VALPARAISO — Several people were on hand Monday morning to watch as a not guilty plea was entered on behalf of the former president of the parent advisory council at the Discovery Charter School in Porter, who is charged with stealing nearly $58,000 from the group.
Lisa Apato sat quietly at the front of the courtroom during the initial hearing in the criminal case with defense attorney Mitch Peters, who was filling in for attorney Bob Harper.
She is charged with a level 5 felony count of theft, which carries a potential sentence of one to six years behind bars, according to court documents.
Apato is accused of taking the money by slowly withdrawing $35,105 and failing to deposit another $22,842 from several fundraisers and reimbursements, charging documents say.
The theft was reported to police two years ago and she was charged in late September.
Further hearing dates were set in the case for Feb. 3 and March 2.
A treasurer for the parent group told police when she took office in July 2016, she began asking Apato, who was then the president, for access to the financial records, police said.
"Apato, however, would always come up with an excuse as to why the records were unavailable," according to the charge.
It was not until August 2017, once Apato left office, that the treasurer gained access to the records and noticed missing funds, police said.
Apato is accused of withdrawing money from the group's bank account 19 times using checks and 17 times using an ATM card, police said. Police say she also used the ATM card on 32 occasions to buy items for her personal use or for personal expenses.
Her failure to deposit funds into the group's bank account dates back to December 2015 and occurred on six occasions, according to charging information.
VALPARAISO — A 55-year-old Valparaiso woman is in custody after allegedly leading police on a pursuit early Monday.
Valparaiso police Officer Josh Biggs responded to a report of an unknown woman with her vehicle parked on the sidewalk of the roundabout at Sturdy Road and LaPorte Avenue at 7:44 a.m. Biggs went to check on the woman, who was found standing outside of her vehicle, according to a news release.
The woman, identified as Karen Wagner, got in her vehicle, started it and drove away from Biggs as he attempted to speak with her.
Additional officers arrived and tried to stop her. Wagner disregarded traffic signals and nearly struck multiple vehicles as she entered the construction zone east of the roundabout, the release states.
Wagner came to a stop after nearly hitting a construction worker. She fled again after officers approached her vehicle.
Police continued to pursue Wagner as she drove "in an unsafe manner" through oncoming lanes of traffic, yards and along sidewalks as she evaded officers, the release states.
Wagner was brought to a stop in the parking lot of the U.S. Post Office at 2700 Valparaiso St. by a tire deflation device.
Wagner is charged with resisting law enforcement, criminal recklessness and reckless driving. She was transported to the Porter County Jail.
VALPARAISO — Jurors watched a video Monday afternoon of Christopher Dillard telling police he had gone into co-worker Nicole Gland's vehicle just hours before she was killed there to snort cocaine and drop off drugs she had purchased from him.
"She gave me the key," Dillard told Chesterton Police Chief David Cincoski during the April 19, 2017 interrogation. "I locked it up and brought it (keys) back up."
Dillard is on trial this week on allegations of murdering 23-year-old Gland during the overnight hours leading into April 19, 2017, by repeatedly stabbing her in her vehicle in a parking area behind the former Upper Deck Lounge, 139 S. Calumet Road in Chesterton, where they both worked.
He told Cincoski during the interview that he had been out partying "rough" with drugs around the period in question and had gone to the Upper Deck Lounge around 11:30 p.m. April 18, 2017, to drop off the drugs for Gland. He said he stayed just about 10 minutes before leaving for another bar and then stopping off to see a friend in Portage.
Dillard, who made mention of a pocket knife, insisted he never went back to the Upper Deck Lounge, even when Cincoski mentioned an area surveillance camera picking up the image of his truck.
Dillard said he changed clothing at some point and left them in his garage, and claimed someone had stolen his cell phone.
After nearly an hour into the interview, he mentioned hearing about Gland's death.
"I felt bad," he said.
The interview came as the murder trial enters its third week.
On Friday, a former inmate at the Porter County Jail told jurors Dillard confessed to him while in a shared lockup that he killed Gland.
"Did he tell you how he killed her?" Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Mary Ryan asked.
"He said he stabbed her with a butcher knife," Steven Myers said.
The testimony resulted in an explosive reaction from defense attorney and public defender Russell Brown Jr., who loudly challenged Myers' claims and paced back and forth from the witness stand.
"You are asking to get out of jail, correct?" Brown asked.
Myers, who was in jail garb and shackles from Marshall County, told prosecutors that he was hoping his cooperation would benefit him in criminal cases he has pending in Marshall and LaPorte counties, and a probation revocation in Lake County.
VALPARAISO — A 50-year-old Virginia woman is hoping to avoid trial in what has become a high-profile case charged under Indiana's new revenge porn law.
Kathy Browne was granted a continuance in a hearing scheduled for Thursday to give her attorney, Ken Elwood, more time to speak to prosecutors about "a possible resolution in this matter short of trial," according to the defense motion.
Porter Superior Court Judge David Chidester agreed to reschedule the hearing for Jan. 16.
Kathy Browne faces a misdemeanor count of distribution of an intimate image based on allegations she obtained explicit photographs, which a Valparaiso woman had sent to Chicago Fox 32 news anchor Rafer Weigel.
Browne is charged with sending the images to the local woman along with threats of providing the photos to her children's school, Porter County court records state.
Browne was dating Weigel, as was the Valparaiso woman, police said.
The case heated up Wednesday when Weigel and the Valparaiso woman faced off in court during a very contentious hearing regarding the woman's request for a protective order targeting Weigel.
The Times is not identifying the local woman because of her status as a potential victim in the related criminal case.
She was portrayed as both a victim of harassment and as the aggressor during last week's hearing, which is scheduled to continue at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the courtroom of Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper in Valparaiso.
"Rafer Weigel is suspended pending further review of the matter," a representative for WFLD confirmed Friday morning for The Times.
"Nobody should go through this hell," the Valparaiso woman said from the witness stand Wednesday.
Attorney Walter Alvarez, whose firm is representing Weigel, said in a prepared statement, "The oddity of life, that a married woman sends explicit sexual nude photos of herself to a single unmarried man, and in addition, she sent him $300 to pay for a rental car so he can drive from Chicago to a local hotel in Indiana, for a sexual rendezvous with our client. Yet, he is the one punished, losing his livelihood as a newscaster."
VALPARAISO — A mental health evaluation is being sought for a 26-year-old man accused of stabbing a co-worker in August after being fired from a local Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
Joshua Moser has been mentally ill since he was in elementary school and is currently being housed in a padded cell at the Porter County Jail, according to a motion filed on his behalf by Deputy Porter County Public Defender Clay Patton.
Moser notified the court that he intends to enact the defense of mental illness and is asking the court to appoint two or three mental health professionals to examine his condition, according to the motion. One of the evaluators needs to be prepared to testify in court on Moser's competence to stand trial.
Police said Moser exited a manager's office at the restaurant at 2402 Calumet Ave. on Aug. 21 after he was fired and yelling obscenities. After being told to quiet down, he allegedly pulled a tactical knife from his belt.
A fellow employee rushed him from behind, wrapping both arms around Moser and attempting to hold Moser's arms, according to charging information. When the employee realized Moser was trying to stab him, he pulled away as Moser drove the knife into his left hand.
Moser left the restaurant and used the knife to slash the tires on two vehicles, which belonged to the managers, before walking south along Calumet Avenue, according to court documents.
The notice of defense and motion for psychiatric examination was tabled Monday by a temporary judge to be taken up later by Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford.
Moser is charged with felony aggravated battery, four counts of intimidation, battery with serious bodily injury and misdemeanor counts of criminal mischief and possession of paraphernalia, according to court records.
During his initial hearing in August, Moser appeared confused. The judge had to interrupt him from talking and repeatedly explained not guilty pleas were being entered on his behalf.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Dec. 2.
CROWN POINT — A former Porter County police officer accused of having a nude photograph of a 17-year-old girl with whom he allegedly had a sexual relationship pleaded guilty to a reduced charge and could avoid jail time.
Roger Bowles, 59, admitted to one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a class A misdemeanor, for providing alcohol to a person younger than 21.
In exchange for his plea, Senior Special Prosecutor David Thomas agreed to dismiss a felony count of possessing child pornography and a misdemeanor count of furnishing alcohol to a minor.
When Lake Superior Court Judge Nicholas Schiralli asked whether the parties were dropping the child pornography charges, several people in the court gallery gasped.
Bowles' defense attorney, John Vouga, said his client had no criminal history, was clearly remorseful and suffered broken bones and other work-related injuries during a 17-year career in law enforcement.
Bowles met the girl while they both were working security and traffic control during the 2015 Porter County Fair and sexual contact between them began after the 2016 fair, according to court records.
Thomas was appointed special prosecutor and the case was transferred to Lake County because Bowles worked with Porter County prosecutors as a detective at the Porter County Sheriff's Department. He is no longer employed as a sheriff's deputy. Indiana State Police investigated the case.
Thomas said the woman, who is now in her 20s, approved of the plea agreement and wanted to avoid a trial.
The plea agreement called for Bowles to be sentenced to one year in jail, with all but time served suspended in favor of probation. He also must complete 40 hours of community service.
Bowles apologized to the woman and her family.
"I take responsibility for my actions," he said.
Schiralli said he would accept the plea agreement because it was what the woman wanted.
"Your conduct is shameful," he said. "You had a nice career, a good name, and you threw it all away. You harmed a young girl."
The judge also warned Bowles that even the smallest violation of probation could land him in jail.
CROWN POINT — A Hammond man has been charged after DNA evidence and paperwork found at the scene linked him to an August police chase in East Chicago that ended when two men in an SUV hit three parked cars and ran from the scene.
Kenneth J. Sutton III, 26, who was convicted of burglary in a 2012 case, also faces a felony gun charge alleging police found a Glock handgun on the driver's side floorboard of the SUV, Lake Criminal Court records show.
Sutton is accused of speeding away from a traffic stop in a black 2012 Nissan Rogue about 6:15 p.m. Aug. 5 in the area of West 148th Street and Tod Avenue.
An officer chased the Rogue through a supermarket parking lot and as the driver went the wrong way on a one-day street, records say.
After crashing into the parked cars, the driver and a passenger in the Rogue ran from the scene and were not located.
Besides the gun, police found money, a learner's permit and other IDs in Sutton's name, and a MoneyGram receipt in Sutton's name in the Rogue, records state.
Investigators took samples of a reddish-brown substance from the windshield and steering wheel of the Rogue. DNA testing indicated a match to Sutton, records say.
An arrest warrant was issued for Sutton, who is to be held on a $75,000 bail after he's taken into custody.
CROWN POINT — A judge appointed a public defender Friday to represent a 56-year-old man charged recently with murder and rape in the 1988 slaying of a woman in Gary.
Tyrone A. McKee, of Merrillville, told Lake Criminal Court Judge Clarence Murray he did not have the money to hire his own attorney and last worked clearing snow.
McKee has been held without bail since his arrest Oct. 23 in connection with the homicide of 23-year-old Colleen Callahan, whose body was found Nov. 9, 1988, in an abandoned house in the 2300 block of Massachusetts Street.
The FBI's Gang Response Investigative Team secured the charges against McKee after newly submitted DNA evidence linked him to the crime and several witnesses who previously were reluctant to talk came forward, records show.
Gary police found Callahan's nude body after receiving a call from "Mr. Smith" that there was a "man down" at the residence, Lake Criminal Court records show. She bled to death from multiple blunt force injuries.
Callahan had cocaine in her system, was six weeks pregnant and had been sexually assaulted, records state.
Gary and Lake County sheriff's police detectives interviewed several witnesses, including a man who admitted to giving false information in 1988 and a woman who said she was Callahan's best friend but didn't tell police all she knew decades ago.
Callahan's friend told police in 1988 that she went out with Callahan, but that they parted ways because Callahan "was going to go home and change her coat and put on some socks because she was cold."
When police interviewed her again this year, she admitted she heard years ago that Callahan was at a house in the 2300 block of Massachusetts with McKee the night she went missing, left with McKee to see a drug dealer and never returned, records say.
Another woman, who lived at the house on Massachusetts where Callahan had been seen, told police McKee admitted to her that he and two other men killed Callahan. She said McKee told her where Callahan's body was located and she went to see it, records allege.
The woman said her brother-in-law called police from a pay phone to report Callahan's body.
Both woman told police they didn't previously come forward with the information because they were afraid, according to documents.
When investigators spoke in May with McKee, he denied knowing Callahan or having any contact with her, records say.
CROWN POINT — An East Chicago man faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to a reduced charge in a shootout with police outside a Gary nightclub in 2017 that left one dead and wounded four.
Chauncey L. Hackett Jr., 28, admitted he shot at a Gary police officer Feb. 26, 2017, outside the Top Shelf nightclub at West 17th Avenue and Grant Street, records show.
The police officer returned fire, striking Hackett in the neck, according to a plea agreement. Hackett, who has a felony conviction from 2014, was found lying on top of his gun.
The shootout at the club, which also has been known as Hustle and Joe's, also resulted in the death of Dvontai Wright, 25, of Griffith.
A total of two Gary officers discharged their weapons, but neither was wounded, police said.
Hackett pleaded guilty Thursday to a level 3 felony count of attempted aggravated battery and a level 5 felony count of carrying a handgun without a license.
The sentences on each count are to run concurrently, with a cap of 10 years, according to a plea agreement.
Prosecutors agreed to dismiss a level 1 felony count of attempted murder in exchange for his plea.
Hackett is represented by attorney John Cantrell. Michelle Jatkiewicz is prosecuting the case for the state.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Samuel Cappas set Hackett's sentencing hearing for Jan. 14.
A 60-year-old man is in critical condition after a shooting Monday afternoon in Hammond, police said.
At around 2:30 p.m., Hammond police responded to the report of the shooting in the 200 block of Highland Street and found the man with several gunshot wounds, Lt. Steve Kellogg said. An officer used a tourniquet to try to stop the bleeding.
The man was transported to an area hospital and was in critical condition as of Monday evening, Kellogg said. Witnesses told police that at the time of the incident they had heard approximately five shots before someone fled the area in an unknown vehicle.
Anyone with more information about the shooting is asked to contact Detective Sgt. Steve Guernsey at 219-852-2978.