GARY — The Lake County coroner's office identified Mariah Jones as the victim of a fatal shooting Thursday in the city's Horace Mann section.
The 26-year-old Gary woman was found dead inside her home on the 200 block of Taft Place, according to a news release from the coroner's office.
Police responding to a request for a welfare check found the door ajar at about 4 p.m. Thursday and entered to see if anyone was injured, Gary police Lt. Dawn Westerfield said. Officers found Jones dead in the bedroom, Westerfield said.
The coroner's office pronounced her dead at 5:55 p.m. from multiple gunshot wounds, according to the release. It has been ruled a homicide.
Anyone with information about the homicide is asked to call the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-3855. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.
Other agencies assisting included the Gary Police Department, Gary Fire/EMS and Lake County Metro Homicide Unit.
SCHERERVILLE — The plan commission unanimously recommended approval of a development plan last week that now will go before the Town Council.
The plan involves the Luers family tree farm, which went before the commission about a decade ago as a dense community to be built by Olthof Homes. That plan, The Preserve, fell victim to the Great Recession and the tree farm continued in business.
But now Drapac Capital Partners, a property investment group founded in Australia, with American headquarters in Atlanta, is back before the town with a plan far less dense than the Preserve and promoted by Drapac as more eco-friendly.
The plan commission held a public hearing on the plan this week, after which it voted unanimously to move forward with the development. Prior to the vote, commissioners heard from skeptical residents, who fear traffic problems, potential flooding and whether the finished community will be as idyllic as Drapac purports it to be.
The Olthof plan called for 2,300 homes on 500 acres as well as commercial and retail business along 91st Avenue.
Drapac envisions its project as strictly residential paired with some unique amenities, said spokesman Max Cookes. Roughly 40 percent of the 478 acres on-site is undevelopable due to wetlands, easements and flood plains; those areas will be utilized for recreation, such as walking paths and athletic fields.
The 750-home lots would range in size from 70-foot-by 125-foot to 90-foot-by-125 foot. Home prices would begin at mid-$300,000 and up.
One unique feature would be a community farm/garden. The garden will be located on acreage that currently is leased to a local farmer. The land could continue to be leased for agricultural use and also contain community plots.
A police investigation earlier this year at a child care home in Merrillville, where officers recovered guns, knives and alcohol, was a shocking revelation for the town's public officials, who in the summer adopted new ordinances to regulate such businesses more strictly.
The allegations against Tawana Cole, operator of three child care homes in Lake County, raised questions about whether the hundreds of child care homes in Northwest Indiana were being properly inspected to ensure compliance with state regulations.
The Times reviewed Indiana's inspection records for 200 child care homes in Lake County, as well as the records for dozens more such businesses in LaPorte and Porter counties.
The records, made available online by the state, suggest that while the allegations against Cole were unusual, several child care homes in Lake and LaPorte counties have been regularly cited during annual inspections for failure to comply with state regulations.
The records seem to indicate state regulators either lacked the authority or willingness to act sooner on signs of trouble at Cole's child care homes, including information that Cole was charged with several violent felonies in June 2014.
The state attempted to revoke Cole's child care operator license in the summer of 2014, but the process became bogged down by appeal until a settlement agreement was reached later that year.
The state's inspection reports from 2015 suggest Cole violated the terms of that settlement agreement, but the Family and Social Services Administration, the state agency responsible for regulating the industry, did not renew its efforts to revoke her license until the recent police investigation.
Cole, 44, altogether was paid more than $300,000 in federal tax dollars over the past three years to provide care for children from low-income families, according to state records.
Cole could not be reached for comment. An attorney for Cole, Timothy Bianco, has not responded to requests for comment.
Troubles at home
Cole has operated two child care homes in Merrillville since 2009; one unnamed home at 1730 W. 53rd Ave., and the other named Tender Loving Spirits at 1770 W. 53rd Ave., according to state records.
In May 2016, she also registered a third child care home, Kids in Kare, at 1217 W. 19th Ave. in Gary.
Merrillville police officers were dispatched April 11 to the unnamed home at 1730 W. 53rd Ave. to assist in a possible neglect investigation by the Department of Child Services, according to court records.
A child welfare employee told officers she had spoken that day with three children in the city's school district, who reported their caretaker, Cole, had been drinking daily at the child care home.
Child welfare employees attempted to check on the residence at 4:30 p.m., but sounds within the home went silent when they rang the doorbell, the records state.
A woman then appeared at the residence and told the inspectors that she received a phone call from Cole informing her that her son had a head wound and needed to be taken to the hospital.
A police sergeant had to crawl into the home through an unsecured window, and let the other officers and state employees in through the front door.
Officers discovered two child care employees and 15 small children, including a child with blood-covered napkins pressed to his forehead, hidden in the master bedroom of the home, records state.
The officers found under the kitchen sink a loaded 9 mm pistol. A loaded .357 revolver and two loaded shotguns were located in the bedroom, where officers also found “a pile of assorted swords and daggers” and several half-empty hard-liquor bottles, according to records.
Roberta J. Sanders, one of the two employees, claimed in an interview with officers she had quit working at the child care home but was there to pick up her daughter.
Sanders told the officers the boy hurt his head getting off the school bus, records state.
Sanders and Cole allegedly told police the other employee, Adriana “Smokey” Johnson, was deaf and mute. Police later learned she was a convicted felon wanted on an active warrant for possession of cocaine.
Cole, Sanders and Johnson all were charged in Lake Criminal Court with 13 counts each of neglect of a dependent and criminal confinement.
Battery charges and state settlements
The police investigation on April 11 was not the first time Cole was accused of criminal wrongdoing.
The child care operator was charged in June 2014 with two counts of attempted battery by means of a deadly weapon and three counts of criminal recklessness on allegations she attempted to stab a man with a kitchen knife.
The man told police the incident occurred April 21, 2014, at a Gary Walgreens, where he was meeting with the mother of his 8-year-old son, who was a friend of Cole's, according to court records.
The man said an argument ensued among the three of them outside the Walgreens and Cole “lunged” at him repeatedly with a kitchen knife, which she kept on the front seat of her vehicle.
He said he fled the Walgreens to a cousin's home, but Cole followed him there and tried to run him down with her vehicle, records state.
The mother said she and her son were in the day care operator's vehicle at the time of the incident, records state.
The state FSSA, which regulates the child care industry, attempted to revoke Cole's day care license the same month charges were filed, but not because of the criminal allegations, according to Marni Lemons, a spokeswoman for the administration.
Lemons said the administration initiated the revocation proceedings because Cole failed to inform the state she was under police investigation, as required by state regulations.
Cole's child care home at 1770 W. 53rd Ave. also was cited for numerous licensing violations, for unqualified staff, missing children's records and an expired fire extinguisher, during an inspection in June, which contributed to the state's decision, according to Lemons.
Lemons said the criminal charges alone were not sufficient reason under state law to revoke Cole's license. The state only can revoke a license for a person who is convicted of a felony offense, or convicted of a misdemeanor offense related to the health or safety of a child, according to state statutes.
The administration also can revoke a day care operator's license if there is a determination of child abuse or neglect by the operator; the operator makes false statements in a license application; the operator fails a drug test; or the operator fails to complete in a timely manner a child development associate credential program, statutes state.
Cole appealed the administration's decision to revoke, which allowed her child care homes to remain open during the appeals process, and the case was settled in October 2014, according to state records.
The settlement required Cole, as the day care operator, to maintain all records on staff, volunteers and household members; to notify the state of any police investigations, arrests or convictions within 24 hours; to allow increased inspections for the next year; and to participate in a mentoring services program for day care operators.
Lemons said the administration agreed to the settlement because Cole claimed she was unaware a warrant was issued for her arrest. The day care operator also corrected the violations discovered during the state's inspection.
Nicole Norvell is director of the Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning for FSSA, the branch of the state agency responsible for overseeing the state's early child care, education and out-of-school programs.
When asked whether the administration needed more authority to revoke an operator license in such instances, Norvell said it was up to lawmakers to determine the laws governing such actions.
She said the goal of the FSSA is to provide support for working families and help child care providers meet all the state's requirements.
“Our goal is not to revoke,” Norvell said, arguing revocation can have a negative effect on the children whose care is disrupted and the parents who are left scrambling for a new child care provider.
The administration has initiated a total of 27 revocation actions in the past three years in Lake, LaPorte and Porter counties, according to the administration.
Of the completed revocation actions, 11 were initiated because the operator did not complete a child development associate credential program within three years of obtaining their license.
Norvell demurred on questions about whether state law should allow child care homes to remain open during the appeal of a revocation action.
“We are going to encourage families who have concerns about that to reach out to their legislators, because they set the laws,” she said.
More citations at Cole's homes
Though the settlement agreement required Cole to maintain records for employees in her child care homes, she failed to produce some of those records during three home inspections in 2015.
There also were four complaints filed against her child care homes during that same period.
The administration redacted some of the complaint records obtained by The Times through a request under the state's Access to Public Records Act, but at least two of the complaints alleged unqualified persons were allowed into the home, and one complaint was about lack of child supervision.
State inspectors waited several weeks before investigating two of the complaints. One of the complaints, that a woman who was not a qualified caregiver was working in the home, was validated, though Cole claimed the woman was a housekeeper.
The rest of the complaints were found to be undetermined, which meant the inspector was unable to prove or disprove the complaint.
The state inspectors visited Cole's child care homes on West 53rd Avenue on 11 occasions in 2015, the year after the settlement agreement. Cole was cited for not keeping required paperwork for her staff during two inspections in the spring and two more in the summer of 2015.
Though Cole appeared to violate the terms of the settlement agreement, the administration did not seek to revoke her licenses.
Lemons said the state did not seek revocation because in every situation, state inspectors followed up after the citation to confirm the issues were rectified.
Cole founded her third child care home, Kids in Kare, in Gary, on May 4, 2016. During a licensing inspection in December, state regulators cited the child care home for not having enrollment forms or emergency medical care information for seven of its children, according to state records.
Cole's two child care homes on 53rd Avenue were inspected a final time March 27, about two weeks before Cole's arrest on April 11.
Cole again was cited for failing to maintain current records for staff, and for missing paperwork for two children, but the state inspectors did not find any of the items police later allegedly found in the home.
The day care operator would plead guilty March 31 in Lake Criminal Court to a misdemeanor count of criminal recklessness in the attempted stabbing case and sentenced to one year in Lake County Jail, which was suspended for probation.
After her arrest on April 11, the FSSA informed Cole the administration was taking action to revoke and deny licenses for the three child care homes.
The administration cited the misdemeanor conviction, which the state maintained was related to “the health or safety of a child,” was grounds for revoking and denying the licenses, among other issues.
Cole again is appealing the state's revocation decision, despite the ongoing criminal charges.
Cole collected $300k in tax dollars
Cole was able to collect more than $300,000 in federal tax dollars from 2015 until her arrest in April.
The child care operator was eligible to receive the money because her facilities qualified to receive child care vouchers from the Child Care and Development Fund, a federal fund used to subsidize the cost of child care for low-income families.
The child care home at 1730 W. 53rd Ave. received $149,355 in child care vouchers from January 2015 to April 2017, according to state records. The home at 1770 W. 53rd Ave. received $101,177 during that same period, and the home at 1217 W. 19th Ave. received $54,716 from July 2016 to April 2017.
The state said though Cole is legally allowed to continue to operate her child care homes while her appeal is pending, state inspectors have not found any children being cared for at her homes during monthly inspections.
A hearing on the appeal of her license revocations was scheduled for Sept. 6, but was canceled after Cole's attorney said there was a death in his client's family. A new hearing has been scheduled for Nov. 14.
CROWN POINT — Police continue to investigate individuals and the activities at a house where drug paraphernalia and weapons were found during an early morning raid Saturday.
Crown Point Police, along with the Lake County Sheriff's SWAT team served a search warrant at an apartment in the 200 block of W. Goldsborough about a half mile north of the downtown square at about 5:45 a.m. Saturday.
Police said the warrant was obtained as part of an ongoing investigation being conducted related to the sale of illegal drugs being made at the residence. Crown Point Police Chief Pete Land said in addition to various amounts of drug paraphernalia being found during the raid, that three weapons also were seized and two 21-year-old Crown Point residents were taken into custody.
Police are expected to file a felony charge against them of maintaining a common nuisance and a misdemeanor charge for possession of marijuana.
"Our investigation into these individuals and the activities at the house is not over," Land said. "Our detectives are following up on other cases we believe may be linked to some of the parties who frequent the house."
A new Jamaican restaurant has brought jerk chicken and more lakefront dining to downtown Hobart.
Montego Bay Grille at 322 Main St. in Hobart officially celebrated its grand opening over the weekend. The 37-seat sit-down restaurant has a menu filled with Caribbean favorites and a back patio that seats an additional 15 and looks out onto Lake George.
It was founded by chef Teddian Jackson, who has 20 years of culinary experience and has worked for the tourism industry in Jamaica.
"He's worked for cruise ships, casinos and restaurants in 50 countries," said Ashley Garner, front of house manager. "He pulled inspiration from all those places to develop a menu with everything from lobster ravioli to cheeseburgers."
Montego Bay Grille's signature items are jerk chicken, jerk pork, jerk salmon, jerk shrimp and jerk wings, which also can be ordered to go 25-30 minutes ahead. They typically come with sides of sauteed vegetables and what's called rice and peas in Jamaica, which is actually rice and kidney beans.
"Jerk's the main focus. It's the specialty," Garner said. "Everything's fresh. He buys fresh local produce, and utilizes farmers markets as much as he can."
The restaurant moved into a former clothing store and employs 12 people. It has a full bar and offers wine, sangria, craft beer, the Jamaican beer Red Stripe and the signature Jamaican cocktail, the Dark and Stormy, which combines rum with ginger beer.
Local art hangs on the walls, and the motto is "eat, drink, vibe."
"It's more than going out to a restaurant – it has an atmosphere," Garner said. "The expectation is it's going to be a little longer than going to Applebee's because all the food is cooked fresh to order. There's Jamaican music playing in the background, and the chef comes out to talk to the guests, to make them feel at home."
A lunch menu includes jerk chicken wraps, jerk shrimp tacos and a market salad.
"We honestly serve such a wide market," she said. "Everybody's welcome, from millennials to baby boomers."
Montego Bay Grille is closed on Monday, open from 4 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then from 4 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
For more information call 219-940-3152, visit montegobaygrille.com or find the restaurant on Facebook.
GARY — He was an amazing 4-year-old full of spirit, personality and charm.
He looked up to his father, had been looking forward to the birth of his baby sister and wanted to be a police officer.
But his life tragically ended after a fire at his grandmother's Gary home in December, and his parents made the decision to donate his organs.
D'Anthony Fryerson's gift saved the lives of two other children, including a 4-year-old California girl who might have died if D'Anthony's parents had not decided to take him off life support sooner than they had planned, said Carritta Fryerson, D'Anthony's mother.
"I want people to understand that even when you're going through something as tragic as we went through, you can always do for others," Carritta Fryerson said during a ceremony Monday at Gary City Hall.
Kevin Cmunt, president and CEO of Gift of Hope, said D'Anthony impacted the world in a special way. Gift of Hope arranged the organ donations.
Kendra Johnson, D'Anthony's grandmother, said her grandson was a remarkable child who never wanted to see anyone unhappy.
She recalled the fire and how she desperately tried to save him as her home filled with smoke, overwhelming heat and flames.
As she tried again go back for D'Anthony, a neighbor pulled her out of the home. It was too hot, and she had to wait for firefighters, the neighbor told her.
When the Fire Department arrived, "they did everything they could to save him," said Johnson, of Gary.
As part of the ceremony, Fire Department employees Danny Hesslau, Jerry Jordan and Larry Tillman were honored for their efforts. Because of them, D'Anthony made it to a hospital and could be placed on life support, the boy's family said.
Fire Chief Paul Bradley recalled that when he arrived at the scene, some of the firefighters there were heartbroken and felt they could have done more. Bradley said he told them they did their best.
"We know we tried. We try to move on to the next call. That's what we're trained to do," he said. "But we never forget the families."
Carritta Fryerson recalled the last time she saw her son, who came with his siblings to visit her at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary because she'd been hospitalized due to complications of her pregnancy.
"He was always so full of spirit and so much personality," she said. "He was such an old soul to be 4 years old. Loved the Temptations."
Carritta Fryerson checked herself out of the Gary hospital to be with D'Anthony at an Illinois hospital, but was admitted to her son's hospital after suffering another pregnancy complication and gave birth to her only daughter.
At one point, D'Anthony's doctor came to her and said the boy would be declared brain dead, she said.
As Carritta Fryerson and her husband, DeShannon, who have since moved their family to Missouri, looked on D'Anthony for one of the last times, they decided to donate his organs.
Gift of Hope told the couple a girl in California could die that weekend if they waited to remove their son from life support on a planned date, she said.
"We would never want anyone to go through that pain," Carritta Fryerson said.
She said her husband looked at her and said, "Let's do this. Let's save this little girl."
HAMMOND — A lawsuit claims a middle school student was sexually assaulted while in the locker room at George Rogers Clark High School.
The lawsuit, originally filed in Lake Superior Court last month, was moved to U.S. District Court in Hammond on Monday.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the boy by his father, and names the School City of Hammond, officials with the school district and others who allegedly were soccer coaches and soccer players at the high school as defendants.
The lawsuit claims the middle school student was assaulted by high school students in the locker room while preparing for soccer practice in February 2016. The complaint contends members of the George Rogers Clark Middle School team practiced together with the high school soccer team.
It alleges that the coaches failed to supervise the players named as defendants in the lawsuit. It also claims officials were aware that other sexual assaults of soccer players had taken place prior to the time of the alleged assault in February 2016.
Representatives of the school district were unavailable for comment on the lawsuit.
Hammond attorney Alex Mendoza, who is representing the boy and his father, contends that abuse has taken place before at the school.
He said people send their children to school assuming they are going to be protected, but in this case it "didn't happen."
The lawsuit does not specify the amount of damages being sought in the case, and Mendoza said they will let the jury make that decision.
PORTAGE — Amera Abu-Hakmeh appeared to be the All-American girl.
An honor roll student at Chesterton High School, the 17-year-old Portage teen was also a member of the CHS Trojan Guard and a National Honor Society member. Last year she won the Don Quijote Scholarship Fund, allowing for international travel.
Abu-Hakmeh was killed Tuesday morning and her younger sister was seriously injured in a two-car crash on U.S. 20 here just after 7 a.m.
The driver of the other vehicle, Gayle Brown, 85, of Greencastle, Indiana, was allegedly driving at a high rate of speed and crossed the center line striking the car carrying the two girls, according to officials. Brown was driving a Buick Regal westbound in the inside lane of traffic before the crash. Abu-Hakmeh was driving a 2002 Mitsubishi Eclipse eastbound in the inside lane of travel.
Both Abu-Hakmeh and Brown died at the scene.
Abu-Hakmeh's 12-year-old sister was transported to Comers Children's Hospital in Chicago where she was in critical, but stable condition, said Portage Police Chief Troy Williams.
"The impact caused catastrophic damage to both vehicles," said Williams.
Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said Brown was traveling "at a high rate of speed."
The crash happened on U.S. 20 about 500 feet east of Clem Road, in an area of U.S. 20 which curves and rises over a railroad track. The area of U.S. 20 between the rise and Dombey Road further to the west has been the scene of several crashes over the years.
BAND, HONOR ROLL AND SCHOLARSHIPS
Abu-Hakmeh was a senior at Chesterton High School and her sister is a seventh grader at Chesterton Middle School.
"We have counseling available for all of our students and for staff members that have been touched by her," said Duneland Schools spokesperson Bridget Martinson, adding all CHS students were informed of the girl's death Tuesday morning by school personnel.
"The Duneland School Corporation was saddened to learn this morning that a Chesterton High School senior was killed this morning in a traffic crash and a Chesterton Middle School student was critically injured," Martinson said in a written statement.
The Chesterton High School senior was an active member of the school’s band program. The school’s band director met separately with members of the band this morning to share the news and has remained available along with counselors to support the students during this difficult time, Martinson said.
"Our schools, just like all schools across the United States, are a gathering place and mirror the patchwork of our communities. This is a difficult time for both our students and staff. We grieve the loss of this wonderful student and offer our prayers and support for the family in this difficult time," said Duneland Schools Superintendent Ginger Bolinger.
According to The Times archives, Abu-Hakmeh was an honor roll student, National Honor Society member and a member of the CHS Trojan Guard. She was also a recipient of the Don Quijote Scholarship Fund.
"The Portage Police Department Crash Investigation Team is conducting a thorough investigation," Williams said. "Notifications to the families have been made. No words can lessen the pain felt by each family, but our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to them during this time of tragedy."
Harris said his office is also continuing the investigation.
PORTAGE — Two people have been arrested in Saturday's hit-and-run death of an Ohio man on U.S. 20.
Gustavo Mendoza, 59, of the 5500 block of Fitz Avenue in Portage, was identified as the driver of the vehicle that struck Brian N. Bradford, 46, of Minford, Ohio, just before 10 p.m. Saturday. He is facing charges of felony leaving the scene of an accident causing death.
Nila M. Johnston, 52, of the 6800 block of U.S. 20 in Portage, is facing charges of felony obstruction of justice.
Bradford had been walking on the south shoulder of U.S. 20 when he was struck. The vehicle involved in the crash fled the scene. Investigators came up with a suspect vehicle description based upon witness statements and vehicle debris left at the scene, Portage Police Department spokesman Capt. James Maynard said.
The information was distributed to surrounding police agencies. About 4 p.m. Sunday, an officer with the Porter Police Department saw a possible suspect vehicle on U.S. 20 and stopped it near Waverly Road, Maynard said.
Portage detectives responded to the scene and determined this was the vehicle involved in the hit and run. The driver of the vehicle at that time was identified as Johnston, who was brought to the Portage Police Department where she gave statements identifying the driver as Mendoza and implicating herself in a plot to repair the vehicle to help Mendoza avoid apprehension, Maynard said.
Detectives were able to contact Mendoza, who is the vehicle's owner. Mendoza gave a statement but denied being the involved driver, according to Maynard.
Both Mendoza and Johnston were taken into custody and transported to the Porter County Jail.
INDIANAPOLIS — One man left Lucas Oil Stadium with a smile on his face Sunday despite the humiliating 27-0 defeat of the Indianapolis Colts by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Brandon Thompson, of Portage, won $1 million from the Hoosier Lottery during a halftime second-chance drawing for purchasers of non-winning $30 All Cash Millions scratch-off tickets.
"I feel fantastic," Thompson said after his name was selected from among five second-chance promotion finalists.
Hoosier Lottery Executive Director Sarah Taylor presented Thompson an oversized $1 million check at the 50-yard line to the sustained applause of Colts fans who finally had something to cheer about.
"I'm excited to be involved in something so cool," Thompson said.
Thompson has not decided what he'll do with all the money. But he said the first thing he plans to do with part of it is buy a new house.
The new millionaire works in railroad maintenance. He said he likes buying Hoosier Lottery scratch-off games that offer a second chance promotion for non-winning tickets.
Thompson explained that he usually plays lower-priced scratch games, but sometimes splurges on the top-of-the-line $30 ticket that offers correspondingly higher prizes at better odds.
He purchased his All Cash Millions ticket at Family Express, 1901 Burlington Beach Road, Valparaiso.
"I tell everybody, if you’re going to play lottery of any kind ... play responsibly," he said.
Another Porter County winner?
Thompson may be just the first new lottery millionaire to come out of Porter County this month.
Lottery officials said no one has yet claimed the $25.5 million Hoosier Lotto jackpot won Oct. 14 on a ticket sold at the BP gas station, 1501 N. Calumet Ave., Valparaiso.
The winning numbers for that drawing were: 8-9-16-20-26-30.
Lottery spokesman Dennis Rosebrough said lottery officials "haven't heard boo" from the winner, or an attorney, accountant or anyone else acting on the winner's behalf.
"We're just sort of waiting," Rosebrough said. "All is quiet."
The ticket holder has 180 days following the drawing to claim the prize.
The $25.5 million jackpot is the largest since the Hoosier Lotto price was increased last year to $2 from $1, and the draw game recalibrated to increase the total number of winners and potentially generate bigger jackpots.
Players also now can choose to spend $1 more for an immediate second-chance at a $1 million top prize through the Hoosier Lotto "Plus" drawing.
Other big winners
The largest-ever Hoosier Lotto jackpot — $54.5 million — was won in 2007 by retired East Chicago steelworker Peter Gilbert.
Two years ago, Dena Wright and Dan Gresham claimed an $18.7 million Hoosier Lotto prize on a ticket they purchased in Chesterton.
Nursing home supervisor Ernestine McKinney, of Gary, last year won $9.2 million playing Hoosier Lotto.
The lottery is popular with Northwest Indiana residents. Last month, two Region stores ranked in the top 10 statewide for lottery ticket sales.
Hammond's K&D Marathon, 220 165th St., was fourth, followed by MCR Short Stop, 6381 Central Ave., Portage, in fifth place.
The Lucky Stop at 1912 Franklin St. in Michigan City also usually is among the top Hoosier Lottery ticket sellers.
U.S. Steel filed plans with the state of Indiana in February to build a new galvanizing line at the Midwest Plant in Portage, but ended up spurning Northwest Indiana for Ohio.
The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker announced in late September it would partner with Kobe Steel to build a new $400 million continuous galvanizing line for lightweight vehicles at its PRO-TEC Coating Company joint venture in Leipsic, Ohio. A few weeks later, it sent a letter to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management saying it was withdrawing plans to build the finishing line in Portage.
"On Feb. 21, 2017, U.S. Steel Corporation submitted a significant permit modification for the Midwest Plant Title V Operating Permit," U.S. Steel's Gary Works Environmental Control Director Joseph E. Hanning wrote in the letter. "The modification requested authorization to construct and operate a proposed continuous galvanizing line. U.S. Steel is no longer pursuing the CGL project at this time, and therefore it is retracting the CGL request from the permit modification package."
U.S. Steel is instead building the "first-of-its-kind" finishing line that can produce 500,000 tons a year at a non-unionized plant in northwest Ohio.
"We looked into multiple locations before deciding upon Ohio," U.S. Steel spokeswoman Meghan Cox said. "We often explore multiple options when undertaking a project of this size."
Cox declined to discuss why U.S. Steel passed up on Northwest Indiana, where it operates the Gary Works, Midwest Plant and East Chicago Tin mills.
It's not the first time a major steelmaker has rebuffed the Region, the largest steel-producing area in the United States, in favor of a newer facility elsewhere. ArcelorMittal has recently closed some finishing lines at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor after shifting the work to AM/NS Calvert, a 50/50 joint venture between ArcelorMittal and Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. in Alabama.
There were a lot of mixed emotions in the Munster football huddle on Oct. 6, 2017 — pain, sorrow, grit and sullen joy.
The Mustangs played a great defensive game at Hobart that night, beating the Brickies 7-0. But coach Leroy Marsh wasn't on Munster's sidelines at kickoff that night. He'd been away from the program for several awful days.
He showed up at halftime, with wife, Jamie, on his arm.
After the win, the Mustangs stormed down the field to embrace him, show him love and give honor where it is do.
"We told him we loved him and that we were there for him and his family," senior linebacker Jonah Clark said.
Senior defensive lineman Jacob Fitch continued the story.
"We all wanted to embrace him and show him the love we have for him," he said.
"It was good for us to come together as a team and pay back because he gives us everything he has," sophomore linebacker and fullback Michael Dywan added.
Three days before Hobart game, unlike any other in Marsh's 39 years on the sidelines, his sister, Twila, died suddenly, unexpectedly. Tragically.
The 58-year-old librarian at Munster High School had a smile that lit up the night. I saw many times.
"It was the only thing that got me through the first week," said Marsh, speaking of the texts and phone calls he got from his players and coaching staff.
For almost ever the older generations seem to mock and belittle the younger ones because of this or that. But what these young men at Munster have done the last few weeks lets us all know the future is just fine.
Marsh knows this. And the rest of us should, too.
"Anytime you go through any grieving the only thing that helps you survive is the cheering up of other people," Marsh said. "My team and my coaches have been super through a very difficult time."
The Marsh family has been through more than most. Their son, Ryan, fought through a lifetime of physical ailments before passing too young in 1997. Leroy's other son, Chris, suffered through the death of his wife, Monica, a short time ago.
Then, last November both of Leroy's parents — Seigle and Jack — died just a few days apart.
And now Twila, who has led Munster's Toy Roundup, which gives presents to the underprivileged throughout the Region during the holidays.
"I've been through a lot of tragedy in my career," Marsh said quietly.
The end of life sucks. It faces us all. In my own family right now we're dealing with a painful situation. Without faith and love from others it would all be hopeless. But thankfully it isn't, even when we won't understand it all.
"I was speechless," Fitch said of hearing of Twila's passing. "I saw her every day in the library with a smiling face. And it hit me, I wouldn't be seeing her anymore."
Football pales in comparison to real life and the blind-side hits we all take from time to time. Marsh missed about eight days of practice and games taking care of family matters. But he returned to the field in Week 9 when his Mustangs beat Kankakee Valley 28-21, the team's first back-to-back wins this season.
Tonight, Munster will host Michigan City in the Class 5A Sectional 9 semifinal. It will be the first time Marsh and his team will be home since Twila's death.
While the Wolves are heavy favorites in this game, Munster will give all that it has with a ton of emotion. That is a lock.
"The Hobart win was real emotional, it was a surreal feeling seeing coach there," Dywan said. "He's like a second father to me. It was the highlight of the year when we saw him. I wanted to hug him and Jaime. Their a tough family."
"It was tough for me, too, I was close to her," Clark said. "It was tough for the whole team. We took it very serious. We wanted to use this as a reason to work harder, for coach and his family.
"They are loved."
Yes, they are. Indeed.
I hope the entire Region keeps the Marsh family in our prayers. These folks have been so good to so many in their lives.
MICHIGAN CITY — Police are investigating a double shooting that occurred early Friday morning.
At about 12:30 a.m., police were dispatched to Green Acres Manufactured Home Community off U.S. 212 between U.S. 12 and the U.S. 20/35 bypass in a reference to a shooting, according to a release.
The first officer on the scene found two people suffering from single gunshot wounds, which didn’t appear to be life threatening, according to a press release from Royce Williams, Michigan City Police chief of services.
The officer immediately gathered information about the suspect, who was only known by his nickname, that had entered a white Cadillac and fled the scene. A short time later, another officer spotted a car in the area of Coolspring and Roeske avenues that matched the Cadillac's description. When an officer attempted to stop this car, the driver fled and tossed a handgun out of the window. The handgun was later retrieved, Williams said.
The driver, later identified as Brandon Shepard, 24, of Michigan City, led police in a pursuit in excess of 60 mph in a 30 mph zone through the city, disregarding several stop lights and signs.
An officer deployed stop sticks, tire deflation devices, at the area of the railroad tracks on Hitchcock. The pursuit continued, hitting 70 mph before Shepard stopped in an alley near Columbia Street and attempted to flee on foot. An officer positioned his vehicle so Shepard couldn’t completely open his driver’s side door.
Shepard was taken into custody for felony resisting law enforcement. Other charges are expected to be filed, Williams said.
The victims were transported to the hospital for treatment. The case is still being investigated.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to call the lead detective, Cpl. Steve Alt at 219-874-3221, ext. 1045.
"2300 Jackson Street. Always home. 2300 Jackson Street. Always home." - from "2300 Jackson Street" by The Jacksons
Janet Jackson had a sentimental homecoming Friday in Gary.
The singer, youngest sibling of the Jackson family, and her brother Randy, spent time at the Jackson childhood home at 2300 Jackson St. in Gary. They also visited Roosevelt High School to talk with students and encourage them to pursue their dreams.
The Jacksons' visit to Gary came a day after Janet's tour stop on her State of The World Tour at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.
Janet told Roosevelt students she was proud to be back in Gary.
"The last time I was here I was eight years old," said the Grammy-winning singer. She said when her brothers began to get famous and the family moved to Los Angeles she was about two or three years old.
The soft spoken singer said she was excited to be back but it was also very emotional.
"When I saw the house ... I just started crying," she said, with tears in her eyes. "Me and my family are so blessed. I'm so thankful," Janet said.
"We wanted to come here and visit Roosevelt," Randy said. Jackson siblings Jackie and Rebbie attended the school when the family lived in Gary.
"When we left (Gary) all we had was love and a dream," Randy added.
During the Q & A, students asked advice for going after an entertainment career, wondered who the siblings admire in the music field and other inquiries about their show business lives.
Janet told students she looks fondly on those younger days with her family.
"I miss those times when I was with my brothers and sisters and we would all be performing together," she said.
The singer, who had her first child in February at the age of 51, said she feels extremely blessed to have had a chance to have a baby.
"Every doctor told me it wasn't possible. But I've got a beautiful, healthy son. He'll be 10 months old," she said.
When asked advice for going after dreams, Janet said "Stay focused and keep your dream." She added there's much out there to detain people from reaching their goals.
Randy added, "Be the best you can be, work hard and keep God in it."
"Yes, that's most important, " Janet stressed. "Always keep God close to you."
Janet said she had a number of favorite musical artists but her main inspiration in the business definitely has roots with her brothers.
"That's where it all started for me," she said. She also enjoys various jazz musicians, the iconic Motown artists, Bruno Mars and Chance the Rapper.
When a student asked what a favorite past album of hers was, she singled out "Rhythm Nation."
"When I was writing it, the things (that were happening then) are still happening." She pointed to "drugs, ignorance, racism" and the other tragedies and evils currently going on in the world.