Local News Archives for 2022-05

Carpentry Student Nails Academic Award

(La Porte, IN) - It's quite the honor for one area student. Delaney Messer, a senior at LaPorte High School, is one of just six students in the state to receive the 2022 Career and Technical Education Award of Excellence.

 

Messer is a construction technology student at the A.K. Smith Career Center in Michigan City.

 

The award is presented annually by the Governor's Workforce Cabinet, honoring the state's top Career Technical Education students and programs. 

 

At LaPorte High School, Messer is involved with the National Honor Society and Girl Reserves, a community service group. She is also an intern with New Prairie Building Trades and will begin a carpentry apprenticeship after her graduation.

 

Messer also plans to attend Ivy Tech Community College in the fall to pursue certification in carpentry.

Lakefront Shooting a Tourism Concern

(Michigan City, IN - An individual critically wounded in a shooting at the lakefront in Michigan City over the Memorial Day weekend has local tourism officials a bit alarmed.

 

Jack Arnett, Executive Director of the LaPorte County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he plans to speak with the police and mayor’s office about any plans to address the shooting at the lakefront and the continued use of gunfire in the community.

 

Arnett said negative perceptions of any city are a significant issue in the tourism industry. Law enforcement responding to the latest act of gun violence will help ensure residents and visitors continue feeling safe in Michigan City.

 

“It’s concerning. We don’t want that kind of image certainly for our county,” Arnett said.

 

According to police, officers at about 4 p.m. on Sunday responded to reports of shots fired on the beach at Washington Park near Stop 2. The shooting victim was located and transported to Franciscan Health hospital in Michigan City with life-threatening injuries. The name and age of the victim were not released. 

 

Police said officers canvassed the area but reported no arrests.

 

Officials were already concerned about increased shootings and gunfire throughout the community the few years before the lakefront shooting. For example, the police department recently implemented Violent Crime Reduction Patrols to combat the use of guns.

 

Recent successes included the arrest of a juvenile for possessing a handgun after three teenagers wearing ski masks were spotted displaying firearms on the city’s west side.

 

For example, Arnett said more police visibility at entrances to Washington Park might be an excellent way to reassure visitors they’re safe and discourage future gun use.

 

Whatever is done needs to happen quickly to prevent another gun-related incident, especially at the lakefront, to avoid a negative image from developing. So far, Arnett said the uptick in gun violence over the past few years or occasional lakefront shooting doesn’t seem to have impacted local tourism, judging by the continued rise in demand for bed and breakfasts and short-term rental homes.

 

Arnett said the designation of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as a National Park in 2019 is a primary factor in the increased number of visitors.

 

“We’ll get with law enforcement and the administration to see what the plans will be to make sure people feel safe when they come here. We have a great community, and those things can’t affect all of the good things that are happening,” he said.

Last of a Dying Breed Honored on Memorial Day

(Portage, IN) - A northwest Indiana man still with a vice grip-like handshake and sharp mind was preparing for possible combat duty when World War II ended.

 

Walter Spuck, 94, was recognized during Portage's annual Memorial Day ceremony.

 

He and his also spry wife Dolly, 92, were among the well over 100 people at Founders Square for the ceremony where Congressman Frank Mrvan of Highland was the keynote speaker.

 

The audience responded when Mrvan encouraged applause for the longtime married couple at the ceremony every year.

 

"I've been around a little bit," said Spuck, who credited staying active by doing things like bowling for his long and still healthy life.

 

Spuck, who grew up in Chicago, was 17 and in boot camp with the Marines when the war with Germany ended in 1945. He served his country for four years and later relocated to Portage, where he drove a truck delivering groceries.

 

He held that job for 34-years before retiring in 1989.

 

Spuck said his late brother, Richard, survived the infamous Battle of the Budge, widely viewed as the beginning of the end of the war because of heavy casualties especially for the Germans during the over six week offensive.

 

"He killed five Germans. He wiped out a machine gun nest," he said.

 

Spuck also revealed his brother-in-law, Richard Eckenstahler, came back from the war safely after being taken as a prisoner by Germany.

 

"They're both gone now, so here I am," he said.

 

Mrvan said freedoms Americans enjoy are valued across the globe but sometimes taken for granted here. He said Americans should never forget the men and women driven by a strong faith and belief in the country to fight and lose their lives for it.

 

"They're not there for their children. They're not there for their wives and husbands. That sacrifice equates to our freedom and the greatness of this nation," Mrvan said.

Mass Shooting in Benton Harbor

(Benton Harbor, MI) - There’s been another mass shooting. This one happened in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

 

Police said one person was killed, and six other people were wounded at about 2 a.m. Monday in the area of Ajay’s Lounge. The victim was identified as 19-year-old Marlon Bowman.

 

So far, the suspect or suspects have not been taken into custody. Police are offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

 

No light was shed on the condition of the other shooting victims, who were all taken to a hospital.

Critically Wounded in Lakefront Shooting

(Michigan City, IN) - One person was critically wounded in a shooting at Michigan City’s lakefront yesterday afternoon.

 

According to police, at about 4 p.m., officers responded to Washington Park beach on reports of shots fired.

 

The shooting victim was transported to Franciscan Health hospital just outside Michigan City. Detectives were brought in to assist with the investigation. So far, no further light has been shed on the shooting.

 

No arrests have been reported. However, anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police.

Teen Dies in ATV Accident

(La Porte County, IN) - A teenage boy was killed in an accident on an off-road vehicle in La Porte County.


According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the accident happened Sunday night at about nine o’clock near Rolling Prairie.

 

Conservation officers said a 13-year-old boy was driving when he lost control of the side-by-side off-road vehicle while trying to turn at a high rate of speed. The off-road vehicle overturned.

 

Three teenagers were treated at the scene for minor injuries. A 15-year-old boy was airlifted to a trauma center in Chicago with serious injuries. The 14-year-old victim was pronounced dead at Northwest Health in La Porte.

 

The names of the juveniles were not released.

 

The accident occurred in the area of 900 North and 500 East and remained under investigation, DNR officials said.

Plenty of Solemn Observances This Memorial Day

(La Porte County, IN) - On Monday, La Porte County residents will have plenty of Memorial Day activities to choose from.

 

The City of La Porte’s Memorial Day ceremony will start at 10:30 a.m. at the Dennis F. Smith Amphitheater in Fox Park. The ceremony will feature a performance by the La Porte City Band.

 

Memorial ceremonies will happen at various Michigan City locations, led by the American Legion Post 37. The primary event will be a parade from Ames Field, up Franklin Street, to Greenwood Cemetery, followed by patriotic music and speeches.

 

In Rolling Prairie the VFW Post 9423 will host a Memorial Day ceremony at the elementary school at 10 a.m., followed by a parade to the cemetery.

 

A similar parade will take place in New Carlisle starting at 9:00 a.m. Central, ending at cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony.

Michigan City Police Nab Five in Crime Sweep

(Michigan City, IN) - Police in Michigan City cast their nets recently, looking to get dangerous individuals off the streets. Chief Dion Campbell has implemented Violent Crime Reduction patrols.

 

Thursday night netted five arrests, four of them following traffic stops. Police uncovered a firearm, methamphetamine, and two individuals with outstanding warrants.

 

But the big catch of the night came following a report of three juveniles wearing ski masks and brandishing weapons on the city’s north side. Police located the subjects and allegedly found a 16-year-old to be in possession of a 9mm handgun. He was taken to the Juvenile Services Center.

 

Chief Campbell says he intends to keep pushing the violent crime police sweeps. The public is encouraged to report possible threats to the Michigan City Police Departments via their Facebook Messenger or through their crime tip hotline number of 219-873-1488 or the WeTip Hotline for General Crime at 800-78-CRIME. Rewards are offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction. All WeTip call information is sent directly and anonymously to the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office.

Abundance of Caution Leads to Several Area School Lockdowns

With school safety on the top of everyone’s minds following the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas earlier this week, officials at area schools are on high alert, resulting in several lockdowns recently.

 

Jimtown High School acted swiftly on Thursday when a gun was found in a student’s backpack. The gun turned out to be an airsoft pistol. A 15-year-old student was taken into custody for bringing it into school and allegedly making threatening comments. He is now facing a felony charge of Intimidation.

 

In Cassopolis, Michigan a hunter had his firearms confiscated when he a little too close to a local high school. A man who claimed to be hunting in a nearby field was sitting in his truck with two rifles, a handgun, and a pellet gun. He told authorities that he didn’t know the road he was parked on was school property. Nonetheless, according to reports, police confiscated his firearms along with his legal concealed carry license.

 

And in Mishawaka, John Young Middle School was put on lockdown for a few minutes Friday afternoon. The cause was a couple of suspicious looking people in the area. Police detained and searched the individuals, but found no threat.

Boaters Rescued on Northern Indiana Lake

(North Webster, IN) - DNR officers rescued three fishermen from a lake in Kosciusko County. It happened on Sunday at Spear Lake in North Webster, northwest of Warsaw.

 

At about 2:15 p.m. La Porte time, officers responded to a call of boaters in distress. According to the police report, a small fishing boat with three men in it took on water and sank as one of them leaned over to retrieve a dropped fishing rod. The three were brought to shore uninjured.

 

Authorities say the men were not wearing personal floatation devices, as required by law.

New Playground Springs Up at Bluhm County Park

(Westville, IN) - New playground equipment is ready for summertime fun in LaPorte County. Bluhm County Park now has a brand new playscape.

 

The over 5,500 square foot playground has features for kids of all ages and abilities. It's being billed as the first fully inclusive playground in the county, meaning it is designed with mixed features that kids of all ages and abilities can enjoy at the same time in one area.

 

Park officials say some of the finishing touches, such as sidewalks and landscaping, are not in place yet, but the playground itself is ready for action. A special open house event is scheduled for July 17. The grand opening and ribbon cutting will take place August 13.

 

Bluhm County Park is located on 1100 West, just northwest of Westville.

Slicers Gearing Up for Baseball Sectional Opener

(La Porte, IN) - There’s nothing like post-season high school baseball in La Porte. The 22-3 Slicers take on Mishawaka tomorrow in the Plymouth sectionals.

 

Head Coach Scott Upp said one of the keys would be not making errors on defense and pitchers throwing strikes. He said the team had done well in those areas this season, but a setback could allow the opposition to score easy runs.

 

“We’re having a pretty good year defensively. Knock on wood. Don’t want that to change,” Upp said.

 

Upp said it’s also crucial for his pitchers not to walk too many batters, especially when they’re leading an off an inning.

 

“You wouldn’t believe at the high school level the number of runs scored if you have a lead-off walk,” Upp said.

 

The game tomorrow is at 12:30 p.m. La Porte time.

 

Chip Jones, the commentator for Slicer Baseball on 96.7 the Eagle, said La Porte, Mishawaka, and South Bend Adams are the three best teams in the sectionals. A win over Mishawaka will mean La Porte facing the winner of the South Bend Adams and Michigan City game this evening for the championship on Monday. 

Bicycling Safety Clinic for Kids

(La Porte, IN) - The Healthcare Foundation of La Porte invites families to kick off the summer season by getting active outdoors at the Smart Cycling Youth Clinic. 

 

The event for children ages 6-12 is scheduled for June 11 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the clinic in the parking lot of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.

 

Young riders, at no cost, will be instructed on smart cycling skills to practice this summer and beyond.

 

Participating youth and attending family members can secure their tickets through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/smart-cycling-youth-clinic-tickets-340137088187.

 

Youth completing the skills clinic will receive a certificate of achievement. They will also receive a free helmet and giveaways such as Gatorade and healthy snacks.

 

The clinic reflects the mission of the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte to improve the community's health by offering more opportunities to engage in a healthier lifestyle.

 

To learn more about HFL, its strategic priorities, grants, and community impact, visit the HFL website at hflaporte.org. 

Slicers Track Team Wins First Ever Regional Title

(La Porte, IN) - The first regional track title in La Porte High School history was brought home last night.

 

The Slicers defeated Merrillville by a mere 1.5 points. Lake Central placed a close third in the regionals held in Valparaiso. 

 

The team was ushered downtown by a fire truck and several police vehicles. Next, they were escorted to their home track at Kiwanis Field to further the celebration.

 

Head Coach Dan Jeffers said the experience for him was like no other.

 

“As they’re coming through town, and all of these fans are sitting on the side of the road and cheering you on and hooting and hollering. Then we arrive at the track complex, we got fireworks shooting off, and there’s rows of cars walking us in. We got cheerleaders out there. It was just a very special moment for our program. It’s just an awesome thing to be able to say we did it,” he Jeffers.

 

Jeffers said the members of his track team followed a strategy designed to give them over the hump against Merrillville and Lake Central, to who they suffered narrow losses during the regular season and conference tournament.

 

“This is the greatest moment in my coaching career, bar none,” Jeffers said.

 

The track team from La Porte High School also had not won a sectional tournament since 1975. The Slicers advance to the state tournament scheduled for June 4 in Bloomington.

Beach More of a Destination Now

(La Porte, IN) - Additional upgrades have been made at Stone Lake Beach in LaPorte, with more planned this year. Local restauranteur, Kostka Krave, is now preparing the food offered at the beach house.

 

A variety of pasta, Caesar salad, cheese toasties, and root beer floats is among the new things added to the menu, along with the traditional hot dogs.

 

“We’re excited this is no longer a park department program offering food. Amazing menu. Just one of the new special things that are happening to get you out all summer long at Stone Lake Beach,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

La Porte Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said other new amenities include an outdoor concrete ping pong table and new showers to be installed soon for people getting out of the water to rinse off.

 

In addition, the kitchen in the beach house has been renovated, and the outside of the beach house will be repainted next week.

 

There will also be kayak rentals at the beach. The upgrades come after improvements were already made to the playground at the beach, which will soon have 5,000 pounds of new beach sand coming.

 

The beach with lifeguards will be open starting tomorrow until the end of summer vacation from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. He said the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte is investing in many upgrades.

 

Schreiber said there’d been a 67 percent increase in attendance at the beach from 2019 to 2021 since the improvements began.

 

“We know people want to be here, and we want to give you the best amenities possible,” Schreiber said.

College Basketball for Four Players from One Team

(New Buffalo, MI) - Four players from this year’s high school basketball team in New Buffalo will play in college.

 

Mark Shaw, Zack Forker, and Anthony Anderson have committed to the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point. Jeremiah Mitchell is heading to Southwest Michigan College.

 

Athletic Director Matt Johnson said it shows what hard work can do even at a small school.

 

“If you’re willing to put in the time and the effort and put yourself out there, good things can happen. That’s what these four young men did,” Johnson said.

 

Johnson said four kids from one team going on to play in college in New Buffalo is historic.

 

“I don’t think we’ve ever had four in one signing,” he said.

 

The Bison advanced to the Class D regional finals and finished the season at 22-2.

 

 

Date with Judge for No Passing Zone Violation

(LAPORTE COUNTY, IN) - A driver passing a vehicle from behind at a high rate of speed has a court date.

 

According to La Porte County Police, 25-year-old Gage Lantz was clocked at 77 miles per hour on State Road 39 near U.S. 20 when he abruptly passed a vehicle from behind in a no-passing zone. A patrol officer performed a U-Turn and then a traffic stop.

 

Police said the driver told the officer he was in a hurry to get to work and wanted time to buy a cup of coffee at a nearby convenience store.

 

The officer gave him a good lecture on the dangers of his aggressive driving and cited Lantz for reckless driving. He’s scheduled to appear in court on the Class C misdemeanor offense on June 3.

 

La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd said aggressive and impaired driving is what extra patrol officers are targeting to keep the roads safe for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend when travel is traditionally heavy.

Prison Time for Big Time Dealer

(South Bend, IN) - A man on his way back from California with a large shipment of drugs is getting time in the slammer.

 

Kelvin Franklin, 39, of South Bend, was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison.

 

According to federal court authorities in South Bend, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. He flew to California with cash to obtain methamphetamine in May of 2019.

 

Franklin was heading back with a shipment of 15 kilograms of methamphetamine when his car was stopped by law enforcement. According to experts, the shipment had an estimated street value of about $100,000. 

 

This case was investigated by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of the Mishawaka Police Department, St. Joseph County Drug Investigations Unit, Indiana State Police, and Missouri State Police. 

 

Assistant United States Attorney Joel Gabrielse prosecuted the case.

Catalytic Converters Taken at Grain Elevator

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Catalytic converters were cut from three different trucks parked at a local grain elevator.

 

According to La Porte County Police, officers were called to Co-Alliance in Rolling Prairie on Monday. However, the thefts occurred sometime after the facility closed Saturday afternoon and reopened on Monday morning.

 

No other vehicles parked in the same fenced-in area were disturbed.

 

Limits go into effect statewide on how many catalytic converters recycling businesses can purchase in a single day. The measure approved by the legislature aims to reduce thefts of catalytic converters, which command hundreds of dollars in scrap value because of the precious metals contained in the exhaust cleaning devices.

Illegal Shopping Spree

(MICHIGAN CITY, IN ) - According to La Porte County Police, officers were called to Woods Edge Drive early Monday because somebody went on an illegal shopping spree. 

 

The doors on several unlocked vehicles were opened sometime during the night. A $20 bill and 15 dollars in loose change, along with four scratch-off lottery tickets, were removed from one of the vehicles. A $200 pair of Air Jordan high-top tennis shoes were missing from another vehicle.

 

Other stolen items included $40 in cash, numerous store credit cards, and a bottle of men’s cologne valued at $60, police said.

 

The vehicles were parked outside the apartment buildings in the area of U.S. 20 and Woodland Avenue, just outside the corporate boundaries of Michigan City.

New Mattress Maker Goes Night Night

(La Porte County, IN) A manufacturing plant that recently opened in La Porte County is already closing its doors.

 

Corsicana Mattress Co. invested over $8 million into an abandoned factory it began operating out of in March. However, employees were informed Corsicana was closing two plants, including the new one along 500 West in Pinola.

 

"This is upsetting news, that's for sure," LaPorte County Commissioner Shelia Brillson Matias posted on social media.

 

"Sad news that employees were told yesterday that Corsicana LaPorte would be closing, and from what we are hearing, this is one of two plants being closed in the U.S. due to loss of demand, high material costs, and difficulty finding employees," she said.

 

Matias also noted the large facility abandoned for more than 20-years is now modernized and ready for another manufacturer to "set up shop."

 

According to company officials, the plant started with more than 30 employees, but the goal was to hire about 300 workers eventually.

 

Corsicana Mattress was founded in 1971. It's now one of the largest U.S. manufacturers in the mattress industry. It makes memory foam and other forms of mattresses under several brand names.

Another Bath for Lakefront Property Owners

(Chicago, IL) - Lakefront property owners in La Porte County and elsewhere along the southern tip of Lake Michigan have been dealt another legal blow.

 

A federal appeals court in Chicago has upheld an Indiana Supreme Court decision that the state owns the shoreline of Lake Michigan for the enjoyment of the public. The federal court decision was in response to a legal challenge from property owners in the town of Porter who claim their lakefront properties extend to the water’s edge.

 

The shoreline is considered a strip of land between the water’s edge and the ordinary high watermark. The decision by the high court in Indiana was later entered into state law books.

 

Lakefront property owners in Long Beach complaining about beer bottles and other forms of litter from members of the public walking along the shoreline also failed in a similar legal fight in the past. Instead, the lakefront property owners feel the state has taken a strip of their land they always believed to belong to them.

 

Supporters of the decision said there’d been a state-owned public right of way from the water’s edge to the ordinary high water mark since Indiana became a state in 1816.

Support Locally for Transgender Veto Override

(Indianapolis, IN) - A local state lawmaker helped override a veto by the governor of legislation supporters describe as protecting the integrity of girls' sports.

 

House Enrolled Act 1041 will go into effect after republicans in the House and Senate on Tuesday overturned the veto of the measure by Governor Eric Holcomb. The measure bans transgender girls in grades K-12 from participating in school sports.

 

"There have been many instances across the country of biological males competing in women's sports and winning competitions. I supported this veto override because Hoosier girls should be able to compete on a level playing field without worrying about their opportunities unfairly being taken away," said State Representative Jim Pressel, a Republican from Rolling Prairie, Indiana. 

Supporters of the bill say transgender females have an unfair advantage over traditional girls because their bodies are male. Indiana will join 16 other states that have similar laws.

Former Drug House Latest to be Demolished

(La Porte, IN) - What’s described by police as a former drug house on Kingsporte Lane in La Porte is being demolished.

 

Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said the city condemned the house, which had several structural issues and problems with people breaking inside and using drugs after being abandoned.

 

“We had people squatting in it. We had to run them out of there. The basement was caving in. The roof had holes in it. The windows was falling out of it. This is a great win for the city getting this house down,” Batchelor said.

The house is the latest in a long string of demolitions since Mayor Tom Dermody took office in 2020.

 

Several run-down houses and former commercial buildings have come down in his mission to remove eyesores and drugs from neighborhoods through stiffer code enforcement. But, Dermody says his foot remains on the wrecking ball’s gas pedal.

 

“We’ve got more to hit on Kingsporte Lane. We’ve said one house at a time. Those who don’t want to follow our rules, we’re coming at you,” Dermody said.

Officials said that new affordable housing is planned on the site once the demolition is cleaned up.

Justice for Drug Ring Members

(Grand Rapids, MI) - Justice is being handed down in connection with a human drug pipeline extending from Mexico through La Porte County to New Buffalo.

 

Adrian Romero Antunez, 35, of Chicago, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court at Grand Rapids to conspiracy to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.


The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan announced the decision on Tuesday. According to federal authorities, Antunez was the last of eight defendants pleading guilty to their involvement in a transnational and interstate cocaine ring broken up last year.

 

Shipments of cocaine from Mexico were delivered to Chicago and then supplied to Ivan Huerta Hernandez of New Buffalo. Authorities said Huerta Hernandez, 33, of 17813 Behner Road, distributed the cocaine to Western Michigan and Northern Indiana dealers.

 

After entering a plea agreement recently, Huerta Hernandez is scheduled for sentencing on July 21. He’s looking at possible prison time and the potential of having his 2004 Porsche Cayenne, 1969 Ford Mustang, along with other cars seized because it appears they were purchased with drug proceeds.

 

According to the FBI complaint, Huerta Hernandez drove to places like Benton Harbor to sell cocaine to customers and collect on debts they owed on previous buys.

 

The ring started unraveling from talks in Spanish and English between Hernandez and his alleged customers on cell phones and text messages being monitored under a court order for two months, the FBI complaint revealed.

 

  • Juan Martinez Camarillo, 37, of Michigan City, has already been sentenced to 57 months.
  • Santiago Cardenas, 41, also of Michigan City, is serving one year on probation.
  • Henry Nichols, 41, of Greenville, South Carolina, was given a 36-month prison sentence.
  • Antunez, along with Donald Rogers, 62, of New Buffalo; Manuel Eudave, 54, of LaPorte and Marcus Johnson, 41, of Benton Harbor, are awaiting sentencing.

According to authorities, investigators confiscated over 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, roughly $100,000 in cash, and six vehicles linked to cocaine trafficking when arrests started being made in November.

Alleged Serial Robber Awaits Judgement

(Michigan City, IN) - A guilty plea has been made by a man suspected in a year-long string of robberies in the Michigan City area.

 

Kenneth Ashley, 64, has admitted to holding up Charley’s Eastside Liquor on E. Michigan Boulevard in January of 2020.

 

Police said a female store clerk gave him money after he held up a hammer in a threatening manner. However, Ashley was soon nailed and linked to nearly a dozen other robberies over the previous 14 months. In each robbery, Ashley bared a close resemblance to the suspect, described as skinny, with a large nose and deep voice.

 

During that period, other places held up include Lucky Stop, the Cigarette Outlet, and Trail Creek Liquors. Ashley is facing anywhere from two to 12 years when sentenced. His sentencing is under review by the courts.

 

Dozens of Pets Perish in New Carlisle Fire

(New Carlisle, IN) - A Tuesday afternoon apartment fire claimed many lives, all of them pets.

 

Just after 1 p.m. local time, firefighters responded to a call at 705 W. Michigan St. in New Carlisle.

 

“When we got here, we had fire blowing out of the two back windows,” Fire Chief Josh Schweizer said. “So we were able to get a little water on it, make entry, and extinguish the fire pretty quickly.”

 

The apartment residents were not home at the time. Shweizer said a nearby business owner, seeing the flames, made sure no people were in the building and called authorities. However, one of the units contained what Schweizer referred to as “an over-abundance of cats.” Roughly 27 felines were in the apartment. Firefighters were able to save a few, but a majority of them died in the fire.

 

As of Tuesday afternoon, the fire marshal was still determining the cause of the fire.

Schweizer said the building’s owner secured hotel rooms for the two occupants. The Red Cross also assisted.

 

The incident was nearly a repeat of a situation two months ago. In March, a second-story apartment just two building to the east caught fire. No people were home, but a dog died in that blaze.

Mayor Denies Claim in Recall Petition

(New Buffalo, MI) - New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey denies he instructed a police officer to remove a citizen from a city council meeting and claims to have proof.

           

That's the other reason behind his appeal of a May 3 decision by the Berrien County Election Commission to approve the language in a second petition seeking his recall.

 

The second recall petition states that at a city council meeting on March 21, Humphrey "instructed a New Buffalo Police officer to remove an individual while she was speaking during her allotted time at the session of the meeting reserved for public comment."

 

Humphrey said he has a copy of a police report that shows he did not order the person from the meeting. According to the report, realtor Carie O'Donnell, who opposed the city's ban on additional short-term rentals, was gaveled and advised by Humphrey that she was out of order and would be asked to leave if she didn't stop.

 

O'Donnell continued to speak and raised her voice, talking over Humphrey while he repeatedly warned her to try and regain order, police said. Humphrey then stated "Rich" to New Buffalo Police Chief Rich Killips.  

 

In her report, Officer Courtney Severn said Humphrey mentioned her police chief's first name, combined with O'Donnell's disruptive behavior, which caused her to walk to the podium where the woman spoke and was escorted out of the meeting.

 

“She was screaming and yelling at the top of her lungs. Never at any point did we say throw her out,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey also said he suspects her behavior was staged to fuel a recall attempt his opponents were planning to file.

 

In the report, Killips said O'Donnell, before she began speaking, was pacing in and out of the meeting room. Killips also said O'Donnell told him she felt like she would pass out and, "I can't believe I'm about to do this."

 

"All of this led me to believe that a crime or some sort of political act was about to take place," Killips wrote.

Had he ordered her removed from the meeting, Humphrey said his actions would have complied with the city's longstanding rules on behavior at council meetings.

 

"I took an oath to uphold those rules. You can say anything you want, but there's a limit on civility on how you do it," Humphrey said.

Several other realtors, and people wanting to convert their homes into short-term rentals, have strongly opposed Humphrey's ban at public meetings.

 

He said many of those people live outside the area but have interest locally in short-term rentals. Humphrey said a select number of people might be hurt financially from the cap, but there's been no harm to the "greater public."

 

"In my opinion, this is a cohesive effort to try and limit or remove power from the people that live here and give it to the other people that don't," Humphrey said.

No hearing date has been set for the appeal to be heard by Berrien County Circuit Court Judge Donna Howard. If the request fails, supporters of a recall must submit 219 valid signatures to have a recall election in November, where Humphrey and Flanagan would face opposition.

 

"We'll proceed through the process and see what they say. Either way, we will use our rights forwarded to use by law to challenge any signature submitted, and we'll see if this makes it to the ballot or not," Humphrey said.

Arrest at Winery on Wheels

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County Police say a man drank way too much wine before nearly colliding with another vehicle.

 

An officer was traveling behind the weaving suspect Saturday afternoon when he nearly hit a vehicle passing him from behind on Pine Lake Avenue near Indiana 39.

 

Upon stopping the driver, the officer could still smell alcohol on the driver's breath despite being very windy outside. Roy Fleming, 58, of South Bend, was taken into custody for Operating While Intoxicated.

 

Police said there were three bottles of wine in his vehicle, including one that was empty and one that was half full. There was also wine in a cup beside the driver's seat and a corkscrew within arm's reach of the driver.

 

Fleming's alleged blood alcohol level was .24-percent or three times the .08-percent legal limit.

Roundabout Construction Soon at Westville

(La Porte County, IN) - A roundabout is going where two major highways in La Porte County intersect.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Transportation, Rieth-Riley Construction Company will begin work on the project at U.S. 6 and Indiana 2 on or after May 31. Construction will be conducted in three phases, with the intersection partially closed during the first two phases. The project will be ongoing through late October, INDOT officials said.

 

Phase one, for example, will run through early August, with the north and west portions of the intersection closed. The intersection will be open in all directions during phase three while construction in the center of the roundabout is completed, INDOT officials said. 

 

INDOT encourages drivers to allow extra time when driving through this area and follow traffic directions carefully. In addition, officials said that motorists should slow down, exercise caution, and drive distraction-free through all work zones.

Work Resumes on 7-Eleven

(La Porte, IN) - After a few months of no progress, work has resumed on the new 7-Eleven store going up in La Porte.

 

Brian Vowell of Vequity Construction out of Chicago said work stopped in late January. Vowell said supply chain issues were part of the problem, but the most significant factor behind the work stoppage was last-minute changes to the interior design.

 

He said 7-Eleven acquired Speedway and during the transition, a slight change was felt needed with the interior designs to comply with upgraded standards brought on by the acquisition.

 

“They just pulled the drawings back from us and said let us tweak these a bit,” Vowell said.

 

Vowell said the changes also required going through an approvals process again on the drawings, which added to the delay. He said the goal is to be finished with construction sometime in August.

 

The 7-Eleven is going up at Pine Lake Avenue and Truesdell Avenue, one of the busiest intersections in the city. The store will add to the area's changing landscape brought on by development across the street at New Porte Landing, a former industrial site that’s since been cleaned up.

 

Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Dunes Event Center went up several years ago at New Porte Landing, where 200 resort-type apartments have begun housing tenants. A new Aldi is also going up at New Porte Landing. The 7-Eleven is going where Spoor’s Auto Sales existed for more than 30-years.

 

A house on the less than one-acre parcel was torn down to make way for the construction of the 7-Eleven.

No Green Thumb on Trespassing Cows

(La Porte County, IN) - Early Monday, a La Porte County Police officer was called to the 7100 block of South 1150 West after a Westville area woman with spring fever had her hard day’s work ruined by some trespassing cows.

 

Various plants and flowers were trampled on and eaten. Planters and lawn ornaments were knocked over. There were also plenty of cow pies on paver stones and other forms of landscaping in the woman’s yard. An officer spotted two cows still grazing in the darkness on the victim’s property upon arrival.

 

66-year-old Susan Karlock told officers she worked all day Sunday putting the plants and flowers in the soil only to see the ruins by cows wandering over from her neighbor’s property.

 

Police said contact was made with the owner to retrieve his cows. Only flimsy PVC-style fencing ran along the border of the two properties.

Another Bad Crash on U.S. 20

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Another bad motor vehicle crash happened on a dangerous stretch of U.S. 20 near Rolling Prairie in La Porte County. 

 

Police say 64-year-old Vada Pulver of Kingsbury was turning left onto 350 East on Sunday afternoon but failed to see the oncoming vehicle. As a result, her SUV was hit on the passenger side by a car driven by 26-year-old Elisha Gaines of Chicago. Gaines swerved to try and avoid the vehicle but could not.

 

Both drivers, and a passenger in Gaines' vehicle, complained of pain over their entire bodies. However, no light was shed on the full extent of their injuries. 

 

Last week, a 24-year-old motorcyclist from Idaho was killed when he drove into the rear of a car waiting to make a left-hand turn on U.S. 20 in front of the Family Express in Rolling Prairie.

 

That stretch of a four-lane highway is slated to have turning lanes and other improvements added in a project scheduled to begin next spring.

Hurdle Placed in Recall Attempt

(New Buffalo, MI) - New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey and City Councilman Brian Flanagan are trying to stop an effort by short-term rental supporters to remove them from office.

 

Approval of language in recall petitions by the Berrien County Election Commission on May 3 is being appealed by Humphrey and Flanagan in Berrien County Circuit Court. The reason cited in one of the petitions for recalling Humphrey and Flanagan is their votes to prohibit new short-term rentals in R-1, R-2, and R-3 zoning districts in the city.

 

Humphrey said the language on the surface is accurate but doesn’t reflect the truth or reasons behind the decision. The New Buffalo mayor believes it lacks context and misleads the public. 

 

Humphrey maintains that he tried to explain the history behind their decisions to members of the election commission but was not allowed before the language in the recall petitions was approved.

 

He said permits to operate short-term rentals were issued under the previous administration despite no language existing in local zoning laws allowing homes to be used for such purposes. Humphrey said the previous city council placed a moratorium on short-term rental permits in response to increasing complaints from full-time residents about parties, loud noise, and other disruptions from the dwellings.

 

Another reason cited for the moratorium was to buy time for deciding whether to change local zoning laws to allow short-term rentals and, if so, to adopt restrictions to govern their use since there was nothing in the books about homes used for vacations or weekend getaways.

 

Ultimately, the zoning laws were amended to allow homes used as short-term rentals in the past to continue welcoming guests as long as a permit was obtained and use of the property abided by newly adopted restrictions. He said only additional short-term rentals in residential districts were prohibited.

 

“There was never a legal right in our zoning ordinance to short-term rent. This was a special use unlawfully granted to people from the previous administration,” Humphrey said.

He also said approval of the amended zoning laws is what lifted the moratorium. Lifting the moratorium without amending the zoning laws would have meant the city is in violation again for allowing a use not explicitly covered in the books.

 

“They were never legal, to begin with,” Humphrey said.

Even though short-term rentals were not mentioned in the previous codebooks, Humphrey said they were illegal because local zoning prohibits commercial activity in single-family residential neighborhoods.

 

“A family unit is not large groups of people. Period,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey said the people behind the recall attempt mostly live outside the city with interests driven strictly by money. Opponents of the ban argue it infringes on their rights as property owners. However, Humphrey disagrees.

 

“They don’t want our zoning enforced. When you buy a piece of property, you’re entering into a contract with that municipality to abide by its zoning rules and regulations. Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean it’s legal or fair,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey and Flanagan were elected to their first terms in November of 2020 after campaigning against the growing number of short-term rentals.

 

Taking a seat on the council at the same time was Roger Lijewski, who also voted in favor of the ban. There’s no attempt to recall Lijewski, though.

 

Humphrey said the recall supporters wouldn’t be able to drum up enough support for the recall attempt if they also tried to have Lijewski removed. Lijewski was the leading vote-getter in 2020. Humphrey and Flanagan were the second and third top vote-getters for the three open seats but still defeated their opponents by a nearly two-to-one margin.

 

“Putting Roger in the same boat with us makes their chances of getting signatures less likely,” Humphrey said.

Recall supporters must obtain 219 signatures on their petitions for a recall election to be held in November if the appeal by Humphrey and Flanagan fails. Humphrey also said the recall attempt is a way to overturn a decision by a democratically elected council that was done legally and reflects the desire of most of their constituency.

 

“You must have fairness and equity in the election process, or you can’t have democratic elections, and that’s what they’re trying to stop,” Humphrey said.

Pedestrian Hit by Car Seriously Hurt

(Michigan City, IN) - A woman was seriously injured when struck by a vehicle in Michigan City.

 

At about 1 a.m. on Sunday, emergency responders were called on a report of a serious bodily injury crash at Franklin Street and Westwind Drive on the city’s south side. Upon arrival, they found Casey Wallace lying on the pavement near the front of a 2015 Toyota Corolla, police said.

 

Police said the 30-year-old Michigan City resident was taken to nearby Franciscan Health and later transferred to a hospital in South Bend. No specifics were released on her condition.

 

The driver, Chad Dopiriak, 25, of Merrillville, told investigators he was southbound on Franklin Street when a pedestrian stepped into his path, and he could not avoid her. Police are waiting for the results of a toxicology test to determine if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the collision.

 

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

City Demands Railroad to Return Depot

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte is challenging Norfolk Southern Railroad over its decision to take back a historic downtown train depot restored with $3.6 million in tax dollars.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody is leading an effort reaching as high as Washington D.C. to try and force the major carrier of freight to return it to the community.

 

“We’re going every angle possible to protect these depot buildings for our community and sending a message that you can’t push the little guy around. We’re not going to stand for it,” Dermody said.

Using local, state, and federal monies, the city completed the restoration of the two historic depot buildings in 2009.

 

The dilapidated buildings were slated for demolition when the city acquired rights to the property then owned by Conrail for $1 annually under a 20-year lease entered into with the railroad before the restoration, said Bert Cook, Executive Director of the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership.


The lease remained in effect after Norfolk Southern later acquired the railroad. However, Norfolk Southern decided not to extend the lease and reclaimed property ownership once the agreement expired on December 31.

 

“We’re just incredibly disappointed. They ought to be ashamed of themselves,” Cook said.

Initially, Dermody said the intent was for ownership of the depot to transfer to the city at the end of the lease. The depot was occupied by the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership and several non-profit organizations when Norfolk Southern evicted them.

 

The restored facility was also where Santa Claus visited with children after being ushered into the city every year in a parade. In addition, the once-bustling structures when the rail line had passenger service decades ago were a source of pride in a community deeply involved in historic preservation.

 

“I think those depot buildings were a major asset for everyone in the city. They were kind of a shining star of what historic restoration can do for your community,” Dermody said.

LEAP is now located in a nearby building it acquired for $250,000 at 605 Michigan Avenue.

 

According to Cook, the appraised value of the depot has risen from $89,000 before the restoration to $500,000 currently. LEAP offered the railroad as much as $300,000 for the structures during 18 months of negotiations before the lease expired.

 

Dermody said talks have already occurred with Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and the National Transportation Safety Board members about the use of the facility being returned to the city.

 

He said contact has also been made with former Indiana governor and current president of Purdue University Mitch Daniels, a member of the board of directors for Norfolk Southern Corporation.

 

Cook said it’s unsettling not knowing what the future holds for the old depot, which sits empty.

 

“As I understand it, they’re going to try and sell the buildings at some point,” Cook said.

Dermody said the depot would be discussed with local, state, and federal officials next month. It’ll be brought up during a meeting primarily about trains recently stopping more frequently in front of railroad crossings here and in surrounding communities.

           

Dermody said representatives from the railroad are expected to be in attendance.

 

“They got enough business to do. They shouldn’t be worried about two depot buildings that the city of LaPorte has fixed up, repaired, and made it look like it does today. This is a fight that needs to be taken on by the city,” Dermody said.

No Injuries in Steel Mill Explosion

(East Chicago, IN) - No one was injured in an explosion at a steel mill in the region.

 

It happened yesterday afternoon at Cleveland-Cliffs Indiana Harbor West in East Chicago. The explosion produced a cloud of smoke seen more than 20 miles away.

 

Officials say rain in recent days caused the explosion. Slag, a byproduct of making steel, is prone to exploding when mixed with water. The industrial accident is under investigation.

 

Slicers Focused Now on Sectional Title

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Slicers finished the regular season with wins in high school baseball.

 

The focus now is on the sectionals in Plymouth. La Porte received a first-round bye and opens sectional play on Saturday against Mishawaka.

 

Chip Jones, the voice of the Slicers on 96.7 the Eagle, feels the Slicers have a good chance of winning the sectional title, but it could be a real challenge. He said a victory against Mishawaka will probably mean a championship game against South Bend Adams.

 

Jones believes that La Porte, Mishawaka, and South Bend Adams are likely the three best teams in the sectionals.

 

“We’re not getting any breaks. We’ll have to beat the two best probably,” Jones said.

The Slicers finished the regular season at 22-3. They defeated Kankakee Valley on the road Friday and Buchanan at home on Saturday. La Porte plays their first game of the sectional tournament on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (Central Time).

 

Michigan City opens the sectionals Wednesday against South Bend Adams at 5 p.m. (Central Time).

Area WWII Vet Honored on Centennial Birthday

(Mill Creek, IN) - A La Porte County man who flew bombers in WWII turned 100 on Thursday and was honored with a front-yard full of appreciative admirers.

 

Wilbur Lawson was born on May 19, 1922. He served his country as a mechanic and top turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress in the 8th Air Force.

 

Prior to the war, Lawson worked at the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant. About seven months after getting married, he went into the Army, eventually seeing action with a bomber crew in Europe. “We had eight of the best people you would want to trust your life with,” he said. “After six missions over Germany and France, the war in Europe was over. They didn’t tell us that throughout the war the casualty rate was 80%. When you’re young, you don’t worry too much.”

 

After returning home, he worked at Bendix in South Bend for over 35 years. He and his wife Norma raised their five children in the New Carlisle area. Norma passed away in 1990, and Wilbur now lives with his son in Mill Creek, where he still mows the lawn.
 

On Thursday over a dozen bikers, along with some police squad cars, paid Mr. Lawson a visit. The procession was led by St. Joseph County Commissioner Derek Dieter, who says Wilbur represents the last of a special breed of men. “We’re honoring the ‘Greatest Generation’ because they were,” said Dieter as he rallied the convoy in New Carlisle. “Today I could not see, unfortunately, this 18-19-20-year-old culture doing what these dudes did.”

 

Dieter also arranged for a flyover of vintage aircraft and presented Wilbur with an authentic brown leather bomber jacket. The birthday boy, who hasn’t flown in a plane since his stint in the Army, let his grandkids wear the jacket.

 

Many La Porte County law enforcement officers and public officials also gathered in Wilbur’s front yard for a group picture.

More Safety Improvements for U.S. 20 in Rolling Prairie

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - More safety improvements are coming to U.S. 20.

 

The Indiana Department of Transportation will be widening roadways and improving intersections in Rolling Prairie. It’s the continuation of a project begun last year. A section of 20 between State Road 39 and Fail Road has already been widened.

 

The upcoming phase will extend highway shoulders and install a 16-foot-wide turn lane along a nearly two-and-a-half-mile stretch between 300 E. and 500 E. Also, one of the crisscrossed intersections at E. Lynn/W. Mechanic St. in front of the Family Express will be removed. Construction will begin in the spring of next year.

 

The project will cost $12.7 million and require over two-and-a-half acres of land acquisition, along with nearly four-and-a-half acres of tree removal.

 

According to INDOT, there has been a 70% increase in traffic on 20 between 2010 and 2016. And just this week, a 24-year-old motorcyclist was killed when his bike rear-ended a vehicle waiting to turn left on 20.

 

Local residents should have already received notice of the project. Public comments or concerns can be submitted to INDOT by May 27.

Another Construction Detour Coming in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - More road construction in Michigan City will result in another detour.

 

Starting Monday a section of S.R. 212 will be closed.

 

The closure is for replacing culverts between Warnke Road and Pueblo Street. After that section is done, 212 will be closed between Fryer Road and Tryon Road.

 

The official detour for these closures will follow U.S. 20, I-94, and U.S. 12. However, there is already a detour for railroad crossing construction on U.S. 12 through next Thursday… so navigating 12 and 212 around Michigan City could be tricky, at least for much of next week.

South Bend Climbing Livability List

(South Bend, IN) - Nearby South Bend has made a “best places to live” list.

 

According to U.S. News & World Report, South Bend ranks 70th in the nation for affordability, desirability, and quality of life. That’s up 18 spots from last year’s ranking.

 

Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne were the only other Hoosier cities to make the list.

 

The U.S. News report notes that South Bend has rebounded from dropping population numbers by revitalizing its downtown with apartments, condos, and new dining options.

 

Huntsville, Alabama, Colorado Springs, and Green Bay, Wisconsin topped the list.

Right Place, Right Time For DNR Rescue

(Peru, IN) - A Kokomo man has an alert DNR officer to thank for saving his life.

 

On Thursday morning, 76-year-old Robert Boyd fell out of his fishing boat in Mississinewa Lake near Peru.

 

Conservation Officer Hunter Law was patrolling nearby when he heard the abrupt stopping of a boat motor. Boyd’s safety lanyard turned off the engine when he was ejected.

 

Officer Law found the man just underneath the surface of the water and got him to shore, where paramedics took Boyd to a Howard County hospital. According to reports, Boyd was not wearing a lifejacket.

Charges in Window Break Pursuit

(La Porte, IN) - Not even police busting out his driver’s side window at a busy downtown La Porte intersection stopped James Warfel from fleeing.

 

Warfel, 66, of Michigan City, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Resisting Law Enforcement and Driving on a Suspended License.

 

According to court documents, Warfel was inside his vehicle in an undesignated parking space on April 20 when approached by police across from the La Porte Public Library on Indiana Avenue.

 

When asked to roll down his window, police said Warfel drove off and fled several streets until stopping for a red light at Lincolnway and Michigan Avenue. One of the officers in the pursuit stepped out and shattered Warfel’s driver’s side window to stop him.

 

However, Warfel took off again but stopped a short distance away between the courthouse and county complex, police said. He was ordered out of the vehicle by officers with guns drawn.

 

According to court documents, Warfel was driving on a suspended license with still undecided charges of operating while intoxicated from 2021. In addition, he has a history of arrests for crimes like battery to a police officer and resisting law enforcement.

Spraying for Tree Killing Gypsy Moth

(Indianapolis, IN) - Aerial spraying to slow the spread of gypsy moth wrapped up yesterday in La Porte County.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, spraying was also completed yesterday in Noble County and will continue next week in Marshall County.

 

The gypsy moth, now called spongy moth, is one of North America's most devastating invasive forest pests and has caused thousands of acres of defoliation across the eastern United States.

Spraying occurs from a yellow airplane flying 75-125 feet above the treetops. Favorable weather allows spraying to be completed in targeted areas often by late morning or early afternoon, DNR officials said.

 

According to DNR, the airplane distributes a spray into the treetops of infested areas where gypsy moth caterpillars feed on tree leaves. The active ingredient in the spray kills gypsy moth caterpillars by disrupting their digestive systems after they ingest it.


To determine if your property is in the treatment areas or to view maps of all treatment locations and for more information about gypsy moth, see gypsymoth.IN.gov.

New Tech Solutions to Classroom Teaching

(La Porte County, IN) - All La Porte County educators are encouraged to attend this year’s virtual Summer Technology Conference scheduled for June 3.

 

Officials said the purpose is to gain practical, “use it in the classroom tomorrow” technology solutions to classroom needs. 

 

The conference is led by the La Porte County Public Library and Unity Foundation of La Porte County.

 

“Unity is proud to be a part of the community lifting up teachers and showing appreciation for their tireless work,” said Maggi Spartz, President of Unity Foundation of La Porte County.

 

This year’s conference again features Matt Miller, author of Ditch that Textbook, and Tech Like a Pirate. Miller will present things like new content applicable to teachers of all grade levels and subjects.

 

Officials said Miller’s passion is to equip educators to thrive in this new era of education and think differently about the craft of teaching. In 2021, officials said that over 200 educators participated virtually in this free professional development event.

 

Miller spent more than a decade in the classroom, creating unique learning experiences for students through technology and creative teaching. 

 

To register, visit https://bit.ly/3wjCBQk by May 27.

 

Since 1992, Unity Foundation of La Porte County has served donors, nonprofits, and local communities. As La Porte County’s community foundation, it manages $45 million in assets, administers more than 325 charitable funds, and has distributed more than $22 million through direct grants and scholarships.

Motorcyclist Killed in Crash on U.S. 20

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - A man on a motorcycle was killed in an accident in La Porte County yesterday. The victim was identified as 24-year-old Erik Smith.

 

According to law enforcement officials, Smith hit the back end of a car on U.S. 20 outside the Family Express in Rolling Prairie at about 5 p.m.

 

Police say the car driver was stopped waiting to turn when the motorcycle approaching from behind hit the back end of his vehicle. The turn signal was activated on the car. Smith, who lived in Idaho, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said the impact from the motorcycle was hard enough to disable the vehicle.

 

La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said the victim was staying at the Mini Mountain campground in St. Joseph County, possibly for work.

La Porte Native Joining IHSAA

(Indianapolis, IN) - A former longtime La Porte educator is taking a high-ranking position with the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

 

Janie Ulmer was hired as an assistant commissioner with the IHSAA. She was among seven finalists for the position. Ulmer has spent the past five years with the Hamilton Southeastern Schools. She was principal at the high school during her last two years.

 

From 1993 to 2017, she was a math teacher at Kesling Middle School in La Porte and served the school corporation in other capacities like Director of Virtual Learning.

 

Ulmer fills the vacancy left by Sandra Walter, who will become Athletic Director at Franklin Central High School. Ulmer officially begins her role with the IHSSA on July 1.

Ceremony Planned at Fallen Soldier's Grave

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man who paid the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for his country more than a century ago will be honored next week.

 

Twenty-two-year-old Hamon Gray was killed in 1918 during World War 1 when hit with shrapnel in France. The American Legion Post #83 in La Porte bears his name in his honor.

 

A ceremony is planned at Gray's gravesite at Pine Lake Cemetery. There will be a reading of the poem "In Flanders Field," made famous because of World War I and other ceremonial activities. 

 

"There will be a laying of flowers. There will be Memorial information given about him and what he sacrificed for his country," said Susan Levenhagen, a member of the American Legion at 228 E. Lincolnway.

 

The public is invited to the ceremony scheduled for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.

 

Levenhagen believes this will be the first ceremony at his grave by the American Legion Hamon Gray Post, something she believes is long overdue. 

 

Levenhagen said Gray is buried next to his brother.

City Dweller a Champ at Farm Life

(La Porte, IN) - His parents have never farmed, and he lives in the city, but the 4-H youth from La Porte is a county fair champion at showing animals and making homemade desserts.

 

Nathan Baima, 18, hopes to add a few more top prizes to his resume in his last year of competing at the LaPorte County Fair. The 10-year 4-H member is in his final year of eligibility in the program.

 

He gets a little emotional just thinking about the fair being his last one in 4-H.

 

"It's going to be tough. Not having to do it for next year is going to be weird," Baima said.

 

Baima has dived headfirst into 4-H, showing dairy cows and pigs from the beginning and sheep last year. He owns four pigs kept at the farm of family friends ten miles away in Mill Creek. His dairy cows and sheep belong to other farmers in Mill Creek and are 15 miles from his home near Michigan City.

 

Practically every day after school, Baima drives to each farm to feed and train the animals for show. He also does chores like cleaning out barns, building new pens, and milking, occasionally, to have access to the dairy cows and sheep.

 

In what little of his spare time is left, Baima still manages to keep up on his school work and relax at home with his dog, a beagle and basset hound mix.

 

"I somehow manage to squeeze it in between school and other activities," Baima said.

 

Baima said his love for farm animals and watching them grow help keep him going. He also enjoys the lifestyle and the company of his cousins, who allowed him to use four of their sheep for show.

 

"It adds a little variety to my life," Baima said, "it gets me out to a different farm and gets me closer to my family."

 

Last year, his Jersey cow was awarded "Best of Show" at the fair, and his display of family pictures taken at home during Christmas was Grand Champion in scrapbooking. His Dutch Apple pie and cinnamon bread have also been declared Grand Champions at recent fairs.

 

Baima said his older sisters, Brooke and Taylor, were also in 4-H, got him interested in showing farm animals, and taught him to bake and cook well enough to prepare meals, occasionally, for his family.

 

Joining 4-H wasn't a hard sell for Baima, who liked agriculture early in his childhood from visits with family friends at their farms.

 

"I've just been around farm animals like my whole entire life," Baima said.

 

He said one of the most significant benefits of his experience in 4-H is the leadership skills he had developed from doing things like helping younger members in the program with their projects, just like older 4-H members did for him when he was starting.

 

After graduating from LaPorte High School, he plans to attend a 44-week course in welding at Lincoln Tech College in Indianapolis and possibly become a union welder. Baima was first exposed to welding during a Future Farmers of America-sponsored agriculture class in high school. He's been a member of FFA during his four years in high school.

 

Baima hasn't earned any top prizes yet for showing pigs and sheep but is working the animals harder this year to try and end his time in 4-H on a high note. He has no complaints about his time in 4-H, though, regardless of the outcome.

 

"I'm aiming for it, but if I don't get it, it doesn't bother me," he said.

Friedman Publicly Challenges Accusers

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman is inviting anyone who has evidence of wrongdoing by him or any other county government official to go to the proper authorities.

 

His fiery challenge came after a realtor listing the former La Porte County Home for sale refuted claims that corruption was involved when the county sold the historic building across from the fairgrounds in 2020.

 

Realtor Larry Nickell explained how the county sold the home and what the current owner has done to prepare the structure for redevelopment by whoever buys it in a letter read during last night's La Porte County Commissioners meeting.

 

Nickell, co-owner of a real estate agency in Walkerton, said everything had been done above board, and anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly wrong.

 

Friedman has said from the beginning the sale of the home was done according to the letter of the law. However, his detractors speculate that Friedman and other officials rigged the deal and took part in other shady dealings for their own personal gain, especially in posts on social media.

 

Friedman practically begged his accusers to go to the proper authorities if they had any evidence of any wrongdoing during last night's commissioner's meeting.

 

"This is an open challenge to all big tough keyboard warriors like Jody Slabaugh. I say to them there's a grand jury meeting right now downstairs in the old Superior Court 3. You take any evidence you think you have to the grand jury where you're going to have to testify under oath under pain and penalty for perjury about what you've got," Friedman said. "Come on, Mr. Slabaugh. Talk is cheap, but when you're dealing with reputations and questioning integrity, you better have something to back it up." 

 

Friedman said Slabaugh is in the same political camp as La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, who's being sued by Friedman for defamation of character and withholding payment on some of his work claims.

 

Friedman also gave out the phone number of Anthony McLintock, an investigator with the LaPorte County Prosecutor's Office, for people feeling they have evidence of corruption to call and arrange to testify before the grand jury. The prosecutor's office has assembled a grand jury to look into what, so far, have been unproven claims of wrongdoing from detractors of Friedman and supporters of the county attorney.

 

"Mr. Slabaugh not only accused me of defrauding taxpayers by billing for political work such as writing for Howey Politics, absolutely untrue. He accused me without a shred of proof for trying to defraud taxpayers with his buddy's run-down warehouse. Again, completely false and outrageous," Friedman said.

 

Friedman said Slabaugh also accused him of "selling out taxpayers" on the county home sale "when we followed the statute by the letter."

 

"How dare he say that taxpayers are being charged when I'm suing the auditor on my time and my own dime to collect fees that he's unlawfully withheld to my firm," Friedman said.

 

The commissioners last night ordered Stabosz to pay over $37,000 in claims he's withholding from Friedman over the past several months. Stabosz has no plans to pay the claims he believes are for political work and work similarly to the duties of a  county administrator, not a county attorney.

 

Commissioner Joe Haney, who's made similar allegations, voted against the order.

 

Friedman vehemently denied ever billing for "partisan political work" and appealed for Haney to look at the contract for services he entered into with the commissioners before further disputing his work claims.

               

According to the contract agreed by the commissioners, Friedman's duties include not just legal work, but advice to county elected officials and department heads, risk prevention and litigation avoidance, and work on economic development and health and public safety matters. His contractual duties also include crafting resolutions, ordinances, contracts, government relations, and policy work.

 

When requested or required, the contract also directs Friedman to conduct his duties "in various forums which include administrative, regulatory and legislative settings."

 

Friedman told Haney, "I got to tell you, sir. We've been county attorneys for 26 of the last 37 years, and I have never had a county commissioner or an auditor ever take exception to our billing."

 

Friedman also said Stabosz refusing to pay his claims is in "explicit violation" of the recently written opinion by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.

 

"That's your opinion of what that letter says. I don't think any of those letters ever told him not to do his due diligence as an auditor," Haney said.

 

"Look at the contract. Look at the contract that has been approved by this board. It authorizes to engage in a variety of policy work on behalf of this body. It's advocacy on behalf of the county. I can't believe that you would attempt to usurp that," Friedman said.

 

Friedman has alleged that Stabosz uses his public office to wage a vendetta against his political opponents and for political gain. Stabosz denies his decisions are driven by politics.

County Home on Track for Future Use

(La Porte County, IN) - The former La Porte County Home could become a destination pumping money into the local economy.

 

In a letter to the La Porte County Commissioners, a real estate agent listing the 1800s building for sale revealed the inside of the 22,000 square foot structure has been gutted and is ready for redevelopment by whoever buys it.

 

Larry Nickell wrote and signed the letter, co-owner of Woodlands and Waters Real Estate, Inc. out of Walkerton. Nickell said the current owner has also developed a concept of the structure across from the fairgrounds as the "La Porte County Ag and Events Center."

 

Nickell said the current owner's vision is the structure would host weddings, seminars, and other events with 22 hotel rooms along with a bridal suite and restaurant/bar.

 

"This is a very unique and ambitious concept," Nickell said.

The current owner also had blueprints drafted by an architectural/engineering firm for such use, which will sell with the building. 

 

"The plans are ready for any potential buyer to send to Indiana state authorities for commercial approval," Nickell said.

Nickell also emphasized the process the La Porte County government followed in selling the building in 2020 was totally above board. He said the current owner was the only one who attended a public auction for the structure and placed an opening bid of $50,000 since no other bidders were in attendance.

 

Nickell said he'd been contacted by several residents who alleged something underhanded was at play for the county to sell a building well under the current asking price of $895,000. He said the auction was publicly advertised, and he set the listed price because of the amount of money the current owner invested in getting the structure prepared for redevelopment.

 

"The current owner has invested a great amount of money over and above the initial auction price of the property and has certainly gone above and beyond to provide the greatest opportunity for success for the next owner," Nickell said. "LaPorte County citizens should be thrilled about the prospect that exists considering the projected demolition estimates could have exceeded one million dollars."

Nickell went on to say he hopes people who've been grumbling and making false accusations are now satisfied.

 

"I hope this explanation offers insight to those who feel there has been somehow underhanded deeds at play here, but the reality is quite the contrary," Nickell said.

La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman has been among the people accused of benefitting from what skeptics have described as a rigged sale.

 

Friedman thanked Commission President Sheila Matias for reading the letter during last night's Commissioner's meeting and voiced disgust at people posting their accusations of dirty dealings over the home's sale on social media.

 

"I think it's important for the public to understand we followed the law to the letter in the sale of the county home. The new owners have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in that place two years since buying it to justify a higher asking price," Friedman said. "Like you and other elected officials who work hard at following the law and providing good, honest county government, I have frankly had it up to here with keyword warriors."

The listing for the County Home has been active since January 2022. 

La Porte Man Killed in Michigan Crash

(Cass County, MI) - A LaPorte man was killed on Wednesday afternoon in a motor vehicle crash in Cass County in southwest Michigan. 

 

The victim was identified as 67-year-old Robert Sass. The other driver was a 28-year-old man from Warsaw.

 

According to police, both drivers were hit head-on and had to be extricated from their vehicles by firefighters. Both drivers were taken to the hospital, and Sass later died from his injuries.

 

The condition of the other driver was not known. Right now, it’s not known if alcohol or drugs were factors in the collision, which remains under investigation.

Special Patrols Uncovering Guns

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are reporting positive results in combating an uptick in gun violence.

 

Officers conducting special patrols confiscated two handguns and drugs while making two arrests during traffic stops.

 

According to police reports, Sgt. Mike Oberle stopped a vehicle for a moving violation Sunday night in the Oak Street and Belden Avenue area. After a K9 detected the presence of drugs, five people stepped out of the vehicle. A 9 mm handgun, an extended 9 mm magazine, and a small amount of marijuana were located inside the vehicle during a search.

 

The owner of the gun was not known. No arrests were reported.

 

Early Tuesday, police said Officer Matthew Babcock observed a moving violation in the area of Wabash Street and 8th Street and conducted a traffic stop. A search of the vehicle uncovered a firearm, marijuana, and other drug paraphernalia.

 

The driver, 20-year-old Ian Williams, of Michigan City, was taken into custody and charged with Possession of a Narcotic Drug, a Level 6 Felony, in addition to Carrying a Handgun without a License and Dealing Marijuana, Class-A misdemeanors.

Repairs Promised in Mailbox Destruction

(La Porte County, IN) - An 18-year-old driver has promised to fix the mailboxes he struck with his father’s vehicle near Michigan City.

 

Dylan Mays could be charged if he doesn’t live up to his promise, according to La Porte County Police, who were called Friday evening to the 6800 block of West 450 North.

 

Police say Mays ran over four mailboxes driving a large Dodge Ram truck wheel. One of the mailboxes belonged to Robert Andersen, who jumped into his vehicle and went after the truck. Eventually, Mays stopped and apologized to Andersen.

 

Mays, who resides in the Michigan City area, explained the sun was in his eyes and, while reaching for his sunglasses, took his eyes off the road and hit the mailboxes. Police said Mays agreed to buy the supplies to fix the mailboxes ripped out of the ground.

 

The front passenger side of the truck was heavily damaged from the impact. The vehicle was also missing the front and back bumpers.

 

An officer advised Mayes that potential charges against him would be pursued if he did not honor his promise.

Another 20 Win Season for Slicers

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte High School baseball team won its 20th game of the season last evening by defeating Merrillville on the road 19-2.

 

Head Coach Scott Upp said a deep pitching staff and players who can perform in multiple positions are reasons for the team’s success.

 

Upp also credited his players for being dedicated to getting the most out of their ability by taking part in offseason workouts and going along with the advice of coaches to “play the game the right way.”

 

“It’s just good for them to know not just baseball-wise, but they need to understand if you work hard, good things eventually happen,” he said.

Upp said his players are also performing at a high level on defense by making the routine plays without the errors that can open the door to big run-scoring innings by the opposition.

 

“The day that we beat Lake Central. We beat them 3-0, which sounds like we really shut them down on the mound. But, what happened was they were smoking the baseball. They were rocking the baseball. It was just right for us, and we made the plays,” he said.

The 20-3 Slicers have a few more regular-season games to play before sectionals start next week at Plymouth.

Friedman Suing Stabosz for Non-Payment

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Auditor has been sued again.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Attorney Shaw Friedman is seeking over $120,000 from Tim Stabosz. The lawsuit claims Friedman is owed slightly more than $40,000 for work on claims that Stabosz is not paying.

 

According to the lawsuit filed by attorney David Ambers, Friedman, under state law, is entitled to three times the amount owed to him as compensation for legal expenses and other things such as lost time.

 

The lawsuit is filed against Stabosz personally, not LaPorte County. 

 

According to the lawsuit, Stabosz's withholding payment results from his personal feelings outside the scope of his duties as auditor against Friedman. The suit also contains a copy of the contract between Friedman and the La Porte County Commissioners for his service.

 

The contract stipulates that Friedman is to be paid $150.00 per hour not just for legal work but also for advice to elected officials and department heads, health and public safety matters, and crafting resolutions.

 

Other work allowed under the contract includes governmental relations and policy work as requested or required in various forums, including administrative and regulatory settings.

 

Last year, Friedman filed a defamation of character lawsuit against Stabosz for alleging Friedman runs county government by controlling elected officials. That lawsuit remains undecided.

 

In response to the latest lawsuit, Stabosz said he's not paying claims for things like political work and the duties of a county administrator.

 

He also said his actions have nothing to do with his personal feelings toward Friedman. Instead, Stabosz said he's reviewing the claims strictly as an auditor and withholding payment until Friedman provides more information to verify the work in question.

 

Stabosz also alleged he's being sued personally because Friedman might have to step down as county attorney until the lawsuit is decided if he sued him as an auditor. 

 

“You can’t have a lawsuit against the county with which you work for because that’s a conflict of interest.  He’d have to step down. So, he gets clever and sues me personally. We’re going to get it thrown out of court,” Stabosz said.

The lawsuit was filed in La Porte Superior Court 3.

Woman Holding Baby When Garbage Truck Demolished Home

(La Porte County, IN) - One of the people inside a garbage truck that demolished the side of a house Tuesday is from La Porte. Two other members of the crew are from southwest Michigan.

 

La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd said it appears the driver’s side front tire blew on the southbound garbage truck about noon on U.S. 35 near 400 South at Kingsbury. The truck belonged to Lakeshore Recycling and Disposal out of New Buffalo, Michigan.

 

According to police, after blowing the tire, the truck veered across the grassy median and both northbound lanes before demolishing the south side of the single-story residence.

 

Dylan Seely, 23, lived in the house with his 22-year-old wife, Simone, and their 11-month-old daughter. Seely said he was at his job in Westville when he received a phone call about the crash from his wife.

 

“She said a truck went through the house, and I got here as fast as I could,” Seely said.

Mrs. Seely told investigators she had her baby in her arms when she looked out the front window and saw the truck crash through her residence directly in front of her.

 

According to police, the driver, Jeron Higgins, 41, of Stevensville, was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle. He was transported to the hospital complaining of pain over the entire left side of his body.

 

Two other crew members, Clyde Fuller, 26, of Galien, and Chris Haverstock, 22, of La Porte, were also taken to the hospital.

 

Fuller’s face was covered in blood. He also complained of pain in his face and shoulder. Haverstock complained of pain in his left leg. One of the men was transported by helicopter to a trauma center at an outside hospital, police said.

 

Seely said his wife also wound up at the hospital, where she received stitches to one of her knees after being struck by some debris. The baby was not hurt.

 

Boyd said a dog inside the home was injured and taken to the clinic of a nearby veterinarian for treatment.

 

Seely said the damage to the house his family rented for about a year didn’t seem real. “It’s crazy,” Seely said.

 

The northbound and southbound lanes of U.S. 35 were entirely blocked to traffic for a while to allow emergency responders to go about their work safely.

 

La Porte County Hazardous Materials Coordinator Jeff Hamilton said there were no fuel or hydraulic leaks on the truck after the collision. Hamilton said he’s never worked a scene where a vehicle went entirely through a house in his 36-year career. He said it’s a wonder nobody was killed or more seriously hurt. 

 

“A lot of lucky people here today. A lot of lucky people here today,” Hamilton said.

Garbage Truck Destroys House

(Kingsbury, IN) - A garbage truck crashed completely through the side of a house in La Porte County this afternoon.  Miraculously, perhaps, a woman and her baby inside the home were not seriously injured.  The crash happened about noon on U.S. 35 near 400 South at Kingsbury.

 

La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd said it appears one of the front tires blew on the southbound garbage truck which veered across the grassy median and the northbound lanes before demolishing the south side of the single story residence.  

 

Dylan Seely, 23, lived in the house with his 22-year old wife, Simone, and their 11 month old daughter.  Seely said he was at his job in Westville when he received a phone call from his wife.  “She said a truck went through the house and I got here as fast as I could,” he said.

 

Seely said his wife and daughter were on the other side of the house from where the truck collided into the structure.  “They were far away from the truck,” he said.

 

Boyd said the driver jumped out of the garbage truck just prior to the collision.  One member of the two man waste disposal crew was taken by a medical helicopter to an outside hospital.  The other person on the truck was transported to a hospital by ambulance, he said.   Boyd said he did not know their conditions.

 

Seely said his wife was driven by ambulance to a hospital where she received stitches to one of her knees after struck by some sort of debris.  The baby was not hurt, he said.

 

Seely said the amount of damage to the house his family rented for about a year didn’t seem real.  “It’s crazy,” he said.

 

The garbage truck belonged to Lakeshore Recycling and Disposal out of New Buffalo.  The northbound and southbound lanes were blocked to traffic for a while but one of the southbound lanes later reopened.

Crash Closes U.S. 35 Outside La Porte

(La Porte County, IN) - A stretch of U.S. 35 outside La Porte is completely closed because of a traffic accident.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Transportation, all highway lanes are closed from Boyd Boulevard to U.S. 6. The INDOT social media post at 1 p.m. described the crash as “serious.”  Motorists were also advised to avoid the area.

 

We’ll provide more details about the accident once more information becomes available.

Late Start to Slicers Baseball Game Today

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte High School baseball game today will not start on time.

 

Initially, the game at Merrillville was supposed to begin at 4:30 p.m. However, the team won’t be able to leave La Porte until 4 p.m. because that’s when the next school bus is available after taking children home from school.  

 

La Porte High School Athletic Director Steve Santana said shortages of buses and drivers are a problem sometimes here and in other school districts.

 

“It’s pretty common actually over the past several years with schools having transportation issues,” Santana said.

Santana says the game against the Pirates should start sometime after 5 p.m. The Slicers are 19 and 3 on the season.

New Manufacturer Coming to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Another manufacturer has plans to open a facility in La Porte. The city council last night approved a tax abatement for Tubekraft USA.

 

“In the City of La Porte, we have made it our priority to attract high-wage, quality job opportunities that bring value to our community. With an average wage of $25 an hour, the positions that Tubekraft is creating in our city will undoubtedly have an impact. We are grateful to them for seeing our vision here in the city and are thrilled to welcome them to La Porte,” said La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody.

Tubekraft USA will invest $2.2 million to build a new 19,500-square-foot manufacturing facility in the East Gate Industrial Park. J. Shoffner General Contractors will construct the building.

 

Officials said the company would spend an additional $1,000,000 to equip this facility. Upon completion of the building and installation of equipment, the company will hire 15 new employees making an average wage of $25.00 per hour plus benefits.

 

Tubekraft USA creates steel tubes for the automotive, engineering, ag machinery, food processing industry, and energy sectors. Their core business is to manufacture DOM tubes (Drawn Over Mandrel), hydraulic tubes, and tubular components for the automotive and aerospace industries.

 

“I am grateful to the City of La Porte for welcoming us and to become a part of the community. Also, I am really thankful to all the associations and organizations who have extended help and incentives to get this project going right from the get-go,” said Anurag Sharma, President of Tubekraft USA.

The La Porte City Council approved a real property tax abatement to assist the company's expansion into the Midwest.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, added, “The City of La Porte has continued to invest in our industrial sector. New infrastructure provides new locations for businesses to join our community. We are excited that Tubekraft has chosen to become part of the city and look forward to their continued success."

Seat Belt Crackdown Begins

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are among the law enforcement agencies cracking down on seat belt violators.

 

According to the sheriff’s office, extra patrol officers will be ensuring drivers and passengers are buckled and children are properly secure. The seatbelt effort occurs three weeks before, during, and after the Memorial Day weekend.

 

Captain Derek Allen says the focus is not on writing tickets but on encouraging people to buckle up to save lives during expected heavy travel.

 

“Seat belts are your best form of protection in a crash and against dangerous drivers.  At the end of the day, we want everyone to reach their destination safely,” Allen said.

Experts say seat belt use has gone up to 93-percent in Indiana since the nationwide campaign started more than 20 years ago. However, authorities say 226 people who were not buckled up lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes statewide in 2020.

Rescued Drowning Victims were Brothers

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Missing Girl Who Drowned Identified

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Gas Reaches $4.99 a Gallon

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Narcotics Found in Cancer Center Bathroom.

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

 

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

 

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

People Rescued from Lake Michigan

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

 

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

 

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

Sneaky Gambler's Luck Runs Out

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Road Workers Unearth Piece of History

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Memorial for Fallen Officers

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Escapee Shot in Standoff With Police

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

 

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

 

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

Nursing Home Chain Downsizing

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Flags Lowered for COVID Deaths

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

 

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

 

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

Charges in Bank Account Fraud Attempt

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

PNW Winners of Competition Announced

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

PNW has campuses in Hammond and near Westville. 

Alleged Crossbow Shoplifter Charged

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

 

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

 

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

Search Still On for Convicted Molester

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Death of Child Under Investigation

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

 

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

 

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

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police. 

Hotel Guest Arrested at Pool

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Home Surveillance Camera Leads to Arrest

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

CPR Classes Offered to Public

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Steakhouse Reopens After Fire

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Absent Man Convicted of Molesting

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

 

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

 

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

 

Powers lives in the Lake Station area.

Stabosz Brushes Off State Party Scolding

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Stabosz Scolded by State Party Leaders

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Support for Success Grows for Students

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

School Bus Filters for Better Air Quality

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Wish to be Arrested Granted

(La Porte, IN) - A man who insisted on being arrested last night had his wish granted after struggling with officers.

 

According to La Porte County Police, 33-year-old Glynn Anderson drove a battery-powered four-wheeler to the La Porte County Jail.

 

Anderson, who was not wearing a shirt in the warm temperatures, began pounding on the doors at the Jail, demanding to be arrested on an active warrant.  However, police said he had no warrants out for his arrest.

 

Anderson allegedly became aggressive with a police officer and two jail officers and was arrested for Class A Misdemeanor Resisting Law Enforcement.

 

Police said Anderson is being held without bond because he was out on bond for a previous alleged criminal violation.  According to court records, the La Porte man has a history of arrests for battery, false informing, and public nudity.

Naked Jail Escapee Located Downtown

(La Porte, IN) - A naked man escaped from the La Porte County Jail last night and wandered around the downtown. Fortunately, he was quickly captured.

 

At about 11:30 p.m., police say it appears the man escaped from a top floor of the jail on a homemade rope.

 

Several pieces of bedding material were tied together and hanging from an upper floor window. Police say the discovery was made after a citizen reported suspicious activity on the east side of the jail.

 

Soon, La Porte City Police were called about a naked man in the 600 block of Lincolnway.  He had apparent injuries from falling while making his way down the jail on the homemade rope. The escapee was located behind some buildings in that area.

 

43-year-old Desmond Robinson was taken to the hospital for treatment of his injuries. Eventually, Robinson was locked up on a burglary charge and violating probation.

 

The Hammond man allegedly broke into the Smoke and Vape shop on Franklin Street a month ago. An investigation is being conducted into the escape.

Ribbon Cutting for La Porte Manufacturer

(La Porte, IN) - A manufacturer providing the finished wood grain look on cabinets and wall panels has opened in La Porte.

 

On Tuesday, a ribbon-cutting was held at Gravure Ink, occupying 60,000 square feet inside a privately constructed spec building at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park.

        

The company is owned by Patrick Industries, a maker and distributor of components and building products for the recreational vehicle, marine, and manufactured housing industries. Patrick Industries employs about 12,000 people at more than 170 sites in the United States, Canada, and China.

 

Gravure Ink has 31 employees working the day shift. Operations Manager Hugo Gonzalez said the hope is to run two or three shifts at some point if demand for their products keeps rising.

 

“We’re excited about continuing to grow the business here,” Gonzalez said.

Gravure Ink produces a laminate on thin paper containing various designs, including the grain on trees such as maple, hickory, cherry, and oak.

 

Gonzalez said the printed designs on the paper are then shipped to plants operated by Patrick Industries to be glued on plywood and particleboard panels used in products like cabinetry.

 

He said the finished product is used in making RVs, manufactured homes, and boats, while the rest is delivered to stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s for people to purchase for things like home remodeling projects.

 

“The laminate is the coating that goes into the panel.  We give it color. Usually, it’s going to be wood grain. We’ll make those designs,” Gonzalez said.

 

Gonzalez said laminates on vinyl are made at the Patrick Industries facility in Bensenville, Illinois.

 

The other half of the spec building constructed by the Qualls family is being used for storage by American Renolit Corporation, a production facility in La Porte.

Top LPHS Graduates Announced

(La Porte, IN) - The valedictorian and salutatorian have been announced for the La Porte High School Class of 2022.

 

School officials said that Valedictorian Nick Shuble plans to attend either Iowa University or Notre Dame and major in engineering. Salutatorian Alondra Pedraza Negrete plans to attend Arizona State University and major in forensic science. Each student maintained a 4.0-grade point average, officials said.

 

Nick was awarded the Indiana Association of School Principal’s Indiana All-Star Award and the Jeremy Hoehne Award for work ethic and outstanding character in basketball. He also received local scholarships from the Kingsford Heights PTO, Slicer Football Association, and LaPorte Pop Warner.

 

Nick is a member of the LPHS National Honor Society and Unified Track and Field. He lettered in both football and basketball while achieving Academic All-State. He enjoys playing football and basketball, completing community volunteer service for the Salvation Army, spending time with family, and being with friends, officials said.

 

Alondra is a member of the LPHS National Honor Society, Art Club, Spanish Club, Indiana Academic Superbowl, and head coach of the Under 8 soccer team for La Porte FC. Alondra is also a captain of the La Porte High School soccer team.

 

She earned Academic All-State for soccer. Alondra enjoys listening to music while driving and hanging out with friends. She worked at Jimmy Johns for two years and now is at Starbucks in La Porte.

Construction Begins on Ambulance Base

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - Groundbreaking has occurred for the first ambulance base at Rolling Prairie.

 

Officials say the project has been years in the making to provide better response times to an area now served by ambulances coming from the City of La Porte.

 

“Saving lives and getting help to our citizens more quickly when minutes make a difference makes this EMS base project very important,” said Sheila Matias, President of the La Porte County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said shovels hitting the ground last week represented the outcome of longstanding efforts to make the ambulance base reality.

 

“This is a great day for the citizens of Rolling Prairie and eastern La Porte County, and I couldn’t be prouder of what our team has done to get this project ready to execute. We have truly moved the needle today by making this project happen,” Mrozinski said.

A new La Porte County Highway garage serving that area is also going up at the same site in the area of U.S. 20 and Indiana 2. The land once serving as a rest stop was donated by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

 

Total construction costs came in at about $2.3 million.

Price of Gas Inches Closer to $5

(La Porte County, IN) - Record-high gasoline prices locally have gone even higher.

 

This morning, several stations in La Porte were charging as much as $4.69 a gallon, and the same was true in Michigan City, Westville, and Rolling Prairie.

 

In New Buffalo, gasoline this morning was still no higher than $4.39 a gallon.

 

According to GasBuddy.com, the most expensive gas in the area was in Valparaiso and Wanatah, with some stations charging $4.79 a gallon.

More Light Shed on Demolition of Old Hospital

(La Porte, IN) - We’ve learned more about the upcoming demolition of the former La Porte Hospital.

 

Right now, hospital officials said equipment and other furnishings on the inside are being removed from the structure. Once completed, the building will start being demolished in pieces with an excavator, and the site should be cleared by this time next year, hospital officials said.

 

Hospital officials also revealed the site would be converted into a grassy park-like space for the community to enjoy where the hospital retains ownership of the property. Officials said that they would explore any other type of use in the future with the city before a final decision.

 

Completed in 1972, the old hospital building is coming down after a new hospital called Northwest Health opened a short distance away on State Street in 2020.

 

Leigh Morris, chief executive officer and president of La Porte Hospital for more than 20-years beginning in the 1970s, said it’s difficult for him to see the chain link fencing up around the site.

 

The purpose of the fencing is to keep the public safe from the upcoming teardown.

 

Morris said La Porte Hospital replaced two aging hospitals that once served La Porte and was a symbol of modern medicine when it first opened.

 

“Even though I got some sad feelings about seeing that hospital torn down, I understand, and we will move ahead and have a wonderful health service in this community going forward,” Morris said.

Garage Damaged by Driverless Amazon Van

(La Porte County, IN) - A driver for Amazon delivered more than just packages.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the 26-year-old driver parked outside a home Friday in the area of 400 South and 300 East. He climbed into the back of the van to locate some packages to leave at the residence when the van started moving forward. The van drove 20 feet into the garage door. 

 

The impact left a massive dent in the door, but there was no structural damage. The driver, who explained he placed the delivery van in park, reached the homeowner at his workplace to notify him about the damage, police said. 

Reward Offered for Park Vandals

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte is offering a cash reward in hopes of solving an act of vandalism.

 

A soft grassy area next to a parking lot at Kesling Park was left with ruts from tires sometime Friday or early Saturday morning. Mayor Tom Dermody blamed the damage on a driver doing "burnouts" at one of the many parks that are a real asset to the city.

 

“Unacceptable. I apologize to the community that we got people here that don’t want to enjoy or respect what makes us special,” Dermody said.

The cash reward is $250 for an arrest and conviction is the case. Dermody suggested that any sentencing should include repairing the damage and working in the parks for free during the summer. The police department can be reached at 219-362-9446.

 

Crash Involved Speed and Bald Tires

(La Porte County, IN) - A woman was seriously hurt when a car overturned in La Porte County. The accident occurred on U.S. 35 at 1100 South at about 5:30 a.m. on Friday.

 

La Porte County Police said the driver, Matthew Eggert, 28, of Plymouth, was northbound on U.S 35 when he went straight where the road curves at 1100 South.  The car flipped on its roof and slid until coming to rest about 200 feet from a tree.

 

Police said a medical helicopter was called for his passenger, Courtney Hay, 38, of La Porte. She was in a lot of pain and may have aggravated a previous medical condition in her back.

 

Police said the helicopter could not take flight, though, because of rainy weather. Instead, Hay was taken by ambulance to Memorial Hospital in South Bend.

 

The car appeared to be traveling at a high rate of speed on bald tires when the accident happened. However, according to investigators, Eggert and Hay stated they had no idea how the collision occurred. 

 

Eggert was cited for driving without a valid license. 

Fire at Texas Corral

(Michigan City, IN) - A chain restaurant caught fire last night in Michigan City.

 

According to the fire department, the fire was at Texas Corral on Franklin Street near Interstate 94. So far, officials have not revealed the extent of the damage. However, pictures show heavy smoke from the north side of the structure.

 

Officials say the cause of the fire is under investigation. More information regarding the fire will be reported when available from officials. 

 

Region Man Arrested for Harassing the Court

(Morocco, IN) - A northwest Indiana man has been arrested for threatening the Indiana Supreme Court.

 

On Wednesday 26-year-old David Wayne Goetz of Morocco was arrested by the Indiana State Police. Morocco is in Newton County just south of Lake County.

 

Detectives have been investigating Goetz since February, prompted by complaints to Indiana State Capitol Police. He was allegedly sending Supreme Court Justices threatening emails. He was also placing phone calls to court officials and leaving threatening voicemail messages.

 

He was charged with two counts of Level 5 felony Intimidation.

Alleged Murderer Wins Primary

(Boone County, IN) - One primary election in central Indiana this week saw an alleged murderer win his race for local office.

 

40-year-old Andrew Wilhoite of Lebanon received enough Republican votes for a Township Board position. According to results posted by the Boone County Clerk's Office, Wilhoite was one of three candidates for a three-person board. He received just under 22 percent of the votes.

 

Unfortunately, the candidate is also currently an inmate. Wilhoite is being held in the Boone County Jail without bond. He’s accused of killing his wife back in March and faces one Level 1 felony murder charge.

 

A jury trial is scheduled for the end of August. If convicted before November 8, Wilhoite will be automatically removed from the ballot.

Police Warn of Gas Station Scammers

(La Porte County, IN) - The Sheriff’s Office is reporting an ongoing scam in the La Porte area.

 

Two groups of alleged grifters have been frequenting gas stations in northern La Porte County. One operates out of a white Ford Explorer and the other out of a gray Dodge Avenger.

 

According to police, "The shysters approach hardworking citizens with various sob stories and gas money requests. In exchange for money, the fraudsters begin attempting to trade jewelry, all of which is fake!"

St. Joseph County Settles Lawsuit for Alleged Negligence

(South Bend, IN) - Officials in St. Joseph County have settled a lawsuit alleging negligence against two county police officers.

 

Last February, a driver alleged to be under the influence of alcohol, Stephen Stopczynski, left the scene of an accident only to cause another crash hours later on Crumstown Highway.

 

A woman and her four children were injured in the second crash, in which Stopczynski died. The family alleged that if officers had taken the drunk driver into custody, their accident wouldn’t have happened.

 

The county has agreed to pay the family $10,000 and did not admit liability.

Turbo Tax Settlement

(New York) - If you have used a certain online tax preparation service in recent years, you may be getting a refund from them.

 

The parent company of TurboTax—Intuit, Inc.—has agreed to a lawsuit settlement based on alleged false advertising of free tax services. The suit claimed that nearly 4.4 million taxpayers nationwide qualified for the company’s free filing service, but were charged a fee.

 

In the settlement, TurboTax denied any wrongdoing but agreed to refund a total of $141 million.

 

Customers who used the TurboTax Free Edition between 2016 and 2018 may qualify. A direct payment of about $30 via check will be automatically be sent out.

Alleged Molester Linked to Kids' Undergarments

(La Porte County, IN) - More details are known about the child molesting allegations leveled against a man brought back from Mexico to face charges. Alexander Perez could face 20 to 40 years on the Level 1 Felony count.

 

30-year-old Perez lived in an RV on the property of longtime friends on 650 North in Springfield Township when the alleged sex crime occurred in September of 2021. Court documents revealed the 13-year-old son of the property owner woke up inside his residence during the early morning hours to Perez performing a sex act on him.  The boy kicked Perez in the face or chest and soon told his father, who booted Perez off the property.

 

Court documents also revealed evidence suggesting that Perez sneaked into the bedrooms of the boy and his sister periodically and returned to his RV with their undergarments. After charges were filed, Perez fled south of the border.

 

Local investigators, along with detectives from the U.S. Marshal’s Office, with permission to enter the country located Perez in Mexico City after an intense search, police said. Perez was housed in the San Diego County Jail until recently returned to face charges. He’s being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $100,000 cash-only bond.

Spotlight on Building Trades

(La Porte County, IN) - At the LaPorte County Commissioners’ meeting held on Wednesday, Commissioner Sheila Matias continued the LaPorte County WORKS! business report by highlighting the many building trades across northwest Indiana.

 

"Northwest Indiana was built by the skilled hands of countless hard-working men and women in the building trades who worked together to build the vast industrial complexes, commercial districts, residential neighborhoods, interstates, highways, and railways across the Region," Matias said.

We Build Northwest Indiana is a resource for people interested in construction and maintenance-related careers. 

 

While some opportunities require a college degree, most require a comprehensive training and education program known as an apprenticeship. Trade Careers include Glaziers, HVAC techs, and Boilermakers, she said.

 

“Apprenticeship programs can be challenging, but they are the pathway to a full and rewarding career pathway. Matias said that individuals who demonstrate the special blend of academic, mechanical aptitude, and physical requirements will qualify,” Matias said.

Qualities of successful applicants include a strong work ethic, positive attitude, and dependability. General, minimum qualifications include being at least 18 years old, in good physical shape, drug-free, having a valid driver's license, reliable transportation, and a high school diploma or something equivalent to a GED.

 

To find out more and apply for positions within the building trades, please go to the following websites for apprenticeship applications at https://webuildnwi.com/index.html. The link to the Indiana Plan for the pre-apprenticeship program can be found here: Application Form | Indiana Plan for Equal Employment.

Health Officials Issue Tick Advisory

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana health officials are urging Hoosiers to protect themselves from tick bites during and after spending time outdoors as warmer weather increases tick activity.

 

“We are all ready to enjoy the outdoors again after being inside over much of the winter,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., M.P.H. “We ask Hoosiers to take precautions, so we don’t see a bump in tick-borne illnesses, which are preventable.”

While Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in Indiana, Hoosiers are also at risk for other tick-borne diseases, including ehrlichiosis and spotted fever group rickettsiosis (a group of diseases) including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever), officials said.

 

While the risk for ehrlichiosis is highest in southern Indiana, tick-borne diseases are present in all parts of the state, so all Hoosiers should take steps to prevent tick bites from early spring through late fall. 

 

Those precautions include:

  • Knowing where ticks are likely to be present (close to the ground in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas)
  • Treating boots, clothing, and outdoor gear with 0.5% permethrin (NOTE: permethrin should NOT be used on bare skin)
  • Using EPA-registered insect repellents with active ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undecanoate
  • Treating pets for ticks in consultation with a veterinarian

Once indoors, officials said people should thoroughly check for ticks on clothing, gear, pets, and skin. Tumbling clothes in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes will kill ticks, and showering can help remove any unattached ticks.

 

“Tick checks are an essential part of preventing tick-borne illnesses. Quickly finding and removing a tick can help prevent you from becoming sick,” Brown said.

Ticks can be safely removed using tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin and then pull outward with steady and even pressure. After the tick is removed, the area should be washed thoroughly. Ticks should never be crushed with fingernails.

 

If desired, an attached tick that has been removed may be saved in a sealed bag or container of alcohol for later inspection in case the person or pet becomes ill. Alternatively, ticks may be flushed down the toilet or wrapped tightly in tape and thrown in the trash. Testing ticks to see if they are carrying diseases is not generally recommended, as the information cannot reliably be used to predict whether disease transmission occurred.

 

After finding an attached tick, anyone who becomes ill should see a medical provider immediately and alert the provider to the exposure. Most tick-borne diseases can be treated with antibiotics, and prompt diagnosis can help prevent complications.

 

For more information about ticks and how to prevent the diseases they carry, visit http://www.in.gov/isdh/20491.htm.

 

You also can visit the Indiana Department of Health at www.Statehealth.in.gov for important health and safety information or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and Facebook at www.facebook.com/StateHealthIN.

Pursuit Ends on Threat to Release Dog

(La Porte, IN) - A 58-year-old La Porte man should know by now that he can’t outrun the police.

 

William Miller, Jr. has a lifetime ban on his driver’s license, but he was allegedly behind the wheel of a van Tuesday night when an officer tried pulling him over on Clay Street. He reportedly hit the gas but soon slammed on his brakes on Jefferson Ave. and fled from the vehicle. 

 

Miller was running down Adams Street with an officer chasing him but stopped and lay on the ground when a threat was made to release a police dog. The pursuing officer held him at gunpoint until other police officers arrived and took him away in handcuffs.

 

At the time, Miller had a warrant out for his arrest on allegations he violated probation. He’s charged with Level 5 felony Habitual Traffic Offender and two counts of Resisting Law Enforcement.

Charges in Ramming of Expectant Mother

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County man allegedly injured a pregnant woman by intentionally ramming into her vehicle. 

 

45-year-old Scott Dobrodt is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 5 felony battery. According to court documents, he was upset with his stepdaughter and boyfriend for tearing up his yard with their vehicle. They were pulling into his driveway Tuesday when Dobrodt, already behind the wheel of his pick-up truck, allegedly hit the gas and struck their car head-on.

 

Police said his stepdaughter is six months pregnant and had trouble breathing after the collision. She also complained of pain in her chest and had a cut on her hand, and was taken by ambulance to a hospital. No serious injuries were detected to her unborn child.

 

Dobrodt admitted to striking the vehicle because of them doing burnouts in his yard in the 6600 block of West 300 North, police said.  The charges carry anywhere from a 2 to 12-year sentence.

Wrong Way Overpass Collision

(La Porte, IN) - Nobody was injured in a wrong-way collision on the U.S 35 overpass in downtown La Porte.

 

According to police, 86-year-old Owen Stacy was southbound on Pine Lake Avenue Wednesday afternoon in his 2001 Lincoln Town Car. The North Judson man told police he failed to notice the lanes approaching the overpass separate. 

 

Stacy wound up in the northbound lanes of the overpass and struck an oncoming car driven by Samantha Holland, 26, of La Porte. Holland said it was too late for her to react when she noticed the oncoming vehicle in her travel lane.

 

Damage from the crash on the north side of the overpass was estimated at $5,000 to $10,000. In addition, Stacy was cited for driving left of center.

La Porte County Adopts Illegal Hiring Ordinance

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County has joined the fight against illegal workers.

 

On Wednesday, the La Porte County Commissioners adopted an ordinance prohibiting illegal workers from being hired at significant construction in the county. Supporters say undocumented workers paid cash, and not having taxes withheld is a considerable problem statewide and across the nation.

 

The problems range from skilled tradespeople losing job opportunities to money not finding its way back into local economies and billions in tax dollars lost.  

 

Commission President Sheila Matias drew applause from more than a dozen union workers when she praised them for being a significant part of the fabric of the country's success and the families living here since the start of organized labor.

 

“We cannot turn a blind eye to crooked corporate greed and unscrupulous companies who refuse to follow the law while the rest of us law-abiding workers, including union tradesmen and women, play by the rules. The United States of America rules,” Matias said.

Commissioner Joe Haney voted against the measure calling it a “feel-good ordinance” without the teeth to stop illegal workers from being hired. Haney said the best approach to stop unlawful hiring is for the state to get involved.

 

John Carr, a business representative from the Indiana Kentucky Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, said Haney doesn’t understand the issue enough. Carr pointed to a similar ordinance in the City of La Porte that was used to expose dozens of illegal workers at The Banks, a resort-type apartment complex going up beside Clear Lake.

 

The subcontractors have been charged with criminal offenses, including tax fraud. The city has also suspended their license to work here for two years. A lifetime ban on their license could follow if they’re convicted.

 

“The city was able to use the evidence and suspend the license of that contractor which I don’t know if they would have been able to do that without the ordinance they have,” Carr said.

Carr said other municipalities in Lake and Porter counties wholeheartedly had adopted such measures, and Haney is the only official in the region to vote against it. He said the idea is to have enforcement locally until there’s enough support in the state legislature for such a law that can be enforced statewide.

People Upset Over Election Results Wait

(La Porte County, IN) - The decision not to release vote totals until all of the votes were counted Tuesday night is taking a public beating. Complaints were voiced during Wednesday’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting.

 

La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens said candidates and their campaign workers deserve to know how the vote-counting is going early after working hard for months on the campaign trail. Stevens, a Republican, said it’s unfair to add stress to their lives by being kept in suspense about how they’re doing until all of the ballots have been counted.

 

Former La Porte County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Kimmel said releasing early results is a long tradition. People enjoy and build their election night gatherings around the excitement of following the count. He said early results also help local media members provide good election night coverage.

 

“It’s a good night for them to get the information out to the public,” Kimmel said.

Kimmel also thought it was very upsetting that nobody was told in advance about the decision, which left people waiting for the first results frustrated and speculating over what they suspected was a delay in the counting.

 

“Why wasn’t the media told about this in advance. They were sitting around with befuddled looks on their faces. They had no answers on what was going on,” Kimmel said.

Eventually, reporters went looking for the answers.

 

Election Board members explained they were not releasing the results until all of the voters were counted to avoid the chance of making the same mistakes that occurred in 2020.

 

Election Board Vice-President Nelson Pichardo said some of the votes were not counted accurately, but the mistakes weren’t discovered until the early results were made public. Pichardo said the corrections did not change the outcome of any race, but many people were still upset.

 

La Porte County government attorney Shaw Friedman said there was good reason for the decision by the election board. However, Friedman said he hopes a “middle ground” to the liking of the election board and people who enjoy knowing the early results are reached before November.

 

“I understand everyone’s frustration but I think they made the decision in good faith,” Friedman said.

Friedman was also critical of the election board for not giving advance notice.

 

“If there was a mistake made it was, perhaps, not alerting folks well in advance of election night that was the plan,” Freidman said.

Friedman said he also suggested to the election board members to give plenty of advance notice on how the counting in the November general election will be conducted.

 

The LaPorte County Election Board comprises President Chuck Watterson, Vice-President Nelson Pichardo, and County Clerk Heather Stevens.

Charges in Assault of Police Officer

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is accused of kicking a police officer when he put up a struggle during his arrest. Xaun Logan, 26, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 Felony Battery Against a Public Safety Official.

 

According to police, Logan was spotted by officers not using a crosswalk Sunday while walking across Lincolnway near Detroit Street with two children. Knowing he had an active warrant out for his arrest, officers approached Logan, who showed symptoms of drug use.

 

While resisting officers, Logan was taken to other ground and kicked one of the officers in the face while trying to get away. One of the officers struck Logan in the face three times with a fist to try and gain control of him. Officers eventually placed Logan in handcuffs after threatening to use a taser gun on him.

 

Police said Logan was yelling and screaming during a profanity-laced tantrum and kicking the inside of the police vehicle while being transported to the La Porte County Jail, where he was placed into a restraint chair because of his continued violent demeanor.

 

According to court records, Logan has previously been charged with battery to a public safety official and other crimes such as intimidation, violating a protective order, and drug possession.

Early Morning Shooting

(Michigan City, IN) - A man was shot this morning in Michigan City.

 

According to police, officers were called just before 1 a.m. to the 200 block of Thurman Avenue on a report of shots fired and one person shot. That area is just east of Franklin Street, near the former Elston High School.

 

The man was taken by ambulance to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the arm. So far, no arrests have been made. However, witnesses are being interviewed, and other evidence is gathered to identify the shooter. 

 

Investigators are also looking for anyone who might have surveillance video of the suspect. Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police.

Repeat Home Invader Strikes Again

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte couple was shaken up when a man with a history of breaking into homes and hurting people allegedly tried forcing his way into their home, looking like a character in a Halloween movie.

 

Michael Bullington, 40, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to court documents, a man and his wife woke up to a banging noise at three o’clock in the morning last week. They saw a man with a face and neck covered in tattoos trying to force open the back doors of their home in the 1200 block of I st.

 

Police said the man and woman pushed against the inside of the doors to keep the man pressing against the doors from the outside from possibly busting his way through. They also yelled at the man to stop and then called the police. Soon, officers located Bullington hiding in some bushes near the residence.

 

Police said he never got inside the home, but he’s still charged with residential entry and public intoxication.

 

In 2013, Bullington was inside a home on Kingsporte Lane in La Porte when spotted leaving by the owner. He was on the ground wrestling with Bullington when the intruder slashed him in the face and neck with a box cutter. Police said the homeowner was treated and released.

 

According to court records, Bullington received a 12-year prison sentence for Aggravated Battery and over three years credit for time served to wait for the case to be resolved. In addition, Bullington has a record of breaking into other homes and hurting people.

Thursday Sign Ups for Summer Camp

(Michigan City, IN) - The Salvation Army of Michigan City offers free summer camp to Michigan City youth. Registration takes place at The Salvation Army 1201 Franklin Street on Thursday from 4-6 pm.

 

Youth summer camp has been a service provided by The Salvation Army for many years, said Major Dale Simmons.

 

Last year, Simmons said we could only send one group, and the year before, it was canceled, both due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the goal is to send as many children to camp this year for the multiple camps offered this year as in previous years.

 

Camp-goers will visit Little Pine Island near Grand Rapids, Michigan, and experience the same activities camp generally offers. In addition, Simmons said the camp would include adventure, crafts, singing, campfires, swimming, cabins, character-building activities, and other fun.

 

This camp experience is offered free of charge for local families thanks to a grant from Duneland Health Council and donations from the community.  All costs are covered, including transportation, meals, housing, and activities.

 

Simmons said the camp is open to students in Michigan City who are in first grade through 17 years of age. 

 

To register, parents must call (219) 874-6885 before May 31.  Immunization records, insurance information, and proof of residency will be required at the registration appointment.

 

Camps offered:

  • Jr. Adventure Camp June 14-17 (Completed grades 1-5)
  • Music Camp June 18-25 (Ages 9-17)
  • Sports Camp June 28-July 1 (Completed grades 6-12)
  • Mini-Mites July 5-7 (Completed grades K-3)
  • High Adventure July 5-7 (Completed grades 6-12)
  • Jr. Sports July 11-14 (Completed grades 1-5)
  • Adventure July 18-22 (Completed grades 6-12)

 

More information regarding summer camp, or other Salvation Army programs, is available by contacting The Salvation Army at (219) 874-6885 or visiting www.samichigancity.org.

Taco Fest Pushed Back by Dreary Forecast

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte's Taco Fest has been postponed due to Friday's grim forecast.

 

"With chilly temperatures and a 100 percent chance of rain in the forecast, we feel it is best to reschedule Friday night's festivities," said Events & Civic Auditorium Director for the city Brett Binversie. "We want Taco Fest to be a fun, positive experience for visitors and vendors alike, and it just doesn't seem that the weather would permit that." 

 

The event on Monroe Street just north of Lincolnway is rescheduled for Friday, July 8.

 

The festival, made possible by Arnett Construction & Roofing, will feature local food and beer vendors, a pop-up artisan market and live music. Food vendors will also compete for the title of "Best Taco."

 

More information on this event can be found at livinthelakelife.org/events/tacofest.

 

The inaugural Taco Fest in October was threatened by cool temperatures and rain but the rain stopped just prior to the start of the event, which drew a huge crowd.

Meer Fails in Political Comeback Attempt

(Michigan City, IN) - The former mayor of Michigan City failed in his bid for a political comeback last night. Ron Meer finished last in the Democratic Party primary for State Senate from District 4.

 

Incumbent Rodney Pol, Jr. of Chesterton won the party’s nomination with 44-percent of the vote. Deb Chubb and Todd Connor, both from Michigan City, received over 20-percent of the vote. Meer had seven percent of the vote. District 4 includes Michigan City and much of northern Porter County.

 

Though Meer had seven percent of the total vote, he received over 16-percent of the La Porte County vote.

 

In his bid for a third term as Michigan City's mayor, Meer was defeated by Republican Duane Parry by less than 100 votes in 2019. 

People Angered at Late Vote Tally Release

(La Porte County, IN) - More than four hours passed before any vote totals in La Porte County were released last night.

 

Typically, vote totals start being released by precinct early in the counting, giving the public a running total to gauge how the candidates are doing in their races throughout the night. However, last night, no totals were released until all of the votes countywide were tallied, which upset candidates and their supporters wanting to know how the races were shaping up.

 

La Porte County Election Board Chairman Nelson Pichardo said errors in the vote-counting two years ago were later corrected. However, a majority of election board members did not want to take a chance of making the same mistake. The Election Board comprises Republican Chuck Watterson, Democrat Nelson Pichardo, and LaPorte County Clerk Heather Stevens. 

 

“We believe that folks deserve accurate information in a reasonable amount of time instead of wrong numbers rushed, so that’s the decision that we made,” Pichardo said.

Pichardo said the counting errors in 2020, despite being corrected, angered many people, and rightly so. However, he largely blamed bugs in the system for the fixed inaccuracies once caught.

 

This year, the LaPorte County Clerk, Heather Stevens, added electronic poll books. Since they were utilized for the first time last night, the Election Board decided to be extra careful, so the counting was accurate before all votes were released.

 

The vote totals from all precincts in the county were released at about 10 p.m. 

Heeg and Hynek for Sheriff in November

(La Porte County, IN) - The race for La Porte County Sheriff in November was decided in last night’s primary election. Current Chief Deputy Sheriff Ron Heeg defeated patrol officer Andrew Morse by 18-percent points.

 

If Heeg wins in November, one of his top priorities is connecting more people with treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues. Heeg believes that extending help to more people with those difficulties would put a major dent in crime.

 

“I’m going to say probably about 30 to 50 percent of all crimes in La Porte County are because of substance abuse,” Heeg explained. 

Heeg said the crimes committed by substance abusers are often burglary and theft to obtain things of value to buy drugs. Other crimes resulting from substance abuse include operating while intoxicated, he said. 

 

In the November general election, Heeg will face Capt. Andy Hynek won the Democrat party nomination. Hynek defeated current jail commander Al Ott by five percentage points. Deputy James D. Arnold received 20-percent of the vote.

 

Hynek's plan includes reducing recidivism in the jail, increasing focus on mental health within the jail and among the staff, and using a first-hand educational approach to battling the heroin epidemic.

Milo Falls Short in Bid for Congress

(La Porte, IN) - A former La Porte mayor lost her bid for a seat in Congress in last night’s primary election.

 

Blair Milo lost to Jennifer-Ruth Green in the Republican race for the 1st District Congressional seat. Milo received 23 percent of the vote in a district mainly consisting of voters from Lake and Porter counties. Green had 47 percent of the vote.

 

Milo was disappointed at the outcome but proud of the campaign she ran.

 

“We ran a strong race.  We carried forward a mission that I’m extremely proud of and championed opportunities for the region and ideas that we need to fight against and things we need to fight for, so I’m extremely proud of the work we led and brought forward,” Milo said.

In La Porte County, Milo received 50 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Green.

 

Green, from Crown Point, will face incumbent Democrat Frank Mrvan of Hammond in November. Mrvan is favored to win the race, though it is expected to be competitive. 

 

Milo was elected to two terms as mayor before leaving for Indianapolis to work as a member of the governor’s cabinet.

2022 LaPorte County Primary Election Results

Follow this page for updated election results. Listen to live coverage of 96.7 the Eagle here

 

 

 

 

LAPORTE COUNTY NOTABLE RACES

 

(R) U.S. Rep District 1

  • Jennifer-Ruth Green: 1327 (33.43%)
  • Mark Leyva: 140 (3.53%)
  • Martin Lucas: 109 (2.75%)
  • Blair E. Milo: 1993 (50.21%)
  • Nicholas Pappas: 153 (3.85%)
  • Ben Ruiz: 151 (3.80%)
  • Aaron Storer: 96 (2.42%)

 

(D) State Sen District 4

  • Deb Chubb: 882 (32.04%)
  • Todd Connor: 652 (23.68%)
  • Ron Meer: 465 (16.89%)
  • Rodney Pol Jr.: 754 (27.39%)

 

(R) State Sen District 4

  • Jeff Larson: 1056 (74.52%)
  • Johannes Poulard: 361 (25.48%)

 

(D) County Sheriff

  • James D. Arnold: 1109 (19.62%)
  • Andrew S. Hynek: 2423 (42.87%)
  • Al Ott: 2120 (37.51%)

 

(R) County Sheriff

  • Ron Heeg: 3790 (58.85%)
  • Andrew J. Morse: 2650 (41.15%)

 

(R) Co Commissioner Dist 1

  • Elizabeth (Liz) Bergeron: 1598 (25.28%)
  • Connie Gramarossa: 3092 (48.92%)
  • Nathan C. Patrick: 1630 (25.79%)

 

(R) Co Council District 1

  • Justin Kiel: 1238 (58.98%)
  • Adam Koronka: 861 (41.02%)

 

(R) Co Council District 4

  • Mike Rosenbaum: 1046 (51.78%)
  • Ron Schafer: 974 (48.22%)

 

(R) Center Township Board

  • Amy Burris: 948 (23.16%)
  • Dakota H. Euler: 470 (11.48%)
  • Kyleen R. Fuller: 703 (17.18%)
  • Duane Miller: 727 (17.76%)
  • Bob Wellinski: 1245 (30.42%)

 

The rest of the results: 

 

Recall Effort Clears Hurdle

(St. Joseph, MI) - An effort to remove two New Buffalo City Council members before their terms expire has crossed the first hurdle.

 

The language in petitions to recall John Humphrey and Brian Flanagan was unanimously approved on May 3 by the Berrien County Election Commission during a clarity hearing at the Berrien County Administrative Building in St. Joseph.

 

Reasons cited in the petitions for recalling Humphrey and Flanagan are their November 23 votes to adopt an ordinance prohibiting new short-term rentals in the city's R1, R2, and R3 zoning districts.

 

The unanimous decision by the city council in favor of the ordinance went against the recommendation of the New Buffalo Planning Commission, which felt more information was needed before deciding whether to impose the cap.

 

Berrien County Chief Deputy Clerk Sheila Reitz said the recall petitions would require 219 valid signatures for a recall election in November. If enough signatures are obtained, she said Humphrey and Flanagan would face opposition on the ballot.

Street Repair List in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - The list of streets to be repaired this year in La Porte has been unveiled.

 

Washington Street from Michigan Avenue to Madison Street and Chicago Street by the Post Office are among the streets to be resurfaced. Other streets on the repair list include Darlington Street and Andrew Avenue near 18 Street.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said Michigan Avenue and Chicago Street are a top priority for the city this summer and were mentioned the most by citizens in their questions about upcoming street work.

 

La Porte County Councilman Mike Rosenbaum specifically asked for Chicago Street to be repaved to protect ambulances at the nearby EMS base from the wear and tear caused by the highly patched, bumpy surface.

 

Dermody said he wishes more could be done, but there’s only enough funding to repair about five percent of the streets each year. Over $1.8 million will be spent on fixing roads this year, and roughly half of those monies are coming from the state.

 

Dermody praised City Engineer Nick Minich, and the city’s still relatively new street maintenance plan designed to extend pavement lifespan to save money and gradually reduce the number of streets that need resurfacing.

Classic Cars Destroyed in Barn Fire

(LaCrosse, IN) - A La Porte County farmer lost machinery and tools and three classic cars to a fire that destroyed his barn and ran the municipal water tank dry. His grandfather initially owned one of the cars, a 1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88 convertible.

 

“That’s the one that hurts the most,” said Bobby Younggreen, who’s lived on the farm in his family for about a century since 1980.

 

Younggreen, 60, said he was notified about the early Monday fire while on delivery, and his drive back home from southern Indiana seemed like the longest in his 40-year career as a full-time truck driver.

 

“I was kind of in shock,” Younggreen said.

 

The cars and farm equipment, including a combine and two tractors, were inside his 22,000 square foot pole barn, which collapsed during the fire at his farm in LaCrosse. The fire was intense enough to engulf a pick-up truck parked outside the barn in flames.

 

Younggreen said he has insurance to cover the total loss estimated at a “couple hundred thousand dollars” in equipment. However, he wasn’t sure about the cost of building another pole structure or the value of the cars.  

 

The other destroyed vehicles were a 1992 maroon Chevy Corvette convertible and a 1983 Cadillac.

 

Younggreen said the Oldsmobile was passed down to his father, who left him the car when he died more than 10-years ago.  He purchased the other two classic vehicles several years ago and took all of them on rides during the summer. The cars had only about 30,000 miles on their odometers and were still in their natural state.

 

“They were pretty nice. They were all stock,” Younggreen said.

 

LaCrosse Fire Chief Aaron Rust said the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but one of the possibilities involves a battery charger overheating. A half dozen battery chargers were plugged into a power strip to keep his batteries fully charged for drills and other power tools he uses on the farm.

 

Younggreen's wife discovered the fire after hearing what sounded like shotgun blasts from the tops of torches blowing off, perhaps from the heat pressure created inside the devices.

 

Younggreen raises corn and soybeans on 325 acres and rents another 80 acres to grow hay. He was delivering steel coils from Valparaiso to Rockport close to the Ohio River between Evansville and Louisville when notified about the fire.

 

Town Councilman Justin Kiel said a temporary boil order was issued for the town of more than 500 residents because of a drop in water pressure in the lines caused by the municipal tank on a tower running dry.

 

The tank was emptied from the amount of water pulled to fight the fire being faster than the volume entering the tank from the water treatment plant. As a result, residents had no water until the tank started filling up after the fire.

 

“We were able to get it back online fairly quickly. It was a relatively short disruption,” Kiel said.

 

Boil orders are required by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management whenever there’s a drop in water pressure that could allow contaminants into the system. Kiel said the order would be lifted once test results show the water is free of impurities.

 

Upon arrival, Rust said the barn was already engulfed in flames, and tanker trucks were bringing water from other sources before the tank ran dry. He said the focus was on keeping the fire from spreading to the nearby house, which was not damaged.

 

“We had constant water supplies,” Rust said.

Jail Promotions Announced

(La Porte County, IN) - Three officers in the La Porte County Jail have been promoted.

 

Sergeant Jeff Holt was hired on December 1, 2014. ?Holt moved up from Shift Sergeant on the Afternoon Shift to Assistant Jail Commander of Operations, police said. Holt is a 2012 graduate of Michigan City High School.

 

Sergeant Jamie Eguia was hired on December 17, 2018. Eguia was promoted from Shift Corporal on the Afternoon Shift to Afternoon Shift Sergeant.  She is a 2000 graduate of Michigan City High School and a US Army Veteran.

 

Corporal Carlos Espinoza was hired on July 2, 2018. Espinoza previously served as a deputy on the Day Shift. He moves to the Afternoon Shift to assist with day-to-day operations and supervision. He is a 2008 graduate of Thomas A. Edison High School in Lake Station and still lives in that community.

HTNN Primary Coverage Show

Join Dennis Siddall, Nate Loucks, Stan Maddux, and Liam Hobbs on 96.7 the Eagle and HometownNewsNow.com as they report on election results and stories from around LaPorte County. 

 

Get up-to-date LaPorte County election results here

 

 

 

 

 

Man Sentenced for Child Pornography

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man has been sentenced for downloading hundreds of naked images of children. Jimmie Jackson, 74, was convicted in La Porte Circuit Court of Level 6 Felony Possession of Child Pornography.

 

Under a guilty plea sentence handed down by Judge Tom Alevizos, Jackson received six months of home detention followed by one year on probation. GPS will monitor his activities. He could have received up to three years in prison.

 

According to court documents, Jackson, over two years ago, took his laptop in for repair, and a technician discovered numerous explicit images of children on the hard drive. In addition, the hard drive was locked up by a virus.

 

Under the sentencing order, Jackson must register as a sex offender and is prohibited from having a laptop or other electronic device unless it’s equipped with software to allow probation officers to monitor his activity.

Fugitive Hiding in Barn Captured

(La Porte County, IN) - Police reeled in a suspected drug-using fugitive found hiding in a Michigan City area barn. Timothy Witten, 29, of Kingsford Heights, is charged with Possession of Methamphetamine and Possession of a Hypodermic Needle.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, deputies went to the 6900 block of West Red Apple Drive in Coolspring Township to arrest Witten on a warrant for violating probation. Officers had reason to believe Witten had just fled inside the barn.

 

Officials gave Whitten loud verbal commands to come out with his hands up and threatened him with possible use of a taser gun if he didn’t reveal himself. Instead, Witten appeared from the corner of the barn where he had been hiding underneath items.

 

Whitten was found with .06 grams of methamphetamine, two hypodermic needles, and $620 in cash. According to court records, Witten has a criminal record for theft and battery. 

Arrest in Scary Slow Speed Pursuit

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police arrested a driver who nearly struck oncoming vehicles during a pursuit that must have seemed as slow, perhaps, as a line of turtles.

 

Vincent Reeves, 48, of Knox, Indiana, is charged with Operating While Intoxicated, Resisting Law Enforcement with a Motor Vehicle, and Possession of a Legend Drug.

 

According to police, officers responding to a reckless driver report located Reeves before 8 p.m., veering back and forth across the center line on Johnson Road in the Waterford area. Close to a dozen vehicles were behind his Nissan Altima because he traveled at prolonged speeds.

 

Police said an officer attempted to make a traffic stop, but Reeves wouldn’t pull over and, sometimes, accelerated. He traveled anywhere from 6 miles per hour to nearly 30 mph. during the pursuit as oncoming drivers swerved out of his way, police said.

 

Reeves was eventually caught when the front tires on his vehicles were flattened by stop sticks placed by Deputy Tyler Olberholtzer on Johnson Road near the new Center Township Fire Station. Reeves appeared to be under the influence of the painkiller, Oxycodone found in his vehicle. However, officials later discovered that Reeves did not have a prescription for the pills.

 

Officers described him as confused, speaking with slurred speech, and looking like he wanted to fall asleep, judging by his droopy eyelids. 

 

When asked where he was coming from, Reeves said, "city," and thought it was Saturday.

Haney Endorses Green in Race for Congress

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official is endorsing one of the republican candidates running for Congress. Commissioner Joe Haney is supporting Jennifer Ruth Green.

 

Many political experts believe the republican nomination for the 1st District Congressional seat will come to Green from Crown Point and former La Porte Mayor Blair Milo in a seven-candidate race in Tuesday’s primary election.

 

Haney said Green seems to have an unwavering attitude similar to what he had when he ran for county commissioner two years ago, judging from his talks with her on several occasions.

 

“The passion and determination that I’ve heard from her, I’ve seen it in her eyes, and that fire she has reminds you of when I first ran for office two years, and that’s the same conviction I have today, and that’s to stand for what’s right and to not back down no matter what,” Haney said.

Haney said he also likes her positions on issues like a secure southern border, defending the U.S. Constitution, and strong national defense.

 

Haney said he never had a chance to get to know Milo, who had already left as mayor to work for the governor before he became a commissioner.

 

 

Early Voting Deadline Passes

(La Porte County, IN) - The deadline has passed to vote early for Tuesday’s primary elections in Indiana. The deadline was noon.

 

La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens said voters cast more than 1,800 early votes countywide. There are more than 70,000 registered voters in La Porte County. In addition, 86 percent of the already cast votes were from people who physically went to an early voting polling site.

 

Stevens said early voting this year was considerably lower than the primary in 2020, when many people voted early to avoid the risk of contracting COVID-19 at the polls. 2020 was also a presidential election year when voter turnout, historically, is much greater.

Alleged Child Molester Returned from Mexico

(La Porte County, IN) - A suspected child molester who fled to Mexico returned to La Porte County to face charges. Alexander Perez, 30, is held in the La Porte County Jail on a $100,000 bond.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the investigation began in September when officers were called to a home on a report of a sex offense involving a juvenile in rural Springfield Township.

 

Police said enough evidence was collected against Perez for an arrest warrant against him a month later. However, it was determined Perez had fled to Mexico.

 

In December, local authorities working with federal agents exercised their privilege to work south of the border and, following an intense search, located Perez in Mexico City, police said. He was held in the San Diego County Jail until he returned here ten days ago to face charges.

 

The former Valparaiso man is charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 in Michigan City with Level 1 Felony Child Molesting. If convicted, Perez would face anywhere from a 20-year to 40-year sentence.

New Voting Equipment to Be Used in La Porte County

(La Porte, IN) - Primary elections are just days away. At the polls on Tuesday, voters will see some new advanced technology.

 

During a recent visit to La Porte, Secretary of State Holli Sullivan told HTNN about the election tech upgrades. “Your county here is getting new voting equipment and verified paper trails, as well as new voting booths,” she said. “Your clerk is extremely excited to get those implemented and let everybody be able to use them here.”

 

La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens said she has spent most of the last week training poll workers on the new equipment. One of the gadgets is an electronic device which will replace the clunky stack of papers that voters currently sign in with. “It’s very simple; instead of that big piece of paper, it’s an iPad,” she said. “It’s going to scan your driver’s license for you. It really is a big help to the poll workers. So far, they seem to love it.”

 

Stevens said another new device will be used that verifies an electronic vote with a secured paper printout. That way, votes can be double-checked later, if necessary. Stevens said the paper trail helps guarantee that votes aren’t somehow changed within the workings of an electronic voting device.  Only one of those machines will be at every polling station this election so poll workers can get used to them. They’ll be required on every voting device in the 2024 general election.

 

Secretary of State Sullivan is expecting a brisk turnout at polling stations this year. 2020 saw an unprecedented number of absentee and early paper ballots due to the pandemic. Primary elections are not usually as busy; however, Sullivan said some highly-contested races such as County Sheriff and the 1st Congressional District could drive more La Porte County voters to the polls.

A Tough Choice for Local Republicans in Important Congressional Race

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte’s Blair Milo isn’t the only Republican vying for an upset in Indiana’s 1st Congressional District.

 

The other front-runner in Tuesday’s primary race is Jennifer-Ruth Green of Crown Point. Green is a new face to La Porte Republicans and to Region voters in general. While visiting La Porte recently, she told HTNN a little about her political priorities. “The focus for me is definitely the home. Strong American families are important,” she emphasized. “And then a strong American economy. We see how important it is to have a lively economy that’s ready for workers and ready for jobs.” Green also stressed the need for bolstering national defense and border security.

 

Green acknowledged the hometown advantage of Blair Milo in this part of the district but said she has found plenty of support in La Porte County. “People here have been willing to hear who I am and learn more about me,” she said. “So I’m appreciative of that. I appreciate the open-mindedness of people in La Porte and just their willingness to see and evaluate the choices.”

 

Out of seven Republican candidates running in Tuesday’s primary, Milo and Green have emerged as the favorites. Hailing from opposite sides of the Congressional district, the two women share similarities and differences that will pose a difficult choice for primary voters.

 

Both women are successful military veterans. Milo served in the U.S. Navy for thirteen years, achieving the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Green is an Air Force Academy graduate and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She is currently a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air National Guard and runs a non-profit educational program that guides at-risk youth toward STEM careers.

 

Milo has been ensconced in state politics since becoming La Porte’s mayor in 2011. Following a stint as the state’s first Secretary for Career Connections and Talent, she currently works for Sagamore Institute promoting female and minority entrepreneurship. Milo has been endorsed by a group of over a dozen Indiana mayors.

 

Green is a newcomer to politics. However, she seems to have more GOP backing party-wide. Her endorsements include Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, Former U.S. Secretary of State and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Indiana Right to Life, and many sitting Republican members of Congress and the Indiana General Assembly.

 

If Green can ride a red wave to victory in the general election, she will become only the second African American Republican woman elected to Congress.

 

The other candidates in the 1st District primary race are Mark Leyva, who lost to Frank Mrvan in 2020, Martin Lucas, Nicholas Pappas, David Ruiz, and Aaron Storer. However, smart money has the ladies, Milo and Green, taking the race down to the wire. The question for Tuesday: which one?

 

Ultimately Republican voters in the Region may be faced with a choice between which candidate is more familiar to them and which one they think is more likely to win the general election in a liberal-leaning 1st District.

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