MERRILLVILLE — A man died at a hospital shortly after he escaped through a home's window following a shooting and police later safely removed several children from the house, officials said.*
Dennis Ward, 27, was wounded in a shooting about 5 a.m. in his home in the 7500 block of Hendricks Street, according to the Lake County coroner's office.
Merrillville police took a person of interest into custody a short time later near the residence, Cmdr. Jeff Rice said. Police were not releasing the person's name, pending formal charges.
Ward climbed through a window at the home and was found in the backyard. Police helped him to an ambulance before he was taken to Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus, where he died about 6 a.m. The death was ruled a homicide, a coroner's release said.
Merrillville police were dispatched to the home for a report of shots fired, Police Chief Joseph Petruch said.
Officers arrived and found Ward, who appeared to have multiple gunshot wounds, police said.
After removing the man from the home, police learned children were inside and were able to safely remove them, Rice said.
Officers then called the Northwest Regional SWAT team to assist in looking for a possible suspect inside the home. The SWAT team cleared the home and found no one else inside, Rice said.
The person of interest was found outside but near the home, he said.
The SWAT team left about 8 a.m., but several police officers remained on scene.
A ground-level window at the front of the home appeared broken, and crime scene tape was wrapped around the entire front yard.
Several neighbors, who did not want to be identified because of the ongoing investigation, said several foster children and two adult male children lived in the home with their mother. One adult son is in his early 20s, while the other is in his late 20s, they said.
The younger children are good kids, neighbors said.
"They play every day with our kids," one woman said.
Another woman recalled the younger children sitting on a swing set in her yard reading books. The children were outside Tuesday night playing basketball, one woman said.
The family had a pit bull that attacked several neighbors and eventually was ordered to be euthanized, they said.
The adult son in his early 20s may have been diagnosed with a mental disability, neighbors said. One woman said that son once threatened her after his dog attacked her child.
The neighbors said they didn't hear any gunshots or sirens. One woman, who stood on a nearby corner holding a coffee cup, said she noticed the commotion outside only when she looked out the window and saw people standing around.
Police said the shooting was an isolated incident and they don't believe there's an ongoing threat to the community.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Matt Paunicka or Cmdr. Jeff Rice at 219-769-3722.
* Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that Ward climbed out a window after he was shot and was found by police in the backyard of the home. Police helped him to an ambulance.
CROWN POINT — Two brothers and their mother kidnapped a relative of a witness on the eve of one brother's trial, taped socks over the victim's eyes and bound her hands with duct tape, court records allege.
Jarod Johnson, 22, his brother Jaron Johnson, 20, and their mother Patricia M. Carrington, 46, then drove woman to an abandoned house in Gary and shot her after she refused to tell them where to find her relative, police said.
The woman's relative was to testify against Jarod Johnson during a trial that had been set to start Monday.
The victim in the latest case also survived and sought help from neighbors after the Johnsons and Carrington left her for dead, Lake Criminal Court records allege.
'Ma, she ain't dead'
The Johnsons were aware the latest victim worked at a Burger King and abducted her just after 11 p.m. Sunday as she walked by the entrance to a cemetery on Ridge Road on her way home, records say.
Jaron Johnson allegedly exited the car and grabbed the woman by the neck, forcing her into the driver's side rear door. After her head and hands were taped and bound, she was forced to the floorboard, records say.
The victim told police another woman was driving, and the family had a baby in a car seat when she was abducted. That other woman and the baby were dropped at another location, police said.
During the ride, Jarod Johnson told the victim he would "kill all of you" if he went to prison, records say.
He allegedly said his kids "were not going to be without a father" and demanded to know where the woman shot in 2017 stayed, records allege.
The woman refused to tell him and was dragged from the car in the area of 44th Avenue and Louisiana Place.
Jarod Johnson said, "Give me the address, or I'm going to do to you what I did to (the previous shooting victim)," court records state.
When the victim again refused to cooperate, Carrington shot her in the face, court records allege.
The victim fell to the ground and heard Jarod Johnson say, "Ma, she ain't dead," before Carrington shot her several more times, court records allege.
Jarod Johnson, Jaron Johnson and Carrington each were charged Tuesday with felony attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping, three counts of battery and intimidation.
Not guilty pleas were entered on their behalf during an initial hearing Wednesday.
Previous charges dismissed
The new case isn't the first time Jarod Johnson has been accused of shooting someone he and his family believed was cooperating with law enforcement.
One of the victims in the 2017 case told police Jarod Johnson likely targeted him because Johnson's family believed the victim gave police information about Jaron Johnson's whereabouts prior to an arrest in Chicago, court records say.
A judge dismissed attempted murder charges against Jaron Johnson in July after after the Lake County prosecutor's office said several men Johnson allegedly shot Dec. 14, 2016, in Gary were not cooperating.
Without their cooperation, the state was unable to meet its burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt, records say.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell dismissed the case without prejudice, which means it could be re-filed if the witnesses agree to cooperate in the future.
Police arrested Jarod Johnson in connection with the latest shooting as he arrived Monday at the courthouse in Crown Point for trial.
Despite an objection from Deputy Prosecutor David Rooda, Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez granted Jarod Johnson's request to delay his trial.
Vasquez also scheduled a hearing Thursday on allegations Jarod Johnson violated the terms of his pretrial release by failing to recharge his ankle monitor last weekend.
Newly filed court records allege the monitor pinged about 12:35 a.m. Monday in the 1400 block of East 44th Place. The shooting victim was found in the 1500 block of East 44th Place.
Police arrested Jaron Johnson on a Porter County warrant during a traffic stop Monday in the 3700 block of Delaware Street, according to police and court records.
Carrington was arrested when she arrived to pick up children, whom had been in the car with Jaron Johnson at the time of his arrest, police said.
Carrington and Jarod Johnson are being held without bail. Jaron Johnson's bail was set at $150,000 cash.
MERRILLVILLE — A man was found with multiple gunshot wounds inside of a Merrillville home.
Police responded to the 6000 block of Harrison Street for a call of gunshots fired, Merrillville Cmdr. Jeff Rice said.
When they arrived, they found a man inside of a home with multiple gunshot wounds.
Lake County coroners arrived at 6:17 p.m. in front of the home, which was surrounded by a perimeter of police tape.
Police are treating the shooting as an active homicide investigation, Rice said.
The Merrillville Police Department, Lake County Coroner's Office and the Lake County Sheriff's Office were on scene. A motive for the shooting has not yet been determined.
"We are canvasing the area and gathering information at this time," Rice said.
The shooter was still at large, and police are asking the public's help in identifying a suspect. Because not all family members have been notified, police are not currently releasing the identity of the victim.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact Merrillville Det. Ellis or Rice at 219-769-3722.
GARY — Two suspects connected to a homicide where a man was shot to death at a gas station were caught on surveillance footage, police say.
The victim was a 19-year-old man, Gary police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said late Wednesday.
Police responded at 4:44 p.m. Wednesday to a gunshot victim at a gas station at 4890 Broadway in Gary, Lt. Dawn Westerfield said.
A caller reported hearing several gunshots and said a man was down.
Officers found an adult male on the ground with an apparent gunshot wound. A civilian had started CPR. The Gary Fire Department arrived right away and said the man was dead, police said. The Lake County Coroner's Office confirmed it.
The Lake County Metro Homicide Unit is asking for the public's help in identifying these individuals, who were caught on surveillance footage at the gas station.
In the photos, a man and a woman are seen wearing bright orange shirts looking at shelves of snacks in the gas station and standing near a gas pump.
The suspects fel in a silver vehicle, Hamady said.
A motive is not known, and the shooting is under current investigation, Westerfield said. The identity of the victim has not been released because family members were still being notified.
Anyone with information on the suspects or the shooting is asked to contact Detectives Kris Adams or James Bond at 219-755-3852.
PORTAGE — A Portage police officer was arrested following a domestic dispute that injured his girlfriend early Saturday, Portage Police Chief Troy Williams said.
"This will never be tolerated by our department," Williams said.
At 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Portage police responded to a domestic disturbance involving a Portage Police Officer Brian Chelich in the 6500 block of Portage Avenue, Williams said.
Portage police requested another agency to conduct the investigation per the department's protocol.
Two Porter County Sheriff’s Department deputies investigated the scene, and they determined that Chelich allegedly physically assaulted his girlfriend and injured her, police said.
Williams said Chelich allegedly head-butted the woman in the nose. The severity of the injury is currently unknown.
Chelich had worked for the Portage Police department for about 13 years, Williams said.
Chelich was arrested and is currently in custody at the Porter County Jail. In addition, he was placed on administrative leave and the police department is seeking his termination, Williams said.
“This kind of behavior can not and will not be tolerated,” Williams said. “We, as officers, are held to a higher standard, as well we should be, and our community should expect nothing less. I would like to commend Sheriff (David) Reynolds for his officers’ professionalism and assistance. This incident is not indicative of every officer, but does put a stain on us all. Our thoughts go out to the victim.”
Her lifeless, strangled body was found partially naked in a Crown Point cornfield, and now her admitted murderer is a free man residing in the city that was home to the crime.
It started out as a missing person’s case nearly four decades ago when Robin Szafasz, then 20, of Griffith, never came home after attending a party.
It ended with Paul Dressel, then 21, pleading guilty to murder.
The shock waves the case sent through the Region in 1982 have continued to reverberate into Crown Point political and social circles in 2019.
Paul Dressel, now 57, and his wife, Crown Point Clerk-Treasurer Kristie Dressel, argue he has become an “outstanding citizen” who deserves a second chance at life.
But investigators and some others involved in the case express shock Paul Dressel was able to get out of prison given the heinous nature of the crime to which he admitted.
To those parties, 20-year-old Szafasz never will have that second chance.
‘I remember Robin’
“He didn’t even know my daughter, and he probably doesn’t remember what she looks like,” Shirley Szafasz said in Lake County Superior Court, standing before the judge presiding over the case of her daughter’s murderer.
“But I remember Robin, and I’ll always remember her.”
Robin's parents, Shirley and Chester, remember what she wore before she left for the party Aug. 27, 1982. Their brown-haired, brown-eyed girl was dressed in blue jeans and a lavender and white-striped V-neck pullover, paired with earrings the young woman had received as a gift.
Robin's family, friends and the investigators remember the days spent conducting air and land searches throughout Lake County, hoping to find any sign of where she may have gone.
Some living in the community remember the devastation they felt when her body was found by an innocent child.
“We are all going to remember her,” Shirley was quoted as saying in a court hearing 36 years ago. “I couldn’t even hold my daughter for the last time or even see her. This is something I can never forget.”
Missing person's case
It wasn’t unusual for Robin to stay out late with friends, but she always had come home.
As Chester said in an archived 1982 Times story, there had been times when his daughter stayed out until 3 or 4 a.m., “but never any later.”
“This has never happened before,” Chester said in the story of Robin's disappearance.
He described Robin as being anything but the picture of a young adult contemplating running away.
“She came home from work and told me a few jokes, and then she gave me some money to deposit in the bank for her,” Chester said in the story. “She didn’t have to run away. She was almost 21. She could have left any time.”
At that point, all anyone knew was Robin stayed at the party — in a home in Crown Point’s Hermit Lake subdivision — until about 3 a.m. She was seen leaving with a man who was known to friends as Paul, according to witnesses at the time.
John Mowery Sr., former detective for the Griffith Police Department, recalls the worry the parents expressed to him when Robin didn’t return home Aug. 28, 1982.
“The party was on a Friday night, and that next night, Saturday around 8 p.m., Robin’s parents came into the station. They were quite distraught, and I could understand why,” said Mowery, who retired in 1994 after serving nearly 25 years on the force.
Mowery recently spoke to The Times, recounting the case.
“Robin went to a party with some girlfriends, and she supposedly met a guy there. They had struck up a conversation, and she was going to have him drop her off. ... They didn’t know who this guy was.”
Mowery filed the missing person's report and contacted Lake County Detective Thomas Decanter for help. The team, along with investigators from Crown Point, began searching for answers.
“There were a lot of people looking everywhere,” said Rick LaMere, a former Crown Point detective.
It would be the last case LaMere worked before joining federal law enforcement in late 1982.
“We were looking in sewer drains, boondocks, doing whatever we could," LaMere said. "After a few days, we were positive that something bad happened to her.”
Two days after the police report was recorded, a story began to unravel from witnesses at the party, and Mowery tracked down Paul Dressel, whose parents at the time only lived a few blocks away from the Crown Point party Robin reportedly had attended.
When speaking to police, Paul Dressel, who was then residing in Conroe, Texas, explained over the phone that he only had been in Crown Point for the weekend, Mowery said.
“I said, ‘Paul, I wanted to ask you about a girl that you met at the party that you went to. It's my understanding that you took her home.’ And he said, ‘Well, yeah, I dropped her off.’ I said, ‘Where did you drop her off at?’ And he goes, ‘Uh, over — I think she lived over in Griffith. I dropped her off by her house,’” Mowery said of the Aug. 30, 1982, phone call, which was the first time the investigator interacted with Paul Dressel.
“I knew that was, excuse the expression, bulls--- right off the get go.”
The two made arrangements to meet for a face-to-face interview a couple of weeks later.
But that meeting never came, Mowery said.
Instead, Mowery found himself at a funeral home, standing over a woman’s decomposed body, waiting on a forensic odonatologist and coroner to determine the victim's identity.
Then, the investigator received a call from a Region defense attorney.
“He says, ‘I'm calling to tell you that my client won't be able to meet with you,’” Mowery recalled. “And you know, at that point in time I think that (Paul Dressel) knew that Robin had been found.”
End of the road
Crown Point Detective Dan Kaiser said a body was found in a cornfield near the intersection of 125th Avenue and Burr Street at about 7 a.m. Sept. 10, 1982.
Children found the body while walking through a farm field on their way to school, according to a 1982 Times report.
“I was that kid,” said Brad Lambert, of St. John, now 49. Lambert spoke to The Times recently about the experience of finding Robin's body.
“I don’t remember the date, but I remember the day like it was yesterday.”
Lambert, then 12 years old, was riding his bike down his family’s half-mile-long driveway, surrounded by tall cornfields, preparing for another day at Robert A. Taft Middle School.
“This smell just hit me. Almost knocked me off my bike,” Lambert recalled, pausing to gather the words. “It was like nothing I'd ever recognized or smelled before and nothing since. But if I ever smelled it again, I’d know instantly. It was literally overwhelming.”
The curious child followed the pungent odor into the cornfield.
“I kept walking, and the smell hit me again," he said. It was then that he saw a glimpse of Robin's body.
Riding back to his home as fast as he could, Lambert remembers screaming, “There’s a dead body!”
His mother called police.
“She was bad. You can imagine what an August sun, what that would do to a human body,” Mowery said, emphasizing that back in the 1980s, law enforcement didn’t have access to a forensic pathologist.
Forensic pathologists are specialists in determining the cause of death by examining corpses.
Then, only hospital pathologists were available.
“She was in such a state that we were worried they weren't going to find the cause of death," Mowery said.
According to court documents, Dr. James Cahillane compared the teeth of the body with Robin Szafasz's dental records and found them to be a match.
Then, Robert Stein, chief medical examiner for Cook County, was able to determine the cause of death, according to court documents. As Cook County’s first medical examiner, Stein investigated more than 20,000 deaths during his 17-year tenure and is well-known for his work with the case of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
“Within maybe three and a half minutes, he told us exactly what killed her,” Mowery said. “He said, ‘You see this? This is her hyoid bone. It’s snapped.”
The cause of death was ruled strangulation.
For weeks, Lambert recalls refusing to pass the spot where he found Robin Szafasz while riding his bike.
“I slept with my parents for two weeks in their bed. I don't think it was so much that I was afraid that something was going happen to me. I don’t know. I don’t even think I had any relatives pass away. Death was completely foreign to me,” Lambert said. “To experience it and witness it in that way for the first time …”
Lambert said everyone around him at the time knew he found the body and because of that, he struggled to find comfort in the situation until he received a letter from Shirley and Chester, thanking him for “bringing their daughter home.”
“That made sense to me. That just kind of gave me a peace about it that,” Lambert said. “I just simply believe God wanted me to find that body. He didn't want it to be under any other dramatic circumstances. I really believe that.”
Getting the plate number
Early in the case, investigators had Paul Dressel as their suspect, Mowery said. They just didn’t have all the evidence needed to tie him to Robin Szafasz’s murder.
Then Decanter received a tip.
Curtis Darnell, a Crown Point resident, told police that about 5 a.m. Aug. 28, 1982, he noticed a white male walking out of a cornfield near the intersection of 125th Avenue and Burr Street in Lake County. Darnell told police the man got into a silver- or light-colored, medium-sized Chrysler vehicle with the first license plate numbers 45A73, according to court documents.
Police discovered that a silver-blue Dodge with the license 45A7301 was owned by Paul Dressel’s parents.
“That's big. He was going to work. He sees the guy come out of a cornfield. He gets in his car and writes the plate number down. How cool is that?” said Decanter, who was a county detective from 1979 until 1998. “That’s how we were able to get to Paul Dressel.”
A court-ordered search of the Dressel car uncovered an earring inside the front seat, according to court documents. This, along with the clothing that was found in the cornfield, were identified by Shirley as what her daughter Robin had been wearing when she left home on Aug. 27, 1982.
The earring in the vehicle was one of two that Shirley had given her daughter, according to court documents. When Robin’s body was found, an earring was found on only one ear. It was identical to the other found in the Dodge, police said.
On Sept. 29, 1982, while in custody in the Conroe City Jail in Texas, Paul Dressel made a videotaped statement to local police in which he admitted to strangling Robin, court records show.
Paul Dressel pleaded guilty to murder Oct. 14, 1983, waiving his right to a trial by jury in Lake County Superior Court.
Originally, the defendant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but Paul Dressel changed his plea on the eve of the trial, court records show.
The change in plea to guilty followed Lake Criminal Court Judge James Kimbrough's ruling that the videotape in which Paul Dressel admitted to the crime would be admitted in court as evidence, according to court documents.
In the tape, Paul Dressel admitted to the crime but did not give a reason for why he murdered Robin, Mowery remembers.
“We have to go by what he said. He made advances to her, and she got very emphatic and hysterical. He grabs her and says he pushed her up against the car window, and she just went limp. Do I believe all that? Probably not. I'm sure the truth is somewhere between,” Mowery told The Times recently.
“The young girl, she had her whole life in front of her, and she was killed for no reason,” Decanter told The Times recently. “I don't know why he killed her. He never told us that.”
Paul Dressel told the judge at the Oct. 14, 1983, plea hearing that he strangled Robin, court transcripts show. Paul Dressel was not defending himself against Robin at the time, and the incident that night — the first time he had ever met Robin — was not an accident, court transcripts quote Paul Dressel as saying.
“On your plea of guilty, the court find(s) you guilty,” Judge Kimbrough is quoted as saying in the transcripts, ordering Paul Dressel to return to court for sentencing Nov. 4, 1983.
Shirley Szafasz addressed Paul Dressel and the court at the sentencing hearing, according to transcripts.
“We have accepted the sentence. We understand it," Shirley is quoted as saying. "We have discussed it a lot and considered all the risks of a trial, so we did accept the 35-year sentence. But this is not, we believe, what Paul Dressel deserves. I believe he would deserve a life sentence, death to begin with. He took my daughter’s life, and I think his life should be taken, too.
“I do hope that he suffers each day of this prison term for taking the life of my daughter, Robin. … We are all going to remember her, how much we loved her and also how we worried about her and looked for her for two weeks after Paul Dressel cruelly strangled her and then left her in a cornfield.”
After being asked by Judge Kimbrough for further comment, Paul Dressel did not address his victim’s parents or the court during the sentencing, according to court documents.
Then the judge spoke.
“There is no question that the killing and the loss of a loved one is tragic and traumatic and that this must of necessity leave scars that will never be removed,” Judge Kimbrough is quoted as saying during the sentencing hearing.
Paul Dressel was sentenced to 35 years in prison and given a 411-day credit, according to the sentencing agreement.
He served 18 years and was released on parole April 18, 2000, according to the Indiana Department of Correction.
Inmates can receive credit for good behavior to obtain early release.
For the past 19 years, Paul Dressel said he has been sharing his story, reaching out to local young adults to help them better their lives.
“I cannot change what happened 37 years ago when I was 20 years old under the influence of drugs and alcohol,” Paul Dressel told The Times recently via text message.
“I have been saved … I have been reaching out to youth and youth adults and have given my testimony how drugs destroyed my young adult life — how my actions destroyed another family’s life. I have worked hard in my life to turn my life around.”
He has been married since Feb. 14, 2007, to his wife, Kristie, according to Lake County records. Kristie Dressel is currently the Crown Point clerk-treasurer and is running for mayor on the Republican ballot.
Paul Dressel said he works with local churches and prison ministries to “show that even though your life can be shattered, there is hope for a second chance.”
David Hamstra, pastor at CrossPoint Church in Crown Point, said Paul Dressel has expressed interest in doing prison ministry and using his own story to help and encourage others.
“While I recognize others have had the difficulty of continuing to relive the pain from Paul's past, I am thankful that Paul Dressel has owned his mistakes and embraced the message that God may use his mistakes of the past to bring change and hope to others similarly situated," Hamstra said.
Kristie Dressel, who responded to Times inquiries about her husband's past conviction through text message, said she admires her husband’s commitment and stands by his message as “America is a nation founded on second chances.”
Kristie Dressel's response states:
“I am running for Mayor of the City of Crown Point. I am standing on my 23 years of service and my 10 years of elected service in Crown Point. My husband was charged when he was 20 years old over (36) years ago. He has served his time, and he has been an outstanding citizen working in our community and reaching out to help people. My husband for over 19 years has been giving testimony and reaching out to trouble youth so they would not have to face what he did. ... My husband through hard work and determination working with organizations and with his relationship with Jesus Christ he has overcome alcoholism and drug abuse that is plaguing our society today."
Paul Dressel said now it’s about learning from his past.
“With hard work and perseverance and hope and faith and a relationship with God you can change. We all can change,” he said via text message. “I am a proven example there is second chances.”
But some police investigators in the case don't believe Paul Dressel deserves a second chance. His victim, they said, will never get a second chance at life.
"He should be in prison," now-retired Detective Decanter said, expressing he didn't believe the time Paul Dressel served in prison fit the crime.
‘Remember me with a smile’
Today, Robin lays at rest in a Hammond cemetery near the grave of her father, Chester, who died in 2010.
The words “Remember me with a smile” are engraved on her headstone paired with praying hands.
Speaking to The Times through retired police Detective Mowery, the family said it holds onto memories of Robin as a “good, normal teenager” whom they “miss so much.”
She was a 1980 graduate of Griffith High School and worked as an assistant printer at Sir Speedy Instant Printing on Ridge Road in Lansing.
Shirley and Robin’s three brothers did not want to provide any further comment to The Times. Robin's death remains too difficult to discuss, said Mowery, who is a close family friend.
“You watch all the real suffering that the victim’s family goes through, and those people went through hell,” Mowery said. “The real tragedies in this is watching good parents like that. A young person should be able to go to a social gathering and not worry about never coming home again.
“(Robin’s death) upset people. Here you have a nice girl, and all of a sudden you go to a party and someone ends up dead. That’s — that’s hard. Just very hard.”
Driving through Griffith — or past the cornfield in Crown Point where the 20-year-old woman was found — is hard 37 years later for the investigators who worked the case.
CROWN POINT — A Merrillville man was charged Thursday with murdering his brother by shooting him five times in the chest, arm and back.
Kafele L. Ward-Brown, 20, was taken into custody about 9:45 a.m. Wednesday after returning to his home in the 7500 block of Hendricks Street following hours of police activity there, Lake Criminal Court records say.
FAIR OAKS — Mike McCloskey said he wished an animal activist organization that spent nearly six months clandestinely filming the operations of Fair Oaks Farms would have just knocked on his door.
Instead, McCloskey, co-founder of the farms, said Thursday, he's concerned the undercover footage may be used inappropriately and misinterpreted by the public.
"We wish people like them would knock on our front door. We are open to everyone. We work to be transparent," McCloskey said.
He would not elaborate on how he learned the animal activist organization infiltrated the farm.
Fair Oaks Farms is a 40-square-mile dairy farm and Midwest tourism attraction/event venue that has multiple restaurants and exhibits.
McCloskey said a third-party agency, called in by the National Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) on Monday to review the group's operations, told him Wednesday night it had completed its review and found no issues with the operations. He is awaiting a written report by the group.
FARM contracts with third-party evaluators independent of the dairy industry to conduct operational reviews.
Calls and an email to a FARM representative were not returned Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday, Fair Oaks Farms management posted a lengthy statement on its Facebook page about the incident at the farms at 856 N. 600 E. in Fair Oaks.
"At Fair Oaks Farms, we pride ourselves on consumer transparency — not only when it comes to the dairy products we produce, but also regarding the cows, people and farming that are behind those products. It is with that philosophy in mind that we would like to inform our trusted consumers, visitors, and the public at large, that an animal activist organization infiltrated our farms. We believe they came to our farms not to share a fair and balanced view of animal welfare, but to specifically and misleadingly create animal cruelty videos," reads a portion of the statement.
McCloskey said they believe the group has been filming at the farms for about six months. He said he was "not 100 percent certain" what group infiltrated the operation.
"We know these people against our beliefs are out there," McCloskey said, adding that while the two sides disagree, he would like to have a dialog with the members.
"Although we have complete confidence in our employees and animal welfare programs, no one person or organization is without flaws. It’s only through the belief and practice of continuous improvement that we can guarantee to you — our guest and consumer — that when any faults are found we take immediate actions to correct and learn from them," the statement reads.
"Our mission is to welcome all to the table to have conversations about how we are going to affordably feed the world through sustainable, humane, modern agriculture. If and when any videos that depict alleged animal cruelty are released, we will take immediate and corrective action towards any employee who may be found abusing animals. This action will include, employee retraining, probation or termination and, if appropriate, legal action. We will also take any action, including legal, towards those who knowingly facilitate any misrepresentation of appropriate practices or procedures," according to the statement.
"In fact, before employment commences, all incoming employees are trained on humane animal care practices on our dairies and contractually agree to a 'See It, Say It' policy concerning animal abuse. We are aligned with animal rights activism groups everywhere when it comes to protecting animals from cruelty," according to the post.
Earlier in the day, Dennis Ward, 27, was fatally shot in his home in the 7500 block of Hendricks Street. Ward's younger brother, Kafele L. Ward-Brown, 20, was charged with murder Thursday in connection with that homicide.
Sherwood's homicide remained under investigation Thursday, police Cmdr. Jeff Rice said.
Police responded to the Harrison Street home about 5 p.m. Wednesday for a report of a gunshot victim and found Sherwood inside the home, he said.
Rice said police were following up on leads and seeking tips about the homicide.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Cpl. Allison Ellis or Rice at 219-769-3722.
LOWELL — Lowell High School was placed on a preventative lockout Wednesday after a former student stood across the street from the school displaying a sign reading "White Power."
The former student is a spring 2018 graduate of Lowell High School, Tri-Creek School Corp. Superintendent Rod Gardin confirmed Thursday.
Gardin said the school went on a lockout restricting movement in and out of the school just around noon Wednesday and stayed under lockout until 1:30 p.m., after the graduate, a 19-year-old Hebron man, left his position in the parking lot of a former First Merchants Bank at the corner of State Road 2 and Holtz Road.
Gardin said Lowell graduate issued no specific threats, but that the district decided to act with caution. He said he did not know the former student or what would lead him to carry the sign.
The student stood across from the school for about an hour, Gardin said, but there was little the district could do to make him leave.
"We can't do anything about it because it's the First Amendment," the superintendent said. "It's his right."
Gardin sent a letter home to parents Wednesday afternoon describing the situation. In it, he said the former student was also shouting "White Power."
Lowell police were contacted by an unknown party, according to the letter, leading officers to speak with the former student. Tri-Creek's school resource officer and director of safety and security also monitored the situation.
Lowell Police Chief Erik Matson said the man refused to identify himself to officers, but that a responding officer recognized him from previous contact.
Police advised Tri-Creek administration around 1 p.m. Wednesday that the former student had left the area, according to the district's letter. To be sure the graduate did not return, the school remained on lockout until 1:30 p.m.
"Safety and security of staff and students is our top priority," Gardin said. "We demonstrated that today by having the lockout."
Whether you're a "Game of Thrones" fan or not, Sunday will herald in a blast of winter. However, unlike in the case of the fictional Westeros, the snow in Northwest Indiana only will last a day.
A special weather statement was issued for Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties that a strong spring storm system is predicted to bring accumulations of wet, heavy snow to parts of the Region on Sunday morning.
Rain will begin overnight Saturday and will transition into snow, which likely will continue into the early evening. The heaviest snowfall will occur just prior to sunrise through mid-day, said meteorologist Ricky Castro, of the National Weather Service Romeoville office.
If a heavier band of snow ends up over Northwest Indiana, this could increase the snowfall rate of up to 1 inch per hour; however the heavier band could stay in Illinois, Castro said.
"It being mid-April, everything has to go right to create any sizable accumulations," Castro said. "It's tough to pinpoint the exact outcome."
Accumulations of 2 to 4 inches could occur on colder or elevated surfaces in Lake and Porter counties. Parts of LaPorte County could see an accumulation of 1 to 2 inches.
"The worst-case scenario would be more than 3 inches on colder surfaces," Castro said.
Luckily with higher road surface temperatures and strong April sun, roads will mainly be wet the majority of the snowfall. Drivers still are cautioned that visibility could become sharply reduced during the snowfall.
Winds are expected to gust up to 35 mph, and temperatures will stay in the low to mid-30s Sunday, so best bundle up like Jon Snow and stay in for the day awaiting the season premiere.
GARY — A man was found shot to death Tuesday night in the city's Black Oak section, officials said.
Police found Earl J. Dantzler, 32, of Gary, unresponsive in the front yard of a residence in the 6000 block of West 36th Avenue after receiving a report about 8:50 p.m. of shots fired and a man down, according to police and the Lake County coroner's office.
Dantzler was pronounced dead at the scene about 10 p.m. from multiple gunshot wounds in a homicide.
A dark-colored vehicle was seen leaving the scene, police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said.
Dantzler's killing marks the 18th homicide this year in Gary, police and death records show.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Alex Jones of the Lake/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3852. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.
The single-family, two-story house has been converted to allegedly board as many as 62 lodgers per night, Hammond's attorneys wrote in a court document.
On Monday, Hammond city attorneys filed a summons, delivered by the Lake County Sheriff's Department, to the property owner of 2030 Stanton Ave., which is located in Hammond but has a Whiting address.
The homeowner has a 20-day window of time to respond to the notice, or the judge will rule in favor of the city of Hammond and the owner will have to cease using the property for commercial lodging, according to court documents.
With the potential of 62 boarders in a single-family dwelling, safety hazards also arise, City Attorney David Westland said.
"There are fire hazards, parking issues and general safety concerns when it comes to this situation," Westland said.
The initial letter, on April 5, from the city attorney to the homeowner said that if they do not cease selling short-term lodging at their residence by April 12, a lawsuit would be initiated.
The homeowner did not respond to the attorney and is allegedly continuing to use the house as an Airbnb, court documents state.
The neighborhood is zoned as R-1U, meaning the residence cannot operate as a short-term lodging facility or be rented through Airbnb, according to the legal notice. The city has also issued multiple citations for parking and excess garbage violations, the attorney wrote.
The Hammond Police Department has used a substantial amount of resources responding to complaints that include alleged criminal activity, court documents said. That is why the city is also seeking monetary damages, Westland said.
Since March, police have received a dozen calls that include parking complaints, theft and narcotics reports allegedly connected to the Stanton Avenue home, Hammond Lt. Steve Kellogg said.
GARY — A 19-year-old was identified early Thursday as the man gunned down at a gas station where two possible suspects were seen on surveillance images.
Darrian D. Hill, of Gary, was shot about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday at the gas station in the 4800 block of Broadway, according to the Lake County coroner's office and police.
Gary police were dispatched for a report of shots fired and a man down, Cmdr. Jack Hamady said.
A bystander began performing CPR on Hill, but Hill died at the scene. The death was ruled a homicide.
About four hours after the shooting, Gary police released surveillance images of two possible suspects and a silver-colored car. The pair left the gas station in the car.
Hill's killing was the second homicide in two days in Gary. On Tuesday, Earl J. Dantzler, 32, of Gary, was shot to death in the 6000 block of West 36th Avenue. A dark-colored vehicle was seen leaving the scene, police said.
A total of 19 people have been killed in homicides so far this year in Gary, police and death records show.
Anyone with information about Hill's homicide is asked to call Detective Kris Adams of the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3852.
Anyone with information on Dantzler's homicide is asked to call Detective Alex Jones of the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3852.
CROWN POINT — A man who was just 6 years old when his own father was killed in a homicide was sentenced Thursday to 45 years in prison for fatally shooting a father of three point-blank in the temple after an argument in 2017 at a Gary restaurant.
A jury found Marcus McCain, 30, guilty of voluntary manslaughter in December for killing Marcel T. Harris, 29, on Aug. 5, 2017, at Philly's Steak and Lemonade, 5405 W. 25th Ave.
McCain, who was born in East Chicago and later lived in Texas and Wisconsin, said his mother did the best she could, but he always yearned for his father.
At the time of Harris' shooting, he had a full-time job and a young daughter. He and his then-girlfriend had sought fertility treatments to conceive.
"I wish I could rewind the hands of time and take it back, but I can't," McCain said. "All I can do is apologize."
He apologized to Harris' family, his own family and Harris' three daughters, all of whom were younger than 8 when their father was killed.
"I know that feeling all too well," McCain said.
Harris, of Sauk Village, loved his daughters and was the highlight of family gatherings, his aunt Connie Harris said.
Harris' mother suffered two strokes about one year his homicide, she said. The mother was unable to give a victim's statement Thursday because she is incapacitated and now relies on family for her every need.
Katrell Harris said McCain will do his time and eventually be released.
"He'll be a legend in his neighborhood, and he'll get to catch up on old times," he said.
Marcel Harris's three daughters will never get to wait for their father to come home, he said.
Harris' sister Shanita Patton said her daughter recently saw a photo of Harris and asked who it was. She had to tell the girl it was her uncle.
"I never thought I would be the one whose sibling was murdered," she said.
She questioned whether violence in the community would ever stop, if people continue to allow anger to motivate their decisions.
Deputy Prosecutor Eric Randall said McCain could have walked away after an argument with Harris inside the restaurant.
Instead, McCain went and got his cousin, who had a gun, and executed Harris as 14 adults and two children watched, Randall said.
"This wasn't a dark alley where this happened. This wasn't an empty street," he said. "This was a full restaurant."
Randall asked Lake Criminal Court Judge Samuel Cappas to sentence McCain to 49 years in prison.
McCain's attorney Paul Stracci said a number of letters written in support of McCain cited his ability to be "a peacemaker." A "perfect storm" of events led up to Harris' killing, and McCain was remorseful from the start, he said.
Stracci asked for a sentence of 20 years, with a portion of it suspended in favor of probation. McCain performed well on probation during two previous drug convictions, he said.
Cappas said McCain didn't live up to the reputation painted in letters, because he failed to use his peacemaking skills the night he killed Harris.
It was true McCain fired only one shot, the judge said.
"But it's the most perfectly placed shot to kill somebody," he said.
A video of the shooting showed an act that was cold-blooded and callous, he said.
McCain's responsibility to his daughter was a mitigating factor, but Cappas noted he was not married to the child's mother nor under any court order to pay child support.
Cappas said he would grant McCain's request to appoint the public defender's office to file an appeal of his sentence.
HAMMOND — A federal grand jury has indicted a Hobart man on allegations he threatened President Donald Trump’s life last month.
The U.S. District Court unsealed the three-count indictment Thursday against 20-year-old Steffon Gonzalez, who has been in custody in the Lake County Jail since local and federal authorities arrested him March 30 at his home in the 3800 block of Parker Street.
Gonzalez was charged earlier this month in Lake Superior Court on a state felony charge of intimidation and was being held without bail for violating his pretrial release on an earlier, unrelated intimidation count from last year, according to court records.
The new federal case contains two counts of making threats against the president's life by posting to Facebook on March 28 that he was standing outside with a rifle and a "bullet chambered to blow his head off."
The grand jury also indicted Gonzalez on one count of obstruction of justice for allegedly concealing his Facebook account from a Secret Service investigation into his threats.
He faces a maximum penalty of five years for the alleged threats and 20 years if convicted of obstruction of justice.
It wasn’t clear Thursday whether Gonzalez had appeared in federal court for pre-trial hearings April 3 and 11.
The judge refused both times to release Gonzalez on bond.
The Lake County prosecutor’s office alleged in its state case that Gonzalez posted on Facebook the words, “Standing outside with my 22 long rifle ready to kill trump I will be on the news.”
U.S. Secret Service agents and Hobart police raided his home March 30 and found bullets and gunpowder, but no firearm, according to court records.
Gonzalez has denied he posted the threat and has claimed others have access to his Facebook account and his room where the bullets were found, according to the records.
WINFIELD — A town police officer ran off the road and struck two trees to avoid a civilian vehicle en route to a traffic wreck, Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said.
A Winfield officer was driving southbound on Randolph Street with his squad car lights and sirens activated at 5:42 p.m. while responding to a crash at 109th Avenue and Arizona Street, Martinez said.
As the officer approached 104th Avenue, a vehicle began to pull out from 104th Avenue onto Randolph Street. The vehicle then came to a sudden halt when the driver saw the police vehicle, with the front of the vehicle stopped in the southbound lane.
The officer then swerved to the right to avoid the vehicle but ended up going off of the road, hitting two trees, Martinez said.
The officer was not injured, but he had to be medically cleared at a hospital per Winfield Police Department policy. The squad car was towed from the scene.
Martinez said the Lake County Sheriff's Department is investigating the crash and will be answering 911 calls for the town.
CROWN POINT — A Gary man accused of beating the mother of his child, kidnapping their baby and leaving the child in the trunk of an abandoned car pleaded guilty Friday in several cases and was ordered released from jail.
Billy R. White Jr., 28, who had been in custody since June 2017, was placed on house arrest for one year with GPS monitoring and ordered to serve two years of probation.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell sentenced him to one year in jail in two of his four cases, but found he had served the time while awaiting trial.
White also must obtain evaluations for mental and substance abuse counseling and follow any resulting recommendations.
White pleaded guilty to five felonies, including neglect of a dependent, domestic battery, two counts of battery related to attacks on jail staff and police, and an intimidation count linked to threats against the child's mother.
Two armed guards stood by as White appeared in court.
The neglect and domestic battery charges stemmed from an attack in late May 2017 in which White was accused of hitting his child's mother with a closed fist as she held their 4-month-old child.
White took the child when he left the home in the 5000 block of Carolina Street in Gary, returned a short time later without the baby and refused to tell the mother where the child was.
A police K-9 located the baby outside a nearby home, in the trunk of an abandoned Cadillac with a broken out windshield.