Local News Archives for 2022-07

No Ordinary Pig

(Valparaiso, IN) - A 300-pound hog in Porter County broke a record this week for its final selling price at the 4-H auction. The price it achieved was almost as impressive as the amount of love that went in to making it happen.

 

The portly piggy was the show animal of 10-year-old 4-H member Hudson Duttlinger of Wanatah.

 

As this year’s Reserve Grand Champion Gilt, the hog was no slouch, but it had a little something extra going for it: that’s the rest of the story.

 

Several years ago, Ashlee Duttlinger, Hudson’s mom, was diagnosed with colon cancer. Although it was in remission, the cancer recently returned with a vengeance. The 38-year-old wife and mother was able to sit ring-side when her son was awarded his ribbon, but she is now in hospice care.

 

Porter County’s 4-H community banded together in her honor. Jonathan and Anna Kraft, who run the annual livestock auction, are good friends of the Duttlinger family. Using GoFundMe, the Krafts organized a “bidding war” among online donors.

 

And on Thursday night, bids kept pouring in. According to auction organizers, 4-H swine normally sells for about $2.50 per pound on a good day. But Thursday was a great day. The price hit $100 per pound pretty quickly, then just kept going up. It wasn’t inflation, just a special kind of Hoosier hysteria.

 

“I got $100,” a cowboy-hatted auctioneer intoned, “$120…130…140…”

 

At $200 a pound, the cheering crowd rose to their feet. The frenzy continued.

 

“240…$250 a pound…and 260… now 70…”

 

At $280, the auctioneer had to pause. “I never thought an auctioneer could be at a loss for words, but this one is.”

 

And it didn’t stop there. More bids came in, and when the gavel dropped, Hudson Duttlinger’s hog, in honor of his mom, sold for $340 a pound. That’s $102,000 in total.

 

All the money will go into a scholarship fund for Ashlee’s two boys. Since the hog was purchased by over 100 different donors, the pork will be given to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana to help feed families in need.

New Rolling Prairie Subdivision Hits Second Road Block

(La Porte County, IN) - Another attempt to approve a new subdivision near Rolling Prairie was rejected this week.

 

Chicago-based Sloan Avenue Developers approached the La Porte County Plan Commission with revisions to a plan proposed back in April.

 

The previous plan had involved a development of about 300 homes on 166 acres off State Road 2 between 350 and 450 East. Developers submitted a new proposal to expand the lot sizes and reduce the number of homes to about 237 homes.

 

Many Rolling Prairie residents spoke out against the development. Encroaching on nearby agricultural areas was a primary concern, as expressed by commission member Glen Minich. “The biggest concern is, you are building in one of the most intensely farmed areas of La Porte County,” he said. “There are three to four thousand dairy cows a mile away. The waste is applied in the adjoining areas of this subdivision. There are going to be smells and dust that this developer has never seen before.”

 

Area resident Susan Taylor urged that utilities available to current homeowners be straightened out before more homes are brought in. “The utilities in this areas are crap,” she told commission members. “What is the county going to do to fix these utilities before they add 237 more homes? Our electricity and our cable goes out at least once a week. This needs to be fixed.”

 

Commission member Rich Mrozinski, however, was in favor of the development after voting against it previously. “A big plus is that we can tie into the sewer line in Rolling Prairie,” he said. “We need more flow for that sewer line.” He also liked the developer’s willingness to work within the county’s parameters. “I’ve talked with these folks a couple of times,” he said. “I like the way they want to do this, to start off with 30 homes, to see how that works. That will not only give them an idea of how things work, it will give us an idea of whether they can be trusted, and we can watch them and make sure everything’s going the way it’s supposed to.”

 

An hour-long special session preceded the regular Plan Commission meeting. Ultimately, the commission voted 5-2 against approving the new subdivision. The denial was a reverse of the previous rezoning attempt. In April, the Plan Commission approved the idea, which was subsequently shot down by the county’s Board of Commissioners.

Gilliland Takes on New Role with IHSAA

(Indianapolis, IN) - Ed Gilliland recently retired as LaPorte High School’s athletic director, but his talents are being put back to work for the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

 

Gilliland has been appointed IHSAA Associate Commissioner.

 

It’s a newly created part-time position that will allow Gilliland to represent the IHSAA in the northern half of the state. Specifically he will help mentor new athletic administrators, help recruit officials, and provide support at tournament events and IHSAA meetings.

 

It's a good fit for Gilliland, who is not new to statewide athletic matters. For the past seven years, he has served on the IHSAA Executive Committee, and was chair of the committe in 2017-18.

 

And Ed’s not moving away. He and his wife Marie will continue to live here in La Porte.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Tim Franke and Selah Brooks

(LAPORTE, IN) - Tim Franke is the LaPorte City Council President. Selah Brooks is a member of LaPorte’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. They were in the WCOE Studios to talk about the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, how decisions are made between the mayor and council, ideas for the former LaPorte Hospital space, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

Driver Charged in Highway Death of Two La Porte Men

(Plymouth, IN) - A Marshall County grand jury has indicted a truck driver for causing the death of two young men from La Porte.

 

On August 24 of last year, 19-year-old Patric McGlynn and 21-year-old John Paul Eckel were traveling east on U.S. 30 on their way to work.

 

Near Plymouth, a semi slammed their car into the back of a tanker truck carrying hazardous liquid. The car and the tanker caught fire, and the two men died in the vehicle.

 

The driver of the semi, 29-year-old Inderjit Singh Sidhu of Stockton, California, has been charged with two traffic violations, as well as two counts of reckless homicide. An initial hearing is set for October 4 in Marshall County Superior Court 1.

 

McGlynn and Eckel hailed from Connecticut, but were living in La Porte pursuing careers.

Race Track For Sale

(South Bend, IN) - If you’re in the market for a racetrack, there happens to be one for sale now, just east of La Porte County.

 

The South Bend Motor Speedway on State Road 2 is on the market.

 

The property’s 60 acres includes a pit area for up to 150 race cars and haulers, four concession stands, garages, tire barn, two parking lots, and one of the fastest quarter mile tracks around.

 

For over 70 years the speedway has been holding races, as well as flea markets, swap meets, car shows, even rodeos and concerts.

 

It’s a turnkey operation, owners say. They’ll even throw in the track’s ambulance, radio headsets, transponders, and scoring computers.

 

Asking price for all this ready-made fun is only $1.2 million.

Police Searching for Stolen Car with Child Inside (UPDATE)

(South Bend, IN) - The South Bend Police Department released the following alert around just after 7:00 a.m. Friday morning:

 

"The South Bend Police Department is actively working to locate a stolen vehicle with a one-year-old boy inside.

The vehicle, a 2011 silver Chevy Malibu bearing Indiana plate 618CMB, was stolen at approximately 7 am from the 600 block of N. Cushing.

Photos of the boy and vehicle are below. PLEASE SHARE to help us bring him home.

If you have any information, call 9-1-1 or SBPD at 574-235-9201."

 

Within a couple of hours, South Bend police reported that the baby was located and is safe. Police thanked the public for their help in spreading the word. They released no other information regarding the incident.

State and Local Unemployment Numbers

(Indianapolis, IN) - The state’s unemployment rate is still lower than the national average.

 

Unemployment numbers for June released this week reveal a 2.4 percent unemployment rate for Indiana, compared with 3.6 percent nationwide.

 

However, this area is a bit above that average. La Porte County checks in at 4 percent, up from 3.2 percent in May. That’s the second highest unemployment rate in northwest Indiana, trailing Lake County where unemployment is over 5 percent. Unemployment in most surrounding counties has increased slightly in the past month. Here is a list of nearby counties’ June unemployment rates:

 

Elkhart            2.3%

Marshall          2.6%

Pulaski            2.7%

Jasper              3.2%

Newton           3.3%

Porter              3.4%

St. Joseph        3.5%

La Porte          4%

Lake                5.2%

 

Overall, more than 3.3 million Hoosiers are still seeking employment, which is the highest total since February 2020.

Phone Scam Promises Unclaimed Money

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana State Police is warning people about a text message scam.

 

A text message is going out to Hoosiers claiming to be from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. The message indicates the recipient has unclaimed money from the state.

 

Although many Hoosiers do have unclaimed money, the Department of Workforce Development is not offering any via text messages. So do not click any link in this regard.

Indiana Unveils Electric Car Charging Plan

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana Department of Transportation has released a plan for installing electric vehicle charging stations across the state.

 

The plan has been put together following a sizeable financial incentive from the federal government. The final draft will be submitted to the newly-created Joint Office of Energy and Transportation on Monday.

 

Indiana currently has 325 public charging stations across the state. A primary goal is to cut down distances between stations significantly.

 

La Porte County and the City of La Porte participated in the study. It can be viewed by clicking here. Public comments will be accepted through August 20.

Rainy Road Conditions Precipitate Crash

(St. Joseph County, IN) - Highway speeds plus wet road conditions equaled a two-car collision east of New Carlisle Wednesday afternoon.

 

The accident happened soon after 5:30 p.m. on US 20 just west of Quince Road outside the entrance to West Pointe Estates subdivision.

 

A black Chevy pickup truck collided with the driver’s side of a white SUV as the vehicles were rounding a curve. Heavy rain was falling at the time. Both cars were totaled.

 

A child in a car seat was removed from the SUV and checked out in a waiting ambulance. No other injuries were reported.

 

A very similar accident occurred in the same spot last October. Neighbors said it’s actually the fourth such accident in the twenty years they have lived there. A roadside berm kept the SUV from entering their backyard.

Naked in Nature Preserve Charges

(La Porte County, IN) - A man and woman from La Porte County allegedly found naked in a local nature preserve are facing charges.

 

Shauna Mulcahy, 28, and Samuel Wilson, 36, are charged in La Porte Circuit Court with level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine and Class A misdemeanor public nudity.

 

Wilson is also charged with Class C misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia.

 

According to court documents, a hunter at the Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area spotted a Jeep pulling a trailer drive off the road and into a field.

 

The hunter reported his discovery to an Indiana Department of Natural Resources conservation officer because vehicles were prohibited from traveling off-road in the nature preserve.

 

Court documents revealed the officer spotted Mulcahy and Wilson lying completely naked on the front seat while approaching the vehicle. Authorities said music was playing from the vehicle parked about 150 yards from a parking lot.

 

The man and woman from the Kingsbury area and Springville were allowed to put their clothes back before the officer discovered a meth pipe in the vehicle. A small amount of methamphetamine was found inside a tiny metal container along with a marijuana cigarette.

 

Wilson was also wanted on an active warrant for an undisclosed offense.

City Prepared for Lake Fest

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte officials are getting ready for the second annual Lake Fest in the city. The three-day event featuring things live music and food vendors begins on Friday.

 

Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said his staff members have been busy lately, making the parks look extra nice for people coming to enjoy the festivities.

 

“We’re working on last-minute details. We want everything to look great for this weekend. We’re excited to put on our best show for residents and visitors alike,” Schreiber said.

Schreiber said planning began about two months after last year’s inaugural Lake Fest was over.

 

“A lot of time and effort has been put into this. We’re just ready to have a great time this weekend,” Schreiber said.

Other highlights will include jet ski racing on Stone Lake, a foam machine, and kids NERF gun battle. All the events and activities scheduled during Lake Fest can be obtained at laportelakefest.com/events.

Speeding Driver Caught with Marijuana

(La Porte County, IN) - A traffic stop outside La Porte turned into a drug bust.

 

La Porte County Police said the driver was stopped three days ago for traveling 75 miles per hour on State Road 2 near 200 East. The officer approached on foot and saw smoke from one of the car windows.

 

Police said about a half pound of marijuana was inside a backpack recovered from the vehicle.

 

28-year-old Anthony Criggley, II from Gary, was arrested for possession of marijuana. He could face up to six months in jail on the Class B misdemeanor charge.

Facebook Seller Scammed by Buyer

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte area woman using social media to sell her computer got burned.

 

According to police, she put a laptop computer for sale on Facebook Marketplace, and a man agreed to pay $200 for it. The seller and buyer met at a gas station near Michigan City, and following the exchange, the buyer quickly left.

 

However, police said the seller, while holding the cash, felt something wasn't quite right with how the supposed paper currency felt. So she had a gas station clerk use a security marker on the bills, and the paper turned out to be counterfeit.

 

Police said officers searched for the man's profile on Facebook, but his account was no longer available. He was described as Hispanic, about six feet tall, and weighed 200 pounds.

Huge Scrap Metal Fire Overnight

(Westville, IN) - Flames were shooting more than 100 feet into the air during the night in Westville as a pile of scrap metal about five stories high caught fire. Reports were that the fire could easily be seen from the Indiana Toll Road and other surrounding areas.

 

About 2:30 a.m., firefighters responded to Paul’s Auto Yard around 2:30 a.m. The fire was almost extinguished before 7 a.m., according to Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith. 

 

Smith said plastics were among the flammable materials in the big pile of metal, containing auto parts and what appeared to be a couple of old buses.

 

“There’s refrigerators, stoves, all kinds of plastics. Anything you can imagine is in this pile of scrap,” Smith said.

Smith didn’t see any junk cars or pick-up trucks.

 

Water was applied to the fire from an aerial ladder, and then once the fire was mostly extinguished, firefighters began putting out hot spots toward the bottom of the pile.

 

Smith said scrap metal at the junkyard is cut into smaller pieces with a torch. Chances are one of the pieces of metal being cut with the torch became hot enough yesterday to slowly catch the other materials on fire.

 

There were no injuries.

Second Arrest for Murder Last Year

(Michigan City, IN) - A second person was charged in connection with a shooting death outside a Michigan City liquor store last year.

 

Clarence Sims Jr., 40, of Michigan City, was arrested last week and charged with murder.

 

The charge is linked to the fatal shooting of 34-year-old Leland Collins in August of last year outside Eastside Liquors at 1509 E. Michigan Blvd., police said.

 

Murder charges were also recently filed against Lamar Friend, 41, of Michigan City, for the homicide.

 

Friend is also charged with attempted murder involving a woman who was with Collins when he was fatally shot, police said.

 

Michigan City police were dispatched to the liquor store last summer for a report of shots fired and found Collins in the parking lot suffering from at least one gunshot wound.

 

Popcorn Grower to be Featured at Fair

(Francesville, IN) - A Northwest Indiana family with deep roots in agriculture has gone from raising corn and grinding it into flour to producing food eaten in places like movie theatres.

 

Gutwein Popcorn in Francesville is among the farms featured during the Indiana State Fair from July 29 to August 21.

 

Owner Harvey Gutwein, Jr. said he plans to give fairgoers a glimpse of what it takes to be a successful farmer.

 

“You have to have a desire to work pretty hard and do what needs done when it needs done,” Gutwein said.

He said farmers also must have marketing skills to help establish a good customer base for their products.

 

About 50 million pounds of popcorn are grown annually on the 9,000-acre farm in Pulaski County.

 

Gutwein said most of his popcorn is distributed to packers who place the kernels into various containers before being distributed and sold under different brands. Some of his kernels are popped in the area's movie theatres and high school sporting events. One of his customers is the Indianapolis Colts.

 

The rest of his kernels are used in his Gutwein Popcorn brand, which is available online, in local retail stores, and in a small gift shop at the farm. His sales are predominantly in the U.S. and Asia.

 

Gutwein is scheduled to engage with fairgoers about his operation on August 8.

 

His great grandfather, Philip, began raising and milling corn into flour in 1906 after coming to the U.S. and settling in Francesville. His grandfather, Fred, and father, Harvey, switched to seed corn on the farm in 1936 when they founded Gutwein Hybrids.

 

In 1998, Gutwein, needing a change from seed corn, planted his first popcorn crop on just a few hundred acres. The rest of his family later dropped out of farming which opened up more land to expand his popcorn production as he added more customers.

 

"I think once we got the reputation of growing top quality popcorn, that helped us," Gutwein said.

Gutwein said he also wants to inform fairgoers a successful farmer doesn't rely totally on Mother Nature.

 

"You can't control the weather, but you can control other things. You got to do your part, and that's about all you can do," Gutwein said.

Filing for School Board Starts Wednesday

(La Porte County, IN) - People running for school board in La Porte County can start filing their candidacies on Wednesday.

 

La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens said some people interested in running for school board mistakenly thought the deadline to file was tomorrow.

 

However, she said school board candidates can begin filing Wednesday at 8 a.m. The filing deadline is at noon on August 26.

 

“I just want everybody to know what the rules are,” Stevens said.

Pool Fire at Short-Term Rental

(New Buffalo, MI) - New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey said a recent swimming pool fire at a short-term rental is another example of why a cap was placed recently on vacation homes in residential neighborhoods.

 

According to New Buffalo Police, firefighters on the night of July 8 responded to 112 W. Clay Street on a report of a pool on fire.

 

Casey Beck, 34, said that a gasoline container was found in the garage of the vacation home while struggling to start a fire in the backyard fire pit, according to the police report.

 

Beck told investigators the fuel was being poured on what he and the other guests wanted to burn when "a spark came up and caught the gas can on fire." Beck didn't know what to do and, fearing the gasoline container would explode, threw the container into the pool.

 

The gas can in the pool kept burning after hitting the water.

 

Beck said water from a garden hose sprayed at the gasoline container didn't put out the flames. Instead, the fire in the can was put out when a police officer arriving first used an extinguisher from his patrol vehicle.

 

In November, the city council voted not to allow more short-term rental homes in residential neighborhoods. Regulations governing the use of short-term rentals were also adopted.

 

Officials said the decision was partially in response to a growing number of complaints about loud noise and other disruptions at short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods. However, opponents of the cap disputed claims such activity at vacation homes had become a problem.

 

Humphrey said the fire again illustrates that short-term rentals don't belong in residential neighborhoods and must be regulated as commercial lodging.

 

"Lodging requires the highest standards of public safety, and no matter how good of a host you think you are, you cannot control the actions of other people," Humphrey said. "To place that dangerous liability on your neighbors who expected the expect the normal standards of quality of life that come with a residential neighborhood is reckless and only goes to show that additional work must be done."

Humphrey said achieving a balance between tourism and how it intersects with residential life and commercial activity is one of the biggest challenges statewide.

 

He said it's also not fair for municipalities to have to provide the level of public safety demanded from tourism without the ability to generate the additional revenue needed to cover the increased expense.

 

Humphrey believes the solution would be state lawmakers in Lansing allowing a local tax to be levied to pay for such costs.

 

"The current model is unsustainable and local residents shouldn't have to live with the fear of the unknown of who is living next to them," Humphrey said.

Local Innovator, Adventurer Passes Away

(La Porte, IN) - A well-known member of the La Porte area community passed away. 

 

Dr. Peter Kesling was an orthodontist with a practice in the Westville area. The La Porte man held over 50 patents on products related to orthodontic appliances.

 

Former La Porte Mayor Leigh Morris called Kesling a genius and a one of a kind.

 

“He was an individual. He was unique; there’s no question about that. He was a very self-confident person, as he should have been. He had reason to be self-confident. He was very talented. He was very focused. He was no-nonsense, and I respected all of that,” Morris said.

Kesling also had an extensive antique car collection.

 

About 20 years ago, Kesling traveled from coast to coast in his 1903 Winton, an open-air car that looked somewhat like a horse and buggy on rubber spoked wheels.

 

La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd said his mother and father were friends with Kesling and his wife.

 

“There are so many words that can describe him. He was an innovator. He was a creator. He was an adventurer. He was a pilot. He was very cerebral. Just a really unique individual,” Boyd said.

Boyd said Kesling loved his antique automobiles and could work on their engines.

 

Kesling had a mansion-like building constructed years ago on U.S. 35 on the southern edge of La Porte to house his extensive automobile collection. 

 

The building later became home to the La Porte County Historical Society Museum, which has his automobile collection on display and countless other historical pieces related to La Porte County's history.

 

Peter Kesling was 90 years old. 

Open House Set for Pet Clinic

(La Porte County, IN) - A medical facility for pets outside Westville will be available to the public for a visit.

 

An open house of the Hero Pet Hospital at Indiana 2 and U.S. 421 is scheduled for July 30 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

 

Officials said that the 5,400-square-foot facility had seen more than 6,300 pets since opening nearly a year ago.

 

Twenty-four full-time and part-time employees currently work at the facility or twice as many as initially expected.

 

"We are extremely pleased to be collaborating with the Town of Westville to spur economic development, said La Porte County Commission President Sheila Matias.

The clinic was placed in a newly created economic revitalization area to help reduce the facility's cost. LaPorte County Council President Randy Novak noted how much the facility brightened up that corner of Westville. 

 

"Not only does the Clinic offer easy access to the best veterinary care, it has beautified this very visible corner as well. It shows that when we work together, all things are possible,” said Novak.

 

The clinic has five exam rooms and offers medical, surgical, dental, and wellness services for dogs and cats.

 

“I am very excited about the growth opportunities that Hero Pet’s project has created,” said Westville Town Councilman Mike Albert.

Haney Wants to Protect History of Courthouse

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official wants to make sure the courthouse in La Porte doesn’t lose any of its history when the time comes to renovate the well-over century-old structure.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney said the courthouse in Michigan City was not maintained as well as it should have been over the years before being renovated.

 

He said much of the inside of the courthouse along U.S. 12 had to be “gutted” because of advanced deterioration that could have been prevented through more regular maintenance.

 

Haney said the Michigan City courthouse looks great now that the work is finished, but he wants to avoid the same mistakes before it’s time to renovate the courthouse in La Porte.

 

“There was an insane amount of history that was lost at the Michigan City courthouse. If we don’t get a handle and start repairing and upgrading and stabilizing that courthouse building, the exact same thing is going to happen right here in the city of La Porte that happened in Michigan City,” Haney said.

Haney intends to start working on a plan to catch up on the maintenance of the La Porte courthouse on all levels, including the basement, to keep from losing history when the renovation of that courthouse happens at some point.

 

“The woodwork in there. Some of the tile work. The old panels. The stained glass. It’s a beautiful piece of history,” Haney said.

Officials said the courthouse in La Porte would be renovated once the recently completed renovation and expansion of the Michigan City courthouse, built in 1909, is paid off.

 

The cost of the work in Michigan City was about $20 million. The financing is for 20 years but could be paid off in 10 years or less.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski said the decision to renovate the courthouse in La Porte after paying for the work in Michigan City was made a few years. He said the courthouse in La Porte has problems like any old structure but questioned the need to make too many repairs before the renovation.

 

“This courthouse is next. In the meantime, we’re not going to go doing piecemeal work here and there when it’s going to be done all at once,” Mrozinski said.

Applicants Sought for Patrol Officer

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is accepting applications for the patrol officer position.

 

Applicants who successfully complete and pass the various stages of the process will immediately fill upcoming vacancies within the patrol division.

 

According to the police, the hiring process will include the following stages:  application phase, physical agility testing, written examination, computerized voice stress analysis examination, background investigation, interviews, and a psychological examination.

 

Applicants who have successfully passed a certified law enforcement academy will be “fast-tracked” through an abbreviated hiring process, police said.  

 

Applications can be found online by accessing www.laportecountysheriff.com or by picking them up at the front desk of the Sheriff’s Office.  

 

The deadline for applying is Monday, August 22nd at 2:00 PM (CST). Individuals who apply and meet the required standards will be notified by letter with further instructions. 

 

The starting salary for a patrol officer is $51,792, police said.

 

Completed applications can be dropped off at the front desk of the Sheriff’s Office, sent via standard mail, or as a scanned attachment via email. 

 

Applications will not be accepted via facsimile. Completed applications can also be mailed to the following:

 

La Porte County Sheriff’s Office
Attn:  Captain Derek J. Allen
809 State Street
La Porte, Indiana 46350

 

All completed applications can also be sent to dallen@lcso.in.gov. Any questions should be directed to Captain Allen at 219-326-7700, ext. 2283, or the previously listed email address.    

Wife Turns Back on Husband in OWI Case

(La Porte County, IN) - Charges have been filed against a driver who allegedly fled on foot after striking a tree while impaired in La Porte County.

 

Christopher Majkowski, 57, was booked into the La Porte County Jail and later released on bond for Operating While Intoxicated, being a habitual traffic violator, and never receiving a driver’s license.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the accident happened Wednesday afternoon at 900 North and 500 West.

 

Damage to the front end of his SUV was extensive, but Majkowski was not seriously injured. He allegedly fled on foot after the accident but soon returned to the scene of the accident.

 

The investigation shows he was returning home on 900 North from work when he allegedly swerved to avoid a deer. Majkowski called his wife and tried getting into her car when she arrived at the crash site, but the woman, apparently upset about his drinking, pulled away without him.

Arrest Following Crash with Tree

(La Porte County, IN) - Police say a driver involved in a recent single vehicle crash with a tree outside La Porte was impaired. The collision happened Wednesday night on State Road 2 and 400 West.

 

Tyler Barton, 28, is charged with operating while intoxicated. According to police, the La Porte area man told investigators he swerved to avoid a deer and wound up striking the tree. There was extensive front-end damage to his car.

 

Barton was treated for his injuries at the hospital, where a blood draw revealed an alleged blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit.

 

Police said Barton had a prior OWI conviction from 2016.

Armed Civilian Helps Apprehend Fleeing Suspect on Interstate

(Hammond, IN) - After an Indiana State Trooper was injured in an interstate hit-and-run, an armed bystander helped apprehend the offender.

 

The action took place beginning at around 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning on I-80/94 in Hammond.

 

According to police, a State Trooper, assisted by a Hammond fire truck, was investigating a suspicious incident on the interstate. At that time, an eastbound 2016 Dodge Charger passed the scene at a high rate of speed, striking the fire truck and another vehicle. Spinning out of control, the Charger then hit another vehicle, which pinned Trooper William Carlson against a concrete barrier wall. Carlson was able to free himself and received medical treatment at a nearby hospital.

 

The driver of the Dodge ditched his badly damaged vehicle, leaving in it a badly injured passenger, a 23-year-old woman from Chicago Heights, Illinois. While the subject was pursued on foot by another Trooper, an alert passerby used his truck to corner the fugitive. One of the truck’s occupants was armed and got out of the truck to hold the suspect at gunpoint until police took him into custody. Police are not releasing the identities of the Good Samaritans who aided in the arrest.

 

The driver of the Charger was identified as 23-year-old Bryan K. Smith of North Carolina. Police say a .45 caliber Glock handgun was found in his vehicle. Smith is being held in the Lake County Jail pending formal charges.

Land Use Around New Carlisle is Part of County Plan Revision

(St. Joseph County, IN) - Public input is being collected for a comprehensive land use plan in St. Joseph County.

 

Land use has become a hot topic in St. Joseph County, especially in areas around New Carlisle. The current plan, which is 20 years old, is being updated. And since the City of South Bend backed out of the Area Plan Commission a couple of years ago, planners are shifting focus to unincorporated areas.

 

Eight working groups will be created to get feedback on topics ranging from agricultural use to transportation and utilities to housing and quality of life, among others.

 

A public meeting is scheduled for this upcoming Wednesday on the campus of IU South Bend to organize participants in the groups. For information on the areas of study and the upcoming meeting, click here.

Sheriff's Department Looking for Deadbeat Dads

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Department is trying to round up a few deadbeat dads.

 

The Warrants Division is on the lookout for three men who owe a bundle in unpaid child support.

 

39-year-old Thomas L. Heitz and 50-year-old Jeremy D. Bennett each owes close to $20,000 in child support. 22-year-old Bradin M. Drewes owes over $9,000.

 

If you know the whereabouts of any of these men, you can submit your anonymous tip to Deputy Troy Ryan with the Sheriff’s Department at (219) 326-7700 ext. 2427 or via email, tryan@lsco.in.gov.

New Agreement Struck with Purdue Extension

(La Porte County, IN) - There’s a new contract between Purdue Extension and La Porte County government.

 

The agreement comes after numerous 4-H volunteers, upset with the new style of leadership in place at the La Porte County Extension office, began leaving last year.

 

Many 4-H volunteers described the new leaders as cold and heavy-handed in their management style.

 

La Porte County Commission President Sheila Matias said the terms of the contract haven’t changed from previous agreements. However, she believes new leaders that seem to relate better to the 4-H volunteers are now in place at the Extension office.

 

“My understanding is the volunteers are very pleased, and they’re building relationships with the new staff,” Matias said.

Volunteers were also upset that attempts were being made to replace some of the longstanding 4-H programs with new offerings for local youth.

 

Matias said the 4-H program statewide would see a change in what’s offered to youth, and those decisions are from upper-level decision makers at Purdue Extension, which is headquartered at the West Lafayette campus.

 

Last year, La Porte County officials threatened to cut funding to the local Purdue Extension branch unless new leadership was in place because of the alarming rate of volunteers walking away from the program.

 

The departures raised doubts about whether the 4-H program could continue as strongly as it has in the past.

 

Matias said children are the key to the future, and making sure the 4-H program continues to make a positive difference in the lives of youth in areas like leadership is a top priority.

 

“Obviously, I’ll keep my eye on it as well as my fellow commissioners. We want to preserve what’s good about it, and the things that weren’t working, we want to move past that,” Matias said.

Haney Publicly Thanks a Hoosier Hero

(La Porte County, IN) - A local official is praising a citizen for stopping a recent mass shooting in progress downstate.

 

Three people were killed and two others wounded last weekend before the citizen, 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken, shot and killed the shooter at a shopping mall in Greenwood, which is near Indianapolis.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney said Dicken realized he was his “own first responder.”

 

“Without the heroic actions of that young man, it would have been significantly, significantly worse,” Haney said.

Haney, a gun rights supporter, also gave thanks to the Indiana legislature for the state’s new constitutional permitless carry law.

 

The law enacted July 1st made it legal for Dicken to carry a concealed weapon and save lives. The law allows residents who can legally purchase and own a firearm to conceal and carry a gun outside the home without needing a permit.

 

According to authorities, the 20-year-old mass shooter fired 24 rounds from an AR-15-style rifle before being fatally shot by Dicken, who was shopping with his girlfriend at the time.

 

Reports indicate Dicken told his girlfriend to stay down and then started firing at the gunman. He also directed others behind him to leave as he moved closer to the mass shooter and gunned him down.

Local Intersection to be Closed Next Week

(La Porte, IN) - An intersection in La Porte will be temporarily closed soon.

 

According to the mayor’s office, the intersection of 3rd and F Streets will be closed next week to allow the city’s Water Department to make necessary infrastructure improvements at that location.

 

The upcoming work is part of the infrastructure plan that was proposed a couple of years ago to bring the city’s water and wastewater systems into the 21st century, officials said.

 

People are advised to seek alternative routes of travel until the intersection reopens to avoid any inconvenience.

Habitual Violators Given the Boot

(La Porte, IN) - Some La Porte residents near Clear Lake will have to find another place to stay because of longstanding major problems with behavior at the residence.

 

After served a 10 day notice, Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said the people at 332 Clear Lake Boulevard must be out by August 1.

 

For several years, officials said the residence has generated numerous calls to the police and other emergency responders for things ranging from drugs to violence.

 

Batchelor said police responded there more than 20 times already this year.

 

“One of the guys there got attacked with a hatchet and had two of his fingers cut off.  There was two or three drug overdoses.  There was calls for drugs, domestics, ordinance violations. Just a wide variety of everything at that house,” Batchelor said.

The residents own the home.

 

However, Batchelor said homeowners can be forced out by condemning the property if undesirable activity keeps happening under the city’s nuisance ordinance.

 

Batchelor said the owner can sell the property but is not allowed to go back and live there after moving out. 

 

He also noted the residents were approached many times about the happenings there, but the problematic activity kept going on which lead to condemnation of the property. 

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said people living near places like that shouldn’t have to tolerate it.

 

“People in the city of La Porte are going to feel safe, and people who don’t want to follow the rules, Jeff is going to address them. The police are going to address them.  We’re not going to accept that kind of behavior in the city of La Porte,” Dermody said.

 

Batchelor said it’s not the first time the city has forced a property owner to move out under the nuisance ordinance.

 

The recent action stems from a commitment to clean up neighborhoods in various ways by Dermody before he became mayor in 2020.

Fatal Shooting Suspect Reveals Motive

The apparent motive has been revealed in the fatal shooting of a Michigan City woman while she was driving her vehicle.

 

Robert Curry, 25, also of Michigan City, is charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with murder. He's currently held in the La Porte County Jail on a $1,000,000 bond.

 

Kylie McKee, 26, was found without a pulse in her vehicle early Sunday in the area of Springland and Roeske Avenues.

 

The investigation shows that after meeting at a bar on the city's north side, McKee and a man were in separate vehicles heading to his residence.

 

Curry and his brother were apparently inside a truck parked in front of a home when the car driven by McKee hit the truck, police said. The evidence suggests McKee didn't stop.

 

Court documents revealed that Curry got out, looked at the damage, and then went after the fleeing driver. Curry told investigators he located the car and pulled in front of it, then approached the woman.

 

According to court documents, Curry told police he questioned her about striking his truck when she began driving off and nearly hit him.

 

Curry pulled out a gun and fired at her. Her car, with loud music playing, traveled a short distance before leaving the roadway and stopping in a grassy area.

 

Authorities said ten gunshots were fired, and McKee was struck by two of the .22 caliber rounds.

 

Evidence gathered from the investigation two days later led to Curry who after shooting parked the truck behind a house in the 300 block of Springfield Avenue. A box of .22 caliber ammunition was located in the truck.

 

Curry could face anywhere from a 45 to 65-year sentence.

Stabosz Deflects Blame for Credit Rating Drop

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz said he's not to blame for the A+ credit rating of the county government being pulled by S & P Global Ratings.

 

He said the withdrawal of the rating stems from "cash imbalances" in the books that occurred under former LaPorte County Treasurer Lynne Spevak's tenure in office.

 

S & P Global Ratings wanted a copy of a 2019 audit of county ledgers by the Indiana State Board of Accounts to decide if any adjustments were needed to the A+ rating.

 

However, the rating was withdrawn because a report of the audit was not received by S & P Global Ratings in a timely manner.

 

Stabosz said the 2019 audit was not performed until after current La Porte County Treasurer Joie Winski, who took office in 2020, fixed the discrepancies in the ledgers. It wasn't until recently the state audit was completed and the results available to submit to the world-renowned credit agency.

 

"Under treasurer Winski, it's taken 18 months for them to bring 2019 into balance, so we were waiting. This had nothing to do with my office. It's not my function. It's the treasurer's function. The problem was created by the previous treasurer," Stabosz explained.

La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman blamed Stabosz, alleging he knew the A+ credit rating was in jeopardy in April. However, Friedman asserts that Stabosz told nobody to try and correct the situation until two months later.

 

Stabosz denied the allegation and alleged that Friedman was trying to make him look bad because of their ongoing dispute over some of his work claims not being paid by his office.

 

“What he seeks to do is to make you quiver in your boots and terrorize you with how much he’s going to harm you by assaulting your reputation. He gets minions to help him do that,” Stabosz said.

Friedman is suing Stabosz personally for withholding payment on claims from Freidman's law firm, Friedman & Associates, which represents the commissioners. 

 

Friedman also has a still undecided lawsuit against Stabosz on allegations of defamation of character for Stabosz, alleging Friedman runs the county government. 

 

Friedman explained that efforts are being made to try and restore the A+ credit rating.

Answers Sought on NIPSCO Clean Up

(La Porte County, IN) - The LaPorte County Commissioners want answers to their concerns about the scheduled environmental clean-up of the NIPSCO coal-fired generating station in Michigan City after it closes.

 

Commission President Sheila Matias said she's heard from environmentalists about the potential health hazards of any buried coal ash allowed to remain at the site.

 

Matias said she plans to seek input now from NIPSCO, which is proposing to remove 10 percent of the coal ash and cap what's left.

 

Ten percent is all that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires but Matias wonders if more should be taken out since the site is beside Lake Michigan, a source of drinking water for millions of people.

 

Matias wondered if there might be an environmental risk already because of a seawall that appears to be weakening. The coal ash is stored in several ponds at the site, and the seawall is holding back the coal ash closest to the shoreline.

 

Matias is especially concerned about the health risk of coal ash leaching into the lake.

 

"I'm looking at other communities in the Midwest where they have the same issue, and they're removing 100 percent. I want to know how did they get that to happen," Matias said.

The LaPorte County Commissioner discussed the topic at Wednesday night's commissioner's meeting.

 

Matias's goal was to make more people aware of what's happening at the site to get answers to any questions about NIPSCO's clean-up strategy.       

 

"We'll hold NIPSCO's feet to the fire to make sure they do what's right," said Commissioner Rich Mrozinski.

Commissioner Joe Haney echoed the concerns of the other commissioners saying that it's something the commission and county need to keep an eye on. 

 

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has scheduled a hearing for August 1 on NIPSCO's plan to pay for the estimated $40 million clean-up with a rate increase.

 

The hearing at Michigan City City Hall begins at 6 p.m.

 

Matias said she plans to be at the hearing to educate herself on NIPSCO's position and encourages any member of the public with concerns to attend.

 

"NIPSCO needs to hear the community's concerns," Matias said.

According to NIPSCO, the generating station in Michigan City will close between 2026 and 2028. In addition, its Schahfer generating station in Wheatfield is set for closure in 2025.

 

NIPSCO is phasing out greenhouse gas-producing coal to rely more on the wind and sun to provide electricity.

Arrest in Recent Fatal Shooting

(Michigan City, IN) - An arrest has been made for one of the recent fatal shootings in Michigan City.

 

25-year-old Robert Curry of Michigan City is charged with murder. He’s being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $1,000,000 bond.

 

According to police, he’s suspected in the shooting death of 26-year-old Kylie McKee. The Michigan City woman was shot early Sunday while driving. Her vehicle left the road in the area of Springland Avenue and Roeske Avenue.

 

Charges were filed Wednesday after La Porte Superior Court 1 Jamie Oss ruled there was sufficient evidence for him to answer the allegations.

 

No arrests have been reported yet in the fatal shooting of 53-year-old Jimmy Brown, also found shot in a vehicle four days earlier outside East Side Liquors on Michigan Boulevard.

Mistake by Auditor Cited for Vanished Credit Rating

(La Porte County, IN) - The A+ credit rating of the La Porte County government has evaporated from another alleged mistake by the La Porte County Auditor cited as to blame. 

 

La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman said the county government would not be able to secure a bond issue to finance a significant project with the credit rating in shambles.

 

“We couldn’t go on the credit market right now,” Friedman said.

La Porte County government enjoyed an A+ credit rating from S&P Global Ratings until the esteemed financial agency withdrew the rating, according to a June 14 statement released by S&P Global Ratings.

 

According to S&P Global Ratings, the La Porte County government was one of 27 local governments and utility systems nationwide to have their credit ratings withdrawn.

 

“The withdrawals reflect our failure to receive adequate and timely financial information necessary to maintain surveillance of the ratings in accordance with our applicable criteria and policies,” the company stated.

Specifically, Friedman said Stabosz failed to meet the deadline for providing S&P Global Ratings a copy of the 2019 Indiana State Board of Accounts audit of county government ledgers to help the company update its credit rating for the county government.

 

Friedman said Stabosz received an e-mail on April 4 from Standard & Poor Global Ratings warning the county faced being placed on CreditWatch on April 22 and the possible loss of its credit rating. However, Friedman said Stabosz never notified his office, the county commissioners, or the county council.

 

Friedman said he only learned about the credit rating being in jeopardy on June 13 when he received a “panicked call” from Stabosz asking for help with the situation.

 

Friedman said he could get the state audit report S&P Global Ratings was waiting for the next day, but S&P Global Ratings had already “stripped our credit rating.”

 

“An unbelievable embarrassment for this county,” Friedman said.

Friedman also blamed a late bond payment from Stabosz in 2021 on S&P Global Ratings questioning whether to reevaluate its A+ credit rating for the county government. He said the mistake by Stabosz, along with a late bond payment from him last year and an error in property tax calculations by his office this year, is from the auditor being too focused on reviewing his billings for work he performs for county government.

 

He also blamed Commissioner Joe Haney for teaming up with Stabosz to review his billings which had never been done in his many years as county attorney.

 

“This Auditor and Commissioner Haney have some nerve challenging on a monthly basis who I speak to, who I e-mail to and what I do as County Attorney when this Auditor is MIA (missing in action) on his own duties and has allowed these messes that are costing taxpayers dearly to occur on his watch,” Friedman said.

Friedman said an effort is underway to restore the A+ credit rating.

 

“We can all thank heavens we don’t have to go out into the bond market right now because we don’t have a credit rating,” Friedman said.

Friedman added that there is no need to float a bond issue right now because the county government is financially solvent with adequate cash in reserves.

 

Stabosz has not paid Friedman slightly more than $30,000 of the work cited in his claims over the past several months.

 

Stabosz said he needed more information from Friedman to verify the work Friedman performed was legitimate, but Friedman has refused to give him the information.

 

Friedman said Stabosz is using his public office to settle personal vendettas and score political points. Stabosz has denied those claims.

Alcohol Cited as Factor in Death of Road Worker

(Berrien County, MI) - A suspected drunk driver killed a road worker yesterday afternoon near Buchanan in southwest Michigan. The accident happened around 3 p.m.

 

Police said a Berrien County Highway Department worker was cutting up a fallen tree lying in the road when hit by the alleged drunk driver.

 

The driver was identified as a 34-year-old Buchanan man whose name had not been released. He’s been charged with operating while intoxicated, causing death.

 

The identity of the victim also has not been released. 

Close Call for Officer in OWI Case

(La Porte County, IN) - A driver allegedly veered over the center line directly into the path of an oncoming La Porte County Police officer. Now, they're looking at possible prison time for allegedly being impaired.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the driver was traveling Johnson Road Friday evening when he veered into the opposite lane near 400 West. The oncoming sheriff's deputy pulled off the road to avoid a potential head-on collision, then did a U-turn and went after the driver.

 

The driver began traveling faster and turned onto a county road. The driver briefly lost the officer, who soon regained sight of the vehicle and stopped it.

 

The driver, Hayden Jarnukowski, allegedly had a blood alcohol level more than four times the legal limit. The 25-year-old La Porte area man was charged with a felony due to having a prior conviction for operating while intoxicated.

Toddler Dies from Self Inflicted Gun Shot

(Porter County, IN) - A two-year-old child has died after shooting himself with a gun in Porter County. Wyatt Luczak died last evening, according to authorities.

 

He was taken to a Chicago hospital after the self-inflicted shooting Sunday near Kouts.

 

No light has been shed on how the shooting occurred. HTNN will release more information on this story when it's available. 

Appeal to Litterbugs

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City official called attention to littering during Tuesday night's city council meeting.

 

City Councilman Don Pryzbylinski feels trash on the ground is a problem in too many areas of the city and asks people to use a trash can.

 

"I'm not just talking about a candy wrapper coming out of a car. I'm talking about Mcdonald's bags full of wrappers just tossed out the windows," Pryzbylinski said.

Pryzbylinski said he and many other people were taught not to litter while growing up and feels that education is needed to help curb the problem. 

 

He said littering is worse in some parts of the city than others, but it's happening more often than it should.

 

"If you want a first-class city, somehow we have to get to the population to ask them to please don't litter," Pryzbylinski said.

Pryzbylinski also asked residents to remove signs advertising yard sales after their sales are over. He believes too many signs are left hanging and create a negative impression of the community. 

Charges in Shots Fired Incident

(La Porte, IN) - An arrest was made for firing gunshots in La Porte this week.

 

31-year-old Robert Payne, Jr. is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with criminal recklessness.

 

According to police, officers were called Monday afternoon to Country Lane Apartments on the city’s east side. People were allegedly exchanging words, and threats were made with a knife.

 

Payne went back inside one of the apartments, came out with a gun, and fired three shots in the air. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. 

 

Police said there were children at nearby Allessee Park, and they ran for cover after the shots were fired.

 

Payne could receive an up to 30-month prison sentence on the level 6 felony charge. 

Police Officer Assault Charges

(La Porte, IN) - A Chicago woman is accused of physically assaulting a police officer in downtown La Porte. Estrella Nieves, 29, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to police, officers were called to a domestic dispute two weeks ago at the Monroe Street and Jefferson Avenue intersection.

 

Police said Nieves was causing a disturbance and continued to yell despite orders to settle down. She was handcuffed and kicked the officer driving in the head from the back seat of a police vehicle.

 

According to police, Nieves kept yelling and refused to cooperate with staff members at the La Porte County Jail.

 

Nieves could receive an up to 30-month prison sentence on the level 6 felony charge of battery to a police officer.

Fire Leads to Neglect Charge

(La Porte, IN) - A house fire in La Porte has resulted in a drug-related arrest.

 

Kristen Arnett, 37, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with neglect of a dependent.

 

According to court documents, she was found with track marks on her arms after her home caught fire two weeks ago in the 100 block of Wardner Street. Track marks are often left on the arms from injecting drugs like heroin into the veins.

 

Authorities said child neglect charges were filed because her 11-year-old daughter was living with her while the mother was using narcotics.

 

According to court documents, the girl woke up on July 5 to her mother trying to put out the fire.

 

Arnett told investigators her curtains suddenly went up in flames while lighting a cigarette. She also said the lighter malfunctioned and squirted lighter fluid.

 

La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said cigarette lighters sometimes malfunction like that, so that may be how the fire started. He said the cause is undetermined right now, though.

 

“We have not been able to conclusively confirm nor contradict what she indicated,” Snyder said.

Snyder said the fire was contained to the living room because of a quick response by firefighters.

 

According to court documents, Arnett did not seem aware that much of her hair had been scorched by the flames while talking to investigators. She also exhibited various signs of impairment.

 

There were no injuries in the fire. 

 

Arnett could face anywhere from a six-month to 30-month sentence if convicted on the level 6 felony charge. 

Appeal Rejected in Recall Attempt

(New Buffalo, MI) - An effort to block an attempt to recall New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey and City Councilman Brian Flanagan has failed.

 

The Berrien County Election Commission on May 3 approved the language on petitions to recall Humphrey and Flanagan over their support of a ban on adding more short-term rentals in the city and Humphrey allegedly having a citizen escorted from a public meeting.

 

Humphrey said a written motion to appeal the decision was filed within the required ten days after the ruling. However, the request for appeal was denied because a letter giving notice about the paperwork being filed was not submitted to the Berrien County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office before the deadline as required.

 

Humphrey said the city doesn’t cover an elected official’s legal expenses related to a recall, leading Humphrey to prepare the appeal documents himself to avoid paying “thousands of dollars” for an attorney to write up the language.   

 

Humphrey said the clerk’s office did not inform him that such a letter had to be filed after turning in the written request for a judge to hear the appeal.

 

“You still have to personally inform the Circuit Court via registered mail that you’re filing the appeal, but we never did that. They never told us, hey, you need to do this,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey said the language on the recall petitions is accurate but doesn’t reflect the truth or reasons behind the decision to restrict the growth of short-term rentals.

 

The language states Humphrey and Flanagan should be recalled for their votes in November of 2021 to adopt an ordinance that prohibits new short-term rentals in R1, R2, and R3 zoning districts in the city.

 

The language in the other recall petition states Humphrey instructed a police officer during a public meeting in March of 2021 to remove an individual while she was speaking during her allotted time reserved for public comment.

 

He denied having the citizen removed and has a police report indicating an officer acting on his own ushered the person from the meeting.

 

Humphrey said he wanted to provide more details behind the reasons for the recall attempt, but the BCEC did not allow him to before approving the language in the petitions.

 

He said permits to operate short-term rentals were issued under the previous administration despite having no language in local zoning laws allowing homes to be used for such purposes.

 

Humphrey said the previous city council later placed a moratorium on short-term rental permits because of increasing complaints from full-time residents about parties, loud noise, and other disruptions from the vacation dwellings.

 

He said another reason for the moratorium was to buy time for deciding whether to allow homes to be used for vacations or weekend getaways and if restrictions governing their use should be adopted.

 

The issue was still being reviewed when Humphrey and Flanagan were elected.

 

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 the use of the property complies with newly adopted restrictions.

 

People behind the recall attempt must collect 219 valid signatures from registered voters on their petitions seeking to remove Humphrey and Flanagan. If the requirement is met, the fate of Humphrey and Flanagan will be decided by a recall election in November, halfway through their first four-year term.

 

Humphrey said the appeal rejected by the clerk’s office had nothing to do with the merits of his request to challenge the approval of the language on the petitions in a courtroom.

 

“Every attorney who has looked at the merits thought they were great. It should have been dismissed, but it never got to the judge. That’s important to point out,” Humphrey said.

Second Fatal Shooting Victim Identified

(Michigan City, IN) - There’s new information to report in the fatal shootings of two people found in motor vehicles in less than a week in Michigan City.

 

According to police, the victims were shot in motor vehicles early Sunday at Springland Avenue and Roeske Avenue and on July 13 outside East Side Liquors in the 1600 block of East Michigan Boulevard.

 

Police said the first victim was 53-year-old Jimmy Brown of Michigan City.

 

An unidentified passenger in his vehicle was taken by ambulance to a hospital for medical treatment. The other victim left the roadway in her vehicle after being shot.

 

The woman identified today as Kylie McKee, 26, also of Michigan City, and Brown, later succumbed to their injuries.

 

No arrests have been made in the shootings.

 

A person of interest was being held for the death of Brown until prosecutors decided if there was sufficient enough evidence against that person to file charges.

 

La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake said the individual had been released, but detectives are still actively looking into both cases. 

Railroad Crossings Closed for Repair

(La Porte, IN) - Several railroad crossings in La Porte are temporarily closed for repair.

 

The crossings are on Boston, Tipton, Detroit, and Pulaski streets north of Lincolnway.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody apologized to citizens for not being notified of the work in advance so they could adjust their travel plans. His office was not informed by the railroad the crossings would be closed.

 

“We’re as frustrated as you that we weren’t informed ahead of time. Please look at alternative routes,” Dermody said.

Work on the crossings is expected to be completed by Saturday.

Dermody Plans Another Run for Mayor

(La Porte, IN) - Despite a great deal of speculation that he wants to run for a seat in Congress or some other higher office like the governor, it appears La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is planning another run for mayor.

 

Dermody told the Morning Mayhem Radio Show on 96.7 the Eagle that he often gets contacted about his political aspirations but feels his work here is not done.

 

“I love this city, and I got more work to do. I’m excited if the residents will take me to have another term here in the City of La Porte,” he said.

Dermody is in the third year of his first term as mayor. He was a state representative for ten years and a business owner before his landslide victory for mayor.

 

Dermody also once served on the La Porte School Board. 

Removal of Board Members a Win for Mayor

(Michigan City, IN) - The Mayor of Michigan City has removed several public service officials.

 

Mayor Duane Parry, who appoints members to the Michigan City Housing Authority, had sought to have four MCHA members removed from their positions since late April.

 

The members were Carla Mock, Willie Lee, Doretha Sanders-Malone, and Milton Malone. The four members challenged the Mayor’s decision, and a hearing officer heard the case on June 21.

 

According to the Mayor’s office, the Hearing Officer, Gerald M. Bishop, on Friday issued an order formally removing the members from the Housing Authority for neglect of duty and inefficiency. 

 

The Hearing Officer determined the Housing Authority members were negligent and ineffective because they conducted meetings in violation of the Indiana Open Door Law and voted to continue operating a meeting in violation of the Indiana Open Door Law despite being presented with a cease-and-desist letter from the Mayor. 

 

“I am pleased with the decision from the Hearing Officer, and I am committed to seeing that the Housing Authority continues to make strides forward for our city and residents,” Parry said.  

Parry will be announcing his new appointments to the Housing Authority soon.

Path Cleared for Solar Farm

(St. Joseph County, IN) - Final approval for constructing a massive solar farm on land used for raising corn and soybeans outside New Carlisle has been granted.

 

The St. Joseph County Council on July 12 unanimously gave final approval to a revised agreement governing the development of the planned 150-megawatt facility.

 

The council tabled the agreement the previous month to add language guaranteeing local union labor will be used to build the solar farm on about 1,000 acres of soil used for raising corn and soybeans north of U.S. 20 between Spruce Road and Tamarack Road in Olive Township.

 

St. Joseph County Economic Development Director Bill Schalliol said construction would begin once the crops are harvested in October or November. The work is scheduled to be completed late in 2023.

 

“We’re going to see a lot of dirt moving toward the end of the year and all of next year,” Schalliol said.

Lightsource BP, a leader in developing and operating solar farms worldwide, is behind the estimated $164 million development.

 

The revised agreement pushed for by organized labor requires 75 percent of workers constructing the solar farm to be union members from St. Joseph and adjacent counties. If there's difficulty hiring enough local workers, contractors can expand their reach to fill gaps in the workforce.

 

Lightsource BP is partnering in the hiring agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 153, the Laborers International Union of North America, and the Operating Engineers Local 150.

 

As many as 200 construction jobs are anticipated to be created from the project.

 

The farm consisting of tens of thousands of solar panels will produce enough electricity to power over 20,000 households annually.

 

Schalliol said less than a half dozen employees would be needed to operate the solar farm on several adjacent parcels with different owners.

 

Owners will lease their property for an undisclosed fee from Lightsource BP under privately negotiated contracts for 35 years.

 

Schalliol said the land would revert to farming if the land use agreement based on the projected lifespan of the solar panels is not extended. The taxes collected from the property would increase from about $80,000 annually to more than $2.5 million a year.

 

St. Joseph County Economic Development Specialist Chris Brown said the project is partially funded with tax dollars captured from a tax increment financing district.

 

The TIF boundaries will strictly encompass the solar farm. In addition, $64 million in tax revenue is projected to be generated over the agreement's lifespan from increased assessed property value driven up by the development.  

 

Over $27 million will be captured from the TIF and distributed to the Olive Township government and other taxing units such as the New Prairie School Corporation and public libraries. The balance of the TIF funds will go to Lightsource BP to help offset their investment in the project. Payments will be made annually.

 

"Whatever is remaining is basically sent back to the company as the incentive to keep their cost at a level where they're still able to make the project viable from a financial standpoint," Brown said.

Bumper Crop from U.S. 20 Blitz

(La Porte County, IN) - An effort to reduce crashes on U.S. 20 in La Porte County yielded more than just traffic citations.

 

Several drivers, including one wanted for child molestation, were also taken into custody.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff's Office, law enforcement agencies from Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming took part in the effort along stretches of U.S. 20 in each respective state.

 

The La Porte County Sheriff's Office took part in the effort because of the volume of crashes on the highway in its jurisdiction.

 

La Porte County Sheriff's deputies issued 42 tickets and 82 warnings for speeding and other traffic violations in the one-day effort on July 13.

 

Several arrests were also made for crimes such as operating while intoxicated, driving with a suspended license, never receiving a license, and possession of a controlled substance. One driver was held for authorities in Elkhart County, where that individual was wanted for child molesting, police said.

 

Capt. Derek Allen said the one-day event is over, but officers will continue to be visible on U.S. 20 and stop traffic violators to reduce crashes on the major highway.

 

"Motorists are encouraged to always drive distraction-free and adhere to all the traffic control devices," Capt. Allen said.

Second Fatal Shooting in Four Days

(Michigan City, IN) - Two victims of fatal shootings found in motor vehicles have happened in Michigan City in less than a week. The most recent one occurred early Sunday.

 

Just before 2 a.m., the Michigan City Police Department was called to the Springland Avenue and Roeske Avenue area on reports of shots fired and a possible gunshot victim. An adult female with an apparent gunshot wound was in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that went off the roadway.

 

Life-saving measures were started and resumed at Franciscan Health Michigan City, where she later succumbed to her injuries. The name of the woman has not been released.

 

Police said no arrest had been made yet in the case. However, anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police to help generate leads in the investigation.

 

Jimmy Brown, 53, was found shot multiple times on July 13. He and a passenger were discovered inside a vehicle outside East Side Liquors in the 1600 block of E. Michigan Boulevard. Brown also died at the hospital.

 

The passenger was also taken to a hospital for medical treatment.

 

Police said a person of interest was later detained, but so far, no charges have been announced in that case.

Fire at Old Train Car Factory

(Michigan City, IN) - Arson is a possible cause of a fire that gutted most of an old factory building in Michigan City over the weekend.

 

The old Pullman Yards building on the city's west side reportedly contained millions of dollars in inventory which was lost in the blaze on Saturday.

 

Mikropour, a maker of air filters, operated from part of the over century-old structure once used to make Pullman train cars.  

 

Reports indicate that arson has not been ruled out because the vast building has been victimized frequently by vandals. The Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office is assisting in the investigation to determine the fire's cause.

 

Coolspring Township Volunteer Fire Department was called to assist in providing an additional water source for knocking down the flames.

 

Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith said heavy black smoke was created because the rubber roof seemed to be the only part of the structure that was burning after firefighters responded at about 2 p.m.

 

"It looked like mainly the roof was on fire. It was a rubberized roof with probably a bunch of tar from years of just repairing that roof," Smith said.

Firefighters from Coolspring were there for about five hours, while firefighters from Michigan City Fire Department remained for several more hours, putting out hotspots after most of the flames were extinguished.

Indiana with $6 Billion Surplus

(INDIANAPOLIS, IN) - The state of Indiana has ended the 2021-22 fiscal year with $6.1 billion in reserves.

 

The amount is greater than anticipated, considering the pandemic's negative financial impact on many states. In response, Governor Eric Holcomb offered these thoughts today.

 

"Indiana’s economy is growing at an unprecedented rate due to the lowest unemployment rate in state history, higher-than-expected income tax revenues, and growing our state’s GDP at a faster rate than the national average while meeting the essential needs of Hoosiers.

 

I have called a special session to return $1 billion to taxpayers because it can’t wait until next year as we all face rising inflation costs.

 

I plan to present a biennium budget that will address more support for our public health system, salary increases for state employees, additional funding in K-12 education, and another round of funds dedicated to the READI program to help local communities improve their overall quality of life.”

 

Holcomb also thanked state fiscal leaders for guiding the state to a cash reserve three times greater than it was a few years ago.

Riders for Fallen Officers Caught in Rain

(La Porte County, IN) - A group of bicyclists honoring fallen police officers statewide was caught today in the much-needed heavy rains.

 

The riders left Indianapolis on Monday and this morning traveled across northern La Porte County, where they encountered light rain in Michiana Shores, then were drenched before reaching Indiana State for lunch.

 

Police Officer Mike Kellems from La Porte, who is driving the supply truck for riders on the entire route, said the reception at the state prison was outstanding. There were flags along the driveway leading up to the prison and many prison staff members standing at attention during a heavy downpour welcoming them.

 

“The staff turned out here in force. It really made me proud to be from this area and to see that type of reception,” Kellems said.

The bicycle riders went to the prison to honor Lt. Gene Lasco; a correctional officer stabbed to death by an inmate over a year ago. Lasco was from La Porte.

 

Kellems said the riders raise money for the families of fallen police officers statewide.

 

It’s the 21st year for the ride, which blankets the state in two weeks before returning to Indianapolis.

 

 

 

Rocky Arrest of Suspected Drunk Driver

(La Porte County, IN) - Police had their hands full arresting a suspected drunk driver near Michigan City this week. 63-year-old Paul Solitro is charged with OWI, intimidation, and resisting law enforcement.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the Chicago man was clocked at 81 miles per hour on U.S. 20 near 400 West just before 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Police say the man was verbally aggressive toward an officer and physically resisted attempts to place him into custody.

 

At one point, an officer had to take him to the ground, and an off-duty officer showed up to help put the man in handcuffs.

 

According to police, the suspect also failed to cooperate at the hospital, where he was taken to have a blood sample taken to determine how much alcohol he allegedly consumed.

 

Solitro continued to then be combative at the county jail. The intimidation charge stems from Solitro verbally threatening the officer.

 

According to police, the man claimed to have had one beer, but symptoms like difficulty walking and a strong odor of alcohol on his breath indicated much greater consumption.

Another Beach Rescue in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Another potential drowning victim was saved yesterday in Michigan City.

 

According to the fire department, lifeguards at Washington Park carried out the rescue at about 4 p.m. Further details were not released.

 

Officials say Michigan City lifeguards have saved 15 people this year, including three children ages 9, 10, and 11, earlier this week.

 

The three children were caught in rip currents taking them in opposite directions when grabbed and returned safely to shore by five lifeguards.

Fire Destroys Structure Near Lake Michigan

(Long Beach, IN) - Fire destroyed a structure last night in Long Beach.

 

Firefighters were called to the 2800 block of Oriole Trail. Michigan City Firefighters also responded to assist.

 

No further details were released. We’ll provide more information as it’s made available.

Memorial Scholarship Recipients Named

(La Porte County, IN) - Three La Porte County students have received scholarships in honor of a fallen police officer.

 

The recipients are Alexis Becker, a 2022 graduate of La Porte High School, and Roman Piergalski and Nicholas Boyd, both recent graduates of New Prairie High School.

 

According to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, Becker will be attending Indiana University and plans to major in psychology. Piergalski intends to major in marine biology at Nova Southeastern University. Boyd will be attending Butler University and plans to major in marketing. 

 

The scholarships are in memory of Patrolman Neil Thompson, killed in the line of duty on September 21, 1980. He is the only La Porte County Sheriff’s Office member to be killed while in uniform.

 

His death resulted from a stolen ambulance ramming his police vehicle during a pursuit.

 

The scholarships are for sons and daughters of Sheriff’s Office employees who continue their education beyond high school at a college or university. 

 

Further information about the scholarships can be found at https://uflc.net or by calling (219) 879-0327 or emailing unity@uflc.net

Arrest in Fatal Shooting from 2021

(Michigan City, IN) - An arrest was made for a fatal shooting in Michigan City nearly a year ago. Lamar Friend, 41, of La Porte, is charged with murder and attempted murder.

 

Police said the victim, Leland Collins, 34, of Michigan City, was shot in the East Side Liquors parking lot at 1509 East Michigan Boulevard on July 9, 2021. Collins was hospitalized but later died.

 

Police said the attempted murder charge resulted from a woman being with the victim when he was shot.

 

Friend was in the La Porte County Jail for an unrelated case when served with an arrest warrant for the murder.

 

La Porte Superior Court 1 Judge Jamie Oss issued the warrant after finding sufficient evidence for Friend to answer the allegations.

 

Friend was being held on a $1,000,000 bond. 

Three-Legged Goat Competes at Fair

(La Porte County, IN) - It wasn’t the Special Olympics, but it seemed that way during a La Porte County Fair competition for a fan favorite three-legged goat.

 

“Beatrice” finished 27th out of 40 goats in the July 12 agility contest but showed the heart of a champion. Beatrice also placed 7th out of 9 goats in the show.

 

Mia Burns, 15, said she entered her goat in the LaPorte County Fair competition to demonstrate Beatrice had what it took to complete the obstacle course without her right front leg.

 

“I had somebody tell me before that she couldn’t go through the agility course because she only had three legs, and I proved them wrong. I’m pretty proud of her,” Burns said.

In the beginning, the goat looked strong when clearing several hurdles and climbing to the top of a ramp. Beatrice, though, later needed help weaving her way around a half dozen poles set up in a straight line. It took her about twice as long as some goats to cross the finish line in just over two minutes. But, the crowd wasn’t short on applause.

 

“I think the whole judging arena was full of people cheering for her,” Burns said.

Her mother, Sacha Gee Burns, said the goat was five days old when she purchased her in May last year. A few months later, the goat somehow broke her leg set by a local veterinarian and was placed into a cast.

 

Her entire leg was gone when Sacha went outside to feed all her goats a week before the cast was scheduled to be removed.

 

Her oldest daughter, Lexi, found the leg with the cast still on it about 50 yards away.

 

“It was just laying out in the field,” Sacha said.

The leg placed into ice was in no condition to be reattached. A prosthetic leg is not an option because there isn’t enough of a stub to attach a fake limb.

 

“She’s going to stay three-legged,” she said.

The leg was lost apparently from lack of circulation when a pinched nerve or blood vessel developed after the break.

 

There are 14 goats on the three-acre Burns family farm, along with more than 100 chickens and two donkeys.

 

From the beginning, Sacha said the plan was to enter Beatrice in the fair competitions, but after losing her leg, she remained mobile enough not to scratch her from the line-up.  

 

“She’s a little slower just walking, but when they go and run across the field like when it’s time to eat, she’s usually at the front of the group,” Burns explained.

The goat can still balance herself on a teeter-totter placed outside for all her goats to play on.

 

The decision is also paying off in terms of Beatrice enjoying the fair and being a celebrity of sorts, with one boy giving her a piece of his elephant ear while passing by her stall.

 

Sacha said Beatrice and the other goats are Oberhasli’s, a rare breed native to the mountains of Switzerland. The goats are used for breeding, and the babies are sold nationwide to help rebuild a population estimated a few years ago at less than 5,000 in the U.S. Oberhasli’s are reportedly quieter than other goats and just as friendly.

 

“The only time they make noise is when they’re hungry. Otherwise, they just follow you around like big dogs,” Burns said.

Fatal Shooting in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - A shooting death occurred last night in Michigan City.

 

According to police, officers at about 8 p.m. were called to the 1600 block of E. Michigan Boulevard, where two victims were found inside a car.

 

The driver, 53-year-old Jimmy Brown, was shot multiple times. He was taken to the hospital and later succumbed to his wounds. The passenger in the vehicle was also taken to the hospital for medical treatment. No further light was shed on that person’s condition.

 

According to police, a potential suspect in the case was soon taken into custody in the 100 block of Butler Street. Prosecutors are looking at the evidence for possible filing of charges.

Orchestra Concert Booked at Gardens

(MICHIGAN CITY, IN) - The La Porte County Symphony Orchestra and Friendship Botanic Gardens proudly announce, "SUMMER SYMPHONY SPECTACULAR!"

 

This concert will be held on Sunday, August 21, at Friendship Botanic Gardens' Celebration Pavilion. Tickets are $30 for adults, and children ages 12-and-under will be admitted for free. Horizon Bank will be serving as the sponsor for the evening.

 

LCSO Associate Conductor, Chuck Steck, will lead the LCSO in selections of marches, songs from Sophisticated Ladies, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. 

 

Joining the LCSO will be Joseph and Afyah Giuliani. This brother and sister team won 1st and 2nd place in the Youth Division of the 2021 Hoosier Star event. They will perform their winning selections with the LCSO. In addition, 2007 Hoosier Star Adult Division Champion, Brandon Williams, will be singing his winning song, "Feelin' Good."

 

"We would like to thank Horizon Bank for sponsoring this concert, as they have been gracious sponsors in the past for both the LCSO and The Gardens," said LCSO Executive Director Tim King. "The LCSO enjoys performing at Friendship Botanic Gardens so much as it is a beautiful place to showcase our talented musicians in a relaxed, family-friendly environment."

 

Gates open at 6:00 p.m. Guests can bring picnic baskets and wine. There will be no on-site food venues. Before the concert, concert-goers can enjoy the beautiful and serene nature of Friendship Botanic Gardens and then cap it with music performed by the LCSO under a star-light sky.

 

Tickets are available on www.friendshipbotanicgardens.org or www.lcso.net.

 

Friendship Botanic Gardens (a volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization) is a community treasure, and an oasis of formal gardens and wooded nature trails tucked in an old-growth forest surrounding Trail Creek. It is located at 2055 East US 12 in Michigan City.

Back Home for Family and Fair

(La Porte County, IN) - She makes the three-hour drive here every year to see family members and go to the La Porte County Fair.

 

Jamie Schenkel, who grew up in La Porte, particularly enjoys Pioneer Land, the 1800’s style village she used to visit on school tours when she was a student at Crichfield Elementary School.

 

Schenkel, 32, now lives outside Indianapolis, Indiana, where she moved in 2014. 

 

The distance hasn’t stopped her from coming back home to visit family and pass down her love of Pioneer Land to her children during the fair every year. 

 

She took pictures of her children, Harper, 4, and Brody, 2, while they were sitting in the huge rocking chair big enough for a giant, perhaps, during the fair on Monday.

 

Schenkel said she likes to watch the blacksmiths heating and shaping metal into nails and other products.

 

Schenkel said she also very much enjoys talking to the people dressed as pioneers, getting a glimpse of what life was like back then, and taking her children for a glass of milk served at 25 cents a cup at the Farm Bureau Milk Cabin.

 

They also like seeing the animals in the petting zoo.

 

“It’s just a good family-friendly place to come, and it’s something fun to do at the fair,” Schenkel said.

Lead blacksmith Merle Miller has kept busy informing groups of children about the process of heating and shaping metal into nails, hooks, and other products used by the early settlers of the country.

 

“We have to have a fire to heat the metal, and then we hammer it on one side with a hammer and the other side with an anvil,” Miller said.

Pioneer Land is open again to the public during the fair, which runs through Saturday night.

Altered Rapid Fire Gun Arrest

(Michigan City, IN) - A handheld weapon made to fire like a machine gun has been taken off the streets in Michigan City. And now, Jovon Curry, 30, of Chicago, is facing charges.

 

According to police, Curry was stopped a few weeks ago for running stop signs in the area of Main and Elm streets and committing other traffic violations.

 

Police say Curry would not allow officers to search the vehicle, but eventually, the vehicle was searched by law enforcement. A handgun, originally made as a semi-automatic, was allegedly located underneath a seat.

 

Police said the gun was altered with a switch and other non-original parts to fire like a machine gun by holding the trigger. The firearm also had a fully loaded extended magazine.

 

If convicted, Curry would face up to six years in prison on the level 5 felony gun violation charge. He’s being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $15,000 bond.

Net Thrown on More Potential Drug Mules

(La Porte County, IN) - Two men from California traveling to the east coast face potential time in prison after being caught with 80 pounds of marijuana on the Indiana Toll Road in northern LaPorte County.

 

Lyle Smith, 33, and Karim Willens, 29, are charged in LaPorte Circuit Court with level 5 felony dealing in marijuana. They were still held Wednesday in the La Porte County Jail on a $15,000 bond.

 

According to court documents, a LaPorte County Police officer began following the driver on July 3 outside Rolling Prairie after noticing the vehicle changing lanes several times without the turn signal activated.

 

During a traffic stop, the officer became suspicious after seeing a box covered by a blanket toward the back of the vehicle. Smith, the driver, further raised suspicions when he appeared increasingly nervous.

 

Smith explained they were heading to New York City.

 

A K-9 dog alerted officials to the scent of narcotics, and during a search, the box was found to contain dozens of vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana. More vacuum-sealed packages of marijuana and $10,800 in cash were located in other containers in the vehicle, police said.

 

Evidence obtained from the driver’s cell phone indicated the marijuana was possibly from a major growing operation in northern California.

Children Rescued by Lifeguards

(Michigan City, IN) - Three children were rescued from Lake Michigan in Michigan City yesterday.


The conditions were rough, but the children ages 9, 10, and 11 went in the water anyway and got caught in a rip current.

 

Authorities said five lifeguards went in and pulled the children back to shore.

 

According to the fire department, the lifeguards responded after noticing the children struggling in the water and hearing calls for help.

 

Officials said that lifeguards had rescued 14 people from the water at Washington Park this season. 

Free Water Safety Course

(Michigan City, IN) - A free water safety program for the public is scheduled tomorrow in Michigan City at the beach at Washington Park.

 

According to the mayor’s office, instruction will be given on how to escape a rip current, signal for help, and recognize when water conditions are too dangerous and when somebody is drowning. There will also be a mock water rescue.

 

The program tomorrow is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. near the lifeguard stand.

Sheep Handlers Like Hair Stylists at Fair

(La Porte County, IN) - In some ways, the La Porte County Fair is like a barber shop or hair salon for sheep.

 

The sheep received what could be viewed as a haircut and shave before being shown to the judges Monday in the sheep barn.

 

Chris Frazier used his electric trimmers to remove the wool from a lamb shown by one of his children in the 4-H program and then applied a liquid similar to aftershave to prevent skin rash.

 

Frazier said a cool head and sharp clippers are vital for giving a sheep a great trim.

 

“They like to jump around, so you really have to keep your patience and work with them. Go nice and slow,” Frazier said.

In many ways, Frazier said a sheep has to be handled like a child being restless in a barber’s chair.

 

“They act more like a kid. They don’t want to sit still,” Frazier explained.

Frazier, who has about a half dozen sheep at his home outside La Porte, sells the wool from his sheep to a spinner who turns the material into yarn. The sheep were also given a shower, blow-drying, and a final trimming and brush before entering the show arena.

 

Catherine Mrozinski helped her nephew, Ethan Hale, 12, wash down and groom the sheep he displayed before the judges on Monday.

 

“It’s literally a beauty parlor for sheep right now,” Mrozinski said.

Mrozinski said a sheep looking its best is vital for achieving the highest score possible.

 

“You want to get it the cleanest and the best presented you can out in the ring to show off all of the hard work the 4-H’ers did all summer long,” Mrozinski said.

Driver of Convertible Dies After Crash

(Porter County, IN) - A 65-year-old Valparaiso man who flipped his antique convertible has died.

 

Jimmie Lawson was flown by medical helicopter to a Chicago hospital after the Saturday night crash near Valparaiso.

 

Porter County Police said he was driving a 1950’s-type roadster convertible that struck a culvert on North Calumet Avenue.

 

He was unconscious when found underneath the upside-down vehicle.

Small Chicken Best in Flight

(La Porte County, IN) - A 10-year-old girl feels a good breakfast might be why her chicken easily outdistanced the other birds in the popular chicken flying competition at the La Porte County Fair.

 

“Jelly Bean,” a Black Langshan chicken, flew more than 51 feet in her first attempt, then over 45 feet in the final round to take first place on Monday.

 

A thrilled Charlotte Jones was at a loss to explain her bird’s winning hang time. However, she felt that a healthy appetite for chicken feed just before the competition provided her bird the fuel needed to keep her wings flapping at a high level.

 

“She probably built up a lot of energy to fly really far, especially with how much she ate this morning,” Jones said.

The second-place finisher landed roughly six feet short of the top prize in each of her two flights.

 

Jones has more than 30 chickens on her family’s small farm about 10 miles south of LaPorte. The chickens are used primarily to sell eggs to the public and show them during the fair.

 

Her father, Chris Jones, said he was thrilled for his daughter and surprised about Jelly Bean’s ability to fly, considering her small size.

 

“I thought other birds would have bigger wings to carry them further, but this one just knew how to flap them,” Chip Jones said.

The 32 chickens in the contest flew as far as they could after being pushed from a ten-foot-high platform.

 

The dozens of spectators were also entertained by chickens using their speed and quickness on foot to try and escape the show arena once landing. The fleeing birds were chased by volunteers who sometimes used nets to grab them.

 

Carolyn Krause, the chairperson of the longstanding 4-H competition at the fair, said the winning distance this year was excellent, considering that chickens are not the best flyers. A good-sized number of chickens landed fewer than 10 feet from the platform.

 

Krause said children in the 4-H program could not enter their chickens in the flying contest until they prove they can adequately care for and handle their birds. For that reason, Krause said younger children especially are turned away from the competition but reconsidered the following year.

 

“The kids really enjoy it, but we can let them all be in it because it’s a learning process,” Krause explained.

Children Badly Hurt in Collision

(St. Joseph County, IN) - Several children were hurt over the weekend in a two-vehicle crash on Sunday night in western St. Joseph County on Indiana 2 and Quince Road.

 

Police said the vehicles were driven by a 32-year-old South Bend woman and a 20-year-old man from outside Chicago. It appears one of the drivers trying to make a left-hand turn wound up in the other vehicle's path.

 

Police said the drivers were not hurt.

 

However, three children ages 13, 5, and 2 years old suffered serious injuries and were taken to hospitals. The injuries ranged from a broken leg, internal bleeding, and a head injury.

 

Alcohol or drugs are not suspected in the crash, police said.

Man Charged with Incest

(Michigan City, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with allegations of incest in Michigan City from over a decade ago.

 

52-year-old Emerson Limbrick, Jr., is charged with 18 counts of incest. Limbrick allegedly sexually abused a female relative over a several-year period, beginning when she was in middle school. Authorities say the charges stem from the alleged victim recently coming out with the claims.

 

According to court documents, the alleged victim described Limbrick as an alcoholic who sometimes beat her until she was unconscious. The woman also alleged Limbrick required her to participate in sex acts to avoid beatings and hang out with friends.

 

Limbrick was taken into custody Friday in Gary, Indiana, where he lived at the time of his arrest.

Pioneer Land Creator to Live On with Plaque

(La Porte County, IN) - The man responsible for Pioneer Land at the La Porte County Fairgrounds will be honored.

 

A plaque featuring a likeness of Dick Reel's face made of bronze will be made and displayed on the mantle of the fireplace in the log cabin, said Carl Schultz, a longtime Pioneer Land volunteer and good friend of Reel, considered the father of Pioneer Land. Reel passed away in February.

 

The log cabin was the first building erected in the 1800s-type village created in 1995.

 

Schultz said the Pioneer Land Committee voted to have the plaque created in Reel's honor in late June. The plaque will also have special words of dedication, though the wording has not been decided.

 

Schultz expects the plaque to be finished sometime in the fall and will be large enough for people to recognize and read easily.

 

"When people come three years from now, five years from now, ten years from now, they'll be able to look up there and know that Dick was the father of Pioneer Land, the one who got it started," Schultz said.

Reel, a retired Purdue Extension educator who for years worked with youth in the 4-H program, was 74.

 

Schultz was among the people who spoke about Reel during a brief ceremony before Sunday's annual ham and bean dinner fundraiser for Pioneer Land.

 

Pioneer Land now has 14 buildings and draws thousands of people during the fair, school tours, and the Christmas season. 

Arrest in Walmart Groping Case

(Valparaiso, IN) - A 59-year-old Valparaiso man is accused of groping himself at a Walmart store. Kirkland Conn is charged with public indecency.

 

According to police, an officer was called to the store in Valparaiso on reports of a man fondling himself while making eye contact with other individuals. Conn left before the officer arrived, but a vehicle matching the description of the one he left in was spotted on U.S. 30 and pulled over.

 

Conn told the law enforcement officers that he was scratching an itch and adjusting himself inside the store. However, a store worker said the man was groping himself in front of a customer.

 

Employees also identified Conn as the same person accused the previous week of groping himself and following a female customer around the store.

Out of Shell to Become Fair Queen

(La Porte County, IN) - A once shy kid who forced herself to climb out of her shell is this year’s LaPorte County Fair Queen.

 

Kate Fine, 19, of Westville, encouraged all youth not to let fear stand in the way of their hopes and dreams.

 

“If I was as shy as I was back then, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to do this,” Fine said.

Fine, a 2021 South Central High School graduate, recently completed her first year at Purdue University Northwest, majoring in environmental science. Her goal is to work for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or some other government entity on helping to safeguard the planet.

 

Fine said performing on stage in theatre in her four years in high school was among the steps she took to overcome her fear of speaking.

 

Fine entered the 2021 LaPorte County Fair Queen Pageant and was named Miss Photogenic. She enjoyed the competition so much that she immediately began working on things she felt would improve her chances of wearing the crown this year.

 

She also overcame the battle with nerves and anxiety leading up to the contest on Saturday to bask in the spotlight of a winning performance.

 

“You know that feeling when all of your hard work pays off. It was almost like a relief off my shoulders. It was all worth it in the end,” Fine said.

Fine has been very busy making special appearances during the fair this week and carrying out the public speaking part of her obligations as queen.

 

She said the experience has been gratifying and fun but also different considering how she used to sidestep attention. She’s also the one children at the fair now look up to.

 

“It’s a weird feeling, but I’m going to get used to it,” Fine said.

Most surprising about the pageant, according to Fine, was the emphasis placed by the judges on public speaking and the ability of contestants during their presentations to connect with the audience.

 

She also said the pageant is not as scary or intense as it might seem.

 

“When I was little, I always thought fair queens were the coolest people in the world, but I was really shy, and I never thought I would be going up and doing this. I’m really glad that I did,” Fine said.

The fair runs through Saturday night.

Blueberry Picking Season in Full Swing

(North Judson, IN) - It’s blueberry picking season at farms throughout the area. One farm just to the south is also a popular destination for Chicago area residents.  

 

Goin’s Blueberry Lane in Northwest Indiana outside North Judson features more than 30 acres of blueberry bushes. Kevin and Pat Goin have owned the farm since 1980.

 

Pat Goin grew up working at her cousin’s blueberry farm during the summer, then fate, perhaps, opened the door for her to purchase another relative’s farm. Goin and her husband, a retired bricklayer, didn’t hesitate to accept the offer and continue to reap benefits.

 

The Goins have more than doubled their acreage and take special delight whenever their two daughters and grandchildren come over to help at the farm about 25 miles south of La Porte.

 

“It’s a rewarding job. It’s a rewarding life. We work hard, and when we’re done, we enjoy our life,” Goin said.

Goin’s Blueberry Lane is among 18 farms featured during the Indiana State Fair scheduled from July 29 to August 21.

 

She plans to let fairgoers know the work is hard and the days can be long, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

“You have to have a passion for what you do. If you love what you do, it’s not a job,” Goin said.

She also wants to inform people that working at a blueberry farm is not just during the picking season from late June to mid-August. The blueberry bushes must be pruned during the winter to help keep a healthy crop.

 

Other chores range from cleaning up and maintaining the grounds to fertilizing and watering the bushes to keeping an eye on any crop-damaging late spring frost in the forecast.

 

Visitors in good numbers come from as far as Indianapolis and Chicago during the U-pick season.

 

“Many of our customers are generational customers. We’ve known them for 35-plus years, and now their grandchildren are customers,” she said.

 

A percentage of the blueberries at the farm are commercially packed for wholesale distribution.

 

After the picking season, Goin said the blueberries left in the shrubs are harvested and sold to a large coop for use in making various products.   Jams, jellies, baking mixes, and even blueberry barbecue sauce and blueberry salsa are among the goods offered at their farm market.

 

There’s also honey from 70 to 80 hives kept at the farm for bees to help pollinate the blueberry blossoms.

 

“Without the bees, we would not have good large berries,” Goin said.

 

Ten varieties of blueberries are grown at the farm, offering product tastings during an annual holiday open house. 

 

Goin did everything from picking, packing, and checking out customers during her summers working at her cousin’s farm. She later received a degree in merchandising and worked at a Marshall Field store in Chicago before quitting to start raising a family.

 

Her daughters, their husbands, and children help whenever they can at the farm.

 

One of her favorite stories is about a record number of customers at the farm last year on July 4. Goin said there were 96 vehicles in their parking lot all at once.

 

“If you can imagine all of those people out in that one field picking. It was quite the sight,” Goin said.

Man Critical After Pulled from Lake Michigan

(Porter County, IN) - A 72-year-old man was last reported in critical condition after being pulled from a beach at the Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan yesterday.

 

About 10:30 a.m., authorities said a lifeguard was notified the man had gone under the water and had not resurfaced. The man was located about 15 minutes later in about seven feet of water about 100 feet from shore.

 

Authorities said CPR was started right away.

 

The man was taken to Northwest Health Porter Hospital, where he was last reported in critical condition. The man's name was not disclosed, but authorities revealed he is from Illinois, and family members were notified about the incident. 

 

Authorities said the investigation is ongoing.

Another Crash on SR 2 Sends Three to Hospital

(St. Joseph County, IN) - A serious accident on State Road 2 east of La Porte County sent three children to the hospital Sunday evening.

 

The accident happened at the intersection of Quince Road just after 5:30 p.m. A westbound white SUV collided with a black Ford sedan. The car, carrying five people, spun in the intersection, while the SUV careened off the roadway, taking out a utility guy wire and a privacy fence before coming to rest in a yard on the northwest corner of the intersection. The driver of the Ford told police that she had the green light, but the SUV came through the intersection at a high rate of speed.

 

According to police at the scene, the two adults in the sedan were uninjured. A teenager was removed from the back seat on a body board and transported to the hospital. She was believed to have a broken femur. A five-year-old appeared to be unconscious as he was carried to an ambulance. Police said his injuries were serious. About an hour later, another child involved in the crash suddenly required medical attention and was rushed to the hospital. The driver of the SUV, a 20-year-old male from Tinley Park, Illinois, was not injured.

 

Westbound lanes of State Road 2 were closed for several hours while members of the St. Joseph County Fatal Accident Crash Team finished an investigation.

 

Witnesses said an unidentified E.R. nurse from South Bend Memorial Hospital was among the first on-scene and helped stabilize the victims in the car.

 

Nearby resident Eric Clark heard the crash and came running to help. “My wife came in all hysterical,” he said, as he helped police direct traffic. “So I just came over to help.” Clark said he just moved in to his house on 2 last month, and he’s amazed at the disregard for safety at that intersection. “The speed limit here is 50 miles per hour, but nobody does it,” he said. “And mostly the people who speed through here don’t live here.”

 

This is the third serious accident in that area in about a week’s time. On June 30, 80-year-old Ann Richmond of Rolling Prairie was killed at the same intersection when a garbage truck struck her car.

Sheriff Gathers Posse For Final Parade

(La Porte, IN) - For LaPorte County Sheriff John Boyd, last week’s 4th of July parade was bittersweet. It was his last parade as sheriff. And in a way, it was a final ride into the sunset.

 

Boyd said La Porte’s parade has always been special to him. “Some of my earliest memories are going to the parade with my father,” Boyd reminisced.  “I remember when he was a Jaycee back in the late 1960s, early 1970s, and going with him and watching the parade as it lined up.”

 

Boyd has been in many parades since then, seven as county sheriff. He made it a point to approach the event with an air of humility. “I didn’t drive the parade route,” he said. “I always walked it, so I could be on the same level with the folks that are along the route.”

 

But this year was a little different.

 

Boyd said, “I guess I came to the realization this year that this was going to be my last 4th of July parade as a member of the Sheriff’s Office.” So he decided he would experience his last parade in a special way—on horseback.

 

La Porte County has a posse of volunteer officers who occasionally are called upon to combine their horsemanship with crime fighting. They help with crowd control and sometimes find evidence or missing persons. And they’re a staple in the summer parade. “I wanted to go down the parade route as they see it,” said Boyd. “They were gracious enough not only to provide me a horse, but give me some instruction, and help me down the parade route.”

 

Boyd said he owns and rides his own horses, but managing one on a busy parade route is a different thing. “It’s a lot different riding in my pasture or riding in a state park,” he said, “as opposed to riding down a route when people are throwing Snap N Pops, and there’s M80s going off.” Even the best trained La Porte County horse isn’t prepared for A-10s and helicopters roaring overhead.

 

Boyd said there were a couple of tense moments that tested his riding skills. At one point in the parade, an umbrella took sail in a gust of wind and spooked the horses. But order prevailed.

 

Boyd rode a horse named Dorothy, who was donated to the mounted posse by a friend of his and now belongs to posse member Dale Thomas. “She was fantastic,” said a relieved Boyd. “At the end of the parade, we made sure to give her some cold carrots as a reward for having to put up with me being on her back down that route.”

 

It might not be every little boy’s dream to be sheriff and ride a horse in your hometown parade, but it should be. Last Monday John Boyd lived the dream, thanks to his fellow lawmen and a horse named Dorothy.

La Porte City Leaders Defending Bypass

(La Porte, IN) - On Wednesday the La Porte County Commissioners voted to oppose plans to build a bypass east of the city. But there is no white-flag-waving for city officials, who insist the project is necessary for the future of La Porte.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody was disappointed that the commissioners were not more committed to working out a solution to the traffic problem. “We expected more for the future of our residents and county residents,” he said. “We don’t want to continue to talk about this for twenty years and watch other communities and counties progress and move forward. We can’t put our head in the sand and ignore this problem. We see the future growth and what this means not only for the city, but for the county.”

 

Dermody gave as an example the future growth of the Kingsbury Industrial Park. “You’re certainly not going to take trucks right up Indiana if you do get that growth,” said Dermody. “You need to have infrastructure that makes sense.” He said the existing problem of truck traffic rumbling through downtown is obvious to everyone— rattling windows, causing headaches for business owners and residents, and endangering pedestrians.

 

One of the commissioners’ objections to the bypass plan was a lack of collaboration with city leaders. Dermody said the commissioners seem to be a step behind as the plan evolves. “I’m concerned they’re out of touch with what’s happening,” he said. “Our engineer Nick Minich has been meeting with their county planner quarterly, if not monthly, for a couple of years. And to say that no one has talked to them about it-- it’s concerning. Their department head is doing work with our team to develop a corridor that makes sense.”

 

City Engineer Nick Minich said he didn’t know about the resolution presented Wednesday. He said he overheard the topic being discussed at the meeting as it was being televised, and ran over to the County Complex to attend.

 

Minich agreed with Dermody that continued growth and increased traffic is inevitable. He said even the commissioners’ “do-nothing solution” will have a negative impact by allowing traffic to congest La Porte.

 

“We’ve found some alternatives that would not take anyone’s home,” he said. “We’re looking at alternatives that minimize splitting farms.” According to Minich, most farmland that will be impacted is within or near the city limits. Also, most farmland acquisition would be along property edges, not down the middle, as suggested by commissioners.

 

As for the price tag, Minich said the numbers are still unknown. Preliminary costs cited by commissioners exceed $150 million. However, Minich said planners are working on a route that incorporates more existing roadways, bringing the price down to more like $100-120 million. The expenditure doesn’t have to be all at once, Minich said. Parts of the project can be done in phases. Most of the work could be done with 80 percent grants, and Minich said parts of the project could qualify for 100 percent funding.

 

Minich said the Lochmeuller Group, who is studying the problem, has not reached a  conclusion on the best course of action. He is not sure what prompted the commissioners to short-circuit the process. According to their resolution, commissioners will consider options for diverting traffic, as long as new roadways are not built and existing ones are not expanded.

 

“There are so many good points to what we could be doing here,” said Minich. “It’s not done; it can’t be done. It’s too important for our community. And for kind of a short-sighted, knee-jerk reaction, just pass a resolution to shut it down— it can’t end there.”

 

Dermody and Minich say they will continue pushing for a solution, claiming there’s still support for the bypass on the County Council and in the community.

County Commissioners Unite Against Proposed Bypass

(La Porte, IN) - Despite a recent history of bitter contention, the La Porte County Commissioners have agreed on something. They are opposed to building a La Porte bypass.

 

At their regular meeting this week, commissioners passed a resolution opposing the construction of a corridor somewhere along La Porte’s east side to divert truck traffic away from the downtown.

 

Commissioners cited concerns over a bypass route eating up rural greenspace that would negatively impact farmers and county residents. They also discussed what they feel to be lack of collaboration with the City of La Porte.

 

But their primary objection was financial.

 

Such a project would cost at least $150 million with a buy-in of about $18 million from the county. Once built, say the commissioners, the roughly 60 new miles of roadway would become the county’s maintenance responsibility. For the commissioners, that’s too big a commitment for a project that they say primarily helps the City of La Porte.

 

“We can’t get the county involved in this,” said Commissioner Joe Haney. “And we can’t put this kind of burden and these kinds of issues on people today— right now, immediately— let alone on our children and grandchildren for what the financial implications of doing something like this would be toward the county. If the city wants to figure that out, that’s fine. But the county certainly cannot afford to do something like this whatsoever.”

 

Commission President Sheila Matias agreed. “Politics or no politics, I came against this early on,” she said. “I think this is a terrible idea. With the city, we have tried to play nice, but at this point, the executives for the county need to take a stand for the citizens we represent and say this is our money, this is too much money, and it doesn’t make good sense.”

 

As part of the resolution, the commissioners support using existing roadways, such as Boyd Boulevard, Boston Street, and Severs Road to handle the traffic.

Inmate Who Died at County Corrections Facility Identified

(La Porte, IN) - An offender serving time at the La Porte County Community Corrections facility died there last Friday.

 

According to La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd, just after 2:00 a.m. his officers and La Porte County EMS were summoned to the corrections facility on Ziegler Road. “A participant out there was found unresponsive and not breathing,” said Boyd. “He was taken to La Porte Hospital where he was pronounced dead.”

 

The inmate has been identified as 43-year-old James Geise of Dyer, Indiana. Guise had been at the work release center since May 17, after being released from prison in Westville. He was finishing out a sentence for a conviction last year in La Porte County of OWI resulting in serious bodily injury.

 

An autopsy has been performed, but the cause of death has not been released, pending an ongoing investigation.

 

Boyd said the county corrections center is not managed by the Sheriff’s Department. On Wednesday the center’s director, Rochelle Brown, was fired by the La Porte County Commissioners (click here for that story), who claimed that she had not notified them or the county attorney of the incident.

Republicans Getting Head Start on Abortion Debate

(Indianapolis, IN) - A special session of the Indiana General Assembly that was supposed to have started Wednesday was pushed back to the 25th. However, Republican lawmakers are meeting anyway to plan their strategy on the prickly topic of abortion.

 

Republicans, who enjoy a legislative supermajority in Indiana, are mostly pro-life, but the devil is in the details. State Representative Jim Pressel of Rolling Prairie says he and his colleagues are caucusing now to hash out those details, which are complicated, to say the least.

 

“It’s not as simple as just being pro-life,” Pressel said. “There are the exceptions. Is it 100% ban? Is it no ban? Is it life of the mother? Is it exceptions for rape and incest?” Rape, for example, is a complicated exception, especially since lawmakers just expanded the definition of the crime. “Is it a conviction? Is it an accusation?” Pressel explained. “What does that really mean, and what’s the time frame on that?” Pressel said legislators are going to be very careful about where they draw the line, but he doesn’t know where that will be.

 

Pressel wants as much transparency in the process as possible. “I, for one, want this to go through the whole process,” he said. “So this isn’t going to be a speedy thing. Anybody that wants to testify at the Statehouse is more than welcome to come down. Nobody will be turned away, so everybody’s voice gets heard.”

 

Pressel said he also hopes to have some sort of public forum in the near future to hear from his constituency. “We’re going to try to do some kind of a listening tour, not really a debate,” he emphasized, “but I’d like to be able to hear from folks within the district and just get their sense of what they’d like.”

 

In the meantime, Republican lawmakers will spend the next couple of weeks trying to get a handle on where they stand on the issue.

Commissioners Fire Corrections Director for Failure to Communicate

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Commissioners have chosen to fire the county’s Director of Community Corrections.

 

Rochelle Brown was relieved of her duties by a unanimous vote of the La Porte County Commissioners at their regular meeting Wednesday morning. The action stems from her handling of the death of an inmate while on work release. The incident happened last Friday. Details regarding the death were not released to the public. However, the information was not conveyed to the county commissioners, either, or to the county prosecutor. “None of the commissioners have been notified,” said Commissioner Joe Haney. “We found out about it second-hand.”

 

Haney said the commissioners can’t do their jobs to protect the public’s interests if they’re left in the dark. “When someone in custody passes away, there is a notification process that needs to be handled fairly quickly,” he said, “to make sure in an investigation things are documented properly. It’s an entire-county event when something like this happens.”

 

According to Haney, Brown's failure to communicate  was only her most recent professional missstep. “It’s a huge transgression,” Haney continued, “and unfortunately it’s just the latest issue that came up that brought this entire situation to a head.” Back in April, the Community Corrections Board issued a vote of no confidence against Brown based on several other issues. Haney could not comment specifically on those issues, but said there was at least one glaring indicator of Brown’s poor performance as director. “It’s public knowledge that in the past eighteen months we’ve had an over-one-hundred percent turnover rate,” he said, “meaning that we have cycled through in eighteen months more employees than currently work at the [Community Corrections] facility. So there’s been a number of outstanding issues.”

 

The Community Corrections facility in La Porte mostly oversees work release, community service, and other conditions of probation for criminal offenders. Brown had been director of the department since April 2020.

 

Mericka Beaty has been named acting director until commissioners can name a permanent replacement.

Quiet 4th Followed by Crazy 5th for Firefighters

(La Porte, IN) - The 4th of July holiday always puts firefighters on pins and needles. But according to La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder, this weekend was unusually uneventful. “It had been such quiet weekend,” Snyder said, “more quiet than I can remember for years. We only ran three or four calls throughout the day, and that is unheard of for a 4th of July weekend.”

 

However, that all changed Tuesday.

 

The heroics started with a call to American Licorice a little after noon. According to Snyder, a worker there got her arm caught in a machine. She was freed by first responders. He says the injuries were substantial but not life-threatening.

 

About an hour later, fire crews were dispatched to a house fire at 106 Wardner Street. Firefighters got there just in time, according to Chief Snyder. “The rest of the crews did go to the structure fire, which was well-involved by the time our personnel arrived on-scene,” he said. “They were able to meet a woman exiting the structure. She did exhibit some signs of burns. We were able to get her to an ambulance very quickly. They were able to examine her and get her to a hospital.”

 

Moments later an auto accident occurred at Pine Lake Avenue and East Shore Parkway, just up the street from the fire. Crews responded simultaneously. Snyder said, like the fire, the wreck was bad, but could have been worse. “It was a three-vehicle accident,” he said, “significant damage to the vehicles. One person had to be extricated. She did have to be transported to the hospital.” Snyder did not know the victim’s condition. After rescuing her, his first responders had to get back to the house fire.

 

The fire on Wardner Street was brought under control in about 20 minutes. The burn victim was treated at the hospital and released. Her daughter escaped without injuries. Two other residents, both teenagers, were not home at the time. Snyder said fire department officials helped the family coordinate with the American Red Cross to find further assistance.

 

To top off a busy—and hot— day, firefighters responded to a gas leak later in the afternoon at the intersection of Linwood Avenue and Harrison Street. The leak was reportedly caused by digging for broadband installation. Firefighters stayed on site while NIPSCO crews fixed the problem.

 

Saving lives is hard work, even harder with a heat index in the triple digits. But it’s all in a day’s work for local first responders. “We love boring days, because that means people aren’t getting hurt or in trouble,” said Chief Snyder. Most days are anything but boring. Tuesday was proof of that.

Municipal Airport Expansion Preparing for Takeoff

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte has taken a step toward annexing land south of the municipal airport.

 

Just under 50 acres has been acquired by the airport for possible expansion. A petition was introduced at Tuesday night's La Porte City Council meeting to rezone it for airport use. Airport officials want to redirect the main runway, angling it from the northwest to the southeast. They say that direction is more advantageous for pilots, given prevailing headwinds. They also hope to extend the runway from 5,000 to 6,000 feet, making it more accessible to private jets.

 

Bill Nelson, the attorney representing the airport, explained why that could be a game-changer for La Porte and a big money-maker for the airport. “When you have a small runway, planes will pass you by, jets will pass you by,” he told the council. “And they will land at places like Valparaiso; they’ll go to Kalamazoo, and they’ll drive down, because they need to land their jets.” Nelson also pointed out that jet fuel sales really boost airport revenues.

 

However, Nelson stressed that any runway expansion will take a long time to work through government hoops. Annexation and rezoning is necessary to get the process started.

 

A public hearing on the annexation is scheduled for August 1.  A final vote on the annexation will take place September 6.

 

Following Tuesday night’s vote, Mayor Tom Dermody also reminded City Council members that the airport situation reinforces recent precedence that annexation is necessary for any outlying areas to receive city utilities.

Apartment Fire in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City firefighters put out an apartment fire Monday afternoon.

 

First responders were called to the 400 block of East 7th street on Michigan City’s north side. Inside, crews found light smoke from one of the apartments filling the hallways.

 

They evacuated neighboring units while simultaneously locating and extinguishing the fire.

 

No injuries were reported, and they did not disclose the cause of the fire.

Fire Destroys House Near North Judson

(Starke County, IN) - A vacant home near North Judson was destroyed by fire Monday morning.

 

Just after 4:30 Monday morning, a North Judson police officer found the bi-level home fully engulfed. Firefighters arrived to the scene in the 1900 block of South 300 East in Starke County in about eight minutes. Crews from five local fire departments assisted with the fire.

 

There were no injuries, and the origin and cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

4th of July: A Holiday for All Americans

(La Porte, IN) - Monday’s 4th of July parade through downtown La Porte, as usual, provided an opportunity to witness a display of what makes America great: first responders, military veterans, marching bands, civic groups, and small businesses. Throw in some clowns and politicians, and the picture is complete.

 

The local Guardian Riders motorcycle group was in the parade, spreading a message of patriotism and civic responsibility.

 

About a dozen of them, mostly veterans, rode their motorcycles in the parade. One of the Riders, Dale Turner of La Porte, said freedom is more than just fun and games. “I’m a former Marine, ’70 to ’73,” he said, while waiting for the parade to start. “The 4th of July means a lot to all of us vets, I think. The shame of it is, so many people, so many kids, don’t even know what the 4th of July is actually all about. It’s not like a parade, just a place to get candy. It’s about our independence. I think that needs to be taught more in the schools.”

 

The Guardian Riders are known for their support of veterans’ causes. They specialize in doing construction projects, like handicapped ramps, for the elderly.

 

And there was a hidden gym in Monday's 4th of July Parade. A real life Indian chief.

 

Dressed in a sleeveless American flag t-shirt and full Apache war bonnet, Dion Ortiz stood out in the crowd. “I’m a chief of Apache Nation out here in northwest Indiana,” he explained. “I represent the Chiricahua from down in Arizona and New Mexico. We have plenty of tribes down there. But up here, I’ve got almost 500 under me in northwest Indiana and the Chicago area.”

 

Ortiz says he was born and raised in East Chicago. But he calls La Porte home now. He was walking in the parade with the American Legion Post 83.

 

The theme of this year’s parade was “America Proud. La Porte Proud.” It was an event to highlight the best of who we are as Americans and hopefully reflect deeply on what it means to be an American.

Boilermaker Special Visits La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - In Monday’s La Porte 4th of July parade, the Boilermaker Special was one of the most popular and least popular entries—depending on which side of the IU/Purdue rivalry you’re on.

 

The 27-foot long truck disguised as a locomotive is actually Purdue University’s official mascot. This is the seventh version of the vehicle, in operation since 2011.

 

Ellen Stuckwisch, who is a senior at Purdue, was driving the Boilermaker Special in Monday’s parade. She said special training is required to get behind the wheel. “You actually have to go through a training process,” she said. "It’s a minimum of 40 hours, and then you get tested. It’s kind of like your driver’s test. You do parallel parking and everything like that.” She did not elaborate on where exactly one parallel parks a 27-foot locomotive.

 

Stuckwisch, who hails from Seymour, Indiana, said there are ten drivers currently certified and many more trying to make the cut. They travel around the state all summer and attend all Purdue football games, home and away.

 

The shiny black and brass locomotive is built on a Navistar International truck chassis. Believe it or not, the Boilermaker Special can do 75 mph.

Kiwanis Club Makes La Porte 4th Parade a Proud Event

(La Porte, IN) - Monday’s 4th of July Parade through downtown La Porte was a patriotic success, thanks to the LaPorte Kiwanis Club who organized it for the second year.

 

This year’s theme was “America Proud. La Porte Proud.” 86 entries traversed the 2.5 -mile route. Helicopter flyovers to start the parade were followed shortly by two A-10 Thunderbolt Warthogs.

 

For event co-organizer Joy Zigler, the satisfaction of seeing the parade get going was well-worth all the time put in to organizing it. “It’s a relief, it’s a relief,” said Zigler as the first parade floats set sail down Lincolnway. “Just getting to this day is a relief with everyone here in line. But once it goes, we know it’s done, and it’s gone. There’s a sense of accomplishment from everyone. And we couldn’t have this parade without everyone’s participation, and that’s from the units that are in it to the people that are watching it.”

 

Zigler says, surprisingly, the entire event is organized by only a handful of people. “We have probably about 15-20 volunteers for everything,” she said, “which is on the low side. So we’re doing a lot of stuff with a minimal amount of people.

 

And they could always use more help. If you would like to have a hand in organizing next year’s parade, just contact the La Porte Kiwanis Club.

Husband and Wife Pulled From Lake Michigan

(Michigan City, IN) - There was another beach rescue at Washington Park in Michigan City Sunday. One swimmer is recovering, another is fighting for her life.

 

At about 6:45 Sunday evening, emergency personnel responded to two struggling swimmers in deep water.

 

21-year-old Jose Lopez of Chicago was pulled from the water and transported to Franciscan Health Hospital in stable condition. About ten minutes later, Michigan City Fire Department divers located his wife, 19-year-old Blanca Calva, and pulled her from the water. She was transported to Franciscan in critical condition.

 

According to the Michigan City Police Department, a rumor of a third victim prompted an extended search. After about an hour, rescuers determined that no one else was lost in the water.

 

Assisting in the rescue were the Michigan City Police Department, LaPorte County EMS, and the United States Coast Guard.

 

Lighting Up the Darkness

(La Porte, IN) - This year’s Red Wine & Brew music festival included a second act. Friday’s headline event was followed on Saturday night with a smaller concert, as well as fireworks and a drone light show.

 

Pastor Dennis Meyer of Bethany Lutheran Church said it was just a convenient way to expand the sixth annual event yet again. “It was something we had sort of done during COVID,” he said. “We had two events that we planned, but we put it together this year.” With facilities already in place for the Red Wine & Brew, adding another community event was a no-brainer. And with no fireworks at the fairgrounds this year, lighting up the sky seemed like the thing to do.

 

Pastor Meyer said the theme of Saturday’s celebration of first responders, “Light Up the Darkness,” captured the symbolism of the event. “We wanted to do something special that hasn’t been done in our area,” he said, “and that is to have a drone show along with the fireworks, and to let people know how much we love this community. We want to tell them about God’s love, and that we love them, and that we want to support our first responders and work together to build community to make this a safe, beautiful place to live."

 

Meyer said about 6,500 people came out Friday night, which surpassed last year’s turnout by about 1,500. At least a couple of thousand more parked to see the fireworks and drones on Saturday.

Red Wine & Brew Celebrates With Roots and Boots

(La Porte, IN) - On Friday night a quiet pasture on La Porte County Road 500 West known as The Summit came alive with the sounds of country music and small town revelry.

 

The sixth annual Red Wine & Brew concert was a huge success, despite a heavy afternoon rainfall. Event organizer Carey Garwood said the estimated crowd of 5,000 may have trickled in a little later than expected due to the weather, but by 4:00 p.m. the VIP beer and wine tasting area was full of people. And unlike last year, the weather cleared enough for hot air balloon rides.

 

Headlining the musical portion of the event was the Roots and Boots Tour, featuring country stars Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kershaw, and Collin Raye. Tippin, Kershaw, and Raye share nearly 70 Top 40 singles between them. Friday’s concert featured a good sampling. The three took turns with brief solo sets and teamed up on stage for several other songs.

 

The trio also rolled out a few cover tunes. With a strong nine-piece backing band, some rollicking Lynard Skynard was to be expected, but a countrified version of Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right” was a fun surprise.

 

Perhaps the highlight of the night were boot-stomping performances of Aaron Tippin’s “Kiss This” and “Where the Stars & Stripes & the Eagle Fly.” Tippin, who is known for his physical fitness, seemed plenty spry for a 63-year-old.

 

The cause behind the show, of course, was a benefit for local first responders. With dozens of them in attendance, The Summit may have been the safest place in Indiana Friday night. La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd said that’s mostly a testament to the positive attitude of the people who attend. “It’s just a well-behaved crowd,” he said. “This type of event just attracts people that want to have a good time, they want to be responsible, and they want to support emergency services.”

 

Boyd said the importance of events like Red Wine & Brew is twofold: raising money and morale. “It really is nice that some of the proceeds go to support programs that we have, such as our K9 program and our marine patrol unit,” he said. “But I’ve got to tell you, from a morale standpoint, there’s nothing better than seeing this many people coming out here because they realize how important emergency services are to them.”

 

La Porte City Police Chief Paul Brettin, at the event with about a dozen of his own officers, was practically speechless at the outpouring of support for law enforcement. “It’s tremendous,” he said. “You look at everything else that’s going on in the world, and we have such strong support here in La Porte County. It’s great to see. It’s beyond words to describe it.”

29 Arrested in Michigan City Police Sweep

(Michigan City, IN) - Police officers in Michigan City conducted a fugitive sweep on Thursday that netted 29 arrests.

 

Below is the list of offenders. They were wanted for a wide range of crimes. Six people were hauled in for drug or alcohol offenses. The rest of the alleged offenses included battery, burglary, fraud, domestic battery, strangulation, auto theft, and cheating at gambling, among others.

 

Michigan City Police Chief Dion Campbell credited Corporal Kelley Kennedy of the Warrants Division and Corporal Nick Krause, Commander of the Fugitive Apprehension Street Team, who organized the sweep. 

 

Over 20 officers were involved in the roundup. Three teams of officers and detectives spread out to hit different areas of Michigan City in the coordinated effort.

 

No photo description available.

Local Hikers Found Following Search

(Monroe County, IN) - Two hikers from Valparaiso sparked a manhunt in southern Indiana on Thursday.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, 44-year-old Jason Craig of Valpo and his wife were hiking in the Deam Wilderness, part of the Hoosier National Forest between Bloomington and Bedford.

 

Craig phoned 911 when the pair became lost. His wife, 36-year-old Hannah Daugherty, was too tired to continue, so he left her behind to get help.

 

Conservation officers and firefighters eventually found Craig Thursday night. The search for Daugherty was halted due to darkness and safety concerns. She was found around 8:00 Friday morning.

 

Both hikers were checked out by EMS and released.

Elderly Driver Takes Out Utility Pole

(St. Joseph County, IN) - An elderly driver crashed his car into a utility pole just a mile north of the scene of Thursday night’s fatal accident.

 

The second auto accident within 24 hours on Quince Road took place just before noon Friday near the Warren Township Park.

 

For unknown reasons an elderly man northbound on Quince left the roadway and crashed head-on into a utility pole. Live electrical wires dangled precariously overhead while witnesses and first responders tended to him.

 

The man claimed to be unhurt, but the utility pole and his small SUV were badly damaged.

Rolling Prairie Woman Killed in Crash

(St. Joseph County, IN) - A crash on State Road 2 east of La Porte County claimed the life of a Rolling Prairie woman.

 

The accident happened around 5:00 p.m. Thursday evening at the intersection of Quince Road. According to reports, a dump truck rear-ended an SUV.

 

80-year-old Judith Ann Richmond of Rolling Prairie died when her westbound SUV was rear-ended by a garbage truck.

 

Westbound lanes were restricted for a few hours Thursday night while authorities conducted an investigation. They say neither speed nor alcohol appear to have been factors in the crash.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Dr. Micah Pollak

(LAPORTE, IN) - Today on the SOUND OFF Radio Show is Dr. Micah Pollak. Dr. Pollak is the Director of the Center for Economic Education & Research and an Associate Professor of Economics at Indiana University Northwest.

 

Dr. Pollak defined the study of economics, discussed whether America is headed toward a recession, and discussed the impact of inflationary issues, among other things. 

 

Listen to the full episode: 

 

 

McSurley Rebounds With Basketball Scholarship

(New Carlisle, IN) - Recent New Prairie graduate Maddie McSurley is living proof of the old Yogi Berra adage, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

 

McSurley has been a three-sport athlete since fourth grade. She particularly excelled in basketball as a four-year starter for the Lady Cougars. She registered 11 double-doubles her senior season. She was All-NIC Honorable mention twice and was selected to the All-La Porte County Team as a senior, as well as being an IBCA All-State honorable mention. McSurley also played in the North-South All-Star game in Indianapolis.

 

But by the start of her final season, she was a little burned out and wasn’t planning to compete in college. “Coming into my senior year, I decided that I was just going to finish out my high school sports,” she said. “Like, that was it. My body was completely worn down.”

 

Then a surprise scholarship offer from IU South Bend head coach Steve Bruce changed her mind. “After my graduation party on June 12, Coach Bruce had texted me and had asked if I could come visit, and he’d offer me a scholarship." The offer came as a shock to McSurley, since she had not promoted herself to college recruiters.

 

It also helped that one of New Prairie’s assistant coaches— Kyleigh Kubik, who herself played at IUSB— was making a move to the coaching staff there.

 

After touring IUSB’s facilities, McSurley felt it was meant to be. “There was just a moment where I was like, ‘Yeah, I want to do this. I know these people; I know how the program is. This is what I want to do.’”

 

McSurley snatched up the Titans’ last roster spot. And her basketball career… well, it ain’t over.

Police Warn of Shady Business Practices

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Police Department is warning local residents about some shady business practices from a heating and air conditioning company that operates in the area.

 

The company, which police did not identify, displays signage, advertising so-called expert and cost-effective repairs on A/C units. It’s when they perform a free consultation that the funny business starts.

 

Police say a technician may check on an existing A/C unit and turn it off or otherwise disable it, telling the homeowner that the system needs to be replaced. Upon getting a second opinion from another company, one Michigan City homeowner was told their system had simply been turned off.

 

Police remind residents to do their research, check references, and don’t fall for high pressure deals.

 

If you have evidence that a company is up to no good, let the authorities know. You can contact police via Facebook Messenger, through the crime tip hotline number of 219-873-1488, or the WeTip Hotline for General Crime (800) 78-CRIME and possibly receive a reward upon an arrest and conviction. All WeTip call information is sent directly to the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office. You can always request to remain anonymous.

Northwest Indiana Officer Injured in Crash

(Munster, IN) - A northwest Indiana police officer suffered injuries in a crash while trying to conduct a traffic stop.

 

It happened just before 9:00 p.m. Wednesday night in Munster.

 

A city police officer gave pursuit to a speeding vehicle. Another driver, perhaps not paying attention, crossed the officer’s path. The collision sent the police SUV head-on into a utility pole.

 

The officer had to be extricated from his vehicle. He was treated for injuries at a Munster hospital and released.

 

Fire Guts Small Business in Knox

(Knox, IN) - A four-alarm fire in downtown Knox Thursday involved fire departments from three counties.

 

The fire started at Vorpal Gaming on S. Main Street. According to authorities, that business was gutted. Adjoining businesses also sustained smoke and water damage.

 

No injuries were reported.

 

According to the Kingsford Heights fire department, which was on standby for assistance, multiple departments were on scene from La Porte, Starke, and Porter Counties.

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