Local News Archives for 2024-02

Public Meeting on U.S. 35 Reconstruction

(La Porte, IN) - A public hearing is scheduled March 6 in La Porte on plans to replace water and sewer lines beneath U.S. 35 and repave the highway.

 

The work is scheduled to occur this year from just south of Lincolnway to Kingsbury Ave.

 

According to the Indiana Department of Transportation, the highway will be closed to traffic in phases during the anticipated two year construction period.

 

“When a particular intersection is closed for construction, side streets will be maintained for local access,” INDOT said.

 

INDOT said federal and local dollars will be used on the multi-million dollar project.  The public meeting is scheduled March 6 at the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte at 140 E. Shore Parkway. 

 

INDOT is hosting the meeting from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

 

The purpose of the meeting is to offer all interested persons an opportunity to comment on the project.

 

Any public statements will be included with written responses from the project to be evaluated, considered and addressed during the process leading up to construction, INDOT said.

Software Glitches Cause of Budget Discrepancies

(La Porte, IN) - Corrective measures are now in place in response to a state audit of the La Porte School Corporation's financial records, which turned up numerous and often large discrepancies in the numbers in the 2022 budget.

 

Interim Superintendent Dr. Peggy Hinckley said the disparities in the figures resulted from a faulty software transfer in the computer system.

 

“We had a problem with the conversion from one system to the next. What happens sometimes is the data doesn’t populate in the new system in the right way and they just couldn’t get it,” she said.

 

She said a consultant was able to “build a bridge from the old to the new” to fix the problem.

 

Hinckley noted that a bank reconciliation of the numbers is now in the process of being completed, as ordered by the Indiana State Board of Accounts.

 

“All of the audit citations have been addressed with a corrective action plan,” she said.

 

Addressing posts on social media about any wrongdoing, the Interim Superintendent said “I know everybody is saying somebody went on vacation in Bermuda. I want to confirm no money was stolen or taken or misused. So, any rumor about that is simply inaccurate,” she said.   

 

Greg Hunt, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations, will give a report on the corrective action plans at the March 11th meeting of the school board.

Slicers and Wolves Tonight in Basketball

(La Porte, IN) - How La Porte does against Michigan City in high school basketball tonight could hinge on the health of the Slicers players, as a flu bug had a lot to do with the Slicers losing to Portage recently by 50 points.

 

Voice of the Slicers, Chip Jones, said one player was home sick during that game while several other players, obviously, did not feel well.

 

“Hopefully, everybody got well over the weekend because they’re going to need everyone against Michigan City,” he said.

 

Chip also said it should be an interesting game considering both teams have 10-11 overall and 0-6 conference records. Both teams also had similar outcomes against several common opponents this season.

 

The game tonight is at Slicer Gym. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m.  96.7 The Eagle will broadcast the game, beginning with the pre-game show at 5:45 p.m.


OWI Arrest Follows Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - Police say alcohol was involved in a vehicle landing on its top outside of La Porte.

 

Zane Eskridge, 22, has been charged with a Class A misdemeanor Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.

 

Early on Sunday, La Porte County Police responded to the area of Fail Road and Division Road where a vehicle had rolled over, with it reportedly having appeared that it had struck a mailbox before hitting a tree and an electrical box prior to ending up on its side.

 

There were several beer cans scattered around the car and the inside of the vehicle smelled like alcohol, police said.

 

Eskridge wound up walking home, where he allegedly told police he crashed after swerving to miss a deer.

 

Authorities note that he complained of pain to his head and later was booked into the La Porte County Jail after his blood alcohol level was discovered to be .216 percent.

FOP Vows to Not Recognize New Chief

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Fraternal Order of Police is not recognizing the new police chief, asking the mayor to replace him with someone who they consider legitimate.

 

In a letter, the FOP says the mayor is required, under local ordinance, to appoint a police chief from within the department as long as the officer chosen has served five years with the department immediately prior to appointment.

 

About two weeks ago, Dick Buell came out of retirement when chosen by the mayor to be police chief, having previously begun his long career with La Porte City Police before going to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office and later being in charge at La Porte County Community Corrections.

 

The FOP says the officers do not recognize Buell as the police chief and will operate under the leadership of newly appointed Assistant Police Chief Matthew Drangmeister, who came from within the ranks. The Order also asserted that officers will operate under his authority until a new chief is appointed from within the department.

 

“Although we commend Mr. Buell for his service in law enforcement in our community, we believe Mayor Dermody to have violated the code that he is sworn under and that we have sworn to uphold,” the FOP stated in its letter.

 

In response, Dermody said the local code is no longer in effect due to a 1996 change in state law giving mayors the authority to hire police chiefs from outside their departments.

 

“This is legal. The ordinance doesn’t matter because it’s invalid,” he said.

 

Dermody also said officers will be dealt with if they are not operating under the leadership of Buell.

 

“Insubordination will be addressed. They will recognize him as the chief,” he said.

 

Buell filled the spot vacated by Paul Brettin after the latter announced his retirement from law enforcement following a 30-year career at the police department. 

Slicers Bowling Team Impressive at State Finals

(Anderson, IN) - The girls' bowling team from La Porte High School had a very strong showing in the state finals over the weekend.

 

The squad finished in third place out of ten teams Saturday at Championship Lanes in Anderson, also being among the four finalists to qualify for bowling in the finals on TV.

 

“It was a very cool experience for them.  I’m sure it’s something they will always remember,” said Kevin Gakle, who operates the girls' and boys' bowling teams at the school.

 

Many of the girls were on the bowling team that finished eighth in the state finals in 2022.

 

Gakle said next year looks promising, with three juniors from the team expected to return.

 

“Obviously, we hoped to bring home first place but I think finishing third and knowing that’s higher than anybody from La Porte has finished in 25 years of high school bowling is a great accomplishment,” he said.


GOP Defeats Bipartisan Redistricting Measure

(Indianapolis, IN) - An amendment that would create a two-year task force to create a pathway to adopting non-partisan redistricting was defeated today by Indiana House Republicans.

 

The vote, blasted by Democrats was 67 to 28,. 

 

“Republicans are clinging to the power that partisan redistricting gives them,” said State Representative Matt Pierce (D) of Bloomington, who also called the current redistricting process “inherently flawed.”

 

“Elected officials, including legislators, have an inherent conflict of interest when they draw their own districts. Partisan redistricting makes general elections largely irrelevant, shifting control of elections to the most partisan primary voters. This results in a General Assembly that does not reflect the views of a majority of Hoosiers. It’s time to return the power to choose our elected officials to the people,” he said.

 

Pierce said Indiana ranked last in the 2022 election for voter turnout.

 

“Perhaps, Indiana voters don’t vote because the Republican-drawn maps allow for little to no competition in our elections. My amendment would have made many more elections competitive, giving people more reasons to participate in our democracy,” he said.

Fines for Missing Campaign Filing Deadlines

(La Porte County, IN) - Candidates in the 2024 elections in LaPorte County might want to take notice of recent fines leveled against previous candidates under a renewed commitment to enforcing campaign filing deadlines.

 

On Friday, the LaPorte County Election Board issued fines totaling around $23,000 to about 30 candidates from 2022 and 2023, as a result of missing deadlines to file campaign finance disclosure forms and notices of a campaign committee being formed.

 

Under Indiana law, LaPorte County Clerk Heather Stevens said a county election board must enforce various campaign filing deadlines candidates are required to follow.

 

For some reason, Stevens, who is also one of three election board members, said that there’s been no enforcement of filing deadlines over the past decade or so in LaPorte County. She also noted how some of the fines were from candidates in the two previous years not disbanding their campaign committees in writing with the clerk’s office after the election.

 

As a result, Stevens said, even if the candidate is no longer running, the campaign committees still legally exist and are subject to a $ 50-a-day penalty for missing the January 17 deadline to file the final campaign finance disclosure forms.

 

The forms list donors and how campaign money was spent.

 

“We keep harping and harping and harping to everybody when the election is over come in and disband it. Don’t just sit and keep getting hit with these penalties. I think this will be an eye-opener,” she said.

 

LaPorte County Election Board Deputy Taylor Van Sickle said notices were mailed to the homes of every still delinquent candidate from last year and the previous year 30 days prior to the deadline.

 

LaPorte County Election Board President Brody Shoffner read the state code about the fines county election boards must issue for missing filing deadlines before a few grumbling members of the audience.

 

“I warned everybody last year. I intend on enforcing every bit of that,” he said.

 

Among those receiving $1,000 fines was former candidate for La Porte County Sheriff in 2022 James D. Arnold. Lesser fines included an $800 penalty issued to Sean Fitzpatrick, who was reelected last year to the Michigan City Common Council and then resigned soon after beginning his second term.

 

Stevens said all candidates are required to file notices about their campaign committees being formed no later than 10 days after filing their candidacies.

 

April 19th is the deadline for this year’s candidates to file the first in a series of campaign finance reports.

 

Stevens said money from the fines will go into a LaPorte County Election Board Account, arguing that a good way to spend some of the dollars would be on better-educating candidates and their committees about the deadlines and other campaign requirements.

60 Mile Chase Ends Close to New Buffalo

(Berrien County, MI) - A police chase on Sunday lasted for about 60 miles until coming to a successful end just north of New Buffalo.

 

At about 5:15 a.m., Berrien County Police said they were notified about a pursuit of a driver with warrants out for his arrest that began in the Holland area. Minutes later, the chase entered Berrien County and continued in a reckless manner southbound through St. Joseph, Stevensville, and Bridgman.

 

The pursuit, once two tires were flattened with stop sticks, ended with a crash in Chikaming Township about 10 miles north of New Buffalo.

 

The driver, Matthew Mensch, 36, of Coatesville, Indiana was taken to a hospital to be checked out medically and to have a blood draw to determine if he was under the influence of alcohol.

 

He was later placed in the Berrien County Jail on multiple counts.

England Running for State Senate

(Knox, IN) - A former La Porte resident is now running for state senator, aimed for the 8th District seat currently held by Republican Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores.

 

Spencer England, who lives in Starke County, describes himself as an “America First” supporter who would be committed to putting Hoosiers first.

 

“I wanted to declare my candidacy after several voters, including prominent insiders, felt their conservative beliefs were not represented at the state level,” he said.

 

England said his priorities include making care for veterans more easily accessible, acting as a watchdog to protect gun rights, combating illegal immigration, and protecting parental rights. This is in addition to bringing down drug use and dependency, alongside citing protecting the rights of landowners based on zoning and wetland protection as another priority.

 

“I am not a proponent of eminent domain unless absolutely necessary," he said.

 

England said he has other priorities, such as providing more great paying jobs, supporting law enforcement, and combating “ever-increasing high crime rates pouring over from the Chicagoland area.”

 

England and his wife are both military veterans raising five children.

Motorist Shot on Interstate 80/94

(Gary, IN) - State Police are investigating a motorist being shot on Interstate 80/94 over the weekend just after 5 p.m. on Saturday near Burr Street in Gary.

 

Police said the driver, after being shot, crashed into a median wall and was taken to a hospital for treatment.

 

So far, no light has been shed on the driver's current condition.

 

State Police have not provided further details as a result of the ongoing investigation.

Mystery Project Near New Carlisle Already Underway

(New Carlisle, IN) - It looks as if the big mystery project possibly in the works for the industrial area east of New Carlisle is already underway.

 

In November the St. Joseph County Redevelopment Commission approved an agreement with a developer known only as Razor5. The plan is to use 840 acres on parcels both north and south of State Road 2.

 

The identity of the major company represented by Razor5 has fueled speculation. A report by the South Bend Tribune last month suggested that a major corporate data center is in the works. The name Amazon was dropped at a St. Joseph County Council meeting in December.

 

Economic Development Director Bill Schalliol says work is currently underway to prep an electrical substation on about 45 acres near the corner of Edison Road and Larrison Boulevard.

 

Schalliol says the developer is still evaluating the main site south of State Road 2, which is about 640 acres. “They still are working through due diligence on the southern site,” Schalliol said. “It still has to go through rezoning; they’re still working on some wetlands issues. Until they get through those processes, they won’t commit to the southern site.”

 

In the meantime, excavators are already moving dirt to the north. Said Schalliol, “They’ve got to show AEP a commitment that they’re going to have the pad sites in place by the time AEP is ready to provide them with power. So that’s why they’re starting all this early site work.”

 

According to Schalliol, the substation pad site is between three and four acres. Razor5 already owns over 40 acres around it, he said, with the purchase of additional adjacent lots anticipated over the next several weeks. If the plan comes to fruition, that acreage will contain buildings, parking, and drainage.

 

Schalliol admitted that the process seems a little cart-before-the-horse, but said it’s not uncommon for major companies like the one behind Razor5. “They’ve done this in other locations,” he said, “and if they can’t get commitments on power, if they can’t get entitlements or have some other issue, they would be willing to just come back in and grade the site clear and be willing to sell it.”

 

Schalliol said the major company involved, whoever it is, will need buildings all across the 840 acres, not to mention lots of electricity. A spokesperson for Indiana Michigan Power declined to provide information on the substation, citing the utility’s security protocols.

 

According to Schalliol, the timeline for a possible announcement is still uncertain but shortening. “I would tell you things are moving very quickly,” he said, “and I would imagine we’d see some things before the council in probably late February, early March.” However, he added that the parent company likely won’t reveal its identity until later.

Public Meeting on Solar Farms Scheduled

(La Porte County, IN) - A proposed 2,600-acre solar farm has raised the antennae of some La Porte County residents and elected officials. Talks are in the early stages for a solar installation on farmland in the area of southeast Kankakee Township.

 

County commissioners have scheduled a public information session on the topic for this upcoming Wednesday, February 21st. The public workshop will take place Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at the County Complex Room 3, located at 809 State Street. There will public comment as well as an opportunity to ask questions.

 

Sources say an invitation to attend the meeting has been extended to RWA Clean Energy, the company proposing the solar project.

 

Wednesday's meeting will be streamed via Zoom. Use this LINK, and follow the access information below:

 

Meeting ID:  846 0168 9709

Passcode:  750316

1-312-626-6799

Historic Preservation Workshop Planned

(La Porte County, IN) - Owners of historic structures in La Porte County, or elsewhere, will want to attend a workshop on navigating financial incentives related to historic preservation.

 

Preserve Historic La Porte, a local group dedicated to such efforts, is sponsoring a talk by two experts in the field of historic building preservation and restoration.

 

Kurt West Garner is a preservation consultant, and Todd Zeiger is director of this area’s Indiana Landmarks office. They will explain grants and tax incentives that are available to homeowners and commercial property owners for restoring their historic buildings. They'll reveal how savvy property owners can potentially recoup as much as 20% of their rehab investment. The talk will be followed by a Q & A session where participants can ask questions about how their projects might qualify.

 

The event will take place Saturday, February 24th from 10:00 a.m. until noon at the Health Foundation La Porte's Conference and Learning Center located at 140 East Shore Parkway.

 

Tickets are $15, $10 for Indiana Landmarks members. Admission is free for members of Preserve Historic La Porte. Tickets can be reserved through Eventbrite. Follow this LINK. Advance purchase tickets will be held for pick-up at the Healthcare Foundation, day of the event. For questions or more information, contact: Claudia at 219-575-8425.

Food Giveaway Monday at Fairgrounds

(La Porte County, IN) - A big food distribution is scheduled for Monday at the La Porte County Fairgrounds.

 

The Food Bank of Northern Indiana is teaming up with the USDA and Citizens Concerned for the Homeless to provide items such as non-perishables, fresh vegetables, bread, eggs, and more.

 

There’s enough for 300 families. It’s a first-come, first-served drive-through distribution at the fairgrounds from 10:00 a.m. until noon, or while supplies last.

 

The next food giveaway in La Porte County is scheduled for Wednesday, February 28 in Michigan City.

Bowling Team in State Finals Tomorrow

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte High School girls' bowling team will be competing at the state finals tomorrow, following a regular season that left the seven-member squad undefeated.

 

Keith Gakle, who operates the girls and boys club programs, said the girls have been one of the top teams in the state.

 

“We’re excited for the opportunity tomorrow,” he said.

 

Gakle said the state tourney will be at Championship Lanes in downstate Anderson.

 

Two years ago, the girls' bowling team from La Porte made it to the state finals and finished eighth out of ten teams. Most members from that squad are on this year’s team, which Gakle believes has a chance at finishing in first place tomorrow.

 

“Just the way they competed and shown themselves against other teams all season long, I fully believe they can win it all,” he said.

Indiana Looks to Expand Soybean Exports

(Indianapolis, IN) - Efforts are being made to create a new market for Indiana soybeans in one of the most populated countries in the world.

 

A delegation of stakeholders from various organizations in the state visited Indonesia recently because of the potential they see in selling a great deal of soybeans to a country with more than 270 million residents.

 

Jim Douglas, a southern Indiana farmer and member of the United Soybean Board of Directors, said the island nation, along the southern coast of Asia, imports a lot of soybeans to meet demand, the majority of which is driven by tempeh and tofu, Both of which are food woven deeply into the Indonesian culture, made primarily from soybeans. High humidity in the fourth most populated country on the globe, though, makes it difficult to store a large supply of soybeans for extended use periods because of spoilage risk.

 

“The soybean industry is important to them, and to get an adequate supply,” he said.

 

To get around the storage issue, the answer from the Indiana Soybean Alliance is exporting soybeans in containers directly to Indonesian buyers. Douglas said the amount purchased would be specific to the needs of each customer, instead of storing the soybeans in large volumes for the masses.

 

“This trip is going to try and enhance that by delivering a high-end product to them,” he said.        

 

The Indiana Corn Growers Association was also represented in the delegation to try and drum up more business for Hoosier-grown specialty corn and co-products, like ethanol and distillers’ grain.

 

The organizations are looking to tap into the Indonesian market through the Regional Promotion Program funded by USDA. RAPP is aimed at maintaining and opening new global markets for specialty agricultural products from the U.S. like soybeans, corn, meat, poultry, eggs, turkey, duck, and pork. The USDA is providing $2.3 billion to help with the effort nationwide.

 

The 10-member delegation, led by ISA, met with potential buyers and toured various facilities and supplies during the trip.

 

Indiana is ranked among the United States’ top five in the production of corn, soybeans, hogs, eggs, duck, turkeys, ethanol production, and soybean processing.

 

According to ISA, the economic impact of Indiana’s agricultural export market includes:

  1. Every dollar invested in export market development programs returns $24 in export revenue.
  2. Indiana is the seventh-largest agricultural exporter in the nation, exporting $7.4 billion in 2022.
  3. The market value of beef and pork exports fed by Indiana-produced corn was $241 million in 2022.
  4. Indiana corn and soybeans combined had $3.9 billion in exports in 2021.

 

ISA and ICGA have also identified demand for specialty products in Colombia, Thailand, and Japan.

 

The market potential of shipping to these regions could be up to 11,600 containers of $165 million in product value between soybean and corn commodities and co-products annually, ISA said. In Indonesia, the soybean export value is estimated at $110 million and the corn starch export value is estimated at $12.3 million.

 

“We feel that our farmers are more than capable to be able to supply some of that need,” said Bruce Gorman, International Trader Director at the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

           

Douglas said support from Congress will be key in opening up new or expanded markets in Indonesia and other countries identified with needs Indiana can help fill because they’re outside normal trade negotiations.

 

“That’s where the action for change has to take place. There’s roadblocks everywhere,” he said.

Juvenile Charged as Adult in Shooting

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City boy is to be charged as an adult on allegations of possessing firearms and a lot of gun-related components.

 

Brandon Haynes, 17, is charged with Possession of a Machine Gun and Dangerous Possession of a Firearm, both Level 5 felonies.

 

According to court documents, in September, Michigan City Police responded to a report of a shooting at a home in the 1000 block on West 9th Street  A then-16-year-old Haynes was located in an upstairs bedroom bleeding from his neck, reportedly explaining that that he had shot himself by accident. 

 

After he was taken away by ambulance, police said several bullet casings and live rounds from various calibers of guns were found scattered on the floor, bed, and entertainment system in the bedroom. There were also gun-related components, including a machine gun conversion device, recovered from the residence along with several firearms.

 

Authorities recognized Haynes from previous dealings with the teenager, described as an alleged gang member. He has been arrested previously for handgun-related offenses. 

 

La Porte County Prosecutor Sean Fagan said the decision to charge Haynes as an adult also has a lot to do with ongoing efforts to reduce gun violence in the community.

 

“We try to be aggressive in that when we can,” he said.

Active Telephone Lines Stolen

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police are currently on the lookout for who stole telephone cable from utility poles.

 

The discovery was made when a Frontier Communications employee responded Wednesday to a service call on Otis Road several miles north of Westville. Authorities said close to 300 feet of telephone line belonging to the service provider was missing from utility poles they were fastened to in the sparsely populated rural area.


The investigation showed Frontier telephone lines are normally installed underground, except in areas with high water tables.

 

The stolen wire, which contained copper, a popular metal scrap thieves target to convert into cash, was valued at $2,750.

Holifield Seeking Seat on County Commission

(La Porte County, IN) - Steve Holifield recently filed to run for LaPorte County Commissioner in the Republican Primary. 

 

Holifield said he is focused on supporting economic development, increasing transparency and civility within the commission, and strengthening nepotism and whistle-blower ordinances. 

 

“Elected officials have a job to do, and too often, it is the taxpayers who suffer from the lack of civility and collaboration,” he said.

 

Holifield is a farmer from Mill Creek, running against three Republican opponents for the District 2 seat in the May 7th primary.

 

“Our community needs a government that sets aside its differences and puts the needs of LaPorte County ahead of their self-interests. I am committed to being a voice of the people and ensuring you are heard by your local government.” 

 

Currently, Holifield serves as the president of the Lincoln Township Advisory Board, having previously held other elected positions, including serving on the Lincoln Township Advisory Board and the Fish Lake Conservancy District for six years as a financial officer. 

 

He’s opposed by incumbent Rich Mrozinski, La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, and Martin C. Smith.

New Tenants for the Former Magic Sports

(La Porte, IN) - A building in downtown La Porte is going to have some new tenants, as the space formerly occupied by Magic Sports on the main level of the structure at Lincolnway and Michigan Avenue is reportedly going to be filled Black Rock Reality.

 

Bert Cook, Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership, said the upstairs, once occupied by RQAW Corporation, will be used again for some type of professional services.

 

“The building is fully leased,” he said.

 

Cook said that the RQAW Corporation sold the building to Chuck Thompson, a local investor/developer.

 

“He’s invested heavily into the building,” he said.

 

Cook said he expects the real estate firm and possibly the other tenants to be operating from the building sometime within the next 45 days.

Career Coming Full Circle for Educator

(La Porte, IN) - It’ll be a homecoming of sorts for a once-La Porte schools superintendent coming back next week to fill the seat she once held, as Peggy Hinckley will become interim superintendent beginning on Monday.

 

The school board appointed her to replace Mark Francesconi, whose retirement was announced by the school board earlier this week.

 

Hinckley, 71, of Schererville, said she was surprised when the school corporation reached out to her after all of these years.

 

She explained that her primary objectives will include keeping the school corporation moving forward until a new permanent superintendent is hired and helping the school board in the search. However, she’s reportedly not sure yet if her role here will be to address anything else that could be significant.

 

“I haven’t had a chance to get my arms around whatever concerns or issues there are at this point, but those will probably become clear to me within the first week,” she said.

 

Fran Milo was on the school board for a number of years when Hinckley was superintendent from 1989 to 2001.

 

Milo said she can’t think of anyone better to serve in that capacity until the position is filled on a permanent basis, describing Hinckley as a strong leader who has a heart for education and standing up for what she believes is best for students.

 

“I think she brings a wealth of experience, a terrific personality. She deals well with people. She will serve La Porte schools well in this interim time as they find a new superintendent,” Milo said.

 

Hinckley was superintendent during the major renovation of La Porte High School in the 1990s. She went on to become superintendent at Warren Township schools in the Indianapolis area and later served as interim school superintendent in Indianapolis and crisis manager for the school system in Gary, all the while running a consulting business specializing in solving major problems in schools across the country.

 

Ironically, Hinckley, whose daughter graduated from La Porte High School in 1997, will work with Ben Tonagel, Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education and former classmate of the new interim superintendent's daughter.

 

“Grandma’s about to enter the stage,” she said.

 

Hinckley expects the search for a new superintendent to last until sometime during the summer. 

 

Milo is hoping Hinckley will be given a warm reception.

 

“I feel like it’s a great way to say to Dr. Hinckley, who gave some of her heart and soul to the community of La Porte, welcome home. We’re glad to see you there and we believe that you have many things to contribute in the period of time that you’ll be the interim superintendent,” Milo said.

Zip Tied Dog Adopted

(South Bend, IN) - A dog discovered with its mouth sealed shut now has a new home.

 

Last week in South Bend, a dog was found with a zip tie secured tightly around its snout, before being taken to an animal shelter where it was adopted by South Bend Police Officer Stephanie Northcutt.

 

In a social media post, the police department stated "Officer Northcutt said she knew the moment she laid eyes on the pup that he was the perfect addition to her family."

 

The dog, now named Zeus, spent time bonding with the officer’s other dogs before she made the adoption official, police said, now being the second rescued dog the officer has taken home.

 

"She joked that the dispatchers at St Joseph County 9-1-1 should stop sending her to animal calls because she will soon run out of room at her house," police said.

 

Authorities said the circumstances surrounding the zip tie being fastened around the dog’s snout remain under investigation.

Guilty Verdict in Child Molesting Trial

(La Porte, IN) - A convicted sex offender was found guilty in La Porte yesterday of molesting a girl on multiple occasions.

 

Curtis Adams, 46, was convicted on two counts of Child Molestation and one count of Child Seduction during a three-day trial.

 

Last year, authorities said a then-13-year-old girl reported that Adams had been molesting her several times a week since she was about the age of 10.

 

Adams could face 20 to 40 years on each of the two most serious counts, with sentencing scheduled for Friday in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

In 2002, Adams was previously convicted of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor.

OWI Charges for Both Drivers in Crash

(La Porte, IN) - Two drivers involved in a recent collision in La Porte were both allegedly impaired by alcohol.

 

Phillip Hunter, Jr., 38, and Angela Wright-Keith 49, both of La Porte, are charged with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.

 

La Porte Police responded to the crash on Friday night at I Street and 6th Street, finding a white Kia Optima driven by Hunter crashed into a doctor’s office sign.

 

A witness at the intersection told investigators a silver Nissan Sentra operated by Wright-Keith “plowed right into” the Hunter vehicle, according to the police report. They also noted that both drivers “smelled like a liquor store."

 

Nobody was injured despite heavy damage to both vehicles.

 

Police said the charge against Hunter was upgraded to a Level 6 felony because he had a prior OWI conviction in 2020.

 

The investigation indicates both drivers knew each other in some capacity, judging from statements made by Hunter and both of them hugging each other at the crash site.

Cocaine in Pants Bust at Jail

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man is in major legal trouble after a large amount of cocaine allegedly dropped from his pants at the La Porte County Jail.

 

Daniel Young, 33, has been charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with Dealing Cocaine as a Level 2 felony.

 

According to court documents, on February 11th Young was a passenger in a vehicle straddling the center line of the eastbound lanes on U.S. 12 near Moore Road.

 

An odor of burnt marijuana was detected by an officer following the vehicle and only grew stronger as he approached the driver on foot during a traffic stop. A brown bag containing more than $800 in cash, plastic baggies, a digital scale, and cocaine residue was observed on the lap of Young. It was then discovered Young had active warrants for his arrest on charges of Dealing Narcotics and Escape, police said.

 

While at the jail, Young reportedly denied having any drugs in his possession, but a large bag of cocaine fell from his pants in the body scanner room.

 

The alleged cocaine weighed 45 grams, which is worth several thousands of dollars. As a result, Young could face anywhere from a 10 to 30-year sentence.

Charges in Sexual Assault of Furnace Technician

(La Porte County, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a furnace repairman being sexually assaulted while on a service call in La Porte County.

 

David Cox, 70, has been charged in La Porte Superior Court 2 with Level 6 felony Sexual Battery.

 

According to court documents, in early January the home furnace technician responded to a service call in Fish Lake. While diagnosing the problem, Cox was advised he would need to contact an electrician to fix a faulty breaker box on his furnace.

 

A short time later, Cox reportedly grabbed the 26-year-old furnace repairman by his private parts, squeezing them a couple of times before the stunned victim pushed him away. It’s also alleged that Cox offered to perform a sex act on the technician while he was about to leave the residence.

 

According to court documents, Cox was convicted of Child Solicitation in Porter County in 2006. He could face anywhere from a six-month to 30-month sentence on the most recent allegations.

Teacher/Coach Accused of Unwanted Touching

(Walkerton, IN) - A school teacher in the area has been removed from campus and charged after allegedly inappropriately touching a female student.

 

John Barron, a teacher and football coach at John Glenn High School, has been charged with Battery stemming from a police investigation of a now-former student's claims.


According to police, she said Barron would touch her butt and kept doing it, even after she asked him to stop while attending the high school. In one of the alleged incidents, Barron slapped her on the butt while she was helping to prepare for a football banquet in late November of last year.

 

The student went to the authorities on January 29th to report being sexually assaulted.

 

Initially, Barron reportedly said he didn’t recall slapping the girl on the butt, but if he did it wasn’t in a sexual manner.


Barron was at Plymouth High School for close to 20 years prior to joining the staff at John Glenn High School. 

Lakers Peaking with Hopes of Tourney Bid

(La Porte County, IN) - The college prep boys basketball team from La Lumiere made it look almost easy in defeating a talented squad from Chicago at home on Tuesday.

 

The Lakers, ranked No. 6 in the nation, defeated Chicago Prep Sports Academy 95-51.

 

CPSA kept the game close until the Lakers began pulling away very late in the first quarter on quick buckets from 6’4” Melvin Bell, Jr. after he grabbed an offensive rebound and 6’5” Darius Adams, who nailed a three-point shot.

 

Head Coach Pat Holmes said the scrappy play of their opponents posed some challenges early on.

 

“Our guys adjusted. It took us about four or five minutes to kind of figure it out and then after that we were pretty good,” he said.

 

The second quarter for La Lumiere started with 7’0” Steve Solano catching an inbounds pass and going up for a thunderous slam dunk. However, the 12-point lead for the Lakers was soon cut to seven points.

 

The Lakers then scored 17 of the next 19 points with help from several buckets by 6’4” Jerry Easter, II. The run was capped with back-to-back slam dunks from Bell and 6’7” Jalen Haralson.

 

The lead grew to 23 points after Solano converted a pass into another slam dunk at the halftime buzzer.

 

Any chance for a comeback seemed over when the Lakers outscored the opposition by seven points halfway through the third quarter. The final nails in the coffin were hammered by Adams sinking a three-point shot followed quickly by Haralson doing so from well beyond the three-point line.

 

Easter led the Lakers with 20 points.

Chuck Love, III had 17 points followed by Solano with 14 points.

Bell and Adams scored 12 and 11 points respectively.

 

Holmes said it was nice to see the development in his players after the same opponent in a previous game this season pulled to within nine points after trailing by 25 points in the second half.

 

“To keep on building on a lead, it was great for our group to see that maturity,” he said.

 

Holmes expects his team to receive another invitation to the national finals in March by winning the remaining of what are mostly home games on their regular season schedule.

 

Before the season began, Holmes said he saw championship potential in this team, which had seven new players on the roster from last year.

 

“Where we were in October, where we are now is night and day but there’s still room for growth, which is exciting,” he said.

Discounted Rides Offered on Valentine's Day

(Indianapolis, IN) - Some Indiana residents will receive a discount on their rides home on Valentine’s Day to reduce drinking and driving. 

 

The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is offering $10 off Uber and Lyft rides between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m.

 

"While romantic Valentine's Day dinners often include an adult beverage, it’s important to remember buzzed driving is still drunk driving," said Devon McDonald, Executive Director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. 

 

"Enjoy your celebration safely by planning a designated driver or alternative transportation before you raise a glass," he said.

 

The offer is for people in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne, with up to 1,000 ride discounts available.  

 

According to federal statistics, more than 13,000 people are killed in drunk-driving crashes annually in the United States. Fatalities in alcohol-impaired driving crashes also increased from 14% to 31% nationwide in recent years.

Indiana Remains a Top Producer of Farm Goods

(Indianapolis, IN) - Indiana remains a top agriculture producer with a wide array of products valued at over $18 billion according to a USDA study, which found that the state was the number one producer in the nation of popcorn, gourds, and duck, along with being the second largest producer of pumpkins.

 

“This data shows that agriculture remains a pillar of the Indiana economy with the total value of agriculture production growing 62% over the five year period,” said Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, the state’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development.

 

The study, taken once every five years, also looks at land use and ownership, operator characteristics, production practices, income, and expenditures.

 

“We are thankful for all the farmers who completed the survey. This data allows our department to provide accurate and reliable information and data to Hoosiers, to farmers, and to decision-makers,” said Don Lamb, Indiana State Department of Agriculture director.

 

Other highlights include Indiana ranking third nationwide in spearmint and turkey production, and fourth in peppermint and soybeans. The state placed fifth for corn and hogs, and sixth for the amount of eggs and watermelon produced.

 

Indiana also ranked tenth for producing maple syrup and hemp for CBD and other cannabinoid uses.

Mother-Daughter Charged in Dental Scheme

(DeMotte, IN) - Charges have been filed against a mother and daughter who allegedly pocketed a large amount of cash in a scheme at a Northwest Indiana dental practice where they were employed.

 

According to Indiana State Police, Kayla Baker and Meagan Baker have been charged with Theft of More Than $50,000, among other counts.

 

The women reportedly convinced patients to pay cash to receive a discount for services performed at the dental practice in Jasper County. Over 40 patients were interviewed as part of the investigation, which discovered the cash payments were not deposited into the bank account of the dental practice in DeMotte. Several thousands of dollars were allegedly found deposited in a bank account belonging to the daughter.

 

Records pertaining to cash payments were also deleted from the dental practice’s computer system, police said.


The investigation was reportedly requested by a dentist, who discovered accounting irregularities at the practice, which then closed in July.

 

The women are also charged with Corrupt Business Influence, Fraud, and Obstruction of Justice.  The mother is also facing an additional count of Forgery.

One Person Dead in Crash on U.S. 20

(La Porte County, IN) - One person was killed in a motor vehicle crash on Monday afternoon in La Porte County.

 

The victim was identified as Kendra Murphy, 33, of South Bend.

 

La Porte County Police said Murphy was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle operated by Lashea Bird, 40, also of South Bend.

 

For unknown reasons, the westbound vehicle veered to the right and began traveling off the north side of U.S. 20., continuing until striking a tree at Wilhelm Road.

 

Police said Murphy was pronounced dead at the scene, while Bird was taken by medical helicopter to a regional hospital with an upper-body injury.

 

Investigators are waiting for the results of a standard blood test to determine if alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash.

La Porte Schools Superintendent Retires

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees announced the retirement of Superintendent Mark Francesconi on Monday. 

 

The school corporation has issued a prepared statement about his decision:

 

Dr. Francesconi has dedicated over 30 years to the field of education, with the last 13 serving the La Porte district. He leaves behind a legacy of unrelenting commitment and integrity. The school community and the board of trustees have expressed their deep gratitude for his decades of service and wish him a well-deserved retirement.

 

Reflecting on his tenure, Dr. Francesconi shared, “It has been an honor to serve the community of La Porte for the past 13 years. The La Porte community can be proud of its diverse, hardworking student body and dedicated teachers and staff, all of whom make it the special place it is. La Porte has much to look forward to as the corporation’s strategic plan initiatives become a reality.”

 

In anticipation of Dr. Francesconi’s departure, the school corporation is working to ensure a seamless transition.

 

Dr. Ben Tonagel, currently the Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education, will step in as Acting Superintendent on February 13th. On February 19th, Dr. Peggy Hinckley, a distinguished leader within the educational community, will serve as interim superintendent until a permanent successor is found.

 

Dr. Hinckley brings a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the district’s vision, ensuring continuity and stability. 

 

Ryan Seaburg, the LPCSC School Board President, voiced the board’s unanimous support for Dr. Hinckley and central administration during this transitional phase.

 

"We are fully behind Dr. Hinckley and central administration as they lead us forward. Her leadership is invaluable, and we are confident in their ability to move our district forward," Seaburg stated.

 

Hinckley was the schools superintendent in La Porte from 1989 to 2001. 

 

In a statement to stakeholders, the board reassured the La Porte community of its dedication to fostering a culture of trust, stability, and high achievement.

 

“As we face the future together, we are committed to overcoming challenges and seizing opportunities with the same spirit of collaboration and community support that defines La Porte. We extend our heartfelt thanks to our students, staff, and community for their continued support as we move toward our shared vision for a bright future.”

Homeless Camp Fire Behind Walmart

(Michigan City, IN) - A fire at a homeless camp was put out by firefighters today, who responded to an area behind the Michigan City Walmart after some employees heard explosions at about 10:30 a.m.

 

Upon arrival, Michigan City Fire Department spokesperson Tia Free said there was mostly a lot of smoke from smoldering clothes and other similar items. Two tarp tents were on the camp about 500 feet off Cleveland Avenue, with many propane bottles and several heating elements like a propane stove and cast iron wood burning stove probably used in an effort to keep warm.

 

The explosions heard by Walmart employees were likely from some of the propane bottles rupturing, she said. The brush leading back to the camp was too thick to pull a hose line to the site. As a result, firefighters carried water in backpacks.

 

Free said it took only about 40 gallons of water to put out what was left of the fire, which didn’t spread because of the wet ground.

 

No one was there when firefighters arrived.

Charges Filed in Meth Swallowing Case

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man nearly died after swallowing a plastic bag containing drugs.

 

Thomas Langford, 25, was arrested last week when drugs and syringes were allegedly found in the vehicle he was in at Michigan City. The discovery, which included two syringes filled with an undisclosed liquid, was made with the help of a K-9 dog in a traffic stop in the area of U.S. 20 and Franklin Street

 

According to police, he was taken to the Michigan City police station and, while in a holding cell, was spotted removing a plastic bag of drugs from his underwear and swallowing it.

 

He was then taken to the hospital to have his stomach possibly pumped when he began overdosing, with it reportedly taking four doses of Narcan for him to reopen his eyes.

 

A short time later, another bag was found in his underwear, and that one allegedly contained 11 grams of methamphetamine.

 

Authorities note that Langford has a history of drug-related offenses.

 

Langford is still being held in the La Porte County Jail on $50,000 on charges that include Dealing in Methamphetamine.  The Level 2 felony charge could bring him anywhere from a 10 to 30-year sentence.

Quiet Zone Takes Effect Tomorrow

(La Porte, IN) - The sound of train horns blaring every half hour or so will stop in the City of LaPorte, as a long sought-after quiet zone designation given final approval recently by the Federal Railroad Administration will go into effect on Tuesday.

 

La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook said silencing the horns on one of the busiest rail lines in the nation running through the heart of the city has been one of the strategies pursued for making the downtown more user-friendly. He also believes the quality of life impact will be noticeable, not just along the Norfolk Southern tracks, but several blocks to the north and south of the line.

 

“So many homes, so many businesses are located in close proximity to the tracks, the quiet zone will be an amazing change for the positive,” he said.

 

Work on achieving a quiet zone designation by the city started more than a decade ago when two crossing arms on each side of the tracks were installed at several locations such as Tipton and Tyler streets to improve safety. Most recently, LaPorte Assistant City Planner David Heinold said yellow reflective posts or bollards were installed in the median leading up to crossings on Boston, Detroit, Madison, and Pulaski streets.

 

The idea of the bollards is to make sure drivers are aware they’re approaching a crossing and provide a barrier designed to prevent them from veering around the gates at crossings still protected by a single crossing arm on each side.

 

Heinold said signs reminding drivers and pedestrians on sidewalks to look both ways before crossing the tracks were also installed to complete the final quiet zone requirements.

 

“We went through a process and then the Federal Railroad Administration came out and inspected it and made sure we had all of the required safety improvements in place,” he said.

 

Heinold said trains will be allowed to blow their whistles in the event of a safety issue, like an object or person spotted up ahead on the tracks. He added that the quiet zone designation will be reviewed by the Federal Railroad Administration every couple of years or if an accident with a train occurs.

 

The designation, from Orchard Avenue on the west side to Boston Street on the east side, could be lifted or suspended until the city completes any additional safety upgrades that might be ordered.

 

“I think it’s a good community aesthetic and something that other communities I know like,” Heinold said.

 

Cook said one of the objectives is to lure additional visitors by providing a more relaxing or calming experience downtown. He described the horns as loud enough to pause conversations in places like restaurants with outdoor dining and disrupt hospital patients at Northwest Health, which is practically beside the rails.

 

Northwest Health was among the financial contributors to the safety improvements and other work necessary to obtain quiet zone status.

 

“Think about being a patient at the hospital where you’re in recovery and you’re trying to rest and you’ve got train horns going off 60 times a day. That’s a big deal,” Cook said.

Apparent Serious Crash on U.S. 20

(La Porte County, IN) - A motor vehicle collision that left at least one person injured happened in La Porte County, at U.S. 20 and Wilhelm Road before 1:30 p.m.

 

Preliminary information from police indicates a medical helicopter was called to transport at least one patient with apparently serious injuries.

 

Westbound traffic was also backed up to Rolling Prairie because of travel restrictions imposed by the crash.

 

We’ll provide additional information once it becomes available.

Local Deliveryman Shooter Charged with Murders

(Indianapolis, IN) - A man who shot a pizza deliveryman in Michigan City a long time ago has now been charged with the murders of two women in Indianapolis.

 

David Hiner, 30, is facing two counts of Murder for the stabbing deaths in late January.

 

In 2010, a 35-year-old man working for Papa John's was at a red light when two men demanding money approached his vehicle at Woodland Avenue and Michigan Boulevard. The victim, Randy Salat, who had a family to support, began driving off when shot.

 

According to family members at the time, the bullet went through a lung and his stomach before coming to rest near his spinal cord. He spent about three weeks in the hospital after having four surgeries.

 

A judge citing Hiner’s extensive criminal history as a juvenile gave him an 18-year prison sentence, having previously been on probation at the time of the recent murders.

 

According to court documents, Hiner had an address in Indianapolis at the time of the Michigan City shooting.

Gun Found at Elkhart County Middle School

(Elkhart, IN) - On Wednesday Baugo School District’s head of police was at Jimtown Junior High to present staff members with safety awards. Two days later, a gun was found in the possession of one of the middle schoolers.

 

On Friday Baugo Community Schools confirmed via a letter to parents that a student at Jimtown Junior High was found to have a handgun in school. The junior high was locked down for about 20 minutes while authorities secured the firearm. The student was taken to the Elkhart Juvenile Detention Center.

Poisoned Eagle Update

(Valparaiso, IN) - Humane Indiana Wildlife has provided an update on the critically ill bald eagle found at Potato Creek State Park last week.

 

A bird-watcher found the young eagle near death last Monday. Animal rescuers took the sick bird to the animal rehab center in Valparaiso, where it soon died of lead poisoning.

 

On Thursday the center revealed the results of an autopsy. According to Humane Indiana Wildlife: "The x-rays showed what our team suspected; high blood lead levels were seen because lead fragments were presently inside the eagle. The positioning of the fragments suggested that they were inside the stomach, and not because the eagle had been shot."

 

Because bald eagles are highly protected, the team had to obtain permission to investigate further from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Eventually, seven tiny pieces of lead shot were found in the eagle’s stomach. Experts say a piece of lead no bigger than a grain of rice can kill an adult eagle.

 

The animal center did not place blame solely on hunters and fishermen, whose ammo and fishing tackle often contribute to such incidents. "Lead can come from many different places, [such as] polluted waterways, roadside sediment, roof flashing, lead paint on old houses," they said. "We hope this information continues to raise awareness to threats to our native wildlife that can occur when materials are discarded, or alternatives are not used."

 

               

New MCPD Officers Sworn In

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City’s Police Department is nearly up to full strength after swearing in six new officers this week. They were sworn in on Monday at City Hall by Mayor Angie Nelson Deuitch.

 

 

 

The new officers are:

Brandon Drake

Jared Kiselka

Jacqueline Hinson

Makiyah Smallwood

Brandon Williams

Bryan Woodman

 

They will spend the next several weeks going through training with the MCPD Division of Professional Standards.

 

This brings the department up to 82 officers out of 84 allotted positions.

 

The new officers didn’t waste any time getting to work serving their community. They were spotted on Thursday packing bags at the Salvation Army food pantry.

Governor Stands Behind Texas at Border

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana National Guard is being deployed to help support the border security mission in Texas.

 

According to a news release from Governor Eric Holcomb’s office, 50 guardsmen from Indiana will be sent to the southern border to support the Texas National Guard on a border security mission.

 

The release said the guardsmen will begin mobilizing “immediately” and are expected to arrive in Texas in mid-March.

 

“Federal negligence enforcing immigration law and the failure to secure our country’s border jeopardizes national and economic security, affecting every state, including Indiana,” Holcomb said in a Friday morning social media post.
 

“We’ve worked too hard in Indiana attacking the drug epidemic for more Hoosier lives to be put at risk by a constant supply of killer drugs spilled over an open U.S. border. To resolve, we need to stop the historically high flow of illegal immigrants crossing the border,” he said.

 

This comes after Holcomb recently joined 13 other governors at the southern border for a detailed briefing from the front lines.

 

The release said that the Indiana National Guard has deployed 300 members in various federal missions at the border.

 

“Whatever the mission – whether it’s supporting a Hoosier community in the face of natural disaster, standing with our allies or against our adversaries overseas, or protecting the border – the soldiers and airmen of the Indiana National Guard are uniquely trained, equipped, and capable of mobilizing whenever and wherever we’re called,” said Major General Dale Lyles, the adjutant general of the Indiana National Guard in the release.

 

“We stand ready to support the Texas National Guard in securing the southern border.”

Vendors Sought for 2024 Market

(La Porte, IN) - Vendors can now apply for the 2024 regular season of Farmed and Forged in La Porte.

 

Formerly known as the La Porte Farmers Market, Farmed & Forged is a producers-only market dedicated to showcasing the best of local produce, craftsmanship, and culinary offerings.

 

Local farmers, artisans, restaurants, breweries, and nonprofits interested in participating in the Farmed & Forged 2024 season are invited to submit a vendor application.

 

To apply and find more information, please visit thecollectivein.com/fandf.

 

"We are thrilled to launch applications for the Farmed & Forged 2024 season. This market is a weekly celebration of local talent, community, inclusive food access, and giving back. We invite all prospective vendors to apply to join us in contributing to the success of this season," said Mandy Krickhahn, Owner/Founder/CEO of The Collective.

 

Farmed and Forged is scheduled on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on May 26th through September 29th on Monroe Street between Lincolnway and Washington Street

 

Admission is free. Live music and other happenings are featured. SNAP benefits are also accepted at the market information booth. All raw food items are sourced within a 100-mile radius of La Porte.

Mrozinski Seeks Third Term as Commissioner

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Commissioner Rich Mrozinski has decided to seek a third consecutive term, as the Rolling Prairie man filed his candidacy for the District 2 seat on Thursday, less than 24 hours before today’s 12 p.m. filing deadline.

 

He’s opposed by La Porte County Auditor Tim Stabosz, Steve Holifield, and Martin Smith in the May 7th Republican primary.

 

Mrozinski, a veteran of the Vietnam War, along with Stabosz has been at the center of the ongoing political fighting in La Porte County government.

 

There were some doubts about whether Mrozinski would seek another term. Attempts to reach Mrozinski for comment on his decision so far have been unsuccessful.

 

Stabosz said that he welcomes the high level of interest in the seat, although a four-man race for one elected position “throws a wrench of uncertainty in the campaign.”  

 

He also pointed out that Mrozinski and Holifield are former Democrats, before noting that “I am a lifelong Republican in a Republican primary."

 

Stabosz was critical of Mrozinski for matters like spending months at a time in Florida, which forced him previously to attend commissioners meetings on ZOOM, and leaving a rubber snake in an unmarked envelope outside his office door after hours.

 

“I think the record will speak for itself. It’s time for a change,” he said.

Dispensary Marijuana Bust in La Porte County

(La Porte County, IN) - Another arrest has been made in La Porte County for having a large quantity of marijuana purchased legally in Michigan.

 

La Porte County Police said a sheriff’s deputy was monitoring traffic last night along Indiana 39 just south of the Michigan state line when he noticed that a passing vehicle had a dim license plate light. The light was not strong enough to allow the plate to be seen from a distance of at least 50 feet, which is against state law.

 

Eventually, police said, the officer caught up to the speeding vehicle, which was pulled over in a gas station parking lot at Indiana 39 and U.S. 20. While speaking to the driver, the officer reportedly detected an odor of marijuana along with some type of air freshener or cologne. Marijuana, in leafy form and in gummies as well as wax, was found in a white bag covered by a sweater in the back seat of the vehicle.

 

According to police, the marijuana products were purchased for $564.00 at URB, a recently opened dispensary along Michigan 239 and Interstate 94 in New Buffalo Township.

 

The driver, Richard Main, 40, of La Porte, was arrested for Possession with Intent to Deliver Marijuana and Possession of Marijuana, both Misdemeanor offenses.

 

Main told the officer he purchased the products for his grown children and a friend. 

 

He is currently being held in the La Porte County Jail on $600 bond.

 

Marijuana remains illegal in Indiana. 

Stolen Police Vehicle Death Possibly a Drowning

(La Porte County, IN) - A woman found dead in a La Porte County Police vehicle she allegedly stole may have drowned in the water-filled ditch she drove into while trying to allude officers.

 

That’s among the new pieces of information obtained in the death of Mellissa Collins, 21, of Lafayette. La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson noted that water was found in her lungs and esophagus during an autopsy.

 

“At this point, it’s looking like a drowning,” she said.

 

Swanson explained that the woman was submerged in the police vehicle, which landed on its top in the water-filled ditch early on February 1st.

 

She said a ruling on the official cause of death will not be made until the results of a toxicology test come in, so as to determine if there were any drugs or alcohol in the victim’s system.

 

The chain of events leading up to the death began late on January 31st when a Westville Police officer tried stopping Collins for undisclosed reasons in a vehicle on U.S. 421, according to LaPorte County Police. The attempted traffic stop triggered a high-speed pursuit to U.S. 30 before heading westbound into Porter County.

 

The suspect, before reaching Valparaiso, began traveling back to LaPorte County on U.S. 30 and then headed southbound on U.S. 421 at Wanatah.

 

A decision was then made to terminate the pursuit in the interest of safety.

 

Several minutes later, LaPorte County Police said information was received about a crash along U.S 421 near County Road 1400 South. After the crash, the investigation shows Collins was handcuffed and secured in the front passenger seat of the police vehicle assigned to Deputy David Grimberg. Grimberg walked away from his patrol vehicle to investigate the crash when Collins began manipulating her handcuffs.

 

Eventually, Indiana State Police reported that Collins managed to unbuckle her seat belt and drive off in the police vehicle. While in pursuit, officers lost sight of the stolen police vehicle, but while searching the area, discovered it submerged in a water-filled ditch in the area of 2100 South and 875 West between Wanatah and LaCrosse.

 

ISP noted that evidence at the scene indicated the police vehicle crashed after crossing a set of railroad tracks at an extremely high rate of speed.

Woman Hit by Train in Suicide

(La Porte County, IN) - A pedestrian was killed last night after being struck by a freight train on tracks in the Union Mills area.

 

La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson said evidence in the case strongly indicates the woman took her own life after investigators talked to members of her family.

 

“They indicated she had some mental breakdowns recently in the past and had spoken about suicide,” she said.

 

She said police also reached out to her earlier in the day in response to concerns the family expressed about her welfare.

 

“She refused any help from them,” she said.  

 

Swanson said the 50-year-old woman resided in Lafayette.

 

According to La Porte County Police, she was hit on the Canadian National Railroad tracks. The train was eastbound when the two-member crew, between Indiana 39 and Long Lane, noticed an object some distance ahead on the tracks.

 

Attempts were made to stop the train when the crew, as they drew closer, determined what they saw was a person. Swanson said the woman’s vehicle was found about a mile and a half from where she was struck.

Charges Filed in La Porte Stabbing

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a stabbing in La Porte, as Robert Wheeler, 60, was booked into the La Porte County Jail Tuesday night on a Battery charge.

 

Authorities report that the stabbing happened Tuesday evening at a home in the 400 block of Woodson Street, where Wheeler had reportedly been staying for about six weeks to help him overcome a substance abuse addiction.

 

However, he was asked to leave after drinking heavily that day and expressing a desire to purchase heroin, police said. During an argument, he then grabbed a large knife out of the kitchen and stabbed a man in the stomach.

 

Officers then took him into custody in the basement at gunpoint.

 

The 38-year-old male victim, bleeding from a puncture wound to the left side of his stomach, declined medical attention.

 

Wheeler could face anywhere from a one to six-year sentence.

Plans to Restore Condemned Home

(La Porte, IN) - The city has condemned a house that wasn’t being brought up to code.

 

La Porte Code Enforcement Director Jeff Batchelor said among the problems were busted windows and trash outside the residence in the 900 block of Linwood Street, a few blocks south of Lincolnway and about a half mile east of the courthouse.

 

Batchelor said the city, working with a realtor, found a new owner, who plans to restore the home.

 

“We’re going to get somebody coming in here.  Going to renovate the whole place and get it back to the quality we want in La Porte,” he said.

 

After the house was condemned, Batchelor said the son of the former owner was arrested for returning to the property.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said there were a lot of complaints from neighbors about the home, along with calls to the police.

 

“We’re continuing cleaning up La Porte,” he said.

400 Career Wins for Coach Wells

(Michigan City, IN) - A local high school varsity basketball coach has reached a milestone, as Tom Wells notched 400 career wins after his Michigan City High School boys’ varsity team defeated Bowman Academy on Tuesday.

 

The son of a basketball coach has been looking back at his 35-year varsity head coaching career at times ever since the win.

 

“The lessons I learned from my dad while growing up. It kind of forces you to reflect a little bit on it. Certainly a proud moment,” he said.

 

Wells was head coach of the boys’ basketball team at La Porte High School for 15 years before moving on to Michigan City's boys' varsity team in 2019.

 

The players celebrated right after the game by dousing Wells with water from their water bottles on the court.

 

Wells also received a basketball with the phrase "400 wins" written on it.

 

“It ended up being a great night. I’m very humbled by the recognition that our school put forth,” he said.

Back to Prison for Gun Violator

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man is heading to a federal prison for a gun related offense.

 

Eugene Dawson, 42, was sentenced in the U.S. District Court at South Bend after pleading guilty to being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm.

 

He was given 84 months in prison followed by 3 years of supervised release.

 

According to documents in the case, Dawson about a year ago brokered the sale of a 9mm firearm to an individual in exchange for $650 and provided the buyer with cocaine.

 

A search warrant was later executed on Dawson’s home where additional cocaine and marijuana were found in an area accessible to children, who were in the home. 

 

Dawson was previously convicted of selling cocaine in LaPorte County, which made it illegal for him to possess a firearm.

 

The case was investigated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration with help from Michigan City Police, the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department and LaPorte City Police.

Demolition at Abandoned Downtown Property

(New Buffalo, MI) - What’s been referred for a long time as “the big hole in the ground” in downtown New Buffalo could be on the verge of being put back to use.

 

Demolition has been happening on the uncompleted parking garage that was once part of a retail/condominium development planned on Whittaker Street

 

New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey said the work occurring on the property, long viewed as a detriment to downtown, is a positive.

 

“It’s progress, right. Something is happening,” he said.

 

Originally, plans for the site approved in 2006 called for retail and condominiums inside multi-story buildings to be constructed above an underground parking garage with room for more than 100 vehicles. The project stopped when the developer ran out of money to finish the project during a major nationwide economic downturn in 2008. The roughly 1.5-acre site has been abandoned ever since, until work began in late January on removing the unpaved concrete parking structure.

 

Humphrey said the demolition seems to be about halfway finished already.

 

“If it took them a week and a half to get there, I guess another week and a half to get it wrapped up,” he said.

 

The site, presently owned by Victor Ciardelli, President and CEO of Guaranteed Rate, a retail mortgage company he founded in Chicago, is up for sale, listed for about $6 million.

 

New Buffalo City Manager Darwin Watson said he and other city officials met with representatives of Ciardelli last year and believe the purpose of the demolition is to make the property more attractive on the market.

 

He said a permit for the demolition was issued by the city late in 2023.

 

Watson said a $6 million purchase would likely mean a significant development having to go up on the site, eventually, to generate enough funds for the buyer to see a return on the investment. He would like to see something similar to what was planned previously on the land, once home to a few small shops.

 

Humphrey’s vision for the site is smaller shops, possibly with apartments and green space. He also likes the idea of a restaurant and bar going there to add to the ones that have gone up recently in the downtown.

 

Watson also said he doesn’t feel downtown has been hurt from what’s also been referred to as “an eyesore.”

 

“There’s still an enormous amount of tourists that come and people that come to visit the city even when that’s there,” he said.

 

EMS Administrator Resigns

(La Porte County, IN) - The longtime LaPorte County Emergency Medical Services administrator has resigned after employees reportedly went to the top with concerns about his ability to further lead the department. 

               

A letter of resignation from Andrew McGuire was accepted by the LaPorte County Commissioners on Wednesday.

 

McGuire, who's also a volunteer firefighter in Scipio Township, spent close to 10 years of his 26 years with EMS as an administrator. No reason for the resignation was given because of it being a personnel matter.

 

“Just like any department, we deal with all issues and we just hope, now that we have a new administration, they continue to build on what they had because it’s a great service with great people,” said La Porte County government attorney Scott Pejic.

 

There was also no light shed on whether the resignation was requested.

 

“He decided to move on and we wish him all of the best,” said LaPorte County Commissioner Joe Haney.

 

His resignation came several weeks after a letter of no confidence in McGuire's leadership was submitted to the commissioners. The letter, signed by many EMS employees, did not outline specific concerns but matters were looked into and discussed between the commissioners and other stakeholders in several closed sessions.

 

EMS Capt. Jeff Koon said the no-confidence letter was in response to things like processes not followed the way they should be, double standards, and a lack of accountability.

 

He said a primary concern was delayed access to mental health treatment for medics, requesting help in coping with a traumatic situation. Koon said the result of declining leadership was low morale, along with medics feeling unsafe or insecure.

               

He said the concerns began emerging a few years ago.

 

“We started to see it as more of an issue over the last year. Hopefully, we can start moving forward and bring that morale back up,” he said.

 

The commissioners named Eric Fenstermaker, who’s been second in command at EMS for nearly 10 years, the new administrator.

 

Fenstermaker is also chief of the Scipio Township Volunteer Fire Department.

 

“He’ll definitely have an opportunity to lead and definitely an opportunity to make a difference to the employees,” Koon said.

OWI Arrest Follows Collision

(La Porte County, IN) - A suspected drunk driver caused a two-vehicle collision near Michigan City last night.

 

According to La Porte County Police, a female driver at a stop sign in a 2018 Dodge Caravan was struck in the rear at Wozniak Road and County Road 400 North by a 2003 Mercedes sport utility vehicle operated by Jerry McGee, 60, of La Porte. 

 

McGee reportedly explained he looked down at his phone just prior to the collision. When asked how much alcohol he had to drink, police said McGee claimed to have consumed two hard lemonade beverages. He was found with an alleged blood alcohol level two times the legal .08 percent limit.  

 

McGee was not injured while the other driver, Yesenia Cazares, 38, complained of minor pain and refused medical treatment.

Woman Charged with Dealing Methamphetamine

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte woman is facing drug dealing charges, as Nikki Daley, 28, has been accused of selling 1.4 grams of methamphetamine back in August.

 

According to court documents, Daley walked out of a home in the 500 block of Jefferson Avenue and carried out the $50 exchange with a driver parked in a nearby alley.

 

She is still being held today in the La Porte County Jail following her arrest last week.

 

Daley could face anywhere from a 2 to 12-year sentence in La Porte Circuit Court. 

Vendor Open House for New Train Station

(Michigan City, IN) - The City of Michigan City, in partnership with Flaherty & Collins, the developer constructing the 11th Street Train Station and Garage, will host a Disadvantaged Business Enterprises Vendor Open House.

 

It’s scheduled from 10 a.m. until noon on February 15th at the former Moose Lodge at 1108 Franklin St.

 

The project includes a six-story, open-air parking garage with an integral train station for the South Shore commuter line, as well as a 12-story apartment tower with amenities connected to the garage.

 

Construction-related DBEs with the capacity to work on this project are invited to attend the open house to share their companies’ core competencies and services, and to connect with prime contractors and project partners from the Michigan City Redevelopment Commission and Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, according to the Mayor’s Office.  

 

Those wishing to attend the open house should RSVP with Project Manager Zach Johnson at zjohnson@flco.com.

 

Attendees are not required to stay for the entire event and may come and go anytime between 10 a.m. and noon.

 

Officials said parking will be available in the designated parking lot and on the street if the lot is full.

Local Scout Troop Near Top in Growth

(South Bend, IN) - A local group of Boy Scouts was the second fastest growing in the nation last year as the Boy Scouts of America LaSalle Council based in South Bend had its membership increase by 21 percent over 2023.

 

The LaSalle Council includes La Porte County and Berrien County in Michigan, along with other counties to the west and east and in southwest Michigan.

 

There are 245 Boy Scouts of America councils nationwide.

 

“The excitement and energy surrounding the recent achievements of the BSA LaSalle Council is like nothing I’ve ever seen before in my career. We’re not just growing, we’re thriving, and this momentum is showing no sign of slowing down,” said CEO John Cary.

 

Some of the demographics with the most growth locally include a seven percent increase in female scouts and a five percent increase in new programs for Cub Scout Packs and Boy Scout Troops. 

 

“We grew because we have great partnerships with our schools, we have great volunteers, and we were able to maximize a Lilly Endowment gift that allowed us to make scouting affordable for kids in economically challenged areas," Cary said.

 

Officials said the Lilly Endowment has given the LaSalle Council $1.35 million from 2023 through 2025 to expand programming into diverse communities throughout Indiana counties.  In 2023, those funds were used to provide over 600 kids with a scouting program during or after school, and for four weeks of summer STEM Day Camps for roughly 500 local kids.

 

The council also created the first Latino-based scouting program, which is a fully functional program in Elkhart County that has over 30 kids enrolled.

 

“Going forward, these recent achievements provide us with a new baseline from which to expand, and even more opportunities for a very bright future for all of our scouts and we’re ready for it," Cary said.

Alcohol Related Charges in Motorcycle Collision

Charges have been filed in connection with serious injuries to a motorcyclist in a Michigan City collision where both drivers were allegedly impaired.

 

Daniel Pahl, 38, has been charged with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated Causing Serious Bodily Injury, and other counts.

 

Jeffery Goff meanwhile has been charged with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.

 

According to authorities, both men have had previous OWI convictions and were driving on suspended licenses.

 

The crash happened in August of 2022 at Franklin and Arthur streets near Ames Field. Pahl was reportedly beginning to turn left onto Franklin Street when the oncoming motorcycle, operated by Goff, struck the front driver’s side of his pick-up truck.

 

Court documents show the motorcycle headed southbound on Franklin Street was traveling at a high rate of speed. Goff suffered a head injury, fractured ankle, nasal fracture, sinus fracture, and other injuries.

 

Pahl has also been charged with Child Neglect for having a blood alcohol level of .17 percent while with his two children riding with him. 

 

According to court documents, Goff had a .209 percent blood alcohol level.

 

Pahl could face anywhere from a 2 to 12-year sentence on the most serious count involving the injuries to Goff. He was still being held on $20,000 bond in the La Porte County Jail following his arrest on Thursday.

Different Approach Taken to Redevelop Site

(La Porte, IN) - Another step has been taken to try and have a commercial piece of property redeveloped in La Porte.

 

A few years ago, the city demolished the abandoned building on the former Don George Ford property next to the McDonald's on Pine Lake Avenue. Ever since, attempts to find a developer to the city’s liking have failed.

 

Last night, the La Porte City Council voted to transfer the property to the city’s redevelopment commission to try and improve the odds of finding a developer.

 

Executive Director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Bert Cook said he thinks the redevelopment commission is “more able” and “more flexible” than the city council in finding a developer that shares a similar vision for the site.

 

Cook said he believes the process redevelopment commissions use to find a buyer is a bit easier to follow and more companies monitor redevelopment commission activities.

 

“We’ve tried twice through the council with poor results,” he said.

 

Cook said the city’s vision is for commercial development similar to what’s occurred at New Porte Landing across the street from the two-acre site. He said the city’s vision also includes some public access to adjacent Lilly Lake in the form of kayaking or some other type of recreational use.

 

“Hopefully, they will be able to find a developer who will put together a good plan for the property. If not, we can start the discussion on what happens next. At some point, something has to happen with that property. It can’t just sit as it is now,” he said.

Toby Keith Remembered Locally

(La Porte County, IN) - The passing of country music superstar Toby Keith is being felt by fans everywhere and locally.

 

Keith, who succumbed to stomach cancer, previously played during the La Porte County Fair in 2021.

 

Fair Board member Mark Parkman, who’s from the Westville area, said he worked the souvenir stand during the sold-out concert.  He said Toby Keith shirts, hats, and other items such as Solo cups, because of his hit song “Red Solo Cup,” sold like hotcakes.

 

“There were people coming in and out the whole night. There was a lot of merchandise. A lot of fans for Toby Keith in our area that’s for sure,” he said.

 

Parkman also said he could feel the energy from the crowd.

 

“Out of all the concerts we had, I believe that one probably did as well as any when it came to the amount of merchandise it sold,” he said.

 

Fair Board President Steve Mrozinski said he and a few other board members met and engaged in small talk with Keith backstage prior to his performance.

 

"He was very polite to everyone. Whatever he asked for we did. He just seemed like a very down-to-earth guy," he said. 

 

Per Mrozinski, he put on one of the best concerts ever at the fair.

 

Keith, known for songs covering topics such as cowboys, drinking beer, and patriotism, had 20 number-one hits during his chart-topping career 

 

PNW Celebrating Black History Month

(Hammond & Westville, IN) - Purdue University Northwest will celebrate Black History Month throughout February with a lineup of events recognizing culture, achievements, community and history of Black Americans and the African diaspora.

 

“Black History Month serves as a vital platform for education, celebration and acknowledgment of the profound contributions of African Americans to every facet of society,” said Darien Thompson, PNW director of Student Success and Urban Engagement.

 

“By sharing and celebrating these accomplishments with the community, we not only honor the rich heritage of the Black community but also promote understanding, empathy and solidarity among all,” he said. 

 

PNW’s Black History Month events will touch on a range of themes, including but not limited to student empowerment and expression, inequities in health and financial resources in urban communities, and Black history and art.

 

Health disparities and public health solutions

The public is invited to a social justice spotlight discussion of health disparities in urban communities and public health solutions with Dr. Michael McGee, an urgent care and occupational health physician who specializes in public health access. McGee will present from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 19th in Alumni Hall in the Student Union and Library Building on PNW’s Hammond campus. McGee, a PNW alumnus, will lead a discussion on the epidemic of gun violence, associated healthcare disparities, and the public health solutions to prevention.

 

Open mic night

An open mic night on Feb. 20th offers a place for poets, singers, and everybody in between to express themselves through performance. The event will be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Mane Zone, a student space in the Classroom Office Building on the Hammond campus.

 

Lunch and Lead virtual event

Thompson will be the featured speaker for the Feb. 21st Lunch and Lead offered by the Leadership Institute and Society of Innovators at PNW. Lunch and Lead is a free virtual speaker series featuring business and community leaders from varied economic sectors sharing life lessons. The event will be held via Zoom from noon to 12:45 p.m.

 

Ran’D Shine the Magician

Step into a mesmerizing realm where history, culture, and the enchanting world of magic converge on Feb. 28th from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Alumni Hall, located in the Student Union and Library Building on the PNW Hammond campus. Magician and comedian Ran’D Shine is known for performing “real magic for real people.” His magical style draws from his playful interactive relationship with his audience combined with psychological illusions, sleight of hand, and storytelling.

 

Toast to Black Excellence

PNW’s annual black-tie event to honor the contributions made by the Black community at the university called the Toast to Black Excellence, is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Feb. 24th in Alumni Hall. The event is free, but registration is required.

 

For more details and to register to attend these educational and cultural events at PNW celebrating Black History Month, visit pnw.edu/black-history.

Widespread Pellet Gun Damage

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are investigating numerous complaints of property damage and a pedestrian being shot by an unidentified person discharging a pellet gun on Sunday.

 

Police said the incidents occurred in the central and west side areas of the city between about 4:40 PM and 06:30 PM.

 

Video surveillance reveals an occupant inside a dark-colored 2008-2012 Ford Escape discharging a pellet gun at multiple vehicles. Additional complaints of property damage caused by a person discharging a pellet gun were still being received by authorities today.

 

The Michigan City Police Department is asking anyone who may have witnessed any of the incidents or with any additional information or images of the illegal acts to contact Captain Kevin Urbanczyk at (219) 874-3221; Extension 1042 or via email at kurbanczyk@emichigancity.com.

 

The public can also contact the department on Facebook Messenger or the crime time hotline number at (219) 873-1488.

Out of Retirement to Take Over as Police Chief

(La Porte, IN) - A former law enforcement officer has come out of retirement to take over as police chief in LaPorte.

 

Dick Buell said his top priority is continuing the aggressive fight against drug dealers since Tom Dermody became mayor slightly more than four years ago.

 

“We’re going to do everything we can to run them out,” he said.

 

He said reducing drug activity is key to lowering the amount of other crimes, like burglary, theft, and robbery, along with violence in general.

 

“If we can conquer the drug problem, we’re in a much better situation,” he said.

 

Buell took over the reins Monday after being sworn into office by Dermody at LaPorte City Hall. He doesn’t plan to make sweeping changes right away, saying any difference in direction will not be decided until after a thorough evaluation.

 

Buell, a former high school football standout in Michigan City, said he plans to bring to the department the same team, grind-it-out approach he learned from the game he went on to play in college.

 

“You’re no better than the least experienced individual on that team. Buckle down, get the job done and go from there,” he said.

 

He replaces Paul Brettin, who decided to retire after a 30-year law enforcement career spent entirely in LaPorte. Under Brettin the past four years, the once short-on-manpower department is back to full strength with a newly created team of officers strictly targeting drug dealers.

 

Other accomplishments cited by Brettin included adding the latest in crime-fighting technology such as drones, license plate reading cameras, and wireless parking enforcement.

 

Dermody said there were five finalists for the position, but Buell was “hands down” the right choice.

 

“I knew we had to find someone capable of carrying the momentum. Someone with the proper experience who cares about our community and would bring the same no-nonsense approach when it comes to protecting our residents,” Dermody said.

 

Buell spent his first six years in law enforcement with the La Porte Police Department.  He then spent 20 years with the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office where he was jail commander prior to becoming executive director of La Porte County Community Corrections.

 

Buell retired in 2019.

 

After the announcement, Buell said he wasn’t thinking about coming out of retirement until the opportunity for a new challenge presented itself.

 

“For whatever reason, this piqued my interest and, in speaking with the mayor and other individuals, I figured I’m going to give this a shot,” he said.

 

Buell said he expects to hit the ground running in many ways but will have to brush up on the latest in crime-fighting technology.

 

“I’ve got to get up to speed on that but the crux of it is law enforcement is fundamental and that never changes. I’m ready to go,” he said.

 

Matthew Drangmeister, a 16-year veteran of the department, was named assistant chief. He replaces Bill Degnegaard, who retired in late January. Brettin will stay with the department until the end of May to help with the transition.

Mom Joins Boyfriend in Sexual Assault Charges

(Michigan City, IN) - The mother of a teenage girl is now in custody on similar allegations leveled against her boyfriend, who was charged with molesting a learning-disabled juvenile.

 

Maryann Carmichael, 47, of Michigan City has been charged with two counts of Child Molestation and one count of Incest.

 

Daniel Pasco, 42, was charged with two counts of the former.

 

According to court documents, he and the girl’s mother met on a Facebook dating site, which ultimately led to the three staying in local motels together several months later because the woman was evicted from her roach-infested residence on the north end of Michigan City.

 

The girl told investigators that Pasco fondled her on several occasions and tried persuading her into having sex with him because her mother couldn't become pregnant.

 

On top of this, she also alleged that Pasco requested to have sex with her and her mother together several times and, eventually, succeeded.

 

The most serious charge against Pasco alleges all three of them were undressed in bed when Pasco engaged in intercourse with the girl after removing her birth control patch.

 

During police questioning, Carmichael told investigators her son was staying elsewhere after the eviction, but she didn’t want to leave her daughter alone with him because he’s a registered sex offender. She also told investigators that her daughter reads at the level of a kindergarten student and has a speech impediment.

 

The charging information against Carmichael alleges she took photos and videos of her daughter naked at the request of Pasco and acted on his requests to perform various sex acts on the juvenile.

 

It’s also alleged Pasco sexually assaulted the girl on several occasions in various hotels in the Michigan City area and Carmichael sometimes took her daughter out of school early in late spring because Pasco wanted to see her more often.

 

Pasco could face anywhere from a 20-year to a more than 50-year sentence. 

Carmichael could face a similar sentencing range.

OWI Arrests Following Crash and Pursuit

(Westville, IN) - A driver arrested for impaired driving following a crash in Westville had his even more intoxicated passenger taken into custody a short time later for fleeing in another vehicle.

 

Jorge Plascencia, 47, and Christopher Jiminez, 64, were still being held in the La Porte County Jail as of this morning.

 

After 3 p.m. on Sunday., La Porte County Police were called to U.S. 421 and U.S. 6. There, the investigation shows, a collision was caused by the westbound Plascencia driving into the path of a southbound vehicle.

 

Family members of Jiminez pulled up to give him a ride home and were out of the vehicle while Plascencia was being questioned for possible impairment.

 

The arresting officer was reportedly escorting Plascencia to a police vehicle on suspicion of drunk driving when an extremely intoxicated Jiminez climbed into the car, belonging to his family members, and fled at a high rate of speed.

 

During a pursuit, police said, Jiminez stopped briefly at a roundabout before proceeding through it and continued westbound on U.S. 6 until ultimately pulling over a short time later.

 

Police said Jiminez of Valparaiso wound up being arrested for Resisting Law Enforcement and Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.  His alleged blood alcohol level was slightly more than five times the legal limit.

 

Plascencia of East Chicago was, likewise, arrested for the latter charge. No light was shed on his blood alcohol level, but he was described as not even close to the level of impairment as Jiminez.

 

The investigation shows they were out to begin with to celebrate the birthday of Jiminez, who at the time could barely stand.

Lead-Poisoned Bald Eagle Found at Area State Park

(North Liberty, IN) - A bald eagle was discovered on the verge of death at Potato Creek State Park earlier this week.

 

On Monday afternoon a bird-watcher found the sick eagle. Animal rescuers transported it to Humane Indiana Wildlife Sanctuary in Valparaiso, where they found the young male eagle to have a lethal amount of lead in its system.

 

The sanctuary detailed their efforts in a Facebook post. “Our team provided stabilizing care, administering fluids, a critical care food alternative, and began chelation therapy,” they said. “With lead levels as high as they were, and with as poor of body condition as he was in, we were not terribly surprised to find that he had sadly passed away overnight.”

 

According to Humane Indiana, a lead fragment the size of a grain of rice is lethal to a mature bald eagle. They say the incident is a good reminder for hunters and fishermen to choose their ammunition and tackle carefully. “Because these exposures are accidental, such as when a fish breaks the line or when a gut pile is left behind,” they said, “the best way to decrease the risk of lead exposure is to transition to non-lead ammunition and tackle.

 

To support the work of Humane Indiana Wildlife, you can make a donation at www.humaneindiana.org/wildlife-donate.

Leadership La Porte County to Celebrate 40th

(La Porte, IN) - Leadership La Porte County is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a reception at the Civic Auditorium.

 

The program has provided leadership training and networking for adults and youth since 1984. “Through the years our programs have reached thousands of citizens who are out there doing remarkable things in the community,” said Monica Komasinski, executive director of Leadership La Porte County. “We want to celebrate those contributions, so we invite alumni to come and share their stories.”

 

Community members and alumni of Leadership La Porte County programs are invited to the Ruby Red Reception on Saturday, February 17th from 5-10 p.m. The event will feature networking, heavy appetizers, and a cash bar. Attendees are asked to wear red, casual to classy.

 

The event is chaired by Kristy Hahn, a graduate of the 38th Leadership class and now a board member. “The Ruby Red Reception will be a great night of networking and community,” Hahn said. “I look forward to seeing fellow classmates of mine and alumni of our leadership program.”

 

As an evening highlight, former La Porte County Sheriff John Boyd will be presented with the 2023 Robert J Hiler Outstanding Alumni Award.

 

Tickets are available for $50 per person. Sponsorship of the event is also available. For tickets, email Monica Komasinski: monica@leadershiplaportecounty.com.

Woman Dies After Stealing Police Vehicle

(La Porte County, IN) - A Lafayette woman has been identified as the person found deceased after allegedly stealing and driving a La Porte County Police vehicle into a water-filled ditch while trying to allude officers.

 

Melissa Collins, 21, was pronounced dead after being located in the submerged 2021 Ford Explorer, according to Indiana State Police.

 

ISP said the cause and manner of death will be determined through an autopsy.

 

The chain of events leading up to the death began late Wednesday night when a Westville Police officer reportedly tried stopping her for undisclosed reasons in a vehicle on U.S. 421. The attempted traffic stop triggered a high-speed pursuit to U.S. 30 westbound into Porter County.

La Porte County Police said the suspect, before reaching Indiana 49 east of Valparaiso, began traveling back to La Porte County on U.S. 30 and headed southbound on U.S. 421 at Wanatah.

 

A decision was then made to terminate the pursuit in the interest of safety.

 

Several minutes later, LaPorte County Police said information was received about a crash along U.S 421 near County Road 1400 South.

 

After the crash, the investigation shows Collins was handcuffed and secured in the front passenger seat of the police vehicle assigned to Deputy David Grimberg. Grimberg had walked away from his patrol vehicle to investigate the crash when Collins began manipulating her handcuffs.

 

Eventually, ISP said Collins managed to unbuckle her seat belt and drive off in the police vehicle. While in pursuit, officers lost sight of the stolen police vehicle, but, while searching the area, discovered it submerged in a water-filled ditch in the area of 2100 South and 875 West between Wanatah and LaCrosse. Evidence at the scene indicated the police vehicle crashed after crossing a set of railroad tracks at an extremely high rate of speed.

 

LaPorte County Police Capt. Derek Allen said state police were brought into the investigation to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest because of a sheriff’s department vehicle being involved in the happenings.

 

He said why Collins was in the area and other specifics remained under investigation.

 

Huge THC Vape Cartridge Bust

(La Porte County, IN) - A Chicago area man has been accused of having more than 1,000 vape cartridges containing the active ingredient of marijuana upon being stopped on Wednesday by police for a traffic violation in La Porte County.

 

Mark Crowley, 28, has been charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with Dealing in a Schedule I, II, or III Substance as a Level 2 felony.

 

According to court documents, La Porte County Sheriff’s Deputy Wade Wallace stopped the westbound Crowley for improperly switching lanes and speeding on Interstate 94 near the 40-mile marker outside Michigan City.

 

Crowley told the officer he just left Michigan after visiting a friend overnight, and according to authorities, the officer’s suspicions were raised because Crowley seemed to be uncomfortable about providing more detail about his trip to Michigan and claiming not to know the name of the community he went to in the state. He did say it was about a two-hour drive from his home in the western suburb of Aurora.

 

Crowley reportedly began to sweat and breathe heavily, his hands visibly shaking when the officer called for a K-9 dog to come to the scene. The dog, while conducting an air sniff, was alerted to the presence of drugs in the vehicle. Two large cardboard boxes each containing 600 THC vapes packaged in smaller boxes were allegedly discovered in the trunk.

 

According to authorities, it appears Crowley was on his way home to sell the cartridges, though, because the amount greatly exceeds what any single individual could personally consume, what with each cartridge being able to last an average user for weeks.

 

As a result, Crowley could face anywhere from a 10 to 30-year sentence. 

 

No light was shed on whether any of the THC vapes were obtained at any of the marijuana dispensaries in Michigan.

 

Last year, a man and woman from Wisconsin were passing through La Porte County before being arrested during a traffic stop for allegedly having a large amount of marijuana products in their vehicle. The driver revealed the dispensary products were obtained in Buchanan, one of the cities where the retail sale of marijuana is legal in the state.

House and Cars Hit with Major Gunfire

(Michigan City, IN) - Michigan City Police are trying to determine who struck a home and multiple vehicles with gunfire.

 

Officers responded on Wednesday night to the 600 block of Southwind Drive south of U.S. 20 and west of Franklin Street, where 37 bullet casings were reportedly recovered from the scene.

 

A residence was hit multiple times with gunfire, alongside two vehicles parked in the driveway of the home, police said.

 

Another vehicle parked next door was also hit with bullets.

 

Despite the heavy gunfire, police said there were no injuries. No immediate suspects have developed in the case, which remains under investigation.

Chicken Coop Fire

(La Porte County, IN) - A chicken coop was heavily damaged in an overnight fire outside La Porte.

 

At About 2 a.m., firefighters responded to the 1700 block of North 100 West in Center Township, where a man reportedly woke up to his dog barking before spotting his chicken coop on fire.  La Porte County Police said the roughly 10 X 15-foot structure was mostly burned.

 

The property owner, Eric Wallenius, told investigators there were about 20 chickens inside the coop. Three of the chickens were confirmed as having perished.

 

Police noted that there was a heating lamp and water heating system in the coop, but no light was shed on whether the electrical devices had anything to do with the fire.

Groundhog Predicts Early Spring

(Punxsutawney, PA) - An early spring is in the forecast on this Groundhog Day, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, perhaps, because of what’s been a mostly mild winter.

 

Punxsutawney Phil, the beloved weather-predicting groundhog as tradition would have it, did not see his shadow this morning, which indicates an early spring.  

 

There’s been a groundhog predicting an early spring or late winter at Gobbler’s Knob, the home of Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania, since 1887.

 

Thousands of people, as usual, turned out for the long-celebrated event.

Mayor Honors Late Historian

(Michigan City, IN) - The new mayor of Michigan City has issued her first proclamation, which honors the life and legacy of late historian Allen Williams.

 

Mayor Angie Nelson Deuitch called Williams, who passed away on December 16th at 76 years old, a “figurehead as a historian for the African American community in Michigan City and La Porte County.”

 

 

“His Black History Month exhibit shows the tremendous impact he had on this community in providing that resource to not just students but adults as well,” she said.

 

Deuitch said Williams spent decades gathering a vast collection of news articles, books, movies, art, clothing, tools, and other items that he fashioned into an in-depth and educational exhibit that opened to the public each year around Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

 

She said his retelling of King’s history and impact had its place in the exhibit, but most of Williams’ work highlighted contributions from other black leaders, innovators, humanitarians, and others from around the globe. Some of his efforts have even uncovered work dating as far back as 1500 BC.

 

“I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in Mr. Williams’ living room talking with him and listening to the history of our local African American leaders from the past,” she said.

 

Her tribute to Williams came just prior to February, which is Black History Month throughout the nation.

Sentenced for False Carjacking Report

(Niles, MI) - A LaPorte woman has community service time to pay for falsely accusing a man of stealing a car.

 

Nearly a year ago, Hanna Johnson, 28, filed a false police report accusing a man of stealing a car during a carjacking in Galien, Michigan.

 

After criticizing her actions, the judge in Berrien County, feeling she had learned her lesson, gave her 40 hours of community service along with fines and court costs.

 

She was also given credit for the two days she served in jail before posting bond.

Earnst Joins Circuit Court Judge Race

(La Porte County, IN) - A third candidate is vying for the Republican Party nomination for judge in La Porte Circuit Court.

 

Kurt Earnst has been a public defender in major felony criminal cases in La Porte Circuit Court for the past 22 years, having also been an attorney with the law firm Braje, Nelson, and Janes, LLC in Michigan City for the last 27.

 

Earnest cited vast trial experience and extensive work in a wide variety of other legal cases at the local, state, and federal judicial levels for seeking to replace Judge Tom Alevizos, who is in the final year of his third six-year term after deciding not to seek reelection.

 

Earnst is also the fire chief in Long Beach, where he’s been with the department for more than 25 years.

 

He also helped start the La Porte County Veteran’s Treatment Court program and was a past judge of the Michigan City Teen Court program.  In addition, Earnst is a past board member and board chairman of the Boys and Girls Clubs in Michigan City.

 

Right now, Earnst is running against La Porte County Deputy Prosecutor Julianne Havens and La Porte County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Charles Watterson for the Republican nomination.

Construction of Retail Center Planned for La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - A nationally known clothing store chain and other retailers could occupy practically all of the land remaining to be redeveloped at New Porte Landing.

 

The La Porte Redevelopment Commission on Wednesday night unanimously approved a letter of interest in the 14-acre site by a developer looking to build a multi-unit retail center.

 

As many as 10 or more buildings could be constructed in the undeveloped center of New Porte Landing behind Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks said La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook.

 

Cook explained how the buildings would be separate from each other and go up in phases over an indefinite period of time. The project hinges on the RDC and the undisclosed developer coming to terms on a purchase agreement for the municipally owned land.

 

Typically, Cook said, it takes anywhere from 30 to 45 days to reach a deal on a purchase agreement, which could be presented to the RDC for a vote in late spring or early summer.

 

Cook said it’s too early to estimate the exact cost of the proposed multi-million dollar investment since construction plans are still in the early stages of development.

 

“How many millions is hard to say until you get a better handle on how many buildings and the size of those buildings, but it’s a sizable investment in our community,” he said.

 

Cook said he won’t be able to disclose the name of the clothing store or developer unless a financial deal is struck on the property. However, he described the brand as a nationally well-known “mid-box” clothing store.

 

“Everybody would recognize the name,” he said.

 

Cook said the other chain stores would be “smaller boxes,” complimenting each other with what they offer to customers.

 

“People like to be able to shop in one area and get all of the different things they need,” he said.

 

New Porte Landing contains about 50 acres of land once home for decades to farm equipment maker, Allis Chalmers, who left the city in the 1980’s. It took more than 10 years to begin cleaning up the property, starting with the demolition of huge dilapidated manufacturing structures and an over 100-foot-tall smokestack.

 

Dunkin’ Donuts was the first business to open there in 2016. Later came a Starbucks, Dunes Volleyball Club, and The Banks, which contains about 200 resort-type apartments including amenities like a swimming pool.  The most recent developments were a medical office building, Smoothie King and an Aldi, which opened last year.

 

Mayor Tom Dermody said more than 80,000 tons of contamination were removed from the property during an environmental clean-up spanning six different mayors. He credited those administrations for their consistent work and vision to transform a once-blighted former industrial property in the heart of the city.

 

“I’m very thankful for those mayors that saw this and believed this could be turned into something. That’s really where the credit goes,” he said.

 

Dermody also said the addition of a clothing store and other retailers would meet a need expressed for a long time by citizens wanting more local shopping options.

 

Cook said the amount of traffic drawn to New Porte Landing in recent years is what attracted the developer behind what would be a sizable commercial development.

 

The RDC also approved a letter of interest from another developer looking to construct a bank on a one-acre parcel at New Porte Landing.

 

“I’m excited to have these offers on the table,” said RDC member Betsy Kabelin-Parkison.

Alleged La Porte Cocaine Dealer Snared

(La Porte, IN) - Another suspected drug dealer in La Porte has been reeled in, as Quortez Tucker, 32, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with dealing cocaine.

 

According to court documents, Tucker was caught selling cocaine last week at his apartment on Country Lane Drive near Boyd Boulevard on the city’s far east side.

 

Police said he received $120 for 1.7 grams of cocaine after the buy was arranged on Facebook Messenger.  The charge was elevated to a Level 3 felony because the transaction was within 500 feet of Allesee Park.

 

Under state law, drug dealing charges can be upgraded in transactions within close proximity to a park, school, or some other place where children regularly gather.  

 

Tucker could face anywhere from a 3 to 16-year sentence.

Alleged Thief of Police Vehicle Drowns

(La Porte County, IN) - A woman died after allegedly stealing a La Porte County Police vehicle during the night and driving it into a body of water.

 

Authorities have confirmed the incident without offering much detail as of yet. However, sources said the incident apparently began when police tried stopping a suspected drunk driver in the southern part of La Porte County. This led to a chase exceeding well over 100 miles per hour on U.S. 30 before some sort of a crash.  Somehow, the female driver managed to climb into a sheriff’s vehicle and take off resulting in another pursuit. 

 

During that chase, the woman allegedly driving the stolen police vehicle wound up in a body of water in the area of 2100 South and 875 West.

 

The La Porte County Coroner’s Office was called to the scene. We’ll provide more details as they’re made available.

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