Local News Archives for 2024-03

South Bend Police Recount "Eyster" Blessing

(South Bend, IN) - When South Bend Police Lieutenant Gene Eyster retired five years ago, he left a lot of memories in the rearview mirror.


In December of 2000, Eyster, who at the time was a sergeant in the Major Crimes Unit, was called in on a case involving an abandoned infant. Residents at the Park Jefferson Apartments on South Bend’s northeast side had discovered a newborn baby in the hallway of one of the apartment buildings. The tiny boy was wrapped in blankets and a flannel shirt in a cardboard box.


As the baby was cared for at a local hospital, Eyster began his investigation. His first order of business was to give the boy a little normalcy. Word of “Baby Boy Doe” was spreading quickly, but Eyster felt he deserved a real name. Being so close to Christmas, he started calling the foundling “Baby Jesus.” Next, as a good Magi will do, he took Jesus a gift: a teddy bear for his hospital crib.


Following tips, Eyster was able to track down the parents, and the mother was charged with neglect. Little “Jesus” was adopted, and the case was closed.


But it reopened in a very special and unexpected way recently.


Two weeks ago, Eyster received a phone call from current South Bend Police Officer Josh Morgan. Morgan had taken on a new officer for training. The 23-year-old rookie told Morgan that he had been found in a cardboard box on the northeast side.


It was “Baby Jesus.”


Shortly after, Eyster met the young man, now known as Officer Matthew Hegedus-Stewart. Neither recognized the other, of course, but there was a certain bond between them, now made stronger through the brotherhood of law enforcement. The two sifted through case documents, including over a dozen photos of a two-day-old Officer Hegedus-Stewart at the hospital. Neither he nor his family had ever seen the photos.


Following the meeting, Eyster posted his admiration for the young officer on Facebook: “Words cannot express how inspiring it was to meet this young man and to hear of the accomplishments he has achieved given his turbulent beginnings. Matt should be very proud of himself as should his adoptive parents Jack Stewart and Mary Ellen Hegedus. To coin a phrase agreed to by many, ‘you raised a fine young man.’”


Eyster retired in 2019 after 47 years of service. Many cases, many faces, facts, and figures. But he always wondered what happened to the newborn baby in the cardboard box. Little did he know that the abandoned boy would follow in his footsteps.


*Credit to South Bend Police Department Media Liaison Ashley O’Chap for providing the details, and photo, of Lt. Eyster’s story.

Army Widow Wins Battle with VA

(La Porte County, IN) - A local Army widow who has been seeking to hold the government accountable for her husband’s death got her point across with a sizable legal settlement.


On the evening of October 15th, 2020, 33-year-old Chief Warrant Officer Jason Moon took his own life in his family’s La Porte County home. Jason’s wife LaShanda and the three youngest of their five children were in the home at the time.


The tragic incident followed repeated attempts to get Jason mental health treatment from the Veteran’s Administration. Jason Moon served two tours as a medevac crew member during Operation Iraqi Freedom, earning multiple service medals and commendations. But he couldn’t shake the traumas he experienced.


Following Jason’s death, Mrs. Moon filed a wrongful death claim against the Department of Veterans Affairs, citing multiple missteps and oversights. The suit claimed that Moon was placed in the care of an unlicensed intern by the South Bend Vet Center, and only had appointments via phone. It also alleges that the VA falsified documents after his death to hide their negligence.


“My husband was failed by a system that exists solely to support the men and women who have served our country,” said LaShanda. “I have spent nearly three and a half years re-living the worst night of my life hundreds of times while trying to be the voice for my husband and the other 22 veterans who end their lives every single day, as I have demanded the VA take accountability and pleaded with them to make policy changes. 1066 is more than a number on a file. His name was Jason Edward Moon and I pray changes will be made in his memory.”


According to a statement from lawyers, “The case was aided by whistleblowers who came forward to talk about serious dysfunction at the South Bend Veterans Center which treated Mr. Moon and contributed to his downward spiral and death.”


In a settlement announced this week, the Moon family was awarded $1.7 million.


“Money does not bring back a person. Nor does it replace a parent or spouse,” said Peter Bertling, attorney for the Moon family. “But it can provide support for their future and for their lives going forward. The case also exposed serious errors made by the South Bend Vet Center that we hope are rectified, so no other veteran has to suffer like Mr. Moon did. He served his country in wartime and was owed so much better than the mental health care he received.”


Statistics suggest that an average of 22 American veterans commit suicide every day.

Children Hurt in Car Fire

(South Bend, IN) - Two children were severely injured in a car fire Friday morning.


It happened in the parking lot of the Kroger grocery store on Western Avenue. The car caught fire with the children inside.


Police credit multiple good Samaritans for getting the kids out of the car before first responders arrived on the scene.


Nonetheless, the 3-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl sustained serious injuries and were transferred to Riley Hospital in Indy. Their mother was also treated for injuries.


The St. Joseph County Special Victims Unit is further investigating.

New Baby Box Dedicated to Walorski

(St. Joseph County, IN) - The newest Safe Haven Baby Box in the area has been named after former 2nd District Congresswoman Jackie Walorski.


The dedication was made Wednesday at the Penn Township Fire Station in Mishawaka near Penn High School.


Attending the unveiling were friends and family of Walorski, including her Congressional successor Rudy Yakym. “By naming this baby box in Jackie Walorski’s honor,” he said, “we’re also giving a fitting tribute to my predecessor’s lifelong service of life and lifelong dedication to life. Jackie was dedicated to life, but she was also full of life, as she channeled her positive energy toward saving children.”


Also on hand was a little girl named Maya who was surrendered in a baby box a few years ago. Maya attended the ceremony with her adopted family. 26 infants have been recovered in Indiana baby boxes over the past five years.


Baby boxes are secure drop-off locations where a desperate mom can leave a baby safely and legally. After an alert sounds, first responders get to the baby within minutes. State law allows such a surrender of a baby up to 30 days old without prosecution.


There are now 118 baby boxes in Indiana. A new one is about to be installed at Fire Station 2 in La Porte.

Mayor to Give First State of City Address

(Michigan City, IN) - Mayor Angie Nelson Deuitch of Michigan City is scheduled to give her first State of the City address next month, where will share some of the highlights from her first 100 days in office, including new programs and projects on the horizon.


Deuitch said one of the things she wants her speech to do is get “buy-in” from residents on what she’s trying to accomplish and to get them to share ideas.


“This is really a way to allow the mayor to give an update, but also to spend some time talking to the residents and getting them excited over what’s coming over the next couple of years,” she said.


People in attendance will be invited to submit suggestions on notecards provided during the event for what they hope to see accomplished by her administration.


“We’re looking for opportunities to boost community engagement,” she said.


Her State of the City address will be April 10th at the Holdcraft Performing Arts Center at 1200 Spring St. beginning at 10 a.m. The doors will open to the public at 9:30 a.m.

Alleged Drug Traffickers Still Held on Bond

(La Porte County, IN) - A man and woman allegedly found with a buffet of drugs while traveling in La Porte County remain in custody on $50,000 cash bond.


Sadiq Heyward, 28, and Chelsea Hahn, 27, were arrested late in the morning of March 21st on the Indiana Toll Road outside La Porte.


La Porte County Police said they were in a car stopped for tailgating a semi-truck along with a couple of moving violations.


An odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle and driver resulted in a search, which allegedly turned up 102 grams of ecstasy, 39 grams of cocaine, 17 grams of methamphetamine, and 11 pounds of marijuana.


The Maryland residents were reportedly traveling from Iowa prior to being pulled over. They were charged with dealing in each drug because of the large quantities seized alongside evidence such as plastic baggies and a scale typically used in selling drugs being recovered from the vehicle, according to court documents.


Authorities note that some of the drugs were found inside of a suitcase recovered from the vehicle's trunk. in addition to a handgun along with ammunition also inside the car.


During their initial hearings in La Porte Circuit Court on Wednesday, the court scheduled a hearing for April 12th to decide a request by Heyward’s defense counsel for a reduction in his bail. The same request could be made for Hahn once she obtains an attorney.

Speeding Lands Driver in Jail for OWI

A Michigan City man is facing drunk driving charges after being stopped for traveling at a high rate of speed.


Joseph Swanson, Jr., 50, has been charged with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated, and what started as a misdemeanor offense was upgraded to a Level 6 felony due to a prior OWI conviction in Porter County in 2017.


According to La Porte County Police, he clocked in at 80 miles per hour on Indiana 2 in the Rolling Prairie area early on March 20th, exhibiting symptoms of impairment such as heavily slurred speech. There were also open alcoholic beverage containers in the vehicle at the time of the incident.


He was taken into custody with an alleged blood alcohol level of .104 percent.


Change in Top Brass at NIPSCO

(Merrillville, IN) - There’s been a change in leadership at NIPSCO, as Vince Parisi has been named the new president and chief operating officer at the Merrillville-based utility company.


He previously served as interim president after Mike Hooper left the position to take a job with another utility company in the Midwest earlier in the month.


Officials touted Parisi for his extensive prior experience, which includes being the former president and chief operating officer at Columbia Gas of Ohio, a subsidiary of NiSource alongside NIPSCO.


“Vince has played a pivotal role in advancing a number of key business priorities on behalf of our customers and the communities we serve across Ohio, and we’re confident he’ll do the same in northern Indiana as we cement our position at the forefront of an industry transition into a diverse menu of energy options,” said Melody Birmingham, NiSource executive vice president, and group president.

Spring Clean Up Begins Next Month

(Michigan City, IN) - The annual spring clean-up in Michigan City begins next week.


Starting Monday, the city’s refuse department will be collecting yard waste and furniture on the north and west sides of the city alongside other forms of refuse, according to the mayor’s office.


That area is marked by County Line Road to the west; Franklin Street to the east; Kieffer Road to the south and 2nd Street to the north.  Officials said collections will occur on the same day as regular trash pick-up.


There will be two passes in each of the three zones in Michigan City through May 6th.


For further information, contact the city.

Work Begins on 14 Story Hotel/Condo Development

(Michigan City, IN) - Work has begun on what’s expected to be part of the major transformation of Michigan City, as reports indicate NIPSCO has been out relocating utilities to make way for the construction of a 14-story development.  


The $280 million project, set to be along U.S. 12 next to City Hall, will contain two hotels along with condos, townhomes, upscale restaurants, retail shops, bars, and a rooftop pool providing views of Lake Michigan. The goal is to make Michigan City as popular as New Buffalo among visitors and second homeowners.


Officials say there will be close to 300 permanent jobs at the high-rise facility, with the hotels projected to house an estimated 100,000 visitors a year taking advantage of attractions like Mount Baldy, Washington Park Beach, the Indiana Dunes National Park, and the Blue Chip Casino.


Last week, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a 12-story apartment tower, located beside the new South Shore Railroad commuter line train station at Franklin and 11th Streets. Quicker travel to and from Chicago via the nearly completed double track from Michigan City to Gary is the incentive for new developments because of an influx of visitors and residents anticipated as a result of the rail travel upgrades.

La Porte Works to Modernize Urban Forestry

(La Porte, IN) -  The City of La Porte has a lot of old and unhealthy trees from mass plantings a century or more ago.


Ongoing efforts to create a more vibrant and safer urban forest have received a major shot in the arm from a $1 million federal grant. Those dollars awarded by the U.S. Forest Service will start being put to work soon


“A lot of our trees are older and they’re going to have to be replaced here in the next few years. This is a good start,” said Assistant City Engineer Tucker King.


King said the first of the funds will be spent on updating an inventory from five years ago of trees in city-owned tree lawns that need cutting down or trimming.  About two-thirds of the 400 trees earmarked for removal then have already been taken down by members of the street department over the past two years.


King said the goal is to cut down and trim the rest of the unhealthy trees still left on the previous list and others that might now be seriously ailing beginning late in the summer.


Tree-cutting specialists will be hired with the funds to assist the street department mostly with bringing down problematic trees, such as those with branches hanging above homes and power lines.


Beginning in the fall, King said much of the focus will be on planting anywhere from 500 to 700 new trees in public easements over the three-and-a-half-year lifespan of the grant.


The city’s nickname has long been the “Maple City,” since a majority of the trees planted here a long time ago were maples. The new trees will include maples but also include a wide variety of other species to be strategically planted where they can best thrive without threatening homes and sidewalks. King said trees with smaller root systems that won’t grow as large are the ones that will go in areas too narrow for the bigger trees planted in the past. 


The tree work will happen on the letter and number streets and east of Rose Street; areas where many of the city’s oldest trees exist.


Street Department Director Jeff Batchelor said the oldest trees, due to age and condition, are prone to falling during storms.


Batchelor illustrated how other property damage has been from tree roots wrapping themselves around water and sewer lines, causing them to break or working their way inside and clogging them up. Many sidewalks have also been cracked and heaved up by roots from trees much too large for where they were planted. The idea is to plant new trees in the right locations so problems from the past several decades won’t repeat themselves long into the future.


“It’s going to be a win-win for the city,” he said.


Some of the funds will go toward developing a plan for taking care of the new trees so they stay healthy during the first couple of years when they’re prone to shock from replanting, as well as creating a long-term management strategy for the entire urban forest. King said he would like to be finished with the project before the grant expires so that more funding can be sought to get a jump on the urban forestry work still left to do.


“The City of La Porte has never had an opportunity like this when it comes to funding for our trees. I think it’s going to have a really big impact,” he said.

Another Brand Name Restaurant for La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Another brand-name restaurant appears to be on its way to La Porte, with the door opening for construction last evening when the city’s Redevelopment Commission approved a purchase agreement for the old Don George Ford property on Pine Lake Avenue, across from Starbucks.


The purchaser is CMG Development, which was behind the 2021 construction of Popeye’s at Boyd Boulevard and East Lincolnway in La Porte.


La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook said the city is receiving about $40,000 for the roughly one-acre parcel cleared in 2021. Cook would not reveal what franchise would be staking claim, but described the restaurant as fast/casual and a popular chain recognized nationwide that should be a great fit for that part of the city.


“It works well for what we have going on at NewPorte Landing,” he said.


Cook said the restaurant's name will be released once the developer is ready to do so, and that construction could begin as soon as this summer.


The developer has also agreed to a potential kayak launch for public access on the site the city is thinking about constructing on the parcel beside Lily Lake.


Eventually, Cook said, the hope is to clean out an existing channel running from Lily Lake to Stone Lake and Pine Lake to allow kayakers to travel to all three of the lakes. He said it could take three to five years, perhaps, to do all of the work necessary in the channel to make kayaking possible from a Lily Lake launch to Stone Lake and Pine Lake.


The developer has also agreed to work with the city to provide kayakers parking on the restaurant site if the outdoor recreation project materializes.


“He agreed to add some additional parking and grant us the necessary easements to do that,” he said.

Man Facing Child Molesting Charges

(La Porte County, IN) - A Wanatah man could face a lengthy prison sentence on allegations that he had inappropriately touched a five-year-old boy on multiple occasions.


Zachary Riley, 30, is still being held in the La Porte County Jail on $100,000 cash bond following his arrest last week, having been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with two counts of Child Molestation.


According to court documents, the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office was contacted in November to investigate the claims, which alleged Riley often sexually touched the boy. In early January, attempts were made to question Riley about the allegations, but a voice message investigators left for him was returned by an attorney he had already hired prior to the charges being filed.


Riley could face as much as a 40-year sentence on the most serious Level 1 felony count. The other Level 4 felony count could bring him anywhere from a 2 to 12-year sentence.

Marijuana Bust Triggered by Flock Camera

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man is facing drug-related charges after being caught driving with a suspended license by a Flock camera.


Jason Hill, 46, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Possession of Marijuana and Maintaining a Common Nuisance, along with Driving on a Suspended License.


According to court documents, on Sunday a Flock camera alert indicated that the registered owner of a vehicle traveling near Pine Lake had a suspended driver’s license.


During a traffic stop, an Indiana State Police trooper called for a K-9 dog, which led to the discovery of THC wax in the vehicle, authorities said. 


Further information developed that resulted in the search of his home in the 200 block of Maple Avenue near Rose Street, where more than 77 grams of marijuana in separate packages were confiscated from the residence, which also contained drug paraphernalia.


There were also reported signs of possible methamphetamine use by a female passenger in the vehicle who was living at the residence, judging by a noticeable decline in her physical appearance compared to a healthier-looking picture on her driver's license.

Local Farm Recognized for Longevity

(La Porte County, IN) - Area legislators are recognizing the latest local recipient of the Hoosier Homestead Award, which recognizes farms owned and maintained by the same family for 100 years or more.


The Spence farm in LaPorte County received Centennial and Sesquicentennial Awards.


The Hoosier Homestead Award Program honors families who have made significant contributions to Indiana agriculture. Instituted in 1976, the program has recognized more than 6,000 family farms that have impacted Indiana's economic, cultural, and social advancement.


"As one of the largest agricultural exporters in the nation, Indiana is well-known for its large farming community. The Spence farm is a prime example of a successful farming family and I am proud to represent families like theirs who have passed down their knowledge for generations," said State Senator Mike Bohacek of Michiana Shores.


Bohacek, along with State Representative Jim Pressel of Rolling Prairie, were part of the presentation.


"Thousands of Hoosier farmers work tirelessly to maintain and grow their operations and build on their family's legacy. I'm thankful for their hard work and dedication over the years and congratulate them on reaching this impressive milestone," Pressel said.


To be named a Hoosier Homestead, farms must be owned by the same family for at least 100 consecutive years and consist of more than 20 acres or produce more than $1,000 of agricultural products per year.


To learn more about the program or to apply for a Hoosier Homestead Award, visit www.in.gov/isda/2337.htm.

High Expectations for Bison in Baseball

(New Buffalo, MI) - The goal for the New Buffalo High School varsity baseball team is to compete for, if not win the District 4 title.


The Bison have come a long way, mostly with the same players who struggled mightily as freshmen two seasons ago, with a winning record for much of last year brought to an end by a string of end-of-the-season losses.


Head Coach Adam Lijewski said a strong finish to the regular season and at least a victory or two in the postseason is what he believes the team, realizing its potential, can achieve.


“They’re starting to see what we’ve seen for a couple of years, so, now they’re starting to see it in each other,” he said.


Lijewski said success will have to come from contributions from every player since the roster from a talent standpoint is mostly balanced.


Ethan Lijewski and Vaughn Nikkel are expected to continue being the hardest hitters, while the rest of the batting line-up has no glaring weaknesses.


“It’s filled with some good hitters and then some consistent and mediocre hitters,” he said.


Lijewski is hoping the much-improved pitching staff from two years ago can rise even more to the occasion to get the team over the top, especially in low-scoring games.


There is no dominant starting pitcher, but Lijewski feels he has enough good arms that can go for a strong four or five innings in a game before calling for the bullpen.  Lijewski said he’s also encouraged by how some of the pitchers from last year, who spent the off-season working with a coach on sharpening their skills from the mound.


“They’re lightyears ahead of where they were,” he said.


Ethan Lijewski, who’s also the starting quarterback on the football team, is the hardest thrower but he struggled at times last year with his control. He could become a dominant force on the mound, though, if the improved accuracy he has shown at practice in recent weeks continues into the season.


Steady play is also expected on offense and defense from players like third baseman Nicholas Wolfe and first baseman Hagan Davis.  Measurable contributions are also anticipated from freshmen Drew Borman, Jeffrey Tertel, and Lucas Thun, who Lijewski described as “ball players.” Bowman and Tertel can also pitch and do some catching behind the plate.


“They help with depth at catcher and pitching. You can never have enough pitchers,” he said.


Lijewski predicted winning the District 4 title is going to be a battle between New Buffalo, River Valley, Michigan Lutheran, and Our Lady of the Lake.


“We have goals and we’re going to go after it. It’ll be tough. Anyone of us can win it,” he said.


Man Witnessed Beginnings of Chase

(La Porte County, IN) - NIPSCO worker Nick Morford was leaving for his job at the company's facility in Michigan City on Tuesday afternoon, only to stumble upon a police officer with his gun drawn towards the driver of a vehicle parked in his driveway.


He didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of a police chase ending with the capture of a driver on the Chicago Skyway.


“It’s one of those things that you just see on T.V. and you would never think you would witness something like that,” said Nick Morford.


La Porte County Police said a license plate-reading Flock Safety Camera alerted officers to a stolen sport utility vehicle with Illinois plates headed eastbound on U.S. 20 from U.S. 35 near Michigan City. Deputy Alex Clemons soon located the vehicle turning into the Hunter’s Run subdivision near Wilhelm Road


Morford said the vehicle pulled into his driveway just before the officer arrived in his squad car, overhead lights flashing. He said the driver stepped out and was told by the officer a few times to remove one of his hands from a pocket. Gun pointed at the driver, the officer also yelled for Morford to get back inside his residence.


Morford said he obeyed the officer’s commands and then went to a bedroom to further observe out of curiosity through a window.


The man reportedly climbed back into the SUV and fled, returning to U.S. 20 and heading westbound for a short distance as the officer followed in pursuit. After a U-turn, police said, the suspect began traveling eastbound on U.S 20 before heading southbound on 525 West.


Eventually, the fleeing driver, using other roads, doubled back to U.S. 35 and turned left on U.S. 20 before entering a ramp to the westbound lanes of Interstate 94. Authorities note the driver, James Simcoe, 43, merged onto the Indiana Toll Road in Lake County and continued until reaching a Chicago Skyway toll plaza where he was taken into custody.


Simcoe, who lives in the northern Chicago suburb of Norridge, was being held by authorities in Illinois until formal arrangements could be made for his return to LaPorte County to face charges.


Officers from Michigan City, Trail Creek, and Westville, along with the Porter County Sheriff’s Office and Indiana State Police, were all involved in the pursuit.


Morford said he acted with disbelief when he learned the vehicle in his driveway was the subject of the chase, telling his co-workers at NIPSCO in turn.


“It kind of got a laugh from everybody,” he said.


Last week, a Flock camera in Michigan City was credited with aiding two arrests made during a traffic stop of a vehicle containing two individuals from the state of Washington suspected to be part of a large nationwide theft ring.

LakeFest 2024 Events Schedule Announced

(La Porte, IN) - The LakeFest planning committee today released the festival's schedule of events for its fourth annual season in La Porte.


Back again at Stone, Pine, and Clear Lakes July 26th-28th, LakeFest will feature watersports, music, art, and food while showcasing the city’s parks and lakes.


Park Department Superintendent Mark Schreiber said some changes and additions to this year’s lineup should offer an exciting shakeup for visitors of all ages.


"As LakeFest continues to grow, our committee is determined to find new and creative ways to make the festival bigger and better each year. With changes to our Friday night lineup and some other additions throughout the weekend, I think we accomplished just that," he said.


New this year is a 5K partnership with Bolt for the Heart, mountain bike group rides, and a Friday Night Live event right along Clear Lake to showcase the soon-to-be-completed Clear Lake Trail. Returning favorites will include the P1 Aqua X Jet Ski races, live music, activities for kids, an artisan market, a car show, and outdoor recreational activities.


For the full schedule and to learn more about individual events, visit laportelakefest.com. Concert performers will be announced in the coming weeks.

Chase from La Porte County Ends in Chicago

(La Porte County, IN) - A Flock camera was connected to a high-speed chase spanning from La Porte County to Chicago on Monday afternoon.


La Porte County Police said one of the devices notified an officer about a stolen vehicle, an SUV with Illinois plates, that was headed eastbound on U.S. 20 from U.S. 35. Soon, the officer located it, which had turned into the Hunter’s Run subdivision. During a traffic stop, the driver reportedly took off and headed back to U.S. 20, ventured down 400 West and U.S. 35, and returned to U.S. 20. A short time later, he turned on the ramp leading to the westbound lanes of Interstate 94.


Authorities said the suspect veered onto the Indiana Toll Road in Lake County before the Chicago Skyway, where he was captured at a toll plaza.


James Simcoe, 43, who’s from the Chicago area, is being held in Illinois until arrangements are made to bring him to La Porte County to face charges.

Senior Center Having Grand Reopening

(Michigan City, IN) - A grand reopening has been scheduled for the Senior Center in Michigan City.


According to the mayor’s office, the facility at the lakefront was recently remodeled. To celebrate the occasion, a grand reopening, which will include an open house, will be held on April 24th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The keynote speaker will be former La Porte County Commissioner Sheila Matias, who was mayor at the time the senior center was originally constructed in the late 90’s.


Her presentation is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be provided.

Deadbeat Dad Alleged in Charges

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte area man is facing possible jail time for falling way behind in his child support payments. Robert Reed, 47, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Non-Support of a Child, a Level 6 felony.


According to court documents, in July of 2016, Reed was ordered to pay $141 a week in child support.  By the end of 2023, he owed just over $43,000.


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


La Porte County Prosecutor Sean Fagan said his office has been aggressive in going after people for non-payment of child support, his primary reason being not so much to put people in jail because that could hurt their future employment and chances of making due on their child support debts.


Instead, it’s to enforce an order from the court being ignored to the point where it’s a crime and, hopefully, people, once jailed, will be motivated enough to start making due on their child support obligations under the watchful eye of the court.


Fagan said he has witnessed child support violators, once arrested, somehow find the cash to pay down their large debts entirely as well as what's owed over time.


“As long as money is being passed from parent to child through whatever means that’s really what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Crash Through Ceiling Ends Pursuit

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte City Police were recently involved in a high-speed chase that ended in the driver making it home and ultimately crashing through his ceiling.


Police say that, early on Sunday, 35-year-old Scottie Fletcher was traveling with no lights on in the area of Indiana Avenue and Boyd Boulevard. An officer attempted to make a traffic stop but Fletcher allegedly kept going.


Eventually, with officers in pursuit, Fletcher cut across a field in his 2002 Dodge Ram before fleeing on foot through a wooded area into his home between Kingsbury and Union Mills.


Per authorities, he apparently crawled into his attic to hide from pursuing officers but fell through the ceiling. He was covered in insulation from the attic when he was greeted by officers.


An open case of Budweiser was reportedly found in his vehicle.


Fletcher was arrested for Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated when he allegedly refused a breathalyzer test and for Resisting Law Enforcement.

Upcoming Crackdown on Distracted Driving

(La Porte, IN) - The La Porte Police Department will take part in a nationwide effort next month to curb distracted driving, as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is launching a national high-visibility enforcement effort in April.


“Distractions behind the wheel can have devastating consequences. We urge all motorists to focus on the road and avoid any activity that takes their attention away from driving safely,” said Devon McDonald, Executive Director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.


Law enforcement officers nationwide will work together to enforce texting and distracted driving laws and remind people to put away distractions while on the road. The effort comes during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.


“People know using their phone while driving is dangerous and often illegal, but they do it anyway and put themselves and others at risk,” said La Porte Police Chief Dick Buell.


Drivers will see increased enforcement efforts from officers stopping and ticketing anyone who is caught texting and driving. Violators of Indiana’s hands-free law could face a Class C infraction with fines of up to $500 and points added to their driver’s license.

Flock Cameras Hook Major Crime Keepers

(Michigan City, IN) - Flock cameras in Michigan City helped place two alleged members of a nationwide criminal organization behind bars.


On Saturday, Florin Vaduva, 32, and Loredana Vaduva, 26, were in a vehicle with California plates when the flock camera system alerted officers that the vehicle, suspected in multiple out-of-state felony financial crimes, entered the city limits.


Officers stopped the vehicle in the area of U.S. 12 and East Michigan Boulevard. The driver, Mr. Vaduva, was arrested for producing a counterfeit identification card while his female passenger was taken into custody on nine theft warrants from Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Colorado.


Both suspects are from the state of Washington.


Investigation reveals that the man and woman are part of a nationwide criminal organization suspected of placing electronic devices on automated teller machines that record bank card data like account numbers once cards are inserted into the ATMs. They are also suspected of multiple large scare operations that defrauded several financial institutions across the country of more than $500,000.


Police said Mr. Vaduva was identified as one of the high-ranking members within the organization.  They were both transported to the La Porte County Jail


Mr. Vaduva later posted $1,500 bond on the charge of Possession of a False Government Identification, a Class A misdemeanor.  A hold was placed on his female counterpart until she can be taken back to face charges in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Colorado.

Technology Helps Capture Fleeing Driver

(La Porte County, IN) - A heat-sensing device on a drone was key in helping La Porte County Police locate a driver who fled on foot from a single-vehicle collision.


Just before 4 a.m. on Friday, officers responded to the 3100 block of West Small Road, where a 2008 Chevy Impala struck a utility pole and a tree.


The investigation shows that the driver was traveling above the speed limit when he struck a deer before hitting the pole and tree. The driver was reportedly wearing a black sweatshirt and red hat and was spotted grabbing some items from inside the vehicle before running away from the crash site.


The heat sensing device on the drone, hovering above the ground, detected the man via his body temperature about a half mile away. Officers responding to where he was detected found him near some horse stables.


Andrew Atwood, 33, of Michigan City told investigators he fled out of panic.


A warrant is being sought for his arrest on a Class B misdemeanor charge of Leaving the Scene of a Crash.

Mayor Claims Victory in Annexation Battle

(La Porte, IN) - Residents and business owners along a stretch of Indiana 39 can expect to see police and other city service vehicles in and around their neighborhoods very soon. That’s according to La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody, who says that the city's annexation of the 39 North Conservancy District became official on March 11th after years of effort.


According to state law, the city has one year from the effective date to provide non-capital services. However, Dermody said services such as police and fire coverage, street maintenance, TransPorte pick-ups/drop-offs, and code enforcement will begin for these new residents on April 1st.


“It is important to our team that we try and make the transition for residents and businesses in this area into the city as smooth as possible. One way to do this is by providing the services we promised throughout this process without any delays. For this reason, we are committed to providing any services we can immediately,” he said.


Utility and trash billing updates for the newly annexed area will begin at a later date because billing updates can’t occur until contracts with service providers and ordinances have been amended.


Dermody also noted that work continues on capital improvement projects, such as larger water lines to replace existing ones promised by the city to improve fire protection. The water line upgrades will also open the conservancy district to more future development. Currently, additional development cannot occur because of the inability of the existing lines to service new water customers.


“Planning is well underway for the water infrastructure improvements we have promised for this area. We continue to work cooperatively with the 39 North Conservancy Board led by Mark Childress and will use this progress as a springboard into the significant infrastructure investments we have committed to along 39 North,” Dermody said.


More information regarding the transition of utilities, along with updates on the status of capital projects for water and sewer, will be available at upcoming New Resident Welcome Meetings slated for the end of June.


Meeting dates and other details will be shared in the coming weeks.  Anyone with questions can contact the mayor’s office at 219-362-0151.

New Prairie Book Review Round Two

(New Carlisle, IN) - Last week the New Prairie United School Corporation Board of Trustees heard another round of library book objections. In January, the board voted to retain six books in the school library, despite claims that they contain offensive or otherwise objectionable material.


Eight different books were on the chopping block this time.


Heather Oake, who brought the challenge, read excerpts from the books at a special meeting last Monday night. Many of the passages contained sexually explicit language that cannot be printed here.


Even so, as in January, many people at the meeting spoke up in favor of the books and what they consider a matter of free speech. Among them was Jamie Talboom. “Banning books like this does not protect your children from the atrocities of this world,” she told the school board. “Books like these let children know they are not alone in their journey, and it gives them empathy for other people.”


Several others vouched for the artistic merit of the books in question and urged that such books can be beneficial to students who are grappling with difficult topics in their personal lives.


A few community members spoke out against the books. Austin Kosinski questioned the propriety of offering what he considers pornographic content to middle schoolers. He also read a passage from one of the books with anti-Semitic overtones. Another parent said she previously worked for the school district but resigned and pulled her kids from school when she discovered what they were being exposed to.


The school board voted unanimously to keep the books in the middle school library.


School Superintendent Dr. Paul White explained the legal reasoning behind it: “When you look at the library material, you have to consider it as a whole, meaning you have to look at the literary value, in total, of the book.” It’s pornography, he said, if a book’s sole theme is sexual. But other themes, if present, must be taken into account.


Oake questions why books with such risqué passages were chosen to begin with. “The whole point is just to make people aware that this is going on,” she said after the meeting. “Why do they have to be there? So just letting parents know that you know, you might want to start looking at what books your kids are actually checking out.”


She says she has not found the same controversial titles elsewhere. “It’s not going on in every school,” she said. “I’ve looked for these same books in La Porte’s middle school, at Kesling, and they’re not there.”


Dr. White says the issue has prompted the school to take a closer look at what kinds of books are on the shelves. According to him, a newly hired media specialist has been coordinating a full review of the library collection. White said some books have already been moved from the middle school to the high school due to age-appropriateness.


The book debate at New Prairie is not over. Oake said she initially challenged about 30 books. For practical reasons, the school district has decided to review them in chunks, so that a committee can read and discuss them thoroughly before making a recommendation.

Lost Cell Phone Leads to OWI Arrest

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police arrested an impaired driver who pulled over to look for his cellphone.


Early Sunday, an officer on patrol spotted a vehicle on the shoulder of U.S. 20 near Fail Road with its hazard lights flashing. According to police, the driver said he was looking for his cellphone, which the officer found underneath the floormat on the car's floor.


Among the things raising the officer’s suspicions was a near-empty bottle of whiskey the driver reportedly kicked under his vehicle when he noticed it was spotted on the ground by the officer. 


Byran Mack-Isbell, 34, of Michigan City allegedly had a blood alcohol level over two times the legal limit.  Authorities explain that the charge was upgraded to a felony because of a prior OWI conviction from 2020.

Teacher Accused of Having Sex with Student

(La Porte, IN) - A now-former teacher is facing allegations of having sexual intercourse with a student at his home in La Porte, as Kody Lowery, 32, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with three Level 5 felony counts of Child Seduction.


He was still being held on Monday in the La Porte County Jail on $20,000 bond after being taken into custody on Friday.


Investigation into the case shows that Lowery and the 16-year-old girl, who was one of his students at the Oregon Davis School Corporation just outside Hamlet, had sex for three consecutive days on the weekend of October 13th at his apartment in LaPorte.


Authorities at the school and in Starke County became involved when a rumor about them having dinner together on October 13th began spreading at the school following a social media post by the girl, court records disclosed.


Initially, Lowery and the girl reportedly denied the allegations or gave partial statements.


As per court documents, the case was eventually given to LaPorte Police after the girl confided with a friend of the family about the alleged sexual relationship and its happening at the defendant’s home. At the time, Lowery was staying at The Banks, a development of about 200 resort-type apartments near Clear Lake.


The girl’s description of the apartment matched what the dwelling looked like, while receipts verified the restaurant and pharmacy the girl said that they had visited while spending time together in LaPorte, authorities said.


Lowery’s mother reportedly told investigators that her son confessed to her in early December about having sexual intercourse with the girl.


Lowery resigned from his teaching position on October 26th, less than six months after he was hired.


Under Indiana law, the legal age for giving consent to have sex is 16. La Porte County Prosecutor Sean Fagan said state law overrules consent when an adult sexual partner of a minor is in a position of authority or influence over the person.


“Indiana law does not take kindly to people in authority taking advantage of those in some form or fashion in their care,” he said.


According to court documents, Lowery lived in his apartment under a lease co-signed by his mother. Currently, jail records show he is now living in Michigan City.


Each count filed against him carries anywhere from a one to six-year sentence.  

Drug Bust for Two Passing Through

(La Porte, IN) - Two out-of-town motorists were nabbed on multiple drug charges while traveling through La Porte County.


Late Thursday morning a county police officer was patrolling the Indiana Toll Road when he noticed an eastbound vehicle with heavily tinted windows tailgating another vehicle. During a traffic stop, deputies allegedly discovered various illegal narcotics, including cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana.


27-year-old Chelsea Hahn and 28-year-old Sadiq Heyward, both from the Baltimore, Maryland area, were each charged with four counts of dealing narcotics. They’re being held in the La Porte County Jail on a $50,005 cash bond through the circuit court.


According to the Sheriff's Office, the deputies are part of a special highway interdiction unit, which strategically patrols designated roadways to aggressively disrupt the flow of illegal drugs, weapons, and other criminal-related activities.

Valparaiso Woman Sentenced for Fraud

(Hammond, IN) - A Valparaiso woman has been sentenced to federal prison for wire fraud. 66-year-old Randi Scannell pled guilty to defrauding a business client.


As the owner of Custom Drying Solutions, Scannell overcharged the client with phony invoices totaling over $460,000. An FBI investigation uncovered the scheme.


According to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office:

“Between September 2015 and August 2020, Scannell sent scores of fraudulent invoices to Company A for reimbursement of payroll expenses incurred by Custom Drying Solutions. These invoices concealed weekly paychecks that Scannell directed a third-party payroll service to issue to herself and her family members. By paying the invoices, Company A unwittingly funded unearned paychecks totaling $460,182.69 for Scannell and her family members.”


Scannell was sentenced to 10 months in prison followed by one year of supervised release. She was also ordered to repay the money.

St. Patrick's Holiday Busy, and Dangerous, for State Troopers

(Lowell, IN) - Last weekend saw an increase in St. Patrick’s Day partiers and drunk drivers.


Between last Friday and last Sunday, Indiana State Police reported 116 traffic citations and 113 warnings on northwest Indiana highways. Troopers also made 17 O.W.I. arrests and investigated 18 crashes. There were also 24 arrests for other criminal offenses ranging from drug possession to indecent exposure and battery by bodily waste on a public servant.


Also of note, an off-duty state trooper was hit in his police car by an impaired driver.  In addition to an O.W.I. arrest, that driver was charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent, as there were two children in their vehicle at the time of the crash.

New Carlisle Strategic Plan Nearing Finish Line

(New Carlisle, IN) - With major economic development happening outside of New Carlisle, the town is updating its strategic plan in the nick of time.


Planners with The Michiana Area Council of Governments have been steering the process. For about a year, community stakeholders have been collecting input from other locals for a comprehensive plan looking ahead to 2040. The previous one dates back to 2007.


Based on feedback received last September and December, a draft of the plan is now complete, but not finalized. The community still has until April 11 to review the plan, which covers such topics as housing, recreation, business, and education.


To view the plan, follow this link.

Zoo Gates Opening Soon

(Michigan City, IN) - Washington Park Zoo will reopen on April 1 for the season, but with a new twist: This year, the gates will open on March 30th and March 31st for a “Wild Spring Preview.”  The zoo will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both of the preview days.


According to zoo officials, there are more than 220 individual animals representing 95 species from all over the globe on the grounds.


The zoo, accredited by the Zoological Association of America, has existed at its lakefront location since 1928. Many improvements over the years have given the zoo a much more modern and fresh appearance, along with higher attendance, to make it a top designation for local residents and visitors from outside the community, officials said.


Regular admission is $10 for adults, $8 for kids ages 2 to 11 years, $9 for seniors ages 62 and older, and free for kids ages two and under. Washington Park Zoo members get in for free on regular admission dates.


For more information on this event and zoo updates, please visit the Washington Park Zoo’s Facebook page or visit www.washingtonparkzoo.com.

Shoplifting at Walmart Comes with Cost

(La Porte, IN) - Allegations of an attempt to steal hundreds of dollars in food could come at a cost for three La Porte area residents as Jason Hurt, 44, along with Nancy Jorgenson, 81, of Rolling Prairie, and Keegan Lazo, 35, of Hudson Lake have been charged with Theft.


The charge against Hurt was elevated from a misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony due to him having a prior theft-related conviction, police said.


According to court documents, on March 15th, officers were called to Walmart on a report of a shoplifting in progress.


The investigation revealed Jorgenson and Lazo were in a self-checkout aisle placing grocery items in Walmart bags without scanning them, and Hurt was helping to bag them all.


Hurt reportedly told officers he had nothing to do with what was going on, and was only shopping there with his wife and her mother.


Police said the stolen items, worth $620.00, were immediately returned to store workers to place back on the shelves.


Jorgenson and Lazo were given a summons to appear in court on the allegations instead of being arrested due to not having a prior conviction.

Alley Drug User Facing Charges

(La Porte, IN) - A man is facing charges after apparently injecting himself with illegal narcotics and falling asleep in a vehicle parked in a La Porte alley.


William Panos, 38, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Possession of a Narcotic Drug and Possession of a Hypodermic Syringe, both Level 6 felonies.


According to court documents, on March 15th, police were called to an alley behind 511 Grove St. on a report of a man slumped over in the driver’s seat of a van that had been parked there for a couple of hours. Officers reportedly found the engine still running and syringes in the center console, along with two bags of heroin whose combined weight came to just over two grams.


The La Porte man revealed the last time he used drugs was that evening, but medics, after looking him over, ruled he did not require medical attention.


Panos could face as much as a 30-month sentence on each count.

Local Manufacturer Partners with Library

(La Porte, IN) - A local manufacturer is helping the La Porte County Public Library serve the community, as the Howmet Aerospace Foundation has awarded the LPCPL a $60,000 grant.


$20,000 of those funds will go to provide children, from birth until their fifth birthday, with free books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Through the country music legend’s early childhood literacy program, LPCPL officials explain, any child living in La Porte County can register to receive a free, new age-appropriate book by mail once a month.


The remainder of the grant will pay for new Makerspace equipment at the La Porte County Public Library Exchange at 807 Indiana Ave. The new equipment includes two Brother embroidery machines, two Ultimaker 3D printers, two precision mini-lathes, an AnyCubic resin 3D printer, and an X-Carve CNC machine with a larger carving area.


Each person trained on the new equipment will receive a free Safety and Learning Bundle, which includes LPCPL and Howmet Aerospace branded safety glasses, a pen, tape measure, USB flash drive, and notebook, officials said.


“We want to reach and emphasize safety to all who use the tools and equipment.  These skills are transferrable to the school, home, and workplace,” said LPCPL Director Fonda Owens.


A ribbon cutting at the LPCPL Exchange is scheduled for April 10th from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to unveil the latest additions of equipment. The public is invited to enjoy light refreshments, receive tours of the facility, and learn more about the equipment by watching skilled demonstrators.

Upcoming Road Closure for Roundabout

(La Porte County, IN) - A major intersection in La Porte County will be closed for an extended period while it undergoes a complete transformation as, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation, a roundabout is going to be created at U.S. 421 and U.S. 6 at Westville.


The intersection will be closed on or after April 1st to allow for the start of construction, per INDOT.


It’s anticipated the intersection won’t reopen until late September. INDOT is advising motorists to seek alternate routes, with he official detour to follow Indiana 39, U.S. 30, Indiana 49, and Indiana 2.


A public hearing on the changes to the intersection was previously held in February of 2023.


Recently, the nearby intersection of U.S. 6 and Indiana 2 was converted into a roundabout.

Alleged Drug Impaired Driver Crash

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with a driver struck by the same vehicle he reported to La Porte Police as being operated recklessly.


Keith McLean, 33, was still being held in La Porte County Jail on Thursday on charges of Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated.


According to police, around 12 p.m. on Saturday,  the caller reported a vehicle behind him was having trouble staying in his lane and nearly crashed several times in the area of Indiana 2 and 400 West. A short time later, the caller was reportedly stopped at a traffic light on Indiana 2 near the Family Express in La Porte when struck in the rear by the suspected reckless driver.


McLean allegedly showed signs of impairment, such as being lethargic and having “very constricted” pupils in his eyes. He also told the officer earlier in the day that he had taken Suboxone, which is used by many heroin users to ease withdrawals.


The charge against the Valparaiso man was upgraded to a Level 6 felony because he was driving with his young son in the vehicle, court documents revealed.


After the crash, the caller, Derrick Gould, 38, became upset enough to threaten McLean and soon was cited for driving on a suspended license.


Per authorities, Gould also did not have insurance.

May Primary Candidate Forums Scheduled

(La Porte County, IN) - The League of Women Voters of LaPorte County will hold Candidate Forums in partnership with Access LaPorte County.


The first will be at 7:00 pm on March 27th in City Hall Council Chambers at City Hall in Michigan City. The second one will be on April 3rd in the Commissioners' Meeting Room at LaPorte County Complex.


May primary candidates for the following offices have been invited to the March 27th forum in Michigan City: State Representative District 009 and District 020, LaPorte County Commission District 2 and District 3; Circuit Court Judge; LaPorte County Auditor; LaPorte County Coroner; and LaPorte County Surveyor.


Candidates for the following offices have been invited to the April 3rd forum in LaPorte: State Senate District 08; LaPorte County Council At-Large; LaPorte County Clerk; LaPorte County Recorder; and LaPorte County Treasurer.


Access LaPorte County (ALCO) will live-stream the forums on ALCO's FaceBook page. Access LaPorte County will provide replays on Government Channel 97 on Comcast cable, and It will also be available on its webpage and YouTube Channel within 24 to 48 hours of the event.


The League of Women Voters of LaPorte County (LWV) will provide a moderator and question screeners.


Candidates will give opening and closing statements and will have the opportunity to answer questions from the public. Only written questions screened by the League’s Voter Services Committee will be accepted at the forum.


Members of the public are asked to submit questions in advance to lwvlaporte@gmail.com. Written questions will also be accepted and screened from audience members present at the forums.


The League of Women Voters of LaPorte County is a nonpartisan organization whose mission is to encourage informed and active participation in voting and in government. For more information about the candidate forums, visit www.lwvlaporte.org or contact the League at lwvlaporte@gmail.com.

New Bakery Opens Tomorrow in Downtown

(La Porte, IN) - Downtown La Porte will again feature a bakery, as Emmy’s Bakery will officially open this Friday at 810 Lincolnway.


Owner and baker Emily Ferenczi said the goal is making the business a place where everyone feels welcome. 








Donuts, cookies, muffins, cinnamon rolls, brownie squares, pretzel bites, and butter mints are on the menu.  She and her husband, Jacob, moved to La Porte four years ago.


“We are so excited to become a part of the community and get to know and serve everyone for countless years to come,” she said.

La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook said she was one of the vendors at the downtown Farmed and Forged market last season, and that her products seemed very popular with the people in attendance.


“I’m very, very excited for her and for them to get open. I think they’ll be very successful in our downtown,” he said.


A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Wednesday for what was described as a soft grand opening for invited guests to sample the products.

Woman Accused of Neglecting Daughter

(La Porte County, IN) - A La Porte County woman could face prison time on allegations that she placed the life of her daughter at major risk by not giving her proper medical care.


Jennifer Olsen, 40, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with two Level 3 felony counts of Child Neglect.


Police became involved last month when her special needs teenage daughter was found unconscious from a lack of insulin to control her Type 1 diabetes. According to investigators, the girl needed help to receive insulin shots, and it wasn’t the first time she wound up in a hospital due to her mother not assisting her with administering the shots.


Olsen is also facing a third Child Neglect charge for allegedly keeping her out of school for an extended period. Olsen, a man, and the former's daughter moved from a home in Wanatah into an RV in the New Buffalo area for several months last year. The girl was ultimately abandoned without food or running water in the vehicle when Olsen and the man moved back to Wanatah for the winter, authorities report.


On two of the counts, Olsen could face anywhere from three to sixteen years on each.

Investigation Finished in Semi Truck Rollovers

(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County Police have completed their investigation of an incident involving two semi-trucks spilling their loads after overturning early Monday afternoon.


Authorities say Douglas Seymour, 70, was hauling 44,000 pounds of glass panels when he pulled onto U.S. 30 from Old U.S. 30. He told investigators the other semi-truck was approaching him rapidly from behind, and didn’t appear to slow down before striking him in the rear.


The other truck driver, Stanley Higgins, 72, reportedly only remembered hitting the back end of the truck, which was carrying 88,000 pounds of soybeans.


According to police, Higgins was taken to a hospital with minor bleeding from his head and face, while Seymour declined medical treatment.


The eastbound lanes of U.S. 30 were closed until the broken glass and soybeans were removed from the highway.


La Porte County Haz-Mat Coordinator Jeff Hamilton said about 150 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from one of the trucks and was contained to the median. The dirt absorbing the fuel will be dug out as part of the clean-up.

Food for Thought at Ag Days

(La Porte County, IN) -  Fourth graders throughout La Porte County are learning a thing or two about where food comes from and the work required to get it to their dinner tables.


Close to one thousand students will have attended Ag Days by the time the event, which opened on Wednesday morning and concludes on Thursday afternoon at the LaPorte County Fairgrounds.


Children from each school visit 12 stations manned by volunteer instructors touching on things like beef, dairy cows, farm machinery, row crops, rabbits, and chickens.


During a question and answer session, one boy from Kingsbury Elementary School asked if chocolate milk comes from a chocolate cow. Instructor Frank Minich, a fourth-generation dairy farmer near Kingsbury, explained how flavorings like chocolate are added to milk from a cow at processing plants before being placed into containers for sale at grocery stores.


“That’s a pretty common question. It doesn’t matter what color the cow is. All of the milk that comes out is white milk,” he said.


He also provided facts to the eager crowd, like how a cow drinks 40 to 60 gallons of water a day and, depending on certain factors, gives about 10 gallons of milk over a 24-hour period.


Instructor Paul Herrold talked about corn and how it’s even used to make ethanol to mix with gasoline for cleaner burning fuel.


Herrold, who raises about 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans in the Westville and Wanatah areas, said a lot of corn harvested from fields is also used to feed farm animals before they’re processed for human consumption.


“Corn is high in energy. When you give it to animals, they grow very quickly,” he said.


Adult 4-H volunteer Schasta Antrim of LaPorte told the children rabbits give birth about a month after conception and have 28 teeth. Antrim, 26, showed rabbits while in 4-H as a youth. Currently, her family has over 20 rabbits used for meat, and for her younger siblings now in 4-H to show.


She said interacting with the kids and getting them excited about learning is what she likes most about being an Ag Days instructor.


“When they start answering my questions and they have such confidence when they tell me the correct answer back, it’s exciting to see their faces just glow. Of course, they can’t wait to pet the animals,” she said.


Some of the children got to interact with live animals like a chicken and a rabbit during the presentations or while leaving for another station.


Megan Bowman, a fourth-grade teacher at Coolspring Elementary School near Michigan City, said it was her first time having a class at Ag Days. She particularly liked her students' thrilled reaction to learning the ketchup they have at home is made from tomatoes grown in the fields, including some locally.


“It’s been really educational and we’re having a blast,” she said.


Ag Days is sponsored by the LaPorte County Farm Bureau and LaPorte County Row Crop Food Producers, with help from Purdue Extension.


Westville area farmer Mark Parkman, who’s president of LaPorte County Farm Bureau, said another purpose of the event is to promote the 4-H youth program.


Despite popular belief, Parkman said owning livestock is not required to enroll because there are many offerings for children in 4-H, ranging from cooking to photography and small engine repair, aside from showing farm animals.


“There’s something in 4-H for everybody,” he said.

Moratorium on Exploding Number of Pot Stores

(New Buffalo Township, MI) - A moratorium has been placed on the exploding number of marijuana dispensaries outside New Buffalo.


New Buffalo Township was on its way to having close to 30 or more dispensaries when the moratorium was approved by the township board last week.


A number of dispensaries are already operating along Michigan 239 in the area of Interstate 94, and more are on their way along that stretch of highway, with others close to opening or in development along U.S. 12 due to the applications from those operators having been approved before the moratorium's passage.


New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey has been critical of the township for carelessly opening the door to such a dispensary explosion. At the beginning, Humphrey explained, the township board could have limited the number of sites marijuana dispensaries could operate in through zoning restrictions.


“I think it’s ridiculous they’re even in this situation. If they didn’t expect this then they should have done their research on what they were expecting,” he said.


Marijuana dispensaries remain illegal in the city limits of New Buffalo under a state law giving local governments the option to allow or not to allow them within their jurisdictions.


Humphrey said the city is busy enough, especially during the summer tourism season, without having to deal with the possible negative consequences of having “this intense concentration of marijuana dispensaries” outside its corporate boundaries.


“Now we have to worry about people who want to stop by one of these places, then maybe take the ride down to the beach to illegally enjoy their purchase. It’s just more stuff we have to manage. I just wish it was handled better,” he said.


The use of marijuana in public under Michigan law is prohibited.


Township officials want to take a second look at their ordinance governing dispensaries and other data before deciding whether to lift or leave the moratorium in place.

Officer Charged with Double Billing

(La Porte County, IN) - A local police officer is facing potential jail time on allegations of overbilling, as authorities say that Jason Yagelski claimed hours worked at two different police departments at the same time.


It’s alleged that the double billing happened on numerous occasions while he worked for the police departments at Long Beach, Trail Creek, and Pottawattomie Park, the outcome being him being paid thousands of dollars for hours not actually worked.


Currently, Yagelski is the Chief Marshal at Pottawattomie Park.


The discovery was reportedly made by Long Beach Police Chief Mark Swistek, who contacted La Porte County Prosecutor Sean Fagan, who then reached out to Indiana State Police to conduct the investigation.


Yagelski has been charged with two counts of Ghost Employment and two counts of Official Misconduct, all Level 6 felonies, along with Class A misdemeanor Fraud. He has posted bond since his arrest.

Challenging Farm Field Fire Extinguished

(La Porte County, IN) - Firefighters across multiple agencies, with help from citizens, put out a farm field fire amid breezy conditions in the La Crosse area today.


Matt Schafer, a corn and soybean farmer, was asked if he could provide a piece of farm machinery to help combat the rapidly spreading flames. Schafer said his brother-in-law, Bill Bohling, operated a tractor to help create a barrier in the soil ahead of the advancing flames, which worked to keep them from further spreading.


“I was limited to spectator duty,” said Schafer, who noted another man on a tractor pulling a chisel plow that assisted in creating the barrier.


Combined with firefighters applying water from brush trucks, “we had it contained in a pretty short amount of time. It was throwing up a lot of smoke,” Schafer said.


Firefighters were concerned the flames could hop over a nearby road and threaten a house but the soil barrier worked to stop the flames from advancing further.


An irrigation system was also spared.


Schafer estimated the fire burned about 30 to 40 acres of soybean residue and other related vegetation left on the ground from the fall harvest.


So far, the official cause of the fire is not known, but the source might have been embers carried by the strong winds from a nearby burning brush pile.


Schafer lived a few miles from the burning field.

Huge Pot Busts on Highways Adding Up

(La Porte County, IN) - Another good-sized marijuana bust has occurred on a major highway in La Porte County after a traffic stop for erratic driving was made on Interstate 94 in the Michigan City area a week ago.


The driver from Wisconsin, telling conflicting stories, raised the suspicions of officers, who also discovered he had past drug-related convictions.


Eventually, there was a vehicle search which led to the discovery of 30 heat-sealed one-pound packages of marijuana, according to court documents.


Travis Dobson, 42, was charged with Dealing in Marijuana because of the quantity allegedly confiscated and could face an up to six-year sentence.


Authorities did not reveal where the marijuana was obtained, but it could have possibly been a dispensary in Michigan, considering he was traveling westbound just minutes from the state line.


Marijuana remains illegal in Indiana.

New York Blower Expansion Plans

(La Porte, IN) - A LaPorte manufacturing firm is moving forward on plans to spend $5 million on a new building to house its professional office staff currently in separate facilities on the grounds.


As an incentive, New York Blower, with a local workforce of just over 200, was granted tax credits from the city on the new construction.


LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook said offices for professional staff members are currently housed in several buildings that make up the company at 171 Factory St.  The company’s footprint extends to nearby Thomas Rose Industrial Park.


“Ultimately, it will kind of bring all of their professional staff under one roof,” Cook said.


New York Blower, which opened a fifth U.S. manufacturing plant in 2022, has been a maker of catalog and industrial custom fans, blowers, and ventilation systems since 1889. The company has had a branch in LaPorte for 105 years.


There will be a net 65 percent annual savings for the company on property taxes from the new construction over 10 years, under a resolution approved unanimously by the city council Monday night. In exchange, Cook said, the company must pay the remaining 35 percent of its yearly savings to the city’s Urban Enterprise Association in exchange for the tax credits.


Under a longstanding program, those monies are reinvested by the UEA into areas like downtown to help building owners pay for façade improvements on their structures. The company also intends to beautify a roughly two-acre site that was once an active part of the New York Blower operation near the entrance to the firm at Factory and Boston Streets.


New York Blower Executive Vice President of Operations Scott Hamilton said a greenspace, including shrubs and flowers, will be created where an old industrial-type building stood until it was demolished a few years ago. He said the grounds, made to reflect in some way the company’s heritage in LaPorte, will be available for use by employees and, generally, to the public.


“It’s just been kind of an industrial, old-school look for a long time. We think beautifying that corner will make a big difference,” he said.


Mayor Tom Dermody called New York Blower one of the city’s “cornerstone employers” and a “true partner” of the community. The company has hosted welding classes and used some of its employees as instructors since the program started in November of 2022. The classes, open to adults and high school students, were created through a partnership with Ivy Tech to meet demand by local employers.


“Employers in our area have been telling us that’s a skill they really needed,” said Erik Nelson, the Workforce Development Coordinator for LEAP, who also noted that classes for adults last for about six weeks while students, taught separately, attend throughout the school year.


He said Howmet Corporation became a partner in January by providing equipment and materials for teaching a certain type of welding required at its nearby aerospace parts-making plant.


“We just so appreciate all they do to prepare our future workforce and investment in the city,” Dermody said.

Arrest for Gunshots in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Charges have been filed in connection with gunfire in La Porte over the weekend when, early on Saturday, Isaac Hegwood, 22, allegedly fired five shots into the air in the 100 block of Warsaw Street on the city’s northeast side.


According to court documents, an ex-girlfriend was in a vehicle parked in front of her home when Hegwood pulled up in his vehicle A short time later, he was on foot approaching the vehicle in question when it quickly took off. Gunshots were then fired.


Police said Hegwood got back into his car and went after the vehicle, but was stopped by officers a short time later and admitted to firing the rounds.


Court documents also revealed a gun missing five rounds from its once-fully loaded magazine was recovered from the Hegwood vehicle.


The Portage man has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Intimidation, Pointing a Firearm at Another Person and Criminal Recklessness.

Victim of Fatal Crash Identified

(La Porte County, IN) - The name of the driver killed in a single-vehicle crash in La Porte County early on Monday has been released.


Michael Williams, 43, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to La Porte County Coroner Lynn Swanson, who also noted that he was a La Porte County resident.


The investigation reportedly showed that Williams was headed eastbound on 1000 North in a 2012 Range Rover when the vehicle veered right into a ditch and continued before crashing into several trees and overturning in Springfield Township.


Williams was the only occupant of the vehicle.


Authorities noted that a toxicology test of a blood sample taken from the victim, which is standard procedure in any fatal motor vehicle crash, will determine if alcohol or drugs were involved in the accident. Swanson said the test results have not come back yet.

U.S. 30 Partially Closed from Semi Rollovers

(La Porte County, IN) - Both eastbound lanes on a stretch of US 30 in La Porte County were closed from an early afternoon collision between semi-trucks today.


La Porte County Police said the closure is expected to last several hours to allow for the crash to be investigated and clean-up of the wreckage, along with spilled cargo. 


At least one person was injured in what appears to be a rollover collision resulting in the loss of at least one load.

Eastbound traffic was reportedly being diverted onto US 421.


More details will be provided when they’re made available by local authorities.

Serious Injuries in Alcohol Related Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - Police say alcohol was a factor in a driver being seriously hurt in a collision with a tree near Michigan City over the weekend.


At about 1 a.m. yesterday, emergency responders were called to Johnson Road and County Road 625 West where a heavily damaged 2020 Volkswagen was resting against a tree. There, several people reportedly stopped to assist the driver, 39-year-old Jerome Vann, who had an odor of alcohol on his breath.


Police said there were no witnesses and Vann, being difficult with investigators, would not reveal how the crash occurred.


He was taken to the hospital in La Porte for a blood drawing, which revealed a blood alcohol level allegedly close to three times the legal limit. Vann was not arrested but allowed to remain at the hospital for treatment of a broken arm, broken sternum, and bleeding in his chest.


Authorities note that he will be taken into custody on an OWI charge once released from the hospital if prosecutors and a judge, after reviewing the evidence, decide to press charges.

Driver Killed in Early Morning Collision

(La Porte County, IN) - A driver was killed in a single-vehicle crash this morning in La Porte County.


La Porte County Police said the investigation shows the driver was headed eastbound on 1000 North in a 2012 Range Rover when the vehicle veered right into a ditch, where it continued before crashing into several trees and overturning in Springfield Township.


The driver, who was the only person in the vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene. So far, the name of the driver is being withheld until next of kin have been notified about the fatality.


Authorities noted that a toxicology test of a blood sample taken from the victim, which is standard procedure in any fatal motor vehicle crash, will determine if alcohol or drugs were involved in the accident.

Sun Captured in Police Chase

(La Porte County, IN) - The skies darkened for a driver whose last name is Sun on Sunday afternoon when, according to La Porte County Police, he was caught speeding on U.S. 20 near Rolling Prairie. 


An officer tried making a traffic stop, but the driver continued eastbound resulting in a motor vehicle pursuit, with Sun reportedly veering onto Indiana 2 and later into Saint Joseph County.


He stopped before running over a pair of stopsticks, flattening his tires.


Qihui Sun, 33, of New York City was arrested for Resisting Law Enforcement.

Impaired Driver Traveling 110 MPH

(La Porte County, IN) - A man was arrested for drunk driving after clocking in at over 100 miles per hour just outside of Michigan City over the weekend.


La Porte County Police said he was traveling at 110 miles per hour Saturday night on Johnson Road as people were leaving the boys’ semi-state basketball tournament hosted at Michigan City High School on nearby Pahs Road.


During a traffic stop of his 2023 Ford Mustang, the driver, 45-year-old Terry Vittatoe of Michigan City, reportedly had an odor of alcohol coming from his breath and claimed to have consumed two to three beers.


He was arrested for allegedly refusing a blood alcohol test. Vittatoe was also cited for Reckless Driving and Speeding.

New Prairie to Hear New Round of Book Challenges

(New Carlisle, IN) - The New Prairie Board of School Trustees will hear another round of library book objections.


In January, the board voted to retain five books in the middle school library, despite claims that they contain offensive or otherwise objectionable material. One book was moved from the middle school to the high school library. 


Eight different books are now on the chopping block. They include the following titles: The Poet X, Friction, Me & Earl and the Dying Girl, Smoke, Glass, Impulse, Burned, and Crank. The books are being challenged for their graphic descriptions of sexual acts and for obscene language and drug usage.


On Monday night, March 18th, New Prairie community members are invited to a special meeting to discuss the issue.


According to a statement by the school board, their specially appointed book review committee has already made a recommendation on the books. The board will not be making any decision to ban the titles. Based on public feedback, they will either retain the books or study the matter further.


Monday’s meeting will take place at the school district offices beginning at 6:00 p.m. Central Time.

Data Show Highway Changes Effective

(La Porte County, IN) - The Indiana Department of Transportation, along with the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office, are singing the praises of a couple of highway road improvements on the east side of the county.


It’s been four years since changes were made to Cougar Road, SR 2, and US 20. A little controversial at the time, making Cougar Road one-way near its intersection with SR 2 has reduced crashes considerably, says INDOT. There has been an 85% reduction in total crashes and an 80% drop in crashes resulting in injury. Safety at Cougar and US 20 is also improved, thanks to a new stoplight and turn lanes. Crashes there are down 51%.


The changes were made following the construction of the dogbone overpass at 2 and 20, which facilitated better traffic flow in the area.


La Porte County Sheriff's Captain Derek Allen says the changes have made a big difference. "One of the biggest things that we've seen is the efficiency in what the dogbone has done," he said. "With these improvements at both intersections, we're reducing the number of crashes and we're making it safer for motorists that travel these roadways frequently."


New Prairie school superintendent Dr. Paul White agrees. The safety of student drivers was a major consideration in limiting cross-traffic turns to and from SR 2. "The issues of wrecks at each location have been substantially reduced," he said. "It's been a win for everybody, and for the safety of our students and families, which needs to be the driver of decisions like this."

Dermody Speaks at Purdue

(West Lafayette, IN) - La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody returned to his alma mater to deliver a lecture earlier this week.


On Tuesday down in West Lafayette, Purdue University hosted what they call Road School, which is a conference for public roadway issues. Thousands of industry professionals, elected officials, and government agencies gather each year to discuss best practices.


Dermody’s presentation focused on how new and creative resources can meet the needs of a community despite budgetary constraints.


Joining Dermody were Street Department Superintendent Mike Fraze, Street Department Director Jeff Batchelor, and Baker Tilly Director Andrew Mouser.

La Porte Hospital Makes New CEO Official

(La Porte, IN) - La Porte’s hospital has a new top boss.


Simon K. Ratliff has been named the new CEO at Northwest Health for both the La Porte and Knox locations. Ratliff has been the interim CEO for the hospitals since February 5th.


Ratliff has over two decades of healthcare leadership experience. He was previously in charge of a large hospital in Pennsylvania. He has also held administrative roles in West Virginia, Arizona, and Kentucky.


“We are excited to officially welcome Simon to the Northwest Health team,” said Jessica Romine, Chair, Northwest Health – La Porte Board of Trustees. “With his strong leadership skills, knowledge of hospital operations, and experience in physician recruitment, we know that he is the right person to lead our hospitals into a rewarding future.”

Police Outreach to Surveillance Camera Owners

(La Porte County, IN) - The La Porte County Sheriff’s Office is reaching out to residents and business owners with video surveillance systems to help fight crime.


Project STAR-CAM is a database made up of people who register their video surveillance systems with the sheriff’s office. Captain Derek Allen, a member of the sheriff's office, explained that the database gives police officers and detectives up-to-date information on where surveillance systems are located throughout the county.


If help in a criminal investigation is needed in a specific area, Allen said, officers can look in the database for any surveillance cameras near a crime scene and seek permission from camera owners to view surveillance footage.


Project STAR-CAM is completely voluntary and any information provided will remain confidential. Anyone wishing to register will be given a QR code to scan to begin the registration process.   


For further information or questions related to Project STAR-CAM, please contact Captain Derek J. Allen at dallen@lcso.in.gov.

DNA Leads to Arrest of Beer Drinking Burglar

(La Porte County, IN) - DNA extracted from one of many bottles of beer a burglar consumed at a home has resulted in the arrest of Shawn Shirley, 46, who has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 5 felony Burglary.


In August, La Porte County Police were called to a residence along U.S. 30 in Wanatah after a husband and wife had returned after being gone for about a month. There, they found evidence that someone had been inside their home.


According to police, a bed sheet and a pillow were missing, and all of the beer inside the refrigerator had been consumed. DNA obtained from one of the empty beer bottles identified Shirley as the suspect when the test results of a DNA sample came back several months later.


When questioned by authorities, the Valparaiso man said he climbed through an unlocked window and began drinking all of the beer from the refrigerator. Shirley also said he fell asleep on a couch and left in the morning. 


Court records show he has another charge of Burglary and Robbery still undecided in the courts.

Man Facing Meth Dealing Charges

(La Porte County, IN) - A man has been accused of selling drugs at different locations in La Porte County in less than a week.


James Johnson, 51, of Kingsford Heights has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with three counts of Dealing in Methamphetamine.


According to court documents, the exchanges occurred inside an RV parked at a residence in the area of U.S. 35 and 700 South, in the parking lot of an auto parts store in the 300 block of East Lincolnway in La Porte, and outside a convenience store on U.S. 35 at 400 South.


Each of the alleged transactions occurred in late January, with one reportedly involving seven grams of methamphetamine for $120.


Per authorities, the investigation was conducted by the La Porte County Drug Task Force, which is familiar with Johnson and “his association with the local illicit narcotics trade.”


Johnson has two methamphetamine cases from late last year as of yet undecided in the courts.

Beware of Storm Scammers

(Indianapolis, IN) - As communities across the state look to rebuild after severe weather, Attorney General Todd Rokita warns Hoosiers to be cautious of storm scams.


Rokita noted that the thoughts and prayers of Hoosiers for the victims are first and foremost, but to prevent additional loss, “Indiana communities should be on the lookout for scammers who use weather-related disasters to scam innocent people out of their hard-earned money.”


Unfortunately, he explained, far too many dubious con artists appear on people’s doorsteps, promise to make needed repairs, and then disappear with their victims’ down payment in their pockets.


Rokita is sharing the following tips to help Indiana residents avoid falling victim to storm-chasing scammers: 


  • Be skeptical of people promising immediate cleanup and debris removal.   
  • Know that FEMA doesn’t charge application fees. If someone wants money to help you qualify for FEMA funds, that’s probably a scam.  
  • Check out contractors’ reputations before enlisting their services.   
  • Ask for IDs, licenses, and proof the contractor is both bonded and insured.
  • Get more than one estimate for work.   
  • Don’t believe any promises that aren’t in writing.   
  • Never pay by wire transfer, gift card, cryptocurrency, or in cash.  
  • Don’t pay the full amount for the project upfront.  


“Before opening up your wallet, ask questions, demand a written contract, and do old-fashioned research before hiring anyone to repair your home. It can be tempting to accept help to fix damages to your home, but it’s crucial to take a step back and fully vet the contractor,” he said.   


If you ever suspect a scam of any type, file a complaint at indianaconsumer.com or call the Attorney General’s office at 1-800-382-5516.  

President Opposes Foreign Purchase of U.S. Steel

(Washington, D.C.) - President Joe Biden says U.S. Steel should remain an American-owned company, as Japan-based Nippon Steel is proposing to purchase U.S. Steel for close to 15 billion dollars.


In a statement, the president said that it’s important to maintain strong American steel companies powered by American steelworkers:


“I told our steelworkers I have their backs, and I meant it. U.S. Steel has been an iconic American steel company for more than a century, and it is vital for it to remain an American steel company that is domestically owned and operated."


Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has also spoken against the proposed acquisition. In addition, the United Steelworkers union is also in opposition, saying foreign ownership could result in cheaper steel dumped here by competitors from other countries, and would jeopardize national security. 

Ground Broken for Train Station Apartment Tower

(Michigan City, IN) - A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Thursday for a 12-story tower containing 220 apartments beside the new South Shore Railroad commuter line train station in Michigan City.


Flaherty & Collins Properties is the developer of what’s called THE FRANKLIN AT 11th STREET STATION in the city’s Uptown Arts District.


A 549-space parking garage with electric vehicle charging stations beside the tower will also go up on the 1.5-acre site at 11th and Franklin Streets. The parking garage will be available to tenants and riders before and after they step off the trains.


Other planned amenities include a heated swim/spa with an adjacent outdoor movie lounge, an outdoor rooftop sky lounge providing scenic views of Lake Michigan, courtyard grilling decks and fire pits, and a dog park.


The apartments will have LED lighting, quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances, a full-size washer and dryer, and private balconies on most units.


David Flaherty, co-owner of the Indianapolis-based development firm, said monthly rent has not been set, but should begin at about $1,500. 68 percent of the units will have one bedroom while 20 percent will contain two bedrooms. What’s left, for the most part, will be studio apartments and a few three-bedroom units, with the average size of the apartments to be close to 800 square feet.


Flaherty said the main level will be available for retail and other commercial establishments like a restaurant or coffee shop. He expects to draw mostly young professionals and empty nesters to the $101 million development on the site of the old South Shore commuter line train station, which was torn down.


“We’re happy to have anybody. We do a lot of these types of developments and the reality is that’s who we get,” he said.


Flaherty said a lot of the residents will likely come from Chicago to take advantage of the nearly completed South Shore commuter line double track from Gary to Michigan City. The addition of a second line is expected to reduce travel times on a train from Michigan City to Chicago by about 30 minutes.


Flaherty said he also expects to attract some Michigan City residents who want to stay, but don’t have much to choose from here in terms of an upgrade in their housing.


Construction of the tower is expected to be completed for tenants to start moving in by the fall of 2025.  Flaherty said he expects to have about 300 employees at the facility, which will generate over $800,000 in annual real estate taxes on a parcel currently generating little, if any property tax revenue.


In September, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for a 14-story hotel tower and 12-story condominium tower about a half mile away on U.S. 12. So far however, there’s been no actual construction on that site.


Michigan City Mayor Angie Nelson Deuitch said a half dozen other developers have expressed interest in Michigan City because of the increase in new residents and visitors that quicker travel by train is expected to bring.


Trains are expected to start running between Michigan City and Gary on the double track in May.


“This is only the beginning of something great,” she said.

Residents Stunned by Decision Not to Close School

(Kingsford Heights, IN) - The applause could have been mistaken for what’s heard from a game-winning buzzer-beater. In this case, the large crowd, surprised, if not shocked, was celebrating a decision to no longer consider shutting the doors at Kingsford Heights Elementary School.


“It’s exciting,” said Crystal Morton, whose son, Cameron, is a fourth grader at the school.


LaPorte School Corporation Interim Superintendent Dr. Peggy Hinckley made the announcement on Wednesday night before an audience of more than 200 people in attendance for a workshop session of the school board.


She pointed to the pleading hearts of citizens and a developer with plans to construct as many as 300 new homes in the Kingsford Heights area for the decision to no longer pursue the idea of a potential school closure.


“The heartfelt love that you feel for this school was so obvious that it was overwhelming to us. It caused us all to pause,” she said.


Closing the school was being examined as a means to help reduce deficit spending caused by an enrollment decline of about 900 students throughout the system since 2008.


Hinckley explained the school corporation’s budget surplus had dropped from $10.5 million to $7.3 million since 2019 because nothing has been done to offset the loss in revenue caused by dropping student head counts. The school corporation receives about $8,600 for every student, she said.


Another factor in the decision, perhaps, was parents vowing to send their elementary-age children to nearby Oregon Davis Schools or South Central Schools.  About 80 percent of the enrollment loss has been through school choice programs.


“We have options, too. I think the board made the right decision,” said Orlando Dunlap, 61, a lifelong resident of the town of about 1,300 residents. He and his children went to the school, and Dunlap's first grandchild will enroll in kindergarten there in the fall.


“I feel incredibly pleased and blessed that we are going to continue on with our school,” he said.


Kingsford Heights Elementary was the only school considered for closure because it has 117 students, or about one-third of the building’s capacity.


Had the school closed, Hinckley said, the students likely would have moved to Kingsbury Elementary School, where enrollment is about 290 in a building that can house up to 500 students.


Hinckley and members of the school board noted that the task at hand now is finding ways to gain more students than losing to school choice programs.


Board member Jennifer Farlie said that the residents being listened to and choosing not to close the school could have been the first step to making the school corporation a more attractive option for parents.


Farlie said the best solution might be overcoming a shortage of bus drivers, a challenge for many school districts nationwide. There have been problems with delays in students getting to and from school when too many drivers fail to report for work due to sickness or other reasons.


“We’re really trying to hone in on that and to fix that. From my understanding, that’s why a lot of our students go to Oregon-Davis,” she said.

Bigger Problems for Speeding in School Zone

(Michigan City, IN) - A man speeding in a school zone in the Michigan City area was found to have never received a driver’s license.


According to La Porte County Police, Daki Muhammad, 23, of Michigan City clocked in at 47 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour school zone at about 10 a.m. on Monday in the area of Pahs Road and Woodland Avenue.


He was reportedly being difficult with the officer asking for his driver’s license and vehicle registration. Eventually, he provided some identification through his slightly rolled-down driver’s side window, and a computer check verified by the dispatcher revealed that he had never received a driver’s license.


He was given a summons to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge of Operating a Vehicle Without Ever Receiving a Valid Driver’s License. He was also ticketed for Speeding and a child restraint seat violation, with a child under eight years of age in his back seat reportedly not in a proper child restraint seat.  

Local Farmers Deliver Donated Hay to Texas

(La Porte County, IN) - Some LaPorte County farmers have returned from the Texas panhandle after delivering close to 200 bales of donated hay to wildfire-stricken cattle ranchers.


Brett Kessler, who raises beef, sheep, and hay along with corn and soybeans, said seeing the destruction and hardship on the faces of cattle ranchers weighed heavily on his heart.


It also did his heart some good, though, knowing he had helped in some way.


“When you get to talk to the producers and tell them, 'Hey, you’re not alone, we’re thinking about you,' it goes a long way,” he said.


Kessler was in a convoy of four semis pulling trailers containing anywhere from 38 to 48 bales of hay. The other trucks were driven by Adam Stoner, Blake Johnson, and Carson Barrickman, who are also farmers in La Porte County.


The bales of hay from several farmers were brought to the La Porte County Fairgrounds and loaded into the trucks, which left late Saturday night. It took them about 18 hours to reach Pampa, which is near Amarillo, to have their trailers unloaded.


“A lot of burned-up fence. A lot of burned-up structures. It was kind of surreal to come over a ridge to see black as far as the eye can see,” Kessler said.


Reports indicate more than one million acres in Texas and over 30,000 acres in Oklahoma have been burned since late February in what’s been the largest wildfire in Texas history. An estimated 15,000 head of cattle have also perished as a result.


According to published reports, about 90 percent of the fire is now contained.


“We did not see any active fire lines where we were at,” Kessler said.


The hay is needed for farmers to feed their cattle since what they eat on the ground is now mostly charred, and it could be several months before new sprouts emerging from the soil reach maturity. Despite the dry conditions, Kessler said he saw a little regrowth of the vegetation already while he was there.


“You can see signs of life coming back. They really could use some moisture to help get that going. Right now, they don’t have that,” he said.

School Board Meeting Tonight at Kingsford Heights

(Kingsford Heights, IN) - There could be a large turnout of residents opposed to the potential closure of Kingsford Heights Elementary School during a workshop session of the school board in the community tonight.


The meeting is set for 6 p.m. at Kingsford Heights Elementary School.


The choice to close the school is being seriously considered to help reduce operating expenses caused by enrollment decline over the past 15 years or so throughout the school corporation.


Orlando Dunlap, a lifelong resident, said he and his children went to the school and looked forward to having grandchildren in the building. He expects a few hundred people to be in attendance in a show of unity to try and keep the school open.


“It would devastate the town. Hopefully, they’ll take the other alternative that they can take rather than close our school,” he said.


According to school officials, the building is only at about one-third of its 350-student capacity.


However, Dunlap said some of the drop in student headcount there is due to all 5th graders being transferred to the Intermediate School at the Kesling campus when that school opened several years ago. He noted how new houses built and occupied by families with children in recent years in the Kingsford Heights area, with more new homes on the way, will help raise the number of students at the school.


If the school is closed, Dunlap said, a lot of parents have vowed to send their grade school children to other districts like South Central and Oregon Davis, which would mean a further drop in enrollment and money for the school district.


“We have options, too,” he said.


The school district has lost about 900 students over the past 15 years or so, with a majority of that decline from school choice.


Interim Schools Superintendent Dr. Peggy Hinckley said the workshop session was scheduled for Kingsford Heights to give the community a chance to offer as much input as possible before a final decision is made.


A final decision on the possible school closure is expected on March 19.  

Zig-Zagging Driver Allegedly Impaired by THC

(La Porte County, IN) - A man driving very erratically with three young children in his car on U.S. 30 near Wanatah was allegedly impaired by marijuana.


Juan Smith, 25, of Knox has been charged with Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated, upgraded to a Level 6 felony because the lives of his children, ages 7, 5, and 1, were considered endangered by his alleged actions.


According to La Porte County Police, he was spotted by an officer on Tuesday night driving over the fog line, speeding up and slowing down, and being all over the roadway while having his high-beam headlights on. During a traffic stop, authorities discovered Smith had not consumed any alcohol. However, a test of his body fluids allegedly revealed Smith was “impaired by cannabis.” 


Police said Smith admitted ingesting THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, through a vaping device.


Officers began working to secure a ride for the children and their mother after Smith was taken to the LaPorte County Jail.

Highway Reopen After Trailer Collapse

(La Porte County, IN) - A stretch of state highway in La Porte County is back open after a trailer on a semi-truck hauling cargo collapsed late yesterday afternoon, leaving Indiana 39 between U.S. 6 and Young Road closed for about four hours, as per the sheriff's office.


After 4:30 p.m., officers were called following a trailer, hauling more than 45,000 pounds of topsoil and manure, buckling at the Canadian National Railroad crossing in the Union Mills area.


Capt. Derek Allen said the driver, with the middle of the trailer dragging the pavement, was able to pull forward to get it off the crossing.


Initially, Allen said, one lane was closed, but later both lanes were closed to allow for the load to be removed from the trailer, which had its rear wheels raised in the air. It was then removed from the highway.  Indiana 39 reopened before 10 p.m., with no injuries reported over the course of the incident.


The driver, Gregory Noerr, 54, told investigators he just received 15 pallets of bagged topsoil and one pallet of compost manure from Markman Peat Corporation at the nearby Kingsbury Industrial Park. 


The police report also notes that Noerr told investigators he believed how his trailer was loaded was the primary reason for the collapse.


Allen said that no official cause has been determined.

Upcoming NIPSCO Hearing in La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - NIPSCO electricity customers are invited to comment on the utility’s pending electric generation proposal, as the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) will hold a public hearing on Thursday at the La Porte Civic Auditorium at 1001 Ridge Street.


The hearing will start at 6:00 p.m. and will go over NIPSCO’s proposed electric generating facility in Jasper County.


The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor is inviting written public comments on NIPSCO’s request through April 9th.


The OUCC – the state agency representing consumer interests in cases before the IURC – is using its technical and legal resources to review NIPSCO’s proposal.


Formal testimony from the OUCC is due April 16th.

Bears Choose Chicago Over La Porte

(La Porte, IN) - Dreams of the Chicago Bears relocating to the City of La Porte appear to be over, but La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody said what might have seemed like a one-in-a-million chance of landing the team was worth the effort.


“You’re only in the game if you’re in there pitching, so we’ll continue to have big ideas,” he said.


The Bears organization recently announced plans to have a domed stadium built just south of their current home, Soldier Field, leading to considerable speculation that the Bears would move outside Chicago to the suburb of Arlington Heights, where the organization purchased more than 300 acres of land just over a year ago.


However, according to ESPN, the Bears are willing to contribute $2 billion toward the construction of a publicly owned domed stadium just a short walk from Soldier Field, the smallest stadium in the NFL.


Late last year, Dermody and La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Bert Cook reached out to the Bears about being considered for the site of their new stadium. Cook said he and Dermody spoke to Bears representatives on the phone and through e-mails about the benefits of moving to La Porte.


“We just talked about our community and what we have to offer,” Cook said.


Cook said no specific locations for a stadium were shared because the city wanted to know if the Bears were interested before taking that next step. However, many people believe the only location for such a large venue in La Porte would be along the Indiana Toll Road for easy access in an area the city is close to annexing.


Cook said the odds of attracting the Bears might have been just as long as winning a major lottery drawing, but it didn’t hurt to give it a shot.


“You never know what is possible until you try. At the end of the day, what is the worst that someone can say? No, we’re not interested then we’re no worse off than we are today,” he said.

Arrest of Sneaky Slot Machine Thief

(Michigan City, IN) - A La Porte man has been accused of stealing from a casino, as Joseph France, 48, has been charged in La Porte Superior Court 4 with Theft and Cheating at Hambling, both Level 6 felonies.


On January 30th, a woman had about $70 in credits at the slot machine she was playing at Blue Chip Casino.  At some point, she left the slot machine to see how her husband was doing at the slots. That’s when France allegedly moved in and took the voucher from her slot machine, before cashing it and leaving the casino, according to court documents.


Authorities said France was quickly identified as the suspect due to his physical description and past encounters with law enforcement.


He was booked in the La Porte County Jail on March 4th and is still being held without bond due to his alleged criminal acts violating the terms of his probation.

Drugs Linked to Two County Chase

(La Porte County, IN) - Drugs were involved in a high-speed pursuit that began in La Porte County over the weekend.


According to Indiana State Police, a trooper attempted to stop a driver for erratic driving on the Indiana Toll Road outside La Porte late Saturday morning. The driver, reaching speeds topping 120 miles per hour, was passing vehicles on the shoulder at times.


Troopers were still in pursuit in the South Bend area when the driver crashed while trying to negotiate a sharply curved exit ramp at speeds too high to accommodate.


The driver, Randy George, 40, allegedly tested positive for cocaine. Police said his wife suffered a broken leg and possibly a fractured back.


According to police, there were drugs and paraphernalia recovered from the vehicle, and further investigation also indicated that George, who is from Maryland, has an addiction to heroin and fentanyl.


He is being held in the La Porte County Jail on $15,000 bond.

Road Downsizing to Begin Outside New Buffalo

(New Buffalo Township, MI) - Work is scheduled to begin on Monday to downsize another stretch of the Red Arrow Highway closer to New Buffalo.


The 1.9-mile stretch of four-lane highway will be reduced to one travel lane in each direction, with a middle lane strictly for left-hand turns from U.S. 12 to Community Hall Road. The same work occurred in 2020 on a 1.2-mile stretch of the Red Arrow Highway in Union Pier.


During a meeting at the New Buffalo Township Hall on Monday to go over the project, Berrien County Road Department Engineering Supervisor Kevin Stack said the portion of highway already narrowed has worked as designed to improve safety in areas like slowing down traffic and reducing the odds of a rear-end collision. He said another reason for the work at both locations is to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.  A trail running beside the soon-to-be narrowed highway will run beside one of the travel lanes as it does along the previous stretch of lane-reduced road.


A four-foot-high barrier wall will also be constructed between the trail and highway to keep vehicles from endangering bicyclists and people on foot using the path.


Stack said there’s been a secondary benefit more drivers on the already lane-reduced stretch of highway feel safer now to stop and patronize businesses.


“It’s becoming a destination point so people are wanting to go there. We want you to go slower through that town for safety mainly but then also welcome to Berrien County. Enjoy what we have to offer,” he said.


Stack said Red Arrow Highway was originally two lanes when originally constructed in the 1920s before being widened to four lanes about twenty years later.


Currently, Stack said, only about 4,500 vehicles a day travel the stretch from New Buffalo to Union Pier. Usage dropped significantly following the construction in the 1960s of Interstate 94, which handles more than 50,000 vehicles a day in that same area.


Stack explained that the Red Arrow Highway will be closed during the initial phase of the construction, which will include asphalt removal, repairs to the concrete base of the road, and culvert replacement. The road will reopen with one lane in each direction on May 1st, with substantial completion of the work scheduled for August 31st and completion set for November 1st.


Rhonda Sobecki, co-owner of Skips Restaurant and Catering, said she welcomes the reduction in travel lanes, especially the addition of a continuous left-hand turning lane, to make traveling that stretch of road less dangerous. She also asked if the project would improve drainage after a storm in the restaurant parking lot, which she described as looking like it has a river flowing through it after a heavy rain.


“We have paid ourselves to fix it but nothing has worked,” she said.


Stack said the highway should drain much less into the parking lot due to the upcoming changes.


If not for inflation, he said the $3.6 million project would cost about half as much if construction materials were at prices from three years ago. Stack said the hope is to begin work on reducing the highway from four lanes to two lanes on a 2.9-mile stretch from Berrien Street to Lakeshore Road sometime this summer or fall.

Teen Accused of Shooting at Officers

(Michigan City, IN) - A 16-year-old boy is in custody in connection with gunshots and a stand-off with police in Michigan City.


Michigan City Police said Ja’Narri Garrett-Coleman is being held on four counts of Attempted Murder, among other charges.

According to police, a home in the 1700 block of Tennessee Street on the city’s west side was hit with gunfire on two separate occasions within a five-hour period on  Saturday night and early Sunday.


A suspect was quickly identified and located inside a home in the 1800 block of Kentucky Street. There, numerous shots were reportedly fired at police by an individual suspected to be Garrett-Cole, who barricaded himself inside the residence. The teenager reportedly came out of the residence about seven hours later before being taken into custody.


An individual inside the home, hit multiple times by gunfire, was struck by one of the rounds but the injuries inflicted were described as minor.

No Appeal from Mrozinski on Ballot Decision

(La Porte County, IN) - A LaPorte County Commissioner will not appeal a third time to try and get his name back on the May 7th primary ballot.


On Thursday, LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos upheld the February 23rd decision by the La Porte County Election Board to remove Rich Mrozinski from the ballot as a result of mistakes made on his candidacy filing documents.


Mrozinski, a Republican, failed to place his initials on three spots of the paperwork and took his appeal before the judge to have the election board decision overturned. His attorney, Alan Sirinek, said any request for an appeal before a higher court would require an expedited decision because the printing of primary ballots will begin soon.


"Regardless, Commissioner Mrozinski is not interested in pursuing this any further,” he said.


Attorney Chris Willoughby, representing the election board, argued county election boards are required by state law to remove a candidate from the ballot when mistakes are found on their filing documents. He also argued the placement of initials is clearly outlined under state law as “a must.”


“There’s no ambiguity to it. It’s clear. They were required to deny that filing,” he said.


Mrozinski’s attorney, Alan Sirinek, argued the intent of the Indiana Legislature, historically, has been for state election law to be viewed broadly to keep matters like technicalities from keeping people wanting to run off the ballot. He said Mrozinski, basically, met the only requirement by voting as a Republican in the two previous Republican primaries.


Sirinek said that not properly initializing the documents was a minor, easy-to-correct mistake that fits within the parameters of what’s supposed to be a loose interpretation of the election law. 


“The intention of the legislature is clear. We don’t want to disenfranchise voters,” he said.


Alevizos, though, said the word "must," in state law on properly filling out candidacy documents, is not optional, also pointing out that the mistakes were not corrected before the February 16th deadline to file candidacy papers.


He told Sirinek the burden of proof was on him to present a strong enough case to overturn the election board decision.


“Your burden is pretty high. I don’t think you’ve met it,” Alevizos said.


Mrozinski can still seek a third term in the November general election, but he would have to run as a third-party candidate, an Independent, or a write-in candidate.

Foggy Eyeglasses Cited in Pedestrian Accident

(La Porte County, IN - The fogged-up eyeglasses of a driver could have been a factor in him hitting a pedestrian in Rolling Prairie.


At roughly 9 a.m. on Friday at the OTEC Corporation, the driver, Thomas McMeans, 59, of Mishawaka was backing up from a parking space during a period of heavy rainfall per La Porte County Police.


McMeans told investigators his eyeglasses were wet and foggy and while backing up heard a “loud thump."


The pedestrian, Alejandro Ramirez, 35, of Chicago was walking toward his semi-tractor trailer, which was backed into a loading deck at the time he was struck. Ramirez complained of pain in his upper leg and the right hand he used to try and cushion his fall, police said. He declined medical treatment.

Former Late Mayor Remembered Fondly

(La Porte, IN) - He went from earning money by singing as a child to help his mother support the family and quit school to serve his country in World War II before later becoming mayor of LaPorte. Elmo Gonzalez didn’t retire from the workforce until the age of 85, when he was Director of Customer Service for the Indiana Department of Transportation.


Gonzalez passed away on Friday at 98.


The former two-term mayor from 1988 through 1995 is being remembered as a springboard for projects still paying off for the city today, and for his warm, colorful personality.


Former mayor Kathy Chroback described him as “very kind, very jolly, very happy. A happy guy.”


Chroback served the first four of her eight years on the city council during Gonzalez’s second term as mayor.


She said Gonzalez, with open arms, helped her learn the ropes of city government and the knowledge he passed down was a factor in her becoming mayor for two separate terms and LaPorte County Clerk for one.


“He always gave me the time I needed to ask questions,” she said.


Chroback also recalled him singing the popular Latin song, “La Bamba,” at the end of city council meetings sometimes, and at other places like Democratic Party functions.


“He sang it a lot and he was good at it. He enjoyed singing,” she said.


Gonzalez was also a businessman, having previously been the manager and owner of Alan Furniture Mart in Michigan City when Susan Bortell first encountered him in the 1970s as a regular customer.


She later became credit manager at the store for nearly four years. Bortell, a lifelong Michigan City resident, described him as bright, warm, articulate and funny.


Bortell went to high school with his surviving wife, Paula, and kept in touch with her after the Gonzalezes moved to the Indianapolis area shortly after his tenure was over as mayor.   


She said Gonzalez treated everyone no matter what their status “with a smile, handshake or a hug. He was just a super guy.”  Bortell said she also saw him give a “stellar” performance of La Bamba during a campaign fundraiser when he was running for reelection as mayor.


"He did part of it in English and part of it in Spanish. He was quite the entertainer,” she said.


Gonzalez also owned the former ES Kessler Furniture store in downtown LaPorte, which was operated mostly by his son, Steve, while he was mayor.


He ran for state auditor as his time as mayor was winding down.


His accomplishments as mayor included the development of the Thomas Rose Industrial Park and securing a state grant that made it possible to renovate the old six-story Rumely Hotel building into senior citizen housing.


“He was engaged in the community in so many ways. He was enthusiastic and it was infectious with other people I think,” said Leigh Morris, mayor from 2004 to 2007.


Occasionally, Morris, while he was president and chief executive officer of the former LaPorte Hospital, worked with Gonzalez on matters involving the medical facility and city. Morris further described him as tireless in his pursuit of things he felt would benefit the city.


Gonzalez was employed by the Indiana Department of Transportation when Morris, after serving as mayor, became a deputy commissioner with the Indiana Department of Transportation.


“I’ve known Elmo for a very long time. He was a wonderful family man and he was a very good mayor,” he said.


According to his obituary, Gonzalez, born in Ft. Worth, Texas, grew up helping his grandparents with their tailoring business and found odd jobs like singing in nightclubs for money, which he gave to his mother to help support him and his younger brother, Jackie.


The bombing of Pearl Harbor inspired him to drop out of high school and serve his country in the Navy as a radioman aboard an aircraft carrier that was struck by two kamikaze pilots in the Pacific.  


After returning home, he headed to Indiana to work in the steel mills. That’s where his political aspirations were born, rallying behind local candidates wanting better working conditions.


His political career also included a stint as president of the New Buffalo School Board.


Bortell said it’s difficult in words to reflect just how she truly felt about Gonzalez, but what she admired most about him was his sense of decency toward mankind. 


“He never failed to recognize the basic human kindness in people and he reciprocated with the same kindness,” she said.

OWI Arrest Follows Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - A suspected drunk driver wound up crashing outside of La Porte over the weekend.


According to La Porte County Police, officers were called on Saturday night to the 4000 block of North Andrea Drive just west of U.S. 35 and a few miles north of the city limits of La Porte. There, a car was resting against a small tree in front of a residence and the vehicle's female driver was behind the wheel regurgitating.


The woman told the officer she had one beer at a friend’s house, but her alleged blood alcohol level was just over three times the legal limit.


The driver, Lesles Vera Belandria, was arrested. Her identification was reportedly from Columbia, South America. 


No injuries were reported in the crash.

Attorney General Suing For Cybersecurity Breach

(Indianapolis, IN) - The Indiana Attorney General’s Office is going after a healthcare provider following a massive data breach exposing Hoosiers to identity theft.


Apria is a provider of home healthcare equipment and related services across the United States. In September of 2021, the FBI notified Apria that an unauthorized third party was likely able to access their system. The intruder accessed millions of documents containing personal information. In addition to employee email accounts, at least 42,000 Hoosiers were compromised. Nationwide 1.8 million people were affected.


According to the Attorney General's Office, the unwelcome third party was able to access personal information such as Social Security Numbers, birth certificates, credit and debit card information, medical histories, addresses, and other identifiable data.


“Patients should be able to trust their medical providers at all times,” Attorney General Todd Rokita said. “All Hoosier patients deserve their privacy, especially when it comes to medical care.”


The Attorney General’s lawsuit includes five counts of various data security violations. The suit alleges that Apria was negligent in securing data and failed to notify clients for over a year and a half following multiple security breaches.

Purdue Named Safest College

(West Layayette, IN) - Purdue University has been dubbed America’s safest college.


Academic Influence, an organization consisting of researchers and data scientists, put Purdue atop its list of the 15 safest colleges. Their safety criteria include security features, crime statistics, and mental health services.


The campus in West Lafayette boasts a 24/7 police patrol, and the campus police force was recently reaccredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. for its professional policies and standards. A daily log that documents all crimes reported to the department is available to the public online.


The university also offers a free bus service to anyone with a Purdue ID, and there are 300 emergency phone boxes spread across campus.


Purdue’s main campus has over 60,000 people.

Yakym Pushes Crackdown on Immigration-Related Crime

(Washington, D.C.) - Legislation sponsored by Indiana’s 2nd District Congressman Rudy Yakym was fast-tracked in Washington this week.


The “Laken Riley Act” would require the detention of any migrant charged with theft or burglary; it would also allow states to sue the federal government if an immigration-related action harms the state or its citizens. The bill was named after the 22-year-old nursing student who was murdered last month in Georgia by an illegal immigrant from Venezuela.


Yakym said the tragedy in Georgia was preventable. "No family should have to live in fear or go through what Laken Riley’s family has," he said. "We need to restore Law and Order at the southern border and make sure we give no quarter to criminals who have entered our country illegally."


The bill passed the House on Thursday. 251 Republicans and Democrats voted in favor. 170 Democrats voted against it.

Person of Interest in Highway Shooting Released

(Lowell, IN) - A man held in connection with a possible road rage shooting this past Wednesday on Interstate 80/94 has been released.


According to Indiana State Police, the individual was arrested on suspicion of breaking the law in the killing, pending the outcome of the investigation.


Typically, a 48-hour hold is placed on individuals, who must be released if sufficient evidence wasn't developed to charge them during that time period.


Per the ISP, a single-vehicle crash occurred at about 4 a.m. in the westbound lanes at Lake Station around the time they received a call from a man claiming to have been involved in a road rage incident. Troopers responded to the crash and reportedly found the driver dead from a gunshot wound. The caller, located on Interstate 65 about two miles south of Interstate 80/94, was reportedly questioned about what led up to the confrontation before being taken into custody when investigators determined that they were linked to the crash.


Regarding further information, the ISP says that no further details, so far, can be released in the case which remains under investigation.

Youth Online Protection Bill Advances to Governor

(Indianapolis, IN) - A bill written by a local lawmaker that would protect children online is heading to the governor for him to consider signing it.


Senate Enrolled Act 17 would require websites that publish pornographic content to use reasonable age verification methods, including a mobile credential, an independent third-party age verification service, and any commercially reasonable method that relies on public or private transactional data.


"We have an obligation to protect children from harmful content on the internet," said the author of the bill, State Senator Mike Bohacek, a Republican from Michiana Shores.


"Putting restrictions on pornographic content online would prevent children from accessing it easily, but still allow adults to access it with proper age verification," he said.


Bohacek said if minors access these websites because the website does not take the required steps to verify age, a lawsuit seeking damages from the provider or injunctive relief can be sought by the Indiana Attorney General.


"Indiana has the opportunity to set an example for other states to protect children all over the country, and I am pleased to have championed this bill as it moved through the legislature," he said.

Innovator Honored for Work in Community

(Michigan City, IN) - Kevin McGuire, Director of Technology for Michigan City Area Schools, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Paul J. Alinsky Excellence Award, presented by the Rotary Club of Michigan City.


The award is presented annually by the Rotary Club of Michigan City in honor of Paul Alinsky, a past Rotarian who passed away in 1997. It honors Alinsky’s commitment to innovation and leadership by recognizing those in the Michigan City community who demonstrate these traits through “Service Above Self." 


“I am honored to receive the Alinsky Award. To win this award is a testament to all the great people I have had the privilege to work with and continue to work with to build a better community. Great things are ahead for Michigan City. I’m excited to play my role in making it the best community we can,” McGuire said.


McGuire was nominated by Betsy Kohn on behalf of Michigan City Area Schools. In her nomination, Kohn wrote, “In his role as Director of Technology for Michigan City Area Schools, Kevin has been quietly impacting Michigan City students and the community as a whole for decades.” Kohn further stated that McGuire “goes above and beyond to create better lives for children in our community through technology. His current major focus is connectivity. He worked diligently, despite supply chain issues, to secure hotspots for students without internet access during the COVID pandemic, and has been a driving force for broadband access in our city and county.”

McGuire spearheaded the installation of antennas on MCAS buildings, providing wireless broadband connectivity to school-issued devices at students’ homes in surrounding neighborhoods.


Among his other innovative projects, McGuire implemented a comprehensive fiber network that connects all Michigan City Area Schools and support buildings and has secured funding from local, state, and federal programs to ensure MCAS was providing Chromebooks and tablets to all students from preschool to grade 12.


McGuire, a member of the Rotary Club, is actively involved with the La Porte County Broadband Taskforce and volunteers with the Michigan City Mainstreet Association and youth baseball leagues.

More information about the Rotary Club of Michigan City is available by visiting www.mcrotary.org.

Everyone Grateful in Visit with Once Missing Toddler

(La Porte County, IN) - Several La Porte County Police officers recently paid a visit to a two-year-old boy whose adventure away from home had a happy ending.


The officers were among the emergency responders who searched for the boy for nearly two hours after he wandered away from his home in the Westville area just over two weeks ago.


“Wesley” and his mother were reportedly preparing to visit a nearby park when he was given specific instructions by her not to stray from the front door where he was standing. At some point, the boy started chasing after his dog, which took off running, and moments later his mother returned to find her son no longer near the door.


According to police, the mother began searching for her son and called 911 after panic began setting in. A search by ground and air failed to locate the boy right away. 


“As time continued to pass, concerns for Wesley increased,” said La Porte County Police Capt. Derek Allen.


Eventually, a break in the case developed when a nearby resident knowing the boy was missing accessed her home video surveillance system and spotted Wesley in her driveway. She contacted a neighbor, who found the child and his dog sitting together on a deck at the residence, police said. Wesley was soon reunited with his grateful parents.


Earlier this week, police said deputies during their visit with the boy described him as “shy and gentle." They also reminisced over the search with his parents.


“On behalf of Wesley, his parents, and the entire Sheriff’s Office, thank you to all the personnel from the numerous agencies who assisted in the search and the citizens who shared the information on social media," Allen said.


As the saying goes, Allen said “It takes a village to raise a child. Yes indeed, it sure does."

OWI Arrest Follows Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - An allegedly impaired driver was arrested last night following a crash near Michigan City.


At about 10 p.m., La Porte County Police responded to the 3800 block of North Wozniak Road in the Waterford area, where a homeowner called 911 reportedly after witnessing a vehicle crash into a wooded area across the street from his residence.  


Upon arrival, police said the driver, Kaine Kniola, 27, explained he was rounding a curve when his steering wheel quit working properly. His SUV then wound up on its side about 100 feet off the roadway.


Kniola, who lives in that area, had an alleged blood alcohol level close to two times the legal limit. The charge was upgraded to a Level 6 felony because of his having a prior OWI conviction from 2019.


Authorities note that he was not injured.

Kroger Reopens After Front Line Attack on Mice

(La Porte, IN) - The Kroger in La Porte has reopened following a mice infestation, as the La Porte County Health Department lifted its shutdown order late in the afternoon Thursday.


Health Department Attorney Shaw Friedman said it appears the ongoing problem with mice was due to a lack of communication at the local store management level. Once news reached the corporate level, Friedman said an army of people was sent in to clean the store and take other corrective measures.


“It appears there was a local Kroger’s manager who was not responsive to repeated requests by the health department for several months for corrective action,” he said.


Friedman said another inspection Thursday afternoon found the store was now in compliance with the previously cited violations, which included rodent droppings in various places including the deli.


The doors at Kroger opened back up around 4 p.m.


“Once Kroger corporate offices became involved, there was immediate action taken to remedy the problem,” he said.


According to health department reports, there were holes chewed into food packages like the plastic wrapper of a mozzarella cheese ball during the infestation, along with droppings left in areas like shelves containing various foods and candy.

Mrozinski Loses Ballot Appeal

(La Porte, IN) - The name of a LaPorte County Commissioner will not have his name returned to the May primary ballot after losing his appeal in court this past Thursday.


LaPorte Circuit Court Judge Tom Alevizos upheld the February 23rd decision made by the La Porte County Election Board to remove Rich Mrozinski from the ballot over mistakes on his candidacy filing documents.


Mrozinski, a Republican, failed to place his initials on three spots of the paperwork.


Attorney Chris Willoughby, who was representing the election board, said county election boards are required by state law to remove a candidate from the ballot when mistakes are found on their filing documents. He also argued the placement of initials is clearly outlined under state law as “a must.”


“There’s no ambiguity to it. It’s clear. They were required to deny that filing,” he said.


Mrozinski’s attorney, Alan Sirinek, argued that the intent of the Indiana Legislature, historically, has always been for state election law to be viewed broadly to keep things like technicalities from keeping people wanting to run off the ballot. He said Mrozinski, basically, met the only requirement by voting as a Republican in the two previous Republican primaries.


Sirinek said that not properly initializing the documents was a minor, easy-to-correct mistake that fits within the parameters of what’s supposed to be a loose interpretation of the election law.  


“The intention of the legislature is clear. We don’t want to disenfranchise voters,” he said.


Alevizos, though, pointed out that the mistakes were not corrected before the February 16th deadline to file candidacy papers. He also told Sirinek the burden of proof was on him to present a strong enough case to overturn the election board decision.


“Your burden is pretty high. I don’t think you’ve met it,” Alevizos said.


Alevizos did overturn the election board on the other reason it cited for removing Mrozinski from the ballot. The election board also disqualified Mrozinski for not being in good standing with the party.


The LaPorte County Republican Party Central Committee voted unanimously in September of 2022 to remove Mrozinski as an official party member following disputes with other Republicans and going back on his promise not to hire Shaw Friedman as county government attorney.


Sirinek said political parties have the authority to discipline members from within their own ranks but no right to keep someone running as a member of the same party from seeking an elected office.


Alevizos agreed, saying “I think we’ve come a long way from smoke-filled rooms of party decision-makers.”


LaPorte County Republican Party Chairman Allen Stevens, who petitioned to remove Mrozinski from the ballot, said he was pleased with the judge’s ruling.


“I’m happy justice was served,” he said.


Mrozinski can still run in the November general election against the May 7th primary winners from the Republican and Democratic parties, but only as a Libertarian or as an independent or write-in candidate, per La Porte County Clerk Heather Stevens.

Kroger Closed Indefinitely Due to Mice Infestation

(La Porte, IN) - An infestation of mice is the reason Kroger in La Porte is still closed.


According to the La Porte County Health Department, the store cannot reopen until it’s in compliance with 17 violations found during a health department inspection on Wednesday.


Two months ago, Kroger was placed on probation by the health department because of issues like mouse droppings found in various areas of the store on a monthly basis since early last year. Other violations included gaps and holes in walls, providing mice with ways to get inside the building.


According to health department records, a pest control firm was hired by Kroger last year. The company had also been placing traps throughout the store and later returning to find dead mice in the traps in areas like the deli.


The health department became involved last year in response to complaints from customers taking notice of matters like holes chewed through food packaging. Records show that even a bagel was partially eaten into and the wrapper of a mozzarella cheese ball had been gnawed through. Droppings were also found underneath bags of dog food, packaged candy, and other places.


The violations uncovered yesterday also included dirt and food accumulation on floors and droppings on a shelf near boxes of organic cereal, according to health department inspection records.


In August, the health department threatened to shut down the store if the customer complaints didn’t stop.  However, the complaints continued and, eventually, led to Kroger being found in violation of its probationary status, resulting in a shutdown order.

Chamber Seeking New President

(Michigan City, IN) - The Chamber of Commerce in Michigan City is searching for a new president.


Qualified candidates can go to the chamber’s website for a detailed job description and information about the application process.


Former president Katie Eaton is now with NIPSCO as its manager for public affairs and economic development, serving La Porte, Starke, and other nearby counties.


According to the chamber, the right candidate will be an individual with “proven leadership skills, strategic thinking, and a passion for fostering economic growth and community development.”

Kroger Closed Indefinitely

Kroger in La Porte is still closed today.


The grocery store closed abruptly Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. after an announcement over the public address system instructed customers they had 15 minutes to leave the building. 


The corporate office for Kroger this morning reported the store is closed indefinitely.


No reason was given for the decision.


The La Porte County Health Department reported this morning Kroger was on probation for a prior violation and was found in violation of its probationary status during an inspection yesterday. 


We'll provide more specifics once they're made available. 

Michigan Represented in Middle East Ag Event

(Colon, MI) - A southwest Michigan soybean producer was part of an effort to increase U.S. poultry exports during an event in the Middle East, where over 190 countries were represented.


Sara Trattles was among the representatives from the Michigan Soybean Committee attending Gulfood, the world’s largest annual food, beverage, and hospitality show in the United Arab Emirates. Her trip to the nation’s capital of Dubai was through a partnership between MSC and the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council. There were more than 5,500 major global exhibitors at the show, attended by nearly 150,000 people.


Trattles said the main purpose of the trip was to showcase how valuable Michigan soybeans are to the U.S. poultry industry, in order to increase U.S. poultry exports to countries represented at the annual February 19th-23rd event.


Trattles said more U.S. poultry exports would mean higher demand for soybeans. According to MSC, poultry eats over 60 percent of the soybean meal produced in the U.S. as feed for livestock.


“If we can do something within our state to help exports then it’s kind of a win for all of us,” she said.


Another reason for the trip was to see the MSC-sponsored show pavilion, which hosted a record 18 exhibiting members working to promote exports of U.S. poultry products. It was also where many meetings were held between representatives of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service and other industry leaders, along with stakeholders from other countries such as India.


According to MSC, the emphasis of the talks was how the U.S. can position itself as a provider of high-quality poultry products able to meet the needs of buyers from around the globe.


Trattles said one of the many things she learned was how important the packaging of poultry is to exports. For example, how packaged chicken quarters look after delivery from the U.S., Brazil, or some other country has influence in choosing a foreign poultry or meat provider.


“Sometimes it doesn’t look so pleasant,” she said.


As a result, Trattles said, MSC and Michigan State University are discussing the possibility of doing a study about the packaging of food to try and gain more of an edge in the global competition.   


“We’re in talks. Nothing is committed yet,” she said.


Trattles, 45, said there were also displays for the beef, lamb, and dairy sectors of the industry, but not so much for pork since that choice of meat isn’t as popular in that region of the world. Other foods showcased included snack meats, nuts, and dried fruit.


She was taken aback somewhat by the different cultures reflected at the event, along with an exhibit of meat from Russia, which made her think about the devastation from the ongoing military conflict between that nation and Ukraine.


Trattles said that among the type of foods she discovered included halal and kosher, which have to be made, produced, processed, manufactured, and stored to the specifications under Islamic law.


She spent two days at the five-day event mostly learning and doing some light promoting of Michigan soybeans.


Trattles grew up on a farm raising mostly corn and soybeans in Dowagiac. She studied agricultural science and agricultural business at Michigan State University and then worked for MSU extension for five years. During that period, Trattles met her future husband, who now operates the corn and soybean farm he grew up on in Colon, roughly 40 miles east of where she was raised. She now works at the Schoolcraft branch of GreenStone Farm Credit Services, which offers things like farm loans at close to 40 locations throughout Michigan and northeast Wisconsin.


“I’ve been to a lot of trade shows but nothing quite that big. It was interesting to see the international experience,” she said.

Early Kroger Closing Leaves Customers Baffled

(La Porte, IN) - The Kroger supermarket in La Porte closed abruptly today.


Customer Sue Kreamer of La Porte said she was in the store shopping just after noon when it was announced over the public address system that the store was closing in 15 minutes.


 “It kind of caught everybody off guard,” said.


Kreamer said the doors shut about 12:30 p.m., leaving customers with freshly purchased goods in the parking lot confused, and people approaching the store being turned away.


“They wouldn’t let nobody else in,” she said.


When contacted, only “unforeseen circumstances” were cited by the store, which also revealed the closure would be for the rest of the day.

Fatality Linked Possibly to Road Rage

(Lake Station, IN) - Indiana State Police are investigating a possible road rage-related shooting death early today on a stretch of Interstate 80/94.


According to the ISP, a single-vehicle crash occurred at about 4 a.m. in the westbound lanes in the Lake Station area, around the time they received a call from a man claiming to have been involved in a road rage incident.


Troopers responded to the crash and reportedly found the driver dead from a gunshot wound.


Police said the caller, located on Interstate 65 about two miles south of Interstate 80/94, was questioned about what led up to the confrontation before being arrested when investigators determined the caller was linked to the crash.


As per the ISP, the suspect is being detained pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation.


The names of the deceased and possible suspect in the shooting have not yet been released. 

Charges in Heroin Find at Jail

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man has been accused of having a plastic bag containing heroin at the La Porte County Jail.


Jalen Rosko, 31, has been charged in La Porte Superior Court 4 with Level 6 felony Possession of a Narcotic Drug.


According to court documents, Rosko was pulled over early on March 1st by a Michigan City Police Officer for not having a working license plate light on his vehicle. Rosko was traveling on Coolspring Avenue near Wrobel Avenue at the time and quickly pulled to the side of the road when he noticed a police officer was following him.


During the traffic stop, he was taken into custody on an outstanding warrant for Level 5 felony Battery.


After being booked into the jail, he was escorted to the shower room to change out of his clothing and into a jail uniform. However, a jail officer allegedly observed a clear plastic baggie fall out and Rosko trying to conceal the item under his foot.  Police said the bag contained one gram of a white/yellow rock-like substance which later tested positive for heroin.


He could face an up to 30-month sentence on the Level 6 felony charge.

Alleged Online Child Predator Charged

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man has been accused of committing a child sex crime.


Adam Bildhauser, 43, allegedly had a video of a naked girl reportedly under the age of 12 on his cell phone.


Bildhauser has been charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 with Level 5 felony Possession of Child Pornography.


According to court documents, his arrest resulted from a woman discovering that her 11-year-old daughter had been having regular contact with Bildhauser on social media, which authorities say included Bildhauser and the girl FaceTiming each other, the suspect trying to pressure the girl to remove her clothing so he could see her naked on his screen. 


The two allegedly met on an online gaming platform.


Bildhauser could face an up to six-year sentence.

Hammer Dropping on Hammer's

(La Porte County, IN) - A well-known restaurant in the Michigan City area is closing, as Hammer’s will serve their last customers on March 30th after opening 24 years ago on U.S. 20 at Johnson Road close to the entrance of Trail Creek. 


In a Facebook post, the owners, Kenny and Sherri Larson, said they were going to stay open through summer, but decided “it just isn’t feasible at this point.”


They cited a drop in business since the pandemic and the desire to retire for it not being worth it to remain open. 


“Please come in and see us this month and support the crew that has stuck by our side during these trying times.  We look forward to seeing you and sharing one last toast,” the Larsons said in their post.

Housing Development Inching Closer to Reality

(La Porte, IN) - A proposed large housing development in LaPorte is moving closer to construction, as on Monday the LaPorte City Council unanimously approved a zoning change for the development of 167 homes on Park Street near the Thomas Rose Industrial Park.


The over 30-acre wooded parcel was previously zoned just for single-family homes, but the change allows for the addition of multi-family units.  


The developer, Park Street Community, LLC, has changed its original plans, which called for 118 townhomes and 19 more traditional single-family dwellings. The plan is now to build 97 townhomes, 14 more traditional single-family dwellings, and 56 apartments inside four buildings.


LaPorte Economic Advancement Partnership Executive Director Bert Cook said the homes available for purchase would still have a price range of $340,000 to $405,000, as originally planned. He said monthly rent for the two and three-bedroom apartments has not been decided but should be anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000.


“As construction costs start to come in, it’ll be more clear what the rents will be,” he said.


Cook said apartments were added to the plans at the request of the city, because of the need for more rental units in the community. The plan is to construct about a dozen or so homes and then build a similar number again once the previous ones are sold.


“I want to emphasize, they’re not going to be built all at once,” he said.


The development is another step in the ongoing race by the current administration to modernize a housing stock built primarily before 1940.


Cook said people wanting to live here but going elsewhere for newer housing has been a longstanding problem that needs to be solved to grow the city’s population.


The current population of about 22,000 has barely changed since 1960, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.


Mayor Tom Dermody said more housing choices are also important for keeping current residents looking to upgrade, as well as drawing some of the 1,700 workers expected to be hired at the electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant going up outside New Carlisle. He said it’s almost like the city slammed the door on any new housing construction for decades, and when that happens “you’re going to get behind the eight ball and we’re well beyond the eight ball.”


Resident Kevin Sheeler, who lives nearby at 1866 N. 100 West, expressed concerns about how the property will drain once rain, now absorbed by the ground, starts running from pavement and gutters from homes.


“They have to have somewhere for this water to go and nobody has told us,” he said.


About three months ago, the door opened for the project when the city approved an agreement with the developer to extend water and sewer lines to the site.


“There is a full infrastructure build planned,” Cook said.


He said there’s also a stormwater management plan that still has to come up for review by the city later in the ongoing approvals process.


Dermody said “The Banks,” consisting of 200 resort-type apartments near Clear Lake, is one of several new housing developments completed since he became mayor in 2020.


Construction has started on many others while more housing developments are still in the design stage. 


A study in 2022 recommended the city add more than 900 homes for ownership and over 750 rental units over the next few years to achieve balance with a housing stock consisting of 20 percent of all homes built since 1980.


“We just had several conversations with a developer out of Evansville that wants to come in and look at more affordable housing in certain areas.  We know we’re in every level of need for housing,” he said.


Cook said the next step is for the plans to undergo a site review where the developer and city department heads address any concerns. He anticipates the start of construction later this year.  

Driver Killed on Interstate 94

(Porter County, IN) - A fatal crash occurred on Interstate 94 near La Porte County last night.


Just after 7 p.m., Indiana State Police were called to the two vehicle collision a few miles west of Michigan City.


Police said the victim was traveling alone at a high rate of speed when going from the far left eastbound lane to the far right eastbound lane.


The victim then struck the back end of a semi-truck as the truck was merging onto highway from the shoulder at a slow rate of speed.


The truck driver was not injured, police said.


So far, the name of the victim has not been released.

Beware of Gift Card Scam

(La Porte County, IN) - A 75-year-old La Porte County man fell for a gift card scam after reportedly being told during a phone call that he had won close to a million dollars and a brand new vehicle in a Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes.


According to police, the victim was told to purchase a $300 gift card and give him the numbers off the card to cover the processing fees in obtaining his prize The Mill Creek area man then drove to a nearby pharmacy and bought the gift card before returning home where he gave the caller the numbers as instructed.  


He was then told to expect to receive his prizes two days later and to have $500 in cash to give to the delivery driver to cover operating costs.


That's when the victim realized it was a scam and contacted the sheriff’s office.

Arrest in Near Fatal Stabbing

(Michigan City, IN) - A Michigan City man is charged with a weekend near fatal stabbing.


Police said JD Williams was arrested at the scene of the stabbing, which occurred Sunday night.


The victim, 46 year old Jason Clinton, was stabbed in the neck at a home in the 700 block of East 11 St.


After life saving measures, Michigan City Police say Clinton was airlifted to Memorial Hospital in South Bend then later a hospital in Indianapolis for advanced care.


So far, what led up to the stabbing has not been revealed.


The 57 year old Williams is charged with aggravated battery and two other counts.


At the time of the stabbing, Williams had warrants out for his arrest for failing to appear in court on charges of operating while intoxicated and driving on a suspended license, police said. 

Woman Critically Wounded in Shooting

(Michigan City, IN) - A woman was seriously hurt when shot in Michigan City.


Close to 6 p.m. on Sunday, emergency responders were called to the 500 block of Tremont St.


Police said a 24 year old woman was found in the bedroom of a home with a gunshot wound.


Life saving measures were started.


Eventually, the victim was flown to Memorial Hospital in South Bend for advanced care.


Police said she was last reported in critical condition.


The name of the victim was not released.  So far, no arrests have been reported.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Michigan City Police.

Farmer Sour on Speech from Ag Leader

(Marshall County, IN) - An area farmer was disappointed at the speech from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at last week’s Commodity Classic in Houston.


Joe Stoller, who raises corn and soybeans at his farm in Marshall County, was among the 11,000 registered attendees at the Commodity Classic, which ran from February 28th to March 2nd. 


The annual convention and trade show of the wheat, corn, soybean, and sorghum industries is also a place for much of the agriculture community to gather and discuss everything from the latest equipment and technology to pressing policy issues.


Stoller, who’s also a member of the Indiana Soybean Association, said he wanted to hear more of an update on the proposed yearlong sale of E-15 and the possibility of creating Aviation Fuel from corn and soybeans. However, he said, Vilsack focused more on how farmers can benefit from taking part in climate change-related issues such as carbon capture to provide another source of income for producers.


“I think he’s trying to sell some of the climate-based initiatives and carbon credits and all of that sort of stuff in that way,” he said.


Stoller said he also wasn’t pleased that Vilsack appeared on the same stage as U.S. EPA administrator Michael Regan, who also spoke. He said it seemed as if the two of them were now “in bed together, which is kind of scary I think.”


Stoller said his fear is USDA and EPA working together will result in farmers being mandated to take part in land management practices like planning cover crops and no-till farming to absorb more carbon from the air and store it in the ground through the roots of their crops. He’s also worried about more regulations that would require already hard-working farmers to keep more records of various data to make sure they’re in compliance.


“They claim nothing will be mandated. It’ll all be market-based and you’ll get paid for what you want to do. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know,” he said.


He said he wanted more of an update than was given about the proposed sale of an E-15 blend of gasoline sold year-round and Aviation Fuel because they would increase his profit margins.


Currently, the two biggest customers for his corn are ethanol plants.


“It was just kind of a lot of hot air,” Stoller said.

Paid Summer Internships for College Students

(Michigan City, IN) - Undergraduate and graduate students from the area seeking municipal work experience will have the opportunity to apply for paid summer internships through the City of Michigan City.


Interested students are invited to come to the Emergency Operations Center on the lower level of City Hall at 100 E. Michigan Blvd. between 12-4 p.m. on March 13th.


“Our goal is to introduce students to careers in local government,” Director of Education and Workforce Development Kila Ward explained.


The internship projects, developed by each department in the city, are meant to provide interns with meaningful part-time employment for a period of 8-10 weeks between May and August.


According to the mayor’s office, the starting pay for undergraduate students is $17 hourly and $19 hourly for graduate students.


People accepted into the internship program will complete a comprehensive orientation, along with job and leadership training, and meet one-on-one with department leaders and the mayor each week at the midway point.


Each intern must also prepare a project video or written summary documenting his or her project.


For more information, contact Ward at kward@emichigancity.com.

Town Residents Worried Over Future of School

(Kingsford Heights, IN) - Residents of Kingsford Heights are worried about whether the grade school in that town is going to close, as the La Porte School District is studying the possibility of closing a school and cutting staff because of enrollment decline.


Orlando Dunlap, 61, said he went to Kingsford Heights Elementary School, still lives in the community, and that one of his concerns is busing students to another elementary building elsewhere in the district.


Dunlap also said he's afraid the loss of a major customer like the school would mean residents would have their utility bills increased significantly to absorb the loss of revenue. The town is the provider of electricity and gas, along with sewer and water service, in the town.


“It’ll damage this town totally,” he said.


He described the school as a “beacon of light” to the community and without it fears the recent construction of new housing in the area would stop because a school is a selling point for prospective developers and home buyers.


Dunlap said residents are going to meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Community Building to discuss the situation.


Interim Superintendent Dr. Peggy Hinckley said she hopes any decision to close a school or cut staff will be made no later than the April 15th meeting of the school board.

Bicyclist Struck by a Motor Vehicle

(La Porte County, IN) - A man on a bicycle is lucky not to have been hurt more seriously in Springville.


Just before 8 p.m. last night, La Porte County Police were called by 46-year-old Steven Plis. He told investigators he was riding the bicycle on the shoulder of State Road 39 when he was clipped by a car near U.S. 20.


Police said the victim fell to the ground over his handlebars. Fortunately, he suffered only a slight scrape to his forehead and complained of his rib cage area being sore. He declined medical treatment.


The vehicle was described only as a black passenger vehicle.

Bust Included Close to Two Pounds of Meth

(La Porte County, IN) - More information has been obtained regarding a major drug bust made during a traffic stop in La Porte County last week.


Kortney Moore, Jr., 26, has been charged in La Porte Circuit Court with Level 2 felony Dealing Methamphetamine.


Court documents revealed that close to two pounds of crystal methamphetamine were recovered from his rent-a-car after he was stopped for speeding last week on the Indiana Toll Road near Rolling Prairie. The whopping amount of crystal meth was contained in a bag underneath the front driver's seat. 


More than 67 grams of fentanyl, along with about one ounce of marijuana and a jar containing THC wax, were also seized from the vehicle. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana.


Police said Moore from Ohio was dressed as a highway worker to disguise his motive for traveling. Still, the officer saw through the disguise after detecting an odor of marijuana emitting from the vehicle.  


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

Yakym Looking Out For Veterans' Mental Health

(Washington, D.C.) - 2nd District Congressman Rudy Yakym is pushing legislation to streamline veterans’ access to mental healthcare.


This week, Yakym introduced a resolution requiring the VA to give vets quicker access to mental health assistance. The Sergeant Ted Grubbs Mental Healthcare for Disabled Veterans Act requires the VA to lower their Designated Access Standards to five days for mental healthcare for veterans who have a disability rating above 50 percent for a mental health disorder.


Yakym's bill is named after a 2nd District veteran who returned home from duty with service-connected complex PTSD resulting from a brain injury. In the wake of an urgent mental health crisis, Grubbs was told by the VA that the soonest in-person appointment they could offer was more than two months away. 


"Veterans like Sergeant Ted Grubbs represent the best of America - the very least we can do is make sure they get the help they need in a timely manner, especially when it comes to addressing mental health challenges," said Congressman Yakym. "I am proud to lead this effort on behalf of Ted and countless veterans like him to make sure we give those who served more timely options for mental healthcare."


Area Veteran Service Officers support the bill. “I have seen firsthand the negative repercussions of slow response times for many of the veterans in my county for mental health screening and assistance," said Miami County Veteran Service Officer Jay Kendall.


Marshall County Veteran Service Officer Pam Schweizer-Betz agrees. "Rep. Yakym's legislation will help veterans with acute mental health challenges receive care more quickly than they are currently,” she said, “which in itself will go a long way towards preventing these veterans from reaching the point of crisis in the first place." 

Local Officer Honored

(Indianapolis, IN) - A local conservation officer has been honored for his efforts. Officer Alex Toth, who serves LaPorte County, has been selected as the 2023 District 10 Conservation Officer of the Year. District 10 includes seven counties in northwest Indiana.


Toth has been a conservation officer since 2017. In addition to his regular field officer duties, he also serves as a scuba diver, use of force instructor, firearms instructor, field training officer, and passenger-for-hire inspector.


The district award puts Toth in the running for the Pitzer Award, which is given to the top overall conservation officer in the state.


The Pitzer Award is named after Indiana Conservation Officer James D. Pitzer, who was fatally shot while investigating illegal hunting activity in 1961 in Jay County. 

Personal Visits Now with Shelter Dogs

(Michigan City, IN) - A local animal shelter has taken a step aimed at reducing the stress of their dogs as, beginning today, the kennel area at the Michiana Humane Society at 722 Indiana 212 in Michigan City will be for staff and volunteers only.


Visitors will now be matched individually with shelter dogs in a private room or outside.


“Our goal is to reduce the stress our dogs experience. We want to make meeting potential adopters a happy time for the dogs, and we want to make sure that the family and the dog are a good match,” said MHS Behavior Coordinator Calli Beal.


Previously, interested parties and the dogs they were interested in adopting would meet in the kennel area. 


“Some of our dogs don’t show well in their kennels but are awesome one-on-one with people. This will give them a better chance at a perfect match,” Beal said.


Walk-ins are still welcome, but visitors are encouraged to make an appointment in advance to meet a dog or browse.

Major Meth Seizure on Toll Road

(La Porte County, IN) - Another out-of-state person has been caught in La Porte County transporting a large amount of drugs.


At about noon yesterday, La Porte County Police said 26-year-old Kortney Moore, Jr., reportedly from Akron, Ohio, was stopped for speeding on the Indiana Toll Road near the 49-mile marker. There, a huge amount of methamphetamine was allegedly found in the vehicle, which resulted in his arrest for Dealing Methamphetamine, which could bring anywhere from a 10 to 30-year sentence.


Numerous individuals have been caught with large amounts of drugs on the Indiana Toll Road in La Porte County due to the ongoing several-year crackdown on transporting narcotics through the area.  


Moore is currently being held in the La Porte County Jail on $50,000 bond.

Three Injured in U.S. 20 Crash

(La Porte County, IN) - Three people were taken to a hospital following a two-vehicle collision in the Rolling Prairie area that happened yesterday at about 9:30 a.m. on U.S. 20.


La Porte County Police said all of the injured people were in a vehicle that was broadsided by an SUV attempting to cross the four-lane highway at 450 East before rolling over.


Authorities note that the driver of that vehicle, Higinio Varela, 59, along with a 37-year-old male passenger was bleeding heavily, but their injuries were not considered life-threatening. Another adult passenger in the Varela vehicle complained of pain following the incident.


The driver at fault, Stephanie Daisy, 39, was not injured, police said.

Jury Convicts Fugitive Molester

(La Porte, IN) - A La Porte man was convicted yesterday of sexually assaulting a grade school girl.


Jose Leon-Diaz, 33, committed illicit acts at a home on Scott Street close to two years ago, with authorities citing an example wherein a 10-year-old girl woke up to him having his way with her sexually.


A La Porte Circuit Court jury found him guilty on multiple counts after about 90 minutes of deliberating. As a result, he is now facing 20 to 40 years on three counts leveled against him and could receive additional time on two other related counts.


La Porte County Prosecutor Sean Fagan credited Deputy Prosecutor Julianne Havens and La Porte Police Detective Chae Uhlemann for their work in the three-day trial.


“We’re prosecuting. We’re being aggressive. Good teams do good work,” he said.


The trial was held despite Leon-Diaz not being in attendance. According to court records, a warrant was issued for his arrest in November for allegedly violating the terms of his pre-trial release.


Authorities said he has not reported back to authorities ever since.

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