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Looking Back Briefly at 2013 in Region News

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With the New Year just about upon us, we look back at just a few of the stories making Region News in 2013...
Region planners approve the long-discussed Illiana Expressway, an important step in getting federal dollars for the project.
In Gary, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson requests state help in fighting an upswing in homicides and violent crime
Democrat Joe Donnelly is sworn in as Indiana's newest US Senator, replacing six-term Republican incumbent US Senator Richard Lugar
Lake County adopts a local income tax, the last county in the state to do so.
Longtime Lake County Surveyor George Van Til pleads guilty in federal court and resigns from office after being accused of using county employees to do campaign work
A crash near Crown Point kills a Northwest Indiana newlywed hours after his wedding and the stranded motorist he had stopped to assist, a Hobart school teacher
In Merrillville... days after moving into their home in October, a family of four was found dead, the apparent victims of carbon monoxide poisoning
A new bridge opened this winter, replacing the 1930s era landmark known as the Nine-Span on Indianapolis Boulevard, linking Hammond and East Chicago
Fire destroyed a historic building at Lincolnway and Michigan in downtown Valparaiso in March, and another fire in July broke out in the large Victorian-style building that housed Needle and Thread at Jefferson and Lafayette
Most WiseWay stores in the Region became Strack and Van Til stores, and PayLow locations were converted into Ultra Foods early in the year.... Strongbow Inn in Valparaiso was sold to Hobart-based Luke Company
And in July, the miraculous rescue of a six-year-old boy swallowed up by a sand dune at Mount Baldy in Michigan City....

Read more: Looking Back Briefly at 2013 in Region News

 

Indiana City Ringing in 2014 with Watermelon Drop

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In downstate Vincennes, Indiana's oldest city, residents plan to celebrate New Year's Eve with their sixth annual Watermelon Drop.  Fourteen Knox County watermelons will be dropped from the "Great Watermelon" -- an 18-foot 500-pound structure with a trapdoor that releases the actual watermelons onto a "splatform" below. City officials say since its creation in 2008, the giant watermelon has become a star attraction in Vincennes, even being featured in the community's July 4th and Christmas parades. People also enjoy sharing photographs and YouTube videos of themselves standing next to the 18-foot-long watermelon throughout the evening.  [Photo Vincennes/Knox County Convention and Visitors Bureau]...

Read more: Indiana City Ringing in 2014 with Watermelon Drop

 

Lawsuit Filed Over New District Map

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A lawsuit has been filed in LaPorte County court over Porter County's new map. Earlier this month, the Porter County Board of Commissioners approved a redistricting plan that resulted in removing current 2nd District Councilman Jeremy Rivas from his district. The four redrawn districts are all on the ballot next year. The newly-drawn lines, the board said, shrink population differences between the districts, as per a state law requiring the populations to be as equal as possible. Attorney Edward Hearn filed the suit on behalf of five plaintiffs, including Rivas. The suit alleges that two districts are no longer contiguous as required by state law.  A hearing has been set for January 7, 9 am, before LaPorte County Circuit Judge Thomas Alevizos.  Candidate filings for the 2014 primary election open January 8....

Read more: Lawsuit Filed Over New District Map

 

Motorist Saved by Off-Duty Officer, Tow Truck Driver

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LaPorte County Sheriffs Police Officer Rashaun Sinclair
LaPorte County Sheriff Mike Mollenhauer says he plans to recognize the efforts of an off-duty LaPorte County Sheriffs Police officer and local tow truck driver who together resuscitated a 72-year-old Hanna man at the scene of an accident in Wanatah. Police tell the Times that Officer Rashaun Sinclair and 58-year-old Leonard Petrone, co-owner of John's Garage in Wanatah were at the scene of a crash Saturday on US 30 near County Road 900 West when another accident occurred less than a mile away and they heard the man was non-responsive. They found Leonard Marks Jr not breathing and worked together to save his life, performing CPR. The man was last reported as critical but stable at a Chicago-area hospital.  [Photo/LaPorte County Sheriffs Department]
Link to Times article:  http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/laporte/city-of-laporte/off-duty-police-officer-tow-truck-driver-save-man-s/article_35d6cab0-f022-5edd-b690-f9e72c7a976a.html

...

Read more: Motorist Saved by Off-Duty Officer, Tow Truck Driver

 

I-65 Closed by Crash and Fire

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In Lake County, near the Gary/Hobart/Lake Station area, Indiana State Police at the Lowell Post say an early morning crash involving three semis this New Year’s Eve morning has closed all lanes of I-65 northbound just before Ridge Road when one of the semis caught fire.  All lanes northbound at the above location remain closed due to a semi loaded with clothing that has caught fire. All traffic is being diverted off at US 30 and 61st Avenue.   I-65 north bound is expected to be closed for at least another hour when authorities hope to open the left and center lane. The right lane is expected to be closed for at least two more hours.   [Photo/Indiana State Police-Lowell]
Indiana State Police are advising motorists to seek alternate routes and to use caution if traveling in this area. ...

Read more: I-65 Closed by Crash and Fire

 

Long Delays on I-65, NB Closed at Ridge

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All lanes remain closed on northbound I-65 near Ridge Road, mile marker 257, in the Gary/Hobart/Lake Station area due to a fire reportedly involving at least one semi.  There are long delays on the interstate. [Photo/INDOT camera]...

Read more: Long Delays on I-65, NB Closed at Ridge

 

Search Continues for Illinois Woman

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The search for a Des Plaines, Illinois, woman remains actively underway in southwestern Indiana. Officials say 31-year-old Cathryn McGill was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by her husband 35-year-old Adam McGill when their pickup truck was swept off the roadway in flood waters on Highway 257 Sunday morning. Adam McGill was rescued but his wife couldn't be found. Indiana Conservation Officers have located what they believe to be the McGills' Chevrolet Colorado submerged in water about 75 yards from the roadway. Adam McGill was released from the hospital Monday after being treated for hypothermia. The search for Cathryn McGill concluded at nightfall Monday evening and is scheduled to resume at daylight today....

Read more: Search Continues for Illinois Woman

 

Snowy Start Expected for the New Year

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It looks like the Region is in for a very snowy start to 2014. We could see four to six inches accumulation tonight according to the latest outlook, which has a Winter Weather Advisory in effect this afternoon through Wednesday morning. On New Year's Day, the forecast says we could see an additional two to four inches of snowfall, with additional snow showers on Thursday and again possibly over the weekend....

Read more: Snowy Start Expected for the New Year

 

Semi Fire Closes Northbound 65 at Ridge Rd

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5:06am -- All lanes are closed on northbound Interstate 65 near Ridge Road near Gary/Lake Station/Hobart. The newsroom is getting reports of as many as three semis on fire, possibly fully involved.  Gary and Hobart fire crews are being called to the scene.    All lanes in the same area were shut down earlier due to a crash with injuries.  Unknown if this is a separate incident.    [Image/INDOT camera]...

Read more: Semi Fire Closes Northbound 65 at Ridge Rd

 

Slick Roads, Accidents in Northwest Indiana

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INDOT reports the right lane of northbound Interstate 65 was closed near Ridge Road due to a crash.  A medical helicopter reportedly flew at least one injured person from the crash scene. Roads are slick and snow-covered.  Police have responded to other accidents overnight in Northwest Indiana....

Read more: Slick Roads, Accidents in Northwest Indiana

 

Info Sought to ID Driver in Chicago Heights Hit and Run

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Cook County Sheriff
A 53 year old man remains in critical condition after he was struck by a vehicle on Saturday in unincorporated Chicago Heights. The Cook County Sheriff's Office reports the man was struck at 6pm on 26th Street, near Euclid Avenue. The Sheriff's Office reports the man was walking westbound on 26th Street, along the edge of the road, behind another man, when the incident occurred. A gray, passenger side-view mirror, consistent with that of a Ford Taurus, was discovered near the victim. Anyone with information regarding this hit-and-run is asked to contact the Cook County Sheriff's Police Investigations Unit at (708) 865-4896.  ...

Read more: Info Sought to ID Driver in Chicago Heights Hit and Run

   

2 Indy Men Arrested in Chesterton for Attempted Theft

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Two men from Indianapolis have were arrested Friday night in Chesterton and charged with felony attempted theft. The Times reports Chesterton Police were alerted by management of Autozone, in the 700 block of Indiana Boundary Road, of two men trying to return merchandise without a receipt. According to the article, management had just received a call from the Autozone in Michigan City of two men attempting to return a car starter with no receipt that reportedly belonged to a Texas man. A search of the suspects vehicle yielded warranty information on hand-written notes along with Autozone receipts. ...

Read more: 2 Indy Men Arrested in Chesterton for Attempted Theft

   

Opportunity Enterprises 5th Largest Employer in Porter Co

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Opportunity Enterprises is now the fifth largest employer in Porter County. The company today announced they recently hired their 500th employee and in the past five-months, 70 new staff positions have been created and filled, with more growth anticipated for 2014. The company reports a continued demand for services and the closure of the ARC of Northwest Indiana's group homes has led to the employment opportunities. Opportunity Enterprises now serves over 11-hundred children and adults with disabilities at locations across northwest Indiana. For information on employment, visit http://www.oppent.org/about/employment/...

Read more: Opportunity Enterprises 5th Largest Employer in Porter Co

   

Teens Arrested for Shooting at Homes and Vehicles

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Kelly Cline
(Photos Courtesy of Michigan City Police.
Above: Kelly Cline. Below: Richard Cambe.)
Richard Cambe
In Michigan City, two 18 year old men and a 15 year old male juvenile were arrested after numerous reports of homes and vehicles being damaged by shots from BB guns. Police report they started receiving calls on Saturday and Sunday, but no suspect information was available until a pizza delivery driver reported his window was shot out just before 9pm in the 600 block of East Barker Avenue. Officers later that night located a vehicle described as the possible suspect vehicle and three adults and the juvenile were taken into custody. Kelly Cline, of Michigan City, Richard Cambe, of LaPorte, and the juvenile, who appeared to have a non-life-threatening wound consistent with being shot with a BB gun and who received medical attention, are all charged with felony criminal recklessness and misdemeanor criminal mischief. A third adult male in the vehicle was later released after police report he was found not to be involved. Anyone with any additional information is asked to contact Michigan City Police. ...

Read more: Teens Arrested for Shooting at Homes and Vehicles

   

UPDATE: Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident in Lake Station

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A 25-year-old Hobart man was killed in a motor vehicle accident that occurred Sunday night in Lake Station in the 38-hundred block of Liverpool Road. The Lake County Coroner's office says John Garcia, Jr., suffered blunt force trauma and was pronounced dead at approximately 12:30 this morning at St. Mary Medical Center's emergency room. Lake Station Police report Garcia, the lone occupant of the vehicle, drove off the roadway, hit a NIPSCO pole, a tree and finally stopped when it struck a house, which it knocked off its foundation. Fire crews at the scene had to extract Garcia from his vehicle. ...

Read more: UPDATE: Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident in Lake Station

   

Warrant Issued for 3rd Suspect in Death of Pregnant Teen

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A man wanted in connection with the Christmas night shooting of a pregnant Calumet City teen in Dolton may reportedly turn himself into authorities today according to the Times. Dolton Police report they have been in contact with the man's attorney and that a warrant has been issued for his arrest. Police report 17 year old Eva Casara's  death allegedly stems from a drug deal between her, her boyfriend 16 year old Anthony Lee, his brother 21 year old Diante Coakley, and their sibling, who were reportedly planning to rob a drug dealer from northwest Indiana. Casara, who was five-and-a-half months pregnant, died the next morning due to a gunshot wound to the head and at last check her baby remains hospitalized. Lee and Coakley have each been charged with murder and authorities continue to search for the alleged drug dealer. ...

Read more: Warrant Issued for 3rd Suspect in Death of Pregnant Teen

   

Light Snow and Cold Temps Expected Tonight

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More snow for parts of the Midwest. Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Center, says they expect some light accumulation -- for example, snow -- maybe a little bit more than light, when you get into Iowa and into parts of northern Illinois.   The National Weather Service in Chicago says, in northwest Indiana, expect light snow after sunset until around midnight with a total accumulation of a few tenths to around one-inch expected.

...

Read more: Light Snow and Cold Temps Expected Tonight

   

Former Ind Congressman Andy Jacobs, Jr., 1932-2013

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Former Democratic Indiana Congressman Andy Jacobs, Jr., passed away Saturday night at his home in Indianapolis. A former Marine, Jacobs was a combat infantryman in the Korean War. Jacobs was elected to represent Indiana's Eleventh Congressional District in 1964, which later was redistricted into the Tenth District, lost his seat in 1972, then regained it two years later, serving in the US House of Representatives until retiring from Congress in 1997. Jacobs was 81. 
Granger, Ind. – Senator Joe Donnelly released the following statement on the passing of former Congressman Andy Jacobs:
“I am saddened to hear of the passing of former Congressman Jacobs. I enjoyed getting to know Andy over the years, and his decades of tireless service to the people of Indiana is an example I try to follow. Jill and I send our thoughts and prayers to Kim, Andy Jr., Steven, and all of Andy's family during this difficult time.”
Indianapolis - Indiana Governor Mike Pence issued the following statement:
“Andy Jacobs, Jr.'s contributions to the life of our state and nation are incalculable and I mark his passing with a sense of personal loss. Andy Jacobs personified the kind of principled and compassionate leadership that Hoosiers most admire and he will be greatly missed. 
Before serving a long and illustrious career as a member of the United States House of Representatives, Andy Jacobs served his nation in the United States Marine Corps as a combat infantryman.  Upon his return from military service, he dedicated the next three decades of his life to public service. Andy Jacobs served as a member of the Indiana House of Representatives in 1959-1960. Later, he was elected to represent Indiana’s Tenth Congressional District in 1964, serving in the same Indianapolis Congressional seat held by his father in 1948-1950. 
During his early years in Congress, Representative Jacobs helped to write the 1965 Voting Rights Act.  As a member of the Ways and Means Committee, Representative Jacobs was known for his tireless efforts to improve the lives of America’s senior citizens by enhancing the Social Security Administration and the Medicare program.
Throughout his career, Representative Jacobs was recognized by colleagues on both sides of the aisle as a champion for his principles and a man of impeccable character.
When Representative Jacobs retired from Congress in 1997, he left a legacy of leadership and a reputation for integrity among his peers and the people that he served. 
On behalf of my entire family, I express our deepest sympathies and prayers to his family, his wife Kim, and to his two sons during this difficult time. God bless you, Andy Jacobs. Your compassion and servant leadership left Indiana and our nation better for you having been here.  You will be sorely missed and your many contributions to Indiana will be remembered always.”...

Read more: Former Ind Congressman Andy Jacobs, Jr., 1932-2013

   

Cell Phone Detection Program Introduced

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The Indiana Department of Correction has announced a new program aimed at combating cell phone trafficking in Indiana’s prisons.  The Cell Phone Detection K-9 Program has successfully completed its pilot phase, training two cell-phone-sniffing dogs at the Pendleton Correctional Facility and Wabash Valley Correctional Facility.
Photo: (from Indiana Department of Correction): Officer Jarod Collenbaugh and K-9 Dixie search a housing unit at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility.
Corrections officials say cell phones are among the biggest challenges prison officials face today, and cell phone detection K-9s are the latest tool for sniffing out the problem. “In the hands of offenders, cell phones not only threaten the safety and security of our facilities, but can also pose a serious threat to the public,” stated IDOC Commissioner Bruce Lemmon. “In many cases, offenders use them to circumvent prison phone monitoring systems, oftentimes to run criminal operations on the outside, plan escapes, facilitate acts of violence inside and outside of prison, communicate with gang associates, or traffic drugs and other contraband into our facilities.”
The Cell Phone Detection K-9 program pilot began in September 2013 with an intensive eight week training course developed by IDOC’s Emergency Operations Division, based off a similar program implemented by the GEO Group at the New Castle Correctional Facility. The training program began with basic fundamental detection work and handler skills, including obedience and socialization, then progressed to real working conditions. The handler and K-9 are trained in personnel searches, vehicle searches, area searches, and property searches.
Commissioner Lemmon added, “This issue has plagued states across the country, and the K-9 detection program has proven to be a cost effective solution to fighting the serious issue of illegal cell phones in prison.”
In 2012, 2560 cell phones were confiscated inside Indiana’s 20 adult correctional facilities. Monthly sweeps in cells around Indiana turn up anywhere from 50 to 60 cell phones. So far this year, the Department has seized over 1000 phones, which are often smuggled in by visitors or staff and can be sold for as much as $1200 on the inside.
The handlers and dogs were hand selected by the pilot facilities. Wabash Valley chose Officer Jarod Collenbaugh and K-9 Dixie, and Pendleton chose Officer Brantley Ferguson and K-9 Port.  All IDOC K-9s are donated to the Department and training costs are minimal training costs. The IDOC has future plans to implement this program statewide, placing a Cell Phone Detection K-9 in every IDOC facility.
...

Read more: Cell Phone Detection Program Introduced

   

Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident in Lake Station

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In Lake Station overnight, police say a 25-year-old Hobart man was killed in a motor vehicle accident. The Lake County Coroner's office says John Garcia, Jr., suffered blunt force trauma and was pronounced dead at approximately 12:30 this morning at St. Mary Medical Center's emergency room. Officials say the crash occurred in the 38-hundred block of Liverpool Road....

Read more: Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident in Lake Station

   

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