VALPARAISO | A murder charge was dismissed Thursday against a Valparaiso man accused of killing his stepdaughter Feb. 21 in the family's Courtney Street home.
The Porter County prosecutor's office said the move was taken because three individuals, who initially gave statements implicating Allen Warnes in the murder of 22-year-old Shawnna Forgus, later recanted their claims.
"No physical or forensic evidence has developed to counter the recantation of the witnesses," according to the motion to dismiss filed by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Matt Frost.
"Recent attempts by the Valparaiso Police Department to gain the cooperation of the witnesses have been futile," he wrote.
The motion to dismiss was granted by Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa, and Warnes was to be released later that day from the Porter County Jail.
Defense attorney Scott King, who represents Warnes, applauded prosecutors.
"At the end of the day, I don't think it is a commentary on the quality of the investigation," he said.
King said there was not enough evidence to prove the case against Warnes. There is also a potential of another suspect, he said.
King questioned during a hearing in May why police stopped investigating Forgus' new boyfriend, who admitted to being involved sexually with Forgus, using drugs with her and visiting her in the middle of the night just a few days before her death.
Forgus, a mother of two, was found lying dead on a mattress placed on the floor with "obvious trauma to her face, head and neck area," police said.
Warnes, who was 55 at the time of the killing, denied his wife's accusations he was upset with Forgus, court documents state. He said the only way he could have been upstairs the night his stepdaughter was killed was if he were sleepwalking, documents state.
Forgus' mother, Rebecca Warnes, who was among those to recant their statements, said she saw the boyfriend's car leaving the house on the morning her daughter was found dead.
Warnes testified during a bond hearing in May she did not remember much of what she told police. She said she sent a one-legged, legally blind resident of the house to the second floor to check on her daughter because she is afraid of heights.
Kimberly Coates, a 14-year-old half-sister of Forgus who also recanted her initial statements, testified in May she was not alarmed when she saw her sister's body that morning with a swollen stomach and with what she thought was vomit in the bed.
She said she heard Forgus and Allen Warnes arguing the day before her sister was found dead but recanted a claim the argument continued when he returned home from work that night. She said she felt pressured by police to make the latter claim.