Local News Archives for 2022-09

House Destroyed by Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - A house outside La Porte was destroyed by fire today.

 

Firefighters from multiple agencies were called to a structure fully engulfed in flames before 12 p.m. at 302 W. 250 South just west of U.S. 35 near Kingsbury.

 

Shirley Pontius said she and her husband, Barry, were inside their home not knowing there was a fire until a man began pounding on her front door.

 

“I came around the corner and saw all of this smoke and we got out of the house,” she said.

 

Mrs. Pontius said her dog also made it out of the single story residence safely but felt her cat was still inside.

 

She said she was doing paperwork for her husband’s business, “Barry’s Carts,” when they were alerted to the fire.  Her husband customizes and restores golf carts.

 

It appears the fire started in the attached garage and spread to a pick-up truck parked in the driveway and the residence.

 

Ray Wolff said he was more than a mile from the house when he saw smoke.

 

He was heading to the home of his parents who live close to where the fire occurred and was more than a mile away when he first saw smoke.


Wolff said firefighters acted quickly in doing what they could to try and save the house.

 

“The garage was fully engulfed. The truck in the driveway was fully engulfed pretty much,” he said.

 

The house appeared to be a total loss not just because of the fire but damage from smoke and water.

 

The cause of the fire was not immediately known but will be investigated by the Scipio Township Volunteer Fire Department.

 

 

Charges in Dirt Bike Pursuit

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man was arrested after he allegedly fled from police on a dirt bike.

 

Chase Moss, 22, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Resisting Law Enforcement and other counts.

 

According to court documents, Moss fled at high speeds Tuesday afternoon from an officer who tried stopping him for speeding on the off-road motorcycle on Scott Street. During the pursuit, the officer twice lost sight of the dirt bike, disregarding several traffic control devices while being chased.

 

A short time later, police learned the driver with long blonde hair was known for doing stunts on the dirt bike in his neighborhood.

 

Police went to his home in the 1200 block of Scott Street after discovering where he lives and found the still warm-to-the-touch motorcycle inside the garage.

 

Moss was discovered to have an active warrant for his arrest on allegations of violating probation.

 

Officers began forming a perimeter around the house to try and take him into custody on the outstanding warrant when Moss came out of the residence. He was also charged with reckless driving and aggressive driving.

Arrested Driver Impaired from Vaping

(La Porte, IN) - Alleged vaping of marijuana led to a driver being arrested for being impaired in downtown La Porte.

 

Joshua Dejaegher, 37, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with operating while intoxicated, driving on a suspended license, and possession of marijuana.

 

According to court documents, an officer traveling behind Dejaegher Monday night saw the La Porte man nearly sideswipe a vehicle on Lincolnway near Madison Street.

 

During a traffic stop, a portable breathalyzer test revealed he had no alcohol in his bloodstream. However, police said his symptoms of impairment included slurred speech and glassy, bloodshot eyes. Dejaegher admitted that he “took a hit off a vape.”

 

Police said a vape was found in the pocket of his sweatshirt and it contained a yellow liquid later testing positive for marijuana.

 

According to court records, Dejaegher has a prior OWI conviction from 2016.

Second Person Tied to Sports Car Pursuit

(La Porte, IN) - Another person was charged with the high-speed chase of a sports car in La Porte last week.

 

Patricia Hollowell is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 5 Felony Fraud and Level 6 Felony Forgery.

 

According to court documents, the 52-year-old Indianapolis woman showed up at the Chrysler dealership next to Pine Lake last Saturday. She allegedly used another woman’s personal information to purchase a 2020 Dodge Charger.

 

The dealership was notified ahead of time the information was fraudulent. However, during her alleged attempt to purchase, 29-year-old Anteis Robinson fled from the dealership in the orange-colored car.

 

Police said Hollowell and Robinson came to LaPorte together.

 

According to court documents, Robinson was chased by police southbound on Pine Lake Avenue and westbound on Indiana 2 until he crashed at 6th Street outside the Family Express.

 

Police said Hollowell tried about a dozen times to purchase vehicles downstate with the false information before her final attempt in La Porte.

Local Company Turns 100

(La Porte County, IN) - A Michigan City-based company is celebrating its 100th birthday.

 

Tonn and Blank Construction hit the century mark last week.

 

La Porte County Commission President Sheila Matias recognized the firm under the La Porte County Works program that she started to help people find employment and illustrate there are good-paying manufacturing jobs available locally.

 

Matias said the company gives back to the community in various ways.

 

“They’re a key partner in generating millions of dollars in economic development for our community and other communities around the coun y. They also are a supporter of non-profit causes and organizations. They like to help us with buildings for non-profit organizations. They often do projects like the Boys and Girls Club, the AK Smith Center, Unity Foundation, etc.,” Matias said.

 

Matias also pointed out that Tonn and Blank Construction opened an off-site construction facility at the Midwest Trade Center in Westville in 2020. Things like bathrooms are constructed there and delivered to construction sites to be included in structures the company is building.

 

Tonn and Blank Construction employ 250 people.

 

Matias said companies highlighted under the La Porte County Works program are listed on the La Porte County government website.

 

She said that people can go to the website to review in-depth information about companies and whether they have job openings so they can apply for those positions.

Online Survey to Help with School Planning

(La Porte, IN) - The public can now make suggestions online about their vision for the La Porte Community School Corporation.

 

The La Porte Community School Corporation Strategic Action Planning Initiative is underway.

 

This week, an online survey was launched for people to share their thoughts on areas like curriculum and safety, along with communication between staff members and parents. The survey is available to take until October 19.

 

According to school officials, all data collected from the survey is entirely anonymous.

 

The public is also invited to a Strategic Planning Community Information Session to provide input on helping to shape the future of the schools. The meeting is scheduled for October 5 at 6 p.m. at the Kesling Intermediate School Auditorium.

 

The session will also provide an overview of the strategic planning initiative, timeline, and additional opportunities for community members to engage in the process.

 

People can go to the school corporation website for updates on the strategic action planning process.

Arrest of Alleged Sex Offender Living in Woods

(La Porte County, IN) - A man living in the woods now has a roof over his head, but it’s at the La Porte County Jail.

 

Victor Badillo, 45, is charged with two counts of Level 5 felony possession of child pornography.

 

According to La Porte County Police, the investigation into the latest allegations began a month after his arrest in June for intimidation. He posted bond in the intimidation case in July.

 

The investigation into his alleged possession of child pornography continued, and the findings from that probe were given to the La Porte County Prosecutor’s Office, which issued an arrest warrant on Monday.

 

Badillo was arrested this morning when located living in the woods in rural Coolspring Township, police said.

 

Badillo was being held on a $15,000 bond. Indiana State Police assisted in the investigation.

 

Specifics about the latest allegations were not disclosed.

War on Infant Mortality Waged

(La Porte, IN) - A campaign has been waged to reduce infant mortality in La Porte County.

 

A significant focus of the effort will be on unsafe sleeping because ten babies a year in La Porte County, on average, die from things like parents and other caregivers sleeping with infants.

 

An adult sleeping on a bed or couch can roll over and suffocate the baby, said retired physician Dr. Gary Wheeland, a board member at the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.

 

HFL is leading the charge in the effort to reduce one of the highest infant mortality rates in the state.

 

Wheeland said an infant needs to be placed on their back in a crib with a firm mattress covered by a tightly pulled sheet to avoid the potential of suffocating.

 

"What we don't want is co-sleeping. Co-sleeping is where the baby is sleeping in a bed, on a couch, or somewhere with the parent where they are at risk," Wheeland said.

 

A few weeks ago, a toddler dropped between two mattresses placed next to each other and suffocated on Monroe Street in La Porte.

 

Mary Wellnitz, special projects manager with HFL, said the key to reducing infant mortality is the community reaching out and educating the public.

 

"You are a little news media going out and making sure you're talking to grandparents, aunts, uncles. The physicians are talking to pregnant women during pregnancy, at the time of birth as well as after delivery and leaving the hospital," Wellnitz said.

 

The campaign will also include ongoing education about things like not smoking and drinking during and after pregnancy to prevent other forms of infant death.

 

La Porte County has the fifth worst infant mortality rate in the state, with more than 11 out of every 1,000 babies not surviving their first year. That's nearly twice the average rate in the state and nationwide.

 

Wellnitz said correcting unsafe sleeping arrangements would significantly reduce La Porte County's overall infant mortality rate.

Homeless Man Like a Mobile Pharmacy

(La Porte, IN) - A homeless man in La Porte was like a walking pharmacy.

 

46-year-old Joseph France is charged with having controlled substances without a prescription. He was also allegedly carrying methamphetamine.

 

Police say an officer recognized France last week outside a hardware store on East Lincolnway and knew he had a warrant out for his arrest.

 

According to court documents, multiple controlled substances like suboxone, naloxone, methamphetamine, and marijuana were recovered from his backpack.

 

The warrant he had out for his arrest was for the invasion of privacy.

Charges in Scrap Burglary Case

(La Porte County, IN) - Charges have been filed in La Porte County for stealing over a thousand pounds of metal and selling it as scrap.

 

40-year-old Donald Helms allegedly broke into TT Machining and Fabricating in Michigan City in December last year.

 

Authorities say he took over four thousand dollars in raw metal from the facility. The metal was sold at Paul’s Auto Yard in Westville. Helms allegedly sold the metal he carried in buckets on four separate occasions.

 

According to court documents, the La Porte man told investigators he did it because he’s homeless, eating out of trash cans, and on meth.

First Ever Perfect Score for Indiana Student

(Mishawaka, IN) - A northern Indiana high school student is celebrating rare perfection.

 

Felix Zhang was one of hundreds of thousands of kids who took the AP calculus exam each year. But, the Penn High School junior is believed to be the only student in the world to achieve perfection on the test.

 

The test score ranges from 1 to 5. Not only did Felix get a 5, but he received a perfect score by answering every problem correctly.

 

Zhang told ABC News he was just focused on doing his best.

 

“It was really nice being able to have like a perfect score,” Zhang said.

His score was 108 out of a possible total of 108 points.

 

Zhang was one of 270,000 students worldwide to have taken the AP exam in May 2022, when he was just a sophomore.

 

About 20% of students who took the test at the time earned a score of five, the largest percentage since 2016.

 

Zhang said he also told his parents, who were proud of him for his accomplishment.

La Porte Native Stays Home for Hurricane

(Orlando, FL) - A former La Porte man is hunkered down for the hurricane approaching Florida.

 

Greg Schultz lives near Orlando, about 60 miles from the Gulf Coast, where Hurricane Ian is approaching.

 

With current wind speeds topping 150 miles per hour, the hurricane is expected to be strong once it hits land and moves across the state.

 

Schultz said he decided to wait out the storm at home instead of evacuating the area, with past experience cited as a factor in staying home. He also revealed power outages where he lives are rare because the infrastructure delivering electricity in his area is below the surface.

 

“We don’t have power lines. Everything is underground. We have a generator. We’re not surrounded by a bunch of trees,” Schultz said.

Schultz said his house is also high enough above the ground to avoid flooding or at least the worst of the expected flooding.

 

“I am a little nervous. Twenty inches is a lot of rain no matter how you look at it,” Schultz said.

The hurricane could have 150 miles per hour winds once it hits the west coast of Florida later today.

Identity Theft in Car Purchase Triggers Chase

(La Porte, IN) - It appears identity theft was involved in a high-speed chase ending with a crash in La Porte over the weekend.

 

Charged with fraud and other counts like resisting law enforcement is 29-year-old Anteis Robinson. According to court documents, Robinson came to the area on Saturday from Indianapolis.

 

Police said personal information stolen from a downstate woman was used to purchase a 2020 Dodge Charger from La Porte Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram on Pine Lake Avenue.

 

According to court documents, Robinson fled from the dealership at high speeds in the car when the fraudulent purchase was detected. Police chased him down Pine Lake Avenue and Lincolnway before crashing on J Street outside the Family Express.

 

Robinson was held in the La Porte County Jail on a $15,000 bond.

 

No serious injuries resulted in the crash involving two other vehicles. However, the sports car nearly hit a La Porte man on foot during the pursuit.

 

Tommy Sosinski, 24, said he was walking beside Pine Lake near Indiana 39 when the fleeing orange-colored Dodge Charger veered around vehicles stopped at the traffic light and was in the grass coming toward him.

 

“He had to be going like 100 miles per hour, and, luckily, I jumped out of the way,” Sosinski said.

Zoning Changes Under Microscope

(New Buffalo, MI) - The process of updating the City of New Buffalo's zoning ordinance is well underway.

 

The first public meeting to review the proposed new ordinance was held Monday before the New Buffalo City Council and New Buffalo Planning Commission at City Hall.

 

Mayor John Humphrey said rezoning is supposed to happen every ten years, but the last official update to the zoning ordinance in the city was in 2001. Humphrey said one of the objectives is to eliminate the many inconsistencies in the current zoning ordinance.

 

"We need an updated, concise and streamlined plan with a vision that meets the expectations of the growth and future use of the city," Humphrey explained.

Ruben Shell from the Chicago-based urban planning and design firm Houseal Lavigne Associates presented a draft of the revised zoning ordinance based mainly on input from the community and a diagnosis of the existing zoning that began in April.

 

In some zoning districts, few changes were made to existing boundaries.

 

Shell said one of the goals where changes are more noticeable is to promote more seasonal housing north of U.S 12 and more year-round housing south of U.S. 12. Other desires reflected in the proposed adjustments to the zoning map include improved parking, walkability, and aesthetics in areas like U.S. 12 and Whittaker St.

 

Some concern was expressed about the impact on property owners whose structures are on the land where changes in zoning are proposed. However, officials said there would be no changes in existing use unless the building is torn down.

 

Councilman Mark Robertson emphasized there are two more meetings for members of the public to ask questions and voice any opposition to the proposed revised zoning ordinance. He said changes in the proposal could be made in response to concerns before the city council votes on the final draft and reassured those in attendance that "nothing is set in stone."

 

Planning Commission Chairman Paul Billingsley said the draft is a working document open for adjustments during the approvals process.

 

“You can’t do this and not offend somebody. You just have to deal with it as it comes up,” Billingsley said.

The updated zoning also contains proposed changes to promote the creation of businesses and professional office space serving citizens and members of the vacationing public. Other matters like standards for storefronts and setback requirements are also contained in the draft.

Former Detectives Facing Charges

(Knox, IN) - Two former Starke County Sheriff's Department detectives have been indicted.

 

Charges like Dealing Marijuana and Dealing Paraphernalia were leveled against Adam Gray, 50, of Knox. Gray is also charged with four counts of official misconduct and two counts of theft.

 

Don Ferguson, 54, of South Bend, is facing charges such as official misconduct and theft of a firearm. Ferguson is also accused of two additional accounts of official misconduct, a second count of theft along with false informing.

 

According to Indiana State Police, the indictments were handed down after a grand jury reviewed the evidence presented in the case.

 

Police say both men turned themselves in at the Starke County Jail.

Door Opens for Car Battery Maker

(South Bend, IN) - The door is wide open now for the maker of electric car batteries to locate outside New Carlisle.

 

Last night, the St. Joseph County Council approved a tax abatement for the company Ultium Cells, LLC. After that, officials say it’s up to the company to decide if they want to come.

 

At least one other community is in the running for the plant, which would be one of the area’s largest employers.

 

Opponents are concerned about the environmental impact of such an operation, but the company says there are plans to address those concerns.

Deer Hunting Safety Outlined

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana conservation officers are reminding hunters about safety with deer hunting season beginning.

 

The archery season for deer statewide begins October 1. Various other deer hunting seasons in Indiana run through January 31.

 

It is estimated that more than 300,000 people will participate in some form of deer hunting in the state during that period.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the most common injuries during deer seasons are accidents involving tree stands and elevated platforms.

 

DNR advises hunters to follow the safety tips listed below when hunting from an elevated position.

 

Before the hunt:

  • Read and understand the tree stand manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check tree stands and equipment for wear, fatigue, cracks, or loose nuts/bolts, paying particularly close attention to parts made of material other than metal.
  • Practice at ground level.
  • Learn how to wear your full-body safety harness correctly.

During the hunt:

  • Wear your full-body safety harness.
  • Use a tree stand safety rope.
  • Make sure to attach your harness to the tree before leaving the ground and that it remains attached to the tree until you return to the ground.
  • Maintain three points of contact during ascent and descent.
  • Use boots with non-slip soles.
  • Use a haul line to raise and lower firearms, bows, and other hunting gear.
  • Ensure firearms are unloaded, action is open, and safety is on before attaching them to the haul line.

Additional safety tips:

  • Carry emergency equipment, such as a cell phone and flashlight.
  • Make a plan before you hunt.
  • Tell someone your plan, including where you will hunt and when you plan to return.
  • Stick to your plan.
  • Identify game before pointing a firearm.
  • Know your target and what is beyond it.

Traffic Stop Turns into Heroin Bust

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte man was allegedly found with heroin during a traffic stop. Ryan Oberholtzer, 37, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 Felony Possession of a Narcotic Drug.

 

According to court documents, a La Porte County Police officer on September 19 stopped a vehicle for speeding on Indiana 2 just east of the city limits.

 

Oberholtzer was a passenger in the vehicle driven by a woman who explained, “she was running late to pick up her son from school.”

 

The officer became suspicious of a plastic baggie he spotted between the feet of Oberholtzer, who was in the front passenger seat.

 

According to court documents, his police dog, “Bosco,” was brought out and detected an odor of narcotics in the vehicle. During the search, 0.8 grams of heroin inside a red metal container was removed from a backpack on the passenger side floorboard.

 

A glass pipe with burn marks on the bottom was also allegedly recovered from the backpack. In addition, two other glass pipes with burn marks on the bottom were found underneath the driver’s seat.

 

The driver was allowed to go after being given a warning about her speed and her tinted windows being too dark, police said. 

Work Release Clock Ticking

(La Porte County, IN) - The work release center in La Porte County might have to shut down at least temporarily.

 

During Monday night’s La Porte County Council meeting, Interim Director Mericka Beaty said five male correctional officers plan on quitting after recently submitting two-week notices.

 

Beaty said the facility housing more than 50 male offenders and close to 10 female offenders would have just one male correctional officer if all of them follow through on their intentions of leaving once the notices expire on October 7.

 

“I have some female workers who are considering doing the same thing,” Beaty said.

Beaty also said there are no job applicants for openings at the already short-staffed facility near the fairgrounds. She cited low pay and having to work a lot of overtime for an extended period as significant factors in the latest departures.

 

Beaty said correctional officers are also not paid cash for overtime. Instead, they receive compensatory time but cannot utilize their time off from work because of the low staffing numbers.

 

In response, the council voted to endorse a 10 percent pay increase for correctional officers at the facility. The proposed increase in pay is expected to come up for a formal vote by the council next month.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias said there might not be any other choice but to temporarily close the facility until enough job applicants are found and trained to become correctional officers.

 

“That program needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. There’s some really good staff there, but it’s going to take some time,” Matias said.

The La Porte County Community Corrections Advisory Board must make any decision to close the facility.

 

One of the advisory board members is La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd, who said there are options for the offenders should the work release center close until staffing levels are restored. He said the possibilities include judges ordering offenders to continue serving their sentences in the county jail or on home detention.

 

Boyd said work release allows non-violent offenders to financially support their families by allowing them to be employed and stay at the facility until returning to their jobs. He said the facility also helps prevent jail overcrowding.

 

“I’d hate to see it go by the wayside,” Boyd said.

Stray Bullet Scare for Young Family

(La Porte County, IN) - A Rolling Prairie family had a close call with an apparent stray bullet while driving home.

 

According to La Porte County Police, a 31-year-old man and his wife and child were in the 400 North and 850 East area at about 1 p.m. on Sunday when they heard a loud bang. When they got home, police said a bullet hole was in the driver’s side door near the window.

 

About a half mile from where the vehicle was struck, police said several individuals were doing some target shooting to prepare for deer hunting season. 

 

The stray bullet could have come from that location, but there was a large backstop about five feet high, eight feet wide, and ten feet deep, along with dense woods. Police said the backstop was made of earth, wood chips, and logs.

 

According to police, the bullet did not go all the way through the door of the vehicle.

Body Recovered from Lake Michigan

(Michiana, MI) - Authorities are investigating the discovery of a body in Lake Michigan near the Indiana-Michigan state line.

 

According to the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office, at about noon yesterday, emergency responders were called to the 4000 block of Lakeshore Drive in the Village of Michiana for a body floating in the water.

 

Police said efforts were being made to identify the victim, described as a white or light skin black male in his 30s. The victim was further described as about six feet tall with a medium build.

 

Police said the body was recovered with help from the New Buffalo Township and Michiana Shores fire departments.

 

An autopsy is scheduled today at the Western Michigan University School of Medicine.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Grand Beach/Michiana Police Department at (269) 469-1884.

Local Man Dies in Porter County Crash

(Porter County, IN) - A La Porte man has been identified as the victim of a fatal motor vehicle collision last week in Porter County.

 

Authorities say 57-year-old Tony Passafume was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

The crash happened Wednesday afternoon on Indiana 2 just east of Valparaiso.

 

Porter County Police say Passafume was passing other vehicles when he veered off the highway and struck a guardrail.

 

A female passenger who was not identified was taken to a hospital with neck and back injuries, police said. 

Close Call with Pedestrian in Chase

(La Porte, IN) - A man on foot was nearly hit by a sports car chased at high speeds by police in La Porte over the weekend.

 

24-year-old Tommy Sosinski said he was walking beside Pine Lake when catching his attention was a high-speed pursuit southbound on Pine Lake Avenue. 

 

Sosinski of La Porte said he quickly had to go to extremes to avoid possibly being struck after the sports car veered around motorists stopped at the traffic light at Indiana 39. He said the fleeing vehicle was approaching him in the dirt and grass.

 

“He had to be going like 100 miles per hour, and, luckily, I jumped out of the way,” Sosinski said.

 

The pursuit continued on Pine Lake Avenue, westbound on Lincolnway, and around the curve at J Street before the collision at 6th Street.

 

Mia Tomei was home with her children on 3rd Street when she heard the unmistakable sounds of vehicles traveling at high speeds, then a crash.

 

“I was sitting out on my porch with my son who was playing, and I could hear the car actually go by. You could hear how fast it was going. Obviously, within a few seconds, I heard the accident happen. The impact was strong,” Tomei said.

 

The sports car, van, and possibly another vehicle were involved in the collision.

 

Tomei said she went down to the scene, and the sports car especially sustained heavy damage.

 

Another witness reported seeing one person being loaded into an ambulance. 

 

We’ll provide further information about the chase and crash once the police release the information.

Huge Rebound in Michigan Apple Crop

(Washington D.C.) - A near doubling of last year's apple crop in Michigan forecast by USDA seems right on the money judging from growers in the southwest part of the state.

 

"Everybody in the area has a huge apple crop," said Annette Bjorge, owner of Fruit Acres Farm Market and U-Pick at 3452 Friday Road in Coloma.

 

Bjorge estimated her 20 acres of apple trees doubled their production from last year when the crop was primarily hurt by early season bud-killing frost. She said there was no early season frost or freezes this year, and the weather during the growing season was ideal.

 

Bjorge wasn't sure if the size of her crop would set any personal records considering the orchard had been in her family since 1846.

 

However, she said her apple crop this year would be one of the best at her farm, which also raises peaches, cherries, pears, and other fruit on about 200 acres.

 

The USDA estimates 26.1 million bushels of apples will come out of Michigan this year compared to 15.6 million bushels in 2021.

 

According to USDA, many growers in Michigan are also expecting some of their best yields since 2016. Michigan is the third leading apple producer in the country, with an average five-year crop size of 22 million bushels.

 

Agnes Cielbauer predicted her apple crop this year would be about 40 percent larger than last year. Cielbauer and her husband, Joseph, have owned Twin Maple Orchards at 15352 Cleveland Ave. near Galien for 58 years.

 

Cielbauer also wasn't sure if any production records would be set for apples at her orchard but left it open as a possibility. She was confident, though, this year's crop will be one of her best, not just in terms of volume but also in the size and quality of her apples.

 

"There are no bad apples on the trees," Cielbauer said.

 

Cielbauer also described the weather as "just right" for pollination.

 

"We did have our bees working," Cielbauer said.

 

Doug Forraht described his apple crop as above average and estimated production at his two growing locations at roughly 25 percent above 2021.

 

"I don't know if it's a record year, but it's pretty good. A very heavy crop," Forraht said.

 

Forraht's family owns Forraht Fruit Farms at 960 E. Lemon Creek Road at Berrien Springs and The Shafer Farm at 9800 Hartline Road in Baroda. There are nearly 40 acres of apple trees at both sites combined, along with 16 acres of peach trees and one acre of pear trees.

 

Forraht also credited no early season frost and what could be viewed as perfect weather conditions during the growing season for an abundant crop.

 

"We had a lot of timely rains and enough heat, but it wasn't excessive," Forraht said.

 

According to the USDA, the highest apple-producing state in the U.S. is Washington, followed by New York. The USDA is projecting 154 million bushels of apples coming out of Washington this year or about six million bushels less than 2021 because of a wet, windy, and colder than typical spring in the state. On the other hand, apple production in New York is expected to climb from 31.9 million bushels to 34.5 million bushels in 2022.

 

The USDA estimates this year's apple production nationwide will be up by three percent.

Repaving to Begin Soon on Boyd Blvd.

(La Porte, IN) - One of the worst-conditioned roads in La Porte will be repaved. Boyd Boulevard will receive a new surface from Jefferson Avenue to Ohio Street.

 

"It's been a long time coming for years," said Mayor Tom Dermody.

 

Dermody said a bid for close to $750,000 was awarded recently to Rieth Riley Construction Company.

 

The city is paying just 20 percent of the cost of the contract awarded by the Indiana Department of Transportation. Federal dollars received by INDOT are funding the remainder of the expense.

 

Dermody said waiting to repave that stretch of Boyd Boulevard produced savings for local taxpayers. The city would have paid half the cost had it not been for the higher cost-sharing federal dollars later becoming available.

 

Dermody said the resurfacing is scheduled to be completed by the end of November.

 

Dermody also revealed Truesdell Avenue would also be repaved next year with help from a monetary gift by the La Porte Healthcare Foundation.

 

Chase Ends with Two Vehicles Colliding

(La Porte, IN) - A police chase in La Porte ended with a crash over the weekend. So far, police have not released any details.

 

We know the pursuit ended in a collision between a sports car and van at 6th and J Streets outside the Family Express.  According to witnesses, the Saturday afternoon pursuit also ventured down Pine Lake Avenue.

 

We’ll provide further information as it becomes available from local authorities.

 

Local Schools Navigating Transgender Bathroom Pressures

(La Porte County, IN) - Local school districts are grappling with the issue of accommodating transgender students in school bathrooms. It’s a delicate and controversial matter that school leaders are handling carefully.

 

At New Prairie, for example, the district’s anti-discrimination policy already accounted for transgender students, but administrators have recently made an effort to make the policy more transparent to the community at large.

 

New Prairie Superintendent Dr. Paul White says his staff worked over the summer to design a process for allowing transgender students to access a bathroom of their choice.

 

“What we’re talking about is a legitimate instance in which a student is truly transgender, and is identifying with the opposite gender,” he said. “They have to go through our formal process with our guidance counselors and social workers. The Gender Support Plan is actually a document that becomes a part of their educational record and becomes a part of New Prairie’s documentation that we have given the okay under this particular process.”

 

According to White, the Gender Support Plan is a far-reaching document. It informs other aspects of student life such as preferred pronoun usage and accommodations for field trips and extracurriculars.

 

So how does a student achieve transgender status? White said the state has no standard for transgender identity, and federal courts have disregarded birth gender as the main qualifier. Mostly the determination is up to school counseling personnel. White said parents are encouraged to be part of that process, but their involvement is not required.

 

Contrary to some criticisms, the school policies have more to do with federal regulations than with progressive local school leaders. And lawsuits elsewhere have been the biggest factor. “One of the core values of our school system,” he said, “is that we be careful financial stewards of the district’s resources. And we are aware that other school systems, not only in our state, but in the Midwest, have ignored this legal precedent, and they have had to pay settlements for legal action that has been taken, and we just weren’t comfortable doing that.”

 

The law firm representing New Prairie has prepared a list of legal precedents for transgender bathroom usage. It includes recent federal mandates as well as several federal lawsuits. Courts have found on more than one occasion that transgender students must have access to whatever bathroom they feel comfortable in. White said this applies to students down to five years of age. According to him, about ½ of one percent of New Prairie students have transgender bathroom accommodations, including some elementary school children. He said most students are satisfied using a private faculty bathroom or something similar, but they can choose to use a public student facility.

 

White said the well-being of those students is also a priority. According to him, school leaders have taken to heart a statistic that transgender students are four times more likely to consider suicide. “Whether we agree or disagree personally, or don’t understand, we do need to try to be empathetic, because ultimately we do have a responsibility in a public school context to make sure every kid feels as safe as possible so they can focus on their learning.”

 

White acknowledged that other students may feel uncomfortable with transgender students using common bathrooms. In an effort to maximize privacy and safety, the district is in the process of installing additional partitions in all of their bathrooms. He said administrators are watching the situation closely and issuing strict disciplinary consequences for students who try to abuse the bathroom policy.

 

School officials at La Porte, Michigan City, and South Central school districts have confirmed to HomeTownNewsNow that they are following similar procedures. South Central Superintendent Ben Anderson said the following in a statement: “South Central has simply worked with the student and their parents when situations like this have come up.  This has worked for us, and we hope working collaboratively with families in this manner will continue to be effective.” According to La Porte Superintendent Mark Francesconi, his school corporation also develops a gender identity support plan for transgender students. “To date,” he said, “the process has worked well and we have been able to make accommodations that were amicable for all parties.” A spokesperson for Michigan City schools said: “Currently, MCAS makes a plan with the parent and school staff (principal and counselor) to allow the student to use a single-occupancy restroom if desired.”

 

A regular New Prairie school board meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 26. Dr. White said the transgender issue is not on the agenda and will not be discussed at the meeting. However, concerned parents are encouraged to contact the district office at any time for further explanation of the school’s policy.

Money Awarded to Help Victims of Crimes

(Indianapolis, IN) - Four La Porte County organizations have been awarded over $1 million total for supporting crime victims.

 

The grant money is administered through the state from a federal program that collects restitution from federal offenders. The money is intended for programs that respond to the emotional, psychological, or physical needs of crime victims locally.

 

Out of more than 190 organizations statewide, the following are recipients in La Porte County:

 

Dunebrook, Inc. received $293,259

Family Advocates, Inc. received $114,751

LaPorte County Prosecuting Attorney received $322,622

and the Stepping Stone Shelter for Women, Inc. received $381,754.

 

Over $2.2 million was awarded to five organizations in St. Joseph County. About $160,000 is going to two organizations in Starke County.

La Porte to be Featured on PBS

(South Bend, IN) - La Porte will be featured in a special on a local PBS station Monday night.

 

WNIT in South Bend will air an episode of Our Town that spotlights La Porte.

 

The television listing refers to La Porte as a "close-knit community between Chicago and South Bend thrives with community events, gatherings and the desire to be a healthy & vibrant community."

 

The episode airs Monday night at 7:00 Central time, then again at 8:30 on WNIT Channel 34.

 

Serious Injuries Suffered in Tree Stand Accident

(LaGrange County, IN) - A northern Indiana hunter suffered serious injuries while wrangling with some equipment earlier this week.

 

The accident happened Monday afternoon in Shipshewana.

 

According to the Department of Natural Resources, a hunter was up in a tree trying to remove a hunting stand when its supporting cables broke.

 

The 36-year-old Middlebury man fell 17 feet to the ground. He was able to access his cell phone and call for help. Conservation officers and other first responders tended to the man, who was airlifted to a Ft. Wayne hospital.

 

The DNR reported him to be in serious condition with injuries to his legs.

Abduction Attempt Reported in Walkerton

(Walkerton, IN) - Police are investigating an alleged abduction attempt in Walkerton earlier this week.

 

On Tuesday, the John Glenn School Corporation issued a statement to parents that a student had reported being approached and followed by a stranger.

 

The female student told authorities that a white male with thin white hair had tried to grab her from his car. The vehicle was described as a late-model four-door car with tinted windows.

 

The student claimed the man followed her for several blocks. Police are still investigating the incident and reminding parents to review stranger safety with their children.

#3 Rated Merrillville Rolls Over Slicers

(LAPORTE, IN) - The class 5A #3 rated Merrillville Pirates rolled into Kiwanis Field Friday night and defeated La Porte 41-3.

 

In the first quarter, the Pirates forced the Slicers into three and outs on their first two possessions and allowed a single first down on La Porte’s third possession. Merrillville scored touchdowns on three one-yard runs in their three opening-quarter possessions. DJ Love dove into the end zone at the 6:57 mark, capping a 56-yard drive. Next, Trey Stephens scored at the 2:56 mark after a 53-yard 7-play drive. Finally, quarterback Jaylen Thomas scored at the 33.6-second mark after moving 55 yards in 4 plays. Jovanni Martinez was good on all three extra points, and the Pirates led 21-0 after the first quarter.

 

Merrillville scored twice more in the second quarter. First, on an 11-yard Thomas to Javeon Gill pass at the 5:35 mark, and a Stephens 6-yard run at the 3:36 mark. Martinez split the extra points, and the Pirates lead 34-0 at the half.

 

La Porte came out fighting in the third quarter. Merrillville received the second-half kickoff, but the Slicers promptly forced a turnover. Thomas’ pass to the left was deflected by Javelle Broome and picked off by Keegan Anderson at the Pirate 20. La Porte could not get into the end zone but picked up 3 points on Jack Doty’s 33-yard field goal at the 8:39 mark of the 3rd quarter, making the score 34-3 Merrillville.

 

For the remainder of the third quarter, the Slicer defense came up with stops, and the offense, while unable to score, was able to move the ball.

 

Merrillville scored the game’s final points on Brady Barnett’s 14-yard run with 4:04 left. Martinez made it 41-3 Merrillville.

 

Sophomore Keigan Henckel got his first start at quarterback, replacing injured senior RJ Anglin, who is out with a broken collarbone. Henckel was 1-10 passing and ran four times for 3 yards. Junior Dylan Salisbury, usually a starting wide receiver, stepped in for the final few possessions and was 2-7 passing for 20 yards.

 

On the ground, the Slicers used a host of runners from their full house backfield set and standard single-back spread offense. Sophomore Tre’ Beghtel led the way with 29 yards on 11 carries. Kai Jones, a junior, had 22 yards on five carries, while senior Nathan Donah had 5 yards on two carries. Freshman Dawson Shreve had 5 yards on two carries in the fourth quarter. In addition, the Slicers got 10 yards on two carries by freshman Lucas DelRio and a 1-yard run from Brennan Balka from the truck full house backfield formation.

 

The La Porte defense led by Balka, Evan Back, Robbie Rompa, Broome, Anderson, and others played the talented Pirates to a second-half standstill.

 

Merrillville moves to 5-1 on the season and 3-1 in the DAC. They will host Valparaiso next Friday night.

 

La Porte falls to 1-5 and 1-3 in the DAC. They will host undefeated and 6A-rated Crown Point in next Friday’s homecoming game.

Merrillville Pirates vs. LaPorte Slicers Online Stream

(LAPORTE, IN) - The 5A #3 Merrillville Pirates (4-1) travel to LaPorte to take on the LaPorte Slicers (1-4) at Kiwanis Field. The Duneland Area Conference matchup begins at 7 PM, with coverage from Chip Jones and Steve Manering beginning at 6:45 PM. 

 

MERRILLVILLE KEY PLAYERS:

  • QB Jaylen Thomas: 52-94 for 916 yards, 7 TDs, and 5 INT
  • RB Justin Marshall: 819 yards and 12 TDs, 226 yards receiving - Colorado State commit 
  • WR John Peters: 259 yards receiving, 3 TDs
  • LB Rahkim McLin: 49 tackles, 6 TFL
  • DE Roshshaun McGee: 25 tackles, 6 TFL
  • S Philip Roche: 31 tackles, 3 TFL

 

LISTEN TO THE GAME: (Stream is over)

 

The SOUND OFF Podcast: LaPorte County Council District 2 Race

(LAPORTE, IN) - LaPorte County Council District 2 Candidate (D) Randy Novak visited the WCOE Studios to discuss his campaign. Councilman Novak discussed his opinions on the Local Income Tax, a possible North/South Corridor around LaPorte, the 39 North Conservancy District, the LaPorte County Home sale, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

Fatality Linked to Domestic Violence Claim

(Michigan City, IN) - It now appears a fatal motor vehicle crash involving a teenager at Ames Field in Michigan City last night stemmed from a domestic dispute.

           

Grant Grabel, 18, was from Bourbonnais, Ill, a village about 60 miles south of Chicago.

 

During a police chase, Grabel's vehicle went through the brick wall on the stadium's north side. The vehicle came to rest under the bleachers, which were heavily damaged in that section of the stadium home to the Michigan City High School football team.

 

"It went through the brick wall and under the bleachers, and that's where it ended up stopping," said LaPorte County Coroner Lynn Swanson.

 

Swanson also revealed he was apparently in Michigan City to visit his girlfriend.

 

At about 7:30 p.m., Michigan City Police said a juvenile reported a domestic battery. The adult male suspect in the alleged violence met with officers in the lobby of the Michigan City Police Department to return the property to the juvenile, police said.

 

Officers tried to gather additional information from the male, but he fled on foot and entered a vehicle. Grabel took off and refused to stop and crashed into Ames Field after starting to flee.

 

Indiana State Police were brought in to investigate the crash.

 

According to Indiana State Police, the preliminary investigation shows Grabel about 8 p.m., was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of Michigan Boulevard, a four-lane highway that runs past the police station.

 

Michigan City Police tried pulling over the vehicle, but the driver refused to stop, triggering the pursuit. The chase went down multiple city streets at "relatively low speeds" until reaching Washington Street, where the driver accelerated, police said.

 

Police said Grable was traveling at high speeds when he failed to stop at the intersection with Skiwat Legion Avenue. His vehicle then struck the concrete pillars outside Ames Field and went airborne before crashing through the stadium wall, police said.

 

According to police, Grable had to be extricated from the vehicle. Life-saving measures were applied, but he was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

 

Indiana State Police is investigating the crash and reconstructing the scene at the request of the Michigan City Police Department. 

 

Swanson said whether the driver had consumed alcohol or drugs is pending the toxicology test results.  

 

Michigan City Police said further information related to the domestic violence report would not be released to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

Police Catch Up to Busy Burglar

(La Porte County, IN) - Technology helped snare a suspect who’s allegedly turned crime into a career.

 

David Davis, 49, is charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with level 5 felony burglary.

 

With help from another suspect, Davis allegedly broke into a building on July 3 at Amish Structures, Inc. at 8555 W. U.S. 20 outside Michigan City. 

 

According to court records, a surveillance camera captured Davis prying open a door and the other man going inside the structure and handing items to Davis through a window. The undisclosed items were placed into a 2002 Chevy Tahoe, which left the property in less than 30 minutes.

 

According to court documents, pictures of the suspects taken from the surveillance footage were developed and transmitted to area police agencies. Within minutes, an officer with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Tribal Police recognized one of the men as Davis because of prior dealings with the man.

 

Police said Davis is known for burglarizing and stealing tools to sell at flea markets in the area. Davis is also charged with theft in surrounding counties.

 

According to court documents, the other suspect, Frank Rogers, 67, of South Bend, was later identified as the other suspect in the burglary at Amish Structures, Inc. He’s also charged in connection with the case but has not been taken into custody yet.

Police Give Details in Fatal Car Pursuit

(Michigan City, IN) - An 18-year-old Illinois man was killed Thursday night when his car during a pursuit by police crashed through the brick wall of Ames Field in Michigan City. Grant Grabel was from Bourbonnais, a village about 60 miles south of Chicago.

 

The collision left a gaping hole in the wall.

 

The vehicle came to rest under the bleachers, which were heavily damaged in that section of the stadium home to the Michigan City High School football team.

 

“It went through the brick wall and under the bleachers, and that’s where it ended up stopping,” said LaPorte County Coroner Lynn Swanson.

 

According to Indiana State Police, the preliminary investigation shows Grabel about 8 p.m., was spotted traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of Michigan Boulevard, a four-lane highway also known as U.S. 20.

 

Michigan City Police tried pulling over the vehicle, but the driver refused to stop, triggering the pursuit. The chase went down multiple city streets at “relatively low speeds” until reaching Washington Street, where the driver accelerated.

 

Police said Grable was traveling at high speeds when he failed to stop at the intersection with Skiwat Legion Avenue. His vehicle then struck the concrete pillars outside Ames Field and went airborne before crashing through the stadium wall, police said.

 

According to police, Grable had to be extricated from the vehicle. Life-saving measures were applied, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

Indiana State Police is investigating the crash and reconstructing the scene at the request of the Michigan City Police Department. 

 

Swanson said whether the driver had consumed alcohol or drugs is pending the toxicology test results.  

Progress in Scheduling Mobile Voting Unit

(La Porte County, IN) - A mobile voting unit is expected to start hitting the roads in La Porte County soon for the November 8 election.

 

Last year, the unit was purchased for $67,000 with a grant. On Thursday, the La Porte County Election Board decided to develop a schedule for using the van for early voting.

 

La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens, one of three election board members, said efforts are underway to secure locations throughout the county for people to use the van for early voting.

 

The election board also directed her to contact the respective chairman of the Republican and Democratic parties in LaPorte County to see if they have any suggested locations for the van.       

 

“A schedule is being put together right now,” Stevens said.       

 

Stevens said the election board would meet again on October 5 to approve and issue public notice of the schedule.

 

The election board regained control of the van on Wednesday. By a majority vote, the LaPorte County Commissioners placed the van under the authority of their office on September 7, citing frustration over the van not being used since the May primary for registering people to vote and early voting.

 

Two weeks later, the commissioners voted unanimously to give control of the van back to the election board after Stevens revealed she was prepared to file a lawsuit against the commissioners.

 

Stevens said the grant used to purchase the van was sought on behalf of the election board. She also said the clerk and election board are the election administrators, not the commissioners.

 

Mrozinski and Matias argued, however, that the van was titled to the commissioners. They later cited a desire to avoid spending tax dollars on a legal fight as one of the reasons for returning the van. 

 

The election board has not decided whether to use the van for registering people to vote. However, Stevens said there’s probably not enough time to use it for that purpose since the deadline for registering to vote statewide is October 11. 

Teen Killed in Ames Field Crash

(Michigan City, IN) - An 18-year-old man was killed when his car crashed into Ames Field in Michigan City last night.

 

The La Porte County Coroner’s Office identified the victim as Grant Grabel of Bourbonnais, Illinois. The village is about 60 miles south of Chicago.

 

La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said he was apparently in Michigan City visiting his girlfriend. She also said there was a police chase before the crash, which left a large hole in the brick exterior wall of the stadium where the high school football team plays on Franklin Street in the heart of the city.

 

Swanson said the vehicle came to rest underneath the bleachers.

 

“It went through the brick wall and under the bleachers, and that’s where it ended up stopping,” Swanson said.

 

The section of bleachers where the collision occurred was heavily damaged.

 

Swanson said the driver was pronounced dead at the scene. She said whether alcohol or drugs were involved is pending the results of a toxicology test. So far, police have not released further details.

 

 

 

Crash into Ames Field

(Michigan City, IN) - A vehicle left a hole in the outside brick wall of Ames Field in Michigan City last night. The crash happened during a high-speed chase.

 

So far, police have not released any details.

 

Sources say about 100 people were amazed at the damage and concerned about the driver gathering outside the Franklin St. stadium while emergency responders worked the scene.

 

The collision happened about 30 minutes after a freshman football game at the stadium.

 

We’ll provide more details as they become available.

 

 

Indiana Abortion Law on Hold

(Indianapolis, IN) - A temporary hold has been placed on Indiana's new abortion law, which is one of the most restrictive in the country. The ruling is in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other plaintiffs like Planned Parenthood of Indiana.

 

The law, which took effect September 15, bans abortion except in some instances of rape or incest and if the life or health of the unborn child's mother and baby are at risk.

 

In her ruling, Special Judge Kelsey B. Hanlon from Owen County said abortion was not legal when the Indiana Constitution was written. However, the Republican judge said language in the state constitution suggests a "reasonable likelihood" that decisions about family planning, including whether to carry a pregnancy to term, are protected.

 

Republican Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said his office plans to appeal the decision.

 

"Our office remains determined to fight for the lives of the unborn, and this law provides a reasonable way to begin doing that," Rokita said in a statement.

 

In a joint statement, the ACLU of Indiana and other plaintiffs in the case welcomed the decision but said, "this is just one step along a long road to protect abortion rights."

Hoosier Star Winners Revealed

(La Porte, IN) - The winners of this year’s Hoosier Star singing competition in LaPorte have been announced.

 

Savannah Holley of Michigan City was the first-place finisher in the youth division of the contest held Saturday at the Civic Auditorium. Second place in the youth division went to Krishaa Motycka of Terre Haute.

 

Julia Thorn of Crown Point took first place in the adult portion of the competition, while Shania Povlock of LaPorte was the second-place finisher.

 

Addison Stout of Ft. Wayne was the winner of the Joe Mellen Award.

 

The annual competition featuring talent throughout Indiana and southern Michigan is a major fundraiser for the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra. The singers perform to the sounds of the live orchestra during the always heavily attended event.

 

“This year’s Hoosier Star was incredibly competitive. Every finalist performed beautifully,” said LCSO Executive Director Tim King.

 

The 2023 Hoosier Star auditions will take place on Saturday, March 18, and Sunday, March 19.

Michigan City Boy Honored for Saving Life

(La Porte County, IN) -  A 10-year-old Michigan City boy is credited with saving the life of an older man who could not get up off the floor of his house for an extended period.

 

Jonathan Mendez was given a "Certificate of Recognition for Exemplary and Life Saving Service" from the La Porte County Sheriff's Office. He also received a "challenge coin," described by Sheriff John Boyd as one of the most memorable awards seldom handed out by his department.

 

The presentation was made during Wednesday night's La Porte County Commissioners meeting.

 

"We preach every day; if you see it, report it. That's exactly what Jonathan did," Boyd said.

Mendez, on August 25, was going door to door selling candy bars as a fundraiser for his school. He approached a house on Clover Lane near Michigan City High School and heard someone inside yelling for help.

 

The boy was able to look inside and noticed the pleas from an older man on the floor.

 

Mendez called 911, triggering a response from emergency personnel from several different agencies.

 

Coolspring Township Volunteer Firefighter Rick Bradford said the man was emaciated and had been on the floor for three days. 

 

The 80-year-old man was transported to a hospital and later a nursing home for recovery, said Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith. Smith said the plan is for the man with cancer to, eventually, move in with his son.

 

Dr. Vidya Kora, who has a medical practice in Michigan City, said it's not uncommon for older adults living by themselves not to be able to get up after a fall and go unnoticed until help arrives. He said people could die in as little as two or three days if they cannot adjust their bodies' position.

 

Kora said dehydration and malnutrition develop from lack of access to food and water. Rhabdomyolysis can also set in when muscles from being compressed to the hard surface begin releasing enzymes into the bloodstream. Kora said the enzymes damage the kidneys and can trigger an irregular heartbeat.

 

Kora said people could survive laying on the floor for up to a week or more depending on their health and physical condition before the fall.

 

"My hats off to this young boy who really reached out and got some help for this elderly individual," Kora said.

Mendez, an honor roll student at Edgewood Elementary School, was joined by his parents, Luis and Matilde, for the recognition.

 

The boy also received a certificate from the La Porte County Firefighters Association and a La Porte County Emergency Medical Services sweatshirt.

 

"It's an absolute honor to have the opportunity to meet this wonderful young man and thank him for his act of kindness that ultimately saved a life that day," said EMS Administrator Andrew McGuire.

Voting Van Returned to Election Board

(La Porte County, IN) - A mobile voting unit has been returned by the La Porte County Commissioners as promised.

 

Two weeks ago, two of the three members on the commission voted to seize control of the van from the La Porte County Election Board, saying the van had hardly been used since purchased last year, and they wanted it used more frequently. 

 

The decision sparked controversy because one of the commissioners, Democrat Sheila Matias, is up for reelection on November 8.

 

Last week, Matias said the van would be returned to the authority of the election board while adding she wanted the van used more in places like schools and festivals to register people to vote and for early voting.

 

At last night's commissioner's meeting, citizens like Republican Liz Bergeron of Michigan City said the van should be returned to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

 

"Appearance is everything, and the image we're giving our county is that a commissioner who's up for reelection is going to be able to decide where the van goes and where the van doesn't go," Bergeron said.

 

Resident Heather Oake, also a Republican, echoed similar sentiments.

 

"The Bible says not to even have the appearance of evil. I personally wouldn't want the public to even think that there could be any wrongdoing going on," Oake said.

 

Fran Sinclair, an employee in the La Porte County Voter Registration Office, said the cost of operating the van wouldn't be worth the handful of people who might use it to register to vote. She said other methods are currently being used to reach people to register for voting, like personal visits to their homes.

 

Matias said there was nothing underhanded planned with the van. Instead, she blamed politics for her opponents thinking otherwise. She also said the reason for raising the issue was to draw attention to the van so it would be used more frequently.  

 

"They made it sound like Sheila, herself, was going to drive the van and try to pick up voters and have them vote for me. That's just not how anything works. To put that suspicion in people's minds is quite frankly lame and embarrassing," Matias said.

 

Matias is being challenged by Republican Connie Gramarossa, a member of the La Porte County Council and a former Commissioner.  

 

Gramarossa questioned the need for the van, considering registering to vote can be done online, and school children, in particular, know exactly how to use a computer or some other device.

 

Republican La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens threatened to take legal action unless the commissioners returned the van to the authority of the election board.

 

Stevens, one of three election board members, said the van would be used more, but it was too early to know precisely when it would first hit the road this fall. Stevens says that it was used on several occasions before the May primary.

 

"We're putting that schedule together right now," Stevens said.

Guilty Plea in Child Abuse Murder

(La Porte, IN) - A LaPorte County man has admitted to the abuse-related death of his four-year-old son.

 

Alan Morgan, 29, pleaded guilty yesterday to murder and other counts. In exchange, prosecutors have agreed not to seek life without parole.

 

According to court documents, his son, Judah, was found dead naked and wrapped in a blanket nearly a year ago at the family’s home in the 3100 block of E. 875 South. The child was covered in bruises and red marks on his head.

 

Authorities say Morgan sent his son to the basement as punishment for not being potty trained as much as three times or more a week. According to police, the boy endured countless forms of abuse before being allowed to come back up with the rest of the family.

 

Morgan could receive anywhere from 45 to 65 years on the murder charge. Sentencing is scheduled before La Porte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos for November 29.

 

The boy’s mother is charged with neglect of a dependent for failing to report the abuse to authorities. She told investigators she was afraid of being harmed by Morgan if she did so.

 

That case has not been decided.

Historians of Year Receive Awards

(LAPORTE, IN) - The La Porte County Historical Society honored the 2022 Historians of the Year last evening.

 

Greg Fruth and Mark Williams were recognized at the LCHS Museum on U.S. 35 on the southern edge of La Porte. Recognition was also paid to the Peter C. and Charlene J. Kesling Foundation for all their achievements in preserving and promoting the history of La Porte County. 

 

Fruth is a former history teacher in La Porte, while Williams has been a resource for the museum from all of the pictures related to local history he’s taken over the years.

 

Fruth and Williams had their picture taken with Susanne Kamont, a representative for the Kesling Foundation and the winner of a lifetime membership to the Historical Society.

 

Historical Society President and La Porte County Historian Bruce Johnson is also in the picture.

Charges in Hot Tempered Driver Chase

(Michigan City, IN) - The squealing of tires and then a police chase have resulted in multiple felony charges against a Michigan City man.

 

Michael Zawacki, 30, is charged with resisting law enforcement, operating while intoxicated and other counts.

 

According to court documents, Michigan City Police officers on September 13 were called to a possible domestic dispute in the area of Oakwood Avenue and Elmer Street.

 

Upon arrival, officers heard what sounded like arguing and then spotted a vehicle with tires squealing headed in their direction. A man and woman were inside the vehicle as it drove by the officers, who yelled for the driver to slow down.

 

In response, the driver allegedly stomped on the gas pedal again. The officers ran back to their police vehicles and chased after the suspect, who refused to pull over and shut off the headlights at times to try and evade the pursuing officers, police said.

 

After veering down numerous streets, the fleeing vehicle pulled into a parking lot and stopped on Franklin St. just north of U.S. 20, court documents revealed. 

 

Police said Zawacki, with alcohol on his breath, fled on foot unsteady but was captured when hit with a probe fired from a taser gun. He also refused a blood alcohol test.

 

The female passenger explained she kept telling Zawacki during the pursuit to stop, and she wanted out of the vehicle, but he refused to comply with her requests, according to court documents.

Surveillance Footage Exposes Scrap Thieves

(La Porte County, IN) - Charges have been filed concerning the theft of scrap metal from a popular Michigan City area food store.

 

Jeffrey Griffin and Ronald Prichard are charged with level 5 felony theft.

 

According to court documents, the Michigan City area men about 4:30 a.m. on August 20, were captured on surveillance video placing stainless steel tubing and bracketing into the trunk of a car at Eastside Produce at 4666 W. U.S. 20.

 

Police said the store owner began calling scrap yards in the area after discovering the theft three days later. He contacted police after discovering a man on the same day of the theft sold 520 pounds of stainless steel for $150 at Paul's Auto Yard in Westville.

 

The man was described as a regular seller of metal at the salvage yard.

 

According to court documents, police were given his address and went to his home on Elston Street, where they located the suspects. They admitted taking the metal but claimed they were given permission from a butcher at the market named "John." However, the store owner said nobody by that name has ever worked at his store, which has been there for decades.

 

If convicted, Griffin and Prichard would face a one to six-year sentence.

Jail from Theft of Lighter

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man is behind bars again for allegedly stealing a cigarette lighter.

 

Timothy Borman, on August 23, was inside the Marathon station at 2101 E. Michigan Boulevard when he allegedly placed the lighter into his backpack. When confronted by a store employee, the 32-year-old Borman fled down an alley.

 

A picture of the alleged shoplifter taken by the store employee with a cell phone helped officers identify the suspect. Police said the lighter looked torch-like and was valued at $35.

 

According to court records, Borman has a long history of prior theft and drug-related charges and convictions. One of the most recent pending cases filed against him involves allegations related to methamphetamine.

 

Borman could face a 30-month prison sentence if convicted of stealing the lighter.

Arrest in Near Tragedy with School Bus

(La Porte County, IN) - An arrest has been made in connection with a very close call on a highway with a school bus in La Porte County.

 

56-year-old Chukudi Chinwah of Crown Point was allegedly driving a semi-truck nearly a month ago on U.S. 30 and approaching a South Central School bus from behind. 

 

La Porte County Police said the bus started slowing down to turn into a driveway, but the semi was not slowing down. The bus driver decided not to complete the turn to avoid a collision, and the truck driver swerved and passed the school bus on the right.

 

The truck wound up leaving the highway and snapping a NIPSCO pole in half. The truck stopped but soon left the scene.

 

Eventually, police said the investigation led to Chinwah being identified as the truck driver. He’s charged with leaving the scene of an accident, a Class B misdemeanor.

 

At the time, police said the bus contained more than 30 students.

Dog Causes ATV Highway Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - A man is recovering from injuries from an off-road vehicle crash in La Porte County. The accident happened a week ago near Fish Lake.

 

According to La Porte County Police, Robert Stodden, 45, was westbound on Indiana 4 on an all-terrain vehicle. Stodden told investigators he swerved to avoid a dog that ran out into his path and overturned the machine. His ankle wound up pinned underneath the vehicle.

 

Police said the Fish Lake area man was treated at the hospital for a swollen ankle and road rash on various parts of his body.

Goal is Michigan City Being First Stop from Chicago

(Michigan City, IN) - A developer wants Michigan City to be the destination for Illinois residents now driving past the community while on their way to New Buffalo and other parts of southwest Michigan.

 

Tom Dakich of YAB Development Partners told "Inside Indiana Business" he believes plans for a 12-story structure containing hotel rooms, condominiums, and other amenities like retail space will do just that.

 

“Bringing that money to Indiana and making Michigan City, not just a place that people drive past it as they’re going to southwest Michigan but staying here and seeing the benefit of the marina, the outlet mall, and the casino. That’s our goal,” Dakich said.

The $240 million development plans unveiled in March include two Wyndham branded hotels with more than 200 rooms on what's known as the "You Are Beautiful" lot.

 

The former News Dispatch newspaper and police station used to be on the property on U.S. 12 near the lakefront.

 

The project also contains nearly 150 condominiums, more than a dozen duplex homes along with 30,000 square feet of retail space, a grocery store, and an urgent care medical facility.

 

Dakich said groundbreaking could happen before the end of the year.

 

The development seems positioned to take advantage of the upgrades on the South Shore Railroad commuter line.

 

The second set of tracks is being laid from Michigan City to Gary to shorten round-trip travel times to Chicago by about one hour. An influx of people living and working in Chicago are expected to relocate to and visit Michigan City because of the more convenient rail travel. The development is less than a half mile from the new train station to be constructed as part of the mostly federally funded improvements to the rail line.

 

Dakich said close to 300 full-time, year-round jobs and more seasonal positions will be created from the mixed-use development.

 

A 12-story building containing upscale apartments and retail space is also planned by another developer on 11th Street just east of Franklin Street.

 

Construction is expected to begin on a seven-story housing development containing retail space for low and middle-income wage earners at 8th Street and Michigan Boulevard in the coming months.

 

“I believe that in five years, Michigan City will be entirely different, and we’re just a piece of that,” Dakich said.

Fiery Crash Linked to Alcohol Consumption

(La Porte County, IN) - A man injured in a fiery motor vehicle accident in La Porte County over the weekend was intoxicated, according to La Porte County Police, who arrested Richard Jones, 61, of Westville.

 

Police said a pick-up truck Jones was operating wound up in a ditch Sunday evening in the area of U.S. 6 and 800 East.

 

His 2000 Ford F-150 rolled on its side and caught fire. Jones suffered burns to his legs in his unsuccessful attempt to put out the flames.

 

After being treated at the hospital for his burns, Jones was transported to the La Porte County Jail with a blood alcohol level four times the .08 percent legal limit. Police found one cold beer left in a cooler recovered from the truck.

 

Jones told investigators he failed to negotiate a sharp curve in the road because he was blinded by the sun.

Golf Cart Travel Now Legal

(La Porte, IN) - Driving a golf cart on city streets in La Porte is now legal.

 

Last night, the La Porte City Council adopted an ordinance allowing golf carts under specific provisions to be used for travel.

 

To be street legal under the ordinance, a golf cart must have brake lights, tail lights, and other features of an automobile, like turn signals. The golf cart must also be insured, and drivers must be at least 16 and a half years of age.

 

City Attorney Nick Otis said golf carts could not be driven on state highways in the city but can cross state highways.

 

The lone objecting vote on the council, Roger Galloway, was against the measure as he feels a license plate should be required on golf carts. Otis pointed out that the state does not mandate license plates for mopeds.

 

Resident Lori Silva agreed with Galloway and also felt a driver’s license for the operator of a golf cart on city streets should be an added requirement. 

 

“If it’s got four wheels. Two wheels. If it quacks, it’s a duck. Okay. Come on. Let’s be safe,” Silva said.

Resident Brian Kajer spoke in support of the measure but felt enforcement is needed to keep golf carts from traveling on state highways. He notified the city council about seeing a girl who looked to be 13 years old operating a golf cart on Indiana 4.

 

“We are a lakeside community, and it’s pretty common in most lakeside communities, but we have to have enforcement,” Kajer said.

Pig Death Toll from Crash Released

(Bristol, IN) - We now know how many pigs were killed when the truck hauling them overturned in northern Indiana. The accident happened Thursday near Bristol.

 

Indiana State Police said 165 pigs were in the semi-trailer. Fifty of the pigs were killed. Another 13 pigs had to be euthanized due to injury under figures released Monday.

 

The driver of the hog truck was driving too fast, going into a curve, and the weight of his load shifted, causing the rig to overturn.

 

The driver, Justin Chastain, 19, of Rensselaer, suffered just minor injuries and refused medical treatment.

 

Police said he was heading to a meat processing plant in Logansport from Michigan.

Medical Episode Suspected in Wild Ride

(La Porte County, IN) - Last week, a medical episode was cited for a driver forcing other motorists off the road in La Porte County.

 

According to La Porte County Police, officers were notified about noon Wednesday about a reckless driver in the area of 600 East and Division Road.

 

The driver in an SUV often traveled in the opposite lane at speeds ranging from 75 to 100 miles per hour, police said. As a result, several motorists were forced to take evasive action to avoid a head-on collision. 

 

At one point, the driver was in a field in the area of 425 East and Division Road and was stopped once returning to the pavement.

 

The 66-year-old driver from Niles, Michigan, was sweating profusely, his hands were shaking, and the pupils of his eyes were dilated, police said. Initially, officers suspected the man was also struggling with his speech and was intoxicated, but he did not have the smell of alcohol on his breath.

 

Police said the man also denied being a diabetic. People with diabetes needing insulin can go into shock and exhibit symptoms similar to being intoxicated.

 

Police said he was transported to a hospital to treat an unknown medical condition.

New Path Could Be Laid for Mall

(Michigan City, IN) - The long-struggling Marquette Mall in Michigan City could have a different but similar future use.

 

The city has hired Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative to create a vision for the property.

 

City officials believe the mall property has excellent potential to become a residential neighborhood featuring retail and other commercial space.

 

The property is next to the busiest intersection in the city and two miles from where South Shore commuter trains will be traveling faster to and from Chicago after the ongoing construction of the double track is completed, officials said.

 

Officials with the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City have released pictures of a concept of what they believe the property could become.

 

“Both the City and community are eager to work with a developer to transform this 20th-century mall into a 21st-century live-work-play neighborhood,” officials said.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: LaPorte County Council District One Candidates

(LAPORTE, IN) - LaPorte County Council District One Candidates (R) Justin Kiel and (D) Mike Kellems visited the WCOE Studios to discuss their campaigns. They discussed their opinions on a new county jail, a corridor/bypass around the city of LaPorte, tax cuts, economic development, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

PHOTOS FROM THE SHOW: 

 

State Grant Funding More Water Upgrades

(LaCrosse, IN) - The Town of LaCrosse has been awarded a $3.27 million grant to continue improving its aging water system.

 

The funding from the Indiana State Revolving Fund will allow for the completion of the next phase of improvements to the system installed roughly 60 years ago, officials said.

 

The first round of upgrades was paid for with help from $2.76 million in grants and subsidized loans. As a result, the work is being paid for without a rate increase.

 

Without the outside sources of revenue, Town Council President Justin Kiel said the rate increase needed to fund the work would have been astronomical because of the system's relatively small number of customers.

 

"We have a great team of consultants, engineers, employees, and public officials who each executed their tasks perfectly to achieve something that our town will benefit from for decades," Kiel said.

The next round of improvements will focus on replacing existing water mains with larger ones to provide better fire protection and new hydrants.

 

The project's first phase included completing a new water plant, replacing mains, and chemical cleaning the town's wells.

Cause of House Fire Under Investigation

(La Porte, IN) - The cause of a fire that heavily damaged a house last week in La Porte remains under investigation.

 

The single-story home caught fire Thursday at about 6 p.m. at 1325 Federal Avenue.

 

Though heavy smoke was coming from the structure when firefighters arrived, Assistant Fire Chief Kelly Burke said nobody was home at the time of the blaze, and there were no pets inside.

 

"The homeowners were both at work. They had been gone for several hours," Burke said.

Burke says it appears the fire began in the living room, but the damage was extensive enough to make it more challenging to uncover the source of the fire.

 

Burke said it's possible the house could be ruled a total loss because of the damage.

New Area Attraction Will Have Something for Everyone

(South Bend, IN) - The longtime dream of an area businessman is finally coming to fruition.

 

Mark Tarner’s South Bend Chocolate Company will soon be the anchor for a multi-million-dollar tourist attraction on the northwest side of South Bend.

 

Construction has begun on a 90-acre parcel near the intersection of U.S. 20 and U.S. 31. In addition to a new and improved chocolate facility, Tarner is excited to unveil an 18-thousand-square-foot dinosaur museum.

 

Tarner has been collecting fossils for about twenty years. He is currently working a dig site in Montana, where he has found over 800 bones. His collection features a duck-billed dinosaur with skin still on it and a long-neck sauropod. Both will be displayed at the Indiana Dinosaur Museum, but not in the traditional format. “I kind of want to reinvent the dinosaur museum experience,” said Tarner, “make it a little more fun and hands-on.”

 

But Tarner’s famous chocolate and exciting dino experience may take a back seat to nature. An orchard, a grape vineyard, nature trails, and restored pastures complete with roaming buffalo will accent the property development. “It’s a very unique site,” Tarner said. “The Continental Divide goes through there. We’re going to have tours and hiking trails.” Tarner says he’s starting a new company called South Bend Farms, which will feature products grown and produced there. “It’s green, it’s new, it’s innovative, it’s for multiple generations,” he said. “It’s a one-of-a-kind, all-season attraction.”

 

Tarner is also renovating a corrugated metal building which he will repurpose as a restaurant called South Bend Public House.

 

A bulk of the construction Tarner says should be done next December. He says current South Bend Chocolate Company locations will remain in operation.

Details of Walorski Accident Revealed

(Elkhart County, IN) - More light has been shed on the cause of the August 3 crash in Elkhart County that claimed the lives of Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and three others. The Elkhart County Sheriff's Office has wrapped up the investigation of the accident.

 

According to an eyewitness, police say the Toyota RAV4 driven by Zachery Potts was attempting to pass a flat-bed truck when it swerved into the path of a Buick driven by 56-year-old Edith Schmucker of Nappanee.

 

Data collected from the Toyota’s electronics revealed that it was travelling at 82 mph about five seconds prior to the crash. Data also showed that the vehicle's motor was at idle speed, or "coasting," with its speed reducing to 77 miles per hour milliseconds before airbags deployed.

 

Police also say there is no evidence that cell phones were being used before or during the crash. And there were no signs of mechanical failure in either vehicle.

 

Indiana State Police also reviewed the evidence and reached the same conclusions.

Date Set for Bench Trial in New Carlisle Murder Case

(St. Joseph County, IN) - A trial date has been set for the alleged killer of a 6-year-old New Carlisle girl.

 

15-year-old Anthony Hutchens has been incarcerated pending psychological evaluations and court proceedings since he was accused of molesting and killing Grace Ross behind their New Carlisle apartment complex in March of 2021.

 

According to court documents reports, Hutchens waived his right to a jury trial in St. Joseph Superior Court 3 Friday. Hutchens appeared by phone from a juvenile detention facility where is is being kept.

 

He is scheduled to stand trial as an adult before a judge beginning January 23. A pretrial conference is set for January 6.

Hunters on the Lookout for Bird Flu

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Department of Natural Resources is asking Indiana hunters to do their part to stave off cases of avian flu during bird hunting season.

 

Earlier this year, Indiana and other states were hit with an outbreak of avian flu. Although cases declined during the summer, authorities are asking hunters to be aware of the sickness in the birds they hunt.

 

Hunters are advised to stay away from birds that appear sick and to process harvested birds in well-ventilated area, washing hands and equipment thoroughly.

 

This week the DNR issued the following guidelines:

 

Waterfowl with symptoms will often display unusual behaviors such as swimming in circles, tremors, a twisted neck, and/or have a general lack of coordination. In addition, sick birds may display nasal discharge, a cough, sneezing, and/or diarrhea.

If you see birds displaying these signs, or if you find multiple dead birds in a single area, report the case to Indiana DNR at on.IN.gov/sickwildlife.

Hunters can several precautions to slow the spread of avian influenza:

  • Do not harvest birds that appear obviously sick or found dead
  • Process birds outdoors or in a well-ventilated area
  • Wear gloves and wash hands before and after handling carcasses
  • Disinfect all equipment used on dead birds (e.g., knives, surfaces)
  • Refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and touching your eyes during processing
  • Double-bag feathers and all bird remains before disposal. Place bird remains in the inner bag and tie it closed. Dispose of gloves in the outer bag before tying it closed.
  • Prevent contact between all parts of wild birds and domestic birds
  • Cook meat thoroughly

Read more about avian influenza at on.IN.gov/avian-flu.To view more DNR news releases, please see dnr.IN.gov.

Slicers Fall to Lake Central and Lose Quarterback

(ST. JOHN, INDIANA) - La Porte, hoping to build on their upset win over Chesterton last week, traveled to Lake Central Friday to defeat the Indians for the second straight time. Instead, they came home with a 21-7 loss and lost quarterback RJ Anglin to what looked preliminarily like a broken clavicle.


The game started well for the Slicers. La Porte received the opening kickoff. However, Ollie Kring's nice return was erased by a blocking-in-the-back penalty backing LP up to their 9-yard line. The Slicers proceeded to go 91 yards and run just under 5 minutes off the clock scoring on a 24-yard Anglin to Dylan Salisbury pass. The key play in the drive was a 51-yard pass from Anglin to Tommy Samuelson. Jack Doty kicked the extra point, and the Slicers led 7-0.

 

The ensuing drive saw Lake Central drive into Slicer territory. Their drive was stopped by a Robbie Rompa interception at the La Porte 5-yard line. During the next possession Anglin, under pressure, was able to throw the ball away but fell on his shoulder and was done for the night. Sophomore quarterback Keigan Henckel replaced him.


Lake Central got on the board at the 9:01 mark of the 2" quarter on a 1-yard run by Xavier Williams. Owen Denny kicked the extra point, and the score was tied 7-7. However, the Slicer defense made a great stand later in the quarter when they stopped Lake Central on a 4th-and-3 at the Slicer 15.


Lake Central received the second-half kickoff and drove down the field, scoring at the 10:52 mark of the 3rd quarter on a 1-yard run by Williams. A bad snap cost the Indians the extra point, leading 13-7. After a short Slicer punt, Lake Central quarterback Chase Kwiatkowski scored from 39 yards out with 8:47 left in the third quarter. Williams ran the 2-point conversion in, and the score was 21-7 for Lake Central.

 

La Porte had trouble moving the ball after the Anglin injury. So the Slicers went to a more run-heavy offense mixing their full house backfield formation and standard spread offense. The Slicer defense had no answer for Xavier Williams. The 6-foot, 220-pound tailback ran for 205 yards, two touchdowns, and a 2-point conversion.


Anglin was 3-6 passing for 88 yards and a touchdown before his injury. Henckel was 3-12 for 44 yards with an interception. Tommy Samuelson caught two balls for 59 yards, Salisbury had two catches for 33 yards, Drew Flores caught one for 26 yards, and Gavin Garrett had one for 13 yards. Tre' Beghtel rushed seven times for 20 yards. Javelle Brome had an interception. 


La Porte falls to 1-4 on the year and 1-1 in the DAC. Lake Central is 3-2 and 2-1.


The Slicers host Merrillville next Friday at Kiwanis Field.

LaPorte vs. Lake Central Online Stream

(ST. JOHN, IN) - Chip Jones and Steve Manering bring all the live coverage on tonight's LaPorte Slicers (1-3) football game against the Lake Central Indians (2-2). The game begins at 7 PM, but coverage starts at 6:45 PM.

 

LAKE CENTRAL PLAYERS TO WATCH: 

  • RB Xavier Williams: 544 rushing yards, 4 TDs
  • WR Lamarr Richardson: 187 yards receiving, one TD
  • LB Jeffrey Lucas: 30 tackles, 4 TFL
  • DL Dominick Rose: 14 tackles, 4 TFL

 

*** GAME LIVE STREAM IS FINISHED

 

FINAL SCORE: 

Lake Central 21 
LaPorte 7

The SOUND OFF Podcast: LaPorte County Assessor Candidates

(LAPORTE, IN) - LaPorte County Assessor Candidates (R) John Matwyshyn and (D) Mike Schultz visited the WCOE Studios to discuss their campaigns. They discussed their views on property value assessments, tax rates in LaPorte County, and their unique qualifications for the position, among other things. 

 

Listen to the full episode: 

 

 

PICTURES FROM TODAY'S EPISODE: 

 

 

 

Waste Disposal for Public on Saturday

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County residents have a chance to dispose of a variety of unwanted items tomorrow.

 

The La Porte County Solid Waste District is hosting another “7-in-1 Collection” at the La Porte County Fairgrounds at 2581 W. Indiana 2.

 

Tires, appliances, electronics, shredding, Styrofoam, cardboard, and household hazardous waste items will be accepted from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

Anyone unsure about what they can dispose of during the event can contact the LCSWD office at (219) 326-0014.

Not Guilty in Father's Murder Trial

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte County man has been found not guilty of murdering his son.

 

Jason Wetzel, 60, fatally shot his 33-year-old son, Jeremiah, inside his residence in Wanatah in May of 2020. Wetzel claimed self-defense.

 

Defense Attorney Scott Pejic said both men had been drinking; after watching a movie together, the younger Wetzel began attacking his father, who was sleeping in a reclining chair. Wetzel, after breaking free and holding a gun, warned his son to stop his aggressive actions or he would shoot, but the younger Wetzel lunged at his father, who then pulled the trigger.

 

The La Porte Circuit Court jury deliberated for about seven hours before returning with the not guilty verdict.

 

“They did a good job. They carefully deliberated and paid attention throughout the course of the trial and considered all of the evidence or lack of evidence,” Pejic said.

 

There was also evidence of past conflict between the father and son, who apparently had been trying to patch up their relationship.

Sunflower Fair Tomorrow

(La Porte, IN) - The 23rd annual Sunflower Fair in La Porte is tomorrow, but the festivities begin this evening with live music downtown.  

 

More than 100 craft and non-profit vendors and a classic car show and food will be among the attractions. The always heavily attended event will also feature a rib cook-off, entertainment, kids' activities, and a kid's fun zone.

 

Other attractions include the La Porte Farmers Market and the Artists Gallery Walk.

 

The Sunflower Fair will be in the area of Michigan Ave. in the city's downtown from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

The main sponsor this year for the Sunflower Fair is American Licorice.

 

"Their participation in our community is so welcomed and recognized and appreciated," said La Porte Events Coordinator Brett Binversie.

 

Live music this evening will serve as a kick-off to the festivities. "Small Town," a John Mellencamp tribute band, will perform on an outdoor stage on Monroe St. north of Lincolnway. The event featuring food and beverage vendors begins at 6 p.m.

 

Binversie said Small Town would start playing between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Party Gives Commissioner the Boot

(La Porte County, IN) - There’s even more turmoil in the La Porte County Republican Party with the November 8 election on the horizon.

 

La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski has been stripped of his status as a member of the GOP. Last night’s decision by party members was unanimous.

 

La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens said Mrozinski’s support of the commissioners taking a mobile voting unit away from the La Porte County Election Board last week triggered the action. Stevens' wife, Heather, is the LaPorte County Clerk and member of the LaPorte County Election Board.

 

Mrozinski and Democrat Sheila Matias have since agreed to return the voting van to the election board. 

 

Stevens said the decision also follows a long line of broken promises he made to the party after switching over from the Democratic Party in 2016 and breaches of trust and other characteristics the party represents.

 

“This is about making it clear to the voters of this county that Mr. Mrozinski is not a Republican in any way, shape or form. He has betrayed his fellow Republicans and the values of the party,” Stevens said.

Stevens said Mrozinski attacking multiple Republican candidates was another reason for the vote.

 

He also cited Mrozinski’s alignment with La Porte Commissioner Sheila Matias in the decision-making process on the governing body, as well as the placement of a rubber snake outside the office of Republican La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz during the night as among the other examples of him breaking from the party.

 

Mrozinski and Stabosz, along with Republican Commissioner Joe Haney, are among the officials almost constantly at odds with each other in what's been an often bitter political battle for nearly two years. 

 

Mrozinski denied placing the snake until he was made aware of a video capturing him carrying out what’s been termed “snakegate.”

 

Mrozinski has come under fire by party members for his support of hiring Shaw Friedman as La Porte County government attorney and for maintaining his support for Friedman. 

 

This recent drama follows other party turmoil. Recently, Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski and La Porte County Councilman Mike Rosenbaum resigned as vice-president and secretary of the party. In her resignation letter, Pierzakowski stated, In the letter, she says, "my personal moral compass has no grey areas. I have voiced my opinion on several issues. However, my concerns have not been resolved."

Charges in Police Chase Collison

(La Porte County, IN) - A woman possibly on methamphetamine was chased by police from Michigan into La Porte County.

 

42-year-old Terry Wiltfong is charged with resisting law enforcement. She could face additional charges.

 

According to court documents, the Niles, Michigan, woman failed to stop for a Chikaming Township Police officer five days ago. The pursuit crossed state lines and, eventually, veered onto Michigan Boulevard, then ended on Johnson Road in Trail Creek when a collision occurred between her 1996 Dodge pick-up truck and the police vehicle from Michigan.

 

Fortunately, nobody was injured.

 

The driver was allegedly on methamphetamine, but that won't be known until the results come in from a blood sample test taken from the suspect.

 

 

School Lockdown Short Lived

(La Porte, IN) - Two schools in La Porte were placed under a temporary lockdown this morning. Fortunately, it was strictly precautionary.

 

Police said officers were at a residence in the area of La Porte High School and Handley Elementary School trying to serve an arrest warrant on an individual.

 

School officials were notified ahead of time, and the buildings were secured as a standard procedure.

 

Police said the warrant for a crime described as a low-level felony or misdemeanor was not served, though. The suspect was not home.

 

It wasn’t long before things at both schools returned to normal.

Federal Prison For Child Pornography

(South Bend, IN) - Producing child pornography has landed a Michigan City man behind bars for a long time.

 

Ashley Harper, 49, was given a more than 17-year federal prison sentence and five years of supervised release in U.S. District Court at South Bend. According to prosecutors, he could have received as much as a life sentence. The minimum sentence in the case was 15 years.

 

Harper admitted taking sexually explicit cellphone pictures of a five-year-old child in July 2021.

 

According to authorities, the Homeland Security Investigators investigated the case with help from Indiana State Police and Michigan City Police.

Voting Van Switches to Reverse

(La Porte, IN) - A mobile voting unit in La Porte County is being returned to the authority of local election officials.

 

La Porte County Commission President Sheila Matias made the decision which still requires a formal vote by her and her colleagues.

 

In a split vote on August 7, the commissioners seized control of the van from the La Porte County Election Board. Republican Rich Mrozinski and Democrat Sheila Matias voted to have the Commissioners be the controlling entity of the van, while Republican Joe Haney objected.

 

Matias said she would entertain a motion to return control of the van to the election board when the three-member commission meets again on Wednesday. However, Matias wants to avoid spending tax dollars on a legal fight threatened by La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens over control of the van.

 

Stevens is one of three members on the election board.

 

“Stevens wants control? She’s got it,” Matias said.

Matias says that she and Commissioner Rich Mrozinski raised the issue to motivate election officials to put the van into service. They expressed frustration that the van had not been used to register voters or provide access to absentee voter applications during the election season. The deadline to register to vote is October 11.

 

“The clerk has heard us loud and clear, which was our goal. I now ask the clerk to do what is right and get that van rolling to festivals, events, and high school parking lots,” Matias said.

The van purchased by the commissioners last year for $67,000 with a grant from a non-profit organization can also be used for early voting if the county wants to use it that way.

 

Stevens said the van was put into service for the May primary but admitted that it could be used more frequently. Stevens was prepared to seek a court order to have the van returned to the authority of the election board, claiming it was illegal for the commissioners to assume control of it.

 

Stevens feared that the commissioners, being elected and in charge of the van, would raise questions about election integrity, especially with Matias up for reelection this year.

 

“They overstepped their authority here. The election board runs the elections, and the clerk is your main election officer in every county,” Stevens said.

Commissioner Joe Haney said he supported Matias’ decision despite questioning her motive.  

 

“I think they know they did it illegally. They don’t have the authority to do it. That’s why they’re backing down. They knew a lawsuit was on the horizon,” Haney said,

Mrozinski said he’s also in favor of relinquishing control of it even though no laws were broken since the commissioners have title to the van.

 

“It’s our van. We’ll do what we want with it,” Mrozinski said.

Jail for Man Who Shot Himself

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man wound up behind bars after shooting himself.

 

Daniel Turner, 36, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm.

 

According to court documents, on August 25, officers responded to 504 E. Maple Avenue to find Turner in the dining room with a gunshot wound to his leg. Initially, Turner told investigators someone had come into his residence and shot him but later admitted to shooting himself.

 

According to court documents, Turner said he didn't tell the truth initially because he didn't want to go to jail. Turner's firearm use was illegal because of prior drug-related convictions. He also has a robbery conviction from 2010.

 

Turner is also facing a second charge of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm when officers allegedly found a gun inside his residence at the end of July.

 

Officers with a search warrant allegedly found glass smoking pipes, used syringes, cut-up straws, and a blue tray with tiny shards of a crystal-like substance before discovering the gun. The gun was fully loaded and cocked when found under a china cabinet.

 

Turner could face anywhere from a two to 12-year sentence on each count. 

Motorcycle Driver Killed in Semi Collision

(La Porte County, IN) - A Michigan City man was killed when he drove into the back end of a semi-truck on a motorcycle yesterday afternoon.

 

Timothy Hefner, 29, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to La Porte County Police.

 

Police said the investigation shows the 2006 Kawasaki was traveling recklessly and at a high rate of speed when it rear-ended the flat-bed trailer on a semi-truck on U.S. 20 near 400 West.

 

The truck driver, Daniel Smith, 46, of Toledo, Ohio, told investigators he decreased his speed to 40 miles per hour as he approached the area of the Renaissance Academy Montessori Center. He then felt something collide with the rear of the trailer and stopped to investigate.

 

Police said the results of a toxicology test on the victim were still pending.

Attempt to Stop Rural Population Losses

(Indianapolis, IN) - More resources are being invested to try and reverse population decline in rural areas of Indiana.

 

Indiana Farm Bureau has added a staff member to help keep better track of the issues hurting rural population growth so attempts can be made to address them. 

 

The action was taken in response to U.S. Census data revealing that 52% of counties in the state lost population, including most of Indiana’s mid-sized and rural counties.

 

“We know our members come from all areas of the state, but the majority come from rural areas. So, we’re trying to make sure that the resources and businesses located in those rural areas don’t suffer because of loss of population,” said Andy Tauer, executive director of public policy at INFB.

 

INFB hired Colette Childress, previously from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, as a local government policy advisor.

 

Since then, Childress has been able to visit 32 counties in her role to help INFB members engage more in their communities and work with local governments to improve the quality of life in those areas, INFB officials said.

 

“Keeping rural communities viable has always been an INFB priority. We’re just being more intentional and putting more resources toward that effort now,” said Randy Kron, president of INFB.

 

“We want to make sure our farmers are able to pass down their farms to the next generation. But that generation won’t be here if we don’t put in the effort at the local level now.”

Contractor Nailed on Drug Charges

(Long Beach, IN) - Police say a professional drywall finisher doing work in Long Beach was driving erratically before being caught with a dangerous narcotic.

 

Valerie Taylor, 47, is charged with level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine. She was being held for authorities in Cass County, Michigan, which had a warrant out for her arrest on a possession of methamphetamine charge.

 

According to court documents, early on September 8, a Long Beach Police officer observed an SUV pull out of a driveway and begin traveling on Lakeshore Drive at “12 to 14” miles per hour. However, the road beside Lake Michigan is under a 25 mph speed limit.

 

The vehicle then veered over the center line while turning right onto Chastleton Drive.

 

During a traffic stop, a badly sweating and shaking Taylor explained she’s the owner of Handy Dry & Painting, LLC in Osceola. Court documents revealed that she was hired to do some drywall repair and other miscellaneous repairs at the residence where she pulled out of the driveway.

 

According to police, she exhibited multiple signs of being under the influence of drugs. In addition, the amount of trash and disarray inside the 2007 Jeep Liberty also gave the officer the impression she and a man in the passenger seat were living out of the vehicle.  

 

Police said she was taken to the La Porte County Jail, where a small glass vial containing methamphetamine fell out of her bra.

 

She was also cited for driving left of center and doing work as an unregistered contractor, police said.

Charges for Punching Officer in Face

(Michigan City, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a Michigan City Police officer being punched in the face during a foot chase of the suspect.

 

Marcus Butler, 37, is charged with level 6 felony battery to a law enforcement officer and two misdemeanor counts.

 

According to court documents, the Michigan City man ran from officers responding to a report of a burglary in progress in the 200 block of Thurman Avenue on September 6.

 

Police said Butler wound up in the fenced-in backyard of a home on DuPage Street, where he tripped over a child.

 

According to court documents, officers tried to arrest the man during a struggle when he struck one of the officers in the face with a partially closed hand. Eventually, he was placed in handcuffs.

 

Police said Butler, complaining of back pain and bleeding from his head, was taken to Franciscan Health, where he yelled cuss words at staff members and refused to identify himself correctly.

 

The officer hit in the face was not injured, police said. 

Charges in Stabbing Outside Church

(Michigan City, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a Michigan City stabbing over the weekend.

 

Tylor Snyder, 28, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery, battery by means of a deadly weapon and criminal recklessness.

 

Snyder is accused of stabbing Javier Mendoza in the stomach, back and shoulder.

 

Police said the victim was also sliced on the back of his neck.

 

According to court documents, Mendoza told investigators he confronted Snyder for stealing from him a bag of shaving razors he found behind First Presbyterian Church at 121 W. 9th St.

 

Mendoza said they were fighting when Snyder began stabbing him with a knife, according to court documents.

 

Snyder was soon located on foot in the area of Wabash St. and W. 7th St. with a machete and hatchet in a back pack on his possession. 

 

According to court documents, Snyder told police Mendoza took a swing at him while holding a knife.

 

Snyder said he grabbed the knife after it fell out of Mendoza’s hand and stabbed him with it multiple times.

 

Mendoza after taken to Franciscan Health was airlifted to Memorial Hospital in South Bend.

 

If convicted, Snyder could face a sentence of up to 40-years or more.

 

He’s being held in the La Porte County Jail on $100,000 bond.  

School Board Candidates Forum Scheduled

(La Porte, IN) - The public will be given a chance to see and hear from the candidates for La Porte School Board.

 

A candidates forum is scheduled next month at Bethany Lutheran Church.

 

There are four open seats on the school board this year. The school board candidates are Ed Gilliland, Justin Holmquest, Amy Jackson, Crystal Pinkerton, Larry Pinkerton, Jennifer Farlie, and Ryan Seaburg.

 

The candidates will be given a chance to provide background information about themselves and answer questions from Pastor Dennis Meyer.

 

Questions will also be accepted from the audience. The forum is scheduled for October 13th at 6:30 p.m.

Forecast Calls for Record Soybean Yield

(Lansing, MI) - Indiana farmers continue to anticipate record soybean yields this year.

 

Indiana farmers expect to harvest 5.05 million acres of corn, down 220,000 acres from last year, according to the United States Department of Agriculture from its Lansing, Michigan office. 

 

However, Hoosier farmers are predicting harvesting 5.83 million acres of soybeans, which is 190,000 more than last year.

 

A dry August reduced expected Indiana corn yields. As a result, Hoosier farmers anticipate corn to average 186 bushels per acre, down 3 bushels from last month’s anticipated yield and 9 bushels from last year.

 

The USDA said that the Indiana soybean yield is forecast at 60 bushels per acre, which would set a state record if realized.

 

Matt Schafer of LaCrosse said a dry August also hurt his corn and soybeans. He expects pretty good yields but doesn’t anticipate setting any records on his farm. Schafer's fields suffered more from the dry conditions than any disease, which was not a significant issue this year.

 

“You can definitely see where it was hurting for moisture,” Schafer said.

Local Historians to be Honored

(La Porte County, IN) - Some local history experts will be recognized next week.

 

The Historian of the Year program is scheduled for September 20 at 7 p.m. at the La Porte County Historical Society Museum on U.S. 35 on the southern edge of La Porte.

 

Greg Fruth will be honored for his many years in education at La Porte High School and for teaching local history to his students through research projects.

 

Teams of his students worked on various themes on La Porte County history and created projects that were shared and presented to local groups within the community, said La Porte County Historian Bruce Johnson.

 

Local photographer Mark Williams is a volunteer taking pictures of various groups and organizations promoting and preserving the history of the community.

 

These groups and organizations include the La Porte County Fair, Pioneerland, Farm Bureau, the Rumely/Allis Chalmers Museum, and the La Porte County Historical Society Museum.

 

All society members and the public are welcome to attend.

Music Food to Highlight Butterfly Celebration

(Michigan City, IN) - The public is invited to celebrate the Monarch butterfly's migration through the region at an event in Michigan City. Save the Dunes is hosting an event called "Monarch Fest."

 

It's scheduled for September 18 from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Michigan City's Brewery Lodge & Supper Club.

 

A portion of the proceeds will benefit Save the Dunes' work to protect and advocate for the Indiana Dunes, Lake Michigan, and surrounding natural areas.

 

Monarch Music Fest tickets start at $40 online and are available until the event reaches the 250-person capacity. Each ticket includes an entrance, food, and one beer ticket. For an additional cost, beer, wine, and cocktails will be available on-site.

 

Music will be performed by Robert Rolfe Feddersen and Caught on Cline. The event will also include a silent auction.

 

Tickets can be purchased at savedunes.org under the events tab.

 

"The return of our in-person events after a two-year hiatus has been such a welcomed change. As we greet both familiar and new faces…we bring awareness to our important work restoring pollinator habitats and building connectivity between habitats for pollinator species here in Northwest Indiana," says Betsy Maher, Executive Director for Save the Dunes.

 

Monarch butterfly populations are in steep decline due to habitat loss, fragmentation, climate change, and pollution. In addition, September marks the migration month for the species. 

Trial in Fatal Shooting of Son

(La Porte, IN) - Opening arguments were presented this morning in the trial of a La Porte County man accused of fatally shooting his son.

 

Jason Wetzel, 60, is charged with murder in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to court documents, Jeremiah Wetzel died in May 2020 after being shot twice inside a residence in the 8200 block of W. 1500 South. The suspect told investigators he and his son began drinking while watching a movie, and later Jeremiah became aggressive, police said.

 

Wetzel told investigators he warned his son to leave him alone or he would shoot him. Wetzel claimed his son then lunged at him, and he shot him in the stomach, according to court documents.

 

Police said the victim suffered another gunshot wound to the upper part of his right shoulder.

 

Wetzel told police he put his .22 caliber revolver back into a desk drawer after the shooting and called 911.

 

According to court documents, there were signs of a struggle inside the home, but Wetzel could not remember all of the details of what transpired before the shooting due to his level of intoxication. He recalled shoving between him and Jeremiah but could not say what triggered the argument, police said.

 

Wetzel also gave some indication of acts of violence involving his son in the past.

OWI Charge in Motorcycle Sign Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police arrested a man who crashed his motorcycle after allegedly consuming too much alcohol.

 

James Kruk, 33, allegedly left the scene but soon was located at the hospital.

 

Police said the investigation shows Kruk was traveling too fast to negotiate a curve at Indiana 2 and U.S. 20 near Rolling Prairie after 1 a.m. on Sunday.

 

Police said his 2008 Yamaha slid on its side across the concrete median and struck a yield sign hard enough to bend and snap the pole at the base.

 

A witness took Kruk to Franciscan Health in Michigan City, where officers discovered him with cuts and scrapes on his hands and torn clothing.

 

The New Carlisle man was charged after allegedly refusing a blood alcohol test.  Police said his symptoms of impairment included slurred speech and swaying in both directions while standing.

 

Kruk was arrested for operating while intoxicated and cited for traffic violations such as driving left of center and operating a motorcycle without a motorcycle endorsement. The OWI charge was upgraded to a level 6 felony because of a prior OWI conviction in 2019.

Haney Challenged to Denounce Oath Keepers

(La Porte County, IN) - The LaPorte County Democratic Party called on LaPorte Co. Commissioner Joe Haney to "renounce the far-right anti-government militia group Oath Keepers."

 

The written request comes after Haney was listed as just one of six elected officials in Indiana on a leaked Oathkeepers' membership/supporters' list by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

 

La Porte County Democrat Party spokesman Corey Campbell said that while "Haney denies ties to the group, on his 13C Guns Facebook site, he claimed to be an "Oath Keeper" years ago and even posted a photo of himself on Instagram as recently as May 2020."

 

In the photo, Haney is wearing an "Oathkeeper's badge plain as day on his vest," according to Campbell.

 

"He may not be a dues-paying member, but he certainly appears to have been a supporter of the group, and now he shows up on this leaked membership/supporters' list," Campbell said.

According to party officials, Haney told the Times of Northwest Indiana on Sunday that "the most recent events they've been involved in is not something that's acceptable."

 

"Does he mean the insurrection on January 6, 2021, where brave members of law enforcement died defending the U.S. Capitol? Where's the full-throated denunciation of the group and all it stands for?" Campbell said.

Since elected, Campbell also said that Haney often expresses "paranoid, delusional fantasies" during commissioners' meetings, similar to other Oath Keepers members. In addition, Campbell alleges that Haney's other expressions of corruption in county government seem to echo the same conspiracy theory tales and other claims Oath Keeper members allege about other branches of government.

 

"It's high time Commissioner Haney come out and vigorously condemn the Oath Keepers and all their conspiratorial nonsense and anti-government rhetoric and stop his own campaign of baseless accusations of corruption and fraud in county government when he doesn't have a shred of proof to back up anything," Campbell said.

Tobacco Use During Pregnancy Targeted

(La Porte County, IN) - Efforts are being made to try and reduce the number of babies whose mothers smoked during their pregnancies in La Porte County.

 

Healthy Communities of La Porte County has added one more person to its staff to ensure expectant mothers are given quality prenatal care.

 

During last week’s La Porte County Commissioners meeting, Healthy Communities of La Porte County Executive Director Sue Reed said the new staff member is being trained for a new program to get women not to use tobacco or vape during pregnancy.

 

Reed says that participants would be held accountable.

 

“They’re periodically tested even with a breathalyzer which will pick up if they’re using tobacco or a saliva strip to determine if they’re vaping. There’s incentives along the way,” Reed said.  

Reed said a study last year found over 18 percent of women in La Porte County use tobacco during their pregnancies. The state average is 11 percent.

 

Reed also said the mortality rate in La Porte County is eight out of every 1,000 births compared to the state average of seven deaths per 1,000 births.

Haney Denies Ties to Militant Group

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County official denies that he's a member of the far right-wing militia group Oath Keepers.

 

The name of Commissioner Joe Haney was on a leaked list containing thousands of names of Oath Keeper members across the country. Members include elected officials, police officers, and soldiers.

 

Oath Keepers are accused of playing a pivotal role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. The group's founder, Steward Rhodes, was charged with seditious conspiracy for his role in the January 6th attack. 

 

Some people on the leaked list, including Haney, have denied affiliation with the group.

 

Haney, a Republican, said he was a credentialed media member doing articles for various publications from 2010 to 2020. During that period, Haney says he wrote articles about firearms and spoke with members of the Oath Keepers via email in 2013 and 2014.

 

His freelance work is likely why he was somehow mistakenly affiliated with the group, he believes. 

 

A photo of Haney holding an assault weapon shows him wearing a vest with a patch that states "Oath Keeper." Haney argues that the term is not specific to the organization, though.

 

Instead, Haney said the "oath keeper" label means he is dedicated to keeping the oath he gave about twenty years ago as a firefighter to protect the federal and state constitutions. Haney says that he feels committed to upholding that oath indefinitely.

 

“That term goes back for a long time. It’s been used by people who have taken an oath and swore to uphold it for time of memoriam,” he wrote in a recent press release.

Haney also suggests the actual logo for the Oath Keepers looks different than the one he wears.

 

Haney, who supports the right to bear arms, said his political opponents would try and use his name on the list to hurt him politically. However, Haney said he doesn't apologize for being one who took an oath to protect the constitution and the second amendment in the constitution.

The SOUND OFF Podcast: LaPorte County Sheriff Candidates

(LAPORTE, IN) - LaPorte County Sheriff Candidates (R) Ron Heeg and (D) Andy Hynek visited the WCOE Studios to discuss their campaigns. They discussed their views on the Public Safety Local Income Tax, a new LaPorte County jail, skeptics regarding law enforcement, and more. 

 

Listen to the full episode below: 

 

 

PICTURES FROM THE STUDIO:

 

 

 

Charges in Pregnant Woman Attack

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man could go to prison for allegedly beating an ex-girlfriend who is pregnant.

 

35-year-old Nickolaus Garrett is charged with two counts of battery and one count of strangulation.

 

According to court documents, he allegedly beat the woman who was five months pregnant with his unborn child. Police said his actions included grabbing her by the throat, pushing her into a wall, and punching her in the face.

 

Police said Garrett accused her of having sex with another man just before the attack on August 7 at a residence in Michigan City. 

 

According to court documents, the woman was left with a swollen left side of her face along with cuts and scrapes. The woman allegedly had been drinking, judging by the alcohol detected on her breath while speaking to investigators.

Motorcycle Fatality in Westville

(Westville, IN) - A fatal accident occurred between a motorcycle and van over the weekend in Westville. The victim was 58-year-old Matthew Spicker of Valparaiso.

 

La Porte County Police said Spicker was on a 1993 Harley Davidson motorcycle westbound on U.S. 6 at about 4 p.m. on Saturday. 

 

Police said Spicker ran a stop sign at U.S. 421. His motorcycle and a southbound van, driven by 37-year-old Samantha Kaiser of Wanatah, then collided.

 

Spicker was taken to a hospital and later died from injuries sustained in the collision. Kaiser and her two passengers were transported to a hospital with undisclosed injuries.

 

So far, whether alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash is unknown.

County Clerk Speaks Out Against Move by Commissioners

(La Porte County, IN) - LaPorte County Clerk Heather Stevens is speaking out against a recent move by county commissioners.

 

At their regular meeting on September 7, Commissioners Sheila Matias and Rich Mrozinski were the deciding votes in a decision to assume control of a mobile voter registration bus. Their resolution was to establish a process for use of the mobile voter unit for promoting voter registration and applications for absentee voting and early voting, if needed.

 

Clerk Stevens says she was completely opposed to the decision. “We were told probably about three weeks ago that they were going to come after it. I was completely against that. I think it’s been in good hands with the County Election Board,” she said. “Nelson Pichardo was in favor of the commissioners taking possession of this. President Chuck Watterson and I were not. But at the end of the day, the commissioners just did what they wanted.”

 

Matias and Mrozinski based their decision on the fact that the mobile unit has been underutilized. Stevens acknowledged that the bus needs to be used more, but she is afraid of it not being used properly under the direction of the commissioners.

 

“First of all, they are not election administrators,” Stevens said. “My biggest fear is that we’re going to have all this paperwork that comes in, and it’s not filled out properly. Therefore, we cannot process it, and then we’re going to have a disaster. We’re going to have people who think that they’re registered to vote that aren’t registered to vote. What I don’t want is a bunch of paperwork coming back that’s no good. This really needed to be left in the hands of those who know what they’re doing.”

 

County Commissioner Joe Haney also opposed the move, calling it a “blatantly political act.” But the other commissioners felt that transferring authority over the vehicle was in the best interest of voters. “We have an elected Democrat, we have an elected Republican,” Mrozinski said at Wednesday’s meeting, “and we have the one thing that we need to make sure this is done right. It’s called integrity, and I don’t think anyone wants to challenge that.”

Wrongful Death Action Could be Taken in Walorski Accident

(Elkhart County, IN) - The family of a woman killed in the accident that claimed the lives of Jackie Walorski and two others may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

 

On August 3, 56-year-old Edith Schmucker of Nappanee was killed in a head-on collision on an Elkhart County highway with a car carrying Walorski and two of her staffers.

 

Court papers were filed less than two weeks later seeking a special administrator for her 17-year-old son. According to a document filed in Elkhart Circuit Court, Schmucker died without a will, and two adults, Vincent Renze and Erica A. Miller, have been granted authority to seek wrongful death damages on behalf of her son.

 

Formal action to pursue a lawsuit has not been announced. The petition specifically appoints Renze and Miller Special Administrators of Schmucker's Estate "for the sole purpose of bringing an action concerning the decedent's alleged wrongful death."

State Announces Record Number of School Safety Grants

(Indianapolis, IN) - A record number of Indiana schools are receiving a record amount of money for school safety.

 

Nearly $23 million has been approved by the Indiana Secured School Safety Board. The money will be allocated to 425 Hoosier schools for safety measures such as safety equipment, school resource officers, even firearms training for teachers and staff.

 

The money is in the form of matching grants. Every eligible school that applied was granted their funding request. Below is a list of local schools and the amounts they have been awarded:

 

La Porte Community Schools $75,000.

St. John Lutheran in La Porte $50,000

New Prairie will receive over $38,000.

Westville Schools over $47,000.

South Central Schools $50,000.

Wanatah Public Schools $35,000.

La Lumiere nearly $35,000.

Marquette High School over $26,000.

Notre Dame Catholic School in Michigan City over $46,000.

Queen of All Saints School in Michigan City over $11,000.

Renaissance Academy over $20,000.

Approval for Massive Battery Factory Delayed

(St. Joseph County, IN) - County approval for a proposed battery manufacturing facility near New Carlisle has been postponed.

 

Ultium Cells, partnering with General Motors, hopes to build a 2-million-square-foot electric car battery plant on over 600 acres along State Road 2.

 

The St. Joseph County Council was set to vote on the proposal at their upcomg meeting on September 13. However, developers are said to be modifying the plan. They will update the council at Tuesday's meeting.

 

A public meeting and vote is now scheduled for September 27.

Haney Dodging Oath Keepers Allegations

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte County Commissioner is still dodging allegations that he is associated with what has been labeled a far-right extremist group.

 

Recently a list of over 38,000 names linked to the Oath Keepers was leaked. Among them were six Indiana elected officials. One of them is La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney.

 

Haney has repeatedly denied any formal association with the group.  He spoke exclusively with HomeTownNewsNow to once again clear the record.  According to Haney, he contacted members of the Oath Keepers via email about eight years ago for an article he was writing about firearms. Haney says between 2010 and 2020 he wrote articles on various conservative topics for many websites and magazines. And that’s how his name ended up in their database.

 

Haney says his political opponents are trying to use the so-called connection to their advantage, but he fears the allegations will sully his personal and professional reputation.

Slicers Top Chesterton on Last Minute Kick

(LAPORTE, IN) - Jack Doty kicked a 17-yard field goal with 36.2 seconds left to give La Porte their first win of the season, 24-21 over Chesterton.

 

The winning drive started with Slicers on their 18-yard line after Chesterton had tied the game 21-21 on a Garrett Lewis 7-yard run and Alex Drewes's extra point with 4:36 remaining in the 4th quarter. La Porte used 11 plays to move 81 yards to the Trojan's one-foot line, where they faced a 4th and goal. Coach Bob James sent the reliable Doty out for the winning field goal.

 

Things did not start well for the Slicers. La Porte took the opening kickoff and drove to the Chesterton 19-yard line. However, the drive stalled, and Chesterton partially blocked Doty's 37-yard field goal attempt.

 

On the Trojan's first play from scrimmage, quarterback Brady McCormack threw a lateral pass to Sebastian Boswell, also a quarterback. Boswell threw to a wide-open Garrett Lewis, completing the 80-yard score with 7:08 remaining in the first quarter Alex Drewes kicked the extra point to make it 7-0 Trojans.

 

After a La Porte 3-and-out, Boswell hit Tyler Peterson on a 15-yard touchdown pass. This capped an 8-play 69-yard drive. Drewes's kick was good, and the score was 14-0 for Chesterton.

 

Finishing drives has been a problem all season for the Slicers. After moving deep into Chesterton territory, La Porte unveiled a new offensive wrinkle. Quarterback RJ Anglin went under center, and the Slicers lined up with an old-fashioned full-house backfield consisting of defensive players; defensive linemen Sam Pressler, Lucas Del Rio, and linebacker Brennan Balka. Del Rio, a freshman, muscled his way into the end zone from 3 yards out. After Doty's kick, the Slicers trailed 14-7 with 11:04 remaining in the half. This was a 15-play, 78-yard drive.

 

La Porte tied the game up with 6:34 remaining in the half when Anglin hit Dylan Salisbury with a 25-yard pass capping a 4-play 46-yard drive. Doty hit the extra point, and the score stood 14-14 at halftime.

 

La Porte had excellent field position through the 3rd quarter but didn't manage to score until the 3:42 mark when Anglin hit Ollie Kring on a 20-yard touchdown pass. Doty's kick made it 21-14, and the Slicers had their first lead of the season.

 

Chesterton tied the game on Lewis's 4th quarter run and Drewes kick, which set up the LaPorte game-winning drive.

 

In the final 30 seconds, the Trojans moved the ball to the 50-yard line, but Javelle Broome knocked down Boswell's final hail mary pass at the 5-yard line giving La Porte their first win of the season.

 

The Slicers played turnover-free football and turned the Trojans over twice.

 

La Porte improved to 1-3 on the season and 1-1 in the DAC. Chesterton drops to 1-3 and 0-2 in the DAC. The Trojans fell to Michigan City last Friday by an identical 24-21 score, with the Wolves kicking a game-winning field goal in the final minute.

 

La Porte travels to Lake Central next Friday night with kickoff at 7:00 pm. Chesterton will travel to Valpo.

Chesterton vs. LaPorte Online Stream

(LAPORTE, IN) - Chip Jones and Steve Mannering bring all the live coverage on tonight's LaPorte Slicers (0-3) football game against the Chesterton Trojans (1-2). The game begins at 7 PM. 

 

CHESTERTON PLAYERS TO WATCH: 

  • QB Sebastian Boswell: 20-38, 278 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
  • RB Garrett Lewis: 86 rushing yards per game 
  • WR Bryce Thoma: 70.7 receiving yards per game
  • LB Danny Goveia: 9.7 tackles per game
  • OLB Keegan Wrigley: 7.7 tackles per game, four total tackles for loss 

-- LIVE STREAM IS FINISHED. -- 

 

Final Score:

LaPorte 24
Chesterton 21

Woman from England Mourns Passing of Queen

(La Porte, IN) - Nobody locally is feeling Queen Elizabeth's loss more than a La Porte resident who has lived most of her life in England.

 

Sheila Saunders, her husband, Pete, and their two youngest children arrived in La Porte in 2005 because of a job transfer.

 

Saunders goes back to England twice a year and keeps up on current events in her homeland by listening to BBC radio online. She said she knew Queen Elizabeth was ill from news reports but still was taken back and "quite emotional" at her passing on Thursday.

 

Queen Elizabeth had been at the helm for 70 years.

 

"Even though she's 96 years old, it's still a shock. It's a big change in England and a big change for the world, really. She's a much-beloved queen and person. It hit me more than I thought it would," Saunders said.

 

Saunders said Queen Elizabeth always displayed grace while carrying out her duties and feels being lady-like was one of the reasons for her popularity back home. She said many residents of England sensed in her some common threads. 

 

"I think most of England feels like they lost a family member because we've known her for all of our lives, and she's been a mother and grandmother, so we all feel we can relate to her, and she can relate to us," Saunders said.

 

Saunders is a realtor at MTM Realty Group, and her husband works at Renolit, a maker of plastic films and products. Both companies are in La Porte.

 

Initially, Saunders said she thought her stay in America would be for just a few years, but she's been here long enough now that one of her children married a woman from Chicago and gave her two grandchildren.

 

"17 years later, we're still here. I will always miss England, but we do love La Porte, and everyone has made us feel very welcome here," she said.

Roof Sit Turns 20

(La Porte, IN) - Money is being raised in La Porte today for taking children Christmas shopping.

 

The 20th annual Roof Sit is at State and Oregon streets.

 

Dennis Siddall, a host of the Morning Mayhem show on 96.7 The Eagle, is broadcasting from the roof of the WCOE studios and asking people to donate to the cause.

 

Volunteers are outside the broadcast center accepting donations from people stopping in their vehicles.

 

People can also come and have lunch with money collected for food, going toward providing children a good Christmas.

 

This year’s fundraising goal is $45,000.

Voters to Decide Abortion

(Lansing, MI) - Abortion in Michigan will be decided by voters. The issue will be on the ballot in November.

 

Voters will be asked if the right to an abortion should be included in the state’s constitution.

 

Abortion rights supporters say the vote is needed to stop a 1931 state law outlawing abortion from taking effect.

Historic Veterans Exhibit at Museum

(La Porte, IN) - Thirty-nine military uniforms and related artifacts dating back to the Civil War are now displayed at the La Porte County Historical Society Museum. 

 

Uniforms from the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam War, Korean War, and Desert Storm/Gulf War are displayed around the museum, along with various other artifacts from each war.

 

An exhibit catalog is available at the museum to learn more about the people wearing the uniforms.

 

Museum Director Danielle Adams researched and curated the La Porte County Veterans Exhibit with help from Bruce R. Johnson, Jacey Dare, Katrina Partlow, Rich Mrozinski, and Emily Graves.

 

Graves is an intern who worked on a Veterans display for the museum in 2021.

 

The exhibit opened on September 1 and runs to November 19.

 

Parts Maker Coming to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Another manufacturing company appears to be coming to La Porte.

 

Maki Precision Machining, LLC. plans to open at 720 Boyd Boulevard after purchasing that location and making plans to equip the space. According to officials, the company is buying about $1 million in new manufacturing equipment.

 

The company will make parts and components for the firearms and medical device industries and numerous other product lines.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said he has no problem telling other communities competing for this development “we are here to win.”

 

“The City of La Porte prides itself on being a business-friendly community. We consistently work with businesses both big and small and strive to make sure opening here is an efficient and enjoyable experience,” Dermody said.

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the city has worked with the owner of the new company, Jeff Maki, in his various other businesses for many years.

 

“The trust that has developed gives us great confidence this, too, will be a successful venture,” Cook said.

The city council approved a five-year tax abatement on the value of the equipment planned for the facility, which will save the company 50 percent on its tax bill during the abatement period.

 

“As a longtime resident and business owner, I am incredibly pleased to be able to bring this new venture to La Porte. This will be a great opportunity for the community as a whole, and I love that we can keep this local,” Maki said.

Mobile Voting Unit to be Deployed

(La Porte County, IN) - A mobile voting unit will be used to allow more LaPorte County residents to cast a ballot in the November 8 election.

 

The LaPorte County Commissioners on Wednesday approved the procedures for using the van acquired with a grant last year for $67,000. The van will be used to register people to vote, fill out absentee voter applications, and early voting.

 

The commissioners also decided to be in charge of determining when and where to send the mobile voting unit to be staffed by members from the Democratic and Republican parties.

 

Commission President Sheila Matias said a schedule for the use of the van would be developed and posted on the county government website. She said the primary idea is to make voting possible for people unable to cast a ballot due to physical, transportation, and other challenges.

 

Matias said the van should also be used to reach people without time to register to vote or get to the polls.

 

“If you want to vote, you should be able to vote,” Matias said.

Commissioner Joe Haney argued the van should remain under the control of the LaPorte County Voter Registration Office to avoid impropriety.

 

Haney, a Republican, said the commissioners are elected while voter registration office workers are not. He didn't see a problem if the commissioners suggested times and locations for using the van but felt deciding the schedule would cast doubt on whether the van is used for things like ballot harvesting to give candidates from one party an advantage.

 

“I don’t think we want to muddy those waters,” Haney said.

Matias, a Democrat, said the voter registration office was in control of the van but hasn't used it or developed a procedure for using it since the mobile unit was purchased last fall.

 

Commissioner Rich Mrozinski, a Republican, said the van was parked at the La Porte County Highway Department without the engine running for so long that the battery went dead and had to be replaced.

 

LaPorte County Election Board Vice-Chairman Nelson Pichardo supported transferring control of the van to the commissioners.

 

“I know that all laws are going to be followed. If there are any questions, the election board, the clerk’s office, we’re all here to help and to make sure that everything is done appropriately. Ultimately, we want to see the van be used,” Pichardo said.

 

*Picture was taken from Facebook.

Charges in Drug Related Obstruction Case

(La Porte, IN) - A woman was allegedly caught with a dangerous illegal substance during a traffic stop in La Porte.

 

Misty Lindsey, 39, of Knox, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with possession of methamphetamine and obstruction of justice, both level 6 felonies.

 

According to court documents, she was riding in a vehicle turning from Rose Street to Monroe Street without a turn signal activated on August 16. An officer in an unmarked vehicle made the stop.

 

Police said a small amount of methamphetamine inside a plastic bag was recovered from her purse.

 

According to court documents, the officer placed the bag on the vehicle's hood, and Lindsey walked over, stating, "it looks like baby powder." She then blew on the bag with her face close to it, causing some of the substance to spill onto the vehicle's hood.

 

Police said her actions seemed to be an attempt to destroy the evidence. However, enough of the powder remained clean for testing, producing a positive result for methamphetamine.

Fatal Train Collision Probe Ongoing

(La Porte, IN) - There are indications a 19-year-old woman killed when hit by a train in La Porte was possibly caught off guard by another train heading in the opposite direction.

 

The preliminary findings of the ongoing police investigation show that Kaylie Pacione may have veered around the crossing gates Tuesday at Orchard Avenue and 2nd Street.

 

According to police, the conductor and engineer on the eastbound Norfolk Southern train striking the vehicle told investigators the crossing arms were down, and the signals activated when the car ventured onto the tracks.

 

Police said a westbound train was also stopped at that location when emergency responders first arrived at the scene of the collision.

 

Whether both trains were passing through at the same time just before the collision was not specified in the police report of the crash.

 

Some drivers, in general, have been known to veer around crossing arms when one train clears the crossing as another train approaches from the opposite direction.

 

Police said the outcome of the investigation hinges on a review of video footage of the crash from a camera on the front of the train. Investigators were still waiting for the railroad to turn over the footage for review.

 

According to police, the mother of the Union Mills woman was contacted by her daughter’s employer that she hadn’t shown up for work. In response, her mother went to the crossing soon after the 7 a.m. crash.

 

Police said she was led there by her daughter’s GPS information revealing her present location.

Inspirational Concert Coming to La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - There will be no shortage of inspiration at a community singing event open to the public.

 

Faith and Community United, a group of local ecumenical church leaders dedicated to enhancing the positive impact of churches on quality of life, is sponsoring "Singspiration," a community hymn sing. 

 

The hymn sing is scheduled for October 23 at the La Porte Civic Auditorium.

 

The program will include old hymns, new hymns, and various music appealing to all generations.

 

Musicians will include the La Porte Singing Company, the North American Brass Company Quintet representing the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra, and pianist Sue Rosselli. The Holy Family Parish Hispanic group and church choir will also participate.

 

Sauers Buick GMC is the sponsor for the free event. Support is also being provided by area churches, organizations, and individuals.

 

Tim King, Executive Director of the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra, and Matt Nelson, Conductor of the La Porte County Singing Company, headed the program planning team along with Cheryl Gardner and Susie Richter.

 

"This will clearly be an exciting and uplifting event," King said. "We will have great musicians and a wonderfully diverse array of music. We hope the Civic Auditorium will be filled to the rafters with people who will especially enjoy the sing-along selections."

 

For more information, contact Leigh Morris, a member of Faith and Community United, at leighmarciam@gmail.com or 219-363-2294

Public Invited to Join Firefighters in 911 Ceremony.

(La Porte, IN) - The public is welcome to join La Porte firefighters in remembering the terrorist attacks from 21 years ago.

 

Firefighters will walk the stairs at Kiwanis Field until reaching over 2,000 steps, the number inside the twin towers firefighters went into to save lives before the towers collapsed.

 

The towers collapsed after two planes overtaken by terrorists crashed into the sides of the skyscrapers in New York City on September 11, 2001.

 

Firefighter Keith Weigel said citizens are invited to take part in the event on Sunday.

 

“There was 2,071 stairs in the twin towers, so that is what we are going to walk. That is 70 loops up and down Kiwanis,” Weigel said.

There will be food and beverages available at the event.

 

Kiwanis Field will open at 6:45 a.m. Weigel said there would be a ceremony at 7:20 a.m. then a half hour later, the walking of stairs would begin.

PNW Touts Engineering Program

(Hammond and Westville, IN) - Purdue University Northwest’s undergraduate programs in Civil Engineering, Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering have been accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.

 

ABE is the global accreditor of college and university programs in applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology. 

 

ABET accreditation assures that programs meet standards to produce graduates ready to enter critical technical fields leading the way in innovation and emerging technologies and anticipating the welfare and safety needs of the public, PNW officials said.

 

“This latest extension of ABET EAC accreditation for our four engineering programs once again demonstrates the quality of our nationally ranked degree programs,” said Dietmar Rempfer, interim dean of the College of Engineering and Sciences.

 

He added, “the report from ABET specifically highlights students’ experiences in our national competition teams as particularly noteworthy, and it lauds the successful efforts of the School of Engineering’s Experiential Learning Initiative.”

 

ABET’s voluntary peer-review process is highly respected worldwide because it adds critical value to academic programs in the technical disciplines, where quality, precision, and safety are of the utmost importance.

 

Developed by technical professionals from ABET’s member societies, PNW officials said.

 

ABET criteria focus on what students experience and learn.

 

ABET accreditation reviews examine program curricula, faculty, facilities, and institutional support. They are conducted by teams of highly skilled professionals from industry, academia, and government with expertise in the ABET disciplines.

 

ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization with ISO 9001:2015 certification. It currently accredits 4,361 programs at 850 colleges and universities in 41 countries and areas.

 

Information about ABET, its member societies, and the accreditation criteria used to evaluate programs can be found at www.abet.org.

Fibbing Driver Charged with OWI

(La Porte County, IN) - A suspected drunk driver was arrested after hitting a tree when his attempt to fool the police seemed to fail miserably.

 

Taylor Patz, 33, of La Porte, is charged with Operating While Intoxicated as a Level 6 felony because of a prior impaired driving conviction.

 

According to La Porte County Police, Patz struck a tree early Saturday in the area of Boardman Drive just off Johnson Road near Pine Lake. He told investigators he allowed someone to drive him home from a bar in Michigan City, and that person, after the collision, fled on foot.

 

However, police said bruises and other markings on his upper body were consistent with a seat belt from the driver’s side of the vehicle.

 

Officers also located the car keys in his pocket during a pat-down search, police said. Police also noted only the driver’s side airbag was deployed. Had he been a passenger, police said the airbag on the passenger side from a sensor also would have activated.

 

According to police, Patz had an alleged blood alcohol level of .209-percent. He was not seriously hurt. 

Highway Intersection Closure Announced

(Westville, IN) - The Indiana Department of Transportation announces the closure of the intersection of Indiana 2 and U.S. 6 for ongoing roundabout construction.

 

INDOT announced the initial work earlier in May.

 

The intersection is scheduled to close on or after September 14 and is expected to reopen by the first week of October.

 

All work is weather-dependent, and schedules are subject to change, INDOT officials said. 

 

To access Indiana 2 and U.S. 6 during the closure, INDOT said drivers should use the approved detour of U.S. 421, U.S. 30, and State Road 49 or seek an alternate route.

 

INDOT encourages drivers to consider worker safety by slowing down, using extra caution, and driving distraction-free when traveling in and around all work zones.

Fire Consumes Steel Making Business

(La Porte County, IN) - Fire destroyed a structure containing a steel fabricating business in La Porte County yesterday.

 

Firefighters were called late in the morning to U.S. 421 and 100 North. Upon arrival, Coolspring Township Assistant Fire Chief Warren Smith said the roof of the roughly 80x60-foot pole barn structure was burning.

 

Smith said the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

 

The owner told investigators no steel fabricating work had been done in the building for a couple of days, but the fire was noticed while working in the yard.

 

“We haven’t been able to pinpoint it down to anything yet,” Smith said.

The structure and contents were a total loss. 

 

Firefighters from Westville assisted with extinguishing the fire. No injuries were reported.

Teenager the Victim of Car Train Collision

(La Porte, IN) - A young woman killed when her car was hit by a freight train in La Porte this morning has been identified. Kaylie Pacione, 19, of Union Mills, was pronounced dead at the scene.

 

The crash happened about 7 a.m. at the Norfolk Southern Railroad crossing on Orchard Avenue near Soldier’s Memorial Park and Stone Lake.

 

The covered body was lying a short distance from the heavily damaged car along the rails while investigators were at the scene. 

 

Further details have not yet been released.

Murder Suspect Struggled with Mental Health

(La Porte County, IN) - More details such as a mental health diagnosis have been revealed in a recent double stabbing in La Porte County

 

42-year-old Kyle Earley is charged with murder for the death of his uncle, Denis Earley, and attempted murder for stabbing his father, John Earley. The stabbings happened Thursday at 316 Groveland Trail in Michiana Shores.

 

According to court documents, both victims were stabbed multiple times. While the incident was taking place, the suspect’s uncle contacted his wife on a cell phone to let her know what was happening. She was out of state at the time.

 

At one point, police said the man lost control of his cell phone, likely during a struggle, but his wife stayed on the open line and could hear what was going on for close to an hour. He later succumbed to his wounds.

 

Long Beach Town Marshal Mark Swistek was the first to arrive at the home. According to court documents, Swistek spotted the suspect covered in blood and carrying a backpack leaving the residence.

 

The suspect’s father was transferred to a South Bend hospital.

 

Police said the suspect had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia before the stabbings and had previously threatened his father and uncle with harm.

 

Earley was being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $1 million bond.

Funeral Home Owner Arrested

(La Porte, IN) - The owner of a local funeral home could see some time in jail.

 

Casmir Pulaski is charged with Class B misdemeanor battery.

 

According to court documents, he allegedly made physical contact with a female funeral director on August 29 at his Lakeview Funeral Home and Crematory on Johnson Road, just off U.S. 35.

 

The 33-year-old woman told investigators she contacted him about some discounts a family of a deceased individual claimed he promised them.

 

Later that afternoon, the woman told police he came up a flight of stairs, put his arms out to the side so she could not go further down the stairs, and verbally abused her.

 

According to court documents, the woman said he bumped her in the chest with his chest, pushed her slightly, and smacked some papers out of her hands. The woman claimed it wasn’t the first time she had similar encounters with the 55-year-old Pulaski in her ten years at the funeral home.

 

If convicted, Pulaski could receive an up to six-month jail sentence.

 

Pulaski had his funeral director’s license suspended for one year by the state funeral board in April 2021. The license suspension was for not reporting previous crimes he had been charged with on his license renewal application.

 

Those unreported crimes involved allegations related to drugs, public intoxication, and trespassing for hunting on private property.

Another Local GOP Officer Resigns

(La Porte County, IN) - Friction within the La Porte County Republican Party appears more apparent now that two officers have resigned just two months before the November election.

 

The resignation of Mike Rosenbaum as party treasurer followed party vice-chairperson Lisa Pierzakowski stepping down last week. Rosenbaum is also a member of the La Porte County Council. Pierzakowski is the Center Township Trustee.

 

Rosenbaum would not comment on his resignation.

 

Pierzakowski has also declined to comment on the matter.  However, she did provide a copy of her resignation letter to HTNN.  In the letter she says, "my personal moral compass has no grey areas. I have voiced my opinion on several issues. However, my concerns have not been resolved".  She added, “I am a proud and ethical Republican, and I believe it is up to us all to raise the bar on the methods we use to communicate our platform for the betterment of our community.”

 

Attempts to reach La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens for comment on what could be viewed as a “Labor Day Revolt” from the party have, so far, been unsuccessful.

 

The resignations came soon after “Dump Sheila” and “Fire Friedman” political signs began emerging around LaPorte County.

 

Stevens said La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz paid the over $1,200 bill for the first batch of 100 signs with an in-kind donation to the party. Stabosz has been at extreme odds publicly with Commission President Sheila Matias and County Attorney Shaw Friedman, who are Democrats, since taking office in January of 2021.

 

Republican La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody has also publicly criticized Stabosz over the past several months, giving another illustration of division within party ranks. 

Fatal Collision Between Train and Car

(La Porte, IN) - A fatal collision between a freight train and a car happened this morning in LaPorte. The crash happened about 7 a.m. at the Norfolk Southern Railroad crossing on Orchard Avenue near Soldiers Memorial Park and Stone Lake.

 

La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said a "young female" died in the collision, and there were no other passengers in the car. Swanson said the release of the victim's name was pending notification of family members. 

 

The victim was lying a short distance from the heavily damaged vehicle beside the tracks.

 

Investigators were still at the scene more than 90 minutes after the collision.

 

We'll provide more details as they become available.

 

 

Strategic Planning for Schools to Begin

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Community School Corporation is embarking on a strategic action plan. The planning initiative beginning in the fall will last throughout the school year.

 

According to school corporation officials, it’s been about six years since the last strategic action plan was written.

 

Officials credit the existing plan with playing an integral role in meeting various needs identified in previous years and launching numerous other successful endeavors.

 

“Now is the time to revisit the remaining unfinished business and update the action plan for the next three to five years,” officials said.

 

Officials said the focus would continue to be on enhancing things related to three core areas identified as guaranteed and viable curriculum, school safety, and staff-parent-community engagement.

 

“We look forward to the journey and the involvement of the community,” officials said.

Human Rockets Dazzle Beachgoers

(Michigan City, IN) - The Labor Day weekend began with ideal weather and heavy beach attendance. Beachgoers at Washington Park in Michigan City were treated to a show.

 

Two people were practically like rockets lifting off the water for much of the afternoon on Saturday.

 

There were also a lot of boaters along with a cruise vessel taking advantage of the 80-degree weather and light winds producing calm waters on the southern tip of Lake Michigan.

 

Boats in large numbers were anchored along the shoreline on both sides of the state line.

 

The Sunday weather wasn’t ideal, though, with light rain and slightly cooler temperatures. There’s a slight chance of rain on Labor Day with temperatures in the low 70s in the forecast.

 

The usual heavy traffic and traffic jams from Chicago area visitors heading home from La Porte County and southwest Michigan are expected beginning this afternoon, especially on Interstate 94.

 

 

 

Another Trooper Hit in Alcohol Crash

(Lowell, IN) - A suspected impaired driver has struck another Indiana State trooper.

 

Fortunately, police said trooper Ryan Parent from the Lowell Post was not seriously hurt. Parent is recovering from minor injuries.

 

So far, details about the crash have not been released.

 

Police said it’s the fourth time in three months that an alleged impaired driver has hit a trooper from the Lowell Post.

Party Chairman Defends Campaign Signs

(La Porte County, IN) - A local political figure says Democrats offended by his party’s use of new campaign signs should develop a thicker skin.

 

Recently, La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias called the signs a form of “hate speech.”

 

Her face and the face of La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman are on the signs stating “Dump Sheila” and “Fire Friedman.” Matias and Friedman are Democrats.

 

La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Al Stevens said describing the signs as a symbol of hate is going too far.

 

“Calling it hate speech is a pretty strong statement, and that seems to be the go-to for the left these days. Anything they don’t like or they don’t agree with is hate speech. It’s time for these snowflakes to toughen up a little bit,” Stevens said.

Stevens said the signs reflect their job performances and why voters should replace them in November.

 

Matias, a former mayor in Michigan City, unseated Republican Connie Gramarossa in 2018 in a close race decided by over 700 votes countywide.

 

Gramarossa, a La Porte County Council member, is attempting to unseat Matias this time.

Charges in Stabbings of Uncle/Father

(MICHIANA SHORES, INDIANA) - Charges have been filed in connection with the stabbings of two brothers in northern La Porte County. 

 

42-year-old Kyle Early is charged with the fatal stabbing of his uncle Denis Early and the stabbing of his father, John Early. The stabbings happened Thursday at a residence in Michiana Shores.

 

So far, what led up to the stabbings and other details have not been released.

 

Early was being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $1,000,000 bond on charges of murder and attempted murder.

 

Anyone with information is asked to contact La Porte County Police Detective Jake Koch at 219-326-7700 ext. 2561 or email jkoch@lcso.in.gov.

Photos: Slicers vs. Valparaiso

(VALPARAISO, INDIANA) - Valparaiso used drives of 80, 78, 62, 73, and 33 yards, along with a pick six on the way to a 42-3 over LaPorte at Viking Field Friday night. On the other hand, the Slicers made several trips into Valparaiso territory but only mustered three points on a 36-yard field goal by Jack Doty in the second quarter. Read Chip Jones' game report here

 

The following incredible gameday photos were taken by Jay and Susan Anglin. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slicers Run Over by Valpo 42-3

(VALPARAISO, INDIANA) - Valparaiso used drives of 80, 78, 62, 73, and 33 yards, along with a pick six on the way to a 42-3 over LaPorte at Viking Field Friday night. On the other hand, the Slicers made several trips into Valparaiso territory but only mustered three points on a 36-yard field goal by Jack Doty in the second quarter.


LaPorte received the game's opening kickoff and drove to the Valparaiso 28-yard line. The big play was a 32-yard RJ Anglin to Dylan Salisbury pass. However, the drive stalled, and Doty pulled a 45-yard field goal attempt to the left. Valpo took over at the 20-yard line and drove 80 yards in 9 plays scoring on a 38-yard run by Travis Davis at the 7:05 mark of the first quarter.

 

Viking kicker Jackson Kopp hit the first of his six extra points to make it 7-0.


At the 11:38 mark of the second quarter, the Slicers drove to the 19-yard line of the Vikings. On 4" down, Doty hit a field goal from 36 yards to make the score 7-3. From there, it was all Valparaiso.

 

The Vikings scored a wild touchdown at the 7:17 mark of the second quarter. From the 38-yard line, quarterback Justin Clark hit the big tight end, Keegan Begley. Begley was tackled at the one and fumbled the ball into the end zone. A scramble ensued, but Julian Stokes recovered it at the back of the end zone for a Valparaiso touchdown. Kopp's kick made it 14-3. This capped a 78-yard 8-play drive.


The Slicers went three and out on the next possession. Valpo then went 62 yards in 8 plays scoring on a 10-yard run by Clark with 43.9 seconds left in the second quarter. Kopp's kick made it 21-3 at the half.


Valparaiso received the third-quarter kickoff and methodically drove 73 yards in 12 plays, scoring on a Clark quarterback sneak with 7:19 left in the third quarter. Kopp kicked his fourth extra point making the score 28-3.


Twenty seconds later, Slicer quarterback RJ Anglin, trying to avoid a sack, threw an interception to Ty Venn, who ran it in from 23 yards out. Kopp's kick made it 35-3.


Valparaiso scored their final touchdown on a 4-yard run by Thomas Burda at the 9:13 mark of the fourth quarter. Kopp's kick made the final score 42-3.


RJ Anglin was 15-36 passing for 151 yards and three interceptions. Dylan Salisbury caught six passes for 94 yards. Nathan Donah ran for 31 yards on eight carries, while Kai Jones picked up 23 yards on seven carries.


LaPorte will host Chesterton at Kiwanis Field at 7:00 on Friday.

 

See gameday photos from Jay and Susan Anglin here

Houdini-Like Con Man Recaptured

(La Porte County, IN) - An alleged million-dollar con man who twice escaped local authorities has been found again.

 

In March of 2021, Tim Bailey, at his request, was given until the next day to report to the La Porte County Jail to begin serving his five-year prison sentence.

 

Bailey, 54, failed to report but was located in Arkansas less than two weeks later. He was held in Arkansas until local authorities could pick him up, but he was released after posting a commercial bond.

 

Police said information on his possible whereabouts led to him being taken back into custody in Jacksonville, Florida, less than two weeks ago.

 

Slightly over $1 million was swindled by Bailey from three victims in a housing investment scam. At least $200,000 of the stolen loot appears to have been spent at casinos based on withdrawals from casinos and ATMs near casinos.

 

Bailey has numerous prior convictions for fraud and theft-related crimes. 

 

As part of his sentence, Bailey was ordered to make $1,000 a month payments to the victims while serving five years on probation following his release from prison. The victims were also given the ability to try and recover any balance from a civil judgment issued against Bailey by the court.

Local GOP Turmoil Leads to Resignation

(La Porte County, IN) - There’s unrest within the La Porte County Republican Party just over two months before the November election. Lisa Pierzakowski has resigned as vice-chairperson of the party.

 

Pierzakowski, the popular Center Township Trustee, said her decision Wednesday came after discussions with various party members. She gave no specifics for stepping down but indicated it had to do with her conscience and, perhaps, the actions of some party members.

 

“My personal moral compass has no grey areas. I have voiced my opinion on several issues. However, my concerns have not been resolved,” Pierzakowski said.

She added, “I am a proud and ethical Republican, and I believe it is up to us all to raise the bar on the methods we use to communicate our platform for the betterment of our community.”

 

Her decision came several days after campaign signs stating “Dump Sheila, Fire Friedman” started rising. The signs refer to La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias and La Porte County Attorney Shaw Friedman and contain images of their faces. Matias and Friedman are members of the Democratic Party.

 

The political signs, costing more than $1,200, were paid for with an in-kind donation by the La Porte County Republican Party. The contribution was from Republican and La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, who’s had an ongoing, sometimes volatile, dispute with Friedman and LaPorte County Commission President Matias.

 

Sources suggested that several more moderate party members were upset about the signs.

LaPorte vs. Valparaiso Online Stream

(VALPARAISO, IN) - Chip Jones and Steve Mannering bring all the live coverage on tonight's LaPorte Slicers (0-2) football game against the Valparaiso Vikings (1-1). The game begins at 7 PM. 

 

VALPO PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • RB Travis Davis II: 142 yards, two touchdowns
  • QB/RB Ian Wilson: 81 yards, one TD
  • OLB/SS Pete Crossin: 9 tackles, one TFL
  • MLB Alex Rodrigues: 8 tackles, one sack

Listen to the game here: 

THE LIVE STREAM IS OVER. CHECK BACK AGAIN NEXT WEEK.

OWI Alleged in Crash and Fire at House

(La Porte, IN) - A house was heavily damaged in La Porte last night by a motor vehicle and fire. There were no major injuries, but a police officer is credited with saving the life of the alleged intoxicated driver.

 

Evin Eakins, 25, of Valparaiso, is charged with operating while intoxicated.

 

According to police, Eakins crashed into the front of the single-story house at 3111 Monroe Street at Boyd Boulevard just before 11 p.m. The vehicle went through the living room and kitchen and then caught fire.

 

The 2017 Ford Escape came to rest inside the home, but the front end was sticking out the back exterior wall of the residence. The vehicle caught fire with Eakins still seated behind the wheel. The inside of the house was also beginning to go up in flames.

 

La Porte County Sheriff's Deputy Austin Wells was first to arrive but couldn't get to the front doors because of heavy debris from the crash. However, Sheriff John Boyd said Wells cleared enough debris from a back passenger's side door to get that door open and reach Eakins. Wells pulled Eakins into the back seat and out the door with help from La Porte Police Officer Pat Hemphill. Boyd said deputy John Roby also assisted with the life-saving effort.

 

La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said he believes Eakins would have perished if not for the officers' efforts because of how rapidly the fire was spreading while firefighters were responding.

 

According to police, Thomas Pajor, 22, and Taylor Hager, 21, were in their bedroom and not hit by the vehicle. Their injuries were described as minor from debris. Pajor went back inside through a front window and rescued his dog from the fire, police said. 

 

Police said Eakins told investigators he consumed a "quarter bottle" of a beverage containing 36 percent alcohol. His alleged blood alcohol level was .182-percent.

 

Man Detained for Stabbings

(Michiana Shores, IN) - One man is dead, another seriously wounded in a stabbing yesterday near the Lake Michigan shoreline.

 

About 9:30 a.m., emergency responders were called to the Michiana Shores area. Two men had been stabbed in the 300 block of Groveland Trail.

 

Police said 64-year-old Denis Early later died from his wounds. 73-year-old John Early was taken to a local hospital and later flown by helicopter to a regional trauma center.

 

Police said a possible suspect in the case was detained and later transported to the La Porte County Jail. The man's name is being withheld while prosecutors decide if there's sufficient enough evidence to file charges.

 

So far, authorities have not released further details.

Body That of Missing Man

(La Porte County, IN) - A body discovered outside La Porte was that of a man reported missing. La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson identified the man as Brett Lawson.

 

The 38-year-old Lawson was discovered last week in the 3000 block of West Small Road, not far from the fairgrounds.

 

The homeowner was doing yard work when he found the badly decomposed body near some bushes he was trimming.

 

Lawson was reported missing just over a month ago. He was last seen not far from where the body was recovered. 

 

So far, no ruling has been made on a cause of death. Swanson said investigators are still waiting for the results of a toxicology test.

Motorcycle Crash Victims Identified

(Michigan City, IN) - Two people killed in a motorcycle accident in Michigan City recently have been identified.

 

According to the La Porte County Coroner’s Office, the victims were 41-year-old Kevin McCullough and 43-year-old Jennifer Houser. The man and woman were from Greenup, Illinois.

 

According to Michigan City Police, officers responded Saturday at about 6 a.m. The motorcycle was eastbound on Homer Street when the driver ran a stop sign at Cleveland Avenue and left the roadway.

 

The man and woman were pronounced dead at the scene. Further specifics about the crash have not been released.

Comeback of COVID Stricken Driver Hailed

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte school bus driver is being hailed for not being stopped by a deadly illness. 

 

“Don’t ever give up,” said Jim Hines, who recently returned to his route. Hines spoke the words during a recent event for staff members of the school corporation.

 

Hines contracted COVID-19 last fall. The symptoms were severe enough for family members and friends to expect the worse.

 

Though Hines beat the odds, he had to have his lower right leg amputated due to complications from the virus. But, two months later, Hines was fully functioning with a prosthetic leg. His therapists, who had never seen a patient bounce back with such tenacity, were astonished.

 

On the last day of school, Hines returned to see his students and ride the bus.

 

Hines told his colleagues, “things happen to us every day that give us reasons to quit, but it is worthwhile to remember why we pick ourselves up and keep coming back.”

 

He credited love and support from his wife, Barbara, and an outpouring of support from the school community for his quicker-than-expected recovery.

Migrants Arrive in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A family from Central America who crossed the border from Mexico is in La Porte.

 

Center Township Trustee Lisa Pierzakowski said a man, his wife, and their young daughter showed up at Family Advocates last week. A representative from the organization at 1005 Michigan Avenue contacted Pierzakowski to see if she could assist the family.

 

Why the Venezuelan family traveled here after their border crossing hearing is unknown, but they had papers directing them to Family Advocates. However, she did not know how they traveled to La Porte upon entering the United States.

 

Pierzakowski said she was able to put the family up at a hotel and then reached out to the church community for further assistance. She said a church member was able to locate a man with an empty apartment for the family to stay in for the time being.

 

“She found a gentleman involved in their church who had an empty apartment, and he was willing to put them in the apartment,” Pierzakowski said.

Pierzakowski said the family has an upcoming immigration hearing in Chicago and should qualify for government assistance to help with housing and food expenses after their residency hearing.

 

Venezuela has one of the largest refugee crises in the world, with over 6 million Venezuelans leaving the country, according to the UN Refugee Agency. 

Alcohol Related Charges in Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - A large tree was completely knocked over by a suspected drunk driver near Westville. Linda McCarty, 67, was not injured, according to La Porte County Police.

 

McCarty was arrested, though, after allegedly refusing a blood alcohol test. Police said the investigation shows she was heading back from the lakefront in Michigan City when she failed to see a curve in the road. Her car hit a mailbox, knocked over a large tree, and came to rest against another tree.

 

Police said she was stumbling around when offered a blood alcohol test.

 

The accident occurred early Saturday in the 700 block of N. Wozniak Road.

Family Wakes Up to Stranger in Home

(Westville, IN) - A Westville family was sleeping until a stranger made his way inside their house. Kevin Hughes, 29, is charged with residential entry.

 

According to La Porte County Police, Hughes was intoxicated when he showed up at a home on 500 West on a bicycle wearing no shoes. Judging by footprints from his wet socks, police said he made his way into several rooms.

 

It was nearly 2 a.m. when a woman woke up to the sound of footsteps and spotted the man.

 

According to police, Hughes got in through an unlocked door and explained he thought he was at his home.

 

The Westville man was also arrested on a warrant for failure to appear in court.

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