Local News Archives for 2022-08

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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