Local News Archives for 2022-08

Vehicle Strikes La Porte Chain Store

(La Porte, IN) - It appears no injuries resulted from a motor vehicle striking the wall of a pharmacy this afternoon in La Porte.

 

At about 12:30 p.m., emergency responders were called to CVS at 1407 Lincolnway. 

 

A small hole was left in the brick exterior of the structure while the vehicle sustained what seemed like minor damage. A man sitting behind the wheel of the vehicle was talking to investigators after the collision.

 

The collision packed a punch despite the damage appearing minor, said Jeff Ludington, who was inside the store.

 

“I heard like an explosion, and the building shook,” Ludington said.

 

The La Porte man said he was surprised after going outside and noticing the damage wasn’t more significant.

 

“I’m just glad nobody hurt,” Ludington said.

 

Why the collision happened and other details were not immediately available from the police.

 

Party Ready to Order More "High Demand" Signs

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens claims that the “Dump Sheila” and “Fire Friedman” campaign signs are practically flying off the shelves.

 

Stevens said 100 signs containing images of La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias and La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman were made. A few days later, only about 20 of the signs remained. He said more signs would be ordered if the dwindling supply ran out.

 

“It’s been crazy the amount of demand we’ve had for them,” Stevens said.

 

Stevens would not disclose who came up with the idea for the signs. However, he said La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, who’s been highly vocal in his criticism of Matias and Friedman, was not the brainchild for the signs.

 

Stevens said Stabosz did pay with an in-kind donation to the party for the first order of signs costing over $1,200.

 

“It wasn’t Tim’s idea, but he was definitely on board when I asked him if he would be interested in coming on board and paying for the first batch of them,” Stevens said.

 

He also said another donor has stepped up to pay for the second batch of signs.

 

Stevens does not feel the signs are an embarrassment to La Porte County, as claimed by Matias. Instead, for Stevens, the signs reflect what he judged to be poor job performances of Matias and Friedman.

 

Stabosz declined to comment.

Antique Sports Car Burned in Barn Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - The owner of some classic sports cars is probably having difficulty coping with losing the vehicles in the La Porte County fire.

 

The late Saturday morning fire was on County Road 500 West between La Porte and Westville.

 

According to LaPorte County Police, a lawn mower was on fire inside a barn, and the homeowner, Thomas Pollick, was attempting to put it out with a fire extinguisher. However, police said the nearly full gas tank on the lawn mower caught fire, and soon, the barn was engulfed in flames.

 

Police said a 1969 Camaro, a 1978 Pontiac Trans Am, and a 1999 Ford Mustang GT were inside the heavily damaged barn.

 

Firefighters from Scipio Township, Westville, and other departments responded to the fire.

 

Pollick told investigators he had just finished putting the mower back inside the barn, and after going inside his residence, his wife alerted him to the fire.

Political Heat Boiling Over into Signs

(La Porte, IN) - The ongoing political feud in La Porte County is spilling into campaign signs in the form of "Dump Sheila" and "Fire Friedman" signs.

 

The campaign sign also shows the faces of Commissioner Sheila Matias and County Attorney Shaw Friedman. Beside the face of Friedman is the image of a green-colored money bag.

 

For over a year and a half now, La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz has alleged Matias is a "political puppet," allowing Friedman to run the county and profit from it.

 

Friedman and Matias are Democrats. Stabosz is a Republican.

 

In response to the allegations, Friedman filed a still-pending lawsuit charging Stabosz with defamation of character.

 

Friedman responded to the campaign sign.

 

"If taxpayer dollars are really the issue on those signs, who's cost taxpayers more than Tim Stabosz? Between his late bond payment, the embarrassment of losing the county's credit rating, and now having to redo 44,000 tax bills that he messed up, that's over a quarter of a million dollars he's cost taxpayers," Friedman said.

Matias called the signs an embarrassment to La Porte County and a form of "hate speech." She also says her focus during the campaign is on what she accomplished, the work that still needs to be done, and listening to people to solve real problems.

 

Matias is running for a second term against Republican Connie Gramarossa.  Gramarossa is currently a member of the La Porte County Council and a former member of the LaPorte County Commission. 

 

There are claims that Stabosz is behind the making or funding of the signs. But, on his Facebook page, Stabosz said the local Republican Party produced the signs.

 

Stabosz also called the signs "splendid" in his post and informed people they could pick one up at the Republican Party headquarters at 814 Jefferson Ave. in La Porte or contact him personally for a sign.

 

So far, attempts to reach Stabosz and La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens have been unsuccessful.

Spotted Lanternfly a Concern for Growers

(Lansing, MI) - The presence of an invasive species considered a significant threat to makers of wine and honey had been confirmed for the first time in Michigan.

 

The spotted lanternfly also turned up recently for the first time in northern Indiana after emerging last year in the southern part of the state.

 

Cliff Sadof, a Purdue University professor of entomology, said the risk posed by the migration is also significant for producers of walnut trees.

 

He said spotted lanternfly feeds on more than 100 different plants but can only reproduce while feeding on walnut trees, grape vines, and trees of heaven.

 

The one-inch-long winged insect native to Asia was first discovered in the U.S. in 2014 in Pennsylvania.

 

The insect sucks the sap and other juice from grapevines, which can significantly damage the crop.

 

"Spotted lanternfly populations feeding on wine grape vines can severely reduce winter hardiness or kill the crop altogether," said Elizabeth Long, assistant professor of horticulture crop entomology at Purdue University.

 

Honey can have a smoky taste or smell and become less sweet when tainted by secretions of honeydew from the spotted lanternfly. The honeydew finds its way into honey from bees who ingest the sugary substance if nectar from flowers is in short supply.

 

Long said makers of wine and honey should keep a sharp eye out for the species so measures can be taken early to limit the spread.

 

Beekeeping equipment is a good place to look for the eggs of spotted lanternflies, said Brock Harpur, who's also an assistant entomology professor at the West Lafayette campus.

 

"Should the spotted lanternfly become established in all parts of Indiana, it is expected that honeydew, the secretion that spotted lanternfly leave behind, will become part of our late-summer honey harvest," Harpur said.

 

A small population of spotted lanternflies in Michigan in Oakland and Pontiac counties near Detroit was confirmed by USDA on August 10. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the species was primarily contained in a small, wooded lot.

 

"They have already completed pesticide applications of the impacted area," said Michael Phillip, director of MDARD's Pesticide and Plant Management Division, "Early detection gives up more tools in the toolbox for response and containment."

 

The spotted lanternfly in Indiana was recently confirmed in Huntington along some railroad tracks. Railroad cars and semi-trucks are among the known carriers of the insect confirmed in Indiana for the first time last year in Switzerland County near the Ohio River. 

 

Sadof said spotted lanternfly eggs looking similar to a splash of mud are easily overlooked on large vehicles traveling from state to state.

 

Long said several insecticides used by grape growers for other pests also work in controlling the spotted lanternfly, and their numbers are not large enough right now to require additional sprays.

 

Other steps already underway to limit their spread include removing trees of heaven native to Asia and spreading across the U.S. Trees of heaven is a favorite food source for the insect. According to MDARD, a significant but isolated number of trees of heaven were discovered where spotted lanternflies were found recently in Michigan. The insect also feeds on trees and plants, including black walnut, river birch, willow, sumac, and red maple.

 

According to experts, any spotting of the red and black colored insect should be reported immediately to the proper authorities. People are also encouraged to check the outside of their vehicles for the insects and their eggs before driving off and park with their windows closed to prevent the species from getting inside.

 

Experts said egg masses should be scraped into plastic bags containing hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol to kill them.

Opportunity for College Students at Statehouse

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana Senate Republican Caucus offers paid spring-semester internships in its communications, information technology, legal, legislative, page, and policy offices during the 2023 session of the Indiana General Assembly, according to State Senator Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores).

 

Qualified candidates may be of any major and must be at least a college sophomore.

 

Recent college graduates, as well as graduate and law school students, are also encouraged to apply. Positions are open to Indiana residents and non-residents who attend a college or university in Indiana.

 

Interns earn an $800 biweekly stipend and benefit from scholarship and academic credit opportunities, professional development, community involvement, and networking.

 

Senate internships are full-time positions at the Statehouse that typically begin with a mandatory orientation in late December.

 

The senate internships next year will conclude at the end of the legislative session in April 2023.

 

"College students and graduates are often seeking opportunities to prove themselves in the professional world," Bohacek said. "Interning with the Senate offers the chance to hone professional skills and create connections in public service. I would highly recommend this internship to those interested in serving the public, and I encourage them to apply."

 

For more information and to access an application, visit www.IndianaSenateRepublicans.com/Intern.

 

The deadline to apply is October 31.

A Wealth of Scholarships Awarded

(La Porte County, IN) - Unity Foundation of La Porte County is awarding over $330,000 in scholarships to 200 students from 50 different scholarship funds for the 2022-2023 academic year.

 

Since Unity Foundation was established in 1992, the organization has awarded more than $3 million in scholarships to help area students advance their education.

 

The recipients are attending 52 different colleges and universities across the United States and Canada.

 

"This year's scholarship recipients represent the best of La Porte County. They have persevered in the face of unique circumstances during the past few years of their education, and we wish them continued success in their academic careers," said Unity Foundation Vice President Shannon Walker.

 

A virtual scholarship presentation recognizing this year's recipients and the donors who make these scholarships possible is available on the Unity website, uflc.net, YouTube channel, and Facebook page.

 

"Unity loves investing in our students! We can only do this because of our visionary donors who provide perpetual support for La Porte County students pursuing their dreams," said Maggi Spartz, Unity Foundation President.

 

Students may apply for scholarships for the 2023-2024 school year beginning in January 2023.  

 

For more information, visit www.uflc.net or call 219-879-0327.

More Light Shed on Alleged Crash by Mayor

(Michigan City, IN) - More details have been reported about an alleged hit-and-run motor vehicle crash by the mayor of Michigan City in a city-owned vehicle.

 

According to WSBT-TV out of South Bend, a report by Indiana State Police shows Duane Parry was in a city-owned Ford Explorer when he struck a water pipe in the grass at Washington Park.

 

The report also revealed the mayor kept driving over the pipe sticking above the ground, and the exhaust system was ripped from the vehicle, according to WSBT.

 

The crash was allegedly not reported, but Parry was later questioned about it by state police, who were brought in to investigate to avoid a conflict of interest.

 

According to WSBT, the police report also shows Parry was given a urine test, and according to the report, he “apparently had been drinking.”

 

The crash allegedly happened on August 5 during the weekend of the heavily attended Great Lakes Grand Prix. Damage to the vehicle was estimated at $1,000 to $2,500.

 

City Councilman Paul Przybylinski said the mayor could have violated policy governing the use of city-owned vehicles by allegedly not reporting the crash right away. However, Przybylinski is unsure if there was a violation because of how the policy is worded.

 

Przybylinski plans to revise the policy to contain more specific language and teeth for enforcement purposes. 

 

WSBT also showed a video of Parry refusing to discuss the matter and threatening to have a reporter removed from City Hall if she didn’t put down a TV camera.

Lingering Power Outages from Storm

(La Porte County, IN) - There were still some power outages in the area from Monday's storm.

 

According to NIPSCO, more than 60 customers were still without service this morning in Michigan City, but service had been restored to all customers in La Porte.

 

In Knox, NIPSCO reported just over 700 customers still without power this morning. In addition, over 1,000 NIPSCO customers in La Porte and Knox were without power yesterday afternoon.

 

The La Porte County Highway Department reports about two dozen calls about fallen trees and limbs taken during and after the storm.

 

Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said it took his crews about three hours to remove the fallen trees and limbs from roadways. He said the focus today would be cleaning up the debris left by the fallen trees and limbs.

 

"We'll pretty much have all hands on deck cleaning all of the debris up," Werner said.

About a half dozen trees were discovered down in the city of La Porte, said La Porte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor. Batchelor said the fallen trees were in areas like Patton Cemetery and Division Road.

Correction to Mistake in Public Indecency Story

(La Porte, IN) - HomeTownNewsNow.com (HTNN) has corrected and is retracting a statement from a news story entitled "Partner of Half Naked Policeman Charged", which was originally published on Thursday, August 18, 2022 at 1:44 PM Central time.

 

The article, as originally published, mistakenly reported that both off duty policeman Brandon Wilkerson and Adina Swanson were "naked from the waist down" when discovered by a Trail Creek Police officer in the parking lot of Evergreen Plaza outside Decoy’s Neighborhood Bar and Grill. 

 

HometownNewsNow.com respectfully retracts this statement from the article in favor of the observations made by the Trail Creek Police officer in his "Incident Narratives" of the Police report.

 

Following a subsequent review of the original police report by HTNN, the officer clearly states ONLY Wilkerson was witnessed by the officer as being "naked from the waist down". 

 

The officer went on to state that when he surveyed the two subjects after he exited his vehicle, he witnessed Swanson with her pants around her waist.

 

HometownNewsNow.com has revised the article with these corrections and we deeply regret the mistake made in our reporting of this incident. 

Afternoon Storm Leads to Outages

(La Porte County, IN) - A storm this afternoon produced fallen trees and thousands of power outages.

 

In La Porte County, NIPSCO reported just over a thousand people in La Porte were without power as of 3 p.m.

 

NIPSCO reported similar service outage totals in Knox and North Liberty. In contrast, just over 100 NIPSCO customers in Michigan City were without service.

 

La Porte County Highway Department crews responded to fallen trees and limb reports. One of those locations was County Road 700 South, where a tree was blocking the roadway.

Smoothie King Opens in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A new chain beverage maker has just opened in La Porte. Smoothie King began serving the public today at its new location off Pine Lake Ave. at NewPorte Landing.

 

Taylor Haney, a district manager for nine Smoothie King locations in Indiana and Illinois, said various smoothies like a banana boat are offered at the new site.

 

“If you’re not feeling fruity, we also have chocolate and peanut butter as well,” Haney said.

Protein smoothies are also on the menu for people with such cravings following a workout.

 

A long line of customers waited for their orders in the drive-through service lane.

 

“It’s been non-stop so far. It’s nice to be here,” Haney said.

Mayor Tom Dermody was among the local dignitaries attending a ribbon cutting today at noon. 

 

Smoothie King is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 

Smoothie King was founded in 1973. According to the company, there are about 1,000 Smoothie King locations nationwide and globally.

 

 

Two People Dead After Motorcycle Crash

(Michigan City, IN) - Two people died following a weekend motorcycle accident in Michigan City.

 

According to Michigan City Police, officers before 6 a.m. Saturday responded to the 700 block of Cleveland Avenue.

 

Investigators, so far, had determined the motorcycle was eastbound on Homer Street when the driver ran a stop sign at Cleveland Avenue. The traffic violation caused the motorcycle to leave the roadway. 

 

Two people whose names have not been released were pronounced dead at the scene. Police said further details were being withheld to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

 

Anyone who might have witnessed or with information about the incident is asked to contact the Michigan City Police Department.

 

People are asked to contact Corporal Brian Wright (brwight@emichigancity.com) or Officer Shane Washluske (swashluske@emichigancity.com) at 219-874-3221 ext. 1008.

Police Crisis Team Restored

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Police Department now has an Emergency Response Team.

 

The department used to have what was previously known as a SWAT team several years ago, but the squad was discontinued. In the past, the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office was relied on to handle hostage negotiations and other highly dangerous situations in the city.

 

La Porte Police Officer Adam Jaskowiak said the ERT was formed eight months ago.

 

ERT members had a display of weapons used to bring dangerous situations to a safe resolution during an emergency responder appreciation event Saturday near Valparaiso. The weapons included firearms that shot bean bags, stunning suspects long enough for officers to rush in and grab them, and guns firing rubber bullets.

 

The team was reassembled as part of the mayor’s and police chief’s desire to bring the department back to full strength.

First Responders Showcase Skills

(Valparaiso, IN) - The public was given a glimpse of a wide range of public safety demonstrations during the third annual First Responder Appreciation and Demonstration Day near Valparaiso on Saturday.

        

Departments throughout Northwest Indiana displayed their skills at the Multi Agency Academic Cooperative, a 20-acre training grounds for police officers, firefighters, and medics from Lake, Porter, LaPorte, and other counties.

 

"I think it's great," said Megan Wiesjahn of Valparaiso.

 

The Valparaiso woman and her children, Allie, 7, and Kate, 10, climbed inside a fire truck after first stepping on the property.

 

Brandy Ensien of Wanatah took pictures of her sons, Chase, 7, and Dillon, 10, wearing a firefighter helmets before moving on to other demonstrations and exhibits.

 

Several buildings in what's a tactical village are on the grounds to train for house fire rescues and capture suspects as safely as possible with K-9 dogs.

 

Valparaiso Police Sgt. Joe Cowser was a hit with the crowd from being attacked by Marko, one of the department's K-9 dogs. He wore a suit with thick enough padding to keep his skin from being punctured by the teeth of the charging dog released by Lt. Sean Kostelnik.

 

The dog biting Cowser multiple times in the drill was later used to help capture a pretend suspect from a makeshift residence after police officers forced their way inside.

 

Men trained to become firefighters also climbed a ladder to the second floor of a building and stepped inside through a window. The inside of the structure, set up like a house, contained what looked like smoke for them to practice finding people inside and escorting them to safety.

 

"We'll search the upper level and bring the victim out the window," said Bill Arney, lead instructor for the MAAC Fire Training Academy and Chief of the Burns Harbor Fire Department.

 

Currently, Arney said there are 25 students from departments throughout the area working toward their certification as firefighters. In addition, Arney and other firefighter instructors at the event are members of District 1 through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

 

The hundreds of people in attendance were also allowed to look inside a medical helicopter and go inside a fire safety house. The mobile fire safety house belonging to the Valparaiso Fire Department is equipped with a smoke alarm. People inside the structure were instructed to get down close to the floor as among the steps to get out when the alarm sounded.

 

"We describe what to do when the smoke alarm goes off," said Valparaiso firefighter Capt. Bob Schulte.

 

The department also demonstrated automatic sprinklers to illustrate the advantages of fire suppression systems in buildings and practiced extricating people trapped in motor vehicles after a crash.

 

The event was also an opportunity for Dawn Casas of Portage to learn more about the line of work her emergency-responder-in-training daughter has chosen to pursue after graduating from high school. Her 17-year-old daughter, Leilah, is a South Haven Volunteer Fire Department member.

 

"All of this stuff is so interesting," Kosas said.

 

Kosas especially liked the weapons on display by the LaPorte Police Department's Emergency Response Team.

 

The ERT established less than a year ago showed military-looking guns that fire rounds containing tear gas and bean bags to bring the most dangerous situations to an end without significant harm.

 

ERT member officer Adam Jasjowiak said the display included handguns firing rubber bullets used for training in situations like shootouts.

 

"It basically simulates the real deal to make it as realistic as possible for guys on the team to get the best training and better serve the community," Jasjowiak said.

 

Also, manning booths were members of Porter County Career and Technical Education talking to people about their criminal justice, emergency medical service, and fire science programs.

 

Director Audra Peterson said the program housed at the Porter County Career Center in Valparaiso serves nine high schools in Porter County and Hobart in Lake County. Students wanting to become emergency responders are trained at the MAAC facility.

 

"We got quite a few former grads that are actually working at fire departments now," Peterson said.

 

MAAC Foundation President Celina Weatherwax said the event is a way of bonding residents with the emergency responders serving them. Representatives from the U.S. Secret Service Agency and police from CSX Railroad and Canadian National Railroad were among the other first responders interacting with the visitors.

 

"This is very much a public, community-wide event," Weatherwax explained. 

Mechanical Problems Postpone Moon Launch

(Merritt Island, FL) -  The rocket launch to the moon this morning has been postponed.

 

NASA officials said the launch was canceled because of a fuel leak and engine problems. The fueling ran nearly an hour late Monday because of thunderstorms off Florida's Kennedy Space Center. 

 

The over 300-foot spaceship is the most powerful rocket ever built by NASA. The next launch attempt could happen as soon as Friday.  

 

No astronauts were inside. Instead, three test dummies were strapped for the six-week mission, scheduled to end with the capsule's splashdown in the Pacific in October. 

 

Police Investigating Hit and Run Involving School Bus

(La Porte County, IN) - Police are investigating a near-collision with a reckless semi and a La Porte County school bus.

 

On Friday South Central School Community Superintendent Ben Anderson sent a notice to parents explaining the incident.

 

According to Anderson, it took place on US Highway 30 Friday morning. Here is a portion of Anderson’s statement:

 

“Bus 12-1, Sandy Wood’s bus, was nearly struck by a semi-truck hauling steel. This happened near Smoker Farm. The semi left the roadway to the right of the school bus and struck an electric pole knocking out power to the farm. The semi drove back onto Hwy 30 and continued westbound. Thankfully, the Smoker farm has this incident on surveillance video and the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.”

 

No injuries were reported, but Anderson’s statement went on to say that the bus driver and some students “were pretty shaken up by the incident.” Anderson and Transportation Director Gary Biggs arrived to the scene and arranged for the students to be transferred to a different bus. School staff checked on the well-being of those students throughout the day. Anderson commended “the quick and brave action” of bus driver Wood.

 

Traffic safety on US 30 has been a growing concern. The Indiana Department of Transportation announced just last week that an in-depth safety study, including public input, will take place over the next year for the stretch of US 30 between Valparaiso and the Ohio border.

La Porte Home Featured on Network TV Show

(La Porte, IN) - A house in La Porte has been featured on a major network television show.

 

The A&E Network show “Move or Improve” was in the Maple City a few months ago to tape an episode. The premise of the show is a homebuyer who is contemplating fixing up their current home, or just buying another one.

 

Area realtor Sherry Ritter-Banic said she was contacted by Six West Media about her listing at 1209 Michigan Avenue. “The producer contacted me back in April,” she said, “and they thought it would be a great fit for their show, and so the sellers agreed to it.” According to Banic, filming took place on May 7. Everyone involved had to sign a confidentiality agreement to keep the production a secret, which Banic said wasn’t easy. A concerned neighbor and a couple of observant police officers were reassured by the homeowners that everything was okay.

 

The episode aired last Saturday, and now Banic is happy to talk about the experience. She says a couple from Three Oaks, Michigan, were considering a move to La Porte. “They were trying to decide if they wanted to just add on to their house or go look for homes closer to their work,” Banic said. “They thought La Porte would be a great fit for them because they have family in the area. So that’s how La Porte came into the picture. And then our house, by chance, was listed the same week they were looking for houses to view.”

 

The TV crew filmed all over La Porte. “They actually did a very good job of promoting the city,” said Banic. “They showed the courthouse, some of the lakes, the downtown life. So I thought they really had a great scope of what La Porte is like.”

 

Another property in Benton Harbor was also in the running. To see how it turned out, you’ll need to watch Season 1, Episode 4 of A&E’s “Move or Improve.”

Sebert Is La Porte County's Newest Park

(La Porte County, IN) - A new La Porte County park is all about simplicity.

 

Sebert Woods County Park and Nature Preserve opened this week. It’s located on West 925 North, east of I-94 and just south of the blueberry farms on 1000 North.

 

According to La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney, Wilmer Sebert donated the land about 20 years ago, and the county park board has recently worked to make it accessible to visitors.

 

Haney, who is the liaison to the park board, said the no-frills park is a great place to simply encounter nature. “It’s just a beautiful 40-acre piece of land,” he said. “It’s a minimalist park, if you will. There are no facilities out there other than a parking area. There are some marked trails right now. They’re trying to get up some other signage.” Haney said the land features paper birch and wintergreens, blueberry bushes, orchids, wildflowers, and ferns. Currently a path of about half a mile is carved through the natural habitat.

 

Haney said the park’s simplicity will make operating costs minimal. He hopes other scenic parcels of land can be converted into nature preserves, particularly in southern parts of La Porte County.

LaPorte Slicers Fall to Red Devils

(LAPORTE, IN) - Missed opportunities and the inability to stop the Lowell running game cost the Slicers in Friday night’s home opening 21-14 loss to Lowell at Kiwanis Field.

 

La Porte had three trips deep into Lowell territory in the first quarter, losing a fumble, throwing an interception, and coming up short on a 4th down run.

 

Lowell scored first at the 8:40 mark of the 2nd quarter on a 1-yard run by quarterback Riley Bank. This capped an all-run 18-play 80-yard drive. Red Devil kicker Caden Britton tacked on the extra point.

 

Photo by Susan Anglin.The Slicers tied the game on the next drive when RJ Anglin hit Ollie Kring on a 17-yard touchdown pass. The touchdown play was made possible by a roughing-the-passer penalty on a 4th and 15 play to allow the Slicer drive to continue. Jack Doty tied the game at 7-7 with his extra-point kick.

 

Lowell received the kickoff to start the 2nd half. On the first play from scrimmage Bank tried to run to the left side, found no room, circled to the right, and outran the Slicer defense for a 66-yard touchdown run. Britton’s kick made it 14-7.

 

The Red Devils seemingly put the game away in the 4th quarter when Bank scored his 3rd touchdown on a 7-yard run with 1:55 remaining. Britton’s kick made it 21-7. This capped a 92-yard 15-play drive that ran over 7 minutes off the clock.

 

The Slicers stormed back, scoring with 41.5 seconds remaining on an Anglin to Kring 16-yard touchdown pass, which was set up by a 40-yard Anglin-to-Drew Flores pass. Doty made his 2nd extra point to make the score 21-14. However, the Slicers could not execute an onside kick, and the game ended 21-14.

 

Photo by Susan Anglin.RJ Anglin was 19-35 passing with 264 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. Ollie Kring had seven catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Drew Flores caught four balls for 93 yards, and Deegan Mason and Dylan Salisbury each had three catches. Mason had 18 yards, and Salisbury had 54.

 

Lowell completed only one pass in the game, but the Slicers had two interceptions, one by Robbie Rompa and the other by Evan Back.

 

The Slicers fall to 0-2 on the season and travel to Valparaiso (1-1) next Friday. Lowell is 1-1 and will host New Prairie next week. 

 

**Photos by Susan Anglin.

Mini-Bike Driver Seriously Hurt in Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - A teenager was seriously hurt when his mini bike collided with a pickup truck outside La Porte.

 

Garrett West, 18, was taken by helicopter to a South Bend hospital with a broken nose, broken cheek, concussion, and dental problems, according to La Porte County Police.

 

Police said West was northbound on Jongkind Park Road at about 8 p.m. Wednesday. His mini bike slammed into the passenger side of a southbound 2023 Ford F-150, which turned left into the path of West.

 

The other driver, Nicholas Henckel, 37, told investigators he did not see the oncoming mini bike.

 

The off-road mini bike was not street legal or equipped with lights at the time of the crash, and West was not wearing a helmet. 

 

Both vehicles involved in the collision did not sustain much damage.

Man Arraigned on Murder Charge

(La Porte, IN) - A man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend at her home in La Porte made his initial court appearance today.

 

John McCaw, 62, is charged with murder. McCaw allegedly delivered a single gunshot wound to the head of 57-year-old Nancy Ainsworth on August 18.

 

During today's hearing, McCaw, when offered a public defender, said he wanted to try and hire his own attorney to represent him in the case.

 

La Porte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos scheduled a hearing in two weeks for McCaw to report if he's been able to hire an attorney or needs the court to appoint him a public defender. Alevizos scheduled the case for trial on August 7.  

 

According to court documents, a man believed to be McCaw told a 911 dispatcher the woman shot herself in the head by accident, and he was still inside the home with the victim. However, a neighbor's surveillance system captured McCaw leaving the residence ten minutes before the call, police said.

 

Court documents also revealed police later stopped McCaw in Gary, who knew he was a person of interest in the slaying.

 

Ainsworth was soon pronounced dead after being discovered on a living room couch in her home at 906 Ridge Street. 

 

Evidence at the scene indicates the shot was fired through a pillow, judging by what appeared to be bullet entry and exit holes on the pillow located near a spent shell casing and the body.

 

According to court documents, what police described as a suicide note apparently written by McCaw, was found on a kitchen counter. The letter contained an apology to his son for taking his life and revealed the suspect left everything he owned to his son. Blame was also placed on the victim in the letter announcing his intentions to commit suicide.

 

"It's time for me to be gone!" the words in the letter proclaimed. The letter also indicated McCaw was heading to Michigan to "say goodbye to my brothers."

 

Authorities offered no explanation on why McCaw was in Gary, not Michigan, after the fatal shooting.

 

Alevizos ordered McCaw to remain held without bond until the case's conclusion.

Child Sex Offender in Jail Again

(La Porte, IN) - A LaPorte man, Tyler McCallister, was allegedly found with drugs while being arrested for child sex-related crimes.

 

According to court documents, police went to a residence at 606 Tipton Street to pick up the 20-year-old McCallister on a warrant for failing to register as a sex or violent offender.

 

Police said he was taken into custody and transported to the La Porte County Jail.

 

According to court documents, a jail officer was searching McCallister when he found methamphetamine, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia in his possession.

 

According to court records, McCallister was a juvenile when convicted of aggravated criminal sexual abuse with a victim under 13 and sexual exploitation of a child in Grundy County, Illinois.

Family Again Stricken by Fire

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte area family could use some good luck after losing their belongings in a storage unit fire last night.

 

Lynn Grenough was among the people with items stored at the facility showing up Friday to assess the damage on 18th Street. Her family rented two of the destroyed units containing furniture and other belongings salvaged from their house damaged by fire in November of 2020.

 

Also, inside their storage units were brand new things they purchased to replace what was lost in the fire nearly two years ago.

 

Grenough said her family lives in a rental home until a settlement is reached on their fire-damaged residence at Rustic Hills subdivision between La Porte and Michigan City.

 

Grenough said one reason their belongings were stored in the units is they were not needed in the furnished home her family is currently renting. She described having a sickening feeling in her stomach while looking at the charred and twisted remains of the storage facility. 

 

Amanda Oswald did not have anything in storage, but she walked the short distance from her home to see the remains of a fire she watched last night from her residence.

 

"The smoke was just billowing out of the building. It was insane, and it stunk. It was horrible. It was just sad. Sad," Oswald said.

No Clues Yet on Cause of Storage Blaze

(La Porte, IN) - The cause of a fire destroying more than 40 storage units and the contents inside is under investigation in LaPorte.

 

Fire Chief Andy Snyder said it might be challenging to identify the cause because of the extent of the damage.

 

“There was so much devastation and intensity from the fire we’ll do our best to make a determination,” Snyder said.

The fire was contained to one of nine buildings at Infinite Self Storage on 18th St. between Indiana 39 and Andrew Avenue on the city’s southwest side.

 

Snyder said two firefighters were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and heat-related exhaustion.

 

After responding just after 8 p.m., firefighters were on the scene for about eight hours.

 

Snyder said the fire was very challenging to put out because each unit was like an oven holding heat until the doors on each unit were opened or holes cut in the roof above each unit to get water on the flames.

 

“They were all like individually contained fires. I was just a complete inferno in each of the rooms,” Snyder said.

Snyder said the heat also set off some ammunition stored inside the roughly 200-foot long and 60-foot wide building.

 

Off-duty firefighters were called to relieve firefighters, becoming exhausted quicker than usual because of the intensity of the heat and greater effort required to get water inside each of the units.

 

“The firefighters were quite tasked,” Snyder said.

Snyder said most of the contents appeared to be clothing, furniture, and other typical personal belongings. He said the investigation would include looking at surveillance video to see if someone, perhaps, intentionally started the fire.

 

Snyder said there were problems with people living in some of the units in the past, but the property owner reported none of the units were being lived in before the fire.

 

Fire in Storage Units

(La Porte, IN) - What appears to be a major fire broke out in La Porte last night. Firefighters responded to the storage units on 18th street near State Road 39.

 

Heavy smoke was coming from many of the units, and several fire trucks were at the scene. Firefighters from Center Township were called to assist with their aerial truck. 

 

We’ll provide more details as they become available.  

 

Work Ready Trades Program for Students

(La Porte, IN) - There’s a new work-ready program for La Porte High School students at the Ivy Tech campus on the city’s east side.

 

Ten students are currently in the industrial technology and electrical maintenance program said Dr. Jane Larson of the La Porte Community School Corporation.

 

Students can earn college credit and receive certificates upon successfully completing the program.

 

Larson said the program gives students an advantage if they choose to work in that field of study after graduating high school. Students can also go on to a higher level of education and enhance what they learned at the Ivy Tech campus.

 

Larson said students spend half their school day in the program.

 

“They are excited, and we are excited. I just can’t wait to see the success they’re going to have in this program,” Larson said.

Officials said the program stems from collaborative efforts from Ivy Tech Community College, La Porte Community School Corporation, the city of La Porte, the Howmet Aerospace Foundation, 1st Source Bank, and the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership.
 

Bohacek Named to Crime and Health Committees

(Indianapolis, IN) - State Sen. Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores) will serve as a member of several study committees in preparation for the 2023 legislative session.

 

Bohacek's assignments include the following:

  • Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code;
  • Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary; and
  • Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health, and Human Services.

Bohacek said study committees provide lawmakers time to understand issues better before decisions have to be made during the upcoming legislative session.

 

"I'm looking forward to reviewing current trends with respect to criminal behavior, sentencing and treatment, making recommendations for new courts and discussing health care initiatives," Bohacek said. 

Committee members meet during the summer.

 

To view study committee agendas and stream hearings online, visit iga.in.gov.

Arrest in Hit and Run Fatality of Priest

(South Bend, IN) - A South Bend man, Shad Jeffrey, has been taken into custody in connection to a hit-and-run collision that killed a local retired priest riding a bicycle.

 

Father Jan Klimczyk, a retired priest-in-residence at Holy Family Parish in South Bend, was killed in the Monday night collision about a mile from the church.

 

Police said the driver fled the scene before officers arrived. Jeffrey, 47, is charged with leaving the scene of a deadly crash.

 

The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office is expected to release more details about his charges.

 

On his Facebook page, Jeffrey lists himself as the owner of South Bend Transport, LLC.

Body of Man Discovered in Yard

(La Porte, IN) - A badly decomposed man's body was discovered in the yard of a home outside a La Porte on Wednesday.

 

La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said the body was found around noon in the 3000 block of West Small Road, not too far from the La Porte County fairgrounds.

 

Swanson said the homeowner was doing yard work when he found the partially clothed body near some bushes he was trimming. She estimated the man had been dead for about 30 days based on the amount of decomposition.

 

Swanson said the body would be taken to a facility in Indianapolis to try and identify the man through dental records and determine the cause of death. However, she said the body was too decomposed to identify right away or locate any apparent wounds that could yield clues to the cause of death.

 

Swanson also revealed investigators are not ruling out the possibility that the body is that of 38-year-old Brett Lawson, who was reported missing close to a month ago. Lawson was last seen July 31 in the 3100 block of West Small Road, not far from where the body was discovered.

Charges in Theft of Construction Machinery

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a stolen piece of heavy machinery in La Porte. Hunter Ferguson, 22, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with theft.

 

According to police, a skid steer and trailer were taken in May from the Whispering Meadows subdivision, where many new homes are being constructed.

 

Over two months later, police said the trailer was located outside Ferguson’s home on Heinz Street. Police said the yellow trailer had been painted black. The skid steer was not found on the property.

 

The stolen items belonged to Mitch Feikes Construction. Police said Ferguson was confronted, and following some physical contact, Feikes wound up on the ground.

 

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

Truck Stop Construction Closer to Reality

(La Porte County, IN) - Work has started on running water and sewer lines underneath Interstate 94 to the site of a proposed truck stop outside Michigan City. The lines will serve a Love’s truck stop and convenience store planned just south of the U.S 421 interchange.

 

Matt Reardon with the La Porte County Office of Economic and Community Development said projects like these happen when officials from the county and city, along with other interested parties, work together.

 

Water and sewer service should be available at the site soon enough for the construction of the truck stop to begin in the spring.

 

Three commercial distribution warehouses are also planned on the same site.

 

The project has been a few years in the making but delayed until differences were resolved over the location of a pipeline.

 

Love’s has more than 500 locations in 41 states.

Appeal of Failed Recall Effort Submitted

(New Buffalo, MI) - The failed recall attempt in New Buffalo has been formally challenged, but whether the outcome changes remains to be seen.

 

Eleven signed and notarized affidavits were filed Monday with the Berrien County Clerk’s Office. The affidavits are from people whose signatures were ruled invalid, a decision leaving recall petitioners six signatures short of the 212 valid signatures required to trigger a recall vote in November.

 

The people in the affidavits testified that the thrown-out signatures were from them.

 

88 of the 294 signatures submitted on August 5 were thrown out primarily for not matching the signatures on their voter registration cards and signees not being registered to vote in the city.

 

The petitioners want Mayor John Humphrey and Councilman Brian Flanagan removed halfway through their four-year term for supporting a cap and other restrictions on short-term rentals.

 

The Berrien County Clerk’s Office could not be reached for comment on whether the affidavits will be reviewed and results possibly adjusted.

 

Supporters of the recall effort claim the signed and notarized affidavits conform with the requirements of Michigan Election law.

 

“It would be a blatant disregard of taxpayer rights if Berrien County officials ignored these signatures,” said Michael Davis, who’s helping to lead the effort for a recall.

Humphrey said he seriously doubts if the affidavits will be given merit, citing a letter he received on August 12 from the clerk’s office about the number of signatures thrown out.

 

“The county sent us what we were told was their final determination,” Humphrey said.

New Crop of Police Officers Sworn In

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Police Department has eight new police officers.

 

During a Monday swearing-in ceremony, Police Chief Dion Campbell announced that many officers at one time would bolster what's been a short-staffed department the past few years.

 

“This is a day that we are marking with these new hires as a day when we begin building,” Campbell said.

The number of officers at the department had dropped from more than 90 several years ago to just over 70 before the new hires.

 

Campbell said the nationwide workforce struggles for police departments began when public sentiment turned dramatically against law enforcement following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

 

The officer responsible for his death is now serving time in prison.

 

Campbell said interest in remaining and becoming a police officer was also negatively impacted by the "Defund the Police" movement resulting from Floyd's death and subsequent rise in crime. However, he believes public sentiment is beginning to swing back in favor of the police because of the need to address increased crime.

 

“When everyone else is leaving from this profession, here are eight young adults who have made the decision to deal with the issues, and for that, they should be applauded,” Campbell said.

Priest the Victim of Hit and Run Fatality

(South Bend, IN) - A retired priest was the victim of a fatal hit-and-run collision in St. Joseph County this week.

 

Father Jan Klimczyk of South Bend was riding a bicycle west on Indiana 2 when hit by a vehicle. The 67-year-old Klimczyk was taken to the hospital, where he later died. The driver was gone before police showed up, authorities said. 

 

Klimczyk was at Holy Family Parish in South Bend for more than 40 years before recently retiring. The collision happened about a mile from the church.

 

Anyone with information about the driver is asked to contact authorities.

OWI Charge Filed Against Moped Driver

(La Porte County, IN) - Driving a moped doesn’t mean you can’t be arrested for drunk driving. Jon Miller, 58, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to court documents, a Kingsford Heights Police Officer spotted a moped run a stop sign about 4 p.m. last week in the area of U.S 35 and 500 South.

 

Miller, who was identified as the driver, allegedly had a blood alcohol level slightly above the .08-percent legal limit. In addition, he was charged with OWI as a level 6 felony because of a prior OWI conviction.

 

Miller could face as much as a 30-month prison sentence. According to state law, driving impaired is a violation while operating any motorized vehicle.

More Light Shed in Fatal Shooting

(La Porte, IN) - A man charged with taking his girlfriend's life in La Porte allegedly claimed that she accidentally shot herself when he first reported the shooting.

 

Those are among the details released today in the case against John McCaw, charged in La Porte Circuit Court with murder.

 

McCaw, 62, is being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond for the August 18 fatal shooting of Nancy Ainsworth, 57, of 906 Ridge Street. 

 

According to court documents, a man believed to be McCaw told a 911 dispatcher the woman shot herself in the head by accident, and he was still inside the home with the victim. However, a neighbor's surveillance system captured McCaw leaving the residence ten minutes before the call.

 

Court documents also revealed McCaw, quickly identified as the suspect, was later stopped by police in Gary, previously made aware that he was a person of interest in the slaying. He was held at the Gary Police Department until an officer from La Porte drove there and took him into custody.

 

Nancy Ainsworth was discovered on a living room couch in her home and soon pronounced dead at Northwest Health.

 

Evidence at the scene indicates the shot was fired through a pillow, judging by what appeared to be bullet entry and exit holes on the pillow located near a spent shell casing and the body.

 

According to court documents, what police described as a suicide note apparently written by McCaw was found on a kitchen counter. Police said the letter was addressed to the son of the suspect.

 

The letter contained a written apology and revealed the suspect had left everything he owned to his son. Blame was also placed on the victim in the letter.

 

"It's time for me to be gone!" the words in the letter proclaimed. The letter also revealed McCaw was heading to Michigan "to say goodbye to my brothers."

 

Authorities offered no explanation on why McCaw was in Gary, not Michigan, after the fatal shooting.

Second Public Safety Raise to Stop Turnover

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Council has pledged to increase by $5,000 the annual salary of all Emergency 911 workers.

 

Councilman Mike Rosenbaum said the department had lost about one-third of its staff from workers leaving for higher salaries in surrounding counties.  

 

The pay increase pledged last night and slated for final approval next month raises the starting salary for a dispatcher in the department to about $46,000, he said.

           

Rosenbaum said another $4,000 boost in E-911 salaries could happen when money starts coming in from the increase in the local income tax approved in April. The tax on LaPorte County residents was raised from .095 percent to 1.45 percent.

 

The estimated $13 million generated by the tax hike will go toward emergency responder salaries and other public safety-related matters throughout the county.

 

About half of the revenue will go to the county government, while much of the remaining dollars will be collected by the municipalities of LaPorte and Michigan City, officials said.

 

This will be the second pay hike this year for E-911 employees and other emergency responders whose pay to start the year was raised six percent. But, that increase wasn’t enough, judging from the high number of employees continuing to leave.

 

Rosenbaum said a second pay hike this year is being worked on for the sheriff’s office, down five staff members.

 

“I’m hoping we’re going to be able to do the same thing for our sheriff’s department.  They have been long and faithful and chomping at the bit, also waiting to hear how we can help them,” Rosenbaum said.

Rosenbaum said a second raise was already given to ambulance workers to address high turnover.

Door Opens for Hotel Construction

(La Porte County, IN) - The door has opened to construct a 100-room hotel and restaurants near an Interstate 94 interchange outside Michigan City.

 

The La Porte County Council Monday night approved $1.5 million to run water and sewer lines to the site, also close to U.S. 20 and U.S. 35. The Michigan City Sanitary District will provide the utility service.

 

Matt Reardon with the La Porte County Office of Economic and Community Development said access to water and sewer service could spur more growth in an underdeveloped area west and east of U.S. 35.

 

The estimated $22 million plans also include 10,000 square feet of restaurant space and some office space. In addition, the hotel will contain banquet space for weddings and other venues.

 

The interchange is the first one in Indiana for travelers coming from Michigan.

 

“We’re going to do everything we can to make this look welcoming,” Reardon said.

Reardon said construction probably won’t begin until the spring of 2023.

 

“We got a lot of work to do to get the utilities done, designed, and bid for the project,” Reardon said.

The site was placed into a tax increment financing (TIF) district earlier this year to further assist with the cost of developing the site. The money will come from increased tax dollars generated by higher property values brought on by new development within the TIF.

Convicted Felon with Gun Hooked by Police

(La Porte, IN) - A convicted felon and a firearm were taken off the streets in La Porte at the same time recently.

 

Richard Taylor, Jr. is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Serious Violent Felon in Possession of a Handgun.

 

According to court documents, the Michigan City native was pulled over last week on Lincolnway. Taylor allegedly changed lanes without properly using a turn signal. Police said a loaded handgun was found underneath the driver’s seat.

 

Taylor was recently released from prison after serving about half his eight-year robbery sentence. According to court documents, he robbed a gas station at gunpoint at 104 E. Lincolnway in La Porte in 2017. He fled with about $1,000 in cash and several cartons of cigarettes.

 

When taken into custody three days later, police said Taylor had some heroin in his possession.

Zoo Temporarily Closing for Upkeep

(Michigan City, IN) - Washington Park Zoo in Michigan City will be temporarily closed next month for maintenance and repairs. The zoo at the lakefront is scheduled for closure from September 19-23.

 

According to park department officials, the reason is to make minor repairs and maintenance in the zoo’s Jungle Building.

 

“Zoo management feels that the staff needs to focus on these tasks at hand, and closing to the general public is the most efficient and safe way to accomplish their goals,” officials said.

Some animals at the zoo will be moved from their viewing habitats to other holding areas until the tasks are completed. Construction work to expand the African Lion and Bengal Tiger habitats would continue during the closure.

 

The expanded habitat called Big Cat Canyon is scheduled to open on April 1.

 

Officials said the new space would add around 3,000 square feet of space for the cats and bring guests up close to the animals, with glass windows and rock-faced walls replacing the current wire mesh.  

Ribbon Cutting for Kayak Launch

(La Porte, IN) - A ribbon cutting was held yesterday for a new kayak launch at Stone Lake in La Porte.

 

The handicapped-accessible kayak launch allows people with physical challenges to safely get into their watercraft by themselves.

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody and Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber were among the dignitaries attending the ribbon cutting for the kayak launch made possible with a grant from the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.

 

Dermody said the kayak launch is another example of what’s being done to enhance the quality of life here.

 

“This is just the beginning. We’re going to have a trail coming through this area next year. We currently have seven trail projects that we’re working on in the community. I challenge any community to try and top that,” Schreiber said.

A self-serve kayak rental station, open daily from sunrise to sunset, was recently installed near the new kayak launch at Stone Lake. Also new to the shoreline are storage lockers people can keep their kayaks in permanently during the season for an annual fee of $500.

 

Schreiber said the new amenities should be well received since kayaking on Stone Lake has increased substantially, especially during the pandemic.  

 

For more information, contact the LaPorte Park and Recreation Office at (219) 326-9600.

Outburst Leads to OWI and Other Charges

(La Porte County, IN) - A suspected drunk driver physically assaulted A La Porte County Police officer.

 

49-year-old Toby Schweizer is charged with Operating While Intoxicated, Battery Against a Public Safety Official, and Resisting Law Enforcement.

 

At around eight o’clock on Sunday night, officers were called to Gallops, a gas station at U.S 20 and State Road 39. Witnesses reported Schweizer was causing a scene and yelling ethnic slurs at the employees.

 

According to police, Schweizer claimed a friend drove him there. However, video footage shows him pulling up in his pickup truck, getting out, and urinating in the parking lot.

 

Schweizer was at the hospital undergoing a blood alcohol test when he allegedly struck the officer in the chest and kicked him several times. He had a blood alcohol level close to three times the legal limit.

 

Schweizer, who lives near Michigan City, was charged with OWI as a level 6 felony due to a prior OWI conviction in Porter County in 2016.

Drunk Driving Blamed for NIPSCO Pole Crash

(La Porte, IN) - Police say alcohol was a factor in a utility pole being knocked over recently outside La Porte.

 

Caleb Kirkham, 21, is charged with Operating While Intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident for striking a NIPSCO pole about 10 p.m. on August 15 on County Road 250 South just west of U.S. 35. 

 

Police said an officer followed a trail of fluid leaking from the car and found Kirkham at his home in the nearby Nowak subdivision. He was allegedly getting out of the vehicle missing its front bumper and sustaining other heavy front-end damage.

 

Police said Kirkham had a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit. He was not injured.

Murder Charge Filed in Fatal Shooting

(La Porte, IN) - A murder charge was filed in connection with a fatal shooting in La Porte last week.

 

John McCaw, 62, is being held in La Porte County Jail without bond.

 

McCaw was taken into custody following the Thursday evening shooting and then charged Sunday after La Porte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos ruled that the evidence gathered by investigators was sufficient for McCaw to answer the allegations.

 

Nancy Ainsworth, 57, was shot in the head at her home at 906 Ridge Street. She was transported to Northwest Health, where she was pronounced dead. 

 

So far, what led up to the shooting and other details about the case are unavailable.

Charges in Fraudulent Deed Change

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte County woman is accused of removing a co-owner's name from the deed of a house they inherited.

 

Jean Foster-Pritz is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Forgery, Identity Deception, and Fraud.

 

According to court documents, Foster-Pritz removed her brother's name from the deed of a house they inherited in the 1300 block of North Wozniak Road.

 

Authorities said she forged her brother's signature on documents removing him as co-owner of the property they inherited from their parents several years ago. Foster-Pritz replaced his name on the deed with the name of another relative.

 

Foster-Pritz's brother lives out of state and told investigators that he has not been to La Porte County in more than 30 years.

 

Investigators were contacted when the relative unknowingly listed as the new co-owner began asking why she began receiving property tax bills on the property.

 

Foster-Pritz could face up to six years in prison if convicted on all three counts.

La Porte Fight Club Gaining Momentum

(La Porte, IN) - One La Porte County man is trying to combat gun violence by giving people an outlet for their aggression. An amateur pugilism group is gaining momentum in La Porte County. It’s like Fight Club, except people are talking about it.

 

FightFlix is the brainchild of La Porte’s BK Gifford. Last April the 22-year-old Gifford started organizing backyard boxing events as a way to combat violence in the streets. His idea was to encourage people to put down their weapons and pick up boxing gloves instead. The FightFlix motto is “Guns Down, Gloves Up.”

 

Every couple of weeks Gifford gathers a crowd in a field south of La Porte. In a fenced enclosure, under his supervision, fighters face off to settle their differences. Gifford says he referees and keeps the matches under control. “I just pretty much hold everything down on it,” he said. “I know when to stop it. If a fighter says he wants to quit, I’ll end the match right there. If I see something unusual that shouldn’t be going on, I’ll stop it then too. Their safety is number one to us.”

 

Gifford started FightFlix following the death of his friend Tyler Terusiak, who was hit by a stray bullet in La Porte in 2020. The bouts take place at the property near Kingsbury where Terusiak used to live.

 

Some fighters just want to test their abilities and work out their aggression. Others want to settle personal scores in a constructive way. Recently a war of words escalated on Facebook between two men from Gary and Chicago. They settled it in the FightFlix cage. "Some people have become friends," according to Gifford, "and some people just leave it alone." Mostly it's men who square off, but Gifford says a few women have gotten involved.

 

Gifford acknowledges that the approach of fighting violence with violence may be a little controversial, but he says it serves a positive purpose in an increasingly violent culture. “Everyone’s going to fight no matter what,” he said. “They’re going to fight—outside, on the street. I want to open up a door for people to come here to settle it in the ring. Because some people, that’s how it is nowadays. They love to pull a weapon; they love to jump people. And they end up going to jail and ruining lives. So I want to open up a door for those people, so that they don’t have to go through that kind of situation.”

 

According to Gifford, anywhere between 20 and 70 people will gather at an event, which features as many as 15 matches. People have come from Michigan and from as far away as Texas. He says other people are forming their own FightFlix groups. There’s even one starting in Africa.

 

The next FightFlix event is scheduled for Saturday, August 27. You can follow FightFlix on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.

 

The group takes a hiatus in the winter months, but Gifford said he would like to open an indoor facility in La Porte where people can pick some gloves when the weather gets cold.

Thursday Shootings Still Under Investigation

(La Porte County, IN) - Police are investigating three shootings in La Porte County Thursday evening.

 

906 Ridge Street in La Porte was the scene of a shooting fatality. 57-year-old Nancy Ainsworth was found in a home with a single gunshot wound to the head. County Coroner Lynn Swanson said a preliminary autopsy was inconclusive as to whether the fatal wound was self-inflicted or not. A suspect was taken into custody, but police have not released further details. According to Swanson, a pathologist will have to evaluate the evidence.

 

In Michigan City, police were called to the area of 11th and Wabash Streets Thursday evening. Witnesses say some vehicles were hit by gunfire.

 

Almost two hours later another shooting occurred in the area of Michigan Blvd. and Grace Street. According to Michigan City Police, officers began life-saving measures at the scene for one gunshot victim until medical personnel arrived. The victim was transported to Franciscan Hospital with life-threatening injuries.

 

Authorities do not know if the Michigan City shootings were related. Anyone with information is encouraged to contact Corporal Lendell Hood at (219) 874-3221; Extension 1074, or email at lhood@emichigancity.com.

BB Gun Causes Stir at High School

(La Porte, IN) - A discarded BB gun made for a busy morning Friday at La Porte High School.

 

Principal Scott Upp notified parents that police were called to the high school campus to investigate a BB gun that a custodian found lying along I Street after student arrival.

 

The school’s crisis team was assembled, and police conducted a perimeter sweep to ensure there was no imminent danger.

 

Where the gun came from is still under investigation.

 

State Refund Checks Rolling Out

(Indianapolis, IN) - Check your mailbox this weekend for a check from the state, if you haven’t already received your tax rebate money.

 

Recently the Indiana General Assembly agreed to issue each taxpayer a $200 refund from the state’s surplus to help offset the effects of inflation.

 

According to the State Auditor’s Office, check printing started a few days ago. Those payouts should be hitting mailboxes already.

 

State officials also say Hoosiers who have yet to receive their $125 kickback from last year’s taxes should expect to get both refunds at the same time.

 

50,000 checks per day are being printed through October, so some recipients may just have to be patient.

Area Casino Expands

(South Bend, IN) - Four Winds Casino in South Bend has raised the stakes on its gambling offerings.

 

On Thursday the casino cut the ribbon on an expanded gaming floor, which now boasts Class III gaming tables and high-limit slots.  Blackjack and roulette are available now, as well as video poker and even sports betting.

 

The expansion is part of a deal struck with the state over a year ago to upgrade its offerings. In return, Four Winds will kick back 8% of new revenues to the state and 2% to St. Joseph County.

 

With the addition of Class III gaming and a new 23-story hotel tower, the casino hopes to add up to 400 new jobs.

Family Farms Awarded for Longevity

(Indianapolis, IN) - Longstanding LaPorte County farms recently received Hoosier Homestead awards for being in operation for 100 years or more.


"Maintaining a family farm is no easy task, and these families are beating the odds and have done so for over a century," said State Rep. Jim Pressel (R-Rolling Prairie). "This is an incredible accomplishment, and I wish them continued success for years to come."

 

  • The Lachner Farm, in operation since 1922, received the centennial award;
  • The Maerz-Kloss Farm, in operation since 1884, received the centennial award;
  • The Mark Farm, in operation since 1881, received the centennial award; and
  • The Sullivan Farm, in operation since 1868, received the sesquicentennial award.


"As the tenth-largest farming state in the nation, it is important that Hoosier farmers maintain their operations," said State Sen. Mike Bohacek (R-Michiana Shores).

"I am pleased that our local community has families remaining dedicated to their farms for so many years, and I hope to see them continue to grow in the future," he said. 


More than 100 longstanding farm families statewide were recognized at the Indiana State Fair for their commitment to Indiana agriculture.

 

"Owning and operating a farm for over 100 years is no small feat," said State Sen. Ed Charbonneau (R-Valparaiso).

 

"The amount of time and effort that goes into maintaining a farm is incredible, and I am grateful to have families like these in our community," he said. 


Farms owned and maintained by the same family for 100 years or more qualify for the centennial, sesquicentennial, or bicentennial Hoosier Homestead awards.


 Since its inception in 1976, more than 5,800 farms have received the designation of Hoosier Homestead. 

Investigation into Fatal Shooting Continues

(La Porte, IN) - Police said a suspect is being held for the fatal shooting of a woman Thursday in La Porte.

 

Officers during the evening hours responded to a home at 906 Ridge Street.

 

Nancy Ainsworth, 57, who resided at the address, was transported to Northwest Health, where she was pronounced dead, said La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson.

 

A few hours later, police said a male suspect was located and taken into custody.

 

Police did not release the name of the person being held and further details about the shooting because of the ongoing investigation.

 

Swanson said Ainsworth died from a single gunshot wound to the head.

 

However, Swanson said she had not decided yet on whether the shooting was a homicide, accident, or suicide. The shooting was reported to a 911 dispatcher as a “self-inflicted accidental gunshot wound.”

 

Swanson also revealed the autopsy did not produce immediate findings to determine how the gunshot was delivered. The pathologist must review more information from the autopsy before the next step can be made toward making a determination.

 

“At this time, we have it as undetermined,” Swanson said.  

Huge Electric Vehicle Battery Plant Eyes Area

(New Carlisle, IN) - A massive electric vehicle battery-making facility could go up outside New Carlisle.

 

It would be an over $2 billion investment producing approximately 1,700 jobs, said Bill Schalliol, Director of the St. Joseph County Economic Development Corporation. 

 

Ultium Cells LLC has applied for tax abatement with St. Joseph County government.

 

In a statement Thursday, Ultium spokesperson Brooke Waid confirmed the company is "developing a competitive business case for a potential large investment that could be located in New Carlisle."

 

Ultium Cells is associated with General Motors Co. and LG Energy Solution.

 

"We look forward to the application being reviewed and hopefully approved later this month," Waid said.

Schalliol said the 700-acre site is about four miles southeast of New Carlisle at Indiana 2 and Larrison Drive in Olive Township. 

 

Corn and soybeans are currently being raised at the site. 

 

Such a facility with a large workforce would have a noticeable positive impact on La Porte and the surrounding area, said Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership.

 

“Many people that live here would obviously work at a plant like that, and that’s terrific for all of us,” Cook said.

Cook said more economic benefits could also spill over here from additional businesses like suppliers potentially going up around such a facility.

 

Schalliol said the St. Joseph County Council would begin considering the proposal at its meeting on Tuesday.

 

At least one other community is in the running for the facility. Still, Schalliol feels the incentive package being put together by the county and state, combined with the site's advantages, will be too good for the company to pass up.

50 Years for La Porte County Symphony Orchestra

(La Porte County, IN) - The images of musicians are on display in downtown La Porte for the next six weeks. It’s part of the 50th-anniversary celebration for the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra.

 

The images on banners posted on Lincolnway until September 30 are of musicians with the LCSO.

 

The banners will posted in Michigan City along Franklin and Washington streets from September 1 to October 30.

 

“We have so many wonderful and talented musicians,” said Tim King, Executive Director of the LCSO.  

 

Purdue University Northwest is sponsoring the banners.

 

“This is a wonderful way for all of La Porte County to remember just how fortunate we are to have an orchestra of this caliber in our midst,” King said.

 

For more information on the LCSO’s 50th Anniversary season, visit www.lcso.net.

Jimmy Buffet Tribute Band Tonight in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A Jimmy Buffet tribute band will help bring a tropical feeling to downtown La Porte this evening. The band from Chicago will play at State and Monroe streets.

 

The theme of the monthly Friday Night Live event is “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” the title of one of Buffet’s hit songs. Buffet is best known, perhaps, for his song “Margaritaville.”

 

There will be plenty of food and drink vendors to choose from by the hundreds of people expected to attend. Brett Binversie, the Events Coordinator for the city, believes it will be a wonderful evening.

 

“You do not want to miss it,” said Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

The event runs from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Farmers Urged to Take Part in Survey

(E. Lansing, MI) - Vegetable growers in parts of the Midwest and other states are being asked to take a survey on the chemicals and other substances they use on their crops.

 

The primary purpose of the Vegetable Chemical Use Survey by the National Agricultural Statistics Service is to ensure products used on the crops are safe as advertised, so they remain available to farmers on the market, said Nathaniel Warenski, the Indiana State Statistician for NASS, a branch of USDA.

 

Another reason for the survey is to identify any chemicals or nutrients that might be causing unexpected damage to the environment and crops.

 

Farmers in 18 states, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, will be asked to participate in the survey.

 

Participating farmers will be asked to reveal the type of chemical used and how much was applied to their crops to ensure the chemical use complied with the instructions on the label and if any damage resulted from overuse.

 

The survey is conducted every two years. The information is added to a database to help farmers and other members of the general public choose which products are worth buying or investing in.

 

"Producers, of course, want to produce high-yielding, high-quality crops. Likewise, buyers and suppliers want to have a safe product," Warenski said.

Warenski said lawmakers could also use the data to help decide if certain products need more or less regulation.

 

"All of them rely on information generated through this survey. That's why it's so important that farmers take the time to participate and ensure that we have the most accurate and up-to-date information straight from the source," said Marlo Johnson, Director of the Great Lakes Regional Field Office for NASS.

About 3,000 farmers are expected to take the voluntary survey based on the number of participants in surveys in previous years. Farmers agreeing to take the survey will be approached by a representative from NASS to assist with the information gathering.

 

Attempts will be made to reach participants by phone to schedule the visit in advance.

 

"While these surveys can be lengthy and complex, trained and experienced enumerators can work with respondents to make the process go smoothly and relatively quickly," Johnson said.

The survey also targets farmers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Minnesota, California, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Oregon, and Washington. The states chosen for the survey are the largest producers of vegetables in the nation.

 

Participants of the survey remain anonymous. Warenski said the idea is to encourage participation and gather as much accurate information as possible. However, the survey participants' names must also be kept confidential by law.

 

"We can't disclose individual data used for statistical purposes," Warenski said.

Warenski said surveys asking farmers to participate would go out in the mail in late September and early October.

 

Participants will be asked to provide information on their fertilizer, nutrient and pesticide applications, pest management, and spray practices for pumpkins and watermelons.

 

"The importance of these surveys cannot be understated," Johnson said.

Kids Arrested for Theft Spree

(Michigan City, IN) - Four juveniles have been arrested for stealing and taking items from motor vehicles in the Michigan City area.

 

According to police, 31 felony counts and 35 misdemeanor counts ranging from theft to criminal gang activity were filed against the juveniles.

 

The investigation stems from a recent increase in vehicle thefts, thefts from vehicles, and criminal mischief complaints. Guns were among the stolen items in the hands of the suspects.

 

Police said other individuals might be involved, and the investigation is continuing.

 

Victims are encouraged to contact Detective Mark Galetti at 219-874-3221 Ext. 1088 or email him at mgaletti@emichigancity.com.

 

According to police, people should park in well-lit areas to help keep their vehicles from becoming a target. People should also keep personal belongings out of view, lock their doors, roll windows up, and report any suspicious activity to the police department.  

Partner of Half Naked Policeman Charged

(Michigan City, IN) - Public indecency charges have been filed against the alleged sexual partner of a La Porte Police officer who resigned following his arrest connected to their encounter.  Adina Swanson of Michigan City was charged with the Class A misdemeanor offense on Monday.

 

Allegedly, she was with Brandon Wilkerson when a Trail Creek Police officer spotted a man outside the open door of a pick-up around 6 a.m. on Friday having what appeared to be sexual intercourse in the parking lot of Evergreen Plaza.

 

According to court documents, the man - later identified as Wilkerson - and Swanson were face to face with each other.  Wilkerson was naked from the waist down, police said.

 

Police said the woman was sitting in the driver's seat with her pants around her waist seemingly unbuckled.  "She had her hands on her lap in a manner that led me to believe her pants were not secure and she was concealing that fact with her hands and loose fitting clothing," said Trail Creek Town Marshal Steve Dick in his report.  

 

Wilkerson, 35, was immediately arrested and charged with Class A misdemeanor public indecency and Class B misdemeanor public intoxication.

 

Swanson, who also appears to be in her 30’s, did not have any alcohol in her system, police said.  She was allowed to go until prosecutors reviewed the findings and decided whether to pursue charges against her.

 

Wilkerson was placed on five days of automatic suspension and later resigned from the department he joined in 2013.  He was off duty at the time and using his personal vehicle, said La Porte Police Chief Paul Brettin.

 

In June, Wilkerson received the “Medal of Distinguished Service” for safely disarming a man who walked outside and pointed a loaded rifle at officers during a domestic dispute.

 

Swanson could face up to one year in jail, while both counts against Wilkerson carry a maximum 18-month sentence.

State Police Investigating Alleged Crash by Mayor

(Michigan City, IN) - Questions are being raised about a possible accident involving a city-owned vehicle by the mayor of Michigan City.

 

According to Michigan City Police, the Indiana State Police were brought in to conduct an independent investigation.

 

Mayor Duane Parry was not at the city council meeting Tuesday where Councilman Sean Fitzpatrick raised the issue. Fitzpatrick is reaching out to the public to try and fill in the blanks.

 

“Is this what happened? Did this occur? Was law enforcement contacted? Is there a process where this vehicle is being repaired? Where is the vehicle? If these things did occur, I would like to know what’s the next step in the process,” Fitzpatrick asked.

When reached today, Councilman Paul Przybylinski said things would be investigated.

 

The council would have started asking questions during Tuesday’s council meeting, but the mayor, who’s usually present for city council meetings, was not in attendance, according to Przybylinski.

 

“The mayor was suspiciously absent at our last council meeting, but I’m very sure there’s going to be additional questions raised about it,” Przybylinski said.

The alleged accident reportedly happened at Washington Park during the Great Lakes Grand Prix festivities nearly two weeks ago. So far, efforts to reach Parry have not been successful.

Old Buses Go Up in Flames

(La Porte County, IN) - A burning pile of brush is blamed for flames engulfing a half dozen old school buses at a popular getaway near Michigan City.

 

Firefighters were called just before 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday to Serenity Springs Resort on U.S. 35 near Interstate 94.

 

Heavy black smoke from the burning tires and fuel in the tanks could be seen for miles.

 

Springfield Township Fire Chief Steve Marvel said the wind blew some embers from a burning pile of limbs and other brush about 150 feet away to underneath one of the buses.

 

Six of the ten buses, all parked close to each other, were severely burnt. The other buses did not catch fire because an excavator was used to pull one of the buses out from the middle of the row to keep the flames from advancing further.

 

“We were able to extinguish the rest of the buses,” Marvel said.

Marvel said the buses were last used for attaching billboards for advertising. The buses were moved to the property so they could be taken apart and sold for their scrap metal value. The inside of the buses was mainly gutted before the fire.

 

“All of the seats had been removed. The only thing that was in there was the steering wheel and the driver’s seat,” Marvel said.

The heat from the fire was intense enough to melt some of the steel on the doors of the buses. It took about 90 minutes to extinguish the blaze, described by Marvel as unique.

 

“It’s the first I’ve ever seen in the 30 some years I’ve been on the department,” Marvel said.

Sleeping in Stolen Truck Charges

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte area woman allegedly stole a vehicle and later was found sleeping in it outside Walmart. Autumn Rogers, 37, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to La Porte County Police, Rogers took a Ford F-150 belonging to a man who reported his pick-up truck was stolen.

 

The truck was later spotted outside Walmart in La Porte, and Rogers, with a blanket and pillow, was sleeping in the vehicle. She also allegedly had more than two grams of methamphetamine and a smoking pipe.

 

According to police, Rogers said she didn’t know the vehicle was stolen. However, police said the license plate on the truck was removed and replaced with the license plate belonging to a car owned by Rogers.

 

Rogers is charged with Theft, Possession of Methamphetamine, and Possession of Paraphernalia.

Dermody Passes on Run for Congress

(La Porte, IN) - The name of Tom Dermody is not on the list of 12 candidates vying for the seat in Congress vacated by the death of Jackie Walorski.

 

Dermody was encouraged by several supporters to run and listened to what they had to say but felt his place right now is in La Porte.

 

“I appreciated all of the phone calls and the calls for support to do it, but in the end, my heart is here in La Porte,” Dermody said.

Dermody also said he was committed to serving the over 16 months remaining on his term.

 

“I got another year and a quarter to go, a year and a half to go, and I plan on fulfilling that,” Dermody said.

Dermody said a lot had been accomplished since becoming mayor, and there are other good things he wants to help achieve for the city before his term expires.

 

Dermody has not yet endorsed any of the congressional candidates.

 

“I wish whoever wins and goes to Washington understands we need common sense individuals to get things done,” Dermody said.

Dermody, a former five-term state representative, said he has not officially decided whether to run for a second term, which expires at the same time the governor’s term expires. However, he did not also rule out the possibility of running for governor. 

 

“I’ve always showed an interest in the past to be that executive, but right now, my priority and focus is La Porte and being mayor.  It’s the best job in the best community,” Dermody said.

12 Candidates for Open Seat in Congress

(La Porte, IN) - There are 12 candidates for the open seat in Congress vacated by the tragic death of Jackie Walorski.

 

According to the Indiana Republican Party, the candidates are:

 

  • Dallas Barkman, from Albion, IN
  • Terry Harper, III, from Granger, IN
  • Curtis Hill, Jr., from Elkhart, IN
  • Michael Hogberg, from Lakeville, IN 
  • Scott Huffman, from Plymouth, IN
  • Tiernan Kane, from South Bend, IN
  • Daniel Koors, from North Manchester, IN
  • Marvin Layne, from South Bend, IN
  • Curtis Nisly, from Milford, IN
  • Christy Stutzman, from Middlebury, IN
  • Scott Wise, from Columbia City, IN
  • Rudolph Yakym III, from Granger, IN

 

Party officials said caucuses would be held on August 20 to fill the open seat and choose the candidate replacing Walorski on the ballot for the November general election.

 

Each candidate will be given up to three minutes to speak before the voting, which will occur at Grissom Middle School in Mishawaka. The caucuses begin at 11 a.m.  The doors open at 10 a.m.

 

A Facebook Live stream will be available at www.facebook.com/indgop for those interested in watching the caucuses.

 

Walorski and two staff members, along with the other driver, perished in a motor vehicle crash two weeks ago near Nappanee.

Failed Recall Attempt to be Challenged

(New Buffalo, MI) - An effort to recall two elected officials in New Buffalo for supporting restrictions on short-term rentals has failed, at least for now.

 

The Berrien County Clerk's Office has ruled there were not enough valid signatures to trigger a recall vote in November.

 

Two hundred ninety-four (294) in favor of recalling Mayor John Humphrey and two hundred seventy-one (271) signatures in support of recalling City Councilman Brian Flanagan were obtained on petitions seeking their ouster halfway through their four-year terms.

 

The signatures were submitted to the clerk's office on August 5. However, more than 80 of the signatures could not be verified.

 

Two hundred nineteen (219) verified signatures from people registered to vote in the city are required for a recall election to be called.

 

Local realtor Carie O'Donnell, who helped collect most of the signatures, said efforts are underway to challenge the decision.

 

O'Donnell said the reasons for throwing out the signatures included signatures from people not matching their signatures on file and people not being registered to vote in the city. She said several people who signed the petitions have already agreed to give written testimony on affidavits that the signatures belong to them.

 

O'Donnell hopes to have enough of the thrown-out signatures overturned as quickly as possible for a recall election to be scheduled for Humphrey and Flanagan.  

 

"We'll see what happens in the next couple of days," O'Donnell said.

If enough thrown-out signatures are later ruled valid, Humphrey said he would exercise his right to investigate all of the signatures on the petitions and dispute any signatures he believes are not eligible.

 

Humphrey was not surprised by the difficulties in obtaining enough valid signatures. He said he and Flanagan were elected in 2020 by about a two-to-one margin after promising to impose restrictions on short-term rentals.

 

Humphrey feels supporters of a recall still don't outnumber the majority even after the opposition's recent distribution of what he called "propaganda" and "false information" to try and turn residents against them.

 

“I think it’s a very narrow set of people with one goal in mind, and that is the proliferation of short-term rentals in the city of New Buffalo. The petition circulators, the majority of them, were people who are currently suing the city over the short-term rental issue,” Humphrey said.

OWI on Railroad Tracks

(Porter County, IN) - A woman is charged with Operating While Intoxicated after driving on railroad tracks.

 

According to Porter County Police, the woman told investigators she was driving home after having a few glasses of wine Friday at a Michigan City restaurant when three of her tires became flat. 

 

Police said the woman was near The Pines when she ventured onto some railroad tracks. However, according to police, the woman said she did not remember driving on the rails.

 

Renae Porphir, 38, of Benton Harbor, Michigan, had an alleged blood alcohol level close to four times the legal limit.

House Fire in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Firefighters responded to a smoky haze in La Porte’s downtown area this morning from a house fire in the 600 block of East Maple Avenue.

 

Ron Ayres said he woke up to his power out upstairs. Then after going outside to smoke a cigarette, a passerby stopped and told him his house was on fire.

 

Ayres said he ran back inside the home to alert his wife, Paula. Ron and Paula, along with their dog, made it out safely.

 

Ayres said he didn’t see any flames until firefighters arrived. The fire was quickly brought under control. Ayres said most of the damage to the house appears to be from water and smoke.

 

“We’re all out and safe, and that’s the best thing,” Ayres said.

 

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

 

 

Oktoberfest Returning to Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Special Events is proud to announce the entertainment line-up for the return of Michigan City's most requested event, Oktoberfest.

 

The four-day festival in Washington Park over Labor Day weekend will feature over 40 music and entertainment groups, as well as local and regional food, art, craft, and merchandise vendors.

 

"We are so excited to bring back Oktoberfest to our great city," said Mayor Duane Parry. "This event was the highlight of the summer for many years, and I know everyone has missed it as much as I have."

 

Entertainment will be spread over three stages. The NIPSCO Music Tent, the Sunset Pavilion, and the Sunset Rooftop will feature a variety of entertainment options throughout the weekend.

 

Each area will have a full bar, and there will be plenty of food options for all tastes.

 

Terry Greetham, Director of Michigan City Special Events, said he's confident the entertainment line-up will draw great crowds. He remembers when the Oktoberfest was the event of the year in Michigan City. 

 

"It is going to take us some time to build it back up to that level, but I believe this year's event will have a little something for everyone with a wide variety of music and vendors. This first year back will lay the foundation for what I hope is a growing event for many years to come," Greetham said.

 

Oktoberfest will also feature a Kids Sand Zone, with all the tools and toys needed to build sandcastles and daily lessons in sandcastle building by sand sculptor Janet Moore Schrader, winner of the Singing Sands Sand Sculpting Festival Semi-Pro category in June.

 

Well-known caricature artist Roger Hurtado from Chicago will be on hand as well as other kids' activities. Family hours are 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

 

In addition, the Great Lakers Car Club will also hold a car show on Sunday, September 4.

 

Oktoberfest starts Friday, September 2, and runs through Monday, September 5. Event hours are 12:00 pm to 10:00 pm Friday through Sunday and 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm Monday.

 

New Strategy to Combat Rise in OWI

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are trying something different to try and reduce the number of people driving impaired.

 

Since spring, mugshots of people arrested by the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office for operating while intoxicated and their names are released each month publicly.

 

Sheriff John Boyd said the number of driving impaired cases was going down for a long time but recently started back up.

 

Boyd said there’s also been an increase in motor vehicle crashes involving alcohol or other foreign substances.

 

All mugshots are on a single page for publishing in newspapers and other media outlets.

 

“We’ve tried to have an awareness campaign about this for a number of years.  We’re partnering with a number of agencies to reduce the amount of drinking and driving and driving while impaired. It just doesn’t seem to be working,” Boyd said.

There are 17 people arrested for OWI in July in the latest sheriff’s office roster-type release.

 

Boyd said the idea is not to publicly shame people arrested for operating while intoxicated but to increase awareness about the consequences and better alternatives like designated drivers.

 

“If somebody doesn’t want their picture posted, then they shouldn’t operate a vehicle while impaired. It’s just as simple as that. It’s the best way to prevent that from happening. We’re not making any apologies for someone else’s behavior,” Boyd said.

 

Meer Claims Victory in Case Dismissal

(Michigan City, IN) - Charges have been dismissed against the former mayor of Michigan City, who alleged the case from 2019 was political to cost him a third consecutive term.

 

Meer has agreed to admit guilt about leaving the scene of an accident after leaving office. However, charges of false informing, intimidation and official misconduct against Meer for his behavior following the arrest of his stepson were dismissed on August 8  

 

The case was dismissed by Porter County Judge Jeffrey Thode, who was brought in to handle the criminal proceedings since the politically charged allegations were filed in LaPorte County.  

 

The dismissed charges stem from Meer alleging his stepson, Adam Bray, was targeted by La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake and Meer presenting evidence he felt backed up his claims. Meer also lashed out at the police.  

 

Charges were brought against Meer just days before he lost to current mayor Duane Parry by less than 100 votes.

 

“A lot of effort went into tarnishing my reputation. For 55 years, I was never arrested for anything. Never even had a speeding ticket,” Meer said.

Bray was later convicted of the gun and drug-related charges resulting from a traffic stop in Michigan City.

 

Close to a year after leaving office, Meer struck a vehicle at a stop sign while making a wide turn at Ohio and Henry streets on Michigan City’s west side, police said. Police soon found Meer getting out of his vehicle outside his residence and asked if he wanted to talk about the crash.

 

Police said Meer walked into his home and shut the front door. He talked to the police about the accident the next day.

 

His attorney Scott King said a charge of resisting law enforcement would be dismissed against Meer in exchange for him pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident. King said Meer did not resist arrest because the police did not order him to speak to them about the minor collision.

 

“He was requested to come and talk to them and answer their questions, which he and you and I and everybody in America has the right to decline to do,” King said.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: LaPorte County Commissioner Sheila Matias

(LAPORTE, IN) - Sheila Matias, President of the LaPorte County Commissioners, stopped by the 96.7 the Eagle Studios to talk with Nate Loucks about what's happening in LaPorte County. She answered questions about law enforcement shortages, civility, a bypass around LaPorte, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

Alcohol Related Wood Pile Collision

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police say a man had too much to drink when he drove into a wood pile. Ethan Mikowski, 22, of Michigan City, is charged with operating while intoxicated.

 

La Porte County Police said Mikowski was northbound Friday night in the 4600 block of South Range Road near Kingsford Heights. His car left the road and traveled nearly 200 feet into a yard before landing on top of a pile of logs.

 

Most of the damage to his vehicle was to the undercarriage, police said. 

 

Mikowski had a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit. Mikowski said he left a bar in La Porte and thought he was traveling back home to Michigan City when he was arrested. 

Meth Ingesting Attempt Fails

(La Porte County, IN) - Charges have been filed against a man who allegedly tried swallowing a bag of meth pulled from a body cavity.

 

La Porte County Police said 42-year-old Michael Bowen was arrested on outstanding warrants in the area of State Road 39 and U.S. 20 last week.

 

While being booked in the county jail, police said the Michigan City man removed a bag attached to a string from his anal cavity and tried swallowing it. Jail deputies recovered the bag allegedly containing methamphetamine, police said.

 

Currently, Bowen has charges involving crimes like theft, drug possession, and escape still undecided in court.

Race Car Like Driver Arrested

(La Porte County, IN) - A 22-year-old woman is facing possible time in prison on allegations of traveling more than twice the speed limit and fleeing police.

 

Mia Dudeck is charged with a Level 6 felony resisting law enforcement and operating while intoxicated.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the northern La Porte County woman was driving a 2018 Ford Taurus when a patrol officer spotted her early Tuesday traveling at an extremely high rate of speed at U.S. 20 and Indiana 39.

 

Police said the officer while attempting to catch up to the car westbound on U.S. 20, was traveling 125 miles per hour but falling further behind the suspected vehicle. At one point, the officer lost sight of the car.

 

Michigan City Police were notified and stopped the car at 10th and Lafayette streets, police said.

 

According to police, Dudeck replied that she didn’t observe the officers when asked why she failed to pull over immediately. In addition, her alleged blood alcohol level was close to two times the legal limit.

 

Her passenger, Jessica Gall, 22, of Michigan City, was taken into custody for disorderly conduct. Police said Gall began screaming at the driver and continued to yell and demand to speak to her despite warnings to tone down her behavior.

"The Hawk" Lands for Adoring Fans

(New Buffalo, MI) - Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Andre Dawson signed autographs and posed for pictures with members of the public Friday between New Buffalo and Grand Beach.

 

A long line of people was waiting to see the 68-year-old Dawson from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at The Sports Card Shop on U.S. 12.

 

People relished meeting Dawson, who played six seasons at Wrigley Field in a career that began in 1976 with the Montreal Expos.

 

Cody Looney, 24, of New Buffalo, had Dawson sign his Cubs jersey and a baseball, then sat down with his father, Bobby, to eat barbecue beef sandwiches offered to everyone in attendance.

 

Emily Nannfeldt came from Niles to see her all-time favorite player.

 

“He’s probably the only sports figure I would actually come out and see. This is really cool,” Nannfeldt said.

 

“It was really neat,” said Joe Appelget of St. Joseph.

 

Scott Buchanan made the drive from Paw Paw and walked away with a 1977 Topps Andre Dawson rookie card from his collection since childhood signed by the former player nicknamed “The Hawk.”

 

“It was awesome. It was surreal,” Buchanan said.

 

George Colon wearing a Cubs hat and jersey came from La Porte with his wife, Erin, and 12-year-old son, Andrew. When he handed Dawson a baseball to sign, the 56-year-old Colon choked up a bit with emotion.

 

“Even though we’re grown men, we’re still kids on the inside,” Colon said.

 

Dawson, a former eight-time National League All-Star player, is busy nowadays, traveling primarily throughout the Midwest to sign autographs at similar venues. He also owns a funeral home in Miami, Florida, where he grew up and still lives.

 

Dawson said the funeral home landed in his lap as an investor 12 years ago, and he had to decide whether to sell or keep it. He answered what he felt was his next calling and chose to retain ownership.

 

Dawson is actively involved in what’s become a family-operated business.

 

“It’s a product of the community, and I wanted it to stay that way,” Dawson said.

 

Rex Gotcher, who opened the card shop nearly two years ago, said Dawson came here after contacting him about his interest in having a former athlete make an appearance at his establishment.

 

Gotcher said he was given several names to choose from and settled on Dawson, elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, in 2010.

 

Dawson came the day after he appeared at the “Field of Dreams” game between the Cubs and Cincinnati Reds in Dyersville, Iowa.

 

The game is at a 3,000-seat stadium next to the playing field where the hit 1989 baseball movie was filmed beside a corn field. During pre-game ceremonies, Dawson was among the current and former players emerging from the stalks of corn onto the playing field. He joined other Cubs Hall of Famers, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Ryne Sandberg walking out from the corn.

 

Dawson said the last time he swung a bat was in a cage nearly ten years ago while doing some work for the Miami Marlins organization. He quit after two pitches when the muscles in the calves of his legs began tightening.

 

“I leave well enough alone,” Dawson said.

 

Dawson said he still enjoys the game as an outsider and when he puts on a uniform in spring training to help analyze and work with upcoming players in the Cubs organization.

 

He also enjoys his annual visits to Cooperstown for the festivities before a new crop of former players are inducted into the hall of fame.

 

“It’s good to see the guys. The older guys I enjoy for the most part because they have stories to tell, and you enjoy sitting around listening to them,” Dawson said.

More Light Shed on Officer's Arrest

(Trail Creek, IN) - Brandon Wilkerson, a City of La Porte police officer, was arrested and suspended from his job for allegedly having sex beside a vehicle in a parking lot.

 

The 35-year-old Wilkerson is charged in La Porte Superior Court 4 with Class A misdemeanor public indecency and Class B misdemeanor public intoxication.

 

According to court documents, a Trail Creek Police officer patrolled Evergreen Plaza at about 6 a.m. on Friday when he encountered an individual standing in the open doorway of a pick-up truck parked near the entrance to Decoy's Neighborhood Bar & Grill. This person was later identified as Wilkerson. 

 

Police said Wilkerson was naked from the waist down and having what appeared to be sexual intercourse with a woman.

 

After learning about the officer's presence, Wilkerson pulled up his pants from around his ankles. He was then placed in handcuffs, according to court documents.

 

Police said he registered a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit on a portable breathalyzer test.

 

La Porte Police Chief Paul Brettin said Wilkerson was placed on five days of automatic suspension without pay. He said it's up to the La Porte Police Merit Commission to decide on additional job-related punishment.

 

Brettin said Wilkerson was off duty and driving his own personal vehicle. He has been with the department since September of 2013.

 

In June, Wilkerson received the "Medal of Distinguished Service" for safely disarming a man who walked outside and pointed a loaded rifle at officers during a domestic dispute.

 

According to the police, the woman was allowed to go. Still, the investigation findings will be presented to the La Porte County Prosecutor to decide whether to seek a warrant for her arrest on public indecency charges. The woman had no alcohol in her system.

Pets Die in House Fire

(Porter County, IN) - Several pets died in a Porter County house fire over the weekend. The fire happened Friday night in Jackson Township, several miles west of Westville.

 

Upon arrival, authorities said there was heavy fire in the basement.

 

Attempts were made to resuscitate the dogs and cats, but they succumbed to smoke inhalation. One person was taken to the hospital with smoke inhalation, officials said.

 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

Drugs Linked to Store Temper Tantrum

(La Porte County, IN) - A suspected drug user is charged after allegedly causing a scene at a local chain store.

 

28-year-old Nicholas Lemons of Union Mills could face up to 30 months on each of two felony counts of possession of a narcotic and illegal possession of a syringe.

 

On August 2, police were called to Family Express in Kingsbury at 400 South and U.S. 35 on a report of a man being irate and throwing things inside the store. Upon arrival, officers said Lemons was “fidgety” and “picking at his skin.”

 

A search of his car allegedly uncovered a small amount of heroin and a used syringe.

 

According to court records, Lemons has a long history of crimes involving drugs and other offenses like robbery and burglary. In April, he was arrested on allegations of operating while intoxicated.

Sheriff's Department: Down Deputies, Duties Going Up

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Department is facing extra responsibilities and a lack of manpower.

 

At last week’s Sheriff’s Merit Commission meeting, an increase to the department’s workload was discussed. As of August 1, the Sheriff’s Department has assumed substantial policing responsibilities for the Purdue campus in Westville. The university has decided to suspend campus police services on overnights, weekends, and holidays. Sheriff’s Department patrols will have to pick up the slack.

 

According to Chief Deputy Ron Heeg, the university decided to pare back its policing for budgetary reasons. Even though Purdue is a state school, Heeg said the State Police have not stepped up to offer coverage, in part because they are also understaffed. Heeg said State Representative Jim Pressel has been working with Purdue to find a better solution.

 

In the meantime, calls for service increased 28 percent last month for the midnight shift. According to Heeg, such an increase is not unusual in the summer months, but taking on additional duties at PNW will only stretch the department’s resources thinner.

 

“It just shows you the situation that we’re in right now,” Heeg said. “It’s starting to become almost desperate [as far as] where we’re at, not just here in La Porte County but nationwide. Every department is struggling.” Heeg said La Porte County officers get recruiting calls and emails from other departments, near and far. Heeg gave the example of Phoenix, Arizona, which offers pay of $109,000 plus $10,000 for moving expenses. Heeg said departments are trying to recruit from each other because the next generation of prospective officers just isn’t emerging.

 

Heeg reported that two future officers are ready to start their academy training. Another is currently in field training. However, the department now has four positions to fill. Heeg said only two applications have been received, with the application deadline coming up on August 22.

The Long Road Goes Through La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - A couple of retired Marines trekked through La Porte County recently raising money and awareness for various veterans’ causes.

 

On June 6 Justin “JD” LeHew and Coleman “Rocky” Kinzer set out from Boston on an over 3,000-mile cross-country hike along U.S. 20 destined for Newport, Oregon.

 

Their mission is to raise awareness for the 81,000 soldiers since WWII who are missing in action. They also raise money for Gold Star families and other veterans’ charities. They call their effort “The Long Road.”

 

LeHew and Kinzer spent the better part of Thursday walking across La Porte County. A generous supporter bought them beers at an Irish pub in New Carlisle on Wednesday evening, followed the next night by dinner and lodging at a roadside motel west of Michigan City. Several other supporters travelled to various points in between. One former Marine joined their hike for a few miles.

 

The hiking duo is hoping to make it to Chicago by Monday evening, where they are scheduled to throw out the first pitch at a Chicago White Sox game following a pre-game fundraiser.

 

Follow this link to support The Long Road.

Sheriff's Department Losing Two Good Ones

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Department is losing two outstanding officers—one with lots of muscle and one with lots of fur.

 

At the August 3rd County Commissioners meeting, Sheriff John Boyd announced that K-9 companion Argo will be retiring.

 

Argo is a 9-year-old Belgian Malinois, who has served La Porte County for seven years. Boyd told the commissioners that age is catching up with Argo. “He does have some physical limitations that have forced him to be single-purpose,” Boyd said. Over the years Argo gained a reputation for his apprehension and tracking skills, but recently he has been limited to explosives detection. Boyd said Argo suffers from tendonitis, severe arthritis in his front paws, and calcium buildup in his back causing some discomfort.

 

Unfortunately, Argo’s handler, Deputy Bobby Greer, is also leaving the department after nine years of public service. Greer, who is an accomplished power lifter, is stepping away from law enforcement for a job at a steel mill. Not only is the pay better, but according to Greer an even bigger factor is the health insurance and benefits.

 

At a recent Sheriff’s Merit Board meeting, board president Jim Kimmel lamented the loss of Greer to the department. “Bobby is just one of those guys that’s just a pleasure to have around. He’s very, very professional, gets the job done,” Kimmel said, emphasizing Greer’s positive demeanor. “Bobby was one to go around and bring the troops up when they were down a little bit. He always had a little humor on the side.”

 

August 19 will be the last day on the police force for both Greer and his partner Argo. The County Commission gave approval, as is the custom, for Argo to remain with the Greer family and enjoy a well-earned retirement.

SOUND OFF on Sports: High School Football with Jim Peters

(LAPORTE, IN) - Jim Peters of jimpeterssports.com stopped by the studio to talk about the upcoming football season for the LaPorte Slicers, New Prairie Cougars, Michigan City Wolves, and South Central Satellites, including his season predictions. 

 

Listen to the full episode of SOUND OFF below. And, follow the LaPorte Slicers football games live on 96.7 the Eagle, starting next Friday with the New Prairie vs. LaPorte game. 

 

Current Border Location Seems Accurate

(La Porte County, IN) - There appears to be no need to adjust the Indiana-Michigan border.

 

The border for the past months is being examined to see if it’s still in line with the original boundaries.

 

La Porte County Surveyor Tony Hendricks has been among the professionals venturing into areas like wetlands and brush, locating markers of the border from 200 years ago. The work includes checking the deeds on properties along the border to ensure the coordinates listed on those documents don’t vary from the historic location of the state line.

 

“They’re physically looking at anything they can find. Fence posts, trees, stones, iron pipes, any kind of marker that has been there since anyone can remember,” Hendricks said.

Right now, Hendricks said no changes in the location of the border appear to be needed, at least in La Porte County.

 

“They have not found any evidence that it changed demonstrably. It might be an inch or two there, but it hasn’t been feet,” Hendricks said.

Hendricks said whether there would be any changes to the border won’t be known for sure until the information collected is analyzed. He said the analysis is underway and could take a few years to complete.

 

Both states commissioned the study to make sure no changes are necessary, and the new border location data is stored digitally for much easier reference in the future.

Dedication Set for New Watercraft Launch

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte Park and Recreation Department will dedicate the Stone Lake Small Watercraft Launch.

 

The dedication is scheduled for 1 p.m. on August 21 at Cummings Lodge in Soldiers Memorial Park. The dedication follows the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association Annual Rendezvous, which begins at noon.

 

According to park department officials, food and beverages will be offered for purchase during the rendezvous, along with social time.

 

After the watercraft launch dedication, the public is invited to join NIWPA members in a paddle, including kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards. A limited number of kayaks would be available on a first-come basis.

 

Construction of the accessible launch began in late 2020 with pouring the walkway and paving of the parking area.

 

Officials said the launch installed in the spring includes an easy-to-use ADA transfer bench and drive-through launch system, which allows people with disabilities, children, or seniors to feel confident transferring into their watercraft independently and provides extra stability when launching and docking.

 

Earlier this summer, a kayak rental unit and watercraft storage lockers were placed near the launch. The launch was primarily funded by the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.

Arrest Leads to Officer's Suspension

(La Porte, IN) - A police officer in the City of La Porte has been suspended.

 

According to La Porte Police Chief Paul Brettin, the officer was arrested early this morning by Trail Creek Police. So far, the name of the officer has not been released.

 

Brettin said the officer is charged with Class B misdemeanor public intoxication and Class C misdemeanor public indecency.

 

What precisely happened leading up to the arrest has not been disclosed.

 

Brettin said the officer was placed on automatic suspension, and further disciplinary action could be taken depending on the case's outcome.

Cubs Hall of Famer Coming Tonight

(New Buffalo, MI) - A former Chicago Cubs superstar will be in the area this evening.

 

Andre Dawson, a National Baseball Hall of Fame member and eight-time MLB All-Star, is scheduled to be at The Sports Card Shop on U.S 12 just west of New Buffalo.

 

Owner Rex Gotcher said Dawson would sign autographs and take pictures from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. (EST). Dawson will be the first professional athlete to appear in his store, which opened about two years ago.

 

“We’re honored, and we’re excited that he would take time out of his schedule to come visit us over here,” Gotcher said.

Gotcher said admission is free, but autographs will cost anywhere from $49 to $69 depending on what’s presented for Dawson to sign.

 

Dawson played six seasons for the Cubs. He hit 438 home runs and drove 1,509 runs in a career that began in 1976 with the Montreal Expos.

Funeral Saturday for Crash Victim

(La Porte County, IN) - Funeral services are scheduled tomorrow for a New Prairie High School graduate killed in a motor vehicle crash last week.

 

Zachery Potts, 27, worked for Congresswoman Jackie Walorski as district director at the U.S. House of Representatives. They were killed on August 3 in a head-on collision near Nappanee. Another member of the Walorski staff and the other driver also perished in the crash.

 

The funeral service for Potts is scheduled at 1 p.m. at the Calvary Tabernacle at 606 North Elm Street in Three Oaks, Michigan, following visitation beginning at 11 a.m.

 

La Porte County Police Chief Deputy Ron Heeg said he knew both individuals. He reacted to the deaths of Walorski and Potts following a moment of silence for the victims during the La Porte County Sheriff Merit Commission meeting on Wednesday.

 

“I encountered them at several functions and on several occasions, and Jackie would always remember your name and would always be genuinely interested in what was going on, especially in La Porte County and at the sheriff’s office,” Heeg said.

Walorski was laid to rest Thursday in South Bend.

Record Hog Price Goes Higher

(Porter County, IN) - A Wanatah area woman lost her battle with cancer, but she lives on in the hearts of a community shelling out a world record price for her 10-year-old son's hog.

 

What was thought to be the sale price of $102,000 was reached during the livestock auction at the Porter County fair last month, but the amount given for the hog later went up substantially. 

 

There was no competitive bidding.

 

The money was in the form of donations from hundreds of people wanting to contribute to the charitable cause.

 

In response to demand, pledges started being accepted from the public again until the final sale price in the coming days reached $126,000.

 

"It was a world record price for a gilt," said Jonathan Kraft, a professional auctioneer and friend of the family who helped orchestrate the fundraising effort.

Typically, farm animals sold during fairs wind up in butcher shops. In this case, hundreds of financial contributors collectively decided to have the pig returned to the hobby farm of the surviving family members near Wanatah.

 

“It was a pretty awesome experience. He’ll get to breed it and have some little pigs next spring,” Kraft said.

Kraft said the money goes into a scholarship fund to help put Hudson and her other son, Brooks, 8, through college.

 

“Everyone in the community loved her. She did not, not have someone that wasn’t a friend,” Kraft said.

Ashlee Duttlinger, 39, waged a five-year battle with colon cancer. Her final six weeks were spent at home under hospice care. Yet, she painstakingly held on just long enough to watch Hudson show his reserve grand champion pig and learn about the outpouring of support during the auction.

 

Duttlinger made it to the fairgrounds with help from members of her family and other loved ones. But unfortunately, she passed away on July 31 or less than 24 hours after the fair was over.

 

“She said the whole time I just want to make it to the fair. I’m going to see Hudson show again. If that doesn’t speak to the human will, I don’t know what does,” said Haleigh Schoon, 33, of Lafayette.

Schoon said her best friend was always the first to reach out to people needing help and the last to leave no matter the cause. She believes the response to the fundraiser was from her many acts of selflessness.

 

“She legitimately was just the most generous spirit you ever met.  It’s the perfect illustration of people just wanting to give her what she’s always given them,” Schoon said.

 

"Even in her final days, she was still fighting and wanting to help out," Kraft said.

 

According to Kraft, a typical hog sells at auction for six to seven dollars a pound, but this one came to $420 a pound. He said a gilt's previous world record price was $95,000 in Missouri.

 

Schoon feels the frenzy of giving was also a way for the community to show there was no need for Duttlinger to worry about her children or husband, Eric.

 

"I think it was almost in a bigger way a gesture for Ashlee so she could see that these guys are loved. We're going to make sure they're o.k. after you're gone," Schoon said.

 

Schoon and Duttlinger met while showing livestock in the Porter County 4-H program and, in recent years, remained in close touch with each other.

 

She recalled visiting Duttlinger in the spring when she was hooked up to machines in a hospital intensive care unit.

 

Schoon also helped get her to the fairgrounds to see her son with his hog in the show arena one final time.

 

“There just isn’t enough words in the world to describe how much I loved her and how wonderful she was. She never wanted to be the center of attention and never wanted people to worry about her.  Her people came first,” Schoon said.

Pro-Choice Rally on Friday

(Michigan City, IN) - People will be speaking against the state’s new abortion law in Michigan City tomorrow. The Rally for Reproductive Rights will occur at the “You Are Beautiful” grounds along U.S. 12 beside City Hall.

 

Among the event sponsors is State Representative Pat Boy (D) Michigan City.

 

Boy, who publicly denounced the legislation signed by the governor recently, is expected to be among several guest speakers during the rally scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

 

Brianna Holzer of La Porte organized a pro-choice rally several weeks ago outside the courthouse along Lincolnway. Feeling public sentiment is on their side, Holzer urged pro-choice supporters not to give up on trying to have the new restrictions on abortion overturned.

 

“It’s not representing the people in Indiana who actually didn’t really want this to happen. Now is actually the time to have our voices heard,” Holzer said.

The state’s abortion law, considered one of the most restrictive in the nation, takes effect on September 15.

 

Under the law, abortion is outlawed except when the health of the mother and baby are in question or cases of rape and incest. Abortion in the case of rape or incest, though, is prohibited after ten weeks of pregnancy.

 

Boy said many women, especially the very young, don’t realize they’re pregnant until 12 weeks or longer after fertilization.

Another Driver on Meth Arrested

(Kingsford Heights, IN) - Another driver from Kingsford Heights is accused of driving under the influence of methamphetamine.

 

Jerrod Bratcher, 40, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Operating While Intoxicated and Possession of Methamphetamine.

 

According to court documents, a police officer began following a 1997 Lincoln after the car turned right without a turn signal activated last week in the area of Range Road and U.S. 35/U.S. 6.

 

Police said the car veered over the center line and turned left onto Chatfield Road without its turn signal blinking. The vehicle then began traveling down the middle of the road, police said.

 

During a traffic stop, police said Bratcher seemed “jumpy” and showed signs of significant impairment. A bag containing more than 30 grams of methamphetamine was seized from the vehicle. The estimated street value of the drug was over $1,000.

 

57-year-old Philip Seger was also arrested last week in Kingsford Heights on allegations of driving under the influence of methamphetamine. Seger told investigators he consumes a $20 bag of methamphetamine daily several times weekly.

Mom Accused of Abandoning Children

(La Porte, IN) - A LaPorte woman could face time in prison after she allegedly deserted her children.  Jennifer Olsen, 39, is charged with the neglect of a dependent.

 

About a month ago, police responded to the 200 block of State Street, where six children were inside the home.

 

The investigation showed Olsen had been gone for about three weeks to be with a new boyfriend.

 

The kids were being taken care of by some young adults. Police said Olsen occasionally came back to visit for a few hours at a time and sometimes brought food. However, police said there was trash, cockroaches, and other insects throughout the home, along with soiled diapers on the bathroom floor.

 

Police said it also appeared the children had not been given a bath in quite some time.

 

Olsen could face an up to 30 months prison sentence on the level 6 felony charge.

 

In 2015, Olsen was charged with child neglect, but the allegations were later dismissed, according to court records.

Charges in Michigan City Shooting

(Michigan City, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a Michigan City shooting. 24-year-old Robert Kelly of Westville is charged with aggravated battery and other felony counts.

 

In March, Kelly allegedly shot a man in the 500 block of Holliday Street. According to authorities, he went to a home where a former girlfriend was and shot the man she was staying with as they walked out the front door.

 

Police said Kelly forced the woman into a car and robbed her at gunpoint of $300 after she withdrew the money from an ATM. He also made her drive him to his mother’s house in Westville. After he entered the residence, the woman drove off and went straight to the police.

 

The shooting victim, Karon Johnson, underwent surgery on his arm fractured by a bullet. A second bullet piercing his arm wound up lodged in his back.

 

Kelly is being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond.  

4-H Animals Feeding the Hungry

(La Porte County, IN) - More than $20,000 in meat from animals raised by local 4-H youth was donated to feed the hungry with help from Indiana Farm Bureau.

 

The rapidly growing effort is in LaPorte County, where farming is a significant part of the local economy.

 

Dozens of volunteers on August 9 delivered 3,000 pounds of frozen meat to nearly 30 food pantries and soup kitchens in the county of more than 100,000 residents.

 

"We want to see the quality meat raised within LaPorte County feed our community," said Mark Parkman, President of the LaPorte County branch of Indiana Farm Bureau.

One or two animals shown by 4-H youth during the LaPorte County Fair were always purchased and processed to help feed the hungry.

 

With help from the La Porte County Agricultural Association and private businesses, more animals were bought from 4-H youth for the cause last year, which produced 750 pounds of meat for the needy.

 

The total skyrocketed after the LaPorte County branch of the Indiana Farm Bureau joined the effort this year and bought animals from close to a dozen 4-H members at the livestock auction during the fair last month.

 

"They were a huge contributor," said LaPorte County Agricultural Association Treasurer Catherine Mrozinski

The animals were processed into one-pound packages of ground beef, pork, sheep, and goat. In addition, some of the meat was in the form of sausage and lamb chops.

 

Sims Meat Processing in Kingsbury cut and packaged all of the meat and donated their services for two of the animals.

 

The LaPorte County branch of Indiana Farm Bureau also split the processing costs with The Old Sheep Farm, the LaPorte County Sheep Breeders Association, Parkman Cattle, and 1st Source Bank.

 

Mrozinski said the goal next year is to distribute 5,000 pounds of meat.

 

“I’m really hopeful we can grow this to be even bigger and better next year. It’s contagious,” Mrozinski said.

Parkman said the effort also puts money into the hands of more 4-H youth who, otherwise, might not have a buyer for their animals.

 

“It’s just a win, win for us. I love it,” Parkman said.

The recipients included The Pax Center, Salvation Army, Rolling Prairie Food Pantry, and Westville United Methodist Church.

 

Volunteers carried boxes of frozen meat from the Community Building at the LaPorte County Fairgrounds to their vehicles and delivered the food to each pantry.

 

Mrozinski said all the recipients are asked in advance if there's particular meat they want the most to serve the needs of patrons whose preferences might lean to goat or lamb, instead of pork, for religious purposes.

 

“It’s not just take what you can get. We can actually provide them with some pretty awesome meat they don’t normally get,” Mrozinski said.

LaPorte County Farm Bureau member Matt Schafer said the effort also helps 4-H members cope with losing animals with which they've become attached. For example, his nine-year-old son, Lucas, had a 1,300-pound cross-bred steer bought and processed for the cause.

 

"One of the things that Lucas found comforting was that his animal was going to go to help people in need. That kind of eased the sting," Schafer said.

Missing Man Focus of Search

(La Porte County, IN) - The Criminal Investigations Division of the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the disappearance and whereabouts of 38-year-old Brett A. Lawson. 

 

Lawson was last seen on July 31st at a rural Center Township residence in the 3100 west block of Small Road between 1 AM and 2 AM.

 

Lawson is 5’10”, weighs 225 pounds, and has red hair and blue eyes. In addition, Lawson has a large tattoo on his right forearm. 

 

Anyone with information related to LAWSON is encouraged to contact Chief of Detectives Captain Andrew Hahn (219-326-7700, ext. 2340 / ahahn@lcso.in.gov) or Detective Austin Howell (219-326-7700, ext. 2562 / ahowell@lcso.in.gov).    

Hazardous Driver Nabbed by Police

(Kingsford Heights, IN) - A Kingsford Heights man with a history of impaired driving was allegedly caught behind the wheel again on drugs. 57-year-old Philip Seger was arrested Thursday in Kingsford Heights.

 

Police said it was almost dark, but he was driving without headlights, then he veered over the center line and back to his right, partially into the grass.

 

When asked if he had taken any illegal substances, Seger said the last time was when he used cocaine 20 years ago, according to police. After that, however, police said he tested positive for methamphetamine. Court documents disclosed that Seger then revealed he has a $20 bag per day habit.  

 

He was arrested for Operating While Intoxicated and Possession of a Controlled Substance. Seger also has an OWI charge still pending from Lake County and a long history of having his driver’s license suspended.

 

According to police, his driving posed a real danger because many people were out walking just before he was pulled over.

Woman Accused of Helping a Criminal

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County woman could face time in prison for allegedly trying to help her boyfriend avoid the police. Annie Flores, 36, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with assisting a criminal.

 

According to court documents, officers went to a home in Wanatah last week at the request of a man fearing his children were there, and his soon-to-be ex-wife and her boyfriend were doing drugs at the residence. 

 

Police said the man was also wanted on a warrant from Porter County. Officers repeatedly knocked on the door, but Flores refused to answer while her boyfriend went into hiding. Eventually, officers forced their way in and found the man in the home's crawlspace.

 

Flores could face as much as 30 months in prison on the level 6 felony charge.

 

Flores' boyfriend, Beck Serles, has a record for previous crimes like possession of cocaine and operating while intoxicated.

Out of Gas Leads to OWI Arrest

(La Porte, IN) - A driver is charged with being impaired after running out of gas in La Porte. 26-year-old Matthew Avery was arrested eight days ago.

 

Police said an officer pulled up after Avery’s vehicle ran out of gas near Burger King on East Lincolnway just after 11 p.m. Avery denied having anything to drink, but he had a blood alcohol level of more than four times the legal limit.

 

The La Porte area man also had a suspended driver’s license and a prior OWI conviction three years ago. As a result, he could receive as much as a 30-month prison sentence on the level 6 felony OWI charge. 

Dermody Contacted About Open Seat in Congress

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody has been contacted about his interest in running for the seat in Congress vacated by the death of Jackie Walorski in a motor vehicle crash.

 

Dermody said becoming a candidate for the open seat is not something he’s considered because of his grief over the loss of Walorski, who he described as a friend.

 

“It’s just such a tragedy, and that’s where the focus needs to be, but I have appreciated the calls,” Dermody said.

Dermody is a former five-term state representative who spent time with Walorski in the Indiana State Legislature when the Elkhart County woman was a state representative for two terms before taking her seat in Congress in 2013.

 

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb on Tuesday called for a special election to be held on November 8 to fill the vacant 2nd District congressional seat.

 

Whoever is elected will fill the balance of Walorski’s term, which expires on January 3.

 

Dermody said he couldn’t imagine doing anything else than being mayor. However, he did not shut the door entirely on a possible run for the seat.

 

“I got the best job in the world, so I think that would be very difficult to sway me to enter into a race when we’ve done so much in La Porte, and we got so much more to do. This is my hometown, and I love this job, but I think everybody should take a breath, step back and wait before talking about this,” Dermody said.

There’s been considerable speculation since Dermody became mayor in 2020 that he would seek a higher elected position at some point. But, Dermody maintains that he’s intent on finishing his term as mayor, which ends in 16 months.

 

According to police, Walorski and two staff members were in a vehicle that crossed the center line and struck an ongoing vehicle head-on.

 

Everyone involved in the crash, including her campaign manager, Zachery Potts, 27, a New Prairie High School graduate, was killed in the August 3 accident outside Nappanee.

Charges in Pizza Delivery Crashes

(La Porte County, IN) - Charges have been filed against an alleged hit-and-run pizza delivery driver. 50-year-old Michael Adams allegedly struck two vehicles in a driveway on Vintage Court just outside La Porte.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the van driven by Adams and the vehicles he struck sustained extensive damage. The investigation indicates he was delivering for Albano’s Villa on Johnson Road and traveling at a high rate of speed at the point of impact Friday night.

 

Police said officers were called when Adams returned to his workplace with his heavily damaged vehicle. Adams allegedly denied striking the vehicles.

 

However, police said a receipt for a pizza recovered from his vehicle placed him in the area of the collisions when they occurred.

 

Adams is charged with fleeing the scene of a crash and driving with a suspended or revoked license.

Military Family on Makeover TV Show

(La Porte County, IN) - A local military family is featured in upcoming episodes of a network television show dedicated to refurbishing veterans' homes.

 

Mike and Crystal Stupar are in the latest Military Makeover programs airing in August and September on the Lifetime Network.

 

The Michigan City area couple purchased their home on Wozniak Road less than a year ago after moving from Tennessee when Mr. Stupar retired from a 20-year career in the Army. His military service included four stints of combat duty.

 

They planned to refurbish the home one room at a time but became overwhelmed by Mrs. Stupar having to care for her ailing mother. It wasn't long before Mrs. Stupar underwent knee replacement surgery just days before her stepfather unexpectedly passed away. Her mother perished from brain cancer less than 48 hours later.

 

Mr. Stupar had to tend more to his family's needs during the difficult period while maintaining a full-time job as an inspector at a local factory during what can be a difficult adjustment back to civilian life.

 

"All of the stuff that happened never really gave us a chance to settle into our own house. It's a huge blessing," Crystal said.

The show hosted by Montel Williams was filmed during two weeks in June. It's scheduled to run beginning Friday twice a week at 7:30 a.m. (EST) until September 15.

 

The couple and their two daughters, Paris, 14, and London, 10, stayed in a lakefront vacation home during the makeover and were not allowed to return until after the work was finished.

 

"I can't wait to see the show. Seeing the transformation of the house as it actually happened is going to be real exciting," Mr. Stuper said.

They said the three-bedroom ranch-style house built in 1968 had not been updated much over the years.

 

Every room was given a modern look along with new furniture and appliances. In addition, the brick exterior of the home was power washed and painted. Other improvements ranged from a new roof, flooring, insulation, and landscaping.

 

"We were so blown away by the transformation. It was like night and day," Mr. Stupar said.

Mrs. Stupar, a regular viewer of the program, applied for a makeover in October because of the personal roadblocks preventing the couple from upgrading the home. Her prayers to be selected for a makeover by the program were answered about two months later.

 

"They really did an outstanding job. We got really blessed," Mr. Stupar said.

Signatures on Recall Petitions Submitted

(New Buffalo, MI) - More than enough signatures to have a recall election in New Buffalo have been submitted to the Berrien County Clerk's office. The signatures presented on August 5 still have to be verified before a recall election in November can be officially authorized.

 

Two hundred ninety-four signatures in favor of recalling Mayor John Humphrey and 271 signatures supporting city councilman Brian Flanagan were obtained on petitions seeking their ouster halfway through their four-year terms. Two hundred nineteen signatures from people verified as registered voters in the city are required for a recall election to occur.  

 

“The people spoke. They don’t want Humphrey and Flanagan in office anymore,” said local realtor Carie O’Donnell, who helped collect the signatures.

O'Donnell said two people, whose names she would not disclose, are committed to running against Humphrey and Flanagan if the required number of verified signatures on the petitions are certified.

 

The petitions seek a recall of Humphrey and Flanagan over their support last year of capping the number of short rentals in the city. Another petition seeks to recall Humphrey's alleged request for police to remove O'Donnell from a public meeting.

 

O'Donnell, along with Michael Davis and several other individuals, obtained the signatures.

 

Humphrey and Flanagan, along with Roger Lijewski campaigning on restricting short-term rentals, easily defeated their opponents in the 2020 election.

 

O'Donnell said she's optimistic Humphrey and Flanagan will be defeated in a recall election. She believes residents are upset not just about the cap on short-term rentals but other issues such as too many streets and sidewalks still needing repair and the number of lawsuits filed against the city.

 

O'Donnell alleges that Humphrey, in particular, has offended many residents with his conduct that she describes as intimidating and condescending.

 

“For me, this is about a bully sitting in office. He thinks he’s smarter than the city attorney,” O’Donnell said.

Critics of Humphrey also claim he unfairly blames short-term rentals for everything wrong in the city, including the lack of downtown parking and affordable housing, along with the decline in the number of full-time residents.

 

“I feel as if the whole short rental thing is being used as a smoke screen in a sense not to deal with the other things that are at hand like the important issues that count,” Davis said.

O'Donnell also said Flanagan is a "rubber stamp" for Humphrey on a council she believes should be more effective and receptive to listening to the public.

 

Davis said the cap on short-term rentals, believed to be a way of achieving a more year-round economy, will hurt the city more by discouraging tourism, the city's primary economic engine.

 

“We need a talent pool that truly knows how to move a city forward,” Davis said.

4-H Livestock Feeding the Hungry

(La Porte County, IN) - Some of the farm animals at this year’s La Porte County Fair are being used to help feed the hungry.

 

According to La Porte County Farm Bureau, local businesses and non-profits partner in the effort. More than 20 food pantries and soup kitchens are receiving meat from animals raised by 4-H youth.

 

The animals were purchased during the 4-H livestock auction at the fair last month.

 

Officials say about 3,000 pounds of beef, pork, lamb, and goat meat were processed by Sims Meat Processing in Kingsbury for the feed the hungry effort.

Defamation Lawsuit Resurrected

(Indianapolis, IN) - A lawsuit against the city of Michigan City, Indiana, has been brought back to life. The defamation of character lawsuit was filed in 2019 by La Porte County Prosecutor John Lake.

 

Lake claims then-Mayor Ron Meer falsely accused him of targeting his family for political reasons when his stepson was arrested on drug-related charges just before the election.

 

A few months ago, a Starke County judge dismissed the case, ruling Lake did not give a clear reason on why he should be awarded damages. However, the Indiana Court of Appeals yesterday reinstated the lawsuit.

 

The appellate judges said the complaint was sufficient to be decided by a judge or jury. The lawsuit will be reconsidered now in a Starke County courtroom.

Library Improvements Taking Shape

(La Porte, IN) - Construction projects have been going on all around the main branch of the La Porte County Public Library.

 

A parking lot west of the main branch opened in the spring. Three other projects are currently underway. One is the new storage garage at the corner of Harrison and Madison. The new building has been designed to look more like a house than a garage in order to maintain a neighborhood feel. A large front porch and lawn area will host future library programs.

 

At the corner of Harrison and Indiana a reading garden is being constructed. The small park will provide patrons outdoor space with landscaping and seating areas. The concrete walkways were poured last week.

 

Finally, the 100-year-old main steps at the library’s east entrance are currently being replaced. The steps will be clad in limestone over a sturdier concrete base. The library plans to repurpose the thick slabs of Indiana limestone from the old steps in the new reading garden.

 

Library Director Fonda Owens says the projects are part of a long-term library improvement plan. And they’ve been paid for with existing tax funds. Owens explained that in 2015 the library bonded $12 million to remodel the main branch and improve or replace the other branches. Changes in that plan—unexpectedly needing to replace the Fish Lake branch building, for example— prevented these current projects from getting done. In the meantime, additional tax money has come in from the county’s reconciliation of tax problems from years ago. “There was a year in which we got almost two full years of property tax in one calendar year,” according to Owens.

 

After budgeting through tough times, Owens said, the recouped tax money is now being put to use. “We toughed it out, we tightened the belt, so to speak,” she said. “Now all this work that we’re doing is being paid for with that money. So we’re not bonding, we’re not borrowing. We’re using money that the library already had to make improvements that needed to be made.”

 

The total of the current projects is a little over $1.5 million. Owens said the work should wrap up early in the fall.

Lawmaker Critical of New Abortion Law

(Michigan City, IN) - A local state lawmaker is speaking out against Indiana recently outlawing a vast majority of abortions.

 

State Representative Pat Boy of Michigan City said the law signed by the governor on Friday treats women as “second class citizens that must be controlled and cannot be trusted.”

 

All Democrats in the Indiana House of Representatives, including Boy, voted against the legislation.

 

“Women deserve bodily autonomy and the right to privacy to make this extremely personal decision. This law will strip a woman of these rights,” Boy said.

The law effective on September 15 makes abortion a criminal act unless it’s needed to protect the health of the mother or baby or if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

 

Abortion in cases of rape or incest must occur within the first ten weeks of pregnancy.

 

Rep. Boy said many, especially very young victims of rape and incest, though, don’t know they might be pregnant until after the ten-week post-fertilization period. She also believes the restrictions will cause OBGYN physicians to leave the state already short on such experts in the medical field.

 

Indiana has the third highest maternal mortality rate in the nation, which could get worse in the future, according to Boy. 

 

“This bill will cause many more to leave our state and discourage new physicians from setting up practice here. As a result, there will be many more deaths of women and their children who cannot get adequate care,” Boy said.

More Details in Finding of Missing Calf

(La Porte County, IN) - A bull calf scared by dogs barking ran into an Indiana corn field where he spent nine hours before being located by a drone equipped with a heat-sensing camera.

 

Farmer Scott Klemz is now getting the 250-pound bull calf used to the sound of barking dogs and human contact to prevent another high-tech needle in a haystack-like search.

 

Klemz said the animal was one of three calves he had just brought to his 80-acre farm near Union Mills on July 31.

 

The animals were from his other farm about five miles away, where he breeds about a dozen cows to have calves for his 14-year-old son and other children in the 4-H program to raise and show during the LaPorte County Fair.

 

Klemz said his Border collie and St. Bernard were playfully barking when the Hereford calf, fresh off a cattle trailer, bolted out of its pen about 25 feet from the dogs. The calf ran several hundred yards down 800 South and into a neighbor's 20-acre corn field.

 

According to LaPorte County Police, officers soon came out with a drone equipped with an infrared camera but failed in their initial attempt to locate the animal.

 

The drone traveled close to 3,000 feet at more than 200 feet above the ground, but the high temperatures kept the heat sensing camera from detecting the calf's body temperature.

 

“It was a hot day, so everything was kind of blending in,” Klemz said.

Klemz said he then began playing a prerecorded soundtrack of a cow mooing over a loudspeaker placed beside the field in hopes of drawing the cow out of the corn. The calf, though, never came out.

 

The officers returned about 9 p.m. after the temperatures had dropped, and within minutes, the drone's heat-sensing camera located the calf in the rows of corn near a tree line.

 

“Once they came back when everything cooled off, and the calf was much warmer than the ground, he stuck out like a sore thumb,” Klemz said.

Klemz said the calf was also moving toward the loudspeaker when picked up by the infrared device.

 

“You could tell he must have been hearing the sounds and was moving in the right direction,” Klemz said.

Klemz said he and his son, Samuel, entered the field, and after several failed attempts to grab him, the fleet-footed calf was finally wrestled to the ground.

 

“The calf took off and basically ran right into me,” Klemz said.

A halter was placed on the calf, then led back to the farm.

 

“[The calf] was probably a little thirsty but other than that, he was in good shape,” Klemz said.

Without the drone, Klemz said he's not sure how long it would have taken to locate the calf, apparently too small to leave any marks in the dirt or rows of corn to follow.

 

“Usually, if you get a 1,400 or 1,500-pound cow, you’ll be able to see the hoof prints, but you couldn’t see nothing with him. We had no idea where to even look,” Klemz explained.

Klemz had also bred cows to have calves for his older children to show when they were young enough to be in 4-H. He's had other spooked calves run away in the past, but he never had one disappear into a corn field.

 

Klemz said he now takes one of his dogs with him when he checks on the calves, so they get used to the barking. His son also sits on a chair in the pen daily to let the calves come up to him to ensure humans do not spook them.

 

Klemz, a Noble Township Volunteer Fire Department member, said the drone was a learning experience for him to apply if he's ever called to help locate a person lost in a corn field.

 

“It was very, very interesting,” Klemz said.

Problem Behavior House Now Empty

(La Porte, IN) - Residents of a home are now gone after being forced to leave because of years of constant drug activity and other misbehavior. The city locked up the house in La Porte on Saturday after everyone vacated the residence at 332 Clear Lake Boulevard.

 

An arrest was made during an argument between family members while the home was being vacated late in the afternoon.

 

La Porte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said residents were given a 10-day notice to vacate the premises under a condemnation order driven by years of misconduct at the residence.

 

The deadline was extended for about a week to allow the homeowner time for a daughter to come from outside the state to help with the move.

 

“She asked if we could give her a couple of more days until her daughter got here to help her move stuff, and they would take it and be gone, and I honored that,” Batchelor said.

Batchelor said the undesirable activity, often leading to responses by police,  continued despite repeated warnings from the city for it to stop. The residents were forced out under the city's nuisance ordinance, which can be imposed even on property owners.

 

Batchelor said the homeowner, Charlotte Mullins, still owns the property and can sell it, but she and her family can no longer reside at that location under the ordinance.

 

Problem activity at Mullins' residence included a hatchet attack and other acts of violence.

 

“This has been going on for 15 years, and we’re not going to tolerate this type of behavior in our community,” said La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody.

Batchelor said Mullins was not the source of the misbehavior but enabled her children and their acquaintances to engage in such conduct. 

Trampoline Spares Fire Victims

(Benton Harbor, MI) - Four people escaped a house fire by jumping onto a trampoline in southwest Michigan. Authorities said the fire was showing from the kitchen when firefighters arrived at the home in Benton Harbor on Friday.

 

One adult and three juveniles jumped from the second-floor roof onto a trampoline in the backyard. There were no injuries, but a dog perished in the blaze.

 

Authorities said the cause of the fire is believed to be electrical in nature, and there were no working smoke detectors inside the home.

Drug Arrest in Traffic Stop

(Starke County, IN) - A Rolling Prairie man is facing drug-related charges.

 

42-year-old Charles Gross was arrested Thursday during a traffic stop near State Road 23 in Starke County. The vehicle was searched after a K-9 dog detected the presence of drugs.

 

Police said a small amount of cocaine and close to a half ounce of marijuana were seized from the vehicle, along with a scale.

 

Gross is charged with possession of a narcotic drug, possession of marijuana, and possession of paraphernalia.

Horizon Bank Supports Unity Foundation's Upcoming Fundraiser

(Michigan City, IN) - Horizon Bank has given La Porte County's Unity Foundation a boost for an upcoming fundraiser.

 

Horizon is donating $30,000 in honor of the Unity Foundation’s 30th anniversary. On September 30, the foundation will hold a 30-hour donation marathon.

 

Unity Foundation spokesperson Lauren Varga says Horizon’s donation goes into a pot for other donors to match. Their goal is to reach a total of $300,000, and they're already almost there. Varga says over $200,000 has come in. When the Unity Foundation held a similar event for their 25th anniversary, she said it raised $360,000. "With the very generous matching pool from all of our donors like Horizon," Varga said, "we think that will encourage people to give and make it a more successful event to raise more money for the organizations in La Porte County."

 

The Unity Foundation manages funds and other resources for dozens of nonprofits across La Porte County.

Indiana Abortion Law Passes

(Indianapolis, IN) - After a hectic special session, the Indiana General Assembly has agreed on a law that all but bans abortion in the state.

 

On Friday the House passed a modified version of a bill passed in the Senate last weekend. The vote was 62-38. Nine Republicans voted no, along with all Democrats.

 

The final bill bans abortion except in cases of rape and incest. The House added exceptions for saving the life of the mother and fatal fetal conditons. The bill also does away with abortion clinics, requiring the procedure to be done in hospital facilities.

 

Removed from the final version was a requirement for a rape or incest victim to provide an affidavit, as well as a provision to empower the state attorney general to override local prosecutors.

 

On Friday night, state senators voted 28-19 to accept the changes. In the meantime, the Senate accepted a relief package to help Hoosiers cope with the effects of inflation. It’s not nearly as complex as the abortion debate. Each Hoosier taxpayer will get a $200 tax refund.

 

With Governor Eric Holcomb's signature on both bills late Friday night, Indiana became the first state to ban abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Jackie Walorski in Memoriam

(Jimtown, IN) - A La Porte family with political and personal connections to 2nd District Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and her husband Dean were present in Jimtown Thursday night for a memorial vigil.

 

Fran and Tom Milo, along with their daughter Blair, attended the vigil. Mrs. Milo says Jackie and her husband were deeply religious, as was evident in Dean’s remarks to the crowd. “He was able to talk about how they met, how they first dated, what life had been like,” Milo said. The couple spent four years as Christian missionaries in Romania. Milo said Swihart met with and consoled many of the families at the vigil, including hers, and tried to focus on the future.  “And then talking about how he goes forward,” Milo said, “it is clear that Dean Swihart is on a mission. As he puts it, he’s on a mission to save souls.”

 

Milo said the vigil concluded with a downpour of rain, but people still lingered in the Jimtown High School parking lot to share memories of Jackie.

 

Funeral arrangements for Jackie Walorski have been announced.

 

Visitation will be on Wednesday, August 10th from 12 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time at Granger Community Church. The funeral will be held on Thursday, August 11th at 11 a.m. Eastern at the same location in Granger.

 

Milo said her family definitely intends to attend Walorski’s funeral services. 

Commissioners Squabble Over Meeting Transcripts

(La Porte, IN) - County Commissioners met Wednesday morning for their regular meeting. Right away, commission members had a disagreement on whether to approve minutes from their last meeting.

 

The minutes as originally submitted contained a comment from Commissioner Joe Haney, which he claimed was misquoted. Commissioners Rich Mrozinski and Sheila Matias refused to accept his amended version.

 

At the July 20 meeting, La Porte’s April Daly, who is a member of the northwest Indiana Shared Ethics Advisory Commission, spoke on the topic of government ethics. Identifying herself as “the ethics commissioner” of La Porte County, Daly called Haney’s manner of discourse "inappropriate, unethical, and just not right" and implied that he is a member of the Oath Keepers, which has been labeled a far-right militia group.

 

Haney interrupted Daly saying, “That’s not true, I’m not a member of that organization,” followed by something else that was muffled by Daly’s response. According to Haney, he asked Daly to "please stop."  According to Mathias, the audio reflects Haney saying “I stopped that.” Mrozinski claimed Haney said, “it stopped.” The archived Access La Porte County telecast, linked here, shows the interaction, beginning at approximately the 21-minute mark.

 

Haney says the controversy is part of an ongoing attempt to link him to unseemly political groups. According to Haney, he has already obtained a cease and desist order against County Attorney Shaw Friedman for alleging that Haney was involved in the January 6 incident at the U.S. Capitol.

 

Haney says he doesn’t wasn’t to make a big deal of what he feels are altered transcripts. But he fears that the words as entered in the record may be used against him as proof that he once belonged to the Oath Keepers, something he denies.

 

At Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners could not agree to accept Haney’s version of the minutes and will take the matter under advisement.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Caller Episode

(LAPORTE, IN) - In today's episode, we let our listeners decide what topics we'd talk about, including whether the county should try and grow its population, crime in Michigan City, NIPSCO's generation station in Michigan City, and more.

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

Boyd Remembers Walorski as "Expert Communicator"

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd got word early Wednesday afternoon that Representative Jackie Walorski had died in a car accident. He said his first response was disbelief. “I’m shocked,” Boyd said just a few hours after the news went public. “I can’t believe it. I want to believe that it’s not true.”

 

Boyd knew Walorski both as a friend and a political resource. “She was such a kind-hearted person, and she was so in-touch with the 2nd District," he said. "When she wasn’t in Washington, she was making her rounds throughout the district…. She had a real soft spot in her heart for La Porte County and the people who live here and the issues going on here. I know I’m going to miss her.”

 

Boyd said Walorski frequently checked in with him, especially in tough times like the pandemic and during the violent protests across the country .  “It wasn’t at all uncommon that I would get a telephone call," said Boyd, "usually about 4:45, 5:00. And she was heading back to the district, and she just wanted to touch base and find out how everything was in La Porte County.”

 

Boyd said Walorski felt that talking to local law enforcement was the best way to get the pulse of local communities.

 

According to Boyd, Walorski, who started her career as a news reporter, was an expert communicator.

Republicans Dealing With Tragic Loss

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Republican Party has enjoyed some notable wins in recent elections. But this week it suffered a setback that no pundit could have predicted.

 

The loss of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski hits particularly close to home for local Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens. Having taken over the role just recently, Wednesday’s accident may be the biggest challenge he’s faced. “It’s really a big loss all the way around,” he said just hours after receiving the news. “I’m still rattled to be honest with you. I’m still trying to process it all, take it all in.”

 

Stevens said the sudden loss of Walorski leaves a void that won’t be easy to fill. “Jackie was a conservative firebrand,” he said. “She fought relentlessly for this district. She fought for veterans. It’s just going to be a huge loss.”

 

Stevens said Walorski died doing what she loved: visiting her constituents. She visited La Porte on Tuesday morning to discuss legislation regarding the opioid epidemic. On Wednesday Walorski had just left a visit to the Warsaw area and was heading to another engagement when the accident happened.

 

Stevens is also grieving the loss of St. Joseph County Republican Chair Zach Potts, who lost his life Wednesday along with Walorski and her communications director Emma Thomson. Stevens says the 27-year-old Potts had become a good friend who was showing him the ropes about being a party chairman.

Man Badly Burned in Auto Mishap

(LaPorte County, IN) - A man was badly burned while working on his car in the northern part of the county.

 

First responders were called to the parking lot of a cigarette store just south of the state line on SR 39 a little after 3 p.m. on Sunday.

 

County Sheriff John Boyd says a vehicle and the man working on it caught fire. "Apparently he got gasoline on himself, and he was burned as well," Boyd said. "Our duputies saw that he had redness, peeling skin on his hands and his upper right arm and his chest, his neck, and his mouth."

 

Center Township firefighters assisted with the blaze. SR 39 was briefly closed down to allow a medical helicopter to land. The man was then airlifted to a trauma center.

Quick Response Limits Fire Damage

(Kingsford Heights, IN) - A quick response to a fire in Kingsford Heights saved a house from possible destruction.

 

At 3:53 Wednesday afternoon, La Porte County Dispatch advised of a structure fire in the 500 block of Fernway Road in Kingsford Heights.

 

According to Facebook posts, Kingsford Heights Police and Fire Departments arrived on scene in less than a minute.

 

First responders found smoke coming from the roof. Inside the attic above the kitchen, they found electrical wires burning, which they extinguished.

Police Update Facts of Walorski Crash

(Elkhart County, IN) - The Elkhart County Police Department has confirmed a correction to information previously provided regarding Wednesday's auto accident that claimed the lives of U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and three others.

 

Contrary to initial reports, the Toyota RAV 4 carrying Walorski and two of her staffers was northbound on SR 19. 56-year-old Edith Schmucker of Nappanee was southbound in a maroon Buick LaSabre. Police now say the silver SUV driven by 27-year-old Zachery Potts of Mishawaka crossed the center line for reasons unknown at this time.

 

The clarification coincides with reports that Walorski and her staffers were traveling to another engagement having left Warsaw Wednesday morning.

 

Walorski's 28-year-old communications director, Emma Thomson, was also killed in the SUV.

 

According to police, all four victims were wearing seatbelts, and airbags did deploy properly. 

Police Update Facts of Walorski Crash

(Elkhart County, IN) - The Elkhart County Police Department has confirmed a correction to information previously provided regarding Wednesday's auto accident that claimed the lives of U.S. Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and three others.

 

Contrary to initial reports, the Toyota RAV 4 carrying Walorski and two of her staffers was northbound on SR 19. 56-year-old Edith Schmucker of Nappanee was southbound in a maroon Buick LaSabre. Police now say the silver SUV driven by 27-year-old Zachery Potts of Mishawaka crossed the center line for reasons unknown at this time.

 

The clarification coincides with reports that Walorski and her staffers were traveling to another engagement having left Warsaw Wednesday morning.

 

Walorski's 28-year-old communications director, Emma Thomson, was also killed in the SUV.

 

According to police, all four victims were wearing seatbelts, and airbags did deploy properly. 

Walorski And Three Others Die in Auto Accident

(Elkhart County, IN) - Area Congresswoman Jackie Walorski died Wednesday in a two-car crash that claimed three other lives.

 

The accident happened near a highway intersection in Elkhart County between Nappanee and Wakarusa.

 

Around 11:30 a.m. Central Standard Time, police say a northbound car crossed the center line and crashed head-on into an SUV carrying Walorski and two others, who also died. The other victims have been identified as 27-year-old Zachery Potts of Mishawaka and 28-year-old Emma Thomson of Washington, D.C. Potts was the chair of the Republican Party in St. Joseph County and the GOP District 2 Chair, and Thomson was Walorski’s communications director.

 

The driver of the other car, 58-year-old Edith Schmucker of Nappanee was also pronounced dead at the scene.

 

Walorski was elected Representative of Indiana’s 2nd District in 2012. In her honor, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has directed flags in the state to be lowered. Flags should be flown at half-staff from now until the date of her burial.

Walorski Visits La Porte to Promote New Legislation

(La Porte, IN) - U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski visited La Porte City Hall Tuesday morning. She spoke at the Board of Public Works and Safety meeting.

 

Walorski stopped by to thank first responders for their efforts and to address a problem they face every day. Walorski is proposing legislation in Washington that may help families of someone who overdoses on fentanyl. Her bill will allow such families to sue producers of the poisonous synthetic drug, which are primarily in foreign countries."The raw ingredient is coming from China, as we know," Walorski said. "It's not a secret. It's coming right into Mexico; they're putting it together. And it's coming right over an open, fluid border that nobody is controlling."

 

Her propoed bill will also empower states' atorneys general to file lawsuits on behalf of victims' groups against foreign producers of fentanyl. "This is not a cure-all, end-all type of a thing," Walorski said, "but at least it's something-- to stand up and say as a nation, and as a community, we are not going to take this anymore."

 

Walorski said she hopes the bill will receive consideration when the U.S. House reconvenes in January.

Officers Commended for Saving Life

(La Porte, IN) - Two La Porte City Police officers were honored at this week's Board of Public Works and Safety Meeting.

 

Triston Kajer and Taylor Atkinson were recognized for their efforts in handling a suicidal man in a public parking lot back on June 11.

 

Police Chief Paul Brettin credited the officers with gaining the man’s trust and put down the handgun he was pointing at himself outside a crowded restaurant. "They built a rapport with this young man and convinced him to put the gun down," Brettin said. "You can't teach this stuff. It really impresses me that they did this. I take great pride in both of these officers."

 

Kajer said he learned that the man was perhaps religious, so he talked to him about his faith. Atkinson sensed that the man just wanted someone to listen, so that’s what the officers did.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody also noted how well Atkinson handled a fentanyl overdose victim recently.

 

Both Kajer and Atkinson have joined the police force within the past two years.

 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: Earl Cunningham

(LAPORTE, IN) - County Councilman Earl Cunningham visited the WCOE Studio to discuss what's going on in LaPorte County with Nate Loucks. He talked about the Public Safety LIT, annexation, county budget priorities, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

Four Pets Rescued, One Lost, in La Porte House Fire

(La Porte, IN) - A house fire late last week claimed the life of a pet, despite the best efforts of first responders.

 

On Friday afternoon at about 12:45, La Porte firefighters responded to a blaze at 606 Gary Ct. near East Jefferson. According to Chief Andy Snyder, the homeowner was in the backyard at the time, when she heard crackling and popping. She tried to rescue her pets inside, but the smoke was too much.

 

Firefighters took it from there. Snyder says they brought out one dog in pretty bad shape. "They were able to get the dog very quickly," Snyder said, "but unfortunately it was unconscious, not breathing. They did perform CPR for about ten minutes."

 

However, firefighters were able to rescue three other dogs, as well as a bearded dragon that lived in the basement.

 

Snyder says the house was badly damaged. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Public Hearing on Airport Annexation

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte City Council listened to public comments at their Monday night meeting regarding a proposed annexation of almost 50 acres adjacent to the municipal airport. The property, already owned by the airport, is just south of the main runway along State Road 39.

 

City officials answered questions about how the annexation might affect residents. Concerns were raised about an exisitng homeowner on 150 West and the volunteer fire department on 250 South. Officials indicated that the annexation would not impact those properties. Notice has been made to adjacent property owners. The airport owns the property occuoied by the Scipio Township Fire Department.

 

According to Airport Board President Ed Volk, the airport has purchased and annexed multiple properties around it in recent years. This annexation would broaden the airport’s footprint, primarily for safety reasons in case of emergency landings.

 

Volk said there’s no solid plan for expansion, but lengthening the main runway another 1,000 feet could happen in the near future. That would require reorienting its path in a more north/south direction. He said if the runway is extended, the public would not notice a change in the type or size of jets flying in. But it would encourage more air traffic.

Family Fun Venue Proposed for NewPorte Landing

(La Porte, IN) - A possible family fun development is being considered for the New Porte Landing area in La Porte.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership, shared a letter of intent from a developer with the Redevelopment Commission. It proposes "a large family entertainment center focused on bringing multiple family-friendly experiences to the people of La Porte." The business would occupy four acres across from the Dunes Event Center.

 

Cook did not reveal any more specifics. He said it’s a well-known and trusted local name that’s proposing the project.

 

The Redevelopment Commission agreed to circulate the plans among city department heads and get feedback on its viability.

Top High School Teams and ESPN Returning to the Civic

(La Porte, IN) - Blue Chip High School basketball is coming back to La Porte’s Civic Auditorium this winter.

 

The schedule for next season’s NIBC La Porte Invitational tournament has been announced.

 

Civic Director Brett Binversie says the tournament will be even bigger this year, featuring ten teams instead of eight. Also he’s hoping that more spectators will be able to attend. Seating was reduced last year due to COVID restrictions.

 

Of course, LaLumiere will be the local crowd favorite. Binversie says the other teams also feature many top-rated players, some of whom may soon be playing in the NBA. And ESPN will be in town to cover the action, although a broadcast schedule has not been released.

 

The tournament will run from Thursday, January 5 through Saturday, January 7th.

 

Thursday, January 5

Montverde (Fla.) vs. Sunrise Christian (Kan.)

Wasatch (Utah) vs. LA LUMIERE

Bishop Walsh (Md.) vs. Luhi (N.Y.)

 

Friday, January 6

Legacy (S.C.) vs. AZ Compass (Ariz.)

Oak Hill (Va.) vs. IMG (Fla.)

Wasatch (Utah) vs. Montverde (Fla.)

 

Saturday, January 7

Bishop Walsh (Md.) vs. Legacy (S.C.)

Luhi (N.Y.) vs. LA LUMIERE

Sunrise Christian (Kan.) vs. IMG (Fla.)

AZ Compass (Ariz.) vs. Oak Hill (Va.)

Deadly Northwest Indiana Kayak Incident

(Hobart, IN) - A kayaking incident in Lake County left one person dead and another in critical condition.

 

The accident happened Sunday night at around 8:15 on Robinson Lake, which is next to I-65 in Hobart.

 

According to Indiana Conservation Officers, witnesses saw two kayakers tip over and begin struggling in the water about 200 feet from shore. One of the witnesses pulled a woman from the water with the help of a Hobart police officer.

 

The other person, a 19-year-old male, went under and could not be found. Divers recovered his body less than an hour later.

 

The 54-year-old woman was listed in critical condition as of Monday.

Abortion Bill Passes State Senate

(Indianapolis, IN) - Abortion legislation in the Indiana General Assembly has passed the Senate and now heads to the House.

 

The Indiana Senate held a special session on Saturday to vote on a bill that all but outlaws abortion in the state.

 

Senate Bill 1 bans abortion with cases of rape and incest being exceptions. However, women in those situations must provide a sworn affidavit and can be prosecuted if they lie about it.

 

The bill needed 25 votes to pass. Despite an overwhelming majority, Republicans passed it narrowly 26-20.

 

This area’s state senator Mike Bohacek voted yes.

 

The Indiana House will consider the bill starting Monday afternoon, with hearings likely to begin on Tuesday.

Officer Gunned Down in Central Indiana

(Elwood, IN) - A central Indiana police officer was gunned down early Sunday morning. It happened in the sleepy town of Elwood, 50 miles northeast of Indianapolis.

 

According to reports, 24-year-old Elwood police officer Noah Shahnavaz stopped a Buick LaCrosse just after 2 a.m. The driver exited the car and opened fire, killing the officer. State police say the suspect was apprehended about 30 minutes later after a car chase.

 

The 42-year-old gunman from Anderson has a criminal record, including a 2006 conviction for shooting at police.

 

Shahnavaz was a U.S. Army veteran who had been an Elwood officer for only 11 months.

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