Local News Archives for 2022-12

Heeg Announces New Sheriff's Office Administration

(La Porte County, IN) - New La Porte County Sheriff Ron Heeg has his administrative team in place.

 

After serving as John Boyd’s Chief Deputy for eight years, Heeg has filled his own shoes with former Jail Commander Captain Al Ott.

 

Ott’s move to Chief Deputy gave way to two additional promotions. Captain Andrew Hahn will take over as Jail Commander. Hahn was appointed Chief of Detectives last year.

 

Captain Andy Hynek will move from Midnight Patrol Shift Supervisor to Chief of Detectives.

 

Captain Derek Allen will continue as Administrative Captain.

 

Heeg frankly addressed the fact that he has surrounded himself with political rivals. “Al obviously has run on the Democratic ticket twice for Sheriff,” said Heeg. “I’ve even had questions about Andy Hynek, who was my opponent in the fall, being appointed Chief of Detectives. My responsibility as Sheriff is to protect all citizens of La Porte County, and politics should never, ever come into the way of public safety. And I’m going to surround myself with who I believe is the best to help me accomplish my goals and be the best for the citizens of La Porte County. So all the decisions I have made and will continue to make from here on out will be what’s best for the citizens of La Porte County.”

 

Heeg was sworn in along with many other elected officials in a ceremony Saturday afternoon at the County Complex Meeting Room.

Slicers Fall in Tourney Final

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte and Lake Central came into Friday’s championship game of the Steiner Homes Holiday Basketball Tournament on winning streaks, Lake Central 7 straight wins and La Porte 5 straight wins. Something had to give and it was the Slicers.   Lake Central hoisted the championship trophy with a 65-58 win over La Porte.

 

Lake Central got a put back at the buzzer to lead 14-12 after one period. The Slicers then outscored the Indians 18 to 13 in the 2nd quarter to lead 30 to 27 at the half. The first half was extremely well played.  La Porte had only 2 turnovers and Lake Central had just 5.  Kyle Kirkham hit three 3’s and a 2 pointer for 11 halftime points while Rylan Kieszkowski chipped in 9 in the first half.

 

The Slicers extended their lead to 39-31 to start the third quarter when the Indians came to life, running off 10 straight points. This is the third time in four games that LP has given up double digit runs. Elkhart scored 11 straight in the second quarter on December 21st and Hanover Central had a 10 point third quarter run in the tourney opener. La Porte overcame both of these but couldn’t bounce back against Lake Central.

 

Lake Central took a 44-43 edge into the final period and outscored La Porte 21-15 in the fourth for the 65-58 win. The Indians hit 9-12 free throws in the final stanza and sharpshooter Mitchell Milausnic scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth.

 

Kirkham finished with 16 points and Kieszkowski 13 for the Slicers.  Malik Corley, who missed Wednesday’s games due to illness, hit three 3’s and two free throws for 11.  Ja’ Meryion Cross and RJ Anglin added 8 points each.  Tommy Samuelson, who battled Lake Central’s 6’4 240 pound Brandon Escobedo all evening, had a basket for 2.

 

The Slicers finished with just 6 turnovers and Lake Central 10.  Escobedo led all scorers with 20.  Milausnic had 13 and Jacob Smith finished with 10.

 

La Porte falls to 8-3 on season.  Lake Central moved to 8-1. Kyle Kirkham was named the Salisbury and Spence Edward Jones Player of the Game.

 

The Slicers will not have long to plot their revenge.  La Porte will travel to Lake Central Friday night for their Duneland Conference opener.  JV tips at 5:30, Varsity at 7:00. The Lowell game that was originally scheduled for January 3rd had been move to January 10th.

 

Fridays Finals

7th Place   Kouts 47                          Lowell 43

5th  Place   Tippy Valley 59              Hanover Central 52

3rd Place   SB Adams 59                   Logansport 52

1st Place   Lake Central 65               La Porte  58   

New Arcade Going: Full Tilt

(La Porte, IN) - A new arcade in La Porte has the antidote to cabin fever. Full Tilt Arcade has been open and steadily growing since October.

 

Co-owner Ben Konowitz says he and his business partner Ryan Hart got the idea for opening an arcade when their own pinball collections got a little out of hand. “We were about to get broken up with by our significant others if we put one more pinball machine in our homes. I had six, and I think he had five,” Konowitz said. “We were maybe going to call it the Break Even Arcade. I just wanted to break even so I could have a place to play my pinball machines.”

 

Since committing to the idea in June, Konowitz and Hart have been hitting estate sales and auctions. For their first batch of games, Konowitz said he flew to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, rented a box truck, and drove back to La Porte in one day.

 

Full Tilt Arcade is located at 701 N. Fail Road, an industrial area. It’s not exactly that place you remember from the mall, but Konowitz says it’s a hit with the kids. “It’s the old Fastenal building actually; it used to be a screw warehouse.” according to Konowitz. “And we were like, ‘How do we fill this darn thing and make it look like an arcade?’”

 

The answer is neon colors, bright lights, and lots of sound effects.

 

The front of the arcade features ticket redemption games like Skee-Ball and a prize counter, where playing credits can be purchased on reusable gaming cards. “When you turn the corner,” Konowitz said, “my goodness, the kids’ eyes, they go as big as saucers, they really do.”

 

The arcade includes everything from Pac Man to the latest in gaming, as well as basketball, air hockey, shooting games, and 22 pinball machines. “We’ve got 65 arcade games in here,” said Konowitz, “so it gets kind of ridiculous as far as the options."  At the back of the arcade, a party area offers tables and seating. Two different party packages are available for groups.

 

Full Tilt is generally open to the public Thursday through Sunday. You can check their Facebook page for specific days and times.

County Government Looking to Fill Board Appointments

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Council is looking for citizens to fill appointments to boards of various types.

 

Available positions include the following:

 

La Porte County Public Library Board of Trustees, 4-year term, applicant must have lived in district for at least 2 years.

 

Michigan City Public Library Board of Trustees, 4-year term, applicant must have lived in district for at least 2 years.

 

Alcoholic Beverage Commission, 4-year term, applicant must have lived in La Porte County for at least 5 years.

 

Board of Zoning Appeals, 4-year term.

 

Property Tax Board of Appeals, 1-year term, 2 appointments, one of them must be a certified level 2 assessor-appraiser.

 

The Council welcomes expressions of interest by members of the public, who would like to serve. Interested parties can provide a cover letter and, optionally, a resume.  Send to the La Porte County Auditor, 555 Michigan Avenue, Suite 205, La Porte, IN  46350. Or e-mail tstabosz@laporteco.in.gov.

 

State Wins Settlement with Tech Giant

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana has reached a multi-million dollar settlement with Google. In a press release Thursday, state Attorney General Todd Rokita announced that the tech giant will pay the Hoosier State $20 million.

 

The lawsuit stems from Google’s location tracking. Rokita alleged the company was not up-front about using data from Hoosiers to build detailed user profiles and target ads.

 

Rokita opted out of a larger suit involving other states, which he says resulted in a larger settlement for Indiana.

 

Also on Thursday, the Attorney General’s Office announced that it is still pursuing two lawsuits against TikTok for misleading children and luring them toward inappropriate and potentially dangerous content.

Impaired Driver Given a Free Stay at County Jail

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office pulled another suspected drunk driver off the local roadways.

 

Shortly after 2:00 a.m. Friday morning, police were dispatched to Coolspring Township on the report of a reckless driver.

 

In the area of CR 950 West and CR 300 North, Deputy Alex Pishkur located a red GMC SUV matching the report’s description. The SUV, which showed damage to its front and driver’s side, was stopped at the intersection for an extended period of time.

 

The vehicle’s driver, seeming to disregard the officer’s flashing lights, drove around for a few minutes before pulling into a driveway on CR 200 North.

 

Duputy Pishkur approached the vehicle, but the driver, 56-year-old Carla Biddle of Michigan City, was noncompliant. Pishkur removed Biddle from the SUV and placed her in custody.

 

She is being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond, charged with Operating While Intoxicated and Resisting Law Enforcement.

First Responders Pull Victim From Smoke-Filled Trailer

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man owes his life to the heroics of three area police officers.

 

Just before 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, December 18, emergency dispatch received a fire call from the Dunewood Trailer Park on SR 212. The caller said his trailer was filling with smoke, and he was unable to exit.

 

Long Beach Police Deputy Marshal Mitchell Sightes was the first on-scene. He was advised by dispatch that the caller had stopped communicating. Wasting no time, Sightes kicked in the front door and found the victim lying on the living room floor of the smoke-filled trailer.

 

By then, Michigan City Officer Michael Petrie and La Porte County Sheriff Deputy Alex Pishkur had arrived. Petrie and Pishkur helped carry the resident to safety. He was treated by La Porte County EMS and was said to be in good condition.

 

Michigan City Fire Department later determined that the smoke had been caused by chicken left on a stove.

 

For his initiative and life-saving efforts, Deputy Sightes was presented a letter of commendation by the Long Beach Police Department.

New Life Hoped for Old Firehouse

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte city planners are considering a proposal to renovate and repurpose and old fire station in town.

 

The old firehouse at 910 State St., nestled comfortably next to the US 35 overpass, has recently been used as a senior center. But the building itself is a little elderly and needs rejuvenation.

 

A local developer has offered to buy the property for a little over $200,000. The developer recently rehabbed 702 Lincolnway, turning it into a viable retail/residential property.

 

Their current proposal for the old fire station is also mixed-use: office space on the second floor and an entertainment venue down below. The redevelopment could start to bring some life to an area soon to be opened up by the demolition of the hospital nearby.

 

City officials are reviewing the proposal for further action.

Boyd Goes Out With a Bang

(La Porte, IN) - Anyone who has talked to John Boyd will attest that the outgoing Sheriff is nothing if not a straight-shooter. His marksmanship isn’t bad either, as evidenced by this recent post from the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office:

 

Throughout Sheriff John T. Boyd’s 30 plus year law enforcement career, many have come to know how skillful and accurate he is firing his duty pistol. From his days as a member of the agency’s Emergency Response Team and until now, Sheriff Boyd has continued to train and hone his skill set as a shooter.

 

Earlier this year during a qualification shoot, Sheriff Boyd shot a perfect score. Agency Firearms Instructors pleaded with him to take the target as a keepsake knowing his retirement was nearing. He humbly declined and departed from “The Range.”

 

Knowing just how important Sheriff Boyd’s firearms scores are to him, the Firearms Instructors took advantage of the opportunity and had the target professionally framed several months ago.

 

As Sheriff Boyd’s second term draws to a close later this week, he was asked to come to “The Range” today for one final time as Sheriff where he was presented with his perfect target.

 

During Sheriff Boyd’s tenure, he has remained a huge supporter of the Firearms Program and the beautiful facility that “The Range” has become and grown to be over the years.

 

Thank you, sir!

Slicers Move to Holiday Tourney Title with Two Wins

The La Porte Slicer boys' basketball team rode hot shooting and a smothering defense to a pair of wins on the opening day of the Steiner Homes Holiday Tourney at Slicer Gym. La Porte will play in the tournament championship game Friday at 5:30.

 

This is a three-day eight-team tourney. Wednesday’s pool consisted of Logansport, Kouts, Hanover Central, and the Slicers. Logansport defeated Kouts 50-48 in game one. La Porte defeated Hanover Central 64-44 in game two. Hanover Central defeated Kouts 42-35 in game three and the Slicers overwhelmed Logansport 55-23 in game four.

 

Thursday’s schedule is Game one South Bend Adams vs Lowell at 10 am, followed by Tippecanoe Valley and Lake Central at 11:30. The losers will play at 5:00 pm, followed by the winners. At noon, Friday’s games will pit Kouts against Thursday’s consolation loser for 7th place. Hanover Central vs the Thursday consolation winner at 1:30 for 5th place. Logansport vs the late game loser for 3rd at 4:00, followed by the Slicers vs the Thursday champ at 5:30.

 

LA PORTE 64 HANOVER CENTRAL 44

 

It was the Rylan Kieszkowski show in La Porte’s first-ever basketball game vs Hanover Central. Kieszkowski made 13 of 15 shots including four 3-pointers on the way to a 30-point morning. He was also at the point of La Porte’s swarming 1-3-1 trapping zone, which forced multiple turnovers and deflections.

 

La Porte led 18-12 after one period and 35-19 at the half. Hanover Central ran off the first 10 points of the 3rd quarter cutting the LP lead to 6. Kieszkowski scored 5 of the Slicer’s 6 points in the 3rd. LP led 41-33 after three. The Slicers pulled away in the 4 th quarter to cruise to a 20-point victory.

 

Ja’Meriyon Cross had 11 points and Kyle Kirkham 10 for the Slicers. La Porte was without point guard Malik Corley all day due to illness. Cross, Kirkham, and RJ Anglin shared point guard duties. Hanover Central was led by Chase Kuzma who had 16 points.

 

Kieszkowski was named the Salisbury and Spence Edward Jones Player of the Game.

 

LA PORTE 55 LOGANSPORT 23

 

This one was over early. The Slicers jumped out to a 19-1 first-quarter lead and never looked back.  Kyle Kirkham scored 14 of his game-high 19 points in the first quarter hitting 4 threes and a 2-point basket. LaPorte was up 31-10 at the half and 55-23 after three. Oddly, neither team scored in the 4 th quarter with backups for both teams playing most of the quarter.

 

Rylan Kieszkowski scored 14 and RJ Anglin 10 to go along with Kirkham’s 19. Anglin was named the Salisbury and Spence Edward Jones Player of the game. He scored 10 points and was the primary defender on Jacob Taylor, holding the 6’5 senior 10 points under his season average.

 

La Porte hit 9 three points in the Logansport game and a total of 15 on the day. The Slicers have now won five straight and wait to see who they will play in Friday’s 5:30 championship game.

MonoSol Strike Resolved

(La Porte, IN) - The strike is over.

 

MonoSol announced Wednesday night that they have come to an agreement with Teamsters Local 135 and the 192 employees they represent at the La Porte facility.

 

According to MonoSol, the new four-year agreement guarantees no mandatory overtime for 2 years, with the opportunity to extend to a third and fourth year if certain criteria are met. Their press release did not elaborate on those stipulations.

 

The company is also committing to a $6,000 signing bonus, a generous pay increase, enhancements to other benefits, and the opportunity to earn financial incentives for attendance and voluntary overtime. Again, specific details were not provided.

 

“We are pleased that we have reached an agreement and now begin the process of welcoming our employees back to work,” said MonoSol Vice President Matthew Vander Laan. “We look forward to continuing the employee brainstorming sessions that began this past summer to reset the dialogue, strengthen our relationships and build trust consistent with our shared mission, vision and values.”

 

Employees will begin returning to work on January 3 and receive holiday pay for both Christmas and New Year’s.

Heeg: Despite Flood, Sheriff's Office Open for Business

(La Porte, IN) - Flooding at the County Complex Building last weekend really dampened working conditions for several county departments.

 

Sheriff-elect Ron Heeg says some parts of the Sheriff’s Department got a little soggy, but the damage is nothing they can’t work around. “Thankfully, we haven’t experienced as severe damage as the other offices up in the Complex,” he told HTNN. “About half of the offices in our administrative area received some type of damage, and most of those were patrol supervisors’ offices. So they’re not in their offices on a day-to-day basis, because they’re usually out on patrol. So that really helps us in that we don’t have to displace a lot of people.”

 

While parts of the Complex are closed to the public, the Sheriff’s Department is still accessible, according to Heeg. “The public can still come into the Sheriff’s Office,” he said. “If they need to bond somebody out or get a report, such as an accident report.” Heeg said in-person inmate visitation has been suspended temporarily until cleanup is under control. However, online visitation is an option, as always.

 

From his perspective, Heeg says cleanup is going well. “Servepro has a bunch of dehumidifiers and a bunch of fans running,” he said. “I think most of it has been remediated, which is good. The Commissioners and Servpro and building maintenance have all been wonderful to work with. Now we just continue to clean up around here, and we start putting things back together.”

 

Heeg will officially assume the role of Sheriff next week. Right now, he’s just getting his feet wet, but seems to have everything under control.

Referee Association Recognizes Cougar Coaches

(New Carlisle, IN) - Two New Prairie football coaches continue to distinguish themselves following a successful season. Head Coach Casey McKim and Assistant Bill Gumm were recognized at a recent meeting of the Indiana Football Coaches Association.

 

McKim was named Coach of the Year for Region 2, which includes the schools of north-central Indiana. He was also selected to help coach this summer’s North/South All-Star game.

 

Gumm was elected once again as an Assistant Coach Rep for this region to the IFCA. This will be Coach Gumm’s 6th term in the position, which is influential in high school football rule changes.

 

With a 13-2 record, the Cougars won Sectional, Regional, and Semi-State Championships, finishing as Class 4A State Runners-up.

First Responders Rescue Frozen Goose

(Porter, IN) - One Christmas goose was the opposite of cooked at Indiana Dunes State Park Monday.

 

Bystanders reported to Indiana Conservation Officers that a Canada goose was stranded along the edge of Lake Michigan. The little goose’s feathery bottom was stuck in place on the frozen wet sand.

 

When Good Samaritans failed to loose the goose, Porter Volunteer Firefighters came to the rescue.

 

After a little warm water treatment, the bird was freed and taken to a local wildlife veterinarian facility for treatment.

Big Comedy Bails Out Stranded Motorists

(La Porte, IN) - The recent Christmas blizzard created road hazards that dampened the holidays for some. For plow drivers and tow trucks, it was a chance to cash in, but one La Porte local decided to use his new Ford pickup for the public good.

 

As the storm hit, Charlie Young posted an offer on Facebook to help out any drivers in need. Many know Young as an organizer of Big Comedy La Porte, but during the snowstorm, he was the Lone Ranger. Young figured, on the biggest holiday weekend of the year, people would be out on the roadways regardless of the weather. And with so many people strapped for cash, why pay a tow truck for a simple tug out of a ditch?

 

Young says it’s the kind of thing he often does anyway, but under the circumstances, he decided to put the word out.

 

“We threw together a quick little, really poorly Photoshopped ad, and threw it out there,” he said. “And it gained traction like we couldn’t believe.”

 

By late Christmas Eve, Young had helped 25 stranded motorists. He says he literally drove from one side of La Porte County to the other, and he encountered all kinds of minor emergencies. “I did some jumpstarts,” Young said. “One guy was at a hotel, and he was completely safe, but he needed a jumpstart, so I was there first thing in the morning. There were a lot of people stuck in parking lots they thought were plowed.” One man called for help, but got himself unstuck by the time Young arrived.

 

“Sometimes it was just knowing that you had the support if you needed it,” Young said.

 

One of Young’s last jobs of the weekend was helping a mom and her two small children get back to their home in New Carlisle so they wouldn’t miss Santa.

 

The Big Comedy organizer did not charge for his services, and he emphasized that many other people were out doing similar deeds. Young said any donations he received would go to the charity he helps run, Big Comedy La Porte.

 

Big Comedy’s signature event, Inappropriate Trivia Night, is coming up on February 4. But there’s nothing inappropriate about what Charlie did over the weekend.

Frozen Pipes Flood La Porte County Complex Building

(La Porte, IN) - A crazy weather weekend got even crazier when a burst water pipe flooded the La Porte County Complex building. Situated next to the courthouse, the County Complex serves as the central meeting place for La Porte County government and is home to the Sheriff's Department as well as the County Jail.

 

The massive leak occurred somewhere at the 5th floor level due to a frozen sprinkler pipe. Water cascaded all the way down to the basement and caused significant damage. County Commissioner Joe Haney and Commissioner-elect Connie Gramarossa met with county maintenance supervisors and insurance reps Monday afternoon and are working on a plan to clean up.

 

Haney said an exterior trim piece likely blew off the building during the weekend storm, allowing frigid temperatures and strong winds to penetrate the interior. The sprinkler pipe froze and burst sometime Christmas morning. The flooding was discovered Sunday afternoon by a county employee doing a routine check.

 

Haney said right now they’re working closely with the county’s insurance provider and trying to keep the damage from getting worse. “We’re in the very preliminary phases now. Our local [insurance] carrier came out; we’re being assigned a claims team,” he told HTNN Monday evening. “Because of the scale of what we’re looking at—multiple floors—we’re being assigned a special team that’s going to come in and take a look at everything.” Right now, Haney said, the focus is to mitigate further damage. Drying fans and dehumidifiers are being placed in the building to prevent mold.

 

Haney said some county offices look like a total loss, while others were untouched by water. On Tuesday employees will retrieve whatever belongings they can. According to Haney, many county offices, such as Treasurer, Auditor, Surveyor, legal courts, and Sheriff’s Department, operate out of other buildings or were not badly damaged, so their normal services should not be affected. He said the County Building Department was the hardest hit.

 

The flooding did not affect the County Jail, which is housed in a different area of the building; there is no threat to public safety. However, the County Complex will be closed to public access until further notice. We’ll provide more details as this situation develops.

South Bend Police "Elficers" Save Christmas

(South Bend, IN) - In South Bend, police officers carried on their Christmas tradition of making sure less fortunate kids in the community have presents under their tree.

 

Sponsored by the FOP Lodge #36, this year’s effort provided Christmas presents for 426 South Bend children, which is double last year’s amount. Volunteers and police officers wrapped and handed out about 3,000 presents.

 

But a special delivery was made to one family whose Christmas was nearly ruined by a Grinch. On Christmas Eve, officers responded to a Breaking & Entering complaint at a home in South Bend, where they learned the family’s Christmas gifts had been stolen.

 

The Christmas “elficers” immediately went back to their workshop and returned with presents for everyone, as well as some food and diapers.

Impaired Driver Impales Vehicle in Crash

(Lake County, IN) - An impaired driver impaled her vehicle on a gate arm and is lucky to be alive. The accident happened Christmas Eve on I-65 south of Merrillville.

 

For unknown reasons, a 2015 Rav4 left the roadway, exiting into the weigh station area at a high rate of speed. The car struck a tubular steel gate arm head-on. The gate impaled the vehicle, entering through the engine compartment and piercing all through the rear hatch. Luckily, the driver, 33-year-old Rebeca Claus of Shelby, Indiana, was not hurt.

 

Police found Claus walking around her impaled sleigh. She refused a sobriety test both at the scene and at a local hospital. Suspecting Claus to be intoxicated, they took her into custody and charged her accordingly.

 

Closed for Christmas Monday

(La Porte County, IN) - Today is Christmas for many local government employees, as well as many other workers. With yesterday’s big holiday falling on a Sunday, it’s observed today with a day off. La Porte County and City offices are closed today. South Bend City and St. Joseph County offices are also closed today.

 

And La Porte Transporte bus service is not operating today. They will resume normal routes tomorrow.

 

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles is closed today and will also close next Saturday and Monday for New Year's.

 

The La Porte County YMCA, all La Porte County Public Library branches, and the Jane Bernard Animal Shelter are also closed today and will reopen tomorrow.

Police Provide Data on Weekend Driving Incidents

(Lowell, IN) - First responders in northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan are exhaling after a blizzardly weekend of treacherous driving conditions.

 

The Indiana State Police Lowell Post has provided some numbers on what they experienced. From Thursday afternoon through Sunday morning in northwest Indiana alone, state troopers responded to 153 property damage crashes, 157 stranded motorists, 83 slide-offs, and 28 crashes involving injuries. State Police also encountered 5 impaired drivers, and one trooper was injured while on duty.

 

During the early morning hours on Friday, the eastbound lanes of I-94 were closed through most of LaPorte County. Nearly 150 soldiers from the Indiana National Guard were activated during the blizzard to help patrol Hoosier highways. Some of them were out along the Indiana Toll Road.

 

Southwest Michigan was hit extra hard by winter weather over the weekend, wreaking havoc on highways.

 

I-94 in Berrien County was closed for several hours Friday following a pileup of 9 semis. It was just one of many roadway incidents in that area. A Michigan State Police trooper’s vehicle was hit, and a firefighter was struck by a car while helping to direct traffic.

Impaired Driver Makes Interstate Travel Worse

(Porter County, IN) - The recent blizzard didn’t deter a Chesterton woman from drunk driving on the interstate.

 

On Friday evening around 6:00 p.m., Indiana State Police were handling a lane closure on westbound I-94 near the Burns Harbor exit. While a hazmat crew was cleaning up the mess from a previous crash, troopers witnessed another crash in the other lanes between a semi and a 1999 Chevy passenger car, which fled the scene.

 

The Chevy stuck out like Rudolph’s red nose due to extensive front-end damage, and police gave chase. A trooper located the vehicle about two miles down the interstate crashed into a ditch.

 

The driver, 32-year-old Tiffany Bergstrom of Chesterton, was charged with O.W.I., Intoxicated Endangerment, and Leaving the Scene of a Crash.

Arrest Made in Infant Murder

(Walkerton, IN) - A Walkerton man has been arrested for allegedly murdering a 3-month-old baby in Fulton County last summer.

 

Back in July, first responders were called to a residence southeast of Rochester on a report of a child not breathing. Following the baby’s death, an autopsy revealed blunt force trauma to the head as the cause. Amphetamine and methamphetamine were also allegedly found in the child’s system.

 

The boyfriend of the baby’s mother, 32-year-old Darren Corbett of Walkerton, was arrested last weekend and charged with murder, aggravated battery against a minor and neglect. He is being held in the Fulton County Jail without bond.

Meth Arrests Keep Stacking Up

(La Porte County, IN) - The number of arrests for methamphetamine is like trying to guess how many jelly beans are in a glass container.  One of the latest cases emerged on Thursday.

 

According to La Porte County Police, 63-year-old Richard Baney was grabbed because a warrant was out for his arrest. The warrant turned up when he was approached by police in Saint Joseph County, who turned him over to authorities in La Porte County.

 

During a jail search, police said the Trail Creek resident was found with a large amount of methamphetamine. The crystal-like substance was in two bags allegedly underneath his clothing.

 

According to court records, the warrant was for unlawful possession of a syringe and possession of marijuana.  Baney is being held without bond.

Homecoming for Leader of Hoosier Agriculture

(Indianapolis, IN) - It’s sort of a homecoming for Bruce Kettler, who’s going from Indiana’s top dog in agriculture to a sector of the farming industry he grew up on. Kettler, the Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, will be leaving the post nearly five years after being named to the position by Governor Eric Holcomb. His last day on the job is January 6.

 

Kettler is taking over as CEO and President of the Agribusiness Council of Indiana. The Indianapolis-based group is a voice at the statehouse for businesses serving farmers in areas like grain, feed, seed, plant food, and fertilizer.  ACI is also involved in promoting agriculture and providing information about industry trends and issues.

 

Kettler, 59, said his father in west central Ohio was involved in the retail side of agriculture for over 30 years, working specifically for fertilizer and crop protection businesses.  He learned a few things from his father and developed a liking for agriculture before leaving to study agronomy and ag business at Ohio State University.

 

Kettler sort of became homesick when he answered the knocking on his door.

 

“There’s a piece of me that says this is an opportunity to get back to a sector that my father was very involved in,” he said.

 

Kettler said he’s also very familiar with the commercial end of the industry and felt he has something to offer.  He pointed out that not only does ISDA work to assist farmers with crop production and land conservation but also gets involved in matters like helping businesses serving agriculture and rural communities with job creation.

 

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, who serves as Indiana’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development, called Kettler a strong voice for farmers and the industry.

 

“His leadership and stewardship have been invaluable and I wish him well as he transitions back into the private sector,” she said.

 

Governor Eric Holcomb credited Kettler for elevating agribusiness development in the state through innovation and focus on the future.

 

“His leadership has set the agriculture ecosystem up for long-term success,” he said.

 

Kettler began his professional career at Dow Agrosciences where he worked in sales, marketing, finance management, and other areas like advertising and public relations.  He was director of public relations for Beck’s Hybrids when contacted about the governor’s interest in him becoming the ISDA director.

 

Kettler did not grow up on a farm, but his parents were raised on small milk-producing operations.  His love for the industry showed from the interest he showed in his father’s line of work and his membership with 4H and Future Farmers of America. Kessler said his heart for agriculture was cemented when he began working at a nearby dairy farm while in junior high school.  He worked there for five years and became a state officer and national officer with FFA in high school. Kessler said his experience with FFA opened his eyes to many career possibilities related to agriculture he never knew existed.

 

Reaching the top was not something that ever really crossed his mind until receiving a phone call from Crouch asking if he would accept the governor’s request to be ISDA director.

 

Kessler said he’s proud of the work performed on his watch in areas like dairy, water quality, and cover crops. Cover crops are now planted on 1.5 million acres in the state and together rank third in production behind only corn and soybeans. Highest on his list of achievements, perhaps, was successfully working through the challenges never experienced before during the pandemic.  The difficulties ranged from pork farmers facing processing plant shutdowns because of COVID-19 infection to working with other agencies and stakeholders on sharing information and decision-making.

 

“We just didn’t know what was going to happen and how to react.  It was rapidly changing but the industry came together and we played a part in working with those stakeholders to do that,” he said.

 

He also spoke highly about sharing with people from other countries what’s practiced here in agriculture.

 

Kettler said his time as ISDA director will always hold a “special place in my professional career.  Serving the farmers, businesses and citizens of Indiana has been an honor that I could not have imagined even a few years ago.”

Fire Also Destroyed Vintage Automobile

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - About a dozen hogs along with a nearly century-old automobile were lost in a barn fire in LaPorte County. Firefighters late in the night of December 20 responded to a small farm belonging to Kenneth Hunt in the 6800 block of East 300 North.

 

“It was a total loss,” said Kankakee Township Fire Chief Chip Winters.

 

Winters said the barn, roughly 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, was serviced by electricity running from the house.  He said some type of electrical issue could have started the fire but the cause will be left up to Hunt’s insurance company to try and determine. Hunt told investigators he plugged in a submersible heater that night to keep water in a trough the hogs inside the barn drank out of from freezing.

 

"It could have been that or something else.  We don’t know,” Winters said.

 

At some point, Winters said a breaker switch in the house attached to the electrical wiring leading to the barn was tripped. Hunt said a breathing machine he was wearing for sleep apnea quit running, which woke him up.  He climbed out of bed and from his bedroom window noticed the fire.

 

Hunt said that also lost in the fire was a 1928 Essex, an automobile once belonging to his great-grandmother, Emma.  He said the black-colored vehicle with wood spoke wheels was all original and in mint condition. His father, Darral, was the current owner who kept the car inside his son’s barn for the past several years after running out of storage space in his garage where he lives nearby.

 

Hunt said he hated to break the news to his father.

 

“He ain’t too happy about it but what can you do. At least nobody got hurt.  That’s the biggest thing,”

 

Hunt said the car was last driven when he and his father took it for a spin “three to four years ago.”

 

“It sucks, man.  I don’t wish this on nobody,” he said.

 

Firefighters from Lincoln, Pleasant, and Springfield townships helped put out the blaze.  Winters said the barn was small but outside assistance was needed to provide enough tanker trucks with water to put out flames embedded in the hay and wood stored inside the structure. The barn also contained a sawmill Hunt used to cut logs into lumber.

 

Winters said he was not aware of any hogs that survived the fire, which took about three hours to completely extinguish.

 

Hunt said the car was insured but he did not know how much the car was worth. 

Old Man Winter Strikes

(La Porte County, IN) - Don’t travel unless you absolutely have to with conditions looking more like the North Pole with two days left to Christmas.

 

“Make that tough decision and stay home,” said Mike Kellems, a police officer from La Porte.

 

String winds and several inches of fresh snow on the ground have greatly reduced visibility especially in open areas.  The temperatures before sunrise were also well below zero.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner said it’s just too dangerous to be on the roads because of the blowing and drifting.

 

“We can go from good visibility for a quarter of a mile and the next minute you can’t see 15 feet in front of you,” Werner said.

 

Werner said the roads are mostly passable but snow drifts of up to four feet were encountered by snow plow drivers in spots this morning.

 

“By all means, stay home if you can,” he said.

 

Werner said it appears the highest snow is close to the Michigan line with roughly six to eight inches on the ground.

 

Kellems said drivers venturing out should have things like a cell phone, blanket and tank full of gas in case they get stranded.

 

Local government offices are closed today because of the extreme weather.

Vote by Striking Workers Tomorrow

(La Porte, IN) - Striking workers in La Porte will vote on a new contract proposal on Friday. The nearly 200 employees are from Monosol, which operates a film production plant at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park on the city’s east side.

 

The workers, who are members of the Teamsters Local 135, cite years of forced overtime as the primary issue in efforts to reach a new contract.  The latest offer from the company includes no forced overtime for at least two years. Previously, the company stated a vast majority of the workers volunteered to work overtime.  The strike is in its third week.

 

Monosol is a maker of packaging for products such as laundry soap that dissolve when contact is made with water. The Merrillville based company has other Indiana plants in Portage and Lebanon along with several other locations in countries like Japan, United Kingdom and Poland.

Bracing for Major Winter Storm

(La Porte County, IN) - Flakes of snow are now in the air from an approaching winter storm expected to create blizzard conditions later today. A blizzard warning remains in effect until 12 p.m. Saturday for La Porte County and surrounding areas.

 

Police Officer Mike Kellems of La Porte said now is the time for drivers to get what they need if they haven’t already and start preparing if they have to venture out again. 

 

“Have some emergency equipment with you in your car. Make sure you have a shovel, a blanket in case you get stuck.  Make sure your cell is working.  If you don’t have a cell phone, make it clear to people where you’re traveling and when you expect to arrive,” he said.

 

Kellems said drivers also need to make sure their gas tanks are full and drive according to the conditions.

 

“The bottom line is if you don’t have to travel don’t do it,” he said.

 

He also advised against traveling to family gatherings during the holiday weekend.

 

“Mother nature is dealing a card to us that means a snow storm is coming.  Make some common sense decisions,” he said.

 

The storm is expected to produce greater than 50 mile per hour winds while the snow is piling up, and that means white out conditions along with arctic cold temperatures.

 

“The best thing folks need to do is stay home,” Kellems said.

New Party Chairman Aims to Reverse Slide

(La Porte County, IN) - Democrats in LaPorte County have a new leader who hopes to end the struggles of local party candidates in recent elections. Angie Henzman, 38, of Trail Creek was elected party chairman during a caucus of democrat precinct committeepersons countywide on December 14th.  She narrowly defeated Julie Sinclair of LaPorte.

 

Earlier this year, Henzman left her full-time managerial position in the private sector to become campaign manager for State Representative Pat Boy (D) of Michigan City.

 

Boy was among just a handful of LaPorte County democrats successful in the November 8th election.  Henzman said Boy encouraged her to seek the position vacated by Dr. Vidya Kora, who announced his resignation two days later.

 

“I was able to leave my position in retail and focus on what I really want to devote my life to which is politics,” she said.

 

Henzman said her plan is to refocus the party on serving and fighting for the well-being of LaPorte County residents and recruiting candidates in leadership positions dedicated to her vision.

 

“The whole purpose of the party should be to better the quality of life of the people,” she said.

 

Henzman said she will also look for candidates willing to be accessible to the public and active in their communities on a more consistent basis.  She said concern about the economy wasn’t the only thing expressed from the doorsteps of many voters during the most recent campaign.

 

“I heard a lot of people also saying I never see politicians actually involved in my life until the three months before every election,” she said.

 

In his letter of resignation, Kora said the qualities and talents local party candidates brought to the table were overlooked and the outcomes decided by what was happening in politics at the national level.  He also expressed frustration with what he described as “Trumpism” not fading in La Porte County like it has in other parts of the nation. Henzman said the party needs to make sure all citizens are represented equally while reassuring people voting for democrats in the past “we’re still fighting for them.”

 

“I don’t care if it’s Trump country.  If we’re talking south county, LaPorte or Michigan City. Our whole purpose has to be to reach into the community and make a difference. We really need just a level approach to this,” she said.

Police Sweep Thief from Streets

(Michigan City, IN) - An alleged Michigan City drug user and thief could be spending Christmas behind bars. Samuel Cornell, 29, had a warrant out for his arrest when located inside a vehicle on December 15th in Michigan City.

 

According to police, officers found him in the backseat during a traffic stop after learning he was wanted and in the vehicle.  The warrant alleges Cornell stole money and other items from a woman, who allowed him to spend the night at her residence on Washington Street last month because she knew that he was homeless. After he left the next morning, police said a cedar box containing 300 dollars was gone along with other items like a knife and $6 in coins.

 

During his recent arrest, police said Cornell was found with a small amount of methamphetamine.

 

He is still being held today in the La Porte County Jail on a $755 bond on felony charges of theft and possession of methamphetamine. Police said Cornell was previously convicted of theft in July.

 

 

Potential Life in Prison for Fentanyl Dealer

(South Bend, IN) - The hammer has dropped hard on a man who appears to have played a major role in the sale of fentanyl in the area. Rico Marion of Michigan City has received a 37-year federal prison sentence after pleading to the charges in U.S. District Court at South Bend.

 

According to court documents, the 44-year-old Marion was involved with other individuals in the distribution of fentanyl in the Michigan City area.  He was caught in August of 2021 with more than a kilogram of fentanyl pills while traveling back to Michigan City.

 

The pills purported to be oxycodone were later discovered to actually be fentanyl. A kilogram of fentanyl is enough to kill about 250,000 people and has an estimated street value of about $100,000, according to experts.

 

“Fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine meaning as little as 2 milligrams can kill.  Our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners are focused on dismantling organizations that distribute this deadly illicit drug,” said U.S. Attorney Clifford Johnson.

 

Authorities said Marion also possessed numerous firearms during his fentanyl-related activities.

Hammer Attack During Burglary

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a recent bloody attack with a hammer involving an intruder in La Porte. Travis Bates, 35, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 2 felony burglary, Level 5 felony battery with a deadly weapon, and Level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine.

 

According to court documents, an employee of Clear Sky Heating and Air at 418 East Lincolnway reported for work at about 7 a.m. on December 14th.  Bates hit him on the head with a hammer and tried kicking him down the stairs, police said. During a struggle, the worker pulled the hammer out of Bates's hands and struck the suspect multiple times, including once possibly with the hammer.

 

The victim yelled for a witness to contact the police and held Bates to the floor until officers arrived. According to court documents, the victim, then bleeding from a large bump on his head, refused medical attention.  Bates, also bleeding from the head, was taken by ambulance to the hospital.

 

The investigation shows entry into the business was made through a window. Bates told police he meant to go to a blue house nearby and meet a girl in the basement but chose the wrong structure. Instead, the business he broke into was inside a blue house about a block away.

 

According to court documents, Bates, after being released from the hospital, was taken to the La Porte County Jail where he was found with more than four grams of methamphetamine.

Dermody Top Bell Ringer Again

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody has scored his third straight victory in raising funds for the Salvation Army. The win came in the bell-ringing contest Tuesday against Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry.

 

 

 

Just over $2,700 was dropped into kettles manned by Dermody and his team outside Kroger in La Porte.  Slightly more than $600 came out of the kettles Parry and his teammates were assigned to at Al’s Supermarket on Franklin St.

 

Last year, Dermody raised just over $6,000 in the kettles outside Kroger while Parry had more than $3,100 dropped into his kettles at the same Al’s Supermarket location. La Porte Salvation Army

 

Capt. Charles Pinkston said he’s not surprised at the lower totals because fundraising in the kettles this season is noticeably down here and elsewhere.

 

He believes inflation has taken a bite out of what people are able to give this year.

 

“Everything right now is down.  It’s not unexpected,” he said.

Dermody also had an anonymous donor who matched every dollar dropped into his kettles to raise his grand total to more than $5,400.

 

“We’re excited about that. All of these funds go to helping those in need,” he said.

 

As of December 21st, about $45,000 had come out of the kettles at all locations in La Porte since the kettle drive began prior to Thanksgiving.  The goal is $85,000. Pinkston said assistance with things like food and utility bills could go to fewer people next year to make up for any fund raising shortage.

Hogs Perish in Barn Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - About a dozen hogs died in a fully engulfed barn fire Tuesday night near Rolling Prairie. Firefighters after 11 p.m. responded to a small farm belonging to Kenneth Hunt in the 6800 block of East 300 North.

 

“It was a total loss,” said Kankakee Township Fire Chief Chip Winters.

 

Winters said the barn, roughly 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, was serviced by electricity running from the house.  He said some type of electrical issue could have started the fire but the cause will be left up to Hunt’s insurance company to try and determine.

 

Hunt told investigators he plugged in a submersible heater that night to keep water in a trough the hogs inside the barn drank out of from freezing.  

 

“It could have been that or something else.  We don’t know,” Winters said.

 

At some point, a breaker switch in the house attached to the electrical wiring that led to the barn was tripped. Firefighters from Lincoln, Pleasant, and Springfield townships helped put out the blaze. Winters noted further that the barn was small but outside assistance was needed to provide enough tanker trucks with water to put out flames embedded in the hay and wood stored inside the structure. The barn also contained a sawmill Hunt used to cut logs into lumber.

 

“He cut his own wood for building,” he said.

 

Winters said he was not aware of any hogs that survived the fire, which took about three hours to completely extinguish.

High Recognition for Local Historian

(Indianapolis, IN) - A La Porte native has been recognized by the governor. La Porte County Historian Bruce Johnson has received the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest honor that can be awarded by the governor.

 

Johnson is president of the La Porte County Historical Society Board of Directors and a 35-year member of the governing body.  He was also an elementary school teacher for 38 years with South Central Community Schools.

 

"Bruce is an incredibly hard worker who has spent a large part of his life giving back to his community. We are lucky to have someone so dedicated to serving others and I'm honored to present him with Indiana's top award," said State Representative Jim Pressel of Rolling Prairie.

 

State Senator Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores also took part in the award presentation.

 

Dating back to the 1940s, the Sagamore of the Wabash award was created by former Gov. Ralph Gates. It is the highest honor the governor can bestow and is presented to distinguished Hoosiers who have made significant contributions to the state of Indiana.

Dueling Mayors Today at Kettles

(La Porte County, IN) - LaPorte Mayor Tom Dermody and Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry are challenging each other again today to benefit the Salvation Army. Dermody and members of his team are ringing the bell at the kettle outside Kroger while Parry and his squad are manning the kettle at Al’s Supermarket on Franklin Street.

 

Dermody is hoping to remain undefeated after winning the two previous years. Last year, team Dermody finished with just over $6,000 in their kettle while slightly more than $3,100 came out of Parry’s kettle.  In 2020, Dermody outdistanced Parry by nearly $10,000.

 

Dermody is urging people to dig deeper at the kettles to help the Salvation Army in La Porte reach its $85,000 kettle drive goal, with less than $40,000 having been collected as of Monday.

 

 “They need your help,” he said.

 

Salvation Army groups nationwide are seeing reduced giving at the kettles this season with inflation cited as a major factor. 

Snow Plow Drivers on High Alert

(La Porte County, IN) - We could have a very white Christmas. Close to a foot or more of snow, arctic cold, and gusty winds could hit the area beginning on Thursday and into Friday. Right now, a storm system out west is on a path to bring the region blizzard-like conditions and single-digit temperatures.

 

La Porte County Highway Department Superintendent Duane Werner met with members of his staff this morning to plan for such an event.  Workers were doing things like checking engine fluids and air in the tires on snow plow trucks to make sure they were ready to clear the roads, he said. Werner stated further, remarking that crews today also began applying an ice-melting solution on the roads to get a head start on keeping travel as safe as possible.

 

“We’re going to be out for the next couple of days pretreating roads with liquid deicer.  Just getting a game plan to make sure everything is up and going,” he said.

 

Werner noted there’s always a chance for heavy snowfall amounts in a forecast to diminish if an approaching major storm veers off course, but it’s always best to plan for the worst to avoid begin caught off guard.

 

A winter storm watch has already been issued for much of the area.

Jailer Assaulted by Robbery Suspect

(La Porte, IN) - A suspect in a Michigan City robbery is now facing criminal allegations of punching a La Porte County Jail officer. Avery Smith, 33, has been charged with Level 5 felony battery.

 

According to court documents, the attack was incited when the jail officer on December 8th opened the door to the jail cell occupied by Smith and asked him to remove a blanket covering the window on the door of his jail cell. Smith obeyed the request but seemed angry with the jail officer.

 

The officer tried shutting the cell door but Smith allegedly used his foot to keep it from latching and did it again despite a verbal warning.  Smith then lunged out of the cell before the door closed and landed a right hook to the jailer’s face, bending his eyeglasses and leaving him dazed.

 

According to jail officials, covering the window on a jail cell door is a violation because it restricts the ability to monitor the activities of inmates in their cells.

 

Smith of Michigan City was being detained to face charges in connection with the March 3 robbery at the Smoke and Vape Shop in the 3300 block of Franklin Street.  Police said he allegedly struck an employee in the head and fled with an undetermined amount of currency.

Robber Ordered Pizza Delivered Before Arrest

(Michigan City, IN) - A New Buffalo man suspected of a recent bank robbery ordered a pizza while in hiding and paid for the tab with money from the heist. Those are among the new details alleged in the case against Ryan James.

 

James, 43, is charged in LaPorte Superior Court 1 with the December 15th robbery of First Source Bank in the 3900 block of Franklin Street in Michigan City. According to court documents, James on a note slipped to a teller demanding money and indicating he had a gun.

 

James, who was wearing a mask, fled with about $4,000 in a dark-colored sport utility vehicle with a Chicago White Sox sticker in the back window, police said. A Pokagon Tribal Police officer soon located the suspected getaway vehicle outside Judy’s Motel on U.S. 12 just west of the New Buffalo city limits. The motel was placed under surveillance while police and prosecutors gathered evidence to present to a judge for an arrest warrant. James then had a pizza delivered to his motel room and paid the tab with the stolen money judging by the serial numbers on the bills matching the currency taken from the bank, according to court documents.

 

About three hours later, an arrest warrant was obtained and James obeyed commands from officers to step out of the room.  James allegedly confessed to the robbery and stated he did not have a gun during the hold-up,  court documents revealed. He was booked into the Berrien County Jail and held until he could be transported across state lines to the LaPorte County Jail to face the allegations.

 

Berrien County Police Undersheriff Chuck Heit said there’s a process that must be followed before offenders can be taken to face charges in other jurisdictions. He anticipates James will be given to authorities in LaPorte County sometime in the next 30 days.  He would not be more specific on exactly when that will occur.

 

“From a safety and security standpoint in moving offenders, we don’t let anybody know when that is going to happen,” he said.

Waterfront Type Dining for La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - The door has opened for providing waterfront-type dining in La Porte. Plans for a 7,100 square-foot independently owned restaurant across from Pine Lake were given final approval Monday night by the La Porte City Council.

 

The multi-level restaurant with outdoor dining will go up on the former Thunderbird Lanes site at 1251 Pine Lake Ave.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the city and owner have worked together for the past six years on developing the parcel into something good for both sides, noting that a high percentage of local residents want more dining options in the city.

 

Cook also said that a restaurant aimed at bringing visitors from across the region to enjoy a meal close to the lake also reflects ongoing efforts to capitalize on the natural resources locally to draw more people here.

 

“This is without a doubt a destination location,” he said.

 

La Porte native Brandon Jones of Pine Lake Development, LLC is behind the restaurant planning to offer traditional American cuisine once construction is completed sometime in 2023. Jones is involved with other food-related operations such as Buffalo Wild Wings at the Pine Lake Shopping Center in La Porte.

 

Cook said the name of the restaurant has not been decided. In turn, the site is not on the shoreline.  However, it’s close enough that a waterfront atmosphere was drawn into the design of the structure.

 

“There will be unique aspects to the dining experience,” said Tony Oss, the project manager from Larson-Danielson Construction.

 

The council voted in favor of placing the site in an economic development zone for the project to be eligible for tax abatement. A 10-year tax abatement was approved a short time after for the estimated $4 million investment that could employ up to 65 people at some point in the coming years.

 

“The multi-level experience will have beautiful views of Pine Lake and the restaurant will be family-friendly,” Cook said.

Police Keeping Lips Sealed on Homicide

(Michigan City, IN) - No arrests have been reported yet since a fatal shooting more than two weeks ago in Michigan City. According to police, officers just before 1 a.m. on December 3 responded to a report of shots fired in the 700 block of E. 10th Street.

 

A person described by police only as a male was on the ground with what appeared to be life-threatening injuries.  Another person described as a female had also been shot. Both subjects were transported to Franciscan Health, where the male was later pronounced dead.  No additional information was released at that time.

 

Michigan City Police and other authorities did not respond to requests today for additional information and updates on the case. Any witnesses or anyone with information or video that could be helpful to the case is asked to contact Michigan City Police.

Alleged Bank Robber Awaits Return

(St. Joseph, MI) - A New Buffalo man is still awaiting transfer to local authorities on charges stemming from a December 15th bank robbery in Michigan City. Ryan James, 43, allegedly robbed First Source Bank at 3905 Franklin Street.

 

According to Michigan City Police, the suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of cash in a dark-colored vehicle before responding officers arrived.  A short time later, a Pokagon Band Tribal Police officer spotted the suspected vehicle in the New Buffalo area.

 

Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit said the alleged getaway car was located outside Judy’s Motel on U.S. 12 just west of the New Buffalo city limits. Heit continued, stating that officers had the property under surveillance for about two hours until they could move in and take him into custody once a warrant was obtained for the suspect’s arrest. The warrant was issued by a Berrien County judge after ruling the evidence was sufficient enough to hold James until he could be returned to Indiana to face the allegations.

 

James is now being held in the Berrien County Jail on a hold from La Porte County. 

 

Heit said there’s a required process to follow before alleged offenders are transferred to other jurisdictions where they’re charged.  He anticipates James being transported to the La Porte County Jail in 30 days or less and being held until his initial hearing before a judge.

 

James is charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with Level 5 felony robbery. He could face anywhere from a one to six-year sentence.

 

Anyone who witnessed the robbery or has information or video footage that might be helpful to the investigation is asked to contact Michigan City Police Detective Lt. Anna Painter at (219) 874-3221 ext. 1077.

La Porte Deemed Bicycle Friendly

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte is being recognized nationwide for making bicycling throughout the community safer and easier. The League of American Bicyclists designated La Porte as a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community.

 

City Planner David Heinold said the declaration is a testament to the city’s commitment to offering resources that benefit residents of all ages and abilities while encouraging healthier and more sustainable transportation choices.

 

“The City of La Porte strives to create a welcoming environment for all people where bicycling is a major part of living an active and healthy lifestyle. We are committed to providing quality opportunities for residents and visitors to see our beautiful city by bicycle,” he said.

 

La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody said the designation will provide an edge in attracting new businesses and residents to the community because of how much quality of life is considered by employers and individuals in deciding where to locate. He further assured that it’s also a selling point to help keep current students living here as adults and attract prior graduates back to the community.

 

“It just shows there’s something for everybody in La Porte,” he said.

 

The city has invested considerable time in recent years developing walking and bicycling trails with more planned in the future. La Porte joins 500 other communities throughout the country in attaining one of five bicycle-friendly levels of designation by the League of American Bicyclists. Criteria for consideration include bicycle-related infrastructure, education, and events. For more information, visit bikeleague.org/community.

 

The focus of the group is on safer roads for bicyclists, promoting how bicyclists make for stronger communities and furthering the push toward a “Bicycle Friendly America.” The organization founded in 1880 in Newport, Rhode Island is now based in Washington D.C.

Giving Slumps in Kettles

(La Porte, IN) - Money dropped into Salvation Army kettles is noticeably down in many areas nationwide. In La Porte, the kettle drive is less than halfway to the $85,000 goal for the season with less than a week until Christmas.  La Porte Salvation Army Capt. Charles Pinkston said the current total stands at about $40,000.

 

He believes inflation is a major reason for what’s been considerably less giving.

 

“The prices on everything have gone up.  People have less disposable income they’re able to give,” he said.

 

Pinkston said meeting the fundraising goal helps keep up with the demand for assistance the following year.

 

“If we don’t meet that goal, chances are after the first of the year we’ll have to revise the budget and that could mean not being able to help as many people as we normally would,” he said.

 

People have until Christmas Eve to drop money into the kettles. Historically, there’s usually a surge in money dropped into the kettles as Christmas approaches. Pinkston said he is not sure if the gap can be closed enough but is hopeful.

 

“We’re trying to be optimistic what we need will, eventually, come our way,” he said.  

Seat on County Council Filled

A soon-to-be open seat on the La Porte County Council has been filled. Adam Koronka will serve the remaining two years left on the term of Connie Gramarossa beginning on January 1st.

 

Gramarossa is becoming a La Porte County Commissioner after being elected in November. The 44-year-old Koronka was chosen during a Saturday caucus of republican precinct committeepersons from throughout the county. He ran against Deb Vance, Ron Shafer, Brett Kessler, and Tom Fath

 

La Porte County Republican Party Chairman Al Stevens said all of the candidates were extremely qualified for the vacancy.

 

“The people of La Porte County would have been fortunate to have any one of the five candidates serve them on the County Council,” he said.

Currently, Koronka serves on the La Porte County Board of Zoning Appeals, in addition to also being vice president of the La Porte County Plan Commission and secretary of the La Porte County Republican Party.

 

Slicers Improve To 5-2 with Weekend Sweep

(La Porte, IN & Knox, IN) - The La Porte High School boys' basketball team improved their record to 5-2 with a pair of victories over the weekend.  On Friday night, at Slicer gym, LP defeated Griffith 80-49 and Saturday traveled to Knox winning 63-46.

 

La Porte used a trapping defensive and balanced scoring to overwhelm Griffith on Friday. The Slicers got at least one 3-point basket from seven different players while ten players scored. La Porte led and increased their lead in each quarter. The Slicers lead 20-11, 40-26, and 57-34 at the quarter breaks.

 

Kyle Kirkham led all scorers in the game with 22 points. Kirkham hit three 3-pointers and was 5-5 from the foul line. Nic Spence scored 11 of his 13 points in the 4th quarter and Tommy Samuelson chipped in 11 to join Kirkham in double figures. Ja’Meryion Cross had 9, Dylan Salisbury 7, Malik Corley and Rylin Kieszkowski had 5 points, Brennan Balka had 4 while RJ Anglin and Brogan Riley each had a basket for 2.

 

Samuelson was named the Spence & Salisbury, Edward Jones Player of the Game.  He had 9 of his 11 points in the first half when the game was still in doubt, he also dominated the boards, blocked several shots, and alter others.

 

On Saturday night, La Porte traveled to Knox and used the same formula of a smothering defense, balanced scoring, and great depth to defeat Knox 63-46.  Eight Slicers scored, led by Corley and Cross with 15 points each.  Kirkham added 14, Samuelson 6, Anglin and Kieszkowki had 4, Salisbury 3 along with a 2-point basket for Spence.

 

Corley was named the Spence & Salisbury, Edward Jones Player of the Game. A pass-first point guard, Corley hit four 3-pointers along with an old fashion 3-point play. Corley’s 3’s were important as they came when Knox gained momentum and cut into the Slicer lead.

Knox was led by 6’7 center Declan Austin with 18 and freshman Myles McLaughlin adding 14.

 

JV TEAM ALSO SWEEPS

 

Matt Millers’ JV squad also swept the weekend, surviving last second shots in wins over Griffith 54-53 and Knox 41-38.

 

In the Griffith game, La Porte maintained the lead throughout, leading by quarter scores of 16-7, 30-21, and 47-36. Griffith started the 4th quarter on an 8-0 run and it was nip and tuck until the end. La Porte had a 3 point lead in the game's final seconds. Griffith hit what appeared to be a game-tying 3 from the corner with 5 seconds remaining.  In the confusion after the basket, La Porte committed an inbounds violation with 2.4 seconds left.  The Panther 3-pointer was ruled to be a 2-point basket, leaving the Slicers with a one-point lead.  The violation gave Griffith the ball under their own basket and an opportunity for the win.  The Slicer defense held and La Porte came away with th3 54-53 win.

 

Gage Raymond with 12 points and Sawyer Tonagel, with 11, led La Porte.  Eli Taylor had 9, 6 points each for Javelle Broome and Vann Warner, Mike Montoya chipped in 4 as did Jose Duarte.  Kevin Konieczny had a basket for 2 points in his debut coming back from a football injury.

 

The Slicers won another close one at Knox on Saturday. The Redskins led 16-14 at the half. La Porte took the lead 31-27 after three quarters before coming away with the 41-38 win.

 

Knox had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer in the final seconds but La Porte’s defense would not allow them a good look.  All Knox could muster was a contested off-balance shot at the buzzer.

 

Taylor (14) and Tonagel (10) were in double figures. Warner (5), Raymond (4), and Konieczny (4) rounded out the scoring.

 

La Porte will host Elkhart Thursday night, Varsity tip is scheduled for 6:30, JV at 5:00. The varsity game, as always, will be broadcast on 96.7 the Eagle, Pre-Game begins at approximately 6:15.

Seasonal Illness Hitting Hard

(La Porte, IN) - This holiday season, many people need a little vitamin C in their stockings. There’s plenty of sickness going around. According to the La Porte County Health Department, at least one area school went to E-learning recently and another reported 22% absenteeism due to sickness.

 

It's unclear just how bad the recent wave of sickness is here locally. According to County Health Department Administrator Amanda Lahners, local hospitals and healthcare centers are not required to report information about illnesses such as the flu to the public, and despite requests from the health department, they have not done so.

 

Lahners said this year three nasty viruses are going around. “COVID is still very active. Obviously, it’s not causing what it was before—that hospitalization and death rate—but it’s still very contagious,” she said. “Everybody’s predicting a higher flu season. And then we also have RSV right now that’s circulating. So it’s that trifecta of illness.”

 

Lahners explained why there’s reason to believe this flu season will get worse before it gets better. “We kind of got a sneak peek. We saw that in Australia, they had a really, really bad flu season, and this year they’re projecting that we’ll have that same season. Usually, we kind of see the same thing.”

 

Lahners said the current spike in illness is a combination of fewer people being vaccinated and the perennial problem of producing a vaccine that counteracts the current strain of the virus. “Not enough people are getting vaccinated against the flu, so you keep circulating it,” she said. “But it’s also trying to predict a year in advance what needs to go into that flu vaccine and if they get the right mixture—and that could be part of why we’re seeing a higher rate also.” Health experts say it takes about two weeks for flu vaccines to take effect.

 

Flu cases are being tracked statewide. Indiana Hospital Association President Brian Tabor says, “Hospitalizations are currently trending above last year’s levels, and at this pace, Indiana could meet or exceed the record levels of inpatient capacity we saw during the peak of COVID-19. As of this week, inpatient volume jumped 15 percent, with numbers surpassing 11,000.”

 

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, 48 Hoosiers have died recently from the flu. Most of those are over the age of 50. Weekly influenza reports from the state can be found HERE.

Michigan City Cold Case Reopened

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police have reopened a 15-year-old cold case in the hopes of cracking an unsolved murder. On April 1st, 2007, Robert “RJ” Winters was found in the 200 block of Michigan City’s East Fulton Street dead from a gunshot wound.

 

Winters’ death was never solved, but police say a person of interest has recently come to light. They are seeking any information from the public to possibly corroborate their suspicions and bring about an arrest.

 

Anyone with information is urged to contact Michigan City Police Detective Corporal Melissa Sopher by phone at 219-874-3221 Ext. 1049 or via email at msopher@emichigancity.com.

 

The public can also contact police via Facebook Messenger, through their crime tip hotline number of 219-873-1488, or on the WeTip Hotline for General Crime (800) 78-CRIME and possibly receive a reward upon an arrest and conviction. All WeTip call information is sent directly to the LaPorte County Prosecutor’s Office. You can always request to remain anonymous.

La Porte Howmet Workers Give a Boost to Moon Mission

(La Porte, IN) - Spaceship pieces from La Porte were part of NASA’s most recent space mission.

 

Artemis I returned successfully from the moon on Sunday. Parts of it were manufactured at La Porte’s Howmet Aerospace. The main engines on the spacecraft contained castings from the La Porte facility.

 

Howmet team members signed banners that were hung on the fence outside the NASA launch site at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

 

The Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission splashed down in the Pacific Ocean after a 25.5-day mission to the Moon.

Deputies Equipped for Cardiac Arrests

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is now even better equipped to handle health emergencies. Every Sheriff’s vehicle now has an AED on board to be used for arrests of a different sort: sudden cardiac arrest.

 

40 new AEDs were recently provided by Bolt for the Heart. Thanks to their fourth annual 5K and 10K walk/run event in October, 20 of those AEDs are now in La Porte County police cars.

 

Bolt for the Heart President Pierre Twer visited the Sheriff's Office on Thursday. “We are so grateful to be able to donate the final 20 AEDs needed to complete equipping the Sheriff’s Office vehicle fleet," he said. "Whether it’s in a rural or urban setting, deputies will be ready with the first responder training and the tools they need to increase survival. It is a pleasure to support our Hometown Heroes.”

 

Sheriff John Boyd says all deputies, not just those assigned to the Patrol Division, are now equipped with a lifesaving AED device.

Arrest in Michigan City Bank Robbery

(Michigan City, IN) - An arrest was made soon after a bank in Michigan City was robbed Thursday afternoon. Ryan James, 43, of New Buffalo is suspected in the hold-up at First Source Bank at 3905 Franklin Street.

 

According to Michigan City Police, the suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of cash in a dark-colored vehicle before responding officers arrived.  A short time later, he was arrested at an undisclosed location after a Pokagon Band Tribal Police officer spotted the suspected vehicle in the New Buffalo area.

 

Additional information was not released because of the ongoing investigation.

 

Anyone who witnessed the robbery or has information or video footage that might be helpful to the investigation is asked to contact Michigan City Police Detective Lt. Anna Painter at (219) 874-3221 ext. 1077.

 

Duck Billed "Coolest" Hoosier Made Product

(Indianapolis, IN) - Duck has received top billing this year over other products made statewide. Maple Leaf Farms, the nation’s largest duck producer, is now flapping its wings. Its fully cooked roast half duck is the winner of the second annual “Coolest Thing Made in Indiana” contest sponsored by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

 

Maple Leaf Farms has contracts with about 150 farmers who raise ducks across northern Indiana for the company to process. Company spokesperson Janelle Deatsman said it takes only about 20 minutes of being in an oven for the half-roast duck to be ready to eat.  The product is sold to restaurants, grocery stores, and online.

 

According to the ICC, there were 54 companies that make anything from racing tires to children’s car seats and wine in the contest.  One entry was a maker of replicas of the Batmobile, the car made famous by the television and movie superhero Batman. The winner was chosen from votes cast online after the contest was promoted on social media.

 

John Tucker, Co-President of the Leesburg-based operation, said it was a fitting award for a longstanding flagship product of the company that grew in popularity during the pandemic as consumers looked for simple to prepare, restaurant-quality foods to serve at home.

 

“We really felt a surge in retail and online sales,” Deatsman said.

 

In 1958, Donald Wentzel started what was then a small duck-raising operation in northern Indiana. Maple Leaf Farms has gone from raising 280,000 ducks the following year to about 10 million ducks annually and being the primary reason more ducks come out of Indiana than any other state.

 

Deatsman said Maple Leaf Farms distributes cooked and uncooked ducks, both fresh and frozen, along with other duck products across the nation and worldwide. In addition to whole ducks, their products include duck breasts, duck legs, ground duck, and duck appetizers. Deatsman also noted that feathers from the processed ducks are taken to another company-owned plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan for processing into fiber used in products like pillows and comforters.

 

The half ducks are roasted at a plant the company built in nearby Milford nearly a half-century ago. Deatsman said the company also has an online store and provides various recipes for duck, posted on the company's webpage highlighting the meat's versatility ranging in anything from salads to tacos.

 

“It’s a very convenient, very versatile product,” she said.

Youth Support Group Expanding Again

(Michigan City, IN) - The door has opened for the Boys and Girls Club of La Porte County to expand its services again. A zoning variance for the organization to construct a 35,000-square-foot building in the area of Coolspring Avenue and Jackson Street was approved this week by the Michigan City Board of Zoning Appeals.

 

Currently, the organization in Michigan City provides services for children when school is not in session at the former Elston High School.   

 

Michelle Shirk, Chief Executive Officer of the youth organization, said there’s no longer adequate space at that facility because the membership has grown to 200 youth.

 

“It’s a tight fit,” she said.

 

The new facility would be large enough for up to 350 children and includes a gymnasium, cafeteria, and classrooms.  Shirk said there is no gymnasium in the space the organization rents at the former school building. The Boys and Girls Club of La Porte County expanded two years ago when it opened facilities in Kingsford Heights and Westville.  Shirk said three more branches will open in La Porte beginning in January.

 

“This is actually phase three of a three-phase expansion,” she said.

 

Shirk said demand skyrocketed during the pandemic when children were kept out of school in an effort designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Parents wanted a safe and productive place for their children to go instead of staying home while they were at work. The facilities are open for children ages 4-18 after school, during the summer, or while school is operating online.  Shirk said there is no cost for any of the programming.

 

The organization has had a presence in Michigan City for 20 years.

 

“All of our programming is very structured.  Our kids follow a curriculum that supports healthy lifestyles, character, and fitness.  Academic success is a huge part of our programming and safety is our number one priority,” she said.

Career Path Leads to Jail Again

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City woman appears to have made stealing a career judging from her past convictions and current allegations of theft.

 

Bambi Glancy, 39, was arrested on December 9th. According to court documents, Glancy was in a self-check-out lane at Walmart in Michigan City. Police said she was caught scanning and paying for some of the merchandise in her shopping cart but failing to follow suit with the other items. 

 

She allegedly walked out of the store with more than $170 in unpaid merchandise like roses, a pair of slippers, and children’s clothing.

 

According to court records, Glancy has had several prior theft-related convictions over the past 15 years.  She could face anywhere from a six-month to a thirty-month sentence on the current level 6 felony theft charge. 

Oxygen Mask Part of Latest Meth Bust

(La Porte County, IN) - There appears to be no end to a rash of methamphetamine arrests. Christopher Adams, 50, of Michigan City, and Tiffany Ransom, 34, of La Porte were stopped by the authorities in a vehicle with expired plates last week in the area of U.S. 20 and State Road 39, according to La Porte County Police. 

 

Per the officials, officers responding to an alert from a K-9 dog searched the vehicle and found close to seven grams of methamphetamine.
 

An oxygen mask and glass pipe connected to a hose for inhaling were also recovered from the vehicle, with police noting that the bowl of the pipe contained a brown and white residue suspected to be methamphetamine.

 

In addition, three syringes along with a glass jar containing an unknown clear liquid were also recovered from the vehicle, according to court documents.

 

Police said a third person in the vehicle, Steven Parker, was arrested on a warrant for violating parole.

 

Adams and Ransom are being charged in La Porte Circuit Court with possession of methamphetamine and unlawful possession of a syringe. 

La Porte Native Promoted to Bishop

(Vatican City) - A LaPorte High School graduate has been given a promotion by Pope Francis. Father Patrick Neary will become a Catholic Bishop in Minnesota after being named to the position by Pope Francis in an announcement released today. 

 

Neary will take over a diocese about a one-hour drive northwest of Minneapolis. He graduated from Saint Joseph Grade School in La Porte, LaPorte High School and the University of Notre Dame. Neary has spent most of his priesthood on campus and in the African nations of Kenya and Uganda.

 

Presently, he is the pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in Portland, Oregon. Neary will be ordained as bishop in February.

Help Sought with Person of Interest

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are seeking help from the public in identifying a female for an ongoing investigation. More specifics about the case and why she might be involved were not given but anyone recognizing this person is asked to contact the department.

 

The department can be reached on Facebook Messenger or by calling Detective Lt. Anna Painter at (219) 874-3221 ext. 1077. She can also be emailed at apainter@michigancity.com

 

Police said respondents can ask to remain anonymous.

Demolition Near for Burned Out Structure

(La Porte, IN) - A house heavily damaged by fire in La Porte will be torn down in the near future.

 

A demolition bid of more than $20,000 was recently approved by the city’s Board of Public Works and Safety.  

 

Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said the work can begin once NIPSCO removes the gas and electric lines from the house.

 

“We’re just at the final stages of being able to take that building down,” he said.

 

The two story structure at 1108 Clay St. was empty when the fire broke out in December of 2021.  According to authorities, the house containing multiple apartments had recently been occupied until vacated for the owner to begin renovating the building.

 

An electrical issue was the suspected cause of the blaze.

Teacher/Mentor Honored

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Chamber of Commerce is recognizing a local educator. Renee Hall was chosen for this year’s Michigan City Education Award.  Hall is the Guidance Counselor at Lake Hills Elementary School.

 

The annual award is for an educator or program that has made a significant impact on the community over the past year.

 

“Ms. Hall has been a part of Michigan City area schools for more than twenty years and has done so much for not only our school but also the community. In addition, she also runs amazing career fairs each year and does her best to get local businesses to participate to not only benefit our students' learning experience, but to help those local businesses flourish and get more recognition," said the Michigan City Chamber of Commerce President Katie Eaton.

 

Hall also volunteers her time after school with Girls on the Run, giving her time and energy to mentor young girls at the school. 

 

"She leads with grace and strength and always helps staff when it is needed,” Eaton said.

 

The nomination period for the 2023 Michigan City Education Award will open in September.  For more information or to submit a nomination in the future, visit www.MichiganCityChamber.com or call 219-874-6221.

Beefed Up Patrols for Holidays

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office will be increasing patrols as part of the Safe Family Travel holiday enforcement campaign. Starting this week, deputies will be out in greater numbers showing zero tolerance for anyone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

 

The LCSO joins more than 200 participating law enforcement agencies in the campaign, which runs through January 1 of next year.  While deputies will be primarily targeting impaired drivers, they will also be on high alert for seat belt violations and other forms of unsafe driving.  The goal is to help ensure people make it to and from their celebrations safely.

 

The extra high-visibility enforcement is funded with grants provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administered through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.

 

"If you’re out celebrating over the holidays, make sure you have a sober ride home," said Captain Derek J. Allen.

 

Allen also said the cost in various ways is not worth taking the chance.

 

“Driving impaired is costly and could be deadly.  Not only could you kill yourself or someone else in a crash, but you could also face thousands of dollars in legal fees, jail time, or a revoked license.  It’s not worth the risk.”

 

Statistics show over 900 people have died in motor vehicle crashes, so far, this year in Indiana.  This makes 2022 one of only three years in the past decade to break 900 fatalities statewide, officials said.  Impaired driving is cited as the cause of a significant number of those fatalities.

Meth Arrests Piling Up

(La Porte, IN) - Another methamphetamine-related arrest in what seems to be an epidemic has been made locally. Brook Scales, 29, was still being held today in the La Porte County Jail after being taken into custody on December 6th.

 

According to police, officers in La Porte responded to the 700 block of Ridge Street in response to a tip. There were multiple people supposedly at that location with warrants out for their arrests, including Scales who was outside of an apartment building at the time of her arrest.  During a search, a small amount of methamphetamine was allegedly found in her pants pocket.

 

According to court documents, Scales is being held for pick-up by authorities in St. Joseph County to face a Level 6 felony charge of unlawful possession of a syringe in their jurisdiction.

 

She's expected to return to La Porte to face a Level 6 felony charge of possession of methamphetamine once her case in St. Joseph County has been decided. 

 

Near Record in Sports Betting

(Indianapolis, IN) - Sports betting nearly set a state record last month. According to the Indiana Gaming Commission, over $450 million were placed on sports bets in Indiana during November.

 

After all of the winners were paid, there was a 40 million dollar profit.

 

The second most amount of bets placed on sports here in the state was at Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City. The record for placing sports bets is $500 million set in January, according to the Indiana Gaming Commission.

 

More than $10 billion in wagers have been placed statewide since sports betting became legal in Indiana in 2019.

Lainey Wilson Coming to Fair

(La Porte County, IN) - One of the hottest rising superstars in country music is scheduled to perform during the 2023 La Porte County Fair. Lainey Wilson was announced today as the main act on July 12 in the grandstands.

 

Tickets start going on sale on Friday at 9 a.m.

 

Wilson has stormed into the country music scene with six nominations for Country Music Association Awards this year, in addition to being named the new female artist of the year for 2022. In her young career, Wilson has already recorded two No. 1 singles “Things a Man Ought to Know” and “Never Say Never.” Her current hit “Heart Like a Truck” is in the Top 25 and climbing. Wilson has also been performing for sold-out crowds in the U.S. and other countries like the United Kingdom and Germany.

 

La Porte County Fair Manager Don Stoner said the fair in recent years has focused more on booking the latest in hot new performers to attract more of a younger audience and stay within budget.  He said more established acts tend to be out of the fair’s price reach.

 

“We’re trying to make it to where we can afford these singers but still have some nice concerts coming,” he said.

 

Ticket prices are $25 for general admission; $30 for track seats; $35 for VIP track seats and $45 for the standing pit.

 

La Porte Joins Ice Rink Bandwagon

(La Porte, IN) - A refrigerated ice rink with skate rental in downtown La Porte is open for the second year in a row.

The vision is to mirror the success in communities like Valparaiso where, eventually, a shelter was built around a temporary rink downtown to make the site a permanent year-round attraction.

 

Last year, the city for one month beginning in January rented a 60 x 90-foot rink from Wayne Seybold, a former U.S. Olympic skater, to gauge community support for ice skating. 

 

The cost of rent and other expenses was nearly $70,000, said La Porte Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber. Officials were pleased enough with the turnout to later purchase the rink for $160,000 with help from a grant, donations, and sponsorships, he said.

 

The recently assembled rink at Monroe and State streets is open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.  It’s also open on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m., with Schreiber noting that weekday hours will be added for students during Christmas break.

 

The rink will be open until the end of January but could be made available into February depending on demand, he said. The cost to skate is $5 with online reservations and payment strongly urged for convenience. Skate rental is $3.

 

“Hopefully, we just see a lot of families, a lot of groups wanting to come out and enjoy it,” he said.

 

Christmas break hours are:

Tuesday, Dec. 20 4-8 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 21 1-8 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 22 1-8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 23 1-10 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 24 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 26 1-8 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 27 1-8 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 28 1-8 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 29 1-8 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 30 1-10 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 31 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 2 1-8 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 3 1-8 p.m.

Drug Dealer Uncovered at Supermarket

(La Porte, IN) - A convicted felon from La Porte is in major trouble again for allegedly being caught with a large number of narcotics. Travis Smith, 33, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

On December 6, police went to his home in the 500 block of Rumely St. to make sure he was not violating the terms of his parole on a robbery conviction, according to court documents. Nothing illegal was found inside his residence but a K-9 dog was alerted to the potential presence of drugs shortly afterward inside Smith's car, outside a nearby grocery store.

 

During a search, police said a large quantity of methamphetamine was found when the button on a touchscreen radio in the dashboard was pushed, opening up to reveal a large quantity of methamphetamine in plain view. Allegedly, four bags of methamphetamine weighing nearly 80 grams in addition to about two grams of cocaine were inside before being promptly confiscated by the authorities.

 

In 2009, Smith was given a 20-year prison sentence for robbery. Since his release, he’s been arrested several more times for other law violations including drug-related crimes and residential entry, according to court records.

 

He is being held in La Porte County Jail on a $50,000 bond, on charges such as a Level 2 felony dealing in methamphetamine, which alone could bring him anywhere from a 10 to 30-year sentence.

Fire Destroys Wellness Center

(Porter County, IN) - An area business was destroyed by fire yesterday. The Inspiration Wood Wellness Center just west of the La Porte County line near Otis went up in flames.

 

So far, no indications have been given on what caused the blaze fought by more than a half dozen fire departments.  Firefighters were called when an aircraft pilot saw smoke and flames coming from the building late in the morning. 

 

According to the company’s website, the wellness center was started about 15 years ago. It was offering what was described as a spiritual setting, along with a variety of wellness programs and products like essential oils.

 

Coaching sessions were to begin next year, according to the website. 

Bank Robbery Call Proves False

(Michigan City, IN) - Numerous police officers responded to a report of an armed bank robbery that turned out to be false in Michigan City. An effort is being made to determine if the fake bank robbery report was done on purpose and to locate the individual placing the call.

 

According to Michigan City Police, officers at about 4:30 p.m. on Monday were called to Horizon Bank in the 3600 block of Franklin St. Upon arrival, police said employees reported there was no robbery or any issues whatsoever inside the bank.

 

Per the authorities, further information was being withheld to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.  Anyone with information that could be useful in solving the case is urged to contact the police.  A reward is also being offered for tips leading to an arrest and conviction.

 

Veteran law enforcement officer Mike Kellems asserted that knowingly reporting a fake crime is no laughing matter. Kellems said bank robbery reports, for example, always draw a heavy law enforcement response and the sense of urgency behind those responses comes with a higher degree of risk to public safety.

 

“It’s a very, very dangerous situation,” he said.

 

Calls determined to be pranks also draw emergency responders away from their normal public safety duties, he said. Kellems is a former La Porte County Police officer, who now works in law enforcement for Purdue University Northwest at the campus near Westville and in security, primarily at U.S. District Court in South Bend. 

 

In Indiana, false informing, depending on the level of seriousness, can be up to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and as much as a $5,000 fine.
 

La Porte Peddles to Bicycle Declaration

The City of La Porte is being recognized for the strides made in making bicycling safer and easier. The League of American Bicyclists designated La Porte as a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community

 

Assistant City Planner David Heinold said the declaration is a testament to the city’s commitment to offering resources that benefit residents of all ages and abilities while encouraging healthier and more sustainable transportation choices.

 

“The City of La Porte strives to create a welcoming environment for all people where bicycling is a major part of living an active and healthy lifestyle.  We are committed to providing quality opportunities for residents and visitors to see our beautiful city by bicycle,” he said.

 

La Porte joins 500 other communities throughout the country awarded with one of five levels of designation by the League of American Bicyclists. Criteria for consideration included bike infrastructure, education, and events.

 

To learn more about this program, visit bikeleague.org/community.

Charges Filed in 25 Mile Chase

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte man is facing prison time for allegedly leading police on a high speed chase across the county.  Jerris Pezzuto, 21, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with six counts, including level 6 felony resisting law enforcement and level 5 felony criminal confinement.

 

According to police, officers waited outside a home on Kingsporte Lane Thursday night to arrest Pezzuto on an outstanding warrant.  He soon left the residence and officers tried making a traffic stop of his Dodge van. 

 

However, police said Pezzuto had other ideas.  He fled at high speeds on A Street, southbound on U.S. 35, then westbound on U.S. 6, before leading police southbound on U.S. 421, running past numerous stop signs and traffic lights. 

 

Eventually, the 100 mile-per-hour pursuit wound up in LaCrosse, where he drove into a field and fled on foot. According to court documents, after running for about 30 yards, Pezzuto threw his hands up in the air and laid down leading to his apprehension by authorities.

 

Pezzuto is accused of holding a woman against her will by not allowing her out of the vehicle during the chase, despite her repeated demands.

Charges in Nursing Home Assault

(Michigan City, IN) - A local nursing home worker is accused of physically assaulting and injuring a resident with dementia.  Corine Hudson, 47, of Walkerton has been charged with two counts of battery causing serious bodily injury.

 

According to court documents, she was working at Aperion Care on East Coolspring Aveue in Michigan City when the alleged offense happened just over three months ago.

 

Police said the resident with dementia was walking at the nursing home with a female.  Suddenly, the female needed assistance, and Hudson came over to try and help.

 

Police said the man became combative with Hudson, who responded by pushing him to the ground and striking him in the head and face area, suffering a fractured skull and laceration to his scalp. The investigation included a review of video footage of the alleged assault, court documents revealed. 

 

Hudson was arrested on December 6th and is being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $2,000 bond.

Bowen Named Principal of Year

(New Buffalo, MI) - An educator in New Buffalo has received a high honor.  Adam Bowen was named principal of the year in Michigan for his work as the principal at New Buffalo Elementary School.

 

“Adam has created a family-like atmosphere that makes students feel secure and safe, which encourages them to take risks in their learning.  He knows every student by name and engages with students frequently throughout the day,” said New Buffalo Area Schools Superintendent Michael Lindley.

 

The award was given by the Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, which chose Bowen from over 5,000 elementary and middle school principals in the state.

 

“Adam has led New Buffalo Elementary to be recognized as a Blue Ribbon School.  This is not an easy accomplishment and further shows his commitment to this staff, students, and community,” said Tracy Ripley, Principal of New Buffalo High School.

 

Bowen, who’s in his 17th year as an educator, received the award Thursday at the Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association ceremony in Traverse City.  He’s been an administrator at New Buffalo Elementary School for five years.

Suspects in Pizza Man Hold-Up Arrested

(Michigan City, IN) - Arrests have been made in Michigan City for robbing a pizza delivery man at gunpoint over the weekend.  Police said both suspects are juvenile males.

 

According to police, a worker for Domino’s was delivering an order when approached early Sunday in the 700 block of Washington Street.  They were all talking when one of the suspects displayed a gun and pointed it at the victim.   The delivery driver handed over some property and the suspects fled on foot.

 

Responding officers indicated they quickly located the suspects in the area of 10th and Spring streets and made the arrests following a short foot pursuit through a residential area.

 

Police said a firearm and other evidence related to the hold-up were recovered.  Both males were taken to the La Porte County Juvenile Services Center and held on multiple charges that included violation of curfew.  One of the suspects was also charged with robbery and pointing a firearm, which are both felony offenses.

Chase Leads to Manhunt and Capture

(La Porte County, IN) - An arrest was made following a high-speed chase and search in Union Mills over the weekend.  James Brinsfield, 46, of Trail Creek was charged with resisting law enforcement.

 

According to La Porte County Police, officers were called about a suspicious vehicle on Saturday night and found it outside a home on Hamilton Street with Brinsfield inside, apparently sleeping.   Supposedly waking to officers investigating the vehicle, Brinsfield started the engine and fled.

 

During a high-speed chase, police said the suspect drove his Ford F150 pick-up truck into, out of, and then later back into a field in the area of 800 South and Long Lane.  Officers located the unoccupied truck after following tire tracks in the dirt.

 

A drone with a heat sensing device located Brinsfield in a thick-brushed marshy area, about 100 yards from the vehicle which he had abandoned. Officers went into the heavily vegetated area and found him on the ground covered by his jacket and thick brush, per the authorities.

 

Police said Brinsfield, who seemed confused, was found with a small amount of marijuana.  In addition, a syringe was later recovered from inside his truck.

 

Brinsfield is being held without bond pending his initial hearing in the case.

Festival of Lights Still Dazzling

(Michigan City, IN) - The Festival of Lights in Michigan City remains as brilliant as ever after decades of bringing Christmas cheer.

 

The displays, covering much of the grounds of Washington Park, still attract many people who mostly view the lights from their vehicles while driving by.   Some spectators walk the grounds when conditions are more mild and snow free.

 

People from all over the region, including Chicago, venture into town to see the lights annually.  Some, who went as children, are now bringing their children and grandchildren. 

It all started in 1981 with a single lighted Christmas tree figure that grew to more than 50 lighted displays and lights in the trees during the 90s.  In 2006, the Festival of Lights was rated one of the top 100 events in North America by the elite tourist organization, the American Bus Association.

 

The lights are illuminate from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. every night until January 8th.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Turnout for Cookie Walk

(La Porte, IN) - Attendance at the annual Cookie Walk in downtown La Porte over the weekend surpassed the number of those who came out for the event last year.

 

People, armed with cookie tins, visited more than 20 participating businesses from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday.  Charity Hlavsa, President of the La Porte Small Business Coalition, said the rain held off until after the cookie walk was over.

 

“The temperatures were pretty good for walking around.  You didn’t get too chilled.  People were all having a good time,” she said.

 

Hlavsa said many children, and even grown-ups, seemed to have their pictures taken with Santa as well.

 

“We had a lot of adults taking pictures with Santa this year and that’s always fun to see when you can see the kid in people coming out at Christmastime,” she said.

 

Close to 300 cookie tins for attendees to place their cookies inside were purchased in advance for the event.  Cookies were handed out at each of the participating businesses.  The La Porte Small Business Coalition puts on the event.

 

Hlavsa is also the owner of Hot Spot Café where 25 percent more cookies were passed out than last year during the Cookie Walk.

Another Alleged Meth Dealer Arrested

(Michigan City, IN) - Another suspected meth dealer in La Porte County is facing potential time in prison.  Mark Thomas, 34, was allegedly caught selling over two grams of the drug in Michigan City.  Police said the $140 exchange occurred in a parking lot along U.S. 421 just south of U.S. 20.

 

According to court documents, the purchase was set up after the buyer contacted Thomas on Facebook Messenger and they agreed to meet a short time later.  Authorities said Thomas used to live in Three Oaks but now resides in South Bend.

 

Thomas posted a $2,000 cash bond about a week after his November 30 arrest.  He could face anywhere from a 2 to 12-year sentence on Level 4 felony dealing in methamphetamine. 

Violent Felon Admits to Gun Crime

(Michigan City, IN) - A man with a violent criminal history has admitted to illegal possession of a gun in Michigan City.  Alsiah Spikes, 30, pleaded guilty Thursday in La Porte Superior Court 1 to Level 4 felony unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon.

 

According to court documents, Spikes was inside a home in the 500 block of Van Spanje Court when local and federal authorities showed up.  He allegedly fled out of a bedroom window but soon was captured following a foot chase.  Authorities noted the finding of a loaded gun inside the home which was illegal for him to possess due to a criminal history involving crimes like armed robbery in the Chicago area.  Police later stated the gun was also stolen.

 

Spikes could face anywhere from a two to 12-year sentence if the court accepts the plea agreement.

Slicers Home Opener Spoiled by Ranked Team

(La Porte, IN) - Class 3A #6 South Bend Washington used a smothering defense to ruin La Porte’s home opener 62-54 Saturday afternoon at Slicer gym.

 

La Porte got off to a rousing start. After winning the opening tip, the Slicers got an alley oop slam dunk from Rylin Kieszkowski for a quick 2-0 lead. La Porte managed only seven more points in the opening quarter and trailed the Panthers 10-9 after one period.

 

La Porte’s offensive woes continued in the 2nd and 3rd quarters, scoring only 8 and 7 points respectively.  Washington led LP 36-24 after 3 periods.

 

Both teams exploded offensively in the 4th period. Ja’Meriyon Cross scored 10 points, Malik Corley 8 and Kyle Kirkham 6 as the Slicer scored 30 in the final period, 6 more than their 3 quarter total.  It was too little, too late as the Panthers put up 26 for the 8 point win.

 

Cross with 15 and Corley with 13 were the only Slicers in double figures.  Kieszkowski had 7 points.  Kirkham and Nic Spence finished with 6 points each. Tommy Samuelson (4 points) and Dylan Salisbury (3 points) rounded out the scoring. 

 

Four year starter Marcus Northern led all scorers with 20 for Washington. Freshman sharpshooter Steven Reynolds and Terrance Reed had 12 points each for the 6-0 Panthers. 

 

La Porte dropped to 3-2 on the season.

 

JV TEAM WINS 50-32

 

Matt Miller’s Slicer JV team jumped out to a 16-1 1st quarter lead and never looked back cruising to a 50-32 win over South Bend Washington. The Slicers had incredibly balanced scoring with Eli Taylor, Vann Warner and Gage Raymond scoring 9 points each.  Javelle Broome and Sawyer Tonagel each scored 8.  Jose Duarte with 6 and Mike Montoya adding a free throw rounded out the scoring as the JV’s improved to 2-3 on the season.

 

Both teams will be back in action Friday night as LP hosts Griffith.  JV tip at 5:30, Varsity at 7:00. Then it is back on the bus Saturday as the Slicers travel to Knox.  5:00 JV/6:30 Varsity.  Both Varsity games can be heard on 96.7 the Eagle.

Gumm and Four Players Lead Cougars with All-State Honors

(New Carlisle, IN) - Four New Prairie football players have received All-State honors from the Indiana Football Coaches Association.

 

Lineman and sometimes-fullback Jacob Mrozinski, running back Noah Mungia, and linebacker Tayvion Ortman were named to the Senior All-State team. Junior quarterback Marshall Kmiecik was named Junior All-State.

 

They led the Cougars to a 13-2 record and a trip to the State Championships at Lucas Oil Field.

 

New Prairie head coach Casey McKim says individual achievement and team success go hand in hand. “You can’t have the success that we’ve had without really good football players,” he said, “and the opposite is true as well—as you have more success, you know, you’re going to get more recognition for your abilities and achievements you’ve had, so really it’s a testament to the young men and the effort and the work they’ve put in.”

 

An even bigger honor perhaps was earned by someone on McKim’s coaching staff. Bill Gumm was named Indiana’s Assistant Coach of the Year by the IFCA.

 

Gumm took over offensive play-calling duties this year, with some explosive results. The Cougars scored over 30 points in eleven of their victories. But McKim says Coach Gumm’s role as an assistant went way beyond X’s and O’s. “He just brings so much to the table on our staff in terms of experience, the relationships that he has with people, families that he knows, just everything across the board,” said McKim, who is just in his third year of head coaching. “He’s helped me so much to grow as a head coach and he cares about our young men and what they do on the field as well as off the field.”

 

Gumm has been a fixture in the New Prairie football program for 22 years. He is now in the running for National Assistant Coach of the year, which will be voted on in the near future.

MonoSol Releases Statement on Local Union Strike

(Merrillville, IN) - Amid an ongoing labor strike in La Porte, MonoSol is defending its attempts to reconcile with employees.

 

On Thursday, the Merrillville-based company released a lengthy statement, singling out the misrepresentation of its offers by the La Porte local union, Teamsters Local 135. The entire statement is printed below.

 

In brief, it alleges that the union did not allow members in La Porte to vote on a favorable offer presented on November 29 and has misled MonoSol employees and the media.

 

The company says workers have been paid above-market wages, with most grossing over $75,000 per year. MonoSol's statement outlines what it believes is a generous healthcare and retirement plan. It also explains their offer to counter the effects of inflation, a proposal the company says was not presented to workers by union leadership. As for forced overtime, the crux of the labor dispute, MonoSol says last year 97% of the overtime was voluntary, and often caused by worker absenteeism.

 

On Wednesday, members of Local 135 protested in front of Procter & Gamble’s headquarters in Cincinnati. MonoSol supplies water-soluble packaging for several Procter & Gamble products.

 

Here is MonoSol's entire statement issued Thursday:

 

MonoSol today is addressing the status of contract negotiations with Teamsters Local 135 at its La Porte manufacturing plant.

 

We value all of our employees and recognize their efforts. Since its founding in 1953, MonoSol has invested heavily in our home state to build a company with a tremendous reputation for giving back to communities and for offering industry-leading pay and benefits.

 

We are deeply concerned that the union at our La Porte plant has decided to reject the Company’s final offer and what this means for our employees. We are especially concerned that the union did not allow our employees to vote on our November 29 offer and continues to grossly misrepresent MonoSol’s proposals in statements to our employees and the media. Our employees deserve to have the information they need to make informed decisions for themselves and their families.

 

MonoSol’s top priority is to reach a contract. Employees covered by our proposed and previous contracts enjoy above-market wages, health and retirement benefits. Average 2021 gross wages, not including benefits, for the majority of our hourly employees in La Porte was more than $75,000. Twenty-eight percent earned more than $90,000. Ten percent earned $100,000 or more.

 

Employees also enjoy exceptional health insurance that is paid 90 percent by the company. The company pays $21,013.20 per family or $8,677.72 per employee. Additionally, the company contributes a fixed amount of $455 per month ($5,460 annually) to employees’ 401k accounts and further provides a dollar-for-dollar match on employee contributions up to 5% of gross pay.

 

Inflation is a concern for employees and companies alike. With the annual inflation rate for the United States at 7.7% for the 12 months ended October 2022, MonoSol’s offer of a 6.5% hourly increase in the first year, coupled with a $5,000 bonus, is nearly twice the rate of inflation.

 

The company’s alternative wage proposal on November 29, which the union did not present to our employees, further front-loaded the first-year increase to 9%, combined with the $5,000 bonus. That is more than double the current rate of inflation.

 

In 2021, MonoSol La Porte employees worked an average of 53.84 hours during each eight-day personal work schedule (equivalent to 47.11 hours per week). A standard four-days-on/four-days-off 12-hour work schedule, which is common in continuous operation manufacturing, includes 40 hours of straight time and eight hours of overtime.

 

The company distributes overtime according to the contract terms that the union negotiated for and agreed to more than four years ago: first to classified employees on a voluntary basis in order of seniority; then to employees on the qualified list on a voluntary basis in order of seniority; then on a mandatory basis in reverse order of seniority to qualified employees.

 

Employees can potentially achieve 60 hours during an eight-day personal work schedule by working one complete overtime shift during one of their four days off, in which case 20 hours are paid at overtime rates. An employee still has three days off after working one overtime shift. In 2021, 97% percent of the time, workers volunteer for the extra hours.

 

Unplanned overtime is directly tied to excessive absenteeism. It is expensive, disruptive and is a problem MonoSol is committed to solving. We hosted several roundtable discussions with employees this summer on this topic and together we were making good progress toward collaboratively brainstorming solutions. The company’s final offer guarantees no mandatory overtime in the first year to allow these conversations to continue. Unfortunately, the union has rejected any proposals that might modify policies in a way that incentivizes good attendance and provide overtime opportunities for those who want it, while reducing unplanned overtime for those who do not.

 

MonoSol is proud of how the company and its people managed the pandemic to keep our people safe and protect their income. No employee went without pay during the pandemic. Employees were paid for missed shifts whether due to illness, quarantine or contact tracing. Some employees were compensated for missed shifts over a period of weeks, and in some cases, months. MonoSol paid nearly $700,000 in wages to 172 La Porte employees (averaging more than $4,000 per person) for missed shifts during the pandemic due to sickness or quarantine related to COVID-19.

 

At the same time, we found innovative ways to partner with local small businesses on multiple occasions to provide rewards of carryout meals for entire families, simply by showing their MonoSol identification card – benefiting our people and local small businesses that were concerned about the possibility of going out of business.

 

We recognize that being away from work puts our people and their families in a difficult position and can create financial hardships. Our number one priority is to reach a contract so that our employees can get back to their jobs and their lives. We have a responsibility to our employees, customers and community to minimize the length of this disruption and hope that we can reach an agreement soon.

 

About MonoSol

MonoSol, LLC is a division of Tokyo-based Kuraray Group, one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies. Headquartered in Merrillville, Indiana, MonoSol is best known for its water-soluble, biodegradable films used to make laundry and dishwashing packets marketed by major consumer product companies and private-label brands around the world. Its growing portfolio of applications includes detergents, ag chem, solid surface, composites and embroidery, as well personal care products, water treatment chemicals, transfer printing and more. Visit www.monosol.com for more information.

Yoder Child Neglect Trial Postponed

(La Porte, IN) - Judah Morgan’s mother, Mary Yoder, appeared in court Friday and received a continuance on her trial date.

 

Yoder faces two counts of neglecting a dependent, as well as failure to report abuse, all related to the October 2021 torture and murder of her son Judah at the hands of his father, Alan Morgan.

 

Yoder was scheduled to go on trial in La Porte Circuit Court on January 9. However, after Friday’s appearance, she is now set only for a status hearing on February 10.

 

Alan Morgan was recently sentenced to 70 years in prison for his actions.

La Porte Schools Take Precautions, But No Dangers Reported

(La Porte, IN) - Three La Porte school buildings took security precautions this week due to separate police actions in downtown neighborhoods.

 

On Tuesday Lincoln and Hailmann Elementary Schools went into secure mode as police canvassed nearby neighborhoods for suspects. That’s according to the Superintendent’s office. The circumstances, a failed warrant and a domestic violence call, did not pose a serious threat to safety. Other than disrupting a couple of outdoor recesses, the situation did not alter the school day.

 

A similar incident sent the district offices into secure mode Friday for about half an hour. Shortly before 10 a.m. school officials were notified of a neighborhood disturbance near the old Boston Middle School. La Porte City and County officers quickly investigated before giving the all-clear.

Charges Piling Up After Pursuit

(Michigan City, IN) - The heat has become hotter for a La Porte man accused of another recent encounter with law enforcement.

 

Matthew Murphy allegedly fled from the police last night before being caught in another jurisdiction. Murphy, 34, was in a GMC Sonoma when he failed to pull over after committing several traffic violations on the west side of Michigan City, per the authorities.

 

Police said the pursuit went outside the city limits and with help from the Porter County Sheriff’s Office the vehicle was stopped. Murphy is being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $15,000 bond on charges of resisting law enforcement and reckless driving.

 

He was charged a month ago (click here for that story) in connection with a stolen box truck containing items like an altered shotgun and drugs.  According to court documents, the truck belonging to Budget Rent-A-Car was reported stolen in La Porte and located in the driveway of a residence at 400 South, east of Kingsbury.

 

Murphy also has a possession of methamphetamine charge filed in September, along with charges of theft of a firearm and felon carrying a firearm from April still undecided by the court.

Fallen Power Lines Scare

(La Porte County, IN) - It might be a while before a truck driver from La Porte gets over the shock of his close call with power lines.

 

Phillip Stephens, 46, backed into a cornfield at 900 West and 1350 South on Tuesday in his dump truck to deliver more than 20 tons of lime. While dumping the lime on the ground, Stephens told La Porte County Police his truck began to get stuck in the soil.

 

He then began dumping the rest of his load by driving forward to avoid getting stuck but the still-extended arm on the bucket of his trailer caught one of the overhead power lines. Stephens tried lowering the bucket but snagged a second power line. Per the authorities, both of the lines then snapped from tension to the lines caused by lowering the bucket.

 

According to police, electricity from the broken lines caught the tires on the truck and trailer on fire.

 

The police further stated that Stephens jumped out of the truck with a fire extinguisher and put out the flames, fortunate not to have been electrocuted from being close to the live wires. A responding officer made contact with Stephens but would not speak to him further until they moved a safe distance away from the fallen lines.

 

NIPSCO turned off the power to the lines a short time later.

 

The truck and trailer, owned by Kaiser Crop Services in Wanatah, have since been repaired.

Drug Related Arrest at Bar

(La Porte, IN) - A man arrested at a bar in La Porte could be looking at prison time.

 

Jeremy Looney, 41, of Westville is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine.

 

According to court documents, police went to Casey’s Lanes last week after learning Looney was there and had a warrant out for his arrest. Officers spotted him inside the bar at the bowling alley on the city’s west side.

 

Police said Looney was taken to the La Porte County Jail where a small amount of methamphetamine was found in his possession.

 

The warrant was from Pulaski on misdemeanor drug-related charges, according to court records. 

Fugitive Allegedly Found with Meth

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man could be asking for drug treatment underneath his Christmas tree.  Fred Coon, 57, is charged with level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to court documents, he was approached by police over a week ago behind a pizza restaurant after being spotted fumbling through a plastic grocery bag on Lincolnway, west of Tyler Street.  Police said a computer check turned up a warrant for his arrest.

 

After being taken to the La Porte County Jail, Coon was allegedly found with a small amount of methamphetamine in his pants pocket.  He could face a six-month to 30-month sentence. 

 

Court records disclose the warrant was on a charge of Class A misdemeanor theft filed by La Porte Police in October.  The charge could bring as much as a one-year jail sentence for Coon.

Murder Suspect Back in Custody

(Michigan City, IN) - A murder trial is back on in Michigan City.  Hakim Qualls, 20, has been returned to the La Porte County Jail where he was being held on a $1 million bond.  He’s accused in the shooting death of 18-year-old Dareon Brown in December of 2018.

 

According to court documents, Qualls was just 16 when he saw Brown standing outside a vehicle in the 200 block of North Karwick Road.  He allegedly pulled out a gun and shot Brown.

 

The court documents reveal there were issues between the two individuals.  Qualls claims self-defense in the shooting, but prosecutors alleged there was no arguing and not many words exchanged before the gun was pulled out was fired.

 

Court records disclosed the case previously ended in a mistrial and Qualls was eventually released on his recognizance while the prosecution and defense continued to review evidence in the case.  Additional legal challenges followed, along with COVID-19-related delays in the case.

 

At one point, Qualls allegedly violated the terms of his released and went missing but recently was taken back into custody.

 

A trial date has been set for April 10th.

Alleged Smuggling by Prison Guard

(Michigan City, IN) - A correctional officer at Indiana State Prison was allegedly caught trying to smuggle marijuana to an inmate.

 

Robin Dinkins, 38, is charged with level 5 felony trafficking with an inmate. According to court documents, she reported for work at the prison in Michigan City on November 28th, and during a standard shakedown, the odor of marijuana was detected.

 

Two small packages wrapped in black tape were discovered after she complied with requests to remove her uniform and undergarments in a prison bathroom. Police said the marijuana weighed 54 grams, which is close to two ounces.

 

According to court documents, Dinkins said she “screwed up” and wanted to speak with a lawyer.

 

The Hammond woman could face anywhere from a one to six-year sentence.

Free Military Admission to Museum

(La Porte County, IN) - Veterans will be able to visit the La Porte County Historical Society Museum one more time this year at no cost.  December 13th is the last Veteran Free Day of 2022.

 

Officials said that all veterans and active duty military personnel are eligible for the offer in honor of National Guard Founding Day.  People need to bring a form of ID showing they are veterans or active military members to gain free admission. Acceptable forms of ID include an Indiana Veterans Card and Driver's License with a Veterans ID.

 

The museum is on U.S. 35 near the southern edge of the La Porte city limits.

 

Original Civic Auditorium Seats to be Replaced

(La Porte, IN) - The Civic Auditorium in La Porte will have all new seating next year.

 

Taking out the original seats is part of the plan to bring the near century old structure into the 21st century, said La Porte Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber.

 

Schreiber said more events are being held there now and they want people to be comfortable by replacing the narrow seats that don’t have padding with wider ones that include padding.

 

“Americans are wider than we used to be so you need a wider space.  You need a place to put your drink cup.  These will have little cup holders.  We want people to come for a two-to-three-hour concert without walking back with a crick in their back,” he said.

 

Some people might think replacing the original seats will take away from the historic experience at the Civic Auditorium. In this case, however, Schreiber said the present takes priority over the past.

 

“We love the past of the Civic. We have to make sure the Civic is viable for the next 50-plus years,” he said.

 

Schreiber said the main level is also going to be air-conditioned next year for the first time so more events can be scheduled in the summer, while also revealing the old seats will be available for people to purchase. 

Christmas Still On at Mansion

(Michigan City, IN) - There’s still Christmas this year at what could be the most historic structure in Michigan City despite renovation.  Barker Mansion at 631 Washington Street is decorated annually for the season.

 

According to officials, most of the renovation work has been paused to allow the public to come and see the inside of the mansion decked out for the holidays.

 

Originally, the mansion was the home of John Barker, who made a fortune making railroad cars in Michigan City over a century ago.  Built in 1857, the home remained in the family for more than 100 years.

 

The mansion is closed on Mondays but opens five days a week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays.

 

Renovation work has moved to the second and third floors of the mansion following completion on the mail level and in the basement.  La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney was impressed at the restoration when he toured the facility last week.

 

“They did a lot of excellent work there,” he said.

NIPSCO Helping with Payments Now

(Merrillville, IN) - NIPSCO is encouraging income-eligible customers who are struggling to pay their gas utility bill to apply for additional energy assistance programs.

 

The programs including NIPSCO Hardship, SERV (Supply Energy Resources to Veterans), and SILVER (Seniors in Indiana Low-Income and Vulnerable Energy Resource) offer a one-time benefit of up to $400 per year to people who qualify. Applicants must have a past due active NIPSCO residential account and meet income among possible other requirements.

 

“We understand that some customers are struggling to balance expenses, and we are committed to providing financial assistance to benefit those most vulnerable this winter heating season,” said NIPSCO President Mike Hooper.

 

The assistance programs became available on December 1st and will run through May 31st.

Suspected Narcotics Dealer Arrested

(Michigan City, IN) - A suspected bigger fish in the Michigan City drug world has been reeled in.

 

Damont Williams, 29, has been charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with two counts of dealing in cocaine or a narcotic drug.   According to court documents, the allegations stem from his alleged activities early in 2021.

 

Police said he was caught selling $240 of an off-white/tan powder in the 1900 block of East Michigan Boulevard and $1,200 of the same colored powder near his residence on Kentucky Street.  Initially, police believed heroin was sold but the substances, weighing a combined 25 grams, tested positive for fentanyl or methamphetamine, court records disclosed.

 

Williams was arrested November 22nd and was being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $50,000 bond.  He could face anywhere from a 10 to 30-year sentence on the most serious of the counts. 

Courthouse Lights a Budding Tradition

(La Porte, IN) - It’s Christmas again at the historic courthouse in downtown La Porte.  More lighted displays, including a replica of the courthouse, were added in 2020 to help lift the spirits of people dampened by the pandemic.

 

All of the displays were made by a private company that used a picture of the courthouse to create the lighted replica of the 1892 red sandstone building, officials said.

 

There are enough lights to make it seem almost like daylight on the courthouse sidewalks at night.

 

Many people gaze at the lights while driving by or stop and get out of their vehicles to get a closer glimpse of the displays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Local Road Money Awarded by State

(Indianapolis, IN) - The city of La Porte is receiving $1 million in state funding to help with street paving.

 

The city set aside $1 million to receive the matching funds under Indiana’s Community Crossings program established in 2017.  According to the Indiana Department of Transportation, La Porte County government also received $1 million in state matching funds to fix roads.

 

Michigan City was given over $600,000 in state matching funds.  Other local recipients including Westville, which was awarded an over $200,000 match, and Kingsford Heights with close to $400,000.  Just over $119 million dollars in matching dollars was awarded by the state to 229 cities, towns and counties, according to INDOT.

 

La Porte is using its funds to repave streets which have been torn up to access sewers to alleviate flooding in an area south of Lincolnway just east of J Street, officials said.

 

Chase Leads to Drug Related Charge

(La Porte, IN) - A man is back in jail on drug-related charges following a chase in La Porte.  Thomas Martz, II, of La Porte was still being held Wednesday in the La Porte County Jail on a $755 bond on Level 6 felony unlawful possession of a syringe.  An initial hearing in the case was held November 30th in La Porte Circuit Court where an omnibus hearing was set for February 15th.

 

According to court documents, the 27-year-old Martz was walking on I Street when a patrol officer recognized him and knew he had a warrant out for his arrest on a charge of possession of paraphernalia.

 

The officer began turning around in his police vehicle when Martz allegedly began running.  He was chased until caught near Kingsporte Avenue, per police testimony, with what appeared to be a recently-used syringe removed from his pants pocket.

 

The warrant for his arrest was issued October 26th, according to court records. 

Liquor Approved for New Downtown Eatery

(La Porte, IN) - The City of La Porte is helping a new restaurant downtown by allowing it to expand its alcoholic beverage offerings.

 

The La Porte City Council approved a three-way liquor license for Bon Viet by a unanimous vote Monday night. Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the liquor license allows beer, wine, and liquor to be part of the menu. Beer and wine have been served there since the restaurant opened at the former T-Berry’s Diner at 501 Lincolnway.

 

Under a still relatively new state law, the city has an unlimited number of liquor licenses it can issue in what’s described as a riverfront district or a body of water in close proximity to an area being primed for redevelopment.

 

“The liquor license will definitely help us,” said Bon Viet Owner Tu Bloom, who’s a professional chef in Chicago. Bloom said he came to La Porte to shop for antiques when the idea for the restaurant came from discovering the vacant space and “the beautiful small town atmosphere” relatively close to Chicago.

 

“Your community has been so overwhelmingly supportive,” he said.

 

He also encouraged people to stop in and check out the menu.

 

“There are specific things that speak out to people. It’s hard to say which one will be your favorite but I’m sure there will be multiple items,” he said.

 

Bloom is also a florist providing flowers for the annual Grammy awards show.

 

Restaurant Aimed at Former Bowling Alley Site

(La Porte, IN) - The site of a former bowling alley in La Porte could be redeveloped into a restaurant.

 

An economic development zone is being sought where Thunderbird Lanes used to be on U.S. 35 just north of Indiana 39. A restaurant is being planned where the bowling alley stood for decades until the site was cleared several years ago.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said establishing the economic development zone would make the restaurant eligible for tax abatement.

 

“It is a program the city of La Porte has used previously but in very limited instances. We’re very excited about that particular project,” Cook said.

 

The city council gave preliminary approval to the request and is expected to take a final vote at its next meeting on December 19. Cook would not provide specifics about the restaurant proposed for the site because the city has not given all of the approvals necessary for the project to become official.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said a restaurant at the site across from Pine Lake would provide another dining option for residents wanting more places to eat.

 

“I think the community will be very pleased with what’s coming there,” he said.

 

Dermody said the hope is for the restaurant to go up sometime next year.

 

“What an opportunity to enjoy Pine Lake while having a meal with your family, friends and so forth,” he said.

 

The city has added a number of chain and independently owned eating establishments in recent years in response to public demand.

Success Applauded at Drug Court Graduation

(La Porte, IN) - There was no shortage of positive change during a Monday night ceremony for graduates of a program turning people behind bars from substance abuse into law-abiding productive citizens in La Porte County.

 

An audience of about 100 people at the La Porte County Complex applauded upon learning one new graduate has just become a licensed heating and cooling system specialist. “You are living proof that some people change,” said La Porte County Superior Court 4 Judge Greta Friedman, the main speaker during the one-hour ceremony.  Friedman also oversees the La Porte County Problem Solving Court which offers the five-stage substance abuse program, focused more on providing a second chance at life than incarceration.

 

The four graduates, whose names were not disclosed to protect their privacy, completed what’s typically an 18 to 24-month program that requires more than staying clean. Participants must take part in treatment, three self-help meetings a week, and show up for regular appointments with their case managers and progress hearings.  84 people have graduated since the problem-solving court was established in 2012.

 

Friedman said non-violent offenders turning to felony crimes like drug possession and theft to support their addictions are typically chosen for the program.  People must also be considered at medium to high risk of reoffending to qualify.

 

One of the speakers was a past graduate who said positive change results from within once applying the teachings about a “whole new way of living.” She said the knowledge must be practiced on a regular basis even after completing the program to maintain the benefits like a positive outlook and avoid relapse.

 

“Today I have confidence and I have strength.  Every single day, I am grateful for a whole new day.  Life is so beautiful today. A life worth living,” she said.

After the ceremony, new graduate Elizabeth Ashby of LaPorte agreed to discuss her journey from years of alcohol abuse to sobriety.  Ashby, 38, said she was in an abusive relationship for years and drinking was the only way she knew how to cope with her emotions.  She was introduced to the program following her second arrest for operating while intoxicated.

 

“I was a shell of a person before all of this.  Now, I’m just full of gratitude and love.  It saved my life,” she said.

 

Vern Hohnke, chief courthouse security officer for the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office, told the graduates to be thankful for the program. He said his daughter was a former honor student from a good family who started her downslide after first experimenting with drugs.  She was 31 when she died from an overdose in 2015.

 

Hohnke said she was arrested prior to her death and might be alive today if the county where she was taken into custody offered something similar to its offenders.  He now makes himself readily available to people in the program to share his story and if they simply want to talk.

 

“Like I told each and every one of you, you got kids at home? That’s what you’re leaving behind. You got parents at home? That’s what you’re leaving behind. It’s not an easy row to hoe but you’ll get through it.  I’m proud of you guys for making it,” he said.

Speeding Leads to Drug Arrest

(Michigan City, IN) - A man was allegedly found with an assortment of drugs in a recent Michigan City traffic stop.  Robert Aldrich, 23, has been charged in La Porte Superior Court 1.

 

According to court documents, the Michigan City man was stopped for traveling more than 50 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone on Franklin Street at Kintzele Road on November 21st.  A female passenger, nervously stuttering, raised the suspicions of officers who then seized a handgun the woman kept between her legs. 

 

A K-9 dog was then brought out and alerted to the potential presence of narcotics. Police said methamphetamine, cocaine, and devices typically used to smoke and snort drugs were also recovered from the car.  Nearly 50 pills containing oxycodone and acetaminophen were also found along with a vape pen containing THC oil, police said.

 

Aldrich has been charged with multiple felony and misdemeanor counts of drug possession.

Charges in Gun Related Dispute

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County man was allegedly found with drugs after firing a gun during a dispute.

 

Eric Glaze, 29, who’s from the Hudson Lake area, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court. Authorities said there was a verbal confrontation and physical contact involving Glaze at a home on November 27.  At one point, police said other parties involved drove off before stopping a short time later in the area of 850 East and Aspen Lane.

 

Police said Glaze fired a handgun into the pavement.

 

He was taken to the La Porte County Jail where methamphetamine was allegedly found among his belongings. Glaze has been charged with level 5 felony intimidation along with criminal recklessness and possession of methamphetamine, both level 6 felonies.

Sneezing Blamed for Deadly Crash

(Porter County, IN) - According to a report taken by Porter County Police, a fatal motor vehicle crash in the area has been blamed on a sneeze by the surviving driver.

 

The crash happened Friday evening on U.S. 6 between Valparaiso and Portage. The deceased was identified as David Klemp, 61, a resident of the area where the collision occurred. The unidentified driver who caused the crash told police he was repeatedly sneezing when he rear-ended the other vehicle.

 

Klemp was discovered trapped in a small pickup truck and had to be extricated from the vehicle, authorities stated, ultimately succumbing to his injuries despite life-saving attempts.

 

Police said the driver at fault did not have any alcohol in his bloodstream.

Foreign Currency in Kettles

(La Porte, IN) - No gold has been dropped into Salvation Army kettles in La Porte, but there’s been some foreign currency

 

Two $5 polymer notes from Canada came out of a kettle last week.

La Porte Salvation Armt Capt. Charles Pinkston said the bills since they can’t be used here could go elsewhere.

 

“We might just put it in an envelope and ship it to one of our Salvation Armies like up in Sault Ste. Marie or somewhere close to the Canadian border where they can exchange it,” he said.

 

A $5 note from Canada is worth about $3.75 in U.S. dollars.

 

Pinkston has worked at Salvation Army branches elsewhere in the Midwest where foreign currency from places like Mexico and The Middle East have been dropped into kettles in the past. As of Friday, close to $18,000 has come out of kettles in La Porte, with the overall kettle goal this season being $85,000.

Pinkston said the rate of giving in the kettles is going at about the same pace as last year, though not without noting the need for volunteers to ring bells at the kettles in La Porte.

 

There are plenty of openings and people can sign up to volunteer by calling the La Porte Salvation Army at 326-5342 or go online at registertoring.com.

 

“They can sign up as an individual, as a group and then they see what locations and times and days are available and they can sign up for as few or as many as they like,” he said.

Drug Bust on Toll Road

(La Porte County, IN) - An apparent cocaine user has been charged after being stopped for traffic violations by La Porte County Police.

 

33-year-old James Eden was pulled over on the Indiana Toll Road a week ago outside La Porte. Police noted that he appeared nervous and his voice trembled as he spoke, which led an officer at the scene to ask if he had anything illegal in his Honda Civic.

 

Initially, he denied having anything illegal in his possession but revealed he had a small amount of cocaine when told a K-9 dog would conduct a search. Authorities stated that one gram of cocaine inside a bag was seized in addition to a number of used hypodermic needles, a spoon containing a brown residue, and a piece of cotton. A spoon is commonly used to liquefy drugs prior to injection.

 

Police said the traffic stop was made because Eden repeatedly changed lanes without using his turn signal a total of four times.

 

The Colorado man told investigators he was returning home after visiting his mother in New Jersey after she had hip surgery, police said further.

Catalytic Converter Theft at Hospital

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are investigating a catalytic converter taken in a hospital parking lot.

 

Occurring outside Franciscan Health outside of Michigan City, police stated that the catalytic converter was cut from the exhaustion system of a 2010 Honda Element on November 28.

 

The theft happened sometime between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. while the car was in the hospital's parking lot on the northeast side. A Hobart man called the police when he returned to his car and discovered a loud noise from his exhaust system after starting the engine, per local authorities. 

 

The catalytic converter was valued at $300.

 

Police also noted that attempts to obtain video evidence of the crime were not successful because the security camera for that area was not working at the time of the theft.

Santa Ditches Fire Truck for Sleigh in Parade

(Michigan City, IN) - Santa Claus broke with tradition and rode into Michigan City in the annual Snowflake parade on a sleigh.

        

There seemed to be no change in the large crowd along the route and beside the community tree basking in the spirit of the season. “We bared the cold. I’m so glad we did,” said lifelong Michigan City resident Nicole Leary, who came out with her husband, Nick, and their children Emerson, 3, and Aria, 5.

        

Taylor Purcell of Rolling Prairie said the atmosphere capped off by the tree lighting ceremony was like being in a storybook Hollywood film about the season.

        

The former Michigan City woman was with her husband, Michael, and their children ages 5, 8, and 13. Purcell has attended the parade ever since she was a child.

 

“I think it’s special, like when you’re watching your Christmas movies. It’s a little bit of happiness,” she said.

There were 29 units, including cartoon characters and horses, in the parade on Franklin St. from 9th St. to 4th St.

 

The parade ended in front of the Michigan City Public Library where hundreds of people, if not more, gathered for the tree lighting ceremony. Pleasure echoing from the crowd was evident when Mayor Duane Parry turned on the lights.

 

Seemingly forever, Santa Claus has been escorted into the city on top of a fire truck in the parade. The sleigh came about when Santa expressed a desire for change before Thanksgiving spoke to a friend, Amy Frederickson.  Frederickson said she came up with the idea for the sleigh and found one for sale on Facebook marketplace.

 

She and her husband, Cory, brought it home after making an over two-hour drive to Woodstock, Illinois. The century-old sleigh needed some fixing up but Cory, working quickly, used his handyman skills to get it to Santa’s liking prior to the parade.

“We made this all happen in a week,” she said.

Santa on a sleigh seemed to be a hit judging from the reaction of the crowd.  One man shouted several times in glee “you’re the best Santa!”

        

Katie Volkman made the trip from Chesterton with her son, Liam, 4, and her daughter, Leah, 12. The former Chicago resident attended the parade for the first time last year, only to come again because of how much they all enjoyed the festivities.

 

“The kids got a lot of candy. They liked seeing all the characters.  It was just a good time,” she said.

 

They also went to Washington Park after the parade to see the Festival of Lights like how they had gone last year. There, a large section of the lakefront park is heavily decorated annually with lighted figures and twinkling bulbs strung in the trees.  It was also the second time at the parade for Ryan and Emilia Siffermann and their five-year-old Michael, all lifelong residents of southern California until moving to Michigan City early in 2021.

 

Mrs. Siffermann said the parade, combined with the below 30-degree temperatures, had more of a traditional Christmas feeling to it than anything she experienced before during holidays in a much warmer climate.

 

“I like the change in seasons,” she said.

 

The parade was a first for Marissa Snyder and her children, Alex, 5, and Sophia, 3.  Her family moved to Michigan City from Ohio last year.

 

“Enjoyable  Very enjoyable. The kids are having a good time,” she said.

Slicers Defeat New Prairie in the Cougar Den

(New Carlisle, IN) - The Slicers defeated the New Prairie Cougars 66 - 37 on Saturday night.  La Porte used an aggressive 1-3-1 trapping zone and great shooting to speed the Cougars up, sprinting to a 21 - 8 first quarter lead and never looked back. 

 

Slicer Scoring

Ja’Meriyon Cross 16 points, Malik Corley 11 points, Rylan Kieszkowski 10 points, Nic Spence 9 points, Kyle Kirkham 8 points, Tommy Samuelson 8 points, and Brennen Balka 4 points.  Dylan Salisbury, Brogan Riley, and Dominic Thomson all played but did not score.

 

New Prairie Scoring

Kole Staley 11 points, Reece Lapcznski 6 points, Devan Kalicki 6 points, Colton Griffiths 4 points, Trent Platz 4 points, Gavin Gonzalez 3 points, Joe Kinney 3 points.  Trenton Klute, Lucas Pavlick, Bryce McCorkel, Corbin Jonas, and Reece Eggert all played but did not score.

 

The Slicers improved their record to 3 - 1.  The Cougar record fell to 0 - 2.

 

New Prairie was victorious in the JV game, 45 - 37.

 

The Slicers next game will be Saturday, December 10th against undefeated South Bend Washington in the home opener.  The varsity tip is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.  The JV tip will be at 2:00 p.m.

 

New Prairie will travel to face state rated Penn at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, December 6th.

Food Bank Returning to La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - The Food Bank of Northern Indiana will be giving away food in La Porte County two more times before Christmas.

 

On Wednesday, December 7, they will be giving away pre-boxed and pre-bagged items at the Marquette Mall in Michigan City. That giveaway, for up to 300 households, will run from 10:00 a.m. until noon and is sponsored by Kroger.

 

The Food Bank will also visit Kingsford Heights the following week for a turkey giveaway. That event will take place Wednesday, December 14 at the Kingsford Heights Community Center from noon until 2:00 p.m. 263 Christmas turkeys will be available, curtesy of Beacon Health System.

Public Hearing Upcoming Related to Dangerous SR 2 Intersection

(St. Joseph County, IN) - The St. Joseph County Council is set for a public hearing involving a dangerous intersection on State Road 2 east of La Porte County.

 

The Phillips 66 gas station at the corner of SR 2 and Quince Road has seen a number of serious accidents at that intersection in recent months, including a fatal crash involving a Rolling Prairie woman in late June.

 

Now owners of that gas station are seeking to expand operations for trucks. They propose to rezone two residential parcels adjacent to the existing gas station and add parking and diesel fuel pumps for semi traffic.

 

The St. Joseph County Council will hear from the public on the matter at their upcoming meeting on Tuesday, December 6.

Death Investigation at Westville Prison

(Westville, IN) - Indiana State Police detectives are investigating a recent death at the Westville Correctional Facility.

 

Not much information has been released at this time. The investigation began Thursday, following the death of 53-year-old Matthew Chester.

 

The La Porte County Coroner's Office is assiting.  An autopsy has been conducted, and those results, as well as toxicology reports, are pending.

Slicers Defeat the Pilgrims in Plymouth

(Plymouth, IN) - Slicer coach Jordan Heckard felt that tempo was key in Friday night’s game at Plymouth.  The Pilgrims came into Friday’s game with a 2-0 record winning by scores of 46 - 37 and 47 - 29. They play a very deliberate offense and suffocating defense.

 

La Porte used an aggressive 1-3-1 trapping zone and great shooting to speed the Pilgrims up, sprinting to a 22 - 11 first quarter lead.  All five starters scored in the quarter Led by Rylin Kieszkowski and Malik Corley with 6 points each.  The long and quick Kieszkowski played the point of the 1-3-1 and made it difficult for the Pilgrims to get into their offensive. The aggressive defense forced Plymouth to rush several shots.

 

Plymouth found their rhythm in the second quarter outscoring La Porte 12 - 11. The Slicers got a huge boost from Dominic Thomson.  Thomson, who is 6’6, is came out for basketball for the first time this year.  The senior hit two three pointers in the quarter, accounting for over half of the Slicer output.  La Porte led 33 - 23 at halftime.

 

The Slicers stretched their lead to 48-32 after three quarters. Tommy Samuelson blocked 3 shots, with a steal and an assist in the first two minutes of the half.  Kieszkowski scored 8 points in the quarter and Kyle Kirkham added 5.

 

Plymouth’s Davis Wray made Slicer fans a bit nervous by scoring the first 6 points of the fourth quarter.  This cut the lead to 10.  La Porte regained control and outscored the Pilgrims 15 - 2 to make the final 63 - 40.

 

Eight different Slicers scored in the game.  Kieszkowski had 19, Kirkham 17, and Corley 8.  Je’Meryion Cross and Thomson had 6, Samuelson 3, along with Dylan Salisbury and Brennan Balka who had 2 each.  Nic Spence didn’t score but played a huge roll in a Slicer defense that allowed Plymouth only 17 second half points. La Porte was 6 - 7 from the foul line and improved to 2 - 1 on the season.

 

Plymouth was led in scoring by Wray and Easton Strain who each had 15 points.

 

SLICER JV’S LOSE DOUBLE OVERTIME HEARTBREAKER

 

(Plymouth, IN) - The varsity game got a late start as Matt Miller’s JV team lost a double overtime thriller 45 - 44. Plymouth led La Porte 28 - 22 at the half.  The Slicers outscored the Pilgrims 13 - 0 in the 3rd quarter to lead 28 -2 2 going into the 4th.  La Porte couldn’t hold the lead and the game was tied 33 - 33 after regulation, then 36 - 36 after the first overtime.

 

Plymouth led by four points heading into the final minute of overtime number two. La Porte stormed back and took a 44 - 43 lead with 9 seconds left on a Vann Warner 3 pointer.  Coming out of a time out, Plymouth got the ball inside and scored what turned out to be the winning basket with .8 left on the clock.  La Porte’s desperation pass was deflected and the Slicers fell to 1 - 2 on the young season.

 

Javelle Broome, Sawyer Tonagel, Gage Raymond and Warner all had 9 points for La Porte. Eli Taylor added 8.

 

The Slicers travel to New Prairie Saturday night.  Varsity tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 pm with the JV starting at 5:30.  You can listen to all of the action 96.7 The Eagle with pregame at 6:45 pm.

Homicide Investigation Underway in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are investigating a homicide that took place during the early morning hours today.

 

At around 12:55am, police were dispatched to the 700 Block of East 10th Street in response to shots being fired.  Upon arrival, they discovered a male lying on the ground with apparent life-threatening injuries along with a female victim who had also been shot.  Both subjects were transported to Franciscan Health, where the male subject was later pronounced deceased.

 

No additional information is being released at this time due the ongoing nature of the investigation.  At the time this article was written, no arrest have been reported in this case.

  

The Michigan City Police Department would ask anyone who may have witnessed this incident, has any additional information, or has video surveillance / cell phone video of this incident, to contact Detective Corporal Melissa Sopher at (219) 874-3221 (Extension 1049), or email at msopher@emichigancity.com.

 

Hometown News Now will provide additional information on this case when it becomes available.

Downtown Ice Rink Going Up

(La Porte, IN) - Ice skating in downtown La Porte will soon be available to the public.  A refrigerated ice rink is in the process of being constructed at Monroe and State streets.

 

Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said the rink opens December 9th.  Initially, the rink will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

 

Schreiber said the ice rink could be open on additional days during Christmas break for children home from school.

 

Rental skates will be available by registering in advance and credit or debit cards will be accepted at the rink. Cash payments can be made in advance at the Park Office.

 

For more information, the contact the park department office at 219-326-9600. 

Mayor Gives State of the City Speech

(La Porte, IN) - Much has been accomplished but there’s more work to do for making La Porte the place to be.  That’s was the main theme of Mayor Tom Dermody during his State of the City speech Thursday night at the Civic Auditorium.

 

“We’re going to continue to move this community forward.  Develop. Shake things up.  I’m just excited to be partners with all of you to make sure it happens,” he said.

 

Construction and plans to develop more new housing for all income levels along with creating jobs since taking over as mayor in 2020 was part of the information he cited as the path for La Porte to become a destination.

 

Dermody’s goal is raising the city’s stagnant population of about 22,000 to 30,000 by 2030.  The new housing includes The Banks, featuring close to 200 recently completed resort type apartments, and Whispering Meadows, a subdivision with dozens of more homes being built.

 

There’s also Maple Commons at 701 Maple Avenue.  The former crime plagued 50 unit downtown apartment building underwent an extensive remodeling and reopened under new ownership early this year.

 

“There been not one police or fire call at that building,” he said.

 

Dermody said construction could happen next year at Beechwood Lakes, a development on paper where condos, townhomes and single family residences are planned on 55 acres next to Beechwood Golf Course.

 

He reported progress in the effort to have affordable homes built on the site of the former Tibma Bakery cleared in 2020 on Woodward Street and an undeveloped parcel on 18th Street near Kesling Middle School.

 

Dermody also said efforts are ongoing in their attempt to annex the 39 North Conservancy District, which is also part of his growth strategy.  The district, near the Indiana Toll, has witnessed considerable industrial and residential growth since forming two decades ago, but now has a problem with maintaining consistent water pressure.  Dermody said the city is offering to pay for the expensive repairs in exchange for permission to annex.

 

Among the other gains this year toward population growth are access to high speed internet everywhere in the city.  That was made possible from the laying of additional fiber through a public-private partnership and $15 million investment by provider Surf Internet, he said.

 

His administration has also worked to improve quality of life to help draw more businesses and residents.  Dermody said he expects the city to receive “Quiet Zone” designation from the federal government next year to keep freight trains from blowing their whistles as they approach crossings.

 

He also noted close to 4,000 pot holes were fixed and over 3,000 code violations were issued this year.  In addition, Dermody said more than 60-percent of the streets have received new pavement since 2016.

 

Other achievements he cited were in areas like job creation and upgrading the local workforce.

 

Toward the end of his 45 minute presentation, Dermody emphasized a need to construct a truck route around the downtown.  He believes more people will come downtown with less heavy trucks rumbling through.  There’s been considerable resistance to the idea from residents close to the proposed thoroughfare and the La Porte County Commissioners.

 

“These aren’t easy decisions but they are the decisions that have to be made for the future of our community,” he said.

Abused by Husband Caretaker Alleged

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is accused of physically striking and not taking proper care of his wheelchair-bound wife.  Jeffrey Hetzel, 50, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with two counts of domestic battery and neglect of a dependent.

 

Authorities say Hetzel is accused of punching his wheelchair-bound wife across her face and body on November 14th at their home on Fox Street.  Hetzel, who was employed and paid as her caretaker, reportedly refused to help the woman replace her full colostomy bag that same day.  The woman rolled off her bed and remained on the floor for two days until discovered by a friend.

 

According to court documents, the woman was covered in feces and had injuries like swelling and possible broken ribs.  The police went on to state that his wife was taken to a hospital after being discovered and later discharged to a nursing home due to personal safety concerns.

 

Hetzel was being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond, having been previously placed on one-year probation several months ago for a conviction related to striking the woman, court records disclosed.

 

The suspect could face anywhere from a 2 to 12-year sentence on each of the three counts.

Strikers Move to Corporate Headquarters

(La Porte, IN) - A worker strike at a manufacturing company in La Porte is taking a different approach today.

 

While nearly 200 employees at Monosol were on the picket line Thursday outside the plant at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park on the city’s east side, a vast majority of the picketers instead went to Monosol’s corporate headquarters in Merrillville to demonstrate earlier this morning.

 

Dustin Roach, the president-elect of Teamsters Local 135, said there’s practically nobody from the company now at the facility in La Porte because of the strike.

 

“We’re going to go there and try to send a message,” he said.

 

Contract talks have broken down and no date has been set to resume negotiations.

 

Per Roach, the biggest obstacle in coming to terms on a new contract for workers is years of forced overtime.  He said 60 hours or more a week regularly is taking a toll on the workers physically and emotionally from lack of quality time at home.

 

Roach went on to state that the company is offering to freeze forced overtime for a year along with a 17-percent increase in pay over a four-year period, while noting that employees want a pay increase equal to the rate of inflation.

 

The president-elect also assured that the workers are receiving strike benefits to help make ends meet.  The benefits are not as much as their pay, but other unions are beginning to contribute money to increase the amount of said benefits during the strike, he said.

Truth Hurts Like a Ton of Bricks

(La Porte, IN) - Police say a man received more than a turkey on Thanksgiving after crashing into a brick planter in the downtown La Porte area.

 

Chauncey Crayton was given a trip to the La Porte County Jail for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. Charges were later filed in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

According to court documents, the 43-year-old La Porte man struck the planter box at State and Clay streets just after 7:30 p.m. Officers arrived to find his heavily damaged 2017 Nissan sport utility vehicle in the middle of the road.    

 

The police stated that Crayton claimed he was heading to La Porte Liquor before being struck by another vehicle, which had fled the scene.

 

His story began to unravel, though, when officers noticed a large chunk of red brick fall from inside his front bumper after it was picked up from the pavement. Investigators then followed a trail of brick pieces for about 30 feet leading to a planter that had sustained significant damage and black paint transfer matching the color of the suspect’s vehicle, per the authorities. 

 

Crayton allegedly had a blood alcohol level of .161-percent, slightly above the legal limit.

Fresh Eyes on U.S. 30 Reconstruction Proposal

(Hamlet, IN) - The conversion of U.S. 30 into more of an Interstate highway from Valparaiso to the Ohio state line is being closely re-examined by the Indiana Department of Transportation.

 

INDOT hosted the first in a series of public meetings Wednesday night at Oregon Davis High School near Hamlet wherein an overview of what’s currently happening with the proposal was explained. This is in addition to starting the process of seeking input from citizens on how the four-lane highway should be upgraded. Other public meetings to discuss U.S. 30 are scheduled to occur on December 5 in Fort Wayne and Warsaw on December 6.

 

Reconstructing U.S. 30 east from Indiana 49 to reduce travel times and improve safety has been studied before over the years. The current effort, while not totally starting from scratch, is applying “a fresh set of eyes,” per Will Wingfield, a member of the INDOT study team.

 

Wingfield stated that a new innovative transportation planning process is now being followed to find out how the reconstruction should be tailored to best fit the needs of their respective communities, from said communities. Some of the suggestions from residents will be incorporated into the design, according to the INDOT member.

 

“We’re not coming to the public with a specific recommendation. We’re listening,” he said.

 

Continued easy access to communities and farmland along U.S. 30 are among the primary concerns of stakeholders (as well as first responders) wanting to reach their destinations without adding time.

 

U.S. 30 becoming more of an Interstate is going to require changes like closing intersections to reduce the number of traffic lights and motorists crossing the highway after pulling away from stop signs. Many people living near U.S. 30 said they understand quicker transportation's importance to the economy. However, they don’t want their local economies to suffer if reaching their communities from the highway becomes inconvenient and causes motorists to pass them by.

 

Jim Jessup of Hanna said there’s a real need to improve safety and that public input on the design is most critical, but feels there’s going to be pain regardless of how the reconstruction would take shape.

 

“You’re going to have winners and losers. There’s no doubt about that,” he said.

 

State Senator Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores said he’s excited about the prospects but also concerned, insisting on not taking a position until the process has run its course.

 

“To be closed-minded and not even know what the plan is would be irresponsible. I want to wait and see, see what the plan is going to be and see what it turns into,” he said.

 

Other stakeholders include farmers with fields on both sides of the highway. They want to avoid the additional time and expense of driving heavy machinery to the closest intersection to cross the highway and then double back.

 

“With big equipment, it’s going to be a pain if you have to travel a long ways,” said Larry Jernas of Knox. Jernas raises corn, soybeans, and cattle on about 1,500 acres north and south of U.S. 30 near the Starke-LaPorte county line. He’s also worried about traffic congestion and the safety of farmers having to use the few roads still available to cross the highway.

 

According to INDOT, a rough draft of the design will be presented for the public to review and offer alternatives in late 2023 and early 2024. The goal is to submit the final plans for approval in the fall of 2024. Wingfield said no timetable has been established yet for possible construction due to the project being very early in its planning stages. He also said doing nothing is on the table as a viable option.

 

Public input is being accepted by INDOT throughout the process at ProPelus30.com, Facebook, and other web-based platforms.  INDOT representatives will also be maintaining office hours at various locations along U.S. 30 to receive input and respond to questions. The office locations, dates, and times are still being developed but will be announced once established, according to INDOT.

La Porte Manufacturing Workers on Strike

(La Porte, IN) - Nearly 200 employees at Monosol are walking the picket line outside the plant at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park.

 

Teamsters Local 135 President-Elect Dustin Roach said the striking workers were locked out of the facility at noon yesterday and went on strike when their four-year contract expired last night at midnight.

 

Per Roach, the biggest issue for workers in reaching an agreement on a new contract is forced overtime. He said the employees are made to work 60 hours or more per week and that it’s been that way since the plant opened more than a decade ago. Roach went on to state that they’re paid overtime, but the heavy work schedule combined with the physical demands of their jobs have taken a toll.

 

“They deserve to have a family life.  After so long, your family needs more than overtime,” he said.

The president-elect said that the company has offered the workers a 17-percent pay hike over a four-year period and no forced overtime for one year. However, he insists the proposed wage increase does not keep up with inflation and that the freeze offered on forced overtime is not adequate enough. Roach said workers want a first year pay hike equal to the rate of inflation and to negotiate later how much they’ll be paid in each of the next three years.

 

Roach goes on to say that striking workers receive financial compensation from the union during a strike but it's not as much as what they earn. Other unions are being asked to contribute money to raise their strike compensation amounts. 

 

“If they really had their employees at heart, they would do the right thing for their employees but it’s profits over people,” Roach said.

Charges in Cigarette Burglary

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte woman is accused of breaking into a gas station and fleeing with a trash bag of cigarettes.  Piper Hanna, 58, is charged in La Porte Circuit Court with level 5 felony burglary.

 

According to court documents, she entered Amoco at 1033 East Lincolnway during the early morning hours of November 4th and took more than $2,000 worth of cigarettes.  Police said the intruder was captured by surveillance video and identified by investigators because of their previous encounters with law enforcement. Regarding her entry, authorities report it potentially resulted from doors left accidentally unlocked to the building.

 

Two weeks following the incident, police located Hanna at 410 Maple Avenue. During questioning, the suspect stated she had ridden a bicycle hauling a trailer to the gas station, and placed the cigarettes into a plastic trash bag prior to leaving the premises.

 

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

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