CROWN POINT — A Cedar Lake woman told police she noticed her 6-month-old daughter wasn't well Thursday, but went with her boyfriend to buy drugs and didn't seek help for the baby until the following day, court records allege.
Brittany C. Chambers, 20, was charged Monday with two counts of felony neglect in connection with the death of her daughter Elliana Orgon.
Elliana suffered four broken ribs, two dislocated shoulders, a fractured cervical vertebrae and multiple head injuries, Lake Criminal Court records state. The injuries likely were caused by blunt force trauma to the rear of her body.
Crown Point Police Chief Pete Land said the investigation would not end with Chamber's arrest.
"Our detectives are continuing in their aggressive and thorough follow-ups," he said. "We won't stop until anyone that may have had a role in this child's death is brought to justice."
When police arrived Friday to a home in the 700 block of Main Street in Crown Point, they found Elliana was cold to the touch and in rigor mortis, Lake Criminal Court records say.
Chambers, Elliana's mother, told police she called 911 after awaking about 2 p.m. and finding her infant was cold and blue.
Police observed garbage, drug paraphernalia and animal feces in the bedroom where Elliana's playpen was located, according to court records.
The playpen was damaged and filled with clothes and there were broken items all over the floor. The room smelled of feces and urine, and unknown liquid substances stuck to the shoes of officers who entered the room, records allege.
Chambers initially told police she, her boyfriend and Elliana went out Thursday and returned about midnight. She claimed she put Elliana to bed and went to bed about an hour later.
Chambers' boyfriend told police he and Chambers dropped her 2-year-old son off with his father and went to several restaurants before returning home about 11 p.m. Thursday. He claimed Chambers put the baby to bed and fell asleep in the bedroom.
The doctor who performed an autopsy on Elliana determined the baby's injuries likely would have occurred 12 to 14 hours before police found her in rigor mortis about 2 p.m. Friday, court records state.
In another interview with Crown Point police, Chambers admitted she signed an agreement in March with the Department of Child Services that prohibited her from allowing Elliana to have any contact with her boyfriend, court records say. The agreement was signed after Elliana suffered a previous injury that required hospitalization.
Records show the boyfriend was charged June 17 in Hobart City Court with misdemeanor possession of a synthetic drug or lookalike substance. His initial hearing in that case was set for July 15.
The boyfriend had not been charged in connection with Elliana's death as of Monday afternoon, records showed.
Chambers told police she left Elliana in her boyfriend's care, in violation of the safety plan agreement with DCS, while she took her son to his father's home, records allege.
When she returned, she noticed Elliana did not look right but did not check on her, records say. Chambers allegedly told police her boyfriend moved Elliana from a bounce chair to a car seat before they traveled to Gary to buy drugs.
She claimed she was robbed while attempting to buy drugs and later made a successful drug purchase. She, her boyfriend and Elliana then returned to his Crown Point home, where the couple smoked synthetic marijuana, records say.
Chambers told police she didn't know what happened to Elliana and did not check on the infant from midnight to 2 p.m. Friday, according to court records.
The investigation into Elliana's death was led by Crown Point Police Detectives Norm Issacs and Ryan Olson, Land said.
Chambers was being held Monday on a $50,000 bail. Court records did not yet list a defense attorney or date for her initial hearing.
MUNSTER — A cook working at El Salto Restaurant heard a loud boom and found a car surrounded by debris in the employee bathroom late Tuesday.
At about 11 p.m., officers were called to a wreck at 9611 Calumet Ave. and found a white Ford Fusion had crashed into El Salto Restaurant, Munster police Lt. John Peirick said.
El Salto Cook Freddy Garcia-Hernandez said he was talking with coworkers in the dining area when they heard a loud bang come from the kitchen.
“I saw smoke and the extinguishers going off, and I see a car in the middle of the employee bathroom,” Garcia-Hernandez said. “I started knocking on the window. I was afraid someone was hurt or dead inside, but no one was there.”
Garcia-Hernandez went to the outside of the building facing Calumet Avenue, where the vehicle struck the building. He saw a distressed woman sitting at the nearby street corner in front of The Simple Greek and waited with her until first responders arrived.
At the time, the restaurant was closed and only staff were in the building. Garcia-Hernandez said it was lucky that no one was inside the bathroom at the time, including himself.
“It totally wrecked the bathroom,” he said. “I was just about to use the restroom but ended up talking to my coworkers. I could have easily been back there, or the bus girl, who normally empties the trash cans around that time.”
The wreck also resulted in extensive damage to the building's exterior wall facing Calumet Avenue and the vehicle.
Peirick said the driver, a 37-year-old Dyer woman, was taken to the hospital to be checked for injuries before she was transported to Lake County Jail, Peirick said. He said police suspect alcohol was a factor in the crash.
El Salto Restaurant is running under normal operations and business was not affected by the crash. The damaged section of the building is currently boarded up pending repairs.
PORTAGE — A 20-year-old employee of a Portage auto parts store faces multiple charges after two 10-year-old girls discovered a cell phone recording video images Saturday in the employee's bathroom of the business, according to police.
Adan Alvarado, of the 6900 block of Squirrel Creek, was charged Monday with felony counts child exploitation, possession of child pornography and four counts of voyeurism, according to charging documents.
The camera was discovered by the girls at the O'Reilly Auto Parts store at 6100 Central Ave. during a Portage Junior Miss Softball carwash fundraiser, according to court documents.
The second of the two girls to use the bathroom was in a state of partial undress when she noticed the cell phone, which was placed to the left of the toilet behind what appeared to be a plunger and bottles of disinfectant, police said.
Police said a video on the phone shot at 12:18 p.m. Saturday showed Alvarado placing the phone in position near the toilet. The two girls in question then enter the bathroom 15 minutes later with the first girl using the bathroom on video and the second making the discovering while partially disrobed.
Police said they also discovered videos on the phone shot in the same bathroom on May 29, June 5 and June 8. Those camera captured videos of a couple of Alvarado's female coworkers, who he said were his intended target, police said.
Alvarado, who was found to have a small electronic camera in his possession, reportedly told police he "made a stupid decision/idea of putting my phone in the employee's bathroom."
"Adan said he did not know why he did it, it just 'happened' but he did not mean for younger girls to go in and see the cellular telephone or be recorded," according to charging information.
Police said Alvarado directed the two young girls to the bathroom.
Alvarado said he did not know how long he intended to keep the video recording in the bathroom and intended it for his own personal use.
"Adan said he has watched videos like that before and thought, 'Oh that'd be cool,'" police said.
He reportedly told police he had only carried out this type of recording at the auto parts store and only on three occasions.
PORTAGE — Charles Puskac said he thought it strange that the purchase of a large step ladder, garden hose, a couple of heavy duty tie downs, and various hardware and clothing at the local Walmart store rang up to just $7.42, according to police.
The 41-year-old Portage Township man said he intended to speak to the loss prevention officer on the way out of the store but then clammed up when it was pointed out he passed by the officer, who wound up chasing after him, police said.
Puskac was taken into custody Thursday afternoon on a preliminary count of misdemeanor theft, police said.
The loss prevention officer said he watched Puskac cut the price tags off the items in question and replace them with sticker tags taken from the clearance aisle, police said. Puskac then took the items to a self-checkout lane and rang up each using the lower price tags he placed on the items.
The value of the items in question totaled nearly $184, according to police.
Puskac said he thought the items were on sale, police said. He said each item had multiple prices so he used the lowest price.
Puskac repeatedly offered to go back and pay the full price for the items, police said.
HAMMOND — A line of eight unmarked vehicles with Illinois plates sat idling in front of a Hammond residence as federal agents executed a search warrant there Tuesday morning.
Hammond police Lt. Steven Kellogg confirmed the raid was conducted by the Internal Revenue Service in the 3100 block of 173rd Street. Officers could be seen outside the Hammond home talking with agents, but Kellogg said his department isn't involved in the IRS investigation.
IRS agents, adorned in plain clothes, black police vests and blue medical gloves could be seen removing items from the residence and placing the objects into the unmarked SUVs. At least one firearm was recovered from the two-story, brick home that sits almost directly across from the Caldwell Youth Sports Complex.
IRS spokeswoman Vicki Petricka said agents conducted a search warrant at the home, but she declined further comment.
"I cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation," said Ryan Holmes, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Check back at nwi.com for updates as this story develops.
GARY — Three men were killed and two were wounded in three separate shootings during the past week in Gary, police said.
The deaths bring the total number of homicides in Gary so far this year to 28, up from 23 at the same time last year, police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said.
Jordan Mitchell, 19, of Merrillville and Gary, and an 18-year-old Chicago man were shot in the 2200 block of Carolina Street about 9:20 p.m. Saturday, according to police and the Lake County coroner's office.
Gary police arrived at the crime scene and found the Chicago man, who had been shot several times in the body, Hamady said. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
While police were investigating, they learned another gunshot victim — later identified as Mitchell — had arrived at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in a private vehicle, Cmdr. Jack Hamady said.
Mitchell was pronounced dead about 10:10 p.m. from a gunshot wound to the head, authorities said.
Investigators learned Mitchell and the 18-year-old were both in the 2200 block of Carolina before a third man approached and began shooting, Hamady said. The suspect was last seen leaving the area in an older model Chevrolet Malibu, he said.
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said in a news release that investigators also were reviewing information possibly linked to the case from a crime scene at West Seventh Avenue and McKinley Street and another in the 600 block of Grant Street, which is where Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus is located.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Kris Adams of the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3825.
A 40-year-old Griffith man was killed and a 37-year-old Griffith man was wounded in a shooting about 3 p.m. Friday in the 1500 block of Broadway, police said.
Police found Coty Porter, 40, on the ground outside a vehicle with an open driver's side door after police responded to a report of a gunshot wound victim, Hamady said.
The 37-year-old man was found seated in the passenger seat. Both men were taken to a local hospital, where Porter was pronounced dead.
The 37-year-old was transferred to a Chicago hospital, where he was in stable condition Monday, Hamady said.
Police said a black man driving a light-colored vehicle — possibly a silver Chevrolet four-door car — may have been involved.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Cpl. Edward Gonzalez of the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3852.
Jermaine Jones Sr., 28, of Triangle, Virginia, died Friday at an Illinois hospital after a shooting about 6 p.m. June 18 in the 500 block of Jackson Street in Gary, authorities said.
Jones and a 33-year-old Gary man were wounded in the shooting, Hamady said.
The men were at a gathering to celebrate the life of Joshua Frierson, 37, of Gary, who was killed in a homicide June 11 in the 500 block of Jackson Street. A man opened fire during the gathering and fled, Hamady said.
Jones died from a gunshot wound to the neck. His death was ruled a homicide, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
Anyone with information about Jones' homicide is asked to call Detective Lt. Thomas Pawlak at 219-881-1210.
To anonymously report information about crime in Gary, call 866-CRIME-GP.
Times staff writer Olivia Heersink contributed to this report.
PORTAGE — A 24-year-old Portage woman was taken into custody early Friday after she was discovered outside her home burning the clothes of a man she accused of cheating on her, according to police.
Jeannie Hall, of the 500 block of Camelot Manor, faces a misdemeanor count of resisting law enforcement, according to the incident report.
Police said when they arrived to her residence shortly before 1 a.m., they found Hall throwing items into a pile of burning clothes in her driveway. Police also noticed a silver pickup truck with a shattered front windshield.
After following police orders to extinguish the fire with a garden hose, Hall, who smelled of alcohol, initially told police the fire was an accident, police said.
She then said, "I come from the woods, and we have bonfires all the time. I was just trying to roast some marshmallows," police said.
Hall then reportedly told the officer she was burning the clothes of the man she is living with because he cheated on her.
"Ms. Hall advised due to (the alleged victim) not 'loving me like he should' that it was her right to light his clothing on fire," according to police.
While Hall said the damage to the truck had occurred a couple weeks earlier, a witness reportedly told police he saw Hall drink a small glass of vodka, pick up a gardening shovel and hit the truck windshield, in addition to lighting the clothing on fire.
Hall reportedly told police, "I'm done with this" before heading back into her home against police orders. After attempting to slam the door on officers, Hall picked up her infant as a way of avoiding being handcuffed and further resisted arrest, police said. The infant was left in the care of the biological father.
The alleged victim said he did not want anything done about the damage to his vehicle or the burned clothes, police said.
PORTAGE — Police responding to a report of an intoxicated driver with a child Wednesday at a Subway restaurant said they found a woman falling asleep behind the wheel of her vehicle and in unlawful possession of various prescription drugs.
Jennifer Klemm, 39, of Portage, was taken into custody on preliminary felony counts of possessing a narcotic drug, possessing a controlled substance, operating a vehicle while intoxicated with a passenger under the age of 18, and misdemeanor charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering another person and operating a vehicle while intoxicated with a controlled substance, according to police.
Police were alerted about the woman by Subway employees, who were so concerned about her driving away with the child that they delayed her order to allow time for officers to arrive, according to the incident report. They said Klemm was at the drive-through window slurring her speech and ordering after being asked to wait.
They also watched as she drove to the parking lot exit and then sat there, despite the road being free of vehicles, police said.
The responding officer said Klemm's eyes were half closed and her mouth hanging open. She also was covered in sores.
Klemm reportedly told police she has a prescription for Suboxone, but officers said they found her in unlawful possession of numerous other prescription drugs.
A blood draw and urine test were taken, and revealed drugs in her system, police said.
Her 10-year-old child, who was found unrestrained in the vehicle, was released to Klemm's fiance, police said.
LOWELL — A man with a 6-year-old in a minivan led police on a high-speed chase from Gary to Lowell in a stolen vehicle, police said.
Tyralle Dequon Jones, 28, of Gary, was arrested and booked into the Lake County Jail following the chase, said Lake County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Pamela Jones.
Criminal charges against Jones are pending. During the pursuit, a records search revealed the minivan Jones was driving had been reported as stolen, police said.
A Lake County sheriff's detective observed a light blue minivan driving recklessly at 2:35 p.m. Wednesday at the intersection of 25th Avenue and Whitcomb Street in Gary, Pamela Jones said.
The detective pursued the minivan, which never came to a stop, and alerted other officers he was chasing a vehicle going south near West 15th Avenue and Clark Street.
The minivan led chase on Interstate 80/94 going east and then sped south on Interstate 65. The detective lost sight of the minivan on the interstate near U.S. 30 as it was traveling at a high rate of speed.
Two officers waiting at the entrance ramp to south I-65 off of U.S. 30 saw the minivan speed past them on the interstate through a construction zone and activated their lights as they pursued the driver, police said.
The driver still led chase, swerving from lane to lane and driving on the shoulder, Pamela Jones said. Police said they saw the minivan hit the rear end of a black Honda Accord near U.S. 231 and I-65 and continue driving southbound.
The minivan then drove into a weigh station on south I-65 and then sped back onto interstate, abruptly cutting across all lanes of traffic and onto the Lowell exit onto Ind. 2, police said.
With Lake County sheriff's police and state troopers following the minivan, the chase continued west on Ind. 2 toward Lowell.
As the police and minivan entered Lowell's town limits, the pursuit continued onto East Commercial Avenue. Officers saw the minivan drive in the wrong lane and pass other cars in a double yellow line, police said.
The minivan made a sharp right turn going north on Burr Street, allegedly striking a silver Chevrolet Envoy.
As the chase neared the 17700 block of Burr, the minivan's front right tire appeared to be damaged and the vehicle came to a stop in the middle of the road, police said.
Officers ordered the driver to show his hands and exit the vehicle. He was removed from the vehicle and handcuffed as police checked the minivan.
It was then that police discovered a scared 6-year-old girl in back seat. The girl was found to be Tyralle Jones' daughter.
She appeared to be shaken up and had cut on her finger, police said. An ambulance was called for both Jones and the child, who were transported to Franciscan Health Crown Point for medical evaluation; both were cleared. Police notified the Department of Child and Family Services and a case manager was sent to speak to the child at the hospital.
DCFS said the girl could be released to the care of her mother. Jones was taken to the Lake County Jail and booked.
A Lowell resident who lives in the 17000 block of Burr Street was at home when he saw multiple police cars surround the minivan in front of his house.
“I was nervous, hoping that no gunfire was going to happen, but (the police) took care of things very professionally,” the resident said.
Olivia Heersink and Anna Ortiz
Times Staff Writers
As water flooded streets and properties, the recent rainfall has caused its fair share of woes — and there may be more water works to come.
A line of strong thunderstorms will approach Chicago Thursday night that may bring gusty winds into the Region, said Meteorologist Lee Carlaw of the National Weather Service.
The storms may sweep through Northwest Indiana overnight into the morning, however, there's an equal chance the storms may stay north of Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, Carlaw said. At this time, chances of storms are up in the air — both literally and figuratively.
"With summer storms, they tend to develop out of clear skies," Carlaw said. "It's the nature of the beast."
There's another potential storm meteorologists are monitoring that may strike later Friday afternoon.
Overnight rains have prompted a flood warning to be issued by the National Weather Service for Lake, Porter, Newton and Jasper counties early Thursday. Flood warnings will remain in effect throughout this week, replacing previous flash flood warnings, officials said.
"Although rainfall has ended and most small streams should be cresting soon, flooding is expected to continue as water slowly drains downstream," NWS officials said in a news release Thursday. "Turn around, don't drown when encountering flooded roads. Be especially cautious at night when it is harder to recognize the dangers of flooding."
Areas that may experience flooding include Merrillville, Schererville, Crown Point, Munster, Griffith, St. John, Cedar Lake, Lowell, DeMotte, Momence, Morocco, Thayer, Roselawn, Gifford, Enos, Pembroke, Fair Oaks and Dunns Bridge.
A river flood warning for the Little Calumet River at Hohman Avenue in Munster and Indiana 912 in Hammond is in affect until Friday afternoon.
By 5 p.m. Thursday, the water level was at 12.5 feet, which is 6 inches higher than the flood stage, also known as the water level when flooding occurs. Forecasters predicted the river will continue to rise to an estimated 13.5 feet by Friday morning, according to the NWS.
Another flood warning for Hart Ditch in Dyer is in affect until 2 a.m. Friday. At 5 p.m. Thursday, the water level was at 11.8 feet. The flood stage is 12 feet, and water levels are expected to rise to 12.1 feet by Thursday evening. Water levels are expected to quickly fall below 12 feet by the end of the night, according to the NWS.
In Dyer, the NWS reported that garages on Gettler Street were flooded and street storm sewers on 206th Street in the northern Northgate subdivision were at capacity.
The flood warning for the Kankakee River at Shelby and DeMotte was extended until late Sunday night. By 9:45 a.m. Thursday the water level was at 9.8 feet, which is nearly a foot above the flood stage of 9 feet. The river is expected to rise to almost 10.4 feet by Friday morning, however, water levels are expected to fall below flood stage by Sunday evening.
The NWS said at 10.5 feet, water will overflow into low-lying river banks along Bluegrass Road and in Wildwood Estates located east of Sumava Resorts in Newton County.
Crown Point Mayor David Uran said the town received reports of more than 5 inches of rain overnight, with the White Hawk Country Club and Birdland communities near West South Street being hit the worst.
"The majority of our issues are were yard and isolated street flooding," Uran said. "We did have some homes with water in their basement."
Uran said it's been cold and damp for the majority of the past 60 days. So far in June, 13 inches of rain accumulation has been recorded, he said. This far surpasses the average June rainfall of 4.49 inches, he said. In May, it rained 23 days out of the month, accumulating to 7.25 inches of rainfall, Uran said.
The storms also led to more than 1,800 customers without power as of early Thursday morning, affecting at least 37 cities in the Region, according to NIPSCO's website. As of 8:55 a.m., about 1,500 people were without power.
As of 7 p.m. Thursday, there were a total of 4,438 customers in 14 Northwest Indiana communities without power, according to NIPSCO's power outage website. Munster had by far the largest amount of outages with a reported 4,302 customers without power. NIPSCO Public Affairs Director Rick Calinski said all customers affected by the storm will have their power restored by Friday morning.
VALPARAISO — Just hours after he allegedly killed a young man and woman, Valparaiso resident Connor Kerner shared the news and details with an acquaintance before giving her a chilling warning, according to police.
"Connor told (the confidential informant) that if she told anyone that he did this (the killings), he would kill her and her family," according to additional charges filed in the case.
Kerner has been charged with a new felony count of intimidation, according to court records.
A felony arson charge also was added, accusing Kerner of burning the 2012 Honda Civic used by the victims on the night of their Feb. 25 slayings, police said. Authorities said the victims were in the vehicle when it was lit on fire.
Kerner was already facing two counts of murder.
A status hearing in the case is scheduled for July 15 before Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.
Kerner is accused of killing Thomas Grill Jr., 18, of Cedar Lake, and Molley R. Lanham, 19, of St. John, in what Kerner said was a drug deal gone bad in Kerner's grandparents' garage in Boone Township, according to court records.
The confidential informant told police she was at Kerner's home from 7-10:30 p.m. Feb. 25 and noticed he was "visibly upset," according to charging information.
"(The informant) asked what was wrong," according to court records. "Connor replied that he had done something 'really bad.' She asked him to specify, to which he replied, 'I killed someone, and I killed an innocent girl.'"
Kerner allegedly went on to identify his victims as Grill and Lanham, but the informant thought Kerner was joking until later noticing a missing persons report involving Grill and Lanham on social media, police said.
"(The informant) advised that she texted Kerner a picture of the missing persons report and he replied 'Jesus,'" according to court documents.
Kerner allegedly told the informant the details of the killings, and on Feb. 28, told her he would kill her and her family if she told anyone, according to court records.
Kerner, who was 17 at the time of the killings, reportedly told the informant he shot Grill after Grill tried to rob him during the drug deal.
"Grill fell to the ground and was begging for his life," according to police records. "Kerner advised that he panicked due to being out of bullets in the gun. Kerner then beat him (Grill) with a pipe wrench until he died."
Kerner then showed Grill's body to Lanham, court records allege. Kerner warned Lanham not to say anything about the death, and as she turned to leave, Kerner shot her in the head, police said.
An informant told police Kerner said he loaded the two bodies into the trunk of the teens' Honda Civic about midnight following the killings and loaded the vehicle with various containers of flammable liquids.
Kerner drove the Civic to an area near the intersection of County Roads 550 South and 250 West in Porter Township and set the vehicle and bodies ablaze, the informant told police.
The bodies were discovered March 2 inside the burned-out car and were confirmed to be Grill and Lanham, authorities said.
"Kerner's plan was to rent a U-Haul truck later and somehow get the car in it and dump it in the Mississippi River," police said.
"Kerner told (the informant) he had done this before and knew how to cover up a murder and get away with it," according to charging documents.
HOBART — A woman was looking at watermelons in a store when a man approached her and questioned her “on what type of watermelon was the best.” After she left the business, her credit card company contacted her about several thousand dollars worth of purchases charged to her account, police said.
Hobart Capt. James Gonzales said two victims of theft each reported stolen wallets following nonsensical conversations, prompting police to caution the public against strangers approaching people with peculiar dialogue.
“As a precaution, if someone engages you in a conversation about nonsense while you are shopping, you should ignore that person and remove yourself from that situation ASAP and report it to loss prevention or law enforcement as soon as possible,” Gonzales said. “It is better to appear as being rude than becoming a victim of a theft and fraud.”
On Friday, police responded to a store in the 2900 block of East 79th Avenue after two people reported similar thefts.
Police reviewed store surveillance footage showing the man who approached the woman about watermelons. Police described the man as black and wearing gray sweatpants, a gray zip-up sweatshirt over a red shirt and red shoes. As the man talked to the victim, a woman was seen on footage removing a wallet from the victim's purse.
The woman was described as black wearing blue jeans, a brown jacket, a dark shirt and white shoes, Gonzales said. It appears the man and woman drove a light-colored sport utility vehicle that could possibly be a Chevrolet or General Motors Company model.
A second theft victim at the same store said she was in the automotive section of the store when she was approached by a woman who started asking her questions about the ingredients of oil. The victim became annoyed and told police she was trying to cover her purse because she was suspicious of the woman.
The victim said a man ran up and grabbed her wallet out of her purse. Police reviewed the surveillance footage and described the woman as black and wearing a pink shirt and pink pants. The man was described as black wearing a white button-up shirt and light-colored pants. The man and woman fled the store in a dark-colored four-door sedan.
The second victim also reported that her credit card had several hundred dollars worth of fraudulent charges.
Police said they believe the woman described in each theft is the same person wearing different clothing.
Anyone with information on the identity of the suspects is asked to contact Sergeant David Evans by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 219-942-4458.
CHESTERTON — The Duneland School Board has named Crown Point High School Principal Chip Pettit as its next superintendent.
The board unanimously approved a contract Monday morning for Pettit following a nearly seven-month-long search for its next leader.
"Chip is a consensus-builder who will take the best Duneland has to offer and bring our school community together to work for common higher goals," Duneland Board of Trustees President Brandon Kroft said. "We were impressed with his commitment to innovation and and his proven track record of collaboration to produce positive and tangible results for students."
Pettit is a Region native, graduating from Crown Point High School and Valparaiso University before earning his master's degree from Indiana University Northwest. He has served as principal of Crown Point High School for seven years, and before that worked as a teacher, middle school athletic director, dean of students and director of student services.
Under Pettit's leadership, Crown Point High School was named one of Newsweek's top public high schools and saw one-third of its students complete college credit before graduating high school. Pettit also coached three sports, including serving as Crown Point's head football coach for 11 years.
"I am honored and humbled to accept this role and to work with the nearly 5,900 students, their parents and guardians, the Duneland teachers, staff and community resident for a better Duneland School Corporation and a better Duneland community," Pettit said.
The incoming superintendent will be paid a base salary of $147,500, according to the board's approved contract.
Pettit will also be eligible for a stipend each year of his three-year contract based on an annual evaluation rating. If the superintendent is found to be "effective" by the end of the year, he may be paid $4,500 per year. If found "highly effective," the stipend will be $6,500 per year, according to the contract.
Pettit follows Ginger Bolinger, who retired from the Duneland School Corp. in December 2018 after 18 months with the district, citing family and health matters as her reason for leaving.
Judy Malasto served as interim superintendent during the board's search for its next leader. She will return to her role as director of secondary learning and performance for Duneland Schools.
"I'm happy for working in the school district with him and I'm looking forward to the future," Malasto said.
In her nearly seven months as interim superintendent, Malasto led the district as it sought a continuation of its $41 million 2012 referendum funding instructional and support needs throughout the district. The referendum passed May 7 with "yes" votes outnumbering "no" to the tune of 3 to 1.
"The support of the recent referendum by the Duneland community played a key role in my decision to accept this appointment as superintendent," Pettit said. "A community that supports the passage of the referendum is clearly one that places a high value on students and education."
Pettit is expected to complete a doctorate in educational leadership from Ball State University at the end of July. He will officially begin his role as superintendent July 1.
"We are please to welcome Chip Pettit to the Duneland School Corporation family," Kroft said. "He has demonstrated a passion for education kids and making a difference in the classroom, the boardroom and in the community. We have high standards in Duneland and feel we have superintendent who is committed to exceptional leadership.
Let's celebrate Region teachers like Steven Gerbracht
CROWN POINT — About a month after her arrest on allegations she sexually assaulted employees at the Hobart Victoria's Secret store, a Schererville woman was stopped by police after buying heroin in Gary, court records allege.
Tina M. Rice, 38, turned over about 0.3 grams of heroin wrapped in a blue and white piece of paper and cried and pleaded with the detectives Feb. 20 to allow her to go home, records state.
A detective with the Lake County sheriff's High Crime Unit allowed Rice to leave the traffic stop near 23rd Avenue and Grant Street in Gary, but told her she would be charged with possession of heroin, records said. She was charged Monday with level 6 felony possession of heroin.
A warrant was issued for Rice's arrest Tuesday, the same day she appeared before Lake Criminal Court Judge Samuel Cappas in the sexual battery case.
John Cantrell, Rice's attorney in the sexual battery case, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Rice was arrested Jan. 18 on allegations she pulled down a retail associate's pants in a dressing room at Victoria's Secret and made a comment about the associate's private area. Rice also is accused of slapping another employee's buttocks on the way out of the store.
She's facing two felony counts of sexual battery, criminal confinement and two misdemeanor counts of battery in that case.
The High Crime Unit stopped Rice on Feb. 20 after watching her circle an area between Harrison and Grant streets and 17th to 19th avenues, according to court records. Police stopped her car after she briefly went inside a home on 19th Avenue and began to drive away.
Rice initially claimed she had been at a friend's house and was on her way back to Schererville, but she admitted to buying drugs after a detective told her he'd been watching her drive through the area for about 30 minutes, records allege.
Rice then told the detective she could "not afford to be arrested because she was currently on probation," court records said.
Rice is not currently on probation, but she is free on bond in the sexual battery case. Her next court date in that case is set for Aug. 13.
CROWN POINT — A 22-year-old Lake Station man faces a felony count of public indecency claiming that recent incidents of masturbating in public in Porter and Lake counties follow similar offenses in the military.
Hunter Brennan was convicted in 2014 in military court on counts of abusive sexual contact, assault consummated by a battery and indecent viewing, according to new charging documents.
Those offenses, for which he was sentenced to one month and 30 days of confinement, are "substantially equivalent" to the new allegations, according to court records.
"Both crimes are sexual in nature, have the element of intent for another to see him in a state of nudity or arouse the sexual desires of another," the charging documents read.
Brennan was charged this week in Lake County with a felony count of public indecency with a prior conviction, a misdemeanor count of public indecency and misdemeanor indecent exposure, according to court records.
The charges stem from allegations he was spotted by a woman shortly before 7 p.m. June 9 masturbating in a vehicle outside the Mather's Lather Laundry Mat on Liverpool Road in Lake Station, police said.
The woman said Brennan had parked near her vehicle causing her to look over and see him exposing himself, police said. After going inside the business and having the manager call police, she said Brennan moved his vehicle to another side of the building.
"Additionally, while Brennan was doing this there were two juveniles present at the business which could have fallen victim to observing Brennan, and foot traffic around the business was moderate as well," according to charging documents.
Officers responding to the scene said they discovered Brennan with his pants partly down.
"He admitted he became 'caught up in the moment, and he was touching himself,' " police said.
Police said they discovered Brennan had a warrant out of Porter County for a similar incident.
He was charged with a single misdemeanor count of public indecency in Porter County after a woman told police she saw Brennan masturbating in the Portage Wal-Mart parking lot along U.S. 6 shortly before 8 a.m. May 16.
Brennan, who was spotted in his parked vehicle, reportedly told police he was looking at pornography. He also admitted that he was exposing himself from his shorts.
Brennan pleaded guilty June 10 to the Porter County charge and was sentenced to 120 days in jail, according to court records.
LAPORTE — A 21-year-old man charged with the death of his younger brother was granted the opportunity Friday to post just 10% of his $15,000 cash bond in order leave jail while his case proceeds.
LaPorte County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Alevizos granted the request by the defense during the initial hearing for Tyler Kiger, who is charged with felony involuntary manslaughter in the death of 15-year Michael Kiger.
A small group of family and supporters appeared for the hearing, which was carried out by video conferencing from the nearby jail.
Tyler Kiger did not show any obvious emotions while the charge was read and as he was informed he was facing up to six years in prison.
He was represented in court by defense attorney David Sirugo, and the next hearing was scheduled for Aug. 16.
Police said Tyler Kiger was upset his younger brother was vaping indoors when on the night of June 7 he struck Michael Kiger in the head and fractured his skull, leading to his death a few hours later.
"He complained of pain to this head," LaPorte County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Adam Hannon said during a Monday hearing. "He mentioned that he was having difficulty hearing out of one of his ears."
Hannon said while the boy was "very frantic, emotional" during the 911 call, his demeanor had changed by the time police and emergency medical officials arrived at the residence in rural LaPorte County that is the home of the boys' great-grandmother.
"His speech began to slow," the detective said. "He told the dispatcher that he just wanted to take a ... go to sleep. He was not yelling and screaming as he was earlier in the (911) phone call."
Hannon said emergency medical officials did not receive the permission needed from Michael Kiger's great-grandmother to further assess the boy or take him to the hospital. Michael Kiger was taken instead to a residence where his mother was staying in LaPorte, where he was found unresponsive four or five hours later on June 8.
After attempts to revive the boy at the residence and at the hospital proved unsuccessful, he was declared dead, the detective said.
An autopsy done at Franciscan Health Michigan City hospital revealed the boy suffered a fractured skull, which caused bleeding inside the brain, Hannon said.
The cause of death was declared "blunt force trauma to the head" and the manner of death was ruled a homicide, he said.
Tyler Kiger, who showed up to LaPorte Hospital where his brother was taken, told a police officer he punched his brother in the left side of his head once with his right, closed fist, Hannon said.
Michael Kiger's skull was fractured on the left side, Hannon said.
Ron Papke, who is the brothers' father, said in an emotional video posted Saturday on Facebook that Tyler Kiger did not intend to harm or kill Michael Kiger.
"The truth of this matter is that this was a case of two brothers that got into it — two brothers getting into it as two brothers would — only this time it didn't end well," he said.
CROWN POINT — A New Chicago man showed up uninvited at a neighbor's party Sunday, made a woman uncomfortable, left and returned to swing an ax at the woman's husband, court records allege.
David E. Clary II, 43, was prevented by the man and his brother from hitting anyone with the ax, but he elbowed the woman in the face before fleeing into his home, according to Lake Criminal Court records. Police later broke through Clary's door and arrested him.
Clary was being held without bail Tuesday, according to court records. Online court records did not list an attorney for him.
Clary is facing felony counts of intimidation, attempted battery by means of a deadly weapon and criminal recklessness and a misdemeanor count of battery resulting in bodily injury.
Witnesses told police they were at a backyard birthday party Sunday in the 100 block of Huber Boulevard in New Chicago when Clary entered uninvited through a back gate, court records state.
A woman asked his name several times, because it was dark, and Clary put his arm around her, records allege. The woman told police she told Clary not to touch her, and he said the music was too loud.
The woman said she told Clary they would keep it down, and her husband walked Clary to the front sidewalk, records say.
Clary left, but returned 10 to 15 minutes later screaming, "You think I'm crazy. I'll show you crazy. Don't mess with me. I'm a convict," records allege.
The woman's husband told police he barely said a word before Clary swung an ax at him and the husband's brother reached out and caught the ax's handle. The man also caught the ax handle, and his brother yanked the ax from Clary's hand, according to records.
Police knew Clary, who ran off through an alley, from previous contacts and surrounded his house.
New Chicago police were assisted by Hobart, Lake Station and Indiana State Police, Capt. Jordan Billups said. The Northwest Regional SWAT team was on standby, and a negotiator from that team attempted to communicate with Clary but got no response, he said.
Police decided Clary should be taken into custody that night, to prevent him from returning to the victims' home or posing any further possible threat to public safety, Billups said. After police broke through Clary's front door, Clary came out and was arrested.
Clary has previous convictions for burglary, neglect of a dependent, battery of a public safety official, drunken driving, other drug-related crimes and more, records show.
GARY — Police asked for tips Wednesday about a hit-and-run crash that left a 25-year-old man dead.
Terryonte Bridgeman's family reported him missing about 2:15 p.m. Tuesday, Gary police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said.
Gary police began a search and found Bridgeman's body about 3 p.m. lying in the grass on the side of U.S. 12, between Atchison and County Line roads. Lake County coroner's investigators pronounced him dead at the scene.
Bridgeman, of Gary, had been been in contact with his family since about 8:15 p.m. Monday, Hamady said. He was last seen off North County Line Road.
It's believed Bridgeman may have been walking in the 7000 block of East U.S. 12 when he was struck by a Hyundai, police said. Investigators were still working to determine the make and model of the car.
The Hyundai likely has significant damage to the front passenger side, Hamady said.
Toxicology results were pending, Hamady said.
Investigators recovered some evidence from the scene, he said.
Anyone who may have witnessed the crash or has information about the Hyundai is asked to call Sgt. Michael Jackson at 219-881-1209. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.
The gunshot continues echoing in Northwest Indiana 40 years after a bullet passed through Jay Given's head, pierced through the glass door of an East Chicago nightclub and landed in the street outside.
An absence of justice in the case continues to haunt the Region.
Given, a politically connected lawyer, had been among hundreds of people attending a Vegas-style political fundraiser for then-mayoral contender N. Atterson Spann at the East Chicago Elks Lodge on May 15, 1981.
About 11 p.m., Given was shot in the back of the head.
His bloodied body was found lying face down. A lighter and the cigarette he was headed outside to smoke rested on the floor nearby.
Four decades later, a lead detective from the investigation still calls it a "very solvable case." But destroyed evidence and intrigue within the East Chicago Police Department remain woven into a story line that has never ended with criminal charges or a solved case.
On that evening in May, the shock of the shot rang through the East Chicago Jockey Club, and employees and attendees of the fundraiser flooded the lobby area. Some even stepped over Given's body laying outside the entrance door while exiting the building.
With no eyewitnesses to the shooting, investigators said they had to build the case from scratch, starting with uncovering the long list of people attending the fundraiser or Jockey Club, located downstairs from the Elks Lodge, that night.
But with each interview came the names of new potential witnesses — many of whom refused to share much information with investigators, claiming they feared losing their own lives.
And when a piece of crucial evidence was all-but destroyed in police custody, it made solving the homicide even more difficult.
Now investigators involved in the case are divided on whether they believe the slaying will remain cold forever.
One thing they can agree on, though, is someone saw or knows something from that night and holds the answers that could connect all the dots to whomever committed one of Northwest Indiana's most notorious homicides.
The political dispute
Jay Given, 51, was a municipal attorney and political power broker in East Chicago who worked as the city’s attorney from 1963 to 1973 and later as an adviser to then-Mayor Robert Pastrick.
Growing up with a man who was “the power behind the throne,” Jeff Given, now 63 years old, said it wasn’t unusual for his father to attend public political events such as Spann’s.
In fact, his father was fine with opposing politicians knowing where he was and who he would be backing, Jeff Given said last week during an interview with The Times about the case.
Jay Given wasn’t afraid to make a statement.
“In fact, that was the whole point of this particular event," Jeff said in the interview at his Chicago home. "He wanted people to know that he was there for Atterson Spann. Everyone knew that this fundraiser was the start of Spann’s (mayoral campaign)."
At the time of his death, Jay Given was embroiled in a political fight with a faction of the East Chicago City Council and had just experienced a political split with Pastrick, Jeff said.
Jay Given sued Mayor Pastrick and other members of the City Council and the sanitary district over alleged violations of open meetings and records laws. This ultimately sparked a political war between the various powers at the time.
“It’s unmistakable that my dad going to this thing for Atterson Spann was him making a statement that he was splitting from Bob Pastrick," Jeff Given said. "And that was a big thing at the time.”
In one of the two lawsuits filed by Given before his death, the lawyer alleged an illegal executive session involving Pastrick and the sanitary board.
The suits were dropped after Given's slaying.
In 1981, Jeff Given, then 25, had just finished his first year at Indiana University's law school and began clerking at his father's private law firm.
The Given, Dawson and Cappas law firm reportedly made millions of dollars during the 1970s through a series of bond deals and consulting work, according to Times archives. A feud among the partners and between the firm and East Chicago elected officials became ugly, and the Internal Revenue Service was one of several federal agencies that began investigating allegations of wrongdoing, including the firm's work on the city's $17 million sewer project in 1975 that netted the law firm more than $300,000 in legal fees.
On May 15, 1981, roughly a week after Jeff returned home from school, Jay Given had a request for his son.
“It was a Friday, and that day at work, my dad said to me, ‘Hey, I bought these two tickets to this fundraiser tonight. I have a ticket for you to go with me,” Jeff recalled.
Having previously made plans with a long-time childhood friend in town, Jeff declined the ticket.
“Well, I bought these two,” Jay argued back. “I want you to go.”
“I said, ‘Well, you know, I’m 25 years old, and I already made plans. If you want me to do stuff, you got to give me some advance notice,’” Jeff said. “He was super pissed — got really mad and just wouldn’t talk to me the rest of the day.”
Jeff Given arrived home at about 5 p.m. after clerking at his father's firm. His father and mother, Phyllis, were packing and planned to drive to Cleveland for a family gathering after the Spann fundraiser.
“The doorbell rings so I’m ready to go. Dad’s sitting on the couch watching the Burt Reynolds movie, 'The Longest Yard' on TV,” Jeff said. “I say, 'All right Dad, I’ll see you.’ He stood up, didn’t say a thing. Wouldn’t talk he was so mad.”
That would be the last time Jeff would see his father alive.
The first mistake
Jay Given died at 11:33 p.m. at East Chicago's St. Catherine Hospital after suffering a single gunshot wound to the head.
The bullet passed from the back and through the front of Given's head, broke through a glass door leading outside and finally landed in the street, several feet away from the building, case records show.
The bullet casing landed on the vestibule floor.
An autopsy, done by Chuck Wells, a Lake County deputy coroner, failed to reveal powder burns on Jay Given’s scalp, leading investigators to believe the shot was fired not from point-blank range but from a location several feet away inside the club, according to a May 17, 1981, Times report.
About 11:14 p.m. the night of the shooting, the East Chicago Police Department received a call, still documented in a 911 recording.
"A man just been shot," what appears to be a woman's voice states.
"Right," the police dispatcher answered.
Gus Flores, a retired East Chicago police chief, was lead detective in the Given homicide.
He said circumstances surrounding that 911 call still represent a lost opportunity by investigators.
“She sounded real nervous and spoke real fast with a Spanish accent. She was stuttering … our dispatcher hung up instead of keeping that woman on the phone," Flores told The Times recently. "That woman was a potential eyewitness. She called immediately after it happened.
“We really missed the ball, and that was our fault — East Chicago police’s fault.”
Flores said the voice was very distinctive.
It was so distinctive, he said, that when NBC profiled the case years ago in its "Unsolved Mysteries" program, Flores had hopes someone watching the segment would identify the unknown woman.
But to this day, more than 25 years after the documentary first aired, no one has come forward.
“Never identified. Never found out who she was," Flores said. "That frosted me forever. It was so frustrating.”
What happened that night?
“Jay was a larger than life figure because of his political connection,” Flores said recently in his East Chicago home, adding that Given, while based in Northwest Indiana, was well known and connected nationwide. He had a direct line to Carl Albert, the Speaker of the U.S. House at the time, Flores said.
“He was a very brilliant guy but not the most well-liked person," Flores noted.
As his son said, Jay Given “knew where people's skeletons were hidden.”
On that May evening, Deputy Chief John Cardona was off duty but already at the scene when other East Chicago Police arrived, according to police reports. Cardona took command of the scene, reportedly telling police to “protect the scene and keep people away.”
Cardona directed detectives to question a witness and “get any and all information that he might have.” That witness was East Chicago Firefighter Mark Warholic, who said he saw Given talking with a man in the vestibule shortly before the shooting.
Warholic described the unknown man, who allegedly stood "shoulder to shoulder" talking to Given, as being “dressed in a gray suit, a little taller than (Given) with black curly hair and huskier.”
Warholic, then 28, said he could not identify the man he saw with Jay Given.
Cardona’s reasoning for being at the club that night changed throughout the investigation, raising red flags among investigators, police have said.
At one point, Cardona, then 36, reportedly told investigators he was at the function as a political spy, according to an Aug. 10, 1981, Times report. He claimed to have been aligned with a political faction at odds with Jay Given.
In a June 4, 1981, statement to police, Cardona is quoted as saying he went to the Elks Lodge the night of the murder to speak with an East Chicago officer after seeing the officer's car parked near the building.
Flores, who was in Pennsylvania with his wife attending a wedding when the slaying occurred, described the crime scene and the days that would follow the murder as “total chaos” within the East Chicago Police Department.
“Everybody's talking about the case. Everybody's got their own ideas. And the number of suspects at the time was infinite,” Flores said. “You just didn't know because he was loved and hated at the same time by a lot of people. It probably had a lot to do with — almost everything to do with — his politics.”
Spann, a Lake County commissioner who later was convicted of state and federal bribery charges, said he was among the last people to talk to Given before the shooting, according to a May 17, 1981, Times report.
“It’s a tragedy that this country is learning to live with — handguns,” Spann said at the time. “It’s a shame regardless of how controversial he was. He always had the city of East Chicago at heart.”
Flores said the Sunday following the homicide, he met with evidence technician, Paul DiCharia, who collected the evidence at the scene and ultimately was responsible for locking it away in police custody.
“He told me that the evidence was in his words, 'was in pristine condition, perfect condition,’” Flores recalled recently. "He had it all packaged and sealed with everything ready to send. He said, 'Do you want me to unwrap everything?' I made one of the biggest mistakes in the case. I told him, 'No, I trust you.'"
About two or three weeks after the sealed evidence was sent to the FBI crime lab in Washington, D.C., the agency informed Flores that there was a problem.
Someone, in an apparent effort to block identification of the weapon that fired the bullet, punched a hole in the back of the bullet cartridge where the firing pin had hit and carved grooves into the sides, Flores said.
The position of firing pins can help identify specific firearms used in crimes.
“As embarrassing as that was that the evidence was tampered with in our custody, I've always said it was a blessing because it drastically reduced the number of suspects … This one suspect had to be connected with the police department,” Flores said.
Though damaged, the cartridge casing still could be identified as being shot from a rare .45-caliber Detonics handgun. Investigators knew of only one East Chicago staff member who had access to the evidence and owned a Detonics: Deputy Police Chief John Cardona, who had been waiting for other police at the homicide scene that night.
The gun used to murder Jay Given was never found.
Cardona reportedly had asked another officer around the time of the killing how a bullet or casing might be traced back to a specific gun. The two variables the officer gave Cardona were the only markings tampered with on the bullet casing in the Given case, Flores said.
DiCharia was later convicted of perjury after he confessed that he had lied to a grand jury to protect his boss, Cardona, against an evidence-tampering charge.
The Times attempted to contact Cardona through email and phone. He could not be reached for comment.
Assembling a task force
"It was a complicated case, and it had a lot of problems from the very beginning," said Ray Vukas, a retired Indiana State Police detective who worked the investigation, during a 2009 interview with The Times.
Within days of Given's murder, the Lake County Metro Squad was called in to help with the homicide investigation at the request of then-East Chicago Police Chief Stephen Stiglich.
The newly assembled, eight-man unit was directed by then-Griffith Police Chief James Reyome and composed of detectives from Hammond, East Chicago, Griffith, a lab technician and East Chicago Attorney Thomas Ryan, a former associate of Given, according to a May 21, 1981, Times report.
Former Griffith Detective John Mowery Sr. was part of a group of investigators responsible for taking Cardona to Chicago's Keeler Polygraph Institute for a polygraph exam concerning the homicide.
“He was nervous a little bit. I think he said that he'd never taken a polygraph test before. That kind of surprised me because I thought that, you know, a lot of police departments give them,” Mowery recalled of his interactions with Cardona.
“On the way back, John started asking ‘Well, how did I do?’ And I don't think anybody answered right away,” Mowery said. “I said, ‘You didn't do so good.’”
Cardona failed the test, Mowery said.
Chief examiner Len Harrelson told detectives he believed Cardona "lied to all the relevant questions," East Chicago police records show.
Harrelson was "so certain Cardona murdered Jay Given that he is willing to testify in court," police records state.
Cardona would later refuse to take a separate polygraph on the homicide and evidence tampering, according to records in the case, records in the case show.
The Metro Squad was disbanded within three weeks of Given's slaying. It would be the first and only case the unit would investigate.
The grand jury
Nearly a year after the killing, former Lake County Prosecutor Jack Crawford hired Joesph Van Bokkelen, then a private attorney, to work the case as a special investigator. Van Bokkelen would go on to become U.S. attorney in Hammond and now serves as a federal judge there.
In a recent interview with The Times, Van Bokkelen said participating in the Given homicide investigation was “one of the more amazing things I've ever faced.”
In November 1982, a grand jury led by the special investigator began gathering evidence and hearing testimony from witnesses, including Cardona.
“They pulled out a bunch of people. And there were no indictments as a result to the grand jury,” Flores said. “We thought if people could lie to us, they could lie to the FBI. But we thought that people under oath were hesitant to lie. And we figured we might be able to get some truth out of some people that we figured were lying to us. Nothing really came of it.”
One woman, East Chicago resident Odessa Gamble, opted to spend 10 days in jail for contempt of court rather than cooperate fully with investigators.
According to Times archives, Gamble said she would serve the time, "if that is what they choose to do ... play games with my life."
A Jockey Club worker who was in building the night of the homicide held back information from police during questioning too, Flores said.
“She said, ‘You know, when you think about it I'm a nobody. I'm a dishwasher. That man was a high-price lawyer. And everybody knew him. He had political pull all over the world, and he was killed. What do you think is going to happen to me?’” Flores recalled of the employee's statement.
“She said, ‘Are you going to protect me like you protected that evidence?’”
On Oct. 29, 1984, Van Bokkelen announced at his Highland law office that he expected an indictment in the murder to be issued within four months, according to Times archives. However, because state law prevented the grand jury from continuing its investigation for more than two years, the panel was discharged without being asked to return an indictment.
Van Bokkelen said he believed there was enough evidence to indict a suspect, but Prosecutor Crawford disagreed.
“I thought we had a very viable target," Van Bokkelen said.
“It was a high profile case. ... I thought there was enough there to charge and then to go and proceed to trial and see what would happen. I think the problem was, and I can't put myself in (Crawford's) shoes...I couldn't give him a guaranteed winner. It'd be a tough case. I thought if we got to the jury and got past a direct verdict, he would be convicted. But that's a call. If I'm wrong, I don't take the consequences of being wrong."
For Crawford, depending only on circumstantial evidence without any eyewitnesses to prove who killed Given was not enough for the county prosecutor to confidently seek a conviction.
"What always struck me as somewhat unusual was that if in fact (Cardona) had done it, he remained there at the scene for some period of time, talking to witnesses and people that had seen something," Crawford said recently in his private law office in Indianapolis where he now practices as a criminal defense attorney.
"If I am the guy who shot someone — and it's unclear as to whether or not anybody can identify the 'shooter' — am I going to stay in that very area amidst all the other people who could have potential witnesses and say, 'Wait a minute, that's the guy that did it right there.' That was unusual ... To me, that was a fact that went against him being the shooter."
Jeff Given said he remembers the anger he felt when authorities opted not to file charges but to keep the case of his father's homicide open.
The level of fear would grow just one day after Jay Given was killed when a bullet whizzed through the living room window of the family's second-floor apartment in East Chicago, police records in the case state.
Jay's wife, Phyllis Given, also began receiving mysterious phone calls from a man who said they had information about her husband's killer, Jeff Given said.
Phyllis Given died in 2009.
"We were scared, and I was worried about my family's safety. I was angry too," Jeff recalled. "We never got answers with any of that."
Those same strong feelings linger today.
"It's not an unsolved mystery," Jeff Given said. "As far as I'm concerned, they know who did it. It's an uncharged crime."
No one ever was arrested, and the subsequent investigation and its fallout have been a smattering of false leads, evidence tampering, political and personal betrayal, police incompetence and a failed polygraph test by the prime suspect.
In a 1994 interview with The Times, Phyllis said she believed her husband's death was "a little bit of both" — part conspiracy and part spontaneous confrontation.
Holding onto hope
Then-East Chicago City Council President Hattie Leonard said the shooting “is a situation that I believe shocked a lot of people in East Chicago. It was so unexpected.
“I didn’t think they’d do that to him," Leonard said in 1981. "I just didn’t think he’d get it. I never thought anything would come up where it would be such consequence that they would have to kill him for it.”
As an investigator involved in the case, Mowery said he has regrets and feels like police let the community down.
"There's a lot of disappointed people. I really feel sorry for the Given family. They basically have no answers. Nobody's been held accountable," he said. "It's tough."
Flores joined that chorus.
“I feel like we let them down. That case was very, very solvable,” Flores said. “We didn’t get the job done.”
The 38-year investigation has uncovered no eyewitnesses, no murder weapon and, therefore, no case. Despite this frustration, Flores said he remains optimistic.
“I just kind of think that someday somebody's going to want to say, ‘I know exactly what happened,’ or ‘I did that,’" he said.
Van Bokkelen has his doubts.
"It is the kind of thing you get movies made out of, books written about," Van Bokkelen said. "Everybody has a suspect, and there's just one it comes down to."
Jeff Givens now works at Sotos Law Firm in Chicago. Since 1997, the municipal defense attorney has worked on alleged police misconduct litigation.
"When I think about it, it's one of my big huge regrets that I just — and everybody says, and they are right — 'Jeff, there's nothing you could have done.' And there really wasn't," Jeff Given said.
"But I'm sure with hindsight, knowing what I know about doing what I've done for the last 20 years, there's a lot of stuff I would have done, I think, but I didn't.
"I do miss him. It makes me very sad that he's not around because I would have loved for him to meet his granddaughters."
VALPARAISO — A 39-year-old Valparaiso man with a history of sex related offenses in the Region was sentenced Monday morning to 18 years behind bars and was determined to be a sexually violent predator.
Bryan Blackmon pleaded guilty last month to a reduced felony count of child molesting stemming from an admission he made in a letter from jail to the mother of a girl under the age of 14, according to charging information.
Blackmon said he was communicating with the girl by phone in a sexual nature and the conversation resulted in him later touching her in a sexual manner, according to police. The girl said she also walked in on Blackmon watching pornography and it led to another sexual incident.
Porter County Deputy Prosecutor David Urbanski told the court Monday the agreed-to prison term is based on this offense and Blackmon's criminal history.
Urbanski said the victim and her family support the plea agreement, but opted not to submit a victim's statement or show up to court for sentencing.
Blackmon was given 662 days of credit for time already served and upon his release, will have to register as a sex offender and comply with all required limitations for life as a result of his status as a sexually violent predator, according to Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.
He will also have to undergo HIV testing.
Prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining felony counts of child molesting, performing sexual conduct in the presence of a minor and dissemination of matter harmful to minors in return for the plea, according to court records.
CROWN POINT — A judge granted bail Tuesday for a Merrillville man accused of forcing a teenage relative to repeatedly have sex with him, eventually causing her to become pregnant.
Marshall Wesley, 37, has pleaded not guilty to two level 1 felony charges of child molesting and a level 4 felony count of incest.
Wesley's attorney, Lonnie Randolph II, asked Lake Criminal Court Judge Clarence Murray to set Wesley's bail at $25,000 surety or $2,500 cash.
The case was the first time Wesley has been arrested, and he has ties to the community, Randolph said. Wesley worked in health care services before his arrest and agreed to a no contact order, he said.
Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Nadia Wardrip asked Murray to set bail at $50,000 surety or $5,000 cash — the highest allowable under the guidelines. She said Wesley gave a full confession and could be considered a flight risk.
Wardrip also corrected Randolph, saying Wesley had five — not four — children because his relative gave birth to his child.
After a discussion at the bench, Murray set Wesley's bond at $50,000 surety or $5,000 cash.
The alleged sexual abuse began in spring 2015, when the girl was 13 years old, and continued until spring 2016, when the girl realized she was pregnant, according to court records.
The girl's family found out about the abuse, but initially decided to forgive Wesley, records say.
"She was told when she went to the hospital to have the baby to say that a 15-year-old boy impregnated her, which she did," records state.
It's unclear in the court record when the case first came to the attention of police, who interviewed the girl.
A detective interviewed Wesley in June. He allegedly admitted to having sex with his relative and impregnating her.
HAMMOND — Ten additional members of the Latin Dragon Nation have been charged with racketeering conspiracy and other gang-related offenses in a 14-count indictment, U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch announced in a news conference Friday.
The arrested people are Ralph D. Mendez, 44, of Chicago; Javier Aguilera, 26, of Chicago; Johnathan Arevalo, 26, of Gary; Nico Mata, 25, of Hammond; Alec N. Aguilar, 20, of Chicago; Justin Anaya, 18, of Chicago; Keenan Seymour, 19, of Chicago; David White, 24, of Chicago; Tiffany Barragan, 21, of Chicago; and Angelina Vilella, 20, of Chicago.
Kirsch said all members are in police custody, except for one female who has been served a summons to appear.
It is the fourth indictment the U.S. attorney's office has announced in relation to the Latin Dragon Nation, which has ties to Northwest Indiana despite being based primarily in Chicago. The gang has allegedly engaged in "murder, attempted murder, witness tampering and assault to protect the gang’s territory" in both areas.
"Gang members should not get comfortable in the northern district of Indiana," Kirsch said. "My office will do everything we can to prevent and defeat gang activity like this."
Kirsch said several of the arrested individuals have also been implicated in various murders, with some of the incidents dating back to October 2006 and victims as young as 10 years old.
In total, Kirsch said the U.S. attorney's office has indicted 17 members of the Latin Dragon Nation — about half of those people face homicide charges.
Kirsch said officials have solved 11 homicides, as well as 23 additional shootings, stabbings and assaults. More than 40 victims involved in these incidents have been identified.
“These critical indictments are an example not just of the ravages of gangs and violence on our communities, but also of how law enforcement agencies are tirelessly working together toward justice for the victims," Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said in a statement to The Times. "The sheriff’s office is proud to have played a key role in the investigations that led to indictments for these crimes, including the heinous slaying of 10-year-old Gustavo Garcia.”
Garcia's murder is what prompted the investigation into the Latin Dragon Nation, Kirsch said. The 10-year-old boy was killed July 14, 2017, in Chicago, and Justin Anaya and Alec Nathaniel Aguilar were charged in connection to his death.
The two men are facing additional felonies for the murder of Manual Salazar on Nov. 24, 2017.
Members have also been linked to deaths of Hector Esparza (Oct. 3, 2006), Jose Vargas (Oct. 3, 2006), Adam Cortez (April 28, 2007), 10-year-old Nequiel Fowler (Sept. 1, 2008), Michael Miranda (July 22, 2010), Paul Cruz (Nov. 20, 2016), Jose Gomez (May 23, 2017), Mike Whitford (July 14, 2017) and Charles Berrios (Sept. 30, 2017).
Past indicted members include Manuel Diaz, 28, of Hammond; Eduardo Diaz-Corral, 20, of Calumet City; Ralph Mendez Jr., 23, of Chicago; Joseph Daniel Roggenkamp, 21, of East Chicago; Gustavo Colunga, 26, of Hammond; Joshua Harris-White, 25, of Chicago; and Luis Colunga, 29, of Chicago.
"Together with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners, we will continue to aggressively prosecute gang members for their criminal activity and seek appropriately lengthy prison sentences," Kirsch said. "Gang activity does not stop at the state line, and as evidenced by the charges announced today, neither do our investigations and prosecutions."