CROWN POINT — Police have confirmed a foot found in a pond is human remains.
Crown Point Police Chief Pete Land said police were called to a pond in the area of the Interstate 65 and 109th Avenue interchange Monday afternoon after a fisherman reported snagging what appeared to be a human foot.
"Once on scene, officers confirmed the remains were human," Land said in a news release.
Crown Point detectives are being assisted by the Lake County Coroner's office, Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Crown Point Fire Department's Aquatic Search and Rescue team.
Land said there would be no other information available Monday night, but they are hoping to have more information on Tuesday.
CROWN POINT — A man charged in an OWI death case was released from jail without bond Friday to begin a medically-assisted drug treatment program while awaiting trial on house arrest.
Richard Westerhoff, 29, of Lake Station, is accused of driving drunk and high on cocaine when he caused a crash Dec. 10 that killed 20-year-old Julian Tinoco.
Westerhoff and two other people were injured in the four-car crash on 109th Avenue in Winfield. Westerhoff was charged Dec. 21 and turned himself into Dyer police Jan. 21.
Deputy Lake County Prosecuting Attorney Kathleen Kurowski argued against Westerhoff's release, saying his criminal history and a two-week gap between his release from a hospital and surrender to police showed he is a danger to the community and a flight risk.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell asked Westerhoff if he understood he would not be able to leave his home if released.
"You wouldn't have to worry about that, your honor," he said.
Westerhoff would not be able to obtain the full range of treatment recommended for him while incarcerated at the Lake County Jail.
Boswell said she would give Westerhoff a try, because he needs treatment. She ordered him to be placed on house arrest, with GPS- and alcohol-monitoring bracelets.
The decision was met with tears from Tinoco's loved ones and comments expressing relief among Westerhoff's family.
As the hearing concluded, Westerhoff's mother appeared to be preparing for a confrontation with members of Tinoco's family.
Outside the courthouse, Tinoco's father, Jose Tinoco, said the family was disappointed about Westerhoff's release.
Mike Anderson, Tinoco's mother's boyfriend, said, "This guy's going home today, and they just seeded Julian's plot the other day."
Tinoco's girlfriend, Jessica Sanchez, said members of Westerhoff's family made a comment in the hallway about staring at her and Tinoco's mother.
"The fact that they even said anything to us is just beside me," she said. "What this whole community is going through is way worse than anything they have to go through."
Jamise Perkins, Westerhoff's attorney, said every time she's spoken with Westerhoff, he appears devastated by what happened.
"He has not been taking any of this lightly," she said. "He is extremely remorseful."
A massive police presence swarmed around a crime scene Sunday night just east of downtown Hammond.
Police closed down a section of Sohl Avenue at the intersection of Willow Street in downtown around 8 p.m. Sunday, redirecting traffic at the eastern edge of downtown. They taped off a crime scene around a black car with a shattered windshield parked in the middle of the street with the passenger door ajar. Its wheels were cut hard to the right.
The car with the smashed out window was abandoned in the middle of the street in front of Just 1 More bar, which was not part of the roped-off crime scene.
Police and a bartender declined to comment about what happened.
About four police cars were stationed around the crime scene and at least a dozen more police cars with lights flashing blocked off a section of E. State Street between Sohl Avenue and Calumet Avenue, where officers were questioning residents.
A patrol officer at the scene said an investigation was underway and no details about what happened were immediately available.
Hammond police officials did not immediately return messages.
The revered chain Lou Malnati's will bring its world-famous deep-dish pizza to Schererville, its first location in Indiana.
Lou Malnati's announced on its website it will open a restaurant at 36 U.S. 41 in the Town Square Shopping Center in Schererville, apparently taking over the former location of Gayety's Chocolate & Ice Cream, which closed last fall. The new Lou Malnati's will offer carryout, delivery and catering when it opens this summer.
"We are proud to provide the Schererville community with a fresh, delicious, and unmatched product at a value, and look forward to serving our famous Chicago-style deep dish pizza in Schererville for years to come," the company said on its website.
It will join Giordano's as the second purveyor of classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza in Schererville.
Lou Malnati's was founded in 1971 in Lincolnwood. The fast-growing chain now has 53 locations across Chicagoland and another three in Arizona.
Often held up with Uno's, Gino's East and Giordano's as one of the standards for deep dish pizza in Chicago, Lou Malnati's is best known for its deep dish that piles high sausage, fresh mozzarella cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce on a butter crust. But the restaurant also offers thin crust pizza, pasta, salads, desserts and appetizers, including bruschetta and chicken wings, as well as gluten-free and low-calorie options.
The Italian restaurant will offer personal pan pizzas, lasagna, spaghetti, cheese ravioli and specials like The Lou, a deep-dish pizza that buries spinach mix, mushrooms and sliced Roma tomatoes under a warm blanket of mozzarella, romano and cheddar cheese.
A 4-year-old girl from Hammond died in a car crash that happened on the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago. A total of seven children were sent to the hospital, including a 4-month-old who is in critical condition, in the aftermath of the wreck.
The driver of the vehicle that had the 4-year-old and 4-month-old passengers, as well as two other children, was issued citations for not having the children secured with a seat belt and possessing an open alcohol container.
At 5:03 p.m. Monday, police responded to a three-vehicle crash on I-94 northbound, north of 35th Street.
At 4:06 p.m. Friday, 4-year-old Violet Osorio was pronounced dead, according to Cook County medical examiners. The Hammond child died from blunt force head injuries, coroners determined. In addition, a 4-month-old in the same vehicle is in critical condition, according to Illinois State Police reports.
Following the wreck, Osorio was being cared for at Comer Children's Hospital.
There was also a 6-year-old and 2-year-old in the same vehicle, who are both in stable condition. Three children from another vehicle were also transported to the hospital but were in stable condition, according to police.
Police said a maroon 2001 Chrysler Sedan, which contained three children, was traveling northbound on the I-94 express in the middle left lane when the driver failed to reduce their speed and struck the rear of a white 2010 Ford Sedan, which had Osorio, a 4-month-old, a 6-year-old and 2-year-old inside.
After being hit, the Ford Sedan veered into the middle right lane and hit a third vehicle on the right driver's side, which contained one adult driver.
All northbound lanes were closed until 10:30 p.m. that night during the police investigation.
The driver of the maroon Chrysler Sedan, Sarah Bailey, 29, of Chicago, was issued four citations for failure to reduce speed, following too closely, leaving the scene of the accident and driving while uninsured, according to Illinois State Police.
The driver of the white Ford Sedan, Marisol Galindo, 27, of Chicago, was issued six citations, including four citations for failing to secure the children in proper child restraints, one citation for possession of an open alcohol container and one citation for driving while uninsured, police said.
KENTLAND — Police have located a 36-year-old Monticello woman who has become the latest to be charged in the wake of the alleged murder of a 30-year-old West Lafayette woman.
Talitha Beckley is in custody at the Newton County Jail and has been charged with a felony count of assisting a criminal, police said.
Police asked earlier this week for the public's help in locating Beckley as part of the investigation into the alleged murder of Nicole L. Bowen.
Beckley had an active warrant through Pulaski County, police said.
Police announced April 5 they had charged Garett K. Kirts, 21, of Lebanon, with the murder, sheriff's Capt. Shannon Cothran said.
Bowen's body was found about 2:40 p.m. March 30 in a rural area of Jefferson County. Police said earlier last week foul play was suspected.
Kirts was arrested April 1 on a charge of resisting law enforcement.
Jasmine N. Parker, 34, of Kentland, Ashley N. Garth, 26, of Delphi, and Christopher C. Mathis, 27, of Kentland, each were charged with level 5 felony assisting a criminal.
The Newton County coroner's office, Newton County prosecutor's office, Indiana State Police, Jasper County Sheriff's Office, Jasper County coroner's office, Rensselaer Police Department and FBI are assisting in the ongoing investigation.
SCHERERVILLE — Authorities determined the identity of the pedestrian hit by a train Wednesday was a 30-year-old Schererville man.
Nenad Mandic was struck by a train near a Schererville railroad crossing, Cmdr. Jeff Cook said.
Police responded at 3 p.m. Wednesday to the railroad tracks near the Eagle Ridge Drive and 213th Avenue in Schererville, Cmdr. Jeff Cook said.
Mandic was struck by a train a short distance east of the crossing, almost directly underneath the U.S. 41 bridge.
Lake County coroners were called to the scene at 3:15 p.m., according to Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey. The 30-year-old was pronounced dead at 4 p.m. Lake County Coroner’s Office determined the cause of death as blunt force trauma as a result of being struck by the train.
The Lake County Coroner's Office, the Schererville Police Department, the Schererville Fire Department and the Canadian Railroad Police assisted on the scene.
GARY - A 21-year-old Gary man is in critical condition at the University of Chicago Medical Center after suffering multiple gunshot wounds early Sunday morning.
Police responded at 1:30 a.m. to reports of a gunshot victim in the 3900 block of Filmore Street, according to a news release from Cmdr. Jack Hamady.
Police located the 21-year-old man inside the residence. Gary Fire Dept. arrived on the scene and transported the man to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus. The male was later airlifted to University of Chicago Medical Center, the release states.
Anyone with information on this incident is urged to contact Detective Kristopher Adams at 219-755-3855 Lake County Metro Homicide Unit or the Crime Tip Line at 866-CRIME-GP.
CROWN POINT — Murder charges were unsealed this week against an Indianapolis man accused of killing his father's mistress and her son during a burglary March 23 in Gary.
Darren L. "Duke" Taylor Jr., 39, and another man are accused of fatally shooting Temia Haywood and her 13-year-old son Lavell Edmond in her home in the 6800 block of East Third Avenue.
After a weeklong multi-agency manhunt, Taylor was apprehended at 9:30 p.m. Thursday by the Lake County Sheriff's Department, Indiana State Police and Marion County Sheriff's Warrant Unit, according to Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez.
Investigators tracked Taylor to the east side of Indianapolis, where he was seen going inside an apartment building of a known associate, Martinez said. Police surrounded the area and took Taylor into custody without further incident.
The other suspect is still at large, police said.
Police found Haywood's body on the first floor and Edmond's body partially blocking a bedroom door on the second floor. Edmond appeared to have been shot in the head, Lake Criminal Court records say.
A doorbell security video showed Taylor and a second man — who was not identified in court records — carrying a large television out of the home, records allege.
Shortly after the killings, police showed the video to Taylor's cousin, who identified Taylor but said he thought Taylor lived in Indianapolis, records say.
Taylor was charged March 27 with four counts of murder and two counts of burglary, but his case remained sealed until after his arrest last week in Indianapolis.
Police released images from the doorbell video shortly after the homicide and quickly began receiving tips about Taylor's identity, records say.
Haywood's family told police she had been in a long relationship with Darren Taylor Sr.,* an older, married man, but had recently been trying to pull away from him.
The elder Taylor was listed in a no-trespassing warning for Haywood's residence, records say. A family member told police the younger Taylor had reached out to Haywood several times asking her to get back with his father.
Detectives interviewed the elder Taylor on March 25, and he said he first learned of Haywood's death the night of March 23 from friends, records say.
He admitted he had heard his son killed Haywood and provided a detective with his son's name. Afterward, the elder Taylor began to talk about how devastated he and his wife were, records say.
When asked how he felt the first time he saw pictures possibly linking his son to Haywood's murder, the father said he "felt like his heart was in his stomach" and that "it ruined his entire day." He first received the picture while he was in church, according to court records.
Police noticed a comment March 24 on a Facebook page believed to be controlled by the younger Taylor saying, "Y'all know damn well I ain't did no shit like that." The page was deactivated shortly after another Facebook user commented, "That's your picture ringing her doorbell around the time of the shooting," records say.
Photos of the two men wanted in connection to the double-homicide were posted on the Lake County Sheriff's Department's Facebook page and other social media. Anyone with further information is asked to contact Detective Kris Adams and Detective Ed Gonzalez at the lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3852.
* Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct Darren Taylor Sr.'s name. The Times regrets the error.
— Times staff writer Anna Ortiz contributed to this report.
GARY — A police officer resigned after arresting and forcibly stopping a video blogger from filming her while she was on-duty.
Edward Michael Strauss, 36, of Gary, was arrested the night of Sept. 1 in front of his home after filming officer Nicretia Jones and other officers from a public walkway. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting law enforcement.
On Monday, the charges were dropped against Strauss in Gary City Court, according to a court document signed by Judge Deidre Monroe.
Angela Brown, administrator for the City of Gary Police Civil Service Commission, said Jones resigned effective March 8. Her resignation was accepted by the police commission during its April 3 public meeting, Gary City Attorney Rodney Pol, Jr., said.
However, Strauss said he still plans to continue with a lawsuit against Jones, the city, Gary Police Department, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Gary Police Chief Richard Allen, Deputy Chief Brian Evans and the two other Gary officers who were allegedly at the scene during the incident, Cpl. James Nielsen and probationary Officer D. Kirk.
The city does not comment on pending litigation, Gary spokeswoman LaLosa Burns said. She said the city is aware that Jones resigned and that the other officers involved were interviewed as a part of an internal investigation.
Strauss filed the legal complaint and demand for a jury trial on Jan. 18, according to court documents.
On the night of Sept. 1, officers were responding to a disturbance in the 4200 block of West 11th Place when Strauss began filming officers from across the street. The video ended with Strauss being handcuffed.
“It could've been anybody in that position,” Strauss said. “How many people see a fire down the street and walk down there and record to post on Facebook? It happens all the time. It could've been anyone in the situation I was in.”
The video of Strauss' arrest circulated on YouTube, which to date has more than 11,300 views.
In a Jan. 10 letter to the Gary Police Civil Service Commission, Allen wrote that Jones violated several of the department’s standard operating procedures.
In the letter, Allen said Jones disrespected Strauss' constitutionally protected civil rights, knowingly made false statements and engaged in conduct unbecoming of an officer.
Strauss has filmed and posted multiple videos of on-duty officers. He has also been arrested on numerous occasions over the years on charges of criminal trespassing and other alleged crimes.
One accusation against Strauss involved him dressed in a furry pink pig costume allegedly making lewd motions toward a Lake Station squad car on Jan. 10, while on River Forest Junior and Senior High School property in Hobart, according to court documents.
Strauss said the fuzzy pig costume inside a police uniform is part of a persona named "Qualified Immunity," which has its own YouTube channel separate from Strauss's regular video blogs. That day, Strauss was filming a segment for another YouTube channel called "Indy Blue News," according to the report.
Strauss said the focus of his video and audio recordings is to hold law enforcement and officials accountable as an auditor of the First Amendment and to spread public awareness.
“I believe video is a great way to show raw footage of what actually happened," Strauss said. "Then you have that raw footage, that raw interaction, between yourself and that person. You're getting a genuine reaction and you can't dispute that. It's not like they could say, 'I was baited into this or that's not how it really happened.' Either accept responsibility for your actions, or don't change and I'll keep coming back and people will see what's going on here and they'll change it."
About three minutes and 30 seconds into the Sept. 1 video, Strauss is seen walking in the street filming the parked squad cars. As two officers exit the house, Jones asks why Strauss is filming them.
"Because I can?" Strauss responds.
"No, you can't. Not of me. No, you can't," Jones replies.
"Well, I can. This is a public street and, by the way, you're live on YouTube right now," Strauss says.
"Well, I don't care. You can't record me. You can't record me. You trying to go to jail?" Jones responds.
The situation escalates, resulting in a brief scuffle after a male officer can be heard saying, “Lower your voice, you're not in charge. Lower your voice.”
As the camera rapidly shakes and crackles, Strauss yells, "Do not touch my camera!" Then a male officer can be heard saying, 'Get on the (expletive) ground!"
"Take me to jail. You know what? You just violated my rights!" Strauss says while he's being handcuffed on the ground.
According to Allen's previous letter to the police commission, when Strauss refused to stop recording and asked Jones for her name and badge number, Jones “grabbed Strauss’ arm that was holding the camera and Strauss pulled his arm back.”
Jones and a second officer then arrested Strauss and placed him in the back of the squad car.
Strauss alleged that he sustained a neck injury from the arrest when an officer allegedly had their knee pressing on the back of his neck. He said he feels the other two officers on the scene the night of Sept. 1 should also be held accountable.
“If you hold your officers accountable, then there's no reason to file a suit," Strauss said. “Because that's really all I want, accountability. They pushed off all of the blame on her because she initiated the interaction and it ended up costing her her job. But it's not just her fault, it's also the fault of the other officers there and the Gary Police Department, that maintains to not train officers on public photography, as well as Fourth and Fifth Amendment violations— when it's appropriate to ID a citizen and when it's not.”
However, Allen previously said Jones did receive training for such occurrences but she did not follow the training's directives.
“Ofc. (Officer) Jones had previously received procedural justice training that specifically trained her to handle this situation differently. Her failure to comply with her training is highly detrimental to the Gary Police Department and the city,” Allen wrote in his letter to the City of Gary Police Civil Service Commission.
GARY — Mady Perez spent Saturday much like she has many days since her sister went missing Feb. 25, walking the city, searching for answers.
Perez's sister, 36-year-old Jessica Flores, disappeared Feb. 25 and is presumed dead. She's one of 17 people Gary police say were killed in homicides during the first quarter of 2019.
"I'm not going to stop looking until we find her," Perez said as she prepared to walk a trail along the Little Calumet River in the city's Black Oak section. "We are going to find her."
Homicides and shootings have been on the rise this year in Gary, but police said gang-related cases are down and they've been able to secure charges or have a person of interest in a majority of the cases.
Another positive sign is that the number of gang-related homicides is down, police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said.
Of the 17 homicides this year, police currently think two were gang-related. Last year, nine of the 15 homicides reported during the first quarter were believed to be gang-related.
Shootings — including gang-related cases — are up this year.
Of the 30 gunshot wound victims this year, nine are believed to be gang-related. Last year, eight of the 18 shootings reported were believed to be gang-related.
By comparison, Hammond has recorded no homicides so far this year. East Chicago has logged two.
Hamady said the last gang-related homicide in Gary was in early February.
"We started an enforcement action on those two groups involved — the victim (group) and the suspect (group)," he said. "In two months, we haven't had a group-involved shooting."
As part of the Gary for Life program, police and their partners combine targeted enforcement actions with mentoring, employment assistance and youth violence prevention strategies.
During formal meetings, dubbed "call-ins," gang members and their associates are invited to hear what Gary For Life has to offer. They are offered help, but also warned they will face consequences if they choose to remain on their current path.
During enforcement actions, the Multi-Agency Gang Unit target neighborhoods where gangs operate, focusing on known, violent offenders and gang associates. The city has asked the Lake County prosecutor's office to make no exceptions for gang members charged with crimes, Hamady said.
This year it's drugs, rather than gang activity, that may have fueled the increase in homicides.
Jimmy Valentine, 55, of Gary, was one of three family members among four people found dead within one week in late February. Valentine had a history of cases related to heroin, court records show.
No charges have been filed in the homicides of Valentine; his wife, Tracy Valentine, 48; his brother Wayne Valentine, 69; and Timothy J. Snow, 55, of Hammond, who was found dead with Tracy Valentine Feb. 20 inside a home in the 400 block of Jefferson Street.
Court records allege the promise of cocaine may have led Flores and a witness to get in a car with the man charged with murdering Flores. Drew “Tiny” Carter III, 41, is accused of shooting Flores as she sat in the backseat of a car in Gary.
Hamady said police have secured charges in six of the 17 homicide cases this year and cleared one as accidental. Investigators have a person of interest in six of the remaining open cases, he said.
Though a murder charge has been filed in Flores' disappearance, Perez still has many unanswered questions, she said.
She's still holding out hope her sister is alive and being held against her will somewhere. DNA testing results that could more conclusively show Flores is dead remain pending, she said.
As she's combed Gary for clues, she's been taken aback by the blight and condition of many of the areas she's searched, she said.
The loss of Flores, a mother of six children, has affected her family tremendously.
"It's horrible," Perez said. "We've had to become investigators. We can't sleep."
Perez said she's pushed herself to go to work, because she has bills to pay and children who need her care. Her mother also has had a difficult time, and has had to rely on her strength and faith.
Flores' youngest children don't yet know their mother is presumed dead, she said. The older children are having a hard time.
"Nothing is going to stop me from looking for my sister," she said.
EAST CHICAGO — Police discovered a male with a gunshot wound inside a car that broke down Sunday night near downtown Hammond, a spokesman said.
Hammond investigators turned the case over to East Chicago police after learning the shooting allegedly happened there, Lt. Steven Kellogg said.
East Chicago police Lt. Marguerite Wilder said her department was working Monday to verify that the shooting occurred in East Chicago.
Hammond police closed down a section of Sohl Avenue at the intersection of Willow Street about 8 p.m. Sunday. Officers taped off a crime scene around a black car with a shattered windshield parked in the middle of the street with the passenger door ajar.
Kellogg said the car broke down in that location as someone attempted to drive the shooting victim to Franciscan Health hospital in Hammond.
Medics took the shooting victim to the hospital, he said.
Further details about the victim's age and possible location of the shooting were not immediately available from East Chicago police.
VALPARAISO — A 53-year-old Portage man will be required to register as a sex offender after pleading guilty Friday to felony child molesting, but he was sentenced to probation rather than prison time.
Neil Fultz pleaded guilty as charged and was sentenced to four years behind bars with all but time served suspended and spent on probation, according to the court.
He is to undergo a sex offender evaluation and therapy, according to the terms of the plea agreement.
Fultz was accused of repeatedly molesting a 9-year-old boy between May 8, 2016, and Jan. 9, 2018.
The accusations came to light Jan. 8, 2018 when the boy shared the claims with his mother on their way home from church after hearing a sermon about not hiding sins, police said.
The boy said Fultz has molested him more than 15 times and would apologize after each event, according to police. Fultz reportedly told the boy that if he ever told anyone about the sexual acts, Fultz might be put in jail.
PORTAGE — A 33-year-old woman is accused of attacking another customer at a local gas station because she was mad about losing her place in line at the checkout counter, police said.
Portage resident Kelly Magee faces preliminary misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct in the wake of the incident that occurred shortly after 11 p.m. Thursday at Speedway, 6370 Central Ave., according to a police report.
The alleged victim, a 25-year-old Portage woman, reportedly told police she passed Magee, who was standing to the side of the checkout line talking on a cellphone. Magee confronted her and was furious about being passed in line and was shouting obscenities, police said.
The woman said she apologized and as she began walking toward the exit, Magee began hitting her in the face, police said. She was stopped seconds later by other customers.
The woman had bruising and redness starting to form on the right side of her forehead and was complaining of pain, police said.
Magee reportedly told police she assumed her spot in line would be saved while she spoke on the phone based on "her prior experiences at other Speedways."
Magee said the other woman became very animated and raised her hands over her head during the argument, but never clinched her fists or swung at Magee, police said.
A store clerk said the dispute appeared to be resolved at the counter after an exchange of words, police said. But Magee said as the other woman left, "That was rude of you."
The woman responded that Magee could have stepped back into her place in line, at which time Magee began striking her, the clerk told police.
The developers behind JAK's Warehouse plan a new entertainment center with "boutique bowling," an upscale restaurant and bar, an arcade, Lasertron and Cyber Sport at the south end of the old Menards in Schererville.
Schererville Town Manager Robert Volkmann said Up Your Alley would be a massive project taking up 43,380 square feet. It would seat around 500 people in the restaurant and bar.
The developers plan to invest at least $2.2 million in construction at the former lumberyard portion of Menards property, which has been redeveloped into the Boulevard Square mall. Current businesses include Planet Fitness, Last Chance Overstock, United Art & Education, Sky Zone, Kali Beauty, Region Ale and El Salto.
"It's more adult entertainment with bowling, a bar, a restaurant, electronic gaming and party rooms," Volkmann said. "It's more entertainment and dining for the Region that's definitely trying to build upon the movie theaters across the street."
Construction has started, and it should take at least a year, since it involves closing-in the outdoor yard of the Menard's home improvement store, which moved to a larger location south on Indianapolis Boulevard in 2013.
Developers are Justin Tauber, Kyle Ropa and Dennis Caudill, who developed JAK's Warehouse in Schererville and Gizmos Fun Factory in Orland Park.
"The vision for Schererville Bowling Entertainment Center was created through the experience gained over these last several years, and we are looking to build on that experience to create the most elite family entertainment center/boutique bowling facility in the Northwest Indiana area," they wrote in a business plan submitted to the town. "Schererville Bowling Family Entertainment Center is a boutique bowling business where an upscale restaurant and bar collide with an entertainment facility, creating an energetic, fun, exciting, yet sophisticated atmosphere."
Plans call for the entertainment center at 1048 U.S. 41 to include 20 bowling lanes, an arcade with 60 video games and a 5,000-square-foot Lasertron arena. The arena will include a second level, eight bases and hundreds of obstacles that will give players "plenty of places to hide."
It also will offer Cyber Sport, a two-team game that can accommodate up to 10 players at a time. Played in Cyber Cars, it combines lacrosse and basketball.
According to the plan, the restaurant will have a classically trained chef who's developed high-end farm-to-table concepts and craft cocktail menus at gastropubs. The menu will feature "upscale rustic Americana food" and customers can order food from the restaurant, bar or their reserved bowling lane.
The hardwood lanes will include plush seating, game-side tables, hi-top bar tables and "extensive social media integration that lets bowlers easily share their experiences (including live scoring) via Facebook, Twitter and other popular social networks."
Wait staff will take orders at the lanes so people can eat and bowl at the same time. They also will be able to order beer, wine and specialty cocktails.
The facility will be designed by Design Development Co., whose other clients have include Hard Rock Cafe and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. The converted warehouse will have an industrial look with exposed wood and structural elements turned into showpieces.
Up Your Alley will have four party rooms that can accommodate up to 32 people for birthday parties and two larger party rooms that could accommodate up to 130 for largest corporate parties.
"In a growing technology-engulfed world, adults are increasingly desiring social time that doesn't have to involve a screen of video game console," the developers wrote in their business plan. "People are as socially connected as we've ever been thanks to technology but we're just as disconnected as we've ever been. We want to provide our customers with the opportunity to go back to the future and allow people to gather and spend time together over a game of bowling."
EAST CHICAGO — The roof of a doctor's office collapsed Thursday night, filling the walkway in front with bricks and rubble.
Firefighters responded to 1615 Columbus Drive for a structural collapse around 7 p.m. Thursday, East Chicago Assistant Fire Chief Alan Abascal said.
The upper facade of the building and the roof collapsed, filling the sidewalk in front with rubble, bricks and concrete.
The building, near the intersection of Columbus Drive and Parrish Avenue, serves as a doctor's office. The building was empty at the time of the collapse, and no one was injured, Abascal said. There was no residences in the building's top floor.
The cause of the collapse is unknown, though firefighters at the scene said the windy weather could have contributed.
The building is set to be boarded up until repairs are made, Abascal said.
CROWN POINT — A plea agreement is possible in a case against a mother charged with neglect last year after her two youngest children died in an apartment fire in Gary's Miller section.
Kristen A. Gober, 34, appeared in custody with attorney Thomas Mullins, who said he and Deputy Prosecutor Michelle Jatkiewicz were discussing a possible plea agreement. He asked for another hearing this month.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell set Gober's next court date for April 22, online records show.
After the hearing, Gober began to cry as she sat at the side of the courtroom. Another inmate briefly took her hand to comfort her.
Gober sent a letter to a court official in August expressing a desire to join the Lake County Mental Health Court.
Gober is charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in death, neglect of a dependent and marijuana possession on allegations she left her three young children unsupervised March 25, 2018, in her apartment at Lakeshore Dunes Apartment Complex, 5820 Forest Court, Gary.
The children allegedly started a fire while playing with the apartment's stove, which caused the deaths of two of Gober's children — Kailani Gober, 2, and her brother Khristopher Gober, 4. The woman's 6-year-old son managed to escape the building with the help of other residents.
The fire also caused significant damage to the building and displaced dozens of residents.
CROWN POINT — A judge reduced bond Monday for a man accused of driving drunk and killing a 40-year-old motorcyclist last summer in Gary.
Santiago Marquez's attorney John Cantrell asked Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez to set his bond at $2,000 cash.
After hearing argument from Cantrell and Deputy Prosecutor Jonathan Soverly, Vasquez set Marquez's bond at $30,000 surety or $3,000 cash.
Marquez, 37, is accused of shrugging and telling the motorcyclist's brother, who also was involved in the crash, "I should have just waited, sorry."
Marcus Harris, 40, of Gary, was driving a motorcycle and his brother following behind in a car when Santiago drove a green Ford Explorer into the path of Harris' motorcycle July 28 near Fifth Avenue and Colfax Street, police said.
The Explore struck and killed Harris and caused Harris' brother to hit a utility pole.
Marquez's grandmother testified Monday he could live with her in Gary and she would provide him with transportation to court hearings. Cantrell said her testimony showed Marquez would not pose a flight risk.
Soverly detailed a number of previous cases against Marquez, including a guilty plea to operating while intoxicated in 2003 in Lake County. Marquez was arrested on an OWI charge in 2013, but no case was filed, he said.
Vasquez agreed to reduce Marquez's bond from $5,000 cash to $3,000 cash, in part because Marquez has not had any significant felony or misdemeanor convictions in the past five years.
VALPARAISO — A brown mini-van with its sliding door open was seen Monday morning driving past students on their way to morning bus stops, according to police.
The incident occurred about 7:30 a.m. in the 2500 block of Tea Rose Drive, police said.
The van door closed as it passed a particular student and it left the area without having contact with anyone, police said.
"The incident was observed by a parent who reported it to police," according to the local department. "Police checked the area extensively and did not locate the van or receive any additional complaints regarding it."
Police continue to investigate and said they plan additional patrols.
Anyone with information about the van or its occupants are encouraged to contact the Valparaiso Police Department at 219-462-2135. Information can also be texted to TIP411 (219-847-411) and enter “Valpo” in the message field prior to sending the message.
EAST CHICAGO — Work crews at the new Cline Avenue Bridge are finishing installation of the piers that will support the 6,236-foot bridge, and have begun putting up the segments of its surface, with the goal of opening it to traffic in nine months.
"We're on schedule; we plan to open up in January 2020," said Terry Velligan, the general manager for bridge owner United Bridge Partners, on Monday.
The first of 685 bridge segments went up March 21, Velligan said, with three since then. At full speed, four of the pre-cast concrete segments, most of which are 10-feet long and weigh as much as 85 tons, will be lifted into place by crane daily.
About 100 workers are on site now, said Jay Rohleder, the project manager for construction company Figg Bridge Group. A total of about 300 will work on the project in all its phases.
The privately owned toll bridge will have a 12-foot lane of traffic in each direction and 9-foot shoulders on each side. It will rise 100 feet above the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal, the same height as the original bridge, which was closed in 2009. The full project has an estimated cost of $150 million.
In addition to final work on several of the 29 piers, crews continue to cast the concrete bridge segments in a large building near the west end of the project. Each segment is cast for its particular place in the bridge, which in addition to its vertical rise curves horizontally through the industrial landscape.
"All that geometry's been cast in," Rohleder said of the unique segments.
About two-thirds of the 685 segments have been cast, and are being moved into staging position by a 110-ton straddle lift — a four-wheeled, long-legged vehicle designed for the task. Segments will be erected from west to east.
Work is also being done at the east end of the bridge, where the it will be connected to an existing steel structure that runs about 2,700 feet to ground level.
When the bridge opens, Velligan said the toll for an automobile will be $2.25 using an electronic transponder, with an open-road toll gantry at the western end of the bridge. Ten cents of each toll will go to the city of East Chicago for its infrastructure needs.
"Our next big thing is to start putting the toll system in," Velligan said.
Velligan said the bridge will help take truck traffic off local roads, reducing congestion and idling time. He also said businesses have contacted him about the new access to northern Lake County.
"A lot of businesses will start to look at this and say, now we can get into Lake County," Velligan said.
United Bridge Partners projects 10,000 vehicles per day will use the bridge when it opens.
"In the future, if the traffic counts grow to the point it needs a second structure, we're set up to be able to do that," Rohleder said.
The public will be invited to the main project site, 219 Riley Road, for one-hour "Sidewalk Talks" that provide a view of the project and description of its progress from Velligan and Rohleder. The events are scheduled for 9 to 10 a.m. on eight Saturdays: April 27, May 18, June 22, July 20, Aug. 17, Sept. 21, Oct. 19 and Nov. 16. The June and August events will include the opportunity to sign the interior of one of the bridge segments as a "time capsule" for the project.
CROWN POINT — With its grand opening roughly a week away, the final touches are being added to the new Dean and Barbara White Southlake YMCA in preparation for little splashes and big-time fun.
The $34 million facility, which was added onto the existing Y, will be open for the public to enjoy and explore April 15.
“The Y is seen as a family place. This family place just got better and stronger,” Crossroads YMCA CEO Jay Buckmaster said Wednesday, while standing in the new indoor family pool area.
Deemed by staff as the “crown jewel,” the indoor aquatic center features a swirly, 100-foot water slide, a zero-depth entry leisure pool and aquatic playground, a sauna and whirlpool, and a 25-yard, handicapped-accessible, six-lane lap pool equipped with diving boards.
“There aren’t many pools you can just walk into. Young children will be able to explore more, learn how to swim … expose them to water to be able to make sure they are healthy and confident to lower the drowning rate,” Buckmaster said, adding that the Y is called “America’s swim instructor.” The nonprofit organization has been offering swimming lessons to local communities for more than 150 years.
Construction is wrapping up on the outdoor pool, too. It will include a climbing wall, diving board, private cabanas, a spray-and-play feature for families and lap swimming.
The outdoor pool is set to open Memorial Day, said Marketing Director Jill Schaffenberger.
In addition to its existing classes and programming, the Y plans to expand fitness opportunities, offering more versions of swim lessons, from parent-child classes to high-level, competitive aquatics and junior lifeguarding.
With safety as the top priority, Buckmaster said the pools will have 19 lifeguards on duty at a time to monitor and protect swimmers of all ages.
“It will be nice for families to come here and have the option to come in and out whenever they want,” Schaffenberger said, looking at the indoor zero-depth pool and play area equipped with brightly-colored water cannons and dumping buckets.
“You can already picture how fun this is going to be for the little kids, for the whole family. We want them to feel safe around water and have fun. It’s going to be great.”
The indoor and outdoor pools are only a portion of the 80,000-square-foot addition.
The Southlake YMCA will also include a wellness area with expanded group exercise facilities, functional training areas, a new cycle studio, personalized TV screens on the cardio equipment and a sports performance/turf area.
The gyms will have more youth sports for all ages, two gyms for open play and family time, and an indoor, one-sixth-mile track around the gyms and fitness area.
A Kids Zone/Kids Club filled with toys and a play gym will offer more interactive play and programming activities for young Y members.
A family game room, juice and coffee bar and large lobby and lounge area will also be open to explore.
“Sometimes we are just seen as a place to workout, but this really changes the paradigm,” Buckmaster said. “It’s not your 30-minute fitness center anymore. It’s your two-hour family fun destination.”
The new addition is only the first phase of what’s to come.
Starting April 11, the existing building will close and renovations will begin on that half. The existing pool area will be transformed into a gymnastics center, an early learning center will be added, and all the Y’s administrative offices will be moved to the facility.
Construction on the second phase will be complete in September.
“This is a destination YMCA,” Buckmaster said. “We will go from 12,000 to over 20,000 members in the next year.”
A community open house with tours of the new facilities will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 13. A special donor dedication ceremony will take place at 5:30 p.m. April 11.
“We are fortunate and blessed that the Dean and Barbara White Foundation saw the vision of providing a safe space for kids and families to stay active and healthy," Buckmaster said. "What an opportunity.”
The foundation contributed $21 million to the project, and other large donors gave about $10 million and the general public donated $3.4 million during the 2017 fundraising campaign.