Local News Archives for 2023-12

Local Cat Shelter Receives $50,000 Gift

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City animal shelter is ringing in the new year with a sizeable donation.


On Thursday Fried’s Cat Shelter received a visit from John Low, who represents the Low Family Foundation in Niles, Michigan. He brought with him a giant check worth $50,000.


Shelter Director Sandra O’Dell says the donation was quite unexpected. “[The Lows] had been here many years ago, around 1985,” O’Dell explained. “And they have some mutual friends of the shelter, who spoke very highly of us. And this foundation was just formed this year, and they were looking for shelters and other nonprofit organizations to give gifts to. We were chosen as one… it was a very, very, very nice surprise.”


Fried's Car Shelter was founded by Hans and Lucille Fried, who immigrated from Nazi Germany in 1939. In 1977 they bought an old roadside motel in Michigan City and turned it into a no-kill, cageless shelter for homeless and abandoned cats.


O’Dell says Fried’s Cat Shelter is kicking off a fundraising campaign to replace a portion of their current building, which is badly in need of reconstruction.


The shelter is located on IN-212 in Michigan City just across from the airport. You can visit their website at https://www.friedscatshelter.org/.

Prison Sentence for Union Mills Man

(La Porte, IN) - A Union Mills man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison.


Last July Duane Keeling was arrested for possessing meth and for being a serious violent felon in possession of a handgun. He was found guilty by a jury in November.


On Friday Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos sentenced Keeling to 18 years.


"Indiana allows Hoosiers to carry firearms without many restrictions, but not if you have been convicted of certain crimes," said La Porte County Prosecutor Sean Fagan. "In this case, Mr. Keeling was found with a firearm when he shouldn't have been, and was convicted for that. I'm proud of the work my team is doing in dealing with gun and drug crimes in our County."


Fagan also credited La Porte City Police for diligently working on the case and providing excellent evidence and testimony at trial. "Special consideration goes to Officers Simpson, Martin, and Fisher for their work in making this a solid case," Fagan said. "My office appreciates the work of our Law Enforcement partners in building good cases."

Ketterer Caps Career with Bowl TD

(El Paso,, TX) - It wasn’t exactly a “Rudy moment,” but it was pretty close.


On Friday afternoon former New Prairie quarterback and Notre Dame walk-on Chase Ketterer scored a touchdown for the Irish in the Sun Bowl.


With seven Irish players opting out of the game, Ketterer made the most of his opportunity. Notre Dame was having their way with Oregon State when Ketterer lined up in the backfield with 2:45 left in the game and scored on a six-yard run, pushing the final score to 40-8. The historic touchdown, giving the Irish their biggest margin of victory in a bowl game, was the first in Ketterer's career.


Ketterer, a senior, also was named the team’s Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year at the end of the season.

ISP K-9 Shot by Another Officer

(Gary, IN) - The Indiana State Police have provided some details regarding a K-9 police dog that suffered a gunshot wound during a chase a couple of weeks ago.


On December 14th, troopers pursued a stolen car from I-80 in Lake County into Gary. During a foot chase, a K-9 named Rogue was shot in the paw.


Further investigation has revealed that it was a Gary police officer who discharged his weapon during the chase in Rogue’s direction, hitting her front paw. No additional information was given by State Police.


Rogue underwent surgery and is recovering at home.

Melted Ice Rink Could Reopen Soon

(La Porte, IN) - The hope is for the refrigerated ice rink in downtown La Porte to reopen this weekend after a recent meltdown. 


La Porte Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said there was ice on the outdoor rink up until Christmas Day when above-50-degree temperatures, along with rainfall, melted the skating surface.


The rink has been closed since, but with cooler temperatures now and in the forecast for several days, the goal is for it to reopen on Saturday and Sunday.


“We basically have spent this week trying to build it back up,” he said.


If the rink opens as planned, the hours for Saturday, depending on the weather, will be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.


“This rain and those unseasonably warm temperatures, they’ve caused issues not just for our rink, but rinks across the region,” Schreiber said.

Indiana Graduation Rates Increase

(Indianapolis, IN) - The percentage of Indiana high school students who graduated in 2023 has increased.


According to the Indiana Department of Education, the 2023 state graduation rate is 88.98% compared to 86.52% in 2022. 


“In the years since the pandemic, educators across the state have worked hard to ensure our students -- our state's future leaders -- are more prepared than ever to emerge from high school and thrive,” said Governor Eric Holcomb.


The IDE also revealed the state, in 2023, had the second-highest graduation rate since Indiana began collecting data in 2012. The state’s highest graduation rate was in 2016 at 89.1%.


Statewide, graduation rates also increased by nearly five percentage points for African American students to 82.43%, and for Hispanic students by more than two percentage points to 86.41%.

Historic Swearing-In Ceremony in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - The public is invited to a swearing-in ceremony for the first African American mayor elected in the history of Michigan City, as mayor-elect Angie Nelson Deuitch will take the oath of office on Saturday at the Stardust Event Center at Blue Chip Casino.


Former mayor Sheila Brillson-Matias will offer some words of encouragement during the public ceremony, where the Michigan City High School JROTC will present the colors and the Krueger Middle School Chorus will perform the national anthem.


U.S. Rep. Frank Mrvan and former mayor Chuck Oberlie will address the new administration and elected officials during a private event that day in turn.


“I wanted to do something different this year and really engage the community in the process as Michigan City government transitions to a new administration,” Nelson Deuitch said.


Doors to the Fremont Ballroom will open at 10:45 a.m. Admission is free, yet seating is limited and will be available on a first-come first-served basis.


Former state representative Scott Pelath will emcee the program, which is expected to last about an hour.


All nine incoming members of the city council will also be sworn into office during the event as well.

Man Facing Cocaine Dealing Charges

(La Porte County, IN) - It appears a La Porte area man was allegedly dealing drugs from his grandmother’s residence, as Jason Bazemore, 31, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Dealing Cocaine.


The investigation began in August when authorities received information about Bazemore’s alleged drug-dealing activities. He was soon caught arranging and executing a $200 exchange for cocaine outside of his grandmother’s house along Indiana 4 near Stillwell.


Bazemore was taken into custody Wednesday and is being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond pending his initial court appearance based on the allegations.

Holiday Patrols Snaring Impaired Drivers

(La Porte County, IN) - Police are still out in greater numbers to try and keep travelers as safe as possible during the holidays.


For example, a drunk driving arrest was made involving a driver who was zig-zagging his way down a Michigan City area highway early on Tuesday.


36-year-old Jamar Beach was taken into custody.


Beach nearly veered westbound in the eastbound lanes of U.S. 20 before stopping and correcting his direction. Upon resuming his travels, he was weaving back and forth in his travel lane before crossing over the white fog line on several occasions near Indiana 212.


At one point, police said, the Michigan City man reached 72 miles per hour in a 45-mile-per-hour zone prior to being stopped. Beach allegedly explained that he had a vodka and lemonade about five hours before being pulled over.

Drug Dealing Arrest in Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man has been jailed on two charges of drug dealing.


Just before 10 p.m. Tuesday night, police conducted a traffic stop near Main and York in downtown Michigan City. Officers noticed suspicious activity in the vehicle, and an alert K-9 police dog detected something illegal inside. Police allegedly recovered 26 grams of suspected cocaine, and over 135 grams of suspected marijuana, along with a portable scale and $283 cash.


27-year-old Jalen Wilson was charged with two felony counts of dealing the drugs. Police said he was previously convicted of distributing narcotics back in 2017.


Wilson is being held at the La Porte County Jail on a $50,000 cash bond with an initial hearing scheduled for next Tuesday.

Citizen Involvement Needed

(La Porte, IN) - If you’re reading this, you’re probably a conscientious citizen who’s looking to get more involved in local decision-making. And if you’re not, you should be.


La Porte County is looking to fill some positions on local Boards and Commissions.


Here are their specific openings and their requirements:


  • La Porte County Library Board, 4-year term, applicant must have lived in library district for at least 2 years
  • Alcoholic Beverage Commission, 1-year term, applicant must have lived in La Porte County for at least 5 years
  • Property Tax Board of Appeals, 1-year term, 2 appointments, knowledge of real estate and/or real estate valuation desirable
  • Regional Sewer and Water District, 4-year term
  • La Porte County Board of Health, 4 year term, applicant preferred to have “public health knowledge,” but may be a member of the general public

The openings are filled by the La Porte County Council. Interested parties can provide a cover letter and, optionally, a resume.  Send to the La Porte County Auditor, 555 Michigan Ave., Suite 205, La Porte, IN  46350.   Or e-mail tstabosz@laporteco.in.gov.  All applications will be forwarded to the La Porte County Council members.  The deadline for receiving applications is January 5th, 2024, at 12pm.

Indiana Cashes in on Google Lawsuit

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana Attorney General’s Office has announced a sizeable settlement against Google.


Two years ago Indiana joined every other state in going after Google for monopolizing Android phone app distribution and payment processing.


Google came to terms on a settlement in the fall, and final details emerged last week.


Google will pay a total of $630 million in restitution, plus $70 million in penalties paid to the states. The company is also required to loosen its grip on Android apps.


If you are eligible for restitution, you do not have to submit a claim. You will receive automatic payments through PayPal or Venmo, or you can elect to receive a check or money transfer. Details on that process will be forthcoming.

South Bend Cubs Garner Major Award

(South Bend, IN) - The South Bend Cubs have been named the top Single-A ball club in the country.


Out of 60 clubs, Baseball America has selected the local Cubs affiliate as the 2023 Single-A Bob Freitas Award winner. The Freitas Award recognizes long-term business success, community involvement, and operational excellence.


“Our Freitas Award is one that honors excellence in the entirety of a minor league baseball team's operation,” said Baseball America Editor-In-Chief JJ Cooper. “From the ticket takers to the general manager, it's an honor we bestow on clubs that have a reputation for going above-and-beyond the expected. I was fortunate enough to see it for myself a few years ago in a visit."


This marks the second time South Bend has been bestowed this prestigious honor, previously winning in 1993.


“It’s an honor to be recognized as one of the top organizations in Minor League Baseball by Baseball America,” said South Bend Cubs Chairman and Owner Andrew T. Berlin. “We’ve made a number of changes and improvements to enhance the fan experience over the last twelve years with even more on the way. It’s a testament to the hard work and dedication of our entire staff.”


Since purchasing the team in 2011, Berlin has invested over $32 Million into facilities. Since 2012, over 3.2 Million fans have attended baseball games. Last season, the South Bend Cubs averaged 4,915 fans per game, with 49 of those 66 games being sellouts. 

Holidays Rocked by House Explosion

(La Porte, IN) - The holidays were dampened for one La Porte family whose house exploded just before Christmas.


At about 2:20 Friday afternoon La Porte firefighters were dispatched to 235 Darlington St. on La Porte’s northeast side. That’s across the street from Aero Metals.


According to Fire Chief Andy Snyder, the homeowner had just cut off the top of a large propane tank, with about five gallons of liquid propane left in it. Somehow the propane, or at least its fumes, seeped into the basement, where likely a pilot light ignited.


Snyder said the homeowner and his father were fortunate to have been outside doing some work when it happened. “There was basically an explosion in the house that blew out most every window,” said Snyder. “Pretty much fire was throughout the house at that time. Our personnel arrived on scene within two minutes, but the house was pretty well involved in fire by that time.”


Firefighters spent at least 45 minutes fighting the blaze, and then a couple of hours knocking down hot spots. According to Snyder, the house became unsafe too quickly to attempt saving from inside.


No humans were injured, but two cats perished in the blaze.

Mishawaka Man, Trapped for Days, Rescued From Wreckage

(Porter County, IN) - A couple of Porter County fishermen found way more than they expected while scoping out a fishing hole Tuesday afternoon.


According to Indiana State Police, Mario Garcia and his son-in-law were checking out Salt Creek where it flows under I-94 about a mile east of the Portage exit. There they found the wreckage of a pickup truck with a body inside. “I looked inside and moved the white airbag, and there was a body there. I went to touch it, and he turned around,” said Garcia at a Tuesday night press conference. “He was alive, and he was very happy to see us, like I’ve never seen relief like that. But he was really hurt.”


The man told Garcia he had been trapped there since last Wednesday. “He said he tried yelling and screaming, but nobody would hear him. It was just quiet, just the sound of the water.”


Garcia could tell from the man’s frail condition that they had found him just in time. “It could have been a different outcome if we either didn’t go out or didn’t see him. I’m just glad we did,” he said.


According to Indiana State Police, firemen worked at length to extricate the man, who has since been identified as 27-year-old Matthew Reum of Mishawaka. Reum was immediately flown to Memorial Hospital in South Bend for treatment of severe, life-threatening injuries.


Police have determined that Reum’s 2016 Dodge Ram was traveling west on I-94 when it left the roadway and came to rest on the creek’s embankment just below the interstate. Reum was pinned inside and could not reach his cell phone.


Reum told police he was able to drink rainwater to stay hydrated. State Police Sgt. Glen Fifield said the recent unseasonably warm weather certainly contributed to Reum’s survival. ”Quite frankly, it’s a miracle that he’s alive,” Fifield said.

Permission for Concrete Plant Denied

(St. Joseph County, IN) - A proposed concrete plant east of New Carlisle has been denied approval.


Kuert Concrete of South Bend was seeking special use permission for agricultural land on Edison Road midway between Tulip and Sage.


The purpose of the operation would be to store aggregate materials and produce concrete for the large construction projects coming to that area. Application documents indicated that material extraction from the site may be necessary, but that the land would eventually be returned to its original condition for continued agricultural use. 28-foot tall silos for storing materials would also be constructed.


The St. Joseph County Council deliberated the request last week and turned it down. The primary sticking point was roadway access and timing. Since the land sits on non-truck routes, the county would require Kuert to improve and possibly expand roads to the construction site, which could not be done by the spring.


Kuert President Brad Webb told HTNN that the current GM battery plant and other possible developments in the Indiana Enterprise Center are about to create an extraordinary need for concrete. “There will be a demand for concrete of a magnitude we have not seen in this area,” he said. Smith Ready Mix already operates a concrete facility on Edison Road. Webb says demand for projects will require additional concrete to be trucked in from out of the area.


Going forward, Webb said that his company will look for properties along US 20 or SR 2. Another option is to seek a zoning change that would allow another concrete plant within the IEC footprint.

State Police Investigating Deaths

(St. Joseph County, IN) - Indiana State Police were kept busy over the weekend investigating two deaths involving area law enforcement agencies.


On Saturday afternoon, a 65-year-old woman died at the St. Joseph County Jail. Police say the woman had a medical emergency. Life-saving efforts by jail staff and EMTs were unsuccessful. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday, December 26 to determine a cause.


And early Sunday morning, officers shot and killed a man fleeing from them. According to the State Police, a St. Joseph County deputy initiated pursuit of a suspect following a call of shots fired in Roseland. The chase went into Marshall County, joined by Mishawaka police officers.


The suspect allegedly ditched his black 2004 Lincoln SUV in a field just north of Bremen and fled on foot. Officers fired shots, and 54-year-old Johnny Lee Wood of Elkhart was pronounced dead at the scene. No other details have been released. His autopsy is also scheduled for Tuesday.

New Prairie Brings the Bling for Softball Champs

(New Carlisle, IN) - Last summer New Prairie’s girls’ softball team received state championship medals around their necks. Now they have championship rings on their fingers.


On Thursday night, the team was honored during halftime of a girls’ basketball game.


Players, coaches, and administrators received championship jewelry, commemorating the first team title in school history and the first state title for any softball team in La Porte County.


Abby Robakowski broke the state home run record last year, and she was back in town to pick up her hard-earned hardware. “I might put it on a necklace,” she said following the ceremony. “I’ll bring it back to school with me. It’s very rare to get this, so I definitely want to display it in whatever way I can.” Robakowski, who is now a freshman at Indiana State, is getting ready to start her collegiate softball career in February.


For junior Ava Geyer, the team’s pitching ace, getting a ring is like putting a star on top of the Christmas tree. “Honestly it kind of makes the whole thing feel so much more real,” she said. “It’s official now. We had those medals, but this is what everyone talks about.”


The team also unveiled their state championship banner, which now hangs from the rafters in the main gym.


Another Long-Lost Gun Recovered

(La Porte County, IN) - It happened again—another long-lost firearm stolen years ago in La Porte County has been recovered.


Last week, the La Porte County Sheriff's Office related a tale about a revolver stolen from a Springfield Township home in 1979 which recently turned up in southern Michigan. Now county police report another similar occurrence.


In August of 1992 a resident, also in Springfield Township, reported eleven firearms stolen from his home. Although police quickly apprehended the thief, all of the guns had been sold.


Fast forward to earlier this week, when one of the weapons surfaced at a gun store in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Smith and Wesson .357 revolver was sold for $1,800, but a federal gun check soon after the sale identified it as one stolen in La Porte County.


The buyer was refunded, and authorities are now working to return the gun to its rightful owner, who now lives in Las Vegas. The owner told police that the revolver was quite a collector’s item, since Smith and Wesson produced only 5,000 of that particular model.

Hutchens Loses Appeal

(Indianapolis, IN) - The case of a New Carlisle teenager who murdered his six-year-old neighbor received a hearing from the Indiana Court of Appeals.


Last March 16-year-old Anthony Hutchens was sentenced to 64 years in prison for molesting and killing Grace Ross near their New Carlisle apartment complex in 2021.


The court was asked to consider whether Hutchens should be handed over to the adult correctional system.


Their finding, filed earlier this week, is that Hutchens needs rehabilitative services that the juvenile system cannot provide. Judges also said they found no evidence that Hutchens’ autism would justify treating him as a juvenile.


The court’s memorandum summarized testimony from two psychologists who recommended that Hutchens remain in the juvenile system. Also included was testimony from a probation supervisor who reported that Hutchens referred to himself as a psychopath. “Give me any object and I’ll find a way to kill someone with it,” Hutchens allegedly said, shortly after being taken into custody. Testimony also alleged that Hutchens talked about ways to torture someone with snake poison and worked on “strengthening his hands in case he would need them for violent reasons.”


Ultimately judges agreed that the juvenile court was prudent in waiving jurisdiction. “The horrific nature of Hutchens’s crimes,” they wrote, “supports a conclusion that waiving him into adult court best serves the safety and welfare of the community.”

D.C. Murder Suspect Tracked Down in La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - A man wanted for murder in Washington, D.C. has been apprehended in La Porte County.


54-year-old Alberto Valle-Carranza was being sought in connection with a murder that took place in the Northwest district of Washington, D.C. According to authorities there, Valle-Carranza allegedly stabbed a 31-year-old woman to death in a domestic altercation early Tuesday morning.


On Wednesday afternoon, area Fugitive Task Force members received a tip that Valle-Carranza was on a bus heading from Chicago to Michigan City. According to a press release from the La Porte County Sheriff’s Department, officers quickly mobilized. Two Sheriff’s sergeants intercepted the bus, while two other members of the Fugitive Apprehension Street Team positively identified Valle-Carranza inside.


The suspect was transported to the La Porte County Jail and charged with Second-Degree Murder while Armed.


Homicide Detectives from the Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Department were in La Porte on Friday to follow up on their investigation. Valle-Carranza is being held without bond as he awaits extradition.

Crash Delays Travel on I-94

(La Porte County, IN) - An Indiana Department of Transportation maintenance truck and its trailer were struck by a semi this afternoon on Interstate 94 in Michigan City.


The INDOT truck was either conducting minor repairs or debris pick-up when the crash happened. The condition of the semi was not known.


Traffic was stopped in the eastbound lanes on I-94 following the crash between U.S. 421 and U.S. 20.


So far, there has been no word on whether or not anyone was injured.

Stamps to Increase in Price

(Washington D.C.) - The cost of a stamp will go up soon after the New Year.


Beginning January 21st, the U.S. Postal Service will increase the cost of a stamp from 66 cents to 68 cents for letters weighing one ounce or less.


Package shipping costs are also slated to increase by nearly six percent, with Priority Mail Express costs going up by 5.9 percent, Priority Mail increasing by 5.7 percent, and Ground Advantage going up by 5.4 percent.


These price hikes, the fifth increase in two years, are part of the Postal Service's ten-year 'Delivering for America' plan to raise rates and recover from plunging profits.


USPS is projecting a $160 billion loss over the next ten years


Some of the cost-cutting measures have already translated into slower deliveries, while the increased prices will more significantly affect residents in non-contiguous states and territories, like Alaska and Hawaii. Those areas will see an increase of more than nine percent, which has prompted lawmakers like Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan to ask Postmaster General and USPS CEO Louis DeJoy to reconsider the plan.


"No state, including Alaska, should be punished by our own federal government because of geography," said Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan in a prepared statement.

Dermody to Meet with New Michigan City Mayor

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody plans to meet with the new mayor of Michigan City once she takes office on January 1st.


Dermody said he’s already spoken to Angie Nelson Deuitch, who will become the first African American mayor in the city’s history.


“We’re setting up a time to sit down for lunch,” he said.


Dermody noted  “what’s good for Michigan City is good for La Porte” and that he’s excited about seeing "what she’s capable of doing and what she is going to do.”


“We want to see Michigan City successful,” he said.


Nelson Deuitch, a Democrat, soundly defeated current Republican mayor Duane Parry in November.


During a sometimes tumultuous four years with Parry as mayor, Nelson Deuitch once wished publicly that Dermody was Michigan City’s mayor because people respected Dermody, not Parry.

Dermody Still Leaves Door Open to Run for Governor

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody is leaving the door open for a possible run for governor.


Dermody, appearing on an episode of the Sound Off radio program on 96.7 The Eagle, said he wouldn’t campaign for governor should he decide to run until after completing his next four-year term as mayor beginning January 1st.

“We’ll have to see what happens, but I wouldn’t say no at some point down the road. For right now, I am committed to continuing with La Porte and once I commit to something, like I said, I think people should finish their term,” he said.


If he ever does run for governor, the mayor isn't sure about his chances as a result of being labeled a moderate Republican in a Republican-controlled state that leans more conservative.


“I don’t know if that can win in a primary in the state of Indiana, but you never know,” he said.


Dermody was a state representative for 10 years prior to becoming mayor in 2020. 

Arrest for Texting Sexually Explicit Pictures

(La Porte County, IN) - A Michigan City man is accused of sending inappropriate pictures of himself to a 16-year-old girl.


Jeremiah Cox, 45, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Dissemination of Matter Harmful to Minors.


According to court documents, the girl began receiving text messages and phone calls from the suspect late in the summer, the communications including verbal expressions of desire for her. 


The contacts became increasingly inappropriate, peaking when he texted her two very personal pictures of himself on December 3rd.


A short time later, she received two more similar pictures of Cox, along with heightened expressions of desire for her via a recorded phone conversation, ending with him purportedly telling her “I love you."


Cox was released from the La Porte County Jail on his own recognizance to await the outcome of the case, according to La Porte County Jail records.


He could face a six-month to 30-month sentence.

Request for Nasty Political Infighting to Stop

(La Porte County, IN) - A local citizens group is expressing concern over extreme political infighting by the La Porte County Commissioners. Specifically, the League of Women Voters of La Porte County pointed to the sparks that flew at the commissioners' meeting on December 6th.


Linda Lancaster, vice-president of the Michigan City organization, told the commissioners last night on behalf of the LWV that their conduct during meetings, which some people have found comical, has even drawn the attention of state lawmakers throughout the state.


“It’s been brought to our attention that the members of the Indiana Legislature are watching the La Porte County Commissioners meetings and find the exchange of ideas so badly expressed to the point of being humorous,” she said.


She said the lack of civility shown during meetings might cause some people to be disgusted enough not to run for office, vote, or participate in the democratic process in some other shape or form.


“It’s obvious there are strong opinions on a variety of topics and those opinions differ greatly, which again is the basis for the democratic process. However, the way the commissioners chose to show their opinions is not in a manner that encourages discourse,” she said.


She asked each of the three commissioners to address their behavior at the next commission meeting, scheduled for January 3rd, and to apologize to each other and the public.


“It’s painfully obvious there are communication problems within La Porte County and a lack of common decency and respect for each other. A laughing stock is not the reputation the citizens of La Porte County want to have with their state representatives,” she said.


Public access is available to the recorded commission meetings,  posted on the Access to La Porte County Media website.

Public Invited to Christmas Lunch

(La Porte, IN) - The Pax Center, affiliated with the State Street Community Church, is inviting the public to celebrate and share food and friendship at a Christmas Day lunch in La Porte


In a year that has presented many challenges, Pastor Nate Loucks said the Pax Center at 605 Washington St. remains committed to ensuring that the holiday season is felt by every member of the community.


People are welcome to attend from 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM and enjoy a home-cooked meal with ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and desserts.


"We believe nobody in our community should spend Christmas alone or without a warm meal. This time and space is not just about food, it's also about community and helping our friends and neighbors know that they are never alone during the holidays," said Loucks, the church pastor and president of the Pax Center.


No reservations are required to attend.

Dermody Still Undefeated in Kettle Challenge

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody remains undefeated in ringing the bell for the Salvation Army as part of a competition with the mayor of Michigan City.


La Porte Salvation Army Major Charles Pinkston said Dermody and his team wound up with $3,825.57 in the kettle they manned outside of Kroger on Wednesday.


Meanwhile, Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry and his helpers collected $306.49 in their kettle at Al’s Supermarket on Karwick Road, said Michigan City Salvation Army Major Dale Simmons.


It was the fourth consecutive victory by Dermody in the annual mayoral ring-off.


“Our community is so special. We rally around those individuals that might need a little love and support during the holidays and yesterday was just another example of that,” he said.


Michigan City Salvation Army Major Dale Simmons said he was happy with the amount Parry brought in because every dollar counts toward reaching the annual fundraising goal and meeting the needs of the community.


Dermody received a little help in the contest from Santa Claus.


"Santa is like having Babe Ruth in baseball. We were excited that Santa was able to be there," he said. 

Police Uncover Black Market White Christmas

(La Porte County, IN) - Close to 10 pounds of cocaine turned up during an Indiana Toll Road traffic stop on Wednesday in La Porte County.


Juan Aquino, 52, of Elizabeth, New Jersey has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 2 felony Dealing in Cocaine Or a Narcotic Drug.


According to court documents, a La Porte County Police officer monitoring traffic in the area spotted an eastbound Honda Civic tailgating another driver at about 12 p.m. outside of La Porte near the 46-mile marker.


After the officer caught up to the vehicle five miles later near Rolling Prairie, Aquino was still traveling less than one car length behind the other driver.


During a traffic stop, the officer’s suspicions were reportedly raised by how nervous Aquino seemed to be, judging by his rapid, shallow breathing and the reason he gave for traveling not adding up. Other red flags included the presence of anti-static dryer sheets and a Bible in plain view.


Authorities illustrated how dryer sheets, in vehicles containing little to no laundry, are often used to mask the smell of narcotics while Bibles are placed out in the open by some criminals so as to give law enforcement the impression they’re good people.


With help from a K-9 dog, two kilograms of cocaine, each in rectangular blocks wrapped in cellophane, were seized from underneath the back seat. Two more kilos of cocaine packaged similarly were found when a cover was removed near the gear shift, center console area of the vehicle.


La Porte County Police Chief of Detectives Andy Hynek noted that one kilo weighs 2.5 pounds, and estimated the value of the drugs conservatively at about $30,000.


“That’s a pretty substantial amount,” Hynek said.


No light was shed on where he allegedly obtained the drugs, but receipts on purchases show he had allegedly been in Colorado two days prior to his arrest.


Aquino is being held in the La Porte County Jail on $50,000 bond and could face anywhere from a 10 to 30-year sentence.

Boy Injured When Hit by Motor Vehicle

Michigan City, IN) - A boy was injured after being hit by a motor vehicle in Michigan City.


According to the Michigan City Police, emergency responders were called to the intersection of Woodland Avenue and Coolspring Avenue after 8 p.m. last night.


So far, the investigation shows the juvenile was crossing the intersection on foot before being struck by a northbound vehicle operated by Bill Hadley. The boy then began to receive medical care while in the roadway before being transported to Franciscan Health.


The boy's condition and age were not revealed at the time of the incident. 


Multiple individuals were questioned by authorities about the incident. Anyone with further information is asked to contact Michigan City Police.


Governor Stops in LaCrosse to Announce Trail Funding

(LaCrosse, IN) - In LaCrosse today, Governor Eric Holcomb announced that 14 communities will receive a combined $31.2 million for 28 miles of new trail as a part of the fourth round of the Next Level Trails program.

“Across the state, trails are making connections – bringing people and communities together in ways we’ve never seen before,” he said.


Holcomb said the $180 million allocated, so far, is the largest infusion of trails funding in state history.  In rounds one, two, and three, a total of $120 million was awarded to 73 communities to build 190 miles of trails throughout Indiana.

The town of LaCrosse was among the recipients of the latest funding distribution, receiving $2.1 million to build the Grand Kankakee Marsh Trail.


That trail is part of the Great American Rail-Trail, a planned route from the state of Washington to Washington D.C.  About 56% of the Great American trail’s 214 planned miles across Indiana are complete, officials said.

Garage Destroyed by Fire

(La Porte, IN) - An investigation has begun into the cause of an early afternoon garage fire in La Porte.


Firefighters responded to 1111 Lake Street, which is close to the former Backroad Brewery on Perry Street.


Initially, La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder noted that the fire was posing a threat to a house beside it, but the wind took the flames away from the residential structure.


Said threat was further minimized by the use of a deck gun, which applies higher volumes of water at once from a fire truck until hoses can be stretched and connected to hydrants.


Snyder said there were also some explosions, but they could have been coming from gas cans or vehicle tires inside the garage. 


He assured that the cause of the explosions and fire will start to be investigated.


“It’s early. We’ll have to figure out what’s going on and go from there,” Snyder said.


No injuries were reported.

Council Fighting Part Time Coast Guard Plans

Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Common Council is attempting to block plans to convert the U.S. Coast Guard station in the lakefront community into a part-time facility.


On Tuesday night, the council unanimously approved a resolution asking federal lawmakers representing the area to attempt to have the decision reversed.


According to the resolution, the U.S. Coast Guard station has been operating year-round 24 hours a day, seven days a week since 1888.


“It’s definitely something critical for our lakefront with the amount of tourists we have annually and just the amount of people that frequent that lakefront,” said Council President Sean Fitzpatrick.


“It adds to the safety and security of our community,” said Councilman Dr. Vidya Kora.


The resolution, announcing the city council’s opposition to the plans and requesting the Coast Guard to reconsider, will be sent to 1st District Congressman Frank Mrvan of Hammond, along with both U.S. Senators from Indiana Mike Braun and Todd Young, and the U.S. Coast Guard office in Washington D.C.


Phil Gurtler, a public affairs officer at the U.S. Coast Guard station in Cleveland, said there’s been no change in plans since elected officials roughly two months ago started to be notified about the intent to downsize the Michigan City facility.


The plan remains to fully staff and equip the U.S. Coast Guard station on weekends during the summer when the use of Lake Michigan is at its greatest.  He said whether it would be open from Friday through Sunday or strictly two days on weekends during the summer has not been decided.


Gurtler said a manpower shortage nationwide is forcing the decision to downsize a select number of U.S. Coast Guard stations across the country, to restore staffing and other resources to levels they should be in areas where service calls are highest.


“We are going to reallocate some of the personnel and assets,” he said.


On average, Gurtler said, staffing at all locations is down by about 10 percent from what the Coast Guard feels a station should have to be “optimally manned.” He added that the numbers reflect the growing challenge of recruiting people into the military over the past few years.


“It’s been a continuous issue. It’s just kind of reaching a point now where some decisions have to be made,” he said.


The Michigan City station averages about 125 search and rescue calls a year, according to figures provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.  The primary coverage area of the Coast Guard station in Michigan City includes a good stretch of the northwest Indiana shoreline and east into Michigan, including Grand Beach and New Buffalo.


Gurtler said service calls when the station is not open will come from either the Coast Guard locations at Calumet Harbor near Chicago or St. Joseph, Michigan.  Whichever site is closest to the emergency will respond. He said local first responders with access to boats, helicopters, and other water rescue gear will be relied on to handle calls until the U.S. Coast Guard can get there in a boat or by air.


Already, Gurtler noted, police and firefighters begin rescue attempts if they’re the first ones to arrive.


“It’s kind of a coin flip sometimes to see if we get on scene first,” he said.


Councilman Don Przybylinski expressed concerns about longer response times in a city that has a lot of boaters using the lake to fish in the spring, summer, and fall as well as for recreation, primarily during the summer.


He said the decision would be like police and fire departments becoming part-time.


“To me, this is a very serious situation. They need to be there. They have to be there,” he said.


Gurtler said he doesn’t argue that U.S. Coast Guard response times in the Michigan City area would suffer. However, he says that a U.S. Coast Guard boat from Chicago or St. Joseph can still be there within the two-hour time frame mandated by Congress for coverage areas.


“I can say with certainty if the Coast Guard wasn’t confident we could meet all of the requirements and, frankly, keep the public safe, we wouldn’t be selecting these particular spots,” he said.


Councilman Bryant Dabney suggested a pay increase for Coast Guard officers should be given first to see if that would help draw more recruits, as higher wages for lifeguards in the city purportedly worked to restore staffing levels at the public beach.


“I think we should be asking if they can solve that issue,” he said.

Beware of New Telephone Scams

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police is alerting the public to two different telephone scams.


One of which is being directed towards registered sex offenders, who are told a $2,500 payment on a Green Dot prepaid card is needed to satisfy a fine by a caller pretending to be Sheriff Ron Heeg.


The second scam also involves a caller pretending to be the sheriff, claiming that there’s an arrest warrant out for the citizen and a money order is needed to avoid arrest.


Authorities reassure that the Sheriff's Office would never place such calls.

Bomb Threat Jokester a Child

(Michigan City, IN) - A child prankster might think twice now about making another bomb threat.


Just before 11 a.m. yesterday, police responded to the Walmart in Michigan City on a report of a telephone caller who had indicated that a bomb had been placed inside the store.


Michigan City Police said no explosive device was found during a search, conducted after the store's prompt evacuation. 


The investigative division worked the entire afternoon to try and determine who placed the call, before eventually learning that a 13-year-old boy from Sarasota, Florida was the caller in question, and that he had placed similar calls to businesses in other communities in the area.


Further details have not yet been released, but Michigan City Police are working with authorities in Sarasota in the ongoing investigation.

Governor Coming to La Porte County

(LaCrosse, IN) - Governor Eric Holcomb is scheduled to be in La Porte County tomorrow, appearing in LaCrosse to announce the recipients of the state’s Next Level Trails funding program.


According to the Governor’s Office, there are 14 recipients during the latest round of funding for communities statewide.


The governor is scheduled to make his announcement at 2 p.m. (CST) at the LaCrosse Public Library on 307 E. Main Street.   

Big Cats Added to Zoo

(Michigan City, IN) - The Washington Park Zoo has added four young exotic animals to its collection, as two Bobcats and two African Leopards now call the Michigan City animal hotspot home.


According to zoo officials, both the bobcats and leopards, respectively, are siblings, all acquired from accredited Zoological Association of America facilities.


“All four are adjusting nicely to their new surroundings,” they said.


Typically, leopards are spotted, but the ones just obtained by the zoo appear to be all black due to an overdevelopment of dark pigment. However, zoo officials note that their spots can be seen by looking closely in the daylight.


The bobcats were born 12 weeks ago, whereas the leopards are six months old. 


Washington Park Zoo will reopen for the 2024 season on April 1st.

Japanese Steelmaker Purchasing U.S. Steel

(Gary, IN) - U.S. Steel is being acquired by an overseas steelmaker, as Japan-based Nippon Steel Corp. and U.S. Steel have agreed to a purchase price of $14.9 billion, marking the end of a more than century-old era of U.S. Steel.


Once a symbol of America's might with mills in Gary and other locations in the country, reports indicate that the U.S. Steel steelmaking and mining operations currently in operation will be continued by Nippon.


Under the deal, Nippon, in Northwest Indiana, will take over Gary Works, the Midwest Plant in Portage, and the idled East Chicago Tin steel mills. The Japanese steelmaker says that it plans to honor the existing contract with the United Steelworkers and maintain a relationship with the union.


The sale still has to go through a process for it to become official, and opponents such as Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman are vowing to try and kill the deal, calling it “wrong for workers and wrong for Pennsylvania.”

Former Strieter's Building Knocked Down

(La Porte, IN) - A once-landmark retail facility turned eyesore in La Porte is no more, as the old Strieter’s Sales and Service building on the city’s west side has officially been demolished.


For a long time, the former business on Indiana 2 sold lawnmowers and other lawn care products, but after closing the building had been empty for many years.


The property is now owned by Kabelin Ace Hardware, which is right next to the site.


Mayor Tom Dermody noted that a lot of complaints had been made about the abandoned structure over the years.


“For those coming into the community from the west they’ll no longer see that building, which has been empty and in disarray for some time,” he said.


Dermody would not shed light on how that property could be used in the future but did say that the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership worked to obtain a couple of grants from the city to assist Kabelin Ace Hardware in redeveloping the site.

Applause for Outgoing City Councilman

(La Porte, IN) - A member of the La Porte City Council attended her final meeting last night and was given a standing ovation by Mayor Tom Dermody and her colleagues therein.


Laura Cutler, who chose not to seek reelection, has represented the city’s Third Ward for eight years while also acting as the only Democrat on the council.


Cutler offered these parting remarks and advice for her successor.


“It’s been my pleasure to serve. The people who have stepped up now to fill my shoes, don’t worry about it. You can’t make everyone happy. All you have to do is listen. People just want to be heard. Just listen to people first and foremost and communicate,” she said.


Dermody said Cutler “set the standard” for other council members to follow, assuring her that she "will be missed."


Councilman Tim Franke told Cutler he looked up to her when he first took a seat on the council four years ago.


“We disagreed on some things, but you’ve always been great to work with and I’ll certainly miss you,” he said.


Taking her seat at the start of 2024 will be Republican Drew Buchanan.

OWI Arrest Follows Crash into Tree

(La Porte County, IN) - A Hudson Lake man has been accused of driving impaired following a single-vehicle crash into a tree that injured both himself and a passenger in northern LaPorte County.


Travis Wlodarek, 32, has been charged with a Class A misdemeanor Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.


According to the La Porte County Police, the collision happened after 9 p.m. this past Friday on 1000 North near 300 East.


Wlodarek explained that he had struck the tree after swerving to avoid hitting a deer. The investigation showed he and his passenger, Jade Nelson, were returning home from a Christmas party prior to the crash.


Wlodarek suffered a broken nose, while Nelson wound up with a fractured sternum. The 2007 Chrysler 300 he was driving sustained heavy front-end damage.


Wlodarek had a blood alcohol level more than two times the .08 percent legal limit, per authorities.

OWI During Stop of Zig Zagging Moped

(La Porte County, IN) - An elderly man on a moped veering completely off the road multiple times in rural La Porte County is facing charges of Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.


Allen Blake, 71, could receive an up to one-year jail sentence on the Class A misdemeanor offense.


On Friday, December 15th, a patrol officer was traveling on 850 South near Union Mills when a moped ahead of him kept swerving back and forth over the center line.


On several occasions, the moped allegedly went completely off the road by about 15 feet and into some grass before returning to the pavement.


Blake told the officer he was heading home from a bar where he had “a couple of beers.”


According to police, Blake, before and after removing his goggles, exhibited symptoms of being impaired, such as difficulty standing along with red and watery eyes.


He was taken into custody after a certified breathalyzer test revealed a .137-percent blood alcohol level,

Giese Chapel a Tradition for Generations

(La Porte, IN) - Seeing a mechanical miniature church built as a promise to God remains a Christmas tradition for some people who saw it as a child in LaPorte.


Chuck Link hadn’t seen the Giese Chapel in 60 years but was determined to do so during his trip back to LaPorte for the funeral of his father who was just six weeks from turning 100.


“I’m glad I did.  It brings back a lot of memories,” he said.


Link, 70, of Goshen said he was overcome with joy from seeing how well the seven-foot high church, full of parishioners made of wood, still looks and functions.


“I’m elated to see it preserved,” he said.


Betty Hildebrandt of LaPorte said her mother and father took her annually to see the church on Christmas Eve while she was growing up in the 1970s. She gushed about the memories triggered by looking not only at the miniature New England-style church but similar looking real churches during her travels.


“To this day, little white churches just mean Christmas to me just because of this church,” she said.


According to local historians, Otto Giese spent Christmas in 1944 serving the country in Belgium as a soldier during World War II. With shells and bombs from the Germans exploding, he quickly made a vow to God that, if he made it back home alive, he would do something to remember and preserve the true spirit of Christmas.


Soon, he found himself in the five-week-long Battle of the Bulge, the last major German offensive of the war in Europe that led to Germany’s defeat.


In 1947, Giese fulfilled his promise by making the church, featuring an altar, pulpit, chandeliers, a balcony, and pews on the inside, as well as stained glass windows.


Giese placed it on the lawn of his funeral home on Harrison Street, where it was visited by an estimated 10,000 people during the first holiday season it was on display.


Christmas music played from within the church twice a day every Sunday. Tiny electric lights were added to the chandeliers the following year. In 1950, a conveyor system allowing robed wooden choir members holding candles to move down the aisle was added.


He later added a moving wooden pastor who enters the altar and turns toward the congregation before delivering a sermon. The voice of the pastor is of the late Ken Coe, once the longtime owner of radio stations WLOI and WCOE in LaPorte.


After retiring in 1978, Giese donated the church to the LaPorte County Historical Society Museum, where electrical experts and other professional volunteers have kept it maintained over the years.


Giese was 90 when he ultimately passed away in 2002.


Museum Director Danielle Adams said the church, on display year-round, sees the most visitors during the Christmas season. She remembers seeing the church during a school field trip to the museum in third grade roughly 16 years ago.


“I thought it was the coolest thing. I loved doll houses and I loved not playing with the dolls. I liked setting them up. This is like that on a huge scale,” she said.

Alleged Meth Dealer Charged

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte woman is accused of selling drugs.


Mary Daniel, 33, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Dealing Methamphetamine.


In August, Daniel was caught selling 1.7 grams of methamphetamine for $80, allegedly meeting the buyer at a gas station at Lincolnway and Tipton Street 


Police said they drove together to another gas station in the 1000 block of East Lincolnway where the transaction occurred.


Daniel is currently being held in the La Porte County Jail on $20,000 bond and could face anywhere from a 2 to 12-year sentence.

Former Longtime Judge Passes Away

(La Porte, IN) - A former La Porte County judge has passed away, as Paul Baldoni died yesterday at 79 years old.


Baldoni was a judge in La Porte Superior Court 3 for more than 30 years until his retirement in 2008.


Visiting hours are scheduled for Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Frank Keizei Funeral Home Essling Chapel in La Porte.

Long-Lost Gun Returns Home

(La Porte County, IN) - On a cool early November evening, Coolspring Township resident David Werner’s home was burglarized, and his handgun was stolen. Recently, Werner got his gun back, after it turned up during an investigation in southwest Michigan.


Not so amazing, except the burglary happened November 5th, 1979—44 years ago. A then-30-year-old Werner returned home to find a dark-colored Ford Mustang leaving his driveway. At the time, Werner told police that he found the home’s rear sliding glass door ajar, his dog let out of her kennel, and several items missing. Among those belongings was a Sentinel Deluxe .22 caliber revolver.


On Wednesday, Mr. Werner retrieved his gun from La Porte County Detective Aaron Banic. Last March, it had turned up during the investigation of an incident in Berrien County, Michigan. The serial number entered into a nationwide database years ago eventually led investigators to the rightful owner.


The 74-year-old Werner said he had purchased the gun for personal protection after returning home from the war in Vietnam. He told Banic that he thought he’d never see it again and that he "had written it off."


According to police, the 1979 burglary is still an open case; no one was ever arrested for the crime. But now at least, Mr. Werner has his trusty nine-shooter back.

Officer to the Rescue

(South Bend, IN) - A South Bend Police Officer came to the rescue of an unconscious child earlier this week.


Officer Brian Meador was working at his desk at the downtown police station when he heard a commotion in the lobby. Security video footage shows Officer Meador rushing to the aid of a panicked couple carrying the limp body of a child. According to a police statement, the couple was driving to the hospital when the child became unresponsive near the South Bend Police Department.


Without hesitation, Officer Meador grabbed the child and began chest compressions as medics were en route. Thanks to Meador’s quick actions, the child came to. The family later told police that the child is continuing to recover and is appreciative of Officer Meador's swift medical assistance.

Michigan City Man Sentenced for Child Pornography

(South Bend, IN) - A Michigan City man has been sentenced to prison for child pornography.


The U.S. Attorney’s Office in South Bend announced Friday that 31-year-old Opediah Barnett, who had already pled guilty to two counts of production of child pornography, received his punishment from District Court Judge Damon R. Leichty.


According to authorities, Barnett convinced two different minors he met online to send him illicit images back in January and July of last year. He traveled out of state in an attempt to meet up with one of them. Court documents suggest the children were from West Virginia and Washington State.


Barnett was sentenced to over 24 years in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release, as well as $6000 in restitution.

Federal Gun Charge Stems from La Porte County Arrest

(Souh Bend, IN) - An Illinois man arrested in La Porte County two years ago has been sentenced in federal court.


In March of 2021, 40-year-old Martin Devalois of Romeoville, Illinois was the passenger in a car that was pulled over for tailgating on US 20. According to police, Devalois locked himself in the vehicle and drove off. Following a 15-mile chase that traversed woods, fields, highways, and county roads, he eventually crashed into a snowbank in downtown La Porte near the south side of Stone Lake. In addition to being charged with resisting arrest, Devalois was found to be a serious violent felon in possession of a firearm.


This week, after a two-day trial, a jury in South Bend’s U.S. District Court found him guilty of the gun charge. Devalois is scheduled for sentencing on March 29.


The case was investigated by the ATF, with help from the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department and the Indiana State Police Laboratory.

ISP K-9 Wounded in Pursuit

(Gary, IN) - An Indiana State Police patrol dog was injured during the pursuit of a suspect Thursday morning.


Just after 8:30 a.m., state troopers pursued a stolen car on westbound I-80 in Lake County. During the chase, one trooper drove into a watery ditch to avoid hitting other vehicles. He was not injured.


The suspect led police onto I-65, then the Indiana Tollway, before entering local roads in Gary. He eventually bailed out and fled on foot. He was captured after a brief chase. However, somehow during the apprehension, a K-9 named Rogue suffered a gunshot wound to her paw. Authorities did not elaborate on the source of the gunshot.


Rogue’s handler drove her to a local animal hospital for emergency treatment, and she is expected to make a full recovery.


22-year-old Damontae Reed of Gary was charged with Auto Theft, Resisting Law Enforcement, and Reckless Driving.

Search for Missing Michigan City Woman [UPDATE]

(Michigan City, IN) - The Michigan City Police Department has announced that Lisa Koch "has been located safe and sound," and the case is now closed. No further details have been released. The 63-year-old Michigan City woman had been reported missing Friday afternoon.


Original story:


According to a Friday afternoon press release, the Michigan City Police Department is asking for the public’s help in locating a missing person— 63-year-old Lisa Koch.


The family of Ms. Koch checked her residence after not hearing from her for over twenty-four hours. Unable to find any trace of her, they contacted the police.


Koch does not own a vehicle and does not have a working cell phone. Further, Ms. Koch has a health condition that will worsen if she does not receive her prescribed medications.


Police describe Koch as a white female with shoulder-length red hair and blue eyes. She is 5’8” tall and weighs 135 pounds.


Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ms. Koch is asked to call the Michigan City Police Department at (219) 874-3221. This case was assigned to Det./Sgt. Melissa Sopher of the Investigative Division. Det./Sgt. Sopher can be contacted at (219) 874-3221 Ext. 1049 or by email at msopher@emichigancity.com.                   

Chief Retiring After Keeping Promise to Mayor

(La Porte, IN) - Paul Brettin planned to retire from law enforcement four years ago, but stayed on when asked to serve as chief of police in LaPorte.


Now, though, he’ll be taking off his badge for good after living up to a promise he made to Mayor Tom Dermody during his first term in office regarding the position.


Brettin is ending his career where it started nearly 30 years ago as a civilian desk clerk, before going on on to hold almost every position at the department, including chief of detectives, midnight shift commander, and member of the street crimes task force.


Brettin said finally deciding to retire was still difficult, even though it was in the making before Dermody chose him to lead a revamping of the once depleted force.


“I think I did the changes I wanted to do. Everybody gets to that point in their career that you start to think, you know what? Let the young guys take this over. It was time,” he said.


Applications for the position will be accepted through January 12th and the new police chief announced on February 5th.


Dermody said whoever is the next chief will have some big shoes to fill.


“Under his watch, we have cracked down on drug traffickers and violent offenders, expanded our use of modern technologies, and have made it clear that we are a law-and-order community,” Dermody said.


Brettin will remain with the department until May 23rd to offer support and guidance to his replacement.


Under Brettin, the department restored its number of officers to more than 40 after manpower dropped to below 30.


Brettin said money, built up by the countywide public safety income tax adopted in 2022, provided the city with money to increase salaries enough to help attract more officers to the department.


Per Dermody, his other accomplishments include more patrols with utility task vehicles and bicycles powered by electronic motors, the prioritization of mental health by hiring the city’s first-ever Public Safety Social Worker, and increased use of modern technology such as drones, FLOCK license plate readers, and wireless parking enforcement.


Brettin also created new units like the Emergency Response Team and Proactive Crime Team.


The soon-to-be former chief of police said he’s most proud of the quality of the officers assembled during his tenure.


“We have amazing officers on the department. These officers are dedicated, every single one of them,” he said.   


Brettin said he’s also equally proud of the modern crime-fighting technology added to solve crimes and other matters more quickly. 


What he’ll miss most about law enforcement is the camaraderie he enjoys with his fellow police officers.


“I think there’s a brotherhood, sisterhood there that most people don’t understand. We see the worst life has to offer and we also see the best but we see more of the negatives. We lean on each other a lot,” he said.


Brettin said he plans to keep working but it’ll be somewhere outside of law enforcement and spend more time with his family.


“It truly has been an honor to serve this community. Though it was a difficult decision, I am comforted by the fact that I leave behind a team of strong, well-trained, professional officers who always give 100 percent,” he said.

Deadline for Exemption Requests Nears

(La Porte County, IN) - December 31st is the deadline for La Porte County property owners to file for property tax exemptions.


La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz said the homestead exemption is, by far, sought the most as it provides taxpayers with a deduction for the use of a property as their primary residence.


He said a homestead exemption must be reapplied for if there have been changes on the deed to a parcel.


“We want everyone to be aware of, and receive, the deductions that the law provides for,” he said.


Stabosz said the other 4 most commonly used deductions are the over 65, blind or disabled, veteran disability, and solar/wind/geothermal deductions.


To receive the over-65 deduction, single individuals must have an adjusted gross income of $32,610 or less, and for married couples, it must be $43,480 or less.  


Anyone with questions or needing more information is asked to contact the La Porte County Auditor’s office at (219) 326-6808 Ext. 2004, or visit the auditor’s office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 


People can also email Stabosz at tstabosz@laporteco.in.gov.

Convicted of Pointing Rifle at Law Enforcement

(La Porte, IN) - A jury has convicted a La Porte man of pointing a firearm at police officers.


William Schmidt, 46, was found guilty of Intimidation and Criminal Recklessness, which are both Level 5 felonies.


In April of 2021, police officers responded to a domestic situation at the home of Schmidt in the 500 block of Home Street, where Schmidt purportedly came out with a rifle and pointed it at law enforcement officers.


It took the La Porte Circuit Court jury about six hours to decide the case, with him being found not guilty on other counts. He still faces anywhere from a two to 12-year sentence.


Schmidt is currently being held in the La Porte County Jail until sentencing, which is tentatively set for January 19th.

OWI Arrest in Tree Collision

(La Porte County, IN) - The driver of an SUV that slammed into a tree outside La Porte early this morning was arrested for Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.


At roughly 1 a.m., La Porte County Police responded to the area of 500 West and 150 North, finding the driver, 24-year-old Jamaine Mosley, still in the vehicle resting against a NIPSCO utility pole upon their arrival.  The collision left a large amount of debris from the tree and his 2010 Honda Odyssey on the roadway.


He had a cast on his foot and was struggling with his crutches before making his way out of the vehicle.


Mosley told officers he had one drink at a friend’s house. However, there were reportedly several open alcoholic beverage containers in the vehicle, and his blood alcohol level was close to three times the .08 percent legal limit.


The La Porte area man was not injured.

Prison for Teacher in Student Sex Case

(La Porte, IN) - A former school teacher from La Porte is going to prison for sex crimes against a student, as John Doty was given a 10-year sentence in La Porte Circuit Court yesterday.


Doty, 36, was a science teacher and swimming coach at La Porte High School for nearly ten years, whereas his illegal activities occurred while he was a high school biology teacher later in South Bend.


Authorities said a friendship had developed between him and the 16-year-old victim, who was one of his students.  Some of the crimes occurred while they were out on drives in rural areas of La Porte County and at Doty’s residence.


The perpetrator was caught in the same vehicle with the girl by her grandparents after allegedly having his way with the juvenile.


Doty was convicted on four counts of Child Seduction.   In exchange for a plea agreement, other charges like rape were dismissed.

New Recycling Provider for La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - There’s going to be a new recycling pick-up provider in La Porte County next year, as the current provider, Republic Services, will be replaced by Borden Waste Away on January 1st.


Sacha Gee Burns of the La Porte County Solid Waste District said that just a small of percentage of homes will have their pick-up days changed as a result of adjusting some routes for efficiency.


“They are going to be sending out a letter with a calendar that will show which day is each area’s recycling day,” she said.


Despite the switch in companies, Burns said residents will still be able to use their existing recycling containers, and that the switch will allow people to recycle No. 6 plastics, which previously were not accepted. She said the new provider, operating out of Elkhart, has its own recycling processing facility and is able to accept this preciously-unaccepted plastic type.


No. 6 plastics are found in consumer products, like Solo drinking cups and containers of donuts offered in grocery stores.  

Police Nab Fugitive After Pursuit

(MIchigan City, IN) - A fugitive claiming to be a homeless man was captured during a short high-speed chase in Michigan City.


Rick Wheelden, 28, was clocked at 82 miles per hour on Indiana 212 last week. A traffic stop was attempted on Freyer Road, but Wheelden kept going at high speeds and was on Haack Road before coming to a sudden stop in a business's parking lot, police said.


He was ordered out of the vehicle at gunpoint.


Per authorities, Wheelden, whose former address is in Michigan City, told the officer he was currently living in a tent.


According to court documents, Wheelden was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant for Intimidation.


The charge alleges that Wheelden, in early October, angrily grabbed a pipe and threatened to strike a woman with it if she didn’t stop talking on her phone. He also purportedly threatened to shoot the woman, lifting his shirt to show her a gun he had stowed in his waistband.


Wheelden, after the brief pursuit, reportedly told the officer he used crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana the previous night.

La Porte Police Chief Retiring

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Police Chief Paul Brettin today announced his retirement.


Brettin, who has served on the department for nearly 30 years, will step down as chief on February 5th.  He will remain on the force until May 23rd to offer support and guidance to his replacement.


Mayor Tom Dermody said whoever the replacement is will have big shoes to fill.


“Under his watch, we have cracked down on drug traffickers and violent offenders, expanded our use of modern technologies, and have made it clear that we are a law-and-order community,” he said.


Brettin has been with the La Porte Police Department since 1994 when he started as a civilian desk officer.


He later worked in nearly every role at the department, including Field Training Officer, Chief of Detectives, Street Crimes Task Force member, and several other leadership positions.


According to the mayor’s office, his accomplishments as chief include more patrols on utility task vehicles and bicycles powered by electric motors, the prioritization of mental health by hiring the city’s first-ever Public Safety Social Worker, increased use of modern technology such as drones, FLOCK license plate readers, and wireless parking enforcement.


Brettin also created new units like the Emergency Response Team and the Proactive Crime Team to help combat crime.


“It truly has been an honor to serve this community. Though it was a difficult decision, I am comforted by the fact that I leave behind a team of strong, well-trained, professional officers who always give 100 percent,” he said.


Dermody said applications for the vacant position will be accepted through January 12th, with Brettin's replacement to be announced on February 5th.

Jail a Shelter for Combative Homeless Beggar

(La Porte, IN) - A man who described himself as homeless apparently didn’t appreciate efforts to find him shelter judging by his combative attitude toward police in La Porte.


Paul Zdyb, 63, of Michigan City has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 felony Intimidation along with Disorderly Conduct and Public Intoxication, both misdemeanors.


Police, on December 9th, approached Zdyb after receiving complaints of a man begging for money from customers in the drive-thru at the Taco Bell at 202 Pine Lake Avenue.


Per authorities, Zdyb explained that he was soliciting because he’s currently homeless, before starting to become angry and throwing down his jacket and backpack, causing several small bottles of alcohol to become exposed on the ground.


Zdyb, showing obvious signs of impairment, then slammed his hands onto the hood of a patrol vehicle.  One of the officers was trying to find him a shelter when Zdyb was placed in handcuffs after yelling again and asking to be hit.


Police said his behavior toward officers became threatening while being transported to the La Porte County Jail where his volatile behavior continued.


As of this morning, Zdyb is still being held in the La Porte County Jail without bond.

NIPSCO No Scrooge at Christmas

(Merrillville, IN) - This holiday season marks NIPSCO’s 11th annual Hope for the Holidays campaign, which combines donations from both the company and its employees to benefit various community-serving organizations across northern Indiana.


According to utility company, NIPSCO employees donated more than 1,000 toys to eight Toys for Tots organizations located throughout the NIPSCO service area, which includes La Porte, St. Joseph, Starke and Porter counties.


“The sense of fulfillment that comes with giving back to the community is unmatched, and we are grateful for the opportunity to make a difference,” said Mike Hooper, NIPSCO president.


NIPSCO’s contribution towards the Toys for Tots program is just one of the many initiatives the company has undertaken this holiday season.


Recently, the organization gifted 200 bags filled with toiletries and other supplies to Gabriel’s Horn of Porter County and the Crisis Center of Lake County.


In addition, NIPSCO has been teaming up with various non-profit organizations and programs throughout northern Indiana to donate employee volunteer hours and more than $150,000 in company and employee donations.


The recipient organizations include the La Porte County Sheriff’s Christmas program and the Shop with a Cop program in Michigan City.


For more information on other ways NIPSCO gives back to the community, visit NIPSCO.com/GivingBack.

Grant for PNW to Tackle Mental Health

(Hammond and Westville, IN) - Purdue University Northwest’s Department of Psychology has been awarded a five-year, $3 million grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.


PNW will partner with pediatric healthcare clinics in Lake, Porter, and La Porte counties to support mental health services and interventions for child traumatic stress.


The project, called “Northwest Indiana Identification and Management of Pediatric Experiences of Trauma and Underlying Stress,” was selected as part of the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative to implement routine screenings as well as brief in-office and group interventions for child traumatic stress, on top of increasing access to longer-term services by training large cohorts of local mental health providers in specific evidence-based interventions for child trauma.


“The size and scope of this type of direct mental health services grant is unprecedented at Purdue Northwest,” said Amanda Zelechoski, Project Director and professor of Psychology at PNW.


"The clinical and research expertise of our faculty, as well as our new psychology graduate programs, position us extremely well to work with our pediatric healthcare partners in the region to change the trajectories for our most vulnerable youth and families.”


Pediatric primary care clinics have become a key entry point for the rapidly increasing number of children exposed to potentially traumatic or stressful experiences that result in physical and mental health symptoms. PNW will partner with two of the largest pediatric clinics in Northwest Indiana: Associated Pediatricians and HealthLinc.


The grant funds will be used to implement child trauma screenings, add behavioral health professionals at each pediatric clinic, provide brief in-office and group interventions, and train 25-50 therapists per year in several child trauma intervention models.


“HealthLinc is proud to partner with PNW to prioritize and normalize mental health support for children,” stated Beth Wrobel, HealthLinc CEO.


“Partnerships between healthcare and universities are essential for driving progress, addressing health disparities, and improving the quality of life," she said. 


A primary component of the NWI program is to hire and embed mental health professionals into the pediatric clinic, which has long been a goal for Associated Pediatricians.


“Mental health care has become such a large part of the care we provide to kids and being able to provide timely interventions and resources to families is critical,” said Dr. Elizabeth Campbell, pediatrician and partner/owner of Associated Pediatricians.


“The impact of bringing these mental health providers into our office space where they can work directly with our families is going to be tremendous.  We’re grateful to partner with PNW to advance the care we provide to the communities we serve,” she said.


For more information, visit pnw.edu/nwi-impetus

Prison Worker Using Wig Charged in Smuggling Attempt

(Westville, IN) - A program coordinator at Westville Correctional Facility has now been accused of trying to smuggle synthetic marijuana cigarettes into the prison in a wig she had been wearing.


Elizabeth Malstaff, 62, has been charged in LaPorte Circuit Court with Level 5 Felony Trafficking with an Inmate.


According to court documents, the LaPorte woman raised the suspicions of prison security officers when they felt a “hard object” between her legs during a pat down search on December 7th at the main gate. Malstaff explained the object was allegedly two pads taped together to absorb urine because the medication she takes caused her to lose control of her bladder. She then declined to grant permission for a strip search and body scan, the latter akin to an x-ray scan, even after being informed that prison workers are required to comply with such requests.


About three hours later, Malstaff was forced to remove her undergarments after prison security obtained a search warrant.  However, a maxi pad retrieved from her mid-section contained no contraband. Malstaff was then reportedly asked to remove her wig, but she only pulled it back far enough to expose the top of her head. She then removed the wig completely from her head at the request of prison security, all the while giggling and revealing “It’s all there,” court records disclosed.


Authorities said the wig contained 59 synthetic marijuana cigarettes along with rolling papers. The joints were packaged separately in bundles containing anywhere from two to eight of the illicit cigarettes.


During further questioning, Malstaff asked if her arrest would have any impact on her retirement benefits since she was planning to retire soon from the prison. She was then advised to contact an advisor with the Indiana Department of Correction to have her concerns addressed.


Malstaff was held in the La Porte County Jail until posting a $1,500 bond on Tuesday, and could now face anywhere from a one to six-year sentence.

Head Injuries at Bar Result in Charges

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a physical altercation at a La Porte bar that left one injured.


Koby Moody has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 6 felony Battery Causing Moderate Injury and Misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct.


The incident occurred on November 9th in the parking lot of the PRCU club at 620 Bach Street on the city’s east side.


The investigation shows that Moody, who is president of the PRCU club, and the male victim went outside over a disagreement in the establishment.


The victim then told police that Moody punched him on the head from behind before picking him up and slamming his head on the asphalt parking lot, punching him repeatedly while he was on the ground.


The victim reportedly went home after the incident before going to a hospital after his vision started blurring in the days that followed. He was diagnosed with internal head injuries caused by significant blunt force.


Moody told investigators he struck the victim twice and once on the ground. 


The investigation also revealed the victim was intoxicated and being loud in the bar.

Arrest Follows Short but Dangerous Ride

(La Porte, IN) - Problems keep mounting for a La Porte man who was highly impaired while allegedly driving with his infant son and its mother in the vehicle.


Ryan Foster has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Domestic Battery and Child Neglect, both Level 6 felonies, along with Public Intoxication and Criminal Recklessness, both Class B misdemeanors.


The investigation shows Foster, on work release this past Monday, started drinking after receiving bad news regarding a custody battle over another child belonging to him.


According to police, Foster later returned to his home in the 1000 block of 4th Street and took a debit card belonging to his girlfriend. The woman, holding their child, followed him back to a car to confront him about taking the card. She was about halfway seated in the front passenger seat when Foster began driving, causing one of her legs to dangle from the open door of the vehicle while she was holding their son.


She managed to get out of the car, but Foster kept going with the passenger side door still open.


At the request of Community Corrections, police said, officers began looking for Foster, spotting him walking on nearby Eggebrecht Road, and taking him into custody during a struggle.


He made $400 in ATM withdrawals from the stolen debit card and had $300 of that amount in his possession upon being booked into the La Porte County Jail. The money still left was returned to the victim.

NIPSCO Rate Hike Hearing Postponed

(Indianapolis, IN) - A hearing in La Porte over a proposed rate increase by NIPSCO has been postponed.


The hearing by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission was scheduled for December 18th at the Civic Auditorium, yet has been postponed. It’s going to be rescheduled but, so far, no date has been set.


NIPSCO is seeking an increase in natural gas rates to fund higher operating expenses and infrastructure upgrades.


Written comments from customers on the proposed rate hike are being accepted until the end of next month by the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor.


Comments can be submitted to the OUCC’s website or by mail.

Students Can Apply for Statehouse Openings

(Indianapolis, IN) - Students locally and statewide can now apply to become a page in the Indiana Senate early next year.


Through the full-day program, students in grades 6 through 12 tour Indiana’s Statehouse, listen to debates, and help staff with age-appropriate tasks alongside having the opportunity to meet their state senator.  


"The Senate Page Program is a great way for kids to get involved in state government," said State Senator Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores.


Bohacek advises students interested in applying not to wait. 


“Positions fill quickly,” he said.


Serving as a page is considered an excused absence from school.


The Senate Page Program will begin in January and run through February during the entire two-month legislative session.  Bohacek said pages are scheduled for Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays during the session and serve from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

No Gold Yet But Hopes are High

(La Porte County, IN) - So far, no gold has been reported in Salvation Army kettles in La Porte and Michigan City this Christmas season.


Gold coins dropped in Salvation Army kettles by anonymous donors in the annual fundraising campaign is a long tradition across the nation. Locally, however, a gold coin finding its way into a kettle doesn’t happen every year.   


Major Charles Pinkston from the Salvation Army branch in La Porte is still hopeful this season will bring some gold.  


“We haven’t seen any gold yet this year, but we look every day,” he said.


In the meantime, Pinkston said there have been other unusual finds in the kettles this year including foreign coins, one half of a one-dollar bill, and keys.


“That’s about the extent of our finds this year,” he said.


The goal for the kettle drive in La Porte this year is $85,000. 


In 2014, a set of gold teeth turned up in a kettle in La Porte, from which the Salvation Army received about $150 for the precious metal therein.

Speeding Leads to Another OWI Arrest

(La Porte County, IN) - A Kingsbury area woman is facing the possibility of multiple drunk driving convictions following her arrest last night.


La Porte County Police say Christina Mann was pulled over after clocking in at 75 miles per hour on U.S. 35 near 500 South at Kingsbury. 


The 41-year-old woman, leaning against her car to speak with the officer, denied consuming alcohol even though it was on her breath. However, she later reportedly admitted to drinking but claimed it was not that much.


She was arrested for allegedly refusing to submit to a certified blood alcohol test.


According to police, she was convicted of OWI in 2019 and has previous OWI charges from seven months ago still undecided in court.  The current and previous charges are felonies because of her past conviction.

Live Reindeer Draws Huge Crowd

(La Porte, IN) - More than 200 people braved cold weather to see a live reindeer Monday night in LaPorte.


Cups of hot chocolate were served to the long line of parents, their children, and children at heart waiting to see the reindeer outside the public library at 904 Indiana Avenue in the city’s downtown.


The joy from petting one of the major symbols of Christmas was evident in the smiles and eyes of people, who also were allowed to have their pictures taken with the animal they had never actually seen outside of seasonal touchstones ike “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”


“It’s awesome, man. The kids had a good time. It’s amazing,” remarked Anthony Munoz, who made the 20-minute trip with his daughter Gisele, 7, and sons Maddox, 6, and Maverick, 5, from their home in Trail Creek.


Tori Cimbaljevich of La Porte held her chubby-cheeked infant son, Noah, as he reached down innocently to pet the reindeer in his Santa Claus outfit. She also brought her three-year-old daughter, Mabel.


“It was awesome. My daughter was really excited,” she said.


The seven-year-old female reindeer, “Bell,” belongs to the Silly Safari organization.


The animal advocacy group, based near Indianapolis, also travels to surrounding states like Michigan and Kentucky to show the public not just the reindeer, but other exotic animals throughout the year.


Aiden Potter, who’s with the organization, held the sometimes restless reindeer while seated in a chair for the public to approach and enjoy. He said the mission of the group is to protect animals by showing them, especially to children.


“We really want to enrich the youth and make them fall in love with animals. That’s where you really make the difference with conservation. If you can get the new generation to fall in love with animals they’ll want to keep them protected,” he said.


Debbie Reynolds of LaPorte said she came because she likes special events and keeps her aging, but still cheerful heart wide open for Christmas.


“I loved it. So soft. I didn’t realize just how soft they are,” she said.


The people showing up for the event also learned a thing or two about the species.  For example, Potter said, male and female reindeer have antlers, unlike traditional deer whose antlers emerge only in bucks.


Kateri Krueger, who came with her two-year-old daughter, Mallory, and her fiancée, Joshua Marshall, said she was mostly surprised by how the reindeer did not look anything like she expected.


“I think you kind of expect them to look how they do in the movies. They’re still cute,” she said.

Crash with Injuries This Morning

(Stevensville, MI) - A bad motor vehicle crash has happened in southwest Michigan, as troopers have recently responded to an accident on Interstate 94 at Stevensville.


Injuries are being reported, but how many people were injured and the severity thereof is not currently known.


Police said the ramp near the 23-mile marker is closed.  


Motorists are being advised to find an alternate route until the crash site is investigated and cleaned up. 

LPHS Student Scholarship Winners

(La Porte County, IN) - Megan Lambert and Stephanie Leon, both seniors at La Porte High School, have been declared recipients of the 2024 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship for La Porte County.


Lilly Endowment Community Scholars are known for their community involvement, academic achievement, character, and leadership.


According to officials with Lily Endowment, Lambert has demonstrated outstanding leadership in several volunteer, extracurricular, and athletic activities. She has participated in several activities like mission trips, Leadership La Porte County, cross country, and National Honor Society.


She has excelled academically, including in advanced placement, dual credit, and honors courses, and is ranked at the top of her class.


Lambert plans to study health science and become a Physician’s Assistant.


Meanwhile, Leon is committed to community improvement.


According to Lily Endowment officials, she is passionate about helping people and aspires to channel this passion into a fulfilling career. Throughout her high school career, Stephanie has balanced volunteer service, academic success, and extracurricular activities. Her involvement includes the French Club, National Honor Society National Technical Honor Society, and sports. She is ranked at the top of her class and has excelled in her coursework, which includes advanced placement, dual credit, and honors courses.


Each Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship provides for full tuition, required fees, and a special allocation of up to $900 per year for required books and required equipment for four years.


The scholarship is for full-time undergraduate students leading to a baccalaureate degree at any eligible Indiana public or private nonprofit college or university.


“Each of this year’s finalists impressed the review committee with their academic and personal accomplishments. Stephanie and Megan stood out for their academic achievements, service to others, and communication skills,” said Shannon Walker, Unity Foundation Vice President. 

Alcohol Impairs Judgement at Wrong House

(Michigan City, IN) - A trip to grandmother’s house in the eyes of a driver ended in a wrong location and an arrest for being impaired in Michigan City early today.


At about 1:30 a.m., La Porte County Police said, officers were called regarding a possible burglary in progress in the 400 block of Spruce Drive.  The complainant reported an unknown individual was trying to get inside her residence through the front door.


Upon arrival, officers spoke to Laura Wilemon of Michigan City, whose vehicle was parked in front of the home.


Wilemon, 36, told investigators she drove to the home believing it belonged to her grandmother and reportedly remained convinced it was her grandmother’s house throughout the conversation between her and the officers.


She was arrested with an alleged blood alcohol level of .37 percent, which is well above four times the legal limit.


Wilemon was charged with a Class A misdemeanor Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.

PNW Fall Grads Receive Degrees

(Hammond, IN) - Fall graduates at Purdue University Northwest just received their degrees, but it will not mark the end of impactful lessons for their budding careers.


Work experiences, unexpected upheavals in their personal lives, new relationships, and more will all likely be sources of unique learning opportunities that enhance what they gleaned as college students. That was the advice imparted by Indiana state representatives Harold Slager and Mike Andrade, who served as keynote speakers during morning and afternoon ceremonies on December 9th in Hammond.


“I have realized a variety of careers — four so far — and uncertainty and change has certainly been my path in life. We are the sum of our experiences, and those experiences along the way have guided me in my decision-making,” Slager said.


During his keynote, Slager recalled his own career, prior to becoming an elected official, in which he worked as a public accountant, sales representative, and real estate investor.


Each chapter produced several lessons such as do your role well and opportunities will present themselves; never underestimate the power of a smile and simple acts of kindness; and take time to provide undivided attention to people who want to be heard. 


Slager said these takeaways influenced his ability to be a state legislator who looks for compromise and respects the exchange of ideas.


“Learning never stops, and it is imperative to seek out alternative viewpoints or you miss the fun stuff,” he advised the graduates. “I am convinced, having worked with many young people in the Statehouse, that your generation can be the next greatest generation if you remember that diversity should include diversity of thought, free speech is not conditional and to make people feel like they are the most important in the world.”


Andrade recalled his first job at age 12 passing out pizza fliers and his father telling him, “Son, there will always be someone smarter than you, who has more money than you, and maybe more successful, but never let them outwork you.”


Andrade also told the graduates. “Never let anyone outwork you. Never say I am not good enough or am not qualified for the job. If you do, you let others define your value or your identity.”


PNW’s fall 2023 graduating class consists of 544 students earning baccalaureate degrees and 150 earning master’s degrees.

House Heavily Damaged in Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - A house was heavily damaged by fire last night near Kingsbury.


Firefighters were called to the area of 200 East and 500 South, where flames were reportedly coming out the back of the house as they arrived.


With firefighters from Kingsbury tackling the blaze, assisting the effort were volunteer fire departments from Kingsford-Union, Pleasant, and Lincoln townships.


So far, there have been no reports of any injuries. We’ll provide more details as they become available.


This morning, firefighters were called to the same area to extinguish a possible rekindling.

OWI Arrest in Crash on U.S. 20

(La Porte County, IN) - Alcohol was involved in a two-vehicle crash that led to injuries on U.S. 20 near Rolling Prairie over the weekend.


Lorne Brownlee, 35, of Rolling Prairie was arrested for Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated. On Saturday night, he was reportedly headed eastbound on U.S. 20, going straight where the road curves at Bootjack Road.  His car then struck a road sign and an oncoming SUV in what authorities described as a somewhat of a head-on/sideswipe collision.


Damage was heavy to both vehicles, which were towed from the scene.


The other driver, Michael Adelede, 60, was taken by ambulance after saying that the right side of his body was feeling numb.


Police said Brownlee had a .12 percent blood alcohol level.

Record-Setting Tree Spruces Up St. Mary's for Christmas

(South Bend, IN) - South Bend is now home to the nation’s largest outdoor decorated Christmas tree. It stands tall on the campus of St. Mary’s College.


A couple of weeks ago, the 18,000-pound Norway spruce was harvested from a front yard on Pokagon Street in South Bend and trailered across town by police escort. Measuring 87 feet in height, the tree is seven feet taller than the Rockefeller Tree in New York City.


After some careful decorating with about 750 ornaments and more than 10,000 lights, the tree was officially lit for public viewing Thursday night. It’s situated behind the Inn at St. Mary’s at the intersection of US 31 and the Indiana Tollway exit.

Reindeer Coming to Town

(LaPorte, IN) - Real-life reindeer will be making a stop at the La Porte County library soon.


On Monday, December 11th, Silly Safari will be displaying some of the North Pole’s favorite animals. The reindeer will be outside in the Reading Wi-Fi Garden next to the Main Branch on Indiana Avenue. Be sure to bundle up. There will be photo ops, says the library, and hot cocoa. Of course, you can always go inside the library to warm up and maybe grab a good book.


The reindeer rendezvous is Monday from 6-7 p.m.

New Accessibility Feature at Potato Creek

(North Liberty, IN) - Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty is now outfitted with an ATC—All-Terrain Chair—to help other-abled park visitors navigate in nature.


The trackchair, as it’s called, is a motorized wheelchair with rubber tank treads, a seatbelt, and armrests. It’s controlled by a joystick and can tackle most flat terrain.


According to the Department of Natural Resources, a total of fifteen trackchairs are available in parks statewide, including four of them at Indiana Dunes.


The new equipment for Potato Creek was purchased with a grant from Ford’s Bronco Wild Fund, which helps facilitate accessibility in state parks across the nation.  “Combined with the new Inn (opening 2024) and accessible pier,” said the Fund in a statement, “a truly accessible experience will be available throughout the property. The addition of a trackchair will open access to 10 trails of nearly 13 miles.”

Mayors to Again Compete in Kettle Drive

(La Porte County, IN) - The mayors of La Porte and Michigan City will help with fundraising yet again for the Salvation Army in their respective communities.


The Red Kettle Ring-Off has been an annual event for Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry and La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody, wherein the mayors will try to collect more money in their kettles for bragging rights on December 20th.


Parry will ring the bell at a kettle at Al's Supermarket on Karwick Road from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., while Dermody will do the same outside Kroger from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.


“Everyone knows I love a little friendly competition, but it’s even better when it benefits such a great cause,“ said Dermody, undefeated in previous challenges against Parry.


The mayors' efforts do not go unrecognized by the Salvation Army in La Porte and Michigan City.


“We are so grateful for Mayor Parry and Mayor Dermody for taking time out to help support our campaigns. It’s been a challenging year for all of us and we appreciate the help we have received from our communities,” said Major Becky Simmons with the Michigan City Salvation Army.


“Funds raised by Mayor Dermody in La Porte could help us achieve our campaign goal so we can continue offering services to those in need,” said La Porte Salvation Army Major Charles Pinkston.

Prison Transfer for Delphi Murders Suspect

(Westville, IN) - A man charged with the murders of two girls is no longer being held in La Porte County.


Richard Allen has been moved from the Westville Correctional Facility to the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility between Vincennes and Terre Haute.


According to documentation, the move had something to do with his safekeeping, with his attorneys having described his living conditions at Westville as similar to being "a prisoner of war."


The 50-year-old Allen has been accused of murdering two girls from Delphi in 2017 in a case that went without an arrest for about five years.

Fatal Crash in St. Joseph County

(St. Joseph County, IN) - One person is dead following a crash this morning near North Liberty.


Two vehicles were reportedly involved in the accident, which occurred at roughly 7 a.m. on Indiana 23.


So far, more details have not yet been provided about the crash.


Police are advising motorists to take alternate routes until the accident scene has been cleared of the wreckage and investigated.

Shoplifter with Manners Hits Dollar Store

(Westville, IN) - La Porte County Police say a polite shoplifter wearing a face mask and different colored shoes hit a store last night in Westville.

The man, at about 6:15 p.m., walked into the Dollar General on U.S. 421 wearing a black face mask, a white hooded sweatshirt, and mismatched footwear; a white shoe on one foot, a tan shoe on the other.


About 20 minutes later, the man, while carrying a tote, reportedly walked past the register without paying for it and told a clerk “Have a good night” before leaving the store.


He was last seen in a white four-door SUV with gold trim heading northbound on U.S. 421. 


Employees believe the large tote contained an unknown amount of store items, with one employee telling investigators that he personally saw him in the clothing and medication aisles of the store. 


The suspect was described as white, roughly six feet tall, and in his late teens or early 20s judging by the sound of his voice.

Wrong Way OWI Arrest

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man was allegedly impaired while driving the wrong way on a major thoroughfare.


Daniel Guzman, 23, has been charged with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated and Operating a Vehicle Without Ever Obtaining a Driver’s License.


A sheriff’s deputy encountered the oncoming Guzman, traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of Indiana Avenue at Crescent Drive early Thursday.  


The officer swerved to avoid a head-on collision, making a U-turn to follow the 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which continued traveling on the wrong side of the center line.


Eventually, police said, the vehicle returned to the correct lanes and pulled over.


Guzman reportedly handed the officer his identification card from Mexico, but a computer check revealed no record of him having a license to drive anywhere in the U.S.


His alleged blood alcohol level was slightly below two times the legal limit.

Police Officers to Man Kettles

(La Porte, IN) - Members of the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office will be manning a Salvation Army kettle, ringing the bell outside Al’s Supermarket in La Porte this Friday.


La Porte Police Captain Derek Allen said employees of the sheriff’s office will be at the grocery store at 702 East Lincolnway from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., while also noting how sheriff’s office members help ring the bell next to a kettle at the same Al's Supermarket location every Christmas season.


“I really think it’s wonderful for our local service clubs and first responders to give back,” said La Porte Salvation Army Major Charles Pinkston.


Pinkston said the Christmas fundraising goal from the kettles and other sources in La Porte is $150,000. Just 29 percent of the goal has reportedly been met, but he’s hopeful for that number to improve because giving always increases as the days until Christmas dwindle down.

Industry Coming to I-94 Interchange

La Porte County, IN) - Facilities containing nearly 300,000 square feet of combined space for industrial use are now being planned along a stretch of Interstate 94 in La Porte County.


Great Lakes Capital is behind the estimated $29 million investment on a 33-acre site at the northeast quadrant of the Interstate 94 and U.S. 421 interchange.


Isaac Hall, a financial analyst with the Goshen-based development firm, said space in one of the buildings will be available to lease by smaller contractors and companies involved in warehousing, with a majority of the space meant for logistics or light manufacturing.


“We’ve done 15 plus of these developments across the Midwest,” he told the La Porte County Commissioners, who opened the door for the project Wednesday by changing the commercial zoning of the property to manufacturing at the developer’s request.


Construction of the concrete buildings is expected to begin in the spring.


Matt Reardon, Executive Director of the La Porte County Office of Economic Development, said the largest structure will contain about 200,000 square feet. The other 76,000 square foot building will be for smaller contractors and other businesses like a machine shop. Reardon spoke further, saying that the amount of space required by each company will be provided by the placement of walls on the inside of the structures where needed.


The site was chosen because of the advantages being close to Interstate 94 provide in delivering and receiving product.  Reardon also noted how demand is high for spec buildings, which are in short supply right now in the immediate area.  


“We do have a deficit in the market for this kind of space. When they go up, they seem to get filled up pretty quick. It’s what we’re looking for,” he said.


Reardon said marketing efforts to find tenants for the space will now begin since the zoning change recommended by the La Porte County Planning Commission was given final approval by the county commissioners.


There are still about 600 acres left for development at the interchange, which has a Loves Travel Center scheduled to open before the end of the month. The truck stop is at the southwest quadrant of the interchange near the former Waste Management Landfill.


Opening the door to its construction was the extension of municipal water and sewer lines beneath Interstate 94 to the site.


Reardon said the vision is for the interchange to mirror the aesthetically pleasing Ameriplex business park developments that have occurred along major highways at other locations. The one in Portage at Interstate 94 and Indiana 249, for example, is anchored by a Bass Pro Shops and contains a number of other businesses like McDonald's and other fast food restaurants.


“We want it to be clean and clear so that development looks orderly,” he said.


The Michigan City interchange has largely been underdeveloped, but that started changing when Franciscan Health opened its new $240 million hospital in the northwest quadrant early in 2019. A Hampton Inn & Suites recently went up on the northeast side of the interchange.


Reardon said he expects other developments similar to what was just approved will also go up at the interchange, judging by construction plans currently under review.


“There’s a proposal for more distribution opportunities, same kind of buildings,” he said.

$1 Bills Turned to Counterfeit $100 Bills

(Rolling Prairie, IN) - La Porte County Police are trying to determine who passed ten counterfeit $100 bills at a chain store.


About a week ago, officers were called to a Dollar General in Rolling Prairie where what looked like $100 bills were used at the store to place $1,000 in currency on two cash apps.


The next day, the store manager was informed by the bank that received the deposit from the store that the bills were counterfeit.


Police said it appears they were actually faded $1 bills stamped with new ink to resemble $100 bills.  That could be the reason they apparently were not detected by a counterfeit bill marker used by the deceived store clerk.


Both men were reportedly described as being about 25 years old and black, with one wearing a green Adidas track shirt and the other dressed in all black. 

OWI in Guard Rail Collision

(La Porte County, IN) - Charges have been filed against a driver whose vehicle came to rest on a state highway after crashing into a guard rail in La Porte County.


Kevin Chadderdon, 59, has been charged with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.


The investigation shows Chadderdon was heading home from a bar in Fish Lake on December 1st when he hit the guard rail along Indiana 4. His damaged vehicle came to rest in the westbound lane of the two-lane highway. 


Chadderdon, after walking a short distance from the vehicle, was located in the grass off Lakeside Drive. Police noted that Chadderdon, admitting to consuming too many alcoholic beverages, had an alleged blood alcohol level of .17 percent, or more than twice the legal limit.


He was not injured.

La Porte Police Obtaining More Drones

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Police Department is purchasing more drones three years after its initial acquisition of one of the devices.


Police Chief Paul Brettin said he wants a drone on each shift to eliminate the need to call Officer Dalton Pflughaupt, who runs the department's drone program and was hired last year, to operate their sole drone to help in locating individuals whenever he’s off-duty. 


He told the city’s Board of Public Works and Safety this week the drones being obtained have more capabilities when it comes to locating people. The new devices will be more user-friendly and have features like heat-sensing devices that can detect an individual's body temperature.


“Their thermal capabilities and ability to change their image qualities to better enhance our ability to find whether it’s a subject in the woods. Whether it’s somebody who committed a crime,” he said.


A much smaller drone able to be flown indoors was credited recently with locating a suspected drug dealer barricaded in the basement of a home on Lakeshore Drive.


Brettin said the cost of the two new drones is just over $15,000, noting that an additional officer has been trained to operate drones while several other officers are currently undergoing the same training.


He also illustrated how drones can locate people, ranging from criminals to Alzheimer’s disease patients who wandered off, much quicker than officers on foot.


“They’re used quite often. It used to take hours canvassing a neighborhood. Now it can be done in minutes,” he said.

Miniature Church a Christmas Tradition

(La Porte, IN) - There’s an upcoming night dedicated to a life-like miniature church that’s even more special during the Christmas season, as the annual Night at the Giese Church is scheduled for Saturday, December 16th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the La Porte County Historical Society Museum.


The public is invited to see what’s been described as amazing and a long-time holiday tradition in La Porte. Cookies and cocoa will be provided, with admission to the event being by donation.


The church has more than 200 parishioners and a choir, but this New England-style church is mechanical and a gift to God for making it home safely from World War II.


According to local historians, it was during the Battle of the Bulge that Otto Giese made a pact with God to do something special if he made it home to LaPorte safely.


He worked with craftsmen and corporate heads locally to design and build the church with parishioners, including mothers and their babies, in every pew.


The sound of church bells, typical for that time period, rings out at the push of a button followed by recordings of "Heaven and Nature Sing," "Joy to the World," and other songs church choirs typically sing at Christmas.

28 wooden choir members, powered by a conveyor and holding lighted candles, make their way down the aisle.


Next, a belt-driver minister also made of wood, comes out from behind the altar with a recorded message about the true meaning of the season before kneeling in front of an image of the last supper.


Originally, the church, during the season, was on display outside a funeral home Geise operated at Chicago and Harrison Streets in LaPorte.


After retiring in 1978, Giese donated the church to the museum, where it’s been out for the public to see ever since.


Giese was 90 when he died in 2002.


Since 1994, the church has been computer-powered instead of via mechanical parts, due to them becoming difficult to replace as time passed on.

Meth Recovered from Shoe of Suspect

(La Porte, IN) - The watchful eyes of a police officer in an area of La Porte with a high presence of drug trafficking led to the arrest of a man allegedly with narcotics.


Ronnie Cislo, 33, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Possession of Methamphetamine.


On Saturday night, a La Porte Police Officer was monitoring the area of Lincolnway and Tipton Street. There, he spotted a bicyclist ride up to a parked vehicle and a man in its passenger seat step out to interact, the former peddling away a short time later.


Suspecting a drug deal just happened, the officer stopped the vehicle and recognized Cislo in the passenger seat from previous crime-related encounters. He then searched the car after being alerted by a K-9 dog to the potential presence of narcotics, but nothing was found.


However, police said a gum wrapper containing a small amount of methamphetamine was recovered from the Cislo's right shoe, the individual described as becoming very nervous during the traffic stop. 

Drug Related Child Neglect Charges

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man driving with his young son in the backseat was allegedly found with drugs following a motor vehicle crash.


Victor Passmore, 28, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Neglect of a Dependent, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Possession of Marijuana.


According to court documents, there was heavy damage to both vehicles in the November 28th collision at East Lincolnway and Boyd Boulevard.


Passmore told investigators he didn’t see the other vehicle coming when he turned left into the parking lot of Walmart due to another vehicle in front of him blocking his view of oncoming traffic, police said.


Officers reportedly found his young son lying on the floorboard in front of the back seat, too small for the improperly installed booster seat he was in.


Court documents also noted there was an odor of marijuana emanating from Passmore’s vehicle, with the illicit substance, alongside several ecstasy pills, being found in his possession.


Passmore was already facing charges of being found with marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine in the area of Jefferson Avenue and Clay Street in early September.


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

Tools Stolen in Burglary

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are investigating the theft of thousands of dollars in tools at a construction site near Westville.


Police were called Friday by the owner of a work trailer that had been broken into along U.S. 421. The trailer was left there overnight after getting stuck in the soft ground.


Items taken included power tools like a circular saw, batteries, numerous wrenches, and other hand tools. The estimated value of the stolen tools was reportedly over $13,000.


A wagon inside the trailer appears to have been used to assist in hauling the tools away from the site, per authorities.

9U Slicers Fall Short in National Semi-Finals

(Orlando, FL) - A Pop Warner football team from La Porte suffered a heartbreaking loss in the national semi-finals this morning.


The 9U team led by two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, but their opponent from Florida, Coconut Grove, came alive.


Head Coach Mike Nelson said the opposition used the speed of their players more to their advantage during a three-touchdown scoring spree while stopping his offense during the rest of the final quarter.


La Porte lost 30 to 21.


“They spread field out on us and started passing. They just hit some real nice passes in open space and the comeback was completed,” he said.


Nelson said his players were emotional, as expected after the game, but he told them finishing third in the nation is something they should be very proud of.


“I said, 'Okay, boys. You have ten minutes to be upset and then, after that, get over it.  You guys had a heck of a run, just a heck of a run.'  I’m super proud of them,” he said.


Before the national tournament, a then-undefeated La Porte scored more than 400 points while giving up just six during the season.

More New Housing for La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - There's seemingly no end to what could be viewed as a housing boom in La Porte, as, on Monday night, the city council approved an agreement with a developer to extend water and sewer lines to a more than 30-acre wooded parcel of land where the construction of over 100 homes is planned.


The site, annexed into the city last year, is on Park Street near the Thomas Rose Industrial Park on the city’s northeast side.


New housing was a high priority for Mayor Tom Dermody during his first term in office, and that hasn’t changed for his next four years beginning January 1st.


One of his strategies for growth in the city involves updating a housing stock built primarily before 1940 with new homes at all price levels.  Just 20 percent of existing homes were constructed since 1980.


“We got a lot more work to do but housing, housing, housing is here,” he said.


The developer, Park Street Community, LLC, plans to build 118 town homes and 19 more traditional single-family dwellings, with a current estimated price range going from $340,000 to $405,000 apiece.


La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook said that close to a dozen homes will likely go up at a time over a period of years beginning in 2024, with the construction of more homes to probably begin once the completed ones are sold.


Cook said the current demand from people wanting to live in La Porte has probably existed for several decades, However, he explained, lack of housing options caused by very little construction of new residences drove many of those would-be residents to other communities with a greater selection of newer dwellings. Some of the people who wanted to live here but went elsewhere have been with new companies that came to La Porte.


“We have to continue to find ways of bringing new product to the market.  This project does exactly that,” he said.


Since 2020, the new housing completed includes The Banks, consisting of 200 resort-type apartments near Clear Lake and several townhomes priced at more than $700,000 apiece beside Fish Trap Lake. Roughly 40 affordable units inside the once-condemned Monroe Street Apartments building downtown have been restored and modernized. Low to mid-priced homes are currently going up at the former Tibma Bakery site on Woodward Street and on 18th Street across from Kesling Middle School. In addition, more new housing continues to be added to the existing Whispering Pines subdivision along Indiana 4 on the city’s southeast side.


Right now, the city is soliciting bids from developers to construct more than 100 upscale homes along the municipally owned Beechwood Golf Course starting next year.


The results of a study released nearly a year ago recommended that the city add more than 900 homes for ownership and over 750 rental units over the next few years, also pointing to a need to renovate some of the existing residential structures.


Cook noted that a lot of work remains, but the newly approved development noticeably moves the needle toward achieving the new housing goal.


“This is easily one of the largest residential developments that has occurred in La Porte in probably the last 40 years, probably longer than that,” he said.


The developer is the same one whose request for a zoning change to construct homes on 166 acres near Rolling Prairie was turned down last year by the La Porte County Commissioners, who were concerned over density and the site’s close proximity to farmland along with urban sprawl.


Cook said the city quickly approached the rejected developer about building homes in the city.


John Kavchak of Park Street Communities, LLC said he looks forward to helping the city fill the wide gap between housing supply and demand.


“La Porte continues to implement strong, pro-growth policies. We seek to support La Porte’s growth by providing housing at the intersection of quality and price point,” he said.

Bank Robbery Killer Dies on Death Row

(Terre Haute, IN) - A Michigan City man who killed two bank tellers during a robbery over 20 years ago has died prior to his execution.


Authorities report that Odell Corley was found dead Friday at a federal prison in Terre Haute. Corley was on death row for the fatal shootings committed while robbing a bank in The Pines in 2002.  A bank security guard was also shot, paralyzed from the neck down.


All individuals involved were shot in less than 30 seconds after he entered the bank along U.S. 12.


Corley was sentenced to die, but was still appealing the sentence when he ultimately perished. He was allegedly found unresponsive and failed to respond to life-saving attempts. 

Next President at Notre Dame from Michigan City

(South Bend, IN) - The new president chosen for the University of Notre Dame will be a Michigan City native.


Robert Dowd will assume the position on July 1st, replacing Father John Jenkins, who’s been president of the university for 19 years.


Dowd graduated from Marquette High School in 1983 and from Notre Dame four years later. He has been described as an athlete, having also been involved in performing arts and student council in his days at Marquette High School.

Chart Topping Country Singer Coming to Fair

(La Porte County, IN) - A major country music hitmaker is coming to the La Porte County Fair next year, as Chris Young is now scheduled to perform on Wednesday, July 10th.


Young has several number-one hits, including “The Man I Want To Be” and “Tomorrow,” along with several top 5 hits during his over decade-long career.


Tickets go on sale beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Prices will range from $35 for grandstand seats to $60 for seats in The Pit.

Union Mills Elevator Expanding

(Union Mills, IN) - Farmers in parts of northern Indiana and southwest Michigan should be served better by a $6.6 million expansion of a Co-Alliance fertilizer hub.


Work has begun on refurbishing and expanding the fertilizer portion of the plant in Union Mills after the LaPorte County Council last week unanimously approved a five-year tax abatement on the project.


The goal is for the work to be completed in the fall of 2024, said Paul Wolfe, who’s overseeing the project as the Region 4 Agronomy Manager for Indianapolis-based Co-Alliance.


“This is a tight timeline to get this completed,” he said.


Co-Alliance is a farmer-owner cooperative with about 80 facilities serving growers in Indiana, southern Michigan, and western Ohio by providing fertilizer and grain storage along with agronomy services.


The project strictly involves the fertilizer portion of the plant at 3551 West 800 South.


Wolfe said the existing facility with a capacity to store 24,000 tons of fertilizer will be refurbished and added onto to store another 9,000 tons of fertilizer.


The fertilizer mixing equipment inside the existing tower will be replaced with state-of-the-art mixing technology capable of doing things that can’t be done by the current system, in addition to a faster pace.


For example, Wolfe said, different products will allowed to be mixed into the fertilizer ingredients for offering more nutrient varieties. He said the new system will also be able to feed each of the storage bays independently, a time saver for making available freshly mixed products.


Three storage bays will also be added to the existing six storage bays.


“We’re just going to replace that mixing system with one that will allow us to be more efficient and use products we cannot use today,” he said.


Wolfe said the new technology will also allow trucks hauling 24 tons of fertilizer to the plant to be unloaded a little quicker than the “five to six minutes” it takes presently.


The Union Mills facility is one of four fertilizer hubs Co-Alliance uses to distribute soil nutrients farmers can purchase at five of its branches in LaPorte County, Porter County, Argos, and Buchanan, Michigan.


Amy Kinsler, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing for Co-Alliance, called the investment critical for keeping up with the future by eliminating delays that can occur in farmers receiving products exactly when they need them.


She said farmers need fertilizer sooner nowadays because modern technology allows them to plant and harvest quickly.  As a result, Kinsler said, it’s gradually become more challenging to provide them with crop nutrients at the moment it’s needed, though, under the current processing system.


“This is that investment to allow us to make sure we’re not holding them up when it comes to harvest and planting,” she said.


Wolfe said the plant in Union Mills has a separate facility with a capacity to store up to about three million bushels of grain, which is about average for a Co-Alliance facility.


Currently, Co-Alliance has about 25 other ongoing projects at its facilities in all three states, said Ryan Satchell, Capital Asset Manager for the cooperative. He said all of the projects, based on the needs of farmers in each of their service areas, are different than what’s occurring at Union Mills and they vary from large to small in size.


“We’re constantly looking at really understanding from our customer base, which is our members, what their needs are and how we can continue to reinvest in our business to support that,” Satchell said.


Matt Reardon, Director for the LaPorte County Office of Economic Development, applauded the decision to grant tax abatement, saying that existing businesses might not always provide a home run in terms of job creation, but they definitely contribute to the health of local economies, particularly in rural areas.


“These are the blocking, tackling kinds of activities that help make local governments successful. $6.6 million is not insignificant,” he said.


Co-Alliance has about 20 employees in Union Mills with a handful of those working in the fertilizer division.

"Ballerina" Arrested for OWI

(La Porte County, IN) - Police say a suspected impaired fish-tailing driver began dancing like a ballerina prior to being placed in handcuffs in Westville.


Kelley Hoffman, 45, of Cedar Lake has been charged with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.


According to La Porte County Police, she was operating a pick-up truck before being stopped after turning from Indiana 2 onto Flynn Road at speeds fast enough to cause the back end of her vehicle to fishtail.


She was also reportedly driving without her headlights on just after 2 a.m. Thursday, the outside of the vehicle splattered with mud.


After the officer requested she walk a straight line as part of the process for determining impairment, Hoffman allegedly told the officer she was a ballerina before proceeding to act as if she were such, with both arms on top of her head while tiptoeing on her feet.


Police said Hoffman was arrested after refusing to submit to a certified blood alcohol test and for driving on a suspended license. In addition, she was given a warning ticket for unsafe starting and no headlights on display.


About an hour later, the vehicle she operated was reported stolen in Merrillville.

Slicers Pop Warner Team in National Final Four

(La Porte, IN) - A youth football team from La Porte has a chance to become national champions as the Pop Warner team, consisting of nine-year-olds, has made it to the Final Four in their age group.


Right now, the coaching staff and players are in Orlando, Florida having fun and preparing for their next game.  Last year, the undefeated Slicers lost in the state finals but this year won the state title.


Head Coach Mike Nelson said he’s only somewhat surprised at how deep his team has gone in the tournament.


“I got a real good group of kids. They work hard on the field, they listen to the coaches, their parents bring them to practices and we practice in the rain, snow, and sleet. Any field time we can get we practice. They’re just a real hungry group of nine-year-olds.   They get after it,” he said.


His son, Ben Nelson, is the quarterback.


Other key players include Colton Rogers, a big play-making running back on offense and tackle-making machine as a linebacker on defense.


Nelson said the team is well-balanced in all areas of the game.


“We’ve got some big guys up front.  We got some guys who can run fast.  I would definitely say we’re a run-first team but we can air the ball out if we need to,” he said.


The Slicers play again tomorrow morning, where a win would mean playing for the national title later in the week.

New Buffalo Schools Join Social Media Lawsuit

(New Buffalo, MI) - The school district in New Buffalo has joined a nationwide lawsuit against Facebook and other social media platforms.


The lawsuit alleges that social media companies failed to protect the mental health of students, interfering with student learning in the process. Even more specifically, the lawsuit claims teachers and counselors are increasingly having to redirect educational time and resources to manage students’ mental health emergencies.


More than 800 school districts are represented in the lawsuit, which calls for social media platforms to implement safeguards.


The U.S. Surgeon General is also involved in the matter, recommending schools incorporate digital and media literacy into education to reduce the risks of social media.

Fire Damage Heavy in La Porte Apartments

(La Porte, IN) - Fire caused significant damage to two housing units last night at the Maple Tree Apartments in La Porte.


La Porte Fire Chief Andy Snyder reported that the fire began after 5 p.m. in a main-level apartment, spreading to the unit directly above it at 1405 West 18th Street.


Per Snyder, residents in the home where the fire started tried putting out the flames before someone from one of the units ran and notified firefighters, who were already on the scene for a medical-related call.


He felt having a fire truck already on the scene kept from the fire from possibly spreading into the other units.


“In the case of fire, time is everything,” he said.


Snyder said damage was substantial to both units, which will be uninhabitable for quite some time until repairs can be completed. The rest of the building, containing about a dozen or so apartments, was evacuated but those residents were allowed to return to their homes after the fire was extinguished.


The fire started in a bedroom, possibly from a child playing with a cigarette lighter, but an official ruling has not yet been made.


“That is a possibility right now. It’s still an open investigation at this time,” he said.

Tour Sheds Light on House's "Lost History"

(La Porte, IN) - Every old house has a story, and a few secrets. This weekend’s Christmas Candlelight Tour in downtown La Porte featured six historic homes. They’re all dressed up for the holidays, and their owners were eager to tell the tales that otherwise vanish in the wrinkles of time.


One home, in particular, has a secret or three that had gone unnoticed until a local history buff did a little digging recently. Tim Stabosz is a member of Preserve Historic La Porte and a co-organizer of the Christmas Candlelight Tour. In preparing the event’s program, Stabosz uncovered some fascinating history behind the home of Tim and Hannah Schroll on 1502 Indiana Avenue.


For starters, the house, built in 1895, didn’t always reside at the corner of Indiana and Webber Street. It was moved there 32 years ago from 1504 Lincolnway.


On November 26, 1991, La Porteans might have rubbed their eyes and done a double-take to see a dilapidated two-story Queen-Anne-style house slowly creep east on Lincolnway Avenue like a Macy’s parade float. At that time, Tim and Kathy Neff were in the market for a historic home. “The Neffs were starting a family,” Stabosz said, “and they had originally looked at buying the house in the late 1980s, in situ.  But that Lincolnway location was not ideal for family living, then, especially with the 1506 Lincolnway house next door operating as an adult bookstore,” Stabosz ruefully observed.  "So, the Neffs decided to pass.”


When Horizon Bank bought various properties for its current location, Stabosz said, the Neffs agreed to buy the historic home on the cheap, as long as they agreed to move it. “People don’t realize what is involved in a house move,” said Stabosz.  “Stoplights have to be unbolted and pivoted out of the way, various utility lines need to be lowered temporarily, and trees need to be trimmed, on the fly, en route.” According to Stabosz, the house moving company offered to allow the Neffs to ride inside the house during its trip, but they declined.


The house crawled up Lincolnway, then made a right turn down Indiana Avenue. After about seven hours, it came to rest at the 1502 lot which the Neffs had purchased from Hallie Fox (daughter-in-law of Samuel Fox, who donated land for the park named after him). The Samuel Fox mansion had been razed in 1971, and the spot was a prime location for another chapter in La Porte residential architecture.


However, the house’s origins intrigued Stabosz, who dug deeper into its past, uncovering something that seemingly no one else had. In researching property deed history, Stabosz found that the home was originally built by the Larson brothers, co-founders of Larson-Danielson Construction. No records indicate that any Larsons lived in the house, so it may have been built as a model home to showcase their craftsmanship. Their company would go on to leave its mark in La Porte with historic structures such as the New York Central Railroad Depot (1909), YMCA (1910), Rumely Hotel (1912), First United Methodist Church (1929), and the Civic Auditorium (1930).


The discovery came as a surprise to current-day family members. “Even when I called 4th generation Larson family patriarch, Tim Larson,” said Stabosz, “he was completely unaware that the 1504 and 1506 Main Street locations represented the first record of any property ownership in La Porte County by his great grandfather (Frank) and great uncle (Charles), respectively.  In a very real sense, this is where it all started.”


But for Stabosz the history lesson wasn’t over. In the rabbit hole of local history, where way leads on to way, he researched the home’s subsequent residents. One of them stood out.


Ralph N. Smith probably won’t be featured in the next La Porte coloring book or on a La Porte-opoly game board, but in his day, Smith was a big deal. In 1907, while Smith was settling into the lovely Larson-built home, Belle Gunness, across town, was up to no good. A year later, Smith, as La Porte County’s Prosecutor, oversaw the sensational Gunness case that captured headlines nationwide. According to Smith’s 1935 obituary, he may have been the most widely known prosecutor in the country at the time.


But that was then. The present is just history in the making. Tim and Kathy Neff raised three daughters in the home on 1502 Indiana. In 2020 the Schrolls purchased it from Tim Neff’s estate and are raising their two small children there. According to Stabosz, Hannah Schroll had herself been raised in an 1890s-era Queen Anne house in Zeeland, Michigan, and finding something similar in La Porte was a dream come true.


On Saturday and Sunday, the Schrolls opened their home to visitors who stepped back in time to rediscover what Stabosz calls “lost history.” But the importance of it is not lost on Stabosz. “One of the reasons I decided to take on researching that specific house is because I knew it would be more involved,” he said.


Preserve Historic La Porte president Mark Kurth added, “The houses and structures on the tour tell a story of the people who built La Porte.   I am proud of the hard work that all of our researchers have done, to permanently document that history.  These written histories make the past relevant and more accessible, and are, in themselves, our gift to the city.”


The Christmas Candlelight Tour resumed in La Porte after a three-year-hiatus. Hopefully it will return next year with more beautiful homes and more stories to tell.

New Fire Chief Named for Michigan City

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City is getting a new fire chief.


Mayor-elect Angie Nelson Deuitch will be making a change in administration when she takes office in January. Barrett Taylor will be assuming the fire department's top spot. Taylor, a 20-year veteran of the department, is currently a captain and has served as president of the firefighters’ union. He is a certified EMT and safety instructor. Prior to joining MCFD, Taylor was a firefighter in the U.S. Air Force.


Shannon Borders will be promoted to deputy chief of operations. Borders is a 21-year fire protection veteran, having served in Michigan city since 2012.


Frank Rebac will continue as deputy chief of administrative services.

Michigan City Man Wanted by Police

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is on the lookout for a wanted felon.


61-year-old Marshall Glenn of Michigan City has amassed a collection of active warrants for felonies including Intimidation, Pointing a Firearm, Residential Entry, and Mutilating an Animal. Misdemeanors such as Criminal Mischief, Battery, Fraud, and Animal Cruelty round out the charges, which date back to 2019.


The Sheriff’s Office says it’s time for Mr. Glenn to get right with the law, so they are asking the public for information on his whereabouts. To help please contact the Fugitive Apprehension Street Team (219-608-9572) or Michiana Crimestoppers (800-342-7867).

Healthcare Foundation Grants Top the Million Mark

(La Porte, IN) - Healthcare Foundation of La Porte announces 33 grants totaling $1,416,149 have been awarded in cycle 2 of 2023. 


Each year, HFL makes grants during two grant cycles to advance the strategic priorities of Healthy Children, Healthy Living, and Healthy Minds.


Additionally, HFL makes Healthy La Porte grants to respond to community needs outside of the strategic priorities that demonstrate a connection to HFL’s mission and vision: empowering La Porte County residents to live healthy and well so that La Porte can be one of the top 10 healthiest communities in Indiana by 2030.  


The 2023 grant cycle 2 brought a diverse array of grant requests for projects and programs.


11 Healthy Children grants totaling $687,423; 7 Healthy Living grants totaling $274,680; 5 Healthy Minds grants totaling $334,300; and 10 Healthy La Porte grants totaling $119,746 were awarded in cycle 2.   


With this latest round of grants, HFL has invested more than $41 million in the community since its first grant cycle in November 2017.  


The latest grants are going to the following:





Friends of the La Porte County Public Library’s Books in the Home of Every Child – Dolly Parton Imagination Library - $45,000 over 3 years ($15,000 per year)  

The Friends of the La Porte County Public Library applied for a grant to expand their community literacy efforts through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library program. The Dolly Parton Imagination Library mails a free book each month to children enrolled in the program from birth through age five, no matter their family’s income. Each book includes parent-reading tips to increase interaction and strengthen family bonds during book time. The 3-year, $45,000 Healthy Children grant will allow The Friends of the Library to increase enrollment from 25% of eligible children to 50% of eligible children in La Porte County.  


The first five years of life are critical for healthy child development. Reading to children helps to build language skills, stimulates their imagination, expands their understanding of the world, and provides an opportunity for parents and children to connect. Through this grant, the Friends of the Library will get age-appropriate books on the nightstands of La Porte County children. 


On behalf of Friends of the Library, Dr. Krystal Simpson stated, “Without funding, this project would not be able to grow and may have been at risk of being discontinued. We are grateful to HFL for helping us with this endeavor so that more children in our area can benefit from this wonderful program.”  


To enroll a child in the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, visit


Dental Equipment for HealthLinc’s new Michigan City Clinic - $75,000 

A $75,000 2023 Cycle 2 Healthy Children grant was awarded to HealthLinc to provide 12 dental chairs for a new state-of-the-art clinic in Michigan City. The new clinic, which is currently under construction, will allow HealthLinc to expand access to care in La Porte County as HealthLinc’s current clinics in La Porte and Michigan City can no longer meet patient demand. With this project, HealthLinc will further implement its services to provide vital dental care to La Porte County patients and families.   


This project aligns with HFL's strategic priority of Healthy Children and the work of Partners for Healthier Babies as research suggests that there may be a link between oral health and premature birth and low birth weight, which are associated with higher infant mortality risk and increased risk of long-term health issues for baby.  


“Many of our patients lack access to quality dental care, which is vital to preventing serious health issues,” states Beth Wrobel, CEO of HealthLinc. “We are grateful for the generous support from the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte.” 


The new HealthLinc clinic is located at 200 Alfred Avenue, Michigan City, and is scheduled to be completed in early 2024. For more information about the HealthLinc Michigan City clinic, contact Jodie Wexelberg at jwexelberg@healthlincchc.org.   





Knapp Elementary All “IN”clusive Playground - $192,794 

HFL awarded a grant to Michigan City Area Schools (MCAS) to support Knapp Elementary’s All “IN”clusive Playground. Knapp serves 383 students and is home to a developmental preschool and two Autism programs. Although many of the students at Knapp have physical, sensory, or cognitive challenges, neither of Knapp's two existing playgrounds, one for younger children and one for older children, are ADA-compliant nor inclusive.  


The HFL grant will support the revamping of both playgrounds. The project includes replacing the school’s existing playground for older students and building it closer to the school to increase safety and security. The project will also add inclusive playground pieces to the playground for younger children to increase accessibility. Finally, pour-in-place rubber surfacing will be installed for both playgrounds, making the playgrounds accessible and safe for all children. 

The goal is to break ground in the summer of 2024 with all projects completed before school resumes for the 2024-25 school year. 


“As Knapp lies within the city limits, it is enjoyed daily not only by Knapp's students but the surrounding community members as well,” said Chris Kiser, MCAS Occupational Therapist.? “Becoming an inclusive playground with updated safe, and stable equipment will benefit the physical and mental health of many residents. The staff, students, and families of Knapp Elementary are excited for this endeavor to come to fruition soon.” 





Citizens Concerned for the Homeless Sand Castle Shelter for Homeless Families Renovation Project, Phase 2 - $50,000 Challenge Grant

Citizens Concerned for the Homeless (CCH) received a Challenge Grant for phase 2 of the renovation project of the 110-year-old Sand Castle Shelter for Homeless Families building. Sand Castle Shelter is a residential facility that serves homeless families and single women in La Porte County.  


Phase 1 of the renovations focused on exterior improvements, with a new roof, complete tuckpointing, and a new concrete driveway and patio. The work of Phase 1 was completed in summer 2023. 


Phase 2, set to begin in early spring 2024, will focus on the building's interior, upgrading plumbing and electrical, remodeling four bathrooms and the kitchen, and restoring all original floors and woodwork within the building.  


This $50,000 award is a Challenge Grant, meaning Citizens Concerned for the Homeless needs to raise $50,000 from the community in support of the project to receive the grant funds from HFL. CCH plans to launch a fundraising campaign to unlock this opportunity and a dollar-for-dollar match for the project. 


CCH Executive Director Jim Musial said, “HFL has been an unbelievable partner to CCH. In addition to funding CCH with general operation support, HFL helped us launch our food rescue program, helped us purchase a refrigeration truck, funded the build-out of a teaching kitchen at CCH's Grace Learning Center, and many other projects. HFL is much more than just a funding organization. They are a proactive community partner and one we are proud to call our friend.” 

New Evidence Alleges Intent to Kill

(Michigan City, IN) - A more serious charge is now faced by a Michigan City woman who fatally struck her husband with a motor vehicle.


Miranda Eggleston Suarez, 34, was originally charged with Level 4 felony Leaving the Scene of an Accident Causing Death in connection with the October 2nd incident.


New evidence in the case, presented in La Porte Superior Court 1 on Wednesday, illustrated how her actions were allegedly intentional.  Judge Jamie Oss found the new evidence was sufficient enough for Suarez to have to answer to the more serious allegations. 


As a result, Suarez is now facing the additional Level 2 felony charge of Voluntary Manslaughter, which carries a sentencing range of 10 to 30 years.


Kyle Suarez, 24, was found unresponsive in the parking lot of the Tall Timbers apartment complex on Springland Avenue, just west of Indiana 212.


Police said he was involved in an altercation in the parking lot where his spouse, wanting to leave, drove into her husband before fleeing the scene, later returning, and being taken into custody.

Death from Drugs Appeal Unsuccessful

(Indianapolis, IN) - A LaPorte man convicted of Drug Dealing Resulting in Death has lost his appeal.


Devante King, 31, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for selling the heroin that caused the March 6th, 2020, overdose death of 26-year-old Anthony Comeno, who was found dead in the bathroom of his grandparents' home in Michigan City, according to court records.


In his appeal, King argued that prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence to convict him of drug dealing, resulting in a death and a drug dealing charge.


However, the appeals court ruled King and Comeno exchanged text messages on their phones to arrange the heroin buy, and that other evidence showed that King and Comeno met at a gas station to complete the deal.


"A reasonable jury could have readily concluded from the state's evidence that King delivered heroin to Comeno as charged," the court said.


King still can ask the Indiana Supreme Court to consider reviewing his case. Otherwise, his earliest possible release date from prison is in October of 2042.


La Porte County Prosecutor Sean Fagan applauded the ruling of the appellate judges.


"Good, strong evidence is what convinces juries and wins trials. The Court of Appeals saw that and upheld the conviction,” he said.


Fagan also credited members of his staff for presenting a solid case. 


“I was proud of the job my team did back in March when we got the guilty verdict and this is just further proof,” he said.

Mayor Vows to Keep Pushing for Change

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody vowed to be just as aggressive during his next term in trying to get the city where it needs to be during his annual State of the City speech.


During his half-hour presentation Thursday night, Dermody largely touched upon what he cited as achievements this year, in areas like new housing construction, infrastructure upgrades, code enforcement, and quality of life.


Dermody, elected to a second term in a landslide on November 7th, also promised to not let up on the gas pedal to keep narrowing a wide gap on what needs addressing.


“We’ve accomplished a lot but we are not done.  I believe we have restored hope and confidence in what La Porte can be and if we all are relentless we will succeed. Together we are La Porte proud,” he said.


Dermody noted that the accomplishments of his administration this year included over five miles of new sidewalks, separating stormwater and sewer lines on I Street, filling 5,600 potholes compared to 3,800 in 2022, along with additional new housing construction at all price ranges to draw more residents.


Dermody referred to a study showing that just 20 percent of current homes in the city were built after 1980.


“We need a minimum of 900 for sale market-rate housing units and at least 750 rental housing units. We have work to do but we are making progress,” he said.


Among the new housing construction scheduled to begin in 2024 is a development called Beechwood Lakes, consisting of 100 or more high-quality homes surrounding the municipally owned Beechwood Golf Course.

Another 28 housing units will be constructed soon by Steiner Homes on 18th Street.


He also revealed that work to convert a former Coca-Cola bottling plant on Rumely Street into 16 housing units for people transitioning from homelessness is scheduled to begin in May.                         


The industrial and commercial successes this year cited by Dermody included another spec building under construction at the Thomas Rose Industrial Park, as well as the openings of Biggby Coffee, Pizzeria Uno, and a restaurant overlooking Pine Lake called The Drift.


Dermody brought up other highlights this year, including access throughout the city to even higher speed internet through a partnership with provider Surf Internet in addition to hiring more police officers and taking actions like cracking down on drug dealers.


“We will continue to make drug traffickers in our community uncomfortable and unwelcome,” he reassured.


Dermody said 3,500 citations were written this year for code violations, which reflects his ongoing commitment to improving the appearance of shabby-looking homes and other structures.


He also praised code enforcement and the police for working together to shut down the former La Porte Pantry convenience store at 102 Lincolnway, describing the business as a longtime “crime hot spot” before shutting its doors several months ago.


“We will not look the other way,” he said.


Dermody also gave high marks to the city’s annual dumpster program, which is free to the public for discarding unwanted items like old mattresses and furniture.


“We have dumped almost two million pounds of trash this year,” he said.


After the speech, La Porte County Councilman Randy Novak praised Dermody for the speed at which positive things are happening in the city.


He said other mayors have tried, but fallen short of the pace of change that is needed.


“When he talks La Porte proud, there’s no better champion for that. He really, really talks the talk and walks the walk. He’s got things going. He puts LaPorte first in everything,” he said.


The speech, given at the La Porte Civic Auditorium, was attended by roughly 200 people.

Not Guilty Verdict in Child Seduction Case

(La Porte, IN) - A former LaPorte High School coach has been found not guilty of inappropriately touching one of the students in the Winter Guard program.


The verdict was delivered on November 28 by a jury, following a two-day trial in LaPorte Circuit Court.


Medrano was accused of inappropriately touching a 16-year-old female student at LaPorte High School during the 2019-2020 school year, with charges being filed against Medrano the following year after the girl came forward with the allegations.


He was the Winter Guard coach and she was one of the student performers.


In a prepared statement, Medrano said “I am so grateful to the jury for seeing the truth. I feel vindicated but also saddened because I can never get back the last two years of my life.”  


Despite the verdict, he said “I will probably never coach again. It’s unfortunate because I was very proud of my work, and it had brought me so much joy and fulfillment for over 30 years.”


Medrano was employed by LaPorte High School for more than two decades, serving as a coach for the school’s Color and Winter Guard programs.


He commuted her from Chicago.


According to court documents, the girl told police his hands were placed strictly on the outside of her clothing and it happened often before and after practice when nobody was around during the 2019 season.


The investigation also found a then 61-year-old Medrano allegedly had the girl try on several low cut V neck outfits and told her things like “you’re hot."

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