HOBART— Police have arrested a woman who employees at Victoria's Secret in Southlake Mall said sexually assaulted them, with one employee alleging the woman pulled down the staffer's pants in a fitting room.
Tina Marie Rice, 38, was arrested Friday at the 5400 block of West 78th Lane in Schererville by the Lake County Warrant Division, according to Capt. James Gonzales.
Rice was charged with two counts of sexual battery, one count of criminal confinement and two counts of battery, according to court records.
At 8:14 p.m. Nov. 28, Hobart police went to Victoria's Secret in Hobart's Southlake Mall in response to a report of sexual battery, according to police reports.
A Victoria's Secret employee told officers Rice selected a pair of woman's underwear and asked for a fitting room that evening. While in the fitting room, the employee said Rice removed her underwear and turned around, showing the employee her buttocks.
Rice then allegedly said, “It's going to get personal."
She then put on the underwear and asked the employee her opinion, to which she replied they looked nice.
While still in the fitting room, Rice stepped toward the employee and lifted up her shirt above her stomach and simultaneously pulled down the employee's pants slightly, according to police reports.
The employee then left the fitting room and eventually stayed in the employee break room until Rice left. She later told police that Rice was standing between her and the fitting room door during the encounter.
On Rice's way out, she allegedly slapped another female employee on the buttocks.
At 3:59 p.m. Nov. 30, Hobart police returned to the women's undergarments shop when staff reported that Rice had returned, according to police records. Police identified Rice and escorted her to the police station inside Southlake Mall, where she was detained for a short period of time.
Police revisited the investigation on Dec. 21 and spoke with the two staff members who Rice allegedly sexually assaulted. A probable cause affidavit was filed on Thursday, and a warrant for Rice's arrest was issued the same day.
ORLAND PARK — A manhunt is underway to locate the man suspected in a fatal shooting at Orland Square Mall Monday night.
Orland Park police identified Jakharr Williams, 19, of University Park, as the suspect Tuesday morning.
Police said Williams is suspected of fatally shooting Javon Britten, 18, of Richton Park, at the mall near the food court. Britten ran down an escalator and collapsed outside the H&M clothing store, authorities said.
Britten was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was pronounced dead, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
A bystander suffered a graze wound to the leg and was taken to another hospital, police said.
Police say Williams has an active parole warrant and should be considered armed and dangerous.
Police received numerous 911 calls about 6:45 p.m. about a shooting on the mall's lower level, near the food court.
The suspect, described as black, about 20 years old and 6 foot 1 with dark clothing and blue jeans, was seen running east out of the mall, police said.
Britten and the man knew each other, according to a news release from Orland Park police. The suspect has not yet been located.
Police temporarily closed the mall to process the crime scene and search the property.
Multiple south suburban police departments, a SWAT team, and the Illinois State Police responded and searched the mall, slowly letting employees and shoppers leave as they looked for the shooter and evacuated the property. People posted on Twitter they were locked in their stores and hiding in clothes racks for safety after gunfire erupted.
One posted a video of police officers tending to a fallen man between a kiosk and a clothing store on the first floor of the mall.
Jay Yasin, 19, of Orland Hills, was working at Build-A-Bear when the shooting happened. She said her “manager shut the door instantly" and they hid in the back room with customers.
Reginald Williams, 23, of Harvey, was "just chilling" in the food court with his friend, 24-year-old Darryl Simmons, of Harvey, when the shooting happened.
“We heard gunfire, and everyone started scattering,” Williams said.
They ran out of the mall when it happened. They said people were running everywhere and police were running in.
Williams said he wishes everyone would “just stop the violence.”
The two-story mall at 288 Orland Square Drive off South LaGrange Road is a popular destination for shoppers from throughout the south suburbs and Northwest Indiana.
CROWN POINT — A teenage girl accused of stabbing her mother to death nearly two years ago pulled a bloody, broken knife from her purse the night of the homicide and told two boys, "I broke the tip off on that (expletive)," court records allege.
Chastinea Reeves, 17, smirked as she made the statement and later laughed as she showed the boys a photo of a woman, who was slumped over and appeared to be deceased, records state.
The allegations against Reeves were outlined as part of a plea agreement Lake County prosecutors reached last month with Matthew Martin, 18, of Merrillville, Reeves' co-defendant and one of the two boys.
Martin and Virgil King, 19, of Gary, were charged in July 2017 with assisting a criminal and auto theft. King pleaded not guilty and has a court hearing set for Feb. 5.
Reeves appeared Tuesday in Lake Criminal Court with her court-appointed attorney John Cantrell, who said he plans to file two motions to suppress evidence in the case.
Magistrate Natalie Bokota rescheduled Reeves' trial for June 3.
Defense wants statements tossed
Reeves was arrested a day after her mother, Jamie M. Garnett, 34, was found stabbed to death Feb. 13, 2017, in the family's home in the 4400 block of West 23rd Place. The homicide sparked a search for Reeves, who disappeared after dropping off her younger sibling at a family member's Gary home.
Reeves was charged with murder in Lake Juvenile Court in February 2017. Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. waived her to adult court July 18, 2017, without deciding on a motion to suppress a statement Reeves gave to police.
Cantrell said Tuesday outside the courtroom there are questions about whether detectives had legal permission to interview Reeves.
A man believed to be Reeves' father traveled to Gary from South Carolina and permitted her to be interviewed by detectives, but that man never has been adjudicated as Reeves' father by a court, Cantrell said.
"He had no more right than the Man in the Moon to give police permission to interrogate my client," he said.
Cantrell also plans to file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained from a "fraudulent" Amber Alert police issued after Reeves' disappearance.
Cantrell alleged police considered Reeves a suspect and wrongfully elicited information from those closest to her by using the alert to suggest she was a missing, endangered child.
"Amber Alerts are not an investigative tool to help police attempt to solve cases," he said.
The question regarding use of Amber Alerts never has been litigated in Indiana and could set a precedent, Cantrell said.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Maureen Koonce said in court Cantrell has talked about filing motions for some time. The case remains pending, and her office wants to move it along, she said. She asked for a spring trial date.
Night of homicide detailed
Even if a judge agrees to throw out Reeves' statement, a jury likely still would get to hear from Martin.
Martin pleaded guilty in December to felony assisting a criminal in connection with Reeves' case and felony battery in a separate case. He faces sentences of one to six years and 0.5 to 2.5 years in prison on each count, to be served consecutively.
He agreed to testify against Reeves and will not be sentenced until her case is closed.
When asked about Martin's plea agreement, Cantrell said, "He is signing something to get himself out of trouble."
According to court records, Martin and King met Reeves at the Oak Knoll Apartments the night Garnett was killed. Reeves allegedly handed King, her boyfriend, the keys to Garnett's 2001 Ford Escape and they drove it away.
Later, Martin noticed what appeared to be blood on Reeves' clothing, records allege. As the three walked along 21st Avenue, Reeves took the knife out of her purse and talked about breaking it, records say.
Martin told police he kicked in a door to an abandoned building in the 2000 block of Delaware Street and tossed the knife inside. Police later recovered the knife, records show.
After Reeves changed out of the bloody clothes, King poured bleach on them, attempted to light them on fire and eventually threw them down a chute in an abandoned building in the 2300 block of Adams Street, records state.
Reeves later showed Martin a photo of a deceased woman before King removed the SIM card from Reeves' phone and destroyed it, records allege.
GARY — A Gary man, who is accused of leading police on a chase with three young children in the car, allegedly said he was going to “kill the entire family” and admitted to officers he was high on embalming fluid, court records state.
Upon being arrested, Alvin Brooks, 43, told Gary police officers, “he might as well die running.”
Brooks was charged with three counts of kidnapping, criminal recklessness, resisting law enforcement and auto theft, Lake County court records state.
Police said they responded to the intersection of 37th Avenue and Grant Street on Saturday after a concerned citizen reported a man driving recklessly with children in his vehicle.
When officers arrived and approached the suspect's vehicle with their sirens and emergency lights on, Brooks drove away with the children in the backseat, court records allege.
Brooks' gray 2016 Chevrolet Sonic then fled north on Tyler Street with officers in pursuit, police said.
The chase eventually went eastbound on 35th Avenue when police noticed the front driver's side of the vehicle was traveling on a rim with the tire gone. At one point, the vehicle came to a stop at 35th and Tyler, and then the driver took off again, police said.
The vehicle came to another stop in the 100 block of West 35th Avenue, and police said they struggled to remove Brooks from the vehicle.
Officers found a 7-year-old and two 4-year-old children in the backseat.
“The children were cold, hysterical, crying and very afraid,” the police report states.
Brooks allegedly told police he had been using “Woo,” a street name for embalming fluid, to get high. Brooks said he thought an active warrant was pending for his arrest, police said.
As the suspect was detained by police, he told them, I "just wanted everyone to die,” and that I “stopped but thought I had a warrant, and might as well die running.”
The 7-year-old directed police to the home of a relative, who had been babysitting the children prior to the incident.
The relative told police Brooks did not have permission to take the children away from her residence in the vehicle, a Chevrolet Sonic, which is registered in the relative's name.
The woman said Brooks is the children's great-uncle. Two mothers of the children came to get them and told officers Brooks did not have permission to take them from their relative's residence.
The 7-year-old said Brooks had “threatened to kill everyone,” according to court records.
The relative said she called the children's mothers, who began trying to locate the children, when she realized they were no longer there.
One witness told police the vehicle Brooks was traveling in was swerving and almost hit his vehicle in the 3700 block of Grant Street. The witness said he also saw Brooks almost hit a pole and drive in a zig-zag pattern in northbound and southbound traffic, with other vehicles having to stop to avoid hitting Brooks' car.
The witness said he called police out of fear for the children's and Brooks' safety.
Brooks was arrested Saturday and was in custody at the Lake County Jail as of Wednesday evening.
GARY — For years, Marvin Clinton had been forced to stare into a dark past each time he braved the trip to the timeworn, boarded-up abandoned home on 19th Avenue.
It’s the same home where the decaying body of his fiancee, Teaira Batey, was found by detectives in October 2014, nine months after she was murdered by serial killer Darren Vann.
Vann, who is serving life in prison without parole for the killings of seven women, confessed to his involvement in Batey's murder shortly after his arrest in 2014.
He even offered to lead detectives to the home at 1800 E. 19th Ave., giving turn-by-turn directions down Gary's streets with specific instructions on how to find Batey’s body: Walk inside and enter a room that had been propped shut by a dresser, he said.
He left her body to decompose, he said, beneath a wooden bench.
'What's done is done'
On Monday, only snow-covered teddy bears, two wooden crosses and a makeshift headstone bearing Batey’s name remained on the property.
Without any warning to Clinton or Batey’s family, the house was razed Jan. 8 by a city-hired contractor.
Clinton waited years to see the home razed and said the city administration even promised it would give him advanced notice so he could be there when it is bulldozed — a chance at closure.
“I couldn’t believe it. The mayor and the police chief have been working with me real good on this, and they’ve been keeping their promises. I just don’t see how this one slipped through,” Clinton said. “But she apologized, and I said, ‘What’s done is done.' You can’t put the house back up and tear it down again.”
Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she personally apologized to Clinton this weekend for the demolition going forward without him.
“We’ve been working on these (Vann) demolitions for some time, and the right hand didn’t coordinate with the left hand,” she said. “Once we provided the contractors with notice to proceed … well, some moved a lot quicker than others.
“We’re not offering any excuses, only our apologies.”
Solace to families
Marking the end of a dark era, city leaders finally are demolishing the remaining blighted or abandoned structures made infamous by Vann.
Vann’s case received international attention in 2014 as word spread that he used abandoned homes pocketed within the city of Gary to strangle and store his victims' bodies.
The city is working to transform the properties into memorial gardens post-demolition — and the families will be involved every step of the way if they choose so, the mayor said.
“We’re hoping to at least provide some sense of solace to the families. We know we can never bring back their loved ones,” Freeman-Wilson said. "It’s the least the city can do. We hope it provides a sense of comfort to them, so they know we are not ignoring or forgetting the loss their families have suffered.”
'He asks about her'
Clinton, of Gary, maintains the memorial at the 19th Avenue property to this day, going so far as to cut the grass once a week in the summer months.
Trevon Clinton, a son they share together, is in the first grade and turns 7 later this month, he said. He helps mow the lawn in the summer.
“He knows she passed away, but doesn’t know the specifics. Every now and then, he asks about her,” Clinton said.
Clinton has a scrapbook of local newspaper clippings he’s collected over the years for Trevon to read when he grows up and starts asking more questions.
“That way, he can read about everything that happened and not get it secondhand,” he said.
The Vann homes — there are five in all, one of which has already been demolished — are being torn down at the cost of $47,600, paid for with Gary Sanitary District and Stormwater Management dollars, said Cedric Kuykendall, the city's demolition coordinator.
Kuykendall said Friday city leaders still are discussing a start date for the four homes that remain.
Case underscored blight problem
Freeman-Wilson said the teardowns are more than symbolic gestures — they put a spotlight on the larger problem of blight in Gary and what the city is doing to correct it.
“(The Vann case) gave a heightened awareness to the issue. This was an international case. But certainly, you always talk about the danger that exists with abandoned buildings, and this underscored it,” Freeman-Wilson said.
She pointed to similar cases in which murder victims were discovered in vacant structures. A 17-year-old girl’s body was found inside the former Emerson school, strangled to death, in the summer of 2015.
And then, in April 2016, the body of Diamond Lewis, 24, was found badly burned in an abandoned Gary home in the 1400 block of West 18th Avenue, nine days after her baby’s father, Kareem J. Williams, dumped her there.
“You don’t want to have something like this happen again,” Freeman-Wilson said.
Since 2012, the city under Freeman-Wilson's leadership has torn down more than 1,200 residential structures through a variety of funding sources, including the federal government’s Hardest Hit Fund, Community Development Block Grant dollars and money from the Gary Sanitary District and Stormwater Management.
The Lake County Board of Commissioners this year chipped in funding to help Gary tear down a number of commercial structures, including a grocery store on 49th and Louisiana.
Gary received $4.4 million in federal Hardest Hit dollars to strategically demolish blighted homes, on top of the more than $6 million received in 2014. They are still working with those funds, Kuykendall said.
Freeman-Wilson said the city received no additional funds in 2014 despite the massive media attention the Vann case received.
Case against Vann
The Vann case first broke in October 2014, when he was arrested following an investigation into the death of Afrikka Hardy, 19, of Hammond. And one by one, Vann led detectives to other abandoned homes in Gary, equipped with unnerving, intimate details of how, exactly, police would find the bodies.
Days later, Hammond police announced charges against Vann for the murder of Hardy. A news conference marked the first instance police described him as a serial killer.
In the days after, cadaver dogs took to the streets, searching for more victims within more than 100 of Gary’s 8,000 abandoned buildings and the site of the demolished Sheraton Hotel. The search focused on the city’s Midtown and Glen Park neighborhoods.
As news got out that Vann was responsible for the deaths of multiple women — some of whom were only identified initially as Jane Does — a shaken community came out in droves to attend vigils and domestic violence charity fundraisers.
With victims’ families in the courtroom watching, Vann was sentenced to life without parole for the murder of seven victims this spring, bringing to a close the four-year death penalty case against the Gary man, described by Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter as “one of the most prolific serial killers” in the state's history.
In a guilty plea sparing him death last year, Vann admitted to strangling Hardy and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville. In addition to Batey, Vann also has admitted to killing Tracy Martin, 41, of Gary; Kristine Williams, 36, of Gary; Sonya Billingsley, 53, of Gary; and Tanya Gatlin, 27, of Gary.
Vann told detectives he killed the women in anger and said he was convicted in 2009 for assaulting a prostitute in Texas, which he felt was unfair.
As part of his plea deal, prosecutors also agreed not to file other charges against Vann in Lake County unless related to a homicide. In the event other murder charges are brought against him in Lake County, prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty against Vann.
While Clinton said he's never going to be “100 percent better" since his fiancee's death, “life gets easier as the days go by.”
“I have to accept the fact of what happened," he said. "Now I’m just trying to piece everything back together."