan Vincent, and Parmley each scored anywhere from 10 to 14 points.

Orchard for Nearby Monkeys in Retirement

(Winamac, IN) - An orchard has been planted at a Northwest Indiana retirement home for medical research monkeys to help offset the cost of feeding the animals.


In October, sixty fruit trees and an irrigation system were put in the ground at the Peaceable Primate Sanctuary between North Judson and Winamac in the northwest part of the state.


The sanctuary has 45 baboons and macaques released from years of medical research by universities and pharmaceutical companies across the nation. Scott Kubisch said he started the sanctuary after learning primates were euthanized or assigned to other medical research duties after completing their medical research.


“I thought, well, you know what. If I can at least offer retirement to some of them then that would be great and that’s what I did,” Kubisch said.

Kubisch has been a former animal keeper in Chicago for 21-years at Lincoln Park Zoo and five years at Brookfield Zoo.  


The sanctuary already had more than a dozen apple, pear, and peach trees and blueberry bushes he planted after opening the facility seven years ago. The former saplings are now mature enough to produce fruit he gives to the animals.


Kubisch said he planted the orchard containing apple, elderberry, persimmon, and pawpaw trees along with grapes to put even more of a dent into the primate rescue home’s grocery bill. The orchard also includes a few willows and other non-fruit-bearing trees he plans to trim back and give the animals the cuttings to eat.


“It’s not a humongous orchard. Just something to start,” according to Kubisch.

Kubisch said he provided $5,000 from a fundraising drive to pay the cost of starting the orchard. Like a zoo, the sanctuary has indoor and outdoor cages furnished with barrels and platforms for the monkeys to climb and exercise.  There’s also a grassy area for the animals to dig for bugs and insects or relax.


Kubisch said the sanctuary is not open to the public. However, he said special events are held during the spring, summer, and fall where people can come and look at the facility.  The sanctuary operates strictly from donations, grants, and money raised from special events.


Kubisch much of the food for the animals, like fresh fruit and vegetables, is also donated by farmers and local grocery stores.


“That’s stuff that we don’t have to go out and buy,” he said.

Kubisch said it took about eight years of planning and other preparation before he could open the doors. 


Kubisch grew up in the Chicago area, but his grandparents lived on a small farm in English Lake, about 30 miles from the sanctuary. The farm is no longer in the family, but he wanted to return to the area that he enjoyed so much during his childhood and, eventually, found 80 acres that he purchased for the sanctuary. The sanctuary sits on about 15 acres.


There’s plenty of room to expand the rescue home, which he plans to do at some point out of necessity because animals, once they arrive, stay for the rest of their lives.  Animals are accepted at a higher rate than ones leaving through death. Kubisch said it’s not unusual for a baboon or macaques to live until their late 20’s and early 30’s.  Usually, the animals are in their teens when taken in, but some have been as young as five.


“They’re going to be here for a long, long, time,” he said.

As a result, he plans to grow the orchard to stabilize what he spends out of pocket on food for the animals.

Bonuses to be Considered Tonight

(La Porte County IN) - Monetary compensation for employees will be the focus of a special La Porte County Council meeting this evening.


Last month, the council approved a six percent salary increase to police, medics, and other front-line workers and a five percent pay hike for all other employees. The special meeting was called after department heads expressed strong feelings that the increase is insufficient to stop high turnover for higher-paying jobs in surrounding counties. 


The La Porte County Commissioners have approved a resolution supporting one-time bonuses of $4,000 to front-line workers and $2,000 to other employees. 


The meeting is scheduled at 5 p.m. at the La Porte County Complex.

HTNN Weekly Roundup

(LAPORTE, IN) - Did you miss any stories this week? Here are the top-5 stories that received the most attention on social media and hometownnewsnow.com last week. HTNN is the #1 source of news and information in La Porte County and neighboring communities.


This week's TOP stories by traffic: 


1. Michigan City Ranked Most Dangerous
Michigan City is ranked the most dangerous city in Indiana going into the New Year by UpgradedHome.com. 


2. Not Guilty Verdict in Fatal Shooting
23-year-old Davion Jones, accused of a fatal shooting in La Porte, was found not guilty of killing 20-year-old Tyler Terusiak. 


3. Head-On Collision Stops Traffic in LaPorte
A head-on collision during heavy rains stopped traffic on J Street in LaPorte Friday afternoon.


4. Deputy Taken on High-Speed Pursuit by Young Woman
Police pulled over a Chevy Cruze doing triple digits along US 421 on Thursday evening.


5. A LaPorte Christmas Tradition Returns
Thanks to a firefighter and some holiday teamwork, a popular La Porte Christmas display has been brought back to life.


This week's SOUND OFF Episodes:


Monday: A Conversation about School Board Elections

The new Indiana legislative survey is out, asking Hoosiers their opinions on bills that will likely be in front of lawmakers in the upcoming year. One of the questions involves whether school board candidates should declare a political party affiliation to run for office. 


Friday: A Conversation with Author Bill Nelson

He's an attorney, writer, and speaker. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer. Recently, he published a book called FIRM GRIP about learning how to thrive when life doesn't go as planned. 


Stay up to date with our stories by following HTNN on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Head-On Collision Stops Traffic in LaPorte

(LaPorte, IN) - A head-on collision stopped traffic on J Street in LaPorte Friday afternoon.


The accident happened just before 4:30 p.m. in the 1000 block of SR 2. That’s just in front of Meridian Title. A westbound black sedan crashed head-on into a Chevy pickup truck towing a trailer.


Police have not released details on the cause of the crash or the extent of any injuries. Rain was heavy at the time of the incident.


Lanes of traffic were closed in both directions for about half an hour.

Crash in Michigan City Police Chase Under Investigation

(Michigan City, IN) - A police chase in Michigan City resulted in a crash Friday afternoon.


Few details have been released so far. The police department says at about 3:15 p.m., their officers were involved in a vehicle pursuit in downtown Michigan City. A crash occurred at 10th and Pine Streets. Injured parties were transported to Franciscan Health.


According to Chief Dion Campbell, additional details are being withheld as the Indiana State Police continue to investigate the crash.

Michigan City Man in Custody for Highway Murder

(Berrien County, Michigan) - A Michigan City man faces multiple charges, including murder, stemming from a car chase in Berrien County, Michigan, two weeks ago.


24-year-old Dominic Michael Mason turned himself in to authorities Thursday. On November 27, Mason was allegedly involved in a high-speed car chase along Red Arrow Highway. Reports indicate that Mason’s car bumped the vehicle of 21-year-old Travis Lloyd Germain of Michigan City, causing a crash that killed Germain and seriously injured two passengers.


Police say the cars were traveling approximately 90 mph.


For his involvement, Mason faces multiple felony charges, including 2nd-degree murder, several counts of reckless driving, as well as possession of heroin.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation with Author Bill Nelson

(LAPORTE, IN) - Today's SOUND OFF guest grew up in LaPorte, Indiana. He's an attorney, writer, and speaker. A few years ago, he was diagnosed with a rare, incurable cancer. Recently, he published a book called FIRM GRIP about learning how to thrive when life doesn't go as planned. It was an honor to have Bill Nelson in the studio.


Listen to the full episode: 



CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Bill Nelson (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.

Older Teens Cleared for Boosters

(Indianapolis, IN) - Clearance has been given for children ages 16 & 17 in Indiana to receive Pfizer booster shots. Today, the state adopted the federal recommendation that Pfizer booster shots be made available to people in that age bracket.


“We’re putting that out here in just a little bit,” said La Porte County Health Department Administrator Amanda Lahners.  

Lahners also said she agreed with Dr. Vidya Kora of Michigan City that the number of present cases is nearly as high as when the pandemic was in the early stages. She said the number of new cases daily in La Porte County exceeded 100 on more than one occasion the past week.


“We haven’t seen that since last year,” she said.

Lahners said there were also eight deaths from COVID-19 in La Porte County over the last seven days.


“When the pandemic first started we were seeing numbers like that. Of course, that was also before there was any vaccine available.  “It’s all concerning to see these numbers,” she said.

Lahners said the numbers would be worse had vaccines not been developed yet. She said more people continue to get vaccinated, but she would like to see the number of fully protected individuals rising faster.


53-percent of La Porte County residents are fully protected, while the average statewide is 51-percent, she said. The percentages have not gone up much in recent weeks. However, Lahners said more people lately have been coming in for the shots in response to fears about the Omicron variant and other concerns.

Doctor Issues COVID Alert

(La Porte County, IN) - COVID-19 locally is nearly just as bad as when the pandemic started, according to Dr. Vidya Kora, who has a medical practice in Michigan City.


Kora said more patients are in the local and area hospitals now than a week ago when the upsurge in cases was on the rise. Bed space in hospitals everywhere is scarce, causing delays for patients needing medical care and even surgery for ailments not related to the virus.


“Sometimes, they end up having to wait in line in the ER sometimes for several hours before they can find a room upstairs,” he said.

Kora said upwards of 40 patients with COVID-19 Thursday at Franciscan Health hospital outside Michigan City.  He also revealed two of his patients recently died from COVID-19. 


Kora recommended that people first get vaccinated and those vaccinated at least six months ago get their booster shots. He also advised wearing a mask when going to places where they suspect non-vaccinated people will be.

More Big Drug Fish in Small Pond Hooked

(New Buffalo, MI) - Another major drug bust has been made just across the state line.


According to Michigan State Police, a search warrant was executed Monday just outside New Buffalo on El Dorado Boulevard, off U.S. 12 near Wilson Road east of the city limits.


Police confiscated suspected heroin, methamphetamine, guns, and various stolen items. It appears that the stolen items were taken from Michigan and Indiana. Reports indicate several individuals were also taken into custody.


Recently, a New Buffalo area man just east of the city limits was charged with running a Midwest narcotics ring.

Call for Anti-Crime Action in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City official is calling for action to bring down crime. Recently, a published report by UpgradedHome.com ranked Michigan City as Indiana's most dangerous city for 2022. Theft and property-related crimes are the biggest reason for the number one ranking.


City Councilman Paul Przybylinski was skeptical at first but said he's more convinced after reviewing FBI crime figures. Though other officials in the city have called the report untrue and "garbage," Przybylinski said now is not the time to "bury our heads in the sand."


“We need to do something different and look at the statistics and not try to say that we don’t have a problem because we have a problem,” according to Przybylinski.

He offered some possibilities to try and address the issue.


“Maybe we need to look at reassessing how we patrol Michigan City and interact with the neighborhoods.  Maybe putting out a crime map every month so that people know what’s going on in their neighborhoods. We need to do something different,” he said.

But, being lowly ranked for crime is not new for the city. Other published reports the past few years have also classified Michigan City as the most unsafe or somewhere in the top 10 in Indiana.


Several months ago, Police Chief Dion Campbell sounded alarm bells when he told members of the City Council during a public meeting that Michigan City has negatively changed, in part, from families moving here from Chicago and their children getting involved in trouble. 

Meer Back Running for Statehouse

(Michigan City, IN) - Former Michigan City Mayor Ron Meer has announced he’s running for a seat in the Indiana Statehouse.


Meer, a Democrat, announced today he’s running for the Indiana Senate District 4 seat. The seat is now held by Rodney Pol, Jr., a Democrat appointed to serve the remainder of the term of Karen Talian, who retired in September.


“I have a legacy of getting things accomplished when no one else could because I believe in the process of working across party lines. If the residents and the voters want someone that will get results and have a significant impact on outcomes, then I am that person,” Meer said.

Meer was mayor for two terms before his narrow and controversial defeat in the 2019 election.


Meer said his experience in public office and the working relationship he had with the governor as mayor is among the factors that would work to his advantage in serving constituents of the district.

“As a two-term mayor, I have a deep understanding of the resident's needs and the day-to-day operations of cities and towns. Through a series of collaborations, I worked to forge strong partnerships to spearhead over a billion dollars in public and private economic development and investment. The progress my administration fulfilled from 2012 to 2020 still benefits Northwest Indiana today,” he said. “For several years, I have played an integral role in making the South Shore commuter rail double track project a reality in our region. My working relationship with the last two Indiana governors was a successful one. In 2019 Governor Eric Holcomb appointed me to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District board of trustees."

“My history also includes a strong record of protecting the environment and initiating environmental clean-up projects. I believe that protecting Lake Michigan and its tributaries is crucial to the future of Indiana. Working in the public sector has been very rewarding for me. I believe my combined experience of 35 years which consists of being a city and state employee, city councilman, and mayor, will be an asset when collaborating with government officials at all levels. If the voters choose to give me the opportunity, I will continue to strive for a standard of excellence for all Indiana Hoosiers,” he said in a statement.

Meer said running for state office has been on his mind for quite some time, and he feels now is the right time to do it.

Mrozinski Not Surprised at Judge's Ruling

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County official said he's not surprised La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz was on the losing end of a judge's decision this week.


Stabosz is being sued for defamation of character by Shaw Friedman, the lead attorney for the La Porte County Commissioners.


Stabosz filed a motion to dismiss the case claiming public figures like Friedman are subject to public criticism. However, a judge ruled not to dismiss the case feeling there was sufficient evidence to suggest that Stabosz could have acted with malice. The judge also granted a request by Friedman to include Facebook postings from Stabosz as evidence in his defamation suit against him.


La Porte County Commission President Mrozinski said Stabosz is letting his strong personal feelings about Friedman and other political enemies cloud his judgment and rule his actions.


“It’s kind of what I expected when you got a guy that campaigns on La Porte being a pit of corruption and all of this other stuff he campaigned on.  That’s his mindset.  He’s in office for one thing.  He wants to have revenge on anyone who doesn’t think like him and he hates Shaw Friedman with a passion,” he said.

Stabosz says he doesn't hate Friedman personally but doesn't like how county government and individuals are hurt by the way Friedman goes about his business, which he alleged is about maintaining control and profiting. 


On the other hand, Friedman has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and alleges Stabosz uses his public office to settle personal and political scores. 


In other legal issues with Stabosz, the county commissioners are pursuing a court order to force Stabosz to pay Friedman & Associates for work performed by the law firm. Stabosz feels that some of the billing might not be legitimate. The amount being withheld from Friedman's law firm by Stabosz is more than $28,000.


Mrozinski said Stabosz has all of the information from Friedman that he needs to audit all of Friedman's claims, and he must pay since he was ordered to recently by the commissioners. Stabosz believes the auditor has ultimate authority over the matter as chief financial officer.


In October, however, State Examiner Paul Joyce, in a letter to auditor Tim Stabosz and the La Porte County Commissioners, said the auditor should pay the claim if the commissioners or a court issues a payment order.


“There’s nothing wrong with Shaw Friedman’s bills. I’ve looked at them,” Mrozinski said.

Stabosz Not Ruling Out Appeal

(La Porte County, IN) - An appeal of a judge's ruling is being examined by attorneys defending La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz against defamation of character claims filed against him by Shaw Friedman, the lead attorney for the La Porte County Commissioners.


Stabosz said his attorneys disagree with some of the judge's points for not dismissing the case as he requested.


“My attorneys in their professional capacity are in the process of carefully examining our legal basis for an appeal,” he said.

Special Judge Stephen Bowers from Elkhart County ruled Stabosz has not offered proof to substantiate his allegations that Friedman is corrupt and runs county government by controlling elected officials. 


Comments about public officials are protected speech but not when the intent is to do harm by knowingly making false statements.


In his decision not to dismiss the case, Bowers cited arguments from Friedman's attorneys that Stabosz by failing to go to any member of law enforcement with his allegations must not have believed what he said about Friedman and, therefore, acted with intent to spread lies about Friedman.


Bowers also said he could not make a determination on whether Stabosz acted in good faith or spoke with malice, and could not establish a basis for deciding his intentions in ruling  not to dismiss the case. 


"The Court notes that the issue of whether Stabosz spoke with actual malice is not ripe for decision at this point,” he said. 


Stabosz said he went to the Indiana State Board of Accounts, though, and thoroughly expressed his concerns about Friedman. He also said much of what he can prove against Friedman requires testimony allowed only at trial.  Stabosz said he felt the argument about him not going to law enforcement with his allegations was very weak.


“The judge seems to be saying that I needed to establish a strong enough basis for him to believe I was operating in good faith when it is my belief that the other side needed to establish a reasonable basis that I was operating in bad faith,” he said.

Regardless, Stabosz said he remains committed to defending himself at trial if his motion to dismiss would not be granted on appeal.


"The substantial likelihood is we will appeal. At this point, I would say that is the most likely outcome,” he said.

Former Dealership Being Torn Down

(La Porte, IN) - The old Don George Ford on Pine Lake Avenue started being torn down yesterday as more blighted properties are demolished in La Porte.


Mayor Tom Dermody said the goal has been to start tearing down the buildings before the end of the year.


“We did what said we were going to,” Dermody said.

The buildings, including one with a hole in the roof, were considered no longer safe and an eyesore years after the property had been abandoned. 


One vision is to sell the now city-owned property to a developer to put something valuable to the community. The ideas include a restaurant with a scenic overlook of Lily Lake and a public access kayak launch.


Dermody says he wants a fresh start in that property for residents. The city has received bids from developers, but the price offered for the property has fallen short of the city’s desired asking price.

Not Guilty Verdict in Fatal Shooting

(La Porte, IN) - A man accused of a fatal shooting in La Porte has been found not guilty.


The La Porte Circuit Court jury came back with its verdict last night after five hours of deliberation and found 23-year-old Davion Jones not guilty of murder and attempted murder.


He was originally charged with reckless homicide but the charges were later elevated. 


20-year-old Tyler Terusiak of La Porte died from a gunshot wound to the heart. According to police, a fight broke out in April 2020 on Jefferson Avenue near Patton Street.


Jones was inside a parked car and claimed a man, Stanley Henderson, 21, approached him with a gun pointed at him. Jones said he feared for his safety and began firing his weapon with his eyes closed. One of the rounds struck Henderson, who survived, while the other round hit Terusiak, who was slightly off in the distance, police said. 


The Chesterton man could have faced anywhere from 40 to 60 years just on the murder charge alone had he been convicted.


La Porte Test Driving Electric Car

(La Porte, IN) - It looks, drives, and is just as roomy as other mid-sized cars burning gasoline. That's what LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody and other city officials are learning about an electric vehicle being tried out on police patrols for the past week.


Dermody on Wednesday began using the four-door car displaying the city's logo on his work-related runs for the next couple of days. He said the only difference was the electric car runs much quieter than traditional vehicles.


“It moves quickly. Fast,” said Dermody during a test run on Wednesday.

The electric 2020 Nissan LEAF is on loan from Crown Point-based South Shore Clean Cities, Inc. The organization, which promotes alternative fuels and other earth-friendly practices, allows many municipalities throughout northern Indiana to use the car for two weeks.


SSCC Project Manager Ryan Lisek said the idea is to change public perception that electric vehicles lack the power, size, and luxury of cars and trucks burning fossil fuel. The vehicle in LaPorte, for example, appeared to be the spitting image of a similar-sized gas-powered vehicle inside and out.


“It’s going to change the way Americans are going to start thinking about electric vehicles,” he said.


LaPorte Police Chief Paul Brettin said the car has the horsepower required for police work. Brettin believes that a slightly larger model with room for people arrested would probably be needed for patrols, but he can see the not too distant future just from his brief time behind the wheel.


“The wave’s coming. It’s going to happen,” Brettin said.

After being parked outside in the cold for hours, the car also doesn't have to warm up before producing heat through the vents in the dashboard.


Sarah Nimetz, the city's Sustainability Program Manager, said the car travels up to 200 miles on a full battery charge. The battery can be plugged into an electrical outlet at home, just like a television set or other appliances. Nimetz said it takes about 10 hours for a low battery to be fully charged in a 110-volt outlet, but just a half-hour or so at an electric vehicle charging station. She said the car has been impressive enough that the city might purchase several electric vehicles.


The sticker price for the car was about $36,000. However, the city could spend less money in the long run from not purchasing gasoline. She said electric vehicles also are known for requiring less maintenance.


All public transportation buses in LaPorte already run on cleaner-burning propane, and the wastewater treatment plant operates on solar energy. In addition, Nimetz said the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions locally were recently identified. Most emissions in LaPorte come from the commercial and industrial sectors, followed by residential and transportation-related sources.


Nimetz said the findings would allow the city to positively impact climate change by developing and implementing strategies that work best here. Dermody said the city is doing other research in areas like water flow and tree canopies to further contribute to the fight against global warming.


“We’re constantly looking at new ways to do things. This is no longer the La Porte of old,” he said.

Code Red Now for COVID-19

(Indianapolis, IN) - LaPorte County and much of northern Indiana are now Code Red because of rising COVID-19 cases.


According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the seven-day positivity rate in La Porte County is now above 17-percent.


Close to 20-percent of the people tested for the virus over the past seven days have turned up positive in Porter and Starke counties. The positivity rate in St. Joseph is just above 16-percent.


Hospitals throughout the area are reporting to be at or near capacity in bed space due to the rise in COVID-19 related hospitalizations.



Walker Hayes to Perform at Fair

(La Porte County, IN) - One of the most popular country music singers today is coming to the La Porte County Fair in 2022.


Walker Hayes topped the charts in July with “Fancy Like.” However, his road to becoming a superstar began in 2017 when he first entered the charts with “You Broke Up with Me.”


According to La Porte County Fair officials, tickets for the July 12 performance at 7:30 p.m. begin going on sale online Friday at 10 a.m. Tickets starting at $20 will be available at lpfair.com.


Dennis Siddall, the host of the Morning Mayhem on 96-7 The Eagle, said this kind of concert with this level of talent was exciting when he broke the news today. 

Most Dangerous City Heavily Disputed

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City being more dangerous than even Gary and South Bend is being hotly disputed by local officials.


A report by upgradedhome.com ranks Michigan City as the most dangerous Indiana city. South Bend is ranked second most dangerous in the publication, while Gary was sixth.


The rankings were addressed at last night’s Michigan City Common Council meeting.  Council President Michael Mack called the article “fake.” The column also drew comparisons between Michigan City and Detroit because of the number of abandoned and dilapidated buildings. Mack said the report overlooked the investments made and more coming.


“There is a huge market of well-financed people that are coming to Michigan City with big ideas that are already started and there’s bigger ideas that are being discussed.  It is the most phony article that I’ve ever read from an insider’s point of view from knowing what’s actually going on.  We are not dilapidated. We are not heading south,” he said.

Councilwoman Angle Nelson Deuitch said the article was based on innuendo and stereotypes. She also claimed the writer’s background is in home decorating and real estate.


“It’s garbage in my opinion,” Nelson Deuitch said.

Over the past few years, other publications have ranked Michigan City the most dangerous in Indiana or the top 10 most dangerous. Councilman Paul Przybylinski said he feels safe in the city but felt the article was cause for concern.


The article said violent crime is “not that bad” in Michigan City, but the rate of theft and property-related crimes was highest. The report also cited a 27 percent poverty rate as a factor in its ranking.

Gas Station Robbed at Gunpoint

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are trying to solve an armed robbery. It happened Sunday night at Virk’s Gas Station at 1301 Franklin Street.


Police said an unknown subject wearing a mask displayed a firearm inside the store and demanded money. After being given an undisclosed amount of cash, the subject left the area on foot, police said.


A K-9 dog was used to try and track the suspect, who was not located. Reports suggested that cash dropped by the fleeing suspect, perhaps, was found when the dog was tracking the suspect. However, police revealed only that evidence related to the robbery was discovered along the track.

Friedman Wins First Round Over Stabosz

(Elkhart County, IN) - The La Porte County Auditor has lost the first round in his legal battle with the county attorney.


Tim Stabosz filed a motion to dismiss the defamation of character lawsuit filed against him by Shaw Friedman in February. He argued the case was frivolous, in part, because comments against a public official like Friedman are protected speech.


Yesterday, a judge denied his motion to dismiss the case. Judge Stephen Bowers from Elkhart County pointed to things like Stabosz not offering proof that Friedman runs county government by controlling elected officials and is corrupt, as Stabosz has alleged.


The judge also ruled there is evidence to suggest the allegations from Stabosz were possibly made with malice, which is not protected speech and potentially defamatory.


“Stabosz’s verification, self-serving though it may be, that he truly believed the defamatory statements he made against Friedman when he made them is sufficient to shift the burden of proof of Friedman.  However, Friedman has designated evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Stabosz actually believed his accusations were true,” Bowers said in his written ruling.

Specifically, the judge ruled Friedman pointed out that Stabosz, if he believed his allegations, would have gone to the proper authorities but has not.


Bowers also granted a motion by Friedman to amend his complaint against Stabosz. Initially, the defamation complaint was based on an e-mail to the commissioners from Stabosz suggesting Friedman in calling him corrupt, not be hired as county attorney. However, the judge is giving Friedman permission now to use comments Stabosz made later against him as additional evidence to substantiate his defamation claims.

No Change in Credit Rating

(La Porte County, IN) - The A1 credit rating of the La Porte County government will remain unscathed, according to LaPorte County Auditor Tim Stabosz.


Last week, the La Porte County Commissioners said a late bond payment of more than $600,000 by Stabosz placed what they described as an A+ credit rating with Standard & Poor in jeopardy. Stabosz said he checked with the credit agency, one of the largest in the world, and nothing will be changed with the credit rating.


He said his political enemies intentionally jumped the gun to try and make him look bad, and the payment was late by just one day. 


“The commissioners brought up all of this garbage at their meeting, which I suspected quite highly that this would amount to nothing. S&P Global Agency is the rating agency that rates the bonds and they’re not even looking at it,” Stabosz said.

Stabosz blamed the late bond payment on the bank sending a notice to make the monthly payment to the former auditor and not him.


The commissioners formerly condemned Stabosz for the late payment by alleging he's more focused on using his public office to score personal and political points instead of doing the work of his elected office. However, one commissioner, Joe Haney, voted against condemning Stabosz, calling the allegations "political garbage."


Stabosz said the A1 rating is above average.  A perfect credit rating is triple-A, he said.


Stabosz has two outstanding lawsuits against him. First, La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman is suing him on allegations of defamation of character and by the county commissioners for ignoring orders to fully compensate Friedman's law firm for work provided to the county.  Often seen as a political ally to Stabosz, Joe Haney also voted against suing Stabosz. 

La Porte Hires New Planning Director

(La Porte, IN) -  Mayor Tom Dermody and the Board of Public Works & Safety today announced the hiring of Craig Phillips as the new Director of Community Development & Planning for the City of La Porte.


A Michigan native, Phillips’ resume includes planning experience in cities such as Elkhart, Valparaiso, and, more recently, Michigan City. Dermody said with more than 20 years of professional experience, he anticipates big things from Phillips in the coming months.


“We are thrilled to welcome Craig and his abundance of experience to our team,” Dermody said. “La Porte is on a roll, and we are excited for what’s to come. In order to keep our momentum, we need someone equally as excited to take La Porte to the next level. I believe Craig is the right fit for the job, and I cannot wait to see what he brings to our team as we continue to make La Porte the place to be.”

Phillips has a Bachelor of Science in Geography with a concentration in Economic Development and Urban Planning from Central Michigan University and a master’s in Urban and Regional Planning from Michigan State University. He and his family reside in Pottawattamie Park.


Phillips will begin in his new role this week.

Local Official Witnesses Morning Launch

(Cape Canaveral, FL) -  La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski is on vacation in Florida and watched this morning’s Atlas V launch into space early Tuesday morning.


Mrozinski was 18 miles from where the launch occurred, but his condo overlooking the ocean was almost like having a box seat for the event, particularly since it was dark for the launch.


The image to the right is from a video captured by Mrozinski of the rocket carrying the satellite heading toward space. 

“It really lights up the whole ocean and the flame coming off the back of the rocket is probably twice as long as the rocket.  It’s really amazing,” Mrozinski said.

Mrozinski said the building his condo is in also shook despite being 18 miles from the launching pad because of the amount of thrust produced by the rocket carrying the satellite into orbit.


After returning from the Vietnam War, Mrozinski had a role to play with the launch of Apollo 16. He deciphered where incoming messages should be delivered and ensured those messages were relayed to the recipients.

Resort Apartments Expansion Sought

(LaPorte, IN) - The resort-type apartments going up in La Porte could double in number. On Monday night, the La Porte City Council approved a letter of support for the request.


The developer, Flaherty and Collins out of Indianapolis, is seeking redevelopment credits from the state to help offset the cost of building another 200 higher-end apartments near Clear Lake at NewPorte Landing.


Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said acquiring the tax credits awarded for the ongoing project will be a factor in deciding whether to go ahead with the expansion. The developer is considering expanding the project to double the size, so they are applying for redevelopment credits through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to do things properly.


Cook said the 200 apartments going up now at New Porte Landing are 90-percent completed, and the first units should be available to rent in February. The request from the city results from being a long waiting list of applicants seeking to live at the development called “The Banks.”

Michigan City Ranked Most Dangerous

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City is ranked the most dangerous city in Indiana going into the New Year. 


The finding was contained in a recent ranking by UpgradedHome.com. According to the publishers, violent crime is not "that bad" in Michigan City.


According to the publishers, the biggest reason for being the most dangerous Indiana city for 2022 is the highest rate of theft and property-related crimes in the state.  Also cited was a good number of murders for the community the size of Michigan City and a close to the 30-percent poverty rate in the city.


City Councilman Paul Przybylinski called the report "disheartening." He said the report should be brought to the attention of the police chief and mayor to find out "just what's going on out there."


Despite increased crime in recent years, Przybylinski, a lifelong resident of Michigan City, said he doesn't believe the #1 ranking and still feels safe in the community. 


The report listed South Bend and Indianapolis as the second and third most dangerous. Northwest Indiana neighbor Gary was ranked 6th.

Local Official Met Late Senator Bob Dole

(Rolling Prairie, Ind.) - A local man has memories of the late senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole.


La Porte County Commissioner and Vietnam War veteran Rich Mrozinski was volunteering by handing flags and programs to dignitaries on Veterans Day several years ago at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. when he recognized Dole and his wife, Elizabeth, approaching. 


“When I handed them their flag and program, I asked them can I have my picture taken with you. They were very generous.  They said oh, absolutely, it would be an honor,” Mrozinski said.

Dole, a former longtime U.S. Senator from Kansas and veteran of World War II, passed away Monday. He was 98 years old. 


Dole was also the Republican Party’s nominee for president in 1996 and lost to incumbent President Bill Clinton.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: A Conversation about School Board Elections

(LAPORTE, IN) - The new Indiana legislative survey is out, asking Hoosiers their opinions on bills that will likely be in front of lawmakers in the upcoming year. One of the questions involves whether school board candidates should declare a political party affiliation to run for office.


The survey question states: "Currently, candidates are not required to identify their political affiliations when running to serve on their local school board. Would you support greater election transparency by requiring candidates for these positions to declare their party affiliation?


In this episode of SOUND OFF, we asked our listeners: should the Indiana school board elections become partisan? 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.

Lakefront Fixture Awaits Replacement

(New Buffalo, MI) - A popular fixture at the lakefront in New Buffalo is only a memory now, but it shouldn’t be long before new memories start being made on its replacement.


Dunewalk has been removed from the hilly, and sandy ground just east of the concession stand at the public beach. City Manager Darwin Watson said Anlaan Corporation out of Grand Haven started the work on November 29 and finished the next day.


“They got in and got it done real quick,” he said.

Watson said the cost of the demolition and hauling away the materials should come in at about $440,000.  He said that a $220,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and $110,000 apiece from the city and Pokagon Fund would cover the expense.


Dunewalk, built roughly two decades ago, was closed to the public in recent years because of hazards like wooden steps no longer safe to walk on. The new Dunewalk at the same spot will be handicapped accessible with ramps, instead of stairs, for users to navigate from end to end.


Watson said the hope is to start construction in the spring and be finished or nearly completed before Memorial Day. He said a $150,000 MDNR grant would help pay for the estimated $400,000 cost of the new Dunewalk. After that, the city will pay the rest of the expense unless more outside dollars are unexpectedly awarded to offset the cost further.


Dunewalk, nestled on top of a dune, was heavily used not just for exercise but to enhance views of the lakefront. Once closed, Watson said signs and other materials were used to discourage people from walking it, but not everyone could resist temptation.


"A lot of time was spent by the park department “chasing people off of it,” he said.

Extensive Damage in La Porte Fire

(La Porte, IN) - Nobody was injured in a vacant house fire in LaPorte over the weekend.


Firefighters Saturday night responded to 1108 Clay Street, where heavy smoke billowed from the two-story structure. La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said a lot of water had to be used to extinguish the fire, which caused extensive damage to the building.


“The fire had gotten into the walls and in between the floors. It turned into a pretty good extensive effort to extinguish the building so much so that ultimately we ended up needing to call some off-duty personnel to help us out with the fire,” he said.

Snyder said the house contained multiple apartments vacated recently to renovate the structure.


Mayor Tom Dermody said the house was in the process of being fixed up in response to a crackdown of the city's code enforcement department on the property. The cause of the fire was still under investigation, but an electrical problem of some sort has not been ruled out.

Alcohol Arrest in Collision

(La Porte County, IN) - Police caught a Michigan City man after he allegedly fled drunk from a motor vehicle crash.


According to the sheriff’s office, 52-year old Richard James had a blood-alcohol level more than four times the legal limit. He was involved in a two-vehicle collision on U.S 20 near County Line Road just west of Michigan City. 


After he allegedly fled, police say an officer quickly located a moving vehicle with front-end damage and began following. A short distance later, James pulled into a driveway. Police said the barely able to stand man admitted drinking two beers and a half bottle of vodka. A half-empty vodka bottle was found in the pocket of his sweatshirt.


James was also charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly urinating on the tire of his car during the traffic stop.

Santa Welcomed to Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Onlookers seemed delighted to welcome Santa Claus back to Michigan City in a back-to-normal parade downtown on Saturday.


Last year, the units were stationary at Washington Park for people to drive by and look at because of COVID-19 restrictions.


“It’s nice to get out again,” said Janet Justice.

The Michigan City woman came to enjoy quality time with family members, including her grandchildren Brayden, 11, Juniper, 4, and Clementine, 2. Also tagging along was their pet dog, Zinny, a French Bulldog. 


The 30-unit procession included cartoon characters, clowns, Mayor Duane Parry on foot waving to the good-sized crowd, and Santa Claus riding on top of a fire truck. Many children also gave hugs to Elmo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and other popular TV and movie figures like The Grinch walking the route.


Buddy the Elf was brought to the parade in the back of a Harbor Country Adventures truck, which rode behind him in the procession. "Everybody is just enjoying him," said Victor Tieri, owner of the company providing tour boats in Michigan City for people to ride on Lake Michigan during the summer.


Nichole Ericson of Michigan City said the excitement in the face of her daughter, Skilynn, 3, is what she enjoyed most about the parade. Her daughter's face seemed to light up even more when she saw Santa Claus go by. 


“She’s been counting down the days,” Ericson said.

Sarah Hasenfang made the trip from Chesterton with her husband, Michael, and their children, Maddy, 6, and Albert, 9. Hasenfang said being amongst a crowd in the downtown decorated with Christmas lights is one reason they come to the parade every year. They also enjoy watching the Festival of Lights at the lakefront come on for the season after the parade.


“We just love coming over here. We love a good parade, she said.

Mayor Parry wore a Santa Claus hat with his red sport coat, shirt, and tie, displaying images of Christmas Lights and Christmas trees.


"It's the season to be jolly," the mayor said. Parry also turned on a Christmas tree's lights outside the public library where the parade ended.


The festivities later in the evening included a chili cook-off and live music at the Michigan City Senior Center at Washington Park. 





HTNN Weekly Roundup

(LAPORTE, IN) - Did you miss any stories this week? Here are the top-5 stories that received the most attention on social media and hometownnewsnow.com last week. HTNN is the #1 source of news and information in La Porte County and neighboring communities.


1. More Details in Bank Robbery
A bank in Michigan City was robbed Monday for the second time in two months.  A customer at the bank witnessing the hold-up helped police quickly close in on the fleeing suspect and make the arrest.

2. Bank Robbery Possibly Drug-Related
It appears drugs could have been a motive for the bank robbery in Michigan City, judging by the suspect's checkered past.

3. Auditor Condemned by Commissioners
On Wednesday, the LaPorte County Commissioners condemned the LaPorte County Auditor for late payment. In addition, they urged him to "cease and desist" from utilizing his elected office to settle personal and political scores.

4. A LaPorte Christmas Tradition Returns
Thanks to a firefighter and some holiday teamwork, a popular La Porte Christmas display has been brought back to life.

5. COVID Fills Up Local Hospital Beds
It appears COVID-19 cases in La Porte County are up dramatically.

Stay up to date with our stories by following HTNN on Facebook and Twitter

Area Refinery Hit with $512k Fine

(Whiting, IN) - The area's largest oil refinery has been hit with a hefty fine.  BP has settled in U.S. District Court for violating a previous agreement to clean up its Whiting, Indiana facility. 


Activists say the company has failed to reduce and monitor dangerous emissions.  BP agreed to a penalty of over $512,450 and will test for pollutants at least every 6 months while properly maintaining pollution control equipment. 


The refinery, which covers 1400 acres along Lake Michigan in Northwest Indiana, processes about 440,000 barrels of crude oil a day. 

Semitrailer Catches Fire Near Rolling Prairie

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - A semitrailer caught fire on a La Porte County highway this week.  Just before 5:00 AM on Wednesday morning, Sheriff's deputies responded to State Road 2 just west of Cougar Road.  A flatbed trailer had caught fire. 


The driver, heading east bound out of Gary, was able to pull over and disconnect the semi.  Kankakee volunteer firefighters put out the blaze which was blamed on a break malfunction. 

Deputy Taken on High Speed Pursuit by Young Woman

(Wanatah, IN) - Police pulled over a Chevy Cruze doing triple digits along US 421 on Thursday evening.  A Sheriff's deputy began following the speeding southbound vehicle around US 30. 


According to reports, the driver accelerated in excess of the speed limit for several miles.  While passing five cars at once on the two lane highway, the driver finally got up to over 100 miles an hour. 


The officer pulled over the Chevy Cruze, driven by a 21 year old woman from Medaryville.  She was cited for reckless driving. 

A LaPorte Christmas Tradition Returns

(LaPorte, IN) - A popular La Porte Christmas display has been brought back to life, thanks to a firefighter and some holiday teamwork.


In the 1980s La Porte resident Dick Ford began building a Christmas display that grew every year. A decade later, Ford’s creation took up two front yards on Webber St. across from Clarke Park.


Mr. Ford, also known as "Mr. Christmas," passed away in 2010. The display had been packed away a few years earlier and wasn’t seen again-- until a few weeks ago.


La Porte firefighter Josh Myers located most of the display and reassembled it. It includes five lit display cases with animated figures, two train sets in an enclosed building, and a church the size of a shed with a magical holiday scene inside.


The display’s current owner, Paul Richey of PR’s Landscaping, has kept the items in storage over the years. Myers got the idea of setting it up next to the new eastside fire station. "Last year, when I was decorating the station," he said, "I looked out at this yard, and I was like, this would be perfect for that display; I wonder if Paul still has it? So I called him, and he was all on board with it."


According to Myers, Mr. Richey bought the items years ago, hoping to display them every year, but those hopes never materialized. "I definitely want to thank him and his team at PR's for allowing me the opportunity to do this," Myers said. He also credits Action Towing, who helped transport the larger display pieces, and La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder, for allowing the display to live on next to the fire station.


Once it was all set up, Myers shared the unveiling with the Ford family. "When we turned the lights on," he said, "I actually had the Ford family, Dick's widow Sandy and his son Brian, actually got to flip the switch for the first time in fifteen years."


The display can be seen at the corner of Lawrence and North Streets. Myers says anyone who would like to donate decorations for the display is welcome to do so.

Santa to Arrive Tomorrow in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Santa Claus is going to be ushered into Michigan City tomorrow. The Snowflake Parade is returning to normal this year after units were stationary for people to drive by last year because of COVID-19.


About 30 units, including Santa Claus waving to the crowd from the top of a fire truck, are expected to be in the parade on Franklin St. from 9th street to the public library.


Special Events Coordinator Terry Greetham said the parade would start at 4 p.m.


“It’s certainly going to be a great way to kick off the holidays and, of course, bring Santa Claus in. We’re really excited. It looks like the weather is going to be nice,” he said.

The lights throughout much of Washington Park will also be turned on for the season following the parade. In addition, other festivities, such as a Chili Cook-Off, will occur inside the Senior Center at Washington Park.

Haney Sets Record Straight on Vote

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney said a political enemy falsely accused him of being against a $15 million development planned at U.S 20 and U.S 35.


At the end of another back-biting session between the La Porte County Commissioners on Wednesday, Commission President Rich Mrozinski criticized Haney for being the only member of the Planning Commission last week to vote against the project. Haney said he didn't vote against the project.


Instead, Haney said he and two other members of the seven-member governing body voted against a proposal to create a Tax Increment Financing District for the project. Money generated by the increased value of the developed property is captured from within a TIF District and used to pay for things like water and sewer line extensions to the construction site.


TIF money is used strictly within the boundaries of a district, which means none of the new dollars flow into a municipality's general operating budget. Haney said he felt tax money generated by such a development would be better suited for other purposes.


"At a time when we need tax monies for funding and salaries for public safety, like EMS and the Sheriff's Dept, we cannot afford to shortchange the taxpayers or our public coffers right now," Haney said.

Mrozinski said the project consists of a hotel, restaurant, bar, and events center. In addition, the county would pay about $1.5 million to have water and sewer service brought to what's now an undeveloped area.  


Mrozinski said property tax revenue from developing the site would increase from about $1,000 to around $500,000 annually. The tax money would go toward financing the cost of providing water and sewer service.


“It’s a very minimal investment by the county when you consider the payoff at the end,” he said.

Mrozinski said having water and sewer service could also result in future developments in the area because of access to utilities.


“This is something that is going to be good for the county,” he said.

Haney and Mrozinski are on opposing sides of a political firestorm resulting in lawsuits filed against La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz on allegations of defamation of character and refusing orders to pay what's now more than $28,000 to Friedman & Associates. 


Stabosz has alleged Friedman runs county government and vows not to pay Friedman until he verifies some of the work he's billed the county for was legitimate legal purposes. The Commissioners, however, maintain that the Auditor does not have the right to make that request. 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: State Representative Jim Pressel

(LAPORTE, IN) - Indiana State Representative Jim Pressel stopped by the show to talk about a new bill he's co-authoring called HB 1001 that would end the state of emergency for COVID-19 in Indiana. Jim also spoke about vaccine mandates, abortion, an upcoming tax refund, and more. 


Listen to the episode below: 



CREDITS: Nate Loucks (Host), Jim Pressel (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.

PNW Offering New Technology Degree

(Hammond, IN) - Purdue University Northwest today gained approval from the Purdue University Board of Trustees to offer a Doctor of Technology degree.


PNW plans to welcome its first students in the program beginning in 2022-2023, pending approval by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and the Higher Learning Commission.


The program will be the second doctoral degree offered by PNW, joining the Doctorate of Nursing Practice that has graduated nine students since 2015. All of the DNP graduates are employed as leaders in nursing, with some practicing in primary care or specialty care settings and others engaged in nursing education.


“As a premier metropolitan university, Purdue University Northwest is excited to offer a growing number of advanced degrees that contribute to economic and community development in Northwest Indiana and beyond,” said Kenneth C. Holford, provost and vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at Purdue Northwest. “There is a need for additional higher-level degrees to meet workforce demand and increased interest in advanced technology positions in the areas served by PNW.”

The professional practice degree program will provide vital transformative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The program will benefit individuals who are interested in expanding and applying knowledge and research to solve practice-based problems in technology and society.


Mohammad Zahraee, associate dean of Graduate Studies for the PNW College of Technology, noted that the Purdue Northwest program will be distinct among doctoral programs in this academic discipline.


“Although there are a number of online Doctor of Technology programs in the United States, this on-campus doctoral program in the technology field is the only one of its kind, fostering innovation through applied research,” Zahraee stated.

“This doctoral program is applied research-based and addresses one of the strategic goals of Purdue Northwest,” added Niaz Latif, dean of the College of Technology. “This program will provide the opportunity for traditional students, as well as industry professionals, to pursue an advanced degree that will provide innovative solutions in their field of interest.”

Snowman Victimized by a Grinch

(La Crosse, IN) - La Porte County Police are trying to find a Grinch who cut the life support on a snowman. An officer on Tuesday was dispatched to a home in La Crosse.   


A man told police he added a five-foot-tall lighted snowman this year to the Christmas decorations in his yard, but the following night he discovered the snowman was in the dark. The snowman's power cord had been cut. Police said an officer inspected the line, and it looked like it was cut on purpose with a tool. 


Fortunately, there's a happy ending to the story. The snowman lit back up after the man could repair the sliced cord successfully.


According to police, the victim plans to install cameras to catch the Grinch if he happens to vandalize his Christmas decorations again.

Stabosz Denies Encouraging Mockery

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz said he was falsely accused of encouraging the public to mock his political enemies.


A majority of the La Porte County Commissioners passed a resolution condemning Stabosz for "attack-dog style" postings on his Facebook page the night before Thanksgiving.


Stabosz was accused of using Facebook to encourage his readers and followers to "mock" Commissioners Rich Mrozinski, Sheila Matias, and LaPorte County government attorney Shaw Friedman and to continue stating "how immoral, indecent, corrupt and pathetic they are."


In response, Stabosz defended his postings and said the resolution was an effort to embarrass him.


Stabosz said he was speaking to one individual, and that is the anonymous person who is publishing a flyer portraying Mrozinski, Matias, and Friedman as puppets and puppeteers.


Stabosz advised that person in his post to mock them all he wants in future publications but within the confines of election law. 


He said his advice aimed to keep the publisher out of legal trouble for the political satire flyer, distributed mainly to a select number of elected officials and former officials.


Many people have found each of the four editions of the flyer casting other elected officials as clowns just as entertaining as insulting.


"They twist the context in their resolution to make it sound like I'm going on Facebook telling people and the public to mock Rich, Shaw, and Sheila like I'm egging people on. That is not the case," he said.

Stabosz has two lawsuits against him currently. First, Friedman accuses Stabosz of defamation of character for accusing him of running county government. The second lawsuit is from the commissioners for not obeying their orders to pay Friedman.


Stabosz is withholding more than $25,000 from Friedman's law firm. He maintains that the funds will be released once Friedman provides the information he requests to verify some of his work for the county concerned legal work.

Dermody Praised After State of City Speech

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody delivered his State of the City speech last night.


He cited many successes of his administration in areas like new construction, code enforcement, redevelopment of dilapidated properties, and downtown revitalization, which are all part of his vision of La Porte being the place to be.


He also took a moment to vow once again that La Porte will be a pothole-free community.


“Our street department filled 2,300 potholes this year, so far, and we will continue to work all weather allowing every day to fill those potholes,” Dermody said.

He also mentioned as a top priority removing truck traffic from downtown to help the central business district become more walkable for shopping and a gathering place for special events.  To do that, Dermody said he fully supports a north-south corridor outside the downtown, so semi-trucks don’t have to drive through the city unless they have local deliveries.

Dermody said funding for constructing the estimated $100 million highway is being sought like never before, perhaps, at the state and federal levels of government.


“We don’t care if it’s a republican or a democrat, we’re going to work with everybody to make sure they understand our corridor is the number one priority for all of them and they need to help to invest in this,” he said.

Dermody also highlighted the construction of 200 resort-type apartments made possible by the extensive clean-up of the former Allis Chalmers manufacturing site. He gave most of the credit to previous administrations dating back more than 20-years for the redevelopment occurring there.

“To be able to turn that into something positive is amazing,” he said.

Dermody also touched upon the high standard he set for the community when he first became mayor and how that has helped turn run-down housing in multiple neighborhoods into respectable places for people to live. For example, he said the former 50 unit Monroe St. Apartments building condemned a year ago is being remodeled and will open to renters well before spring.


In attendance, La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski and other dignitaries praised the mayor for progress happening practically at lightning speed since he took office in 2020.


“I’ve never seen a mayor in La Porte do as much as Tom as done in two years. He’s a machine,” Mrozinski said.

Winter Hours Soon at Compost Site

(La Porte County, IN) - How long the compost site provided by the La Porte County Solid Waste District is open to the public will be shortened for the season.


According to LCSWD officials, the last Saturday for the site near the fairgrounds to be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. is December 11.


The change is from the days growing shorter and a drop in the amount of material brought in.


The winter hours starting December 13 will be Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and closed on Saturday and Sunday. Call the LCSWD office at 219-326-0014 for more information.

Local Lawmaker Pushing COVID Bill

(Indianapolis, IN) - State Rep. Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie) has announced that he is co-authoring legislation to help end the statewide public health emergency and protect Hoosier workers.


House Bill 1001 would allow the state public health emergency to expire by allowing Indiana to continue receiving the same federal reimbursements for SNAP and Medicaid provided under the emergency declaration and maintain the state's ability to hold voluntary community vaccination clinics.


Holcomb recently announced that he will keep the state of emergency and the remaining, but limited, executive order in place until lawmakers take action in January. 

Pressel said the legislation filed at the Statehouse would also require businesses to accept medical and religious exemptions if they require the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment, signaling a victory for those against vaccine mandates. In addition to allowing the option for COVID-19 testing for employees, employers must also pay for the tests and not pass those costs on to their employees. 


"As we look to end the state of emergency, I'm committed to working with fellow legislators to push this proposal across the finish line," Pressel said. "I'll also continue listening to employers and employees impacted by vaccine mandates in order to strike a balance for all stakeholders."

Pressel encouraged local workers and business owners to continue reaching out to him with questions and comments at h20@iga.in.gov or by calling 317-232-9815.

The 2022 legislative session begins in January.

Slicer Cheerleaders Destined for Hawaii

(La Porte, IN) - Three La Porte High School seniors are among a select number of cheerleaders and dancers from across the country scheduled to perform for a parade in Hawaii next week.


Emma Fleshman was going bananas just thinking about being on the island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for her very first time. Fleshman and her mother, Stephanie, are scheduled to catch a flight for Honolulu Friday morning at Midway Airport in Chicago.


Also going are Addison Davis and Ryley Zawada, who are on the Slicers varsity dance team.


More than 600 high school cheerleaders and dancers were selected for the trip based on their performance during summer tryouts sponsored by Varsity Spirit. Varsity Spirit is a global leader in cheerleading, dance team, and band apparel hosting camps and competitions.


Fleshman has been a cheerleader since 7th grade. She tried out for a Varsity Spirit event on two previous occasions. Still, she was not selected until after performing at a cheerleading camp held by the organization in July at Saint Mary’s College in South Bend.


Fleshman described herself as liking but a little nervous about her chances this year and bursting with joy when chosen.


“I cried. I was so excited. I wanted this since my freshman year. I knew I had it in me,” she said.

Fleshman, Davis, and Zawada will perform with the Varsity Spirit All-Americans before the opening ceremony of the Varsity Spirit Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade from December 4-8. They will also be in the parade before thousands of spectators lining the streets of Waikiki Beach. This year’s parade marks the 80th anniversary of the December 7 attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor.


“Remembering the past and celebrating our future” is the theme of this year’s parade, according to Varsity Spirit.

Once they arrive, Fleshman said she and her mother have a list of things they want to do before coming home Thursday, like going to the beach, exploring nature, and trying out some restaurants and bakeries. They also plan to go to a luau hosted by Varsity Spirit for the cheerleaders and dancers.


Fleshman said she’s been looking forward to going so much that it’s been difficult not thinking about it too much at times.


“I’m excited about being able to do this because I’ve never experienced something like this before.  It’s really meaningful.  It’s nice to be part of it,” she said.

Fleshman said she plans to attend Purdue University at West Lafayette next year and major in cyber security and forensic science. After that, she’s not sure if she’ll try out for the cheerleading squad but might if the demands from her class schedule allow for it. 


Being an enormous Boilermakers fan, Fleshman said she could picture herself as a cheerleader during a football game and other sporting events.


“It might be a last-minute let’s do this and see what happens.  Who knows right now,” she said.

Money Filling Up Kettles

(La Porte, IN) - Giving from the community has the La Porte Salvation Army on pace to meet its financial goals during the Christmas season.


Captain Charles Pinkston said just over $15,000 was dropped into kettles during the first two weeks of the annual kettle drive. The goal is $80,000 from the kettles when the campaign ends before Christmas Day.


“We’re about or just above where we had been at this time in previous years,” Pinkston said.

The kettles in La Porte are outside Rural King, Walmart, Kroger, Al’s Supermarket, Ace Hardware on the city’s west side, and the U.S. Post Office. Pinkston said more bills than coins are being dropped into the kettles right now than in previous years.

Crackdown on Speeders

(St. Joseph, MI) - Drivers in Michigan should watch their speeds or run a greater risk of being ticketed.


According to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office, law enforcement is out on the roads in greater force throughout the state. The increased enforcement responds to a 10-percent increase in traffic fatalities last year.


Police said there were 1,083 deaths on Michigan roadways in 2020, even though the number of total crashes declined by 22-percent. Speed was a factor in about 20-percent of the fatalities, police said.


The Berrien County Sheriff’s Office, along with Michigan State Police and more than 100 law enforcement agencies, is taking part in the enforcement effort, which began Wednesday, until February 28.

State of the City Address Tonight

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is scheduled to give his State of the City address this evening. The event hosted by the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership will be at the Civic Auditorium.


Dermody said there were no more tickets available for the event. Still, the public can watch his speech on the city's Facebook page beginning at 5:15 p.m.  Dermody is expected to discuss his administration's success in areas like new development, code enforcement, and more businesses downtown.


The former member of the Indiana House of Representatives is wrapping up his second year as mayor. Dermody is also a former business owner and served two terms on the La Porte School Board before becoming a State Representative for five terms. 

COVID Fills Up Local Hospital Beds

(La Porte County, IN) - It appears COVID-19 cases in La Porte County are up dramatically.


Dr. Vidya Kora says six patients just from his Michigan City practice alone are currently hospitalized. But, unfortunately, he says there aren’t many available hospital beds locally or in the surrounding counties right now.


“The local hospitals are full. You may have to end up being in the emergency room for several hours because there aren’t enough beds in the hospitals,” Kora said.

Kora said most of the hospitalized patients had not been vaccinated. He also emphasized that vaccines are safe and effective. However, he urged people afraid or skeptical of the vaccines to get adequately educated before deciding whether to get protection.


“Listen to people who know what they’re talking about and not to some television hosts who are ignorant,” Kora said.

Kora also said it’s important for people to get booster shots if they were fully protected more than six months ago.

Auditor Condemned by Commissioners

(La Porte, IN) - The LaPorte County Commissioners on Wednesday condemned the LaPorte County Auditor for late payment. They urged him to "cease and desist" from utilizing his elected office to settle personal and political scores.


The 2-to-1 vote for a resolution directed at Tim Stabosz again shed light on what's been a tumultuous political divide filled with allegations of corruption since the first of the year. Commissioner Joe Haney, an ally of Stabosz in demanding change, said the resolution was "political garbage" before casting the only vote in opposition.


According to the resolution, Stabosz was late in making an over $600,000 bond payment due on July 15th. The payment was for $19.4 million in financing secured for the nearly finished renovation and expansion of the courthouse in Michigan City.


The resolution alleges Stabosz was not on time with the payment because he seems more intent on using his office to wage a personal and political vendetta. As a result, LaPorte County is in jeopardy of losing its A+ bond rating from Standard & Poor, one of the largest credit rating agencies connected to Wall Street.


The resolution also condemned Stabosz for "attack-dog style" postings on his Facebook page the night before Thanksgiving.


Stabosz was also accused of using Facebook to encourage his readers and followers to "mock" Commissioners Rich Mrozinski, Sheila Matias and LaPorte County government attorney Shaw Friedman and to continue stating "how immoral, indecent, corrupt and pathetic they are." In response, Stabosz defended his postings and said the resolution was an effort to embarrass him.


Stabosz said he was speaking to one individual and that is the anonymous person who is publishing a flyer portraying Mrozinski, Matias and Friedman as puppets and a puppeteer.


Stabosz said he told that person in his post to mock them all he wants in future publications but to do it within the confines of election law. 

"They twist the context in their resolution to make it sound like I'm going on Facebook telling people and the public to mock Rich, Shaw and Sheila like I'm egging people on. That is not the case," he said.


Stabosz, who took office in January, said the late payment was from the bank sending a notice to pay at the deadline to the former Auditor instead of him. After learning about the mistake, Stabosz said he made the payment after returning from an auditor's conference the next day.


In February, a Defamation of Character lawsuit was filed against Stabosz by Friedman for alleging Friedman controls the county government by controlling and manipulating elected officials, including Matias and Mrozinski.


A hearing was recently held by a judge on a motion by Stabosz to dismiss the case. The request has not been decided.


Several weeks ago, the commissioners also sued the Auditor for ignoring their orders to pay Friedman's law firm the total amount owed for work performed for the county.


Stabosz said he questions whether some of the billings were for actual legal work. He has requested more information about the billing, which Friedman has not given him. Friedman and the Commissioners maintain that only the Commission can request more information from Friedman, not the Auditor. However, unless the information is provided, Stabosz said he wouldn't pay Friedman & Associates for any future billings on work for the commissioners. The amount being withheld from the county attorney has topped $25,000.


For the second time in recent weeks, attorney Dave Ambers of LaPorte called for an end to what he described as a "sideshow that you can't even see at the circus." Ambers said the constant fighting might cause investors showing interest here to go elsewhere.


“The back and forth bickering has got to stop. It's embarrassing,” Michigan City area resident April Daly added. 


After the Commission passed the resolution, the backbiting didn't stop with Haney casting doubt on a claim made by Matias and Matias correcting Haney after he mispronounced her name. Mrozinski also criticized Haney for being the only member of the Planning Commission last week to vote against a proposed $15 million development at U.S 20 and U.S 35. Mrozinski cautioned Haney and Stabosz to choose their words more carefully in any future social media postings.

“As a man, I do have certain limits of what I will accept and what I will put up with without taking some sort of action.  Trust me, boys, you don’t want to go there,” Mrozinski said.

Haney said he didn't vote against the project.


He and two other members of the seven member Planning Commission voted against a Tax Increment Financing District being created for the project.


Money generated by the increase in value of a property from being developed inside a TIF District is captured and used to pay for things like water and sewer line extensions to where the construction took place.


TIF money is used strictly within the boundaries of the district.


None of the dollars go into a municipality's general operating budget.


"At a time when we need tax monies for funding and salaries for public safety,  like EMS and the Sheriff's Dept,  we cannot afford to shortchange the taxpayers or our public coffers right now," Haney said.








Bison Hopeful of Repeating as Champs

(New Buffalo, MI) - There's good reason to be optimistic about the New Buffalo boys' basketball team repeating as District 4 champions this season.


All five starters on last year's squad are back. Head Coach Nate Tripp said bench players, though, hold the key to the potential of this year's team to fill in when starters become sick or injured. 


Tripp said he'll need solid play off the bench when his starters need a break, perhaps, from a run and gun offense and pressure defense he plans to use in each game from start to finish to take advantage of their speed and quickness.


Last season, the Bison often played fast on offense and pressured the ball on defense in spots, but three key players off the bench last year were lost to graduation.


Tripp expects the team to struggle early from learning the changes imposed on both sides of the court. However, the plan is for the team to be peaking before the District 4 tournament.


“I feel like we’re making a huge change in what we do.  I feel we’ll probably give up some games that normally we probably wouldn’t early on but the goal is by the end of the season to be clicking on all cylinders,” Tripp said.

All seniors' starters are Kayden Parmley, Anthony Lijewski, Ryan Vincent, Mark Shaw, and Jeremiah Mitchell. Coming off the bench are players with potential but not a lot of varsity game experience.


Tripp believes that the bench players must also handle the faster style of play, which they're making strides at doing right now.


“Lots of question marks. My expectations for this team really all depend on our bench play,” he said.

Players coming off the bench include 6' 10" senior Zach Forker, a high percentage shooter and shot blocker.


“He’s got to be a match-up nightmare for any team,” Tripp said.

The Bison seemed to have some rough edges during a fast-paced Monday night scrimmage at home against a talented LaLumiere team. New Buffalo outscored the Lakers by five points in the first half.


LaLumiere racked up 17 more points than the Bison in the second half. Two dunks by Owen Kmety were examples of the dominance by the Lakers during the final two quarters when poor shot selection and turnovers didn't help matters for the Bison.


New Buffalo narrowed the lead in the second half on quick buckets down low from Forker and later a three-point shot from Parmley. The Lakers, though, answered each time with a flurry of points to restore or extend their lead.


The Bison easily won three previous scrimmage games against Gobles, Bloomingdale, and Delton Kellogg. However, the Bison lost to Howardsville in the first round of the regionals in a game Tripp felt his team should have won.


“This group is capable of more. Whether we can produce that or not remains to be seen,” he said.

Bank Robbery Possibly Drug Related

(Michigan City, IN) - It appears drugs could have been a motive for the bank robbery in Michigan City, judging by the suspect’s checkered past.


According to court records, the suspect, 52-year old Paul Farkas, has a history of drug-related arrests and convictions, including trafficking with an inmate at Westville Correctional Center.

In 2018, the Hobart man was a correctional officer in Westville and accused of trafficking heroin and cocaine into the prison. That charge was later dismissed, according to court records. However, Farkas was later arrested for crimes like maintaining a common nuisance, possession of heroin, and possession of a syringe.


Farkas on Monday robbed Horizon Bank at 5th and Franklin streets. He was captured outside nearby Flanigan Tire with help from a bank customer who followed the suspect on foot while on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. 


Currently, Farkas is being held in the La Porte County Jail on a Level 5 Felony charge of robbery.

La Porte Cheerleader to Perform in Hawaii

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte High School student is going bananas.


Emma Fleshman is going to perform in Hawaii starting this weekend. Fleshman is one of more than 600 high school cheerleaders and dancers from across the country selected to be in a parade.


The parade recognized the attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.


Fleshman will perform with the Varsity Spirit All-Americans before the opening ceremony for the parade. She will then be part of the parade before thousands of people line the streets of Waikiki Beach.

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