CENTER TOWNSHIP — A 20-year-old Portage man was taken into custody early Wednesday morning after police said they found him driving after drinking alcohol with a 6-month-old boy strapped to his chest.
Michael Arroyo immediately told police, "I'm sorry man, I can't get in trouble right now, I'm on probation," according to the incident report.
He was arrested on a preliminary felony charge of neglect of a dependent and a misdemeanor count of a minor consuming alcohol, police said. He was also issued traffic citations on allegations of a child safety restraint violation and driving without a valid license.
The county police officer said he pulled over Arroyo's 2001 Mazda at the Creekside Golf Course at 2:22 a.m. after seeing his vehicle swerve off Ind. 130 and then turn south on Froberg Road from the traffic lane rather than the turn lane.
The baby, which was his, was strapped to his chest in a carrier, police said. The baby was positioned between Arroyo and the steering wheel, which was clearly marked as being equipped with airbags.
He told police he was on his way to the Franklin House bar in Valparaiso to pick up his girlfriend, who is the baby's mother. He admitted to consuming alcohol prior to driving and registered as drinking on a portable breath test, but passed most of the drunken driving tests.
Police said they contacted the baby's mother, who was on her way home with an Uber driver. She had the baby seat in her car left at the bar, so police had her place it in the Uber vehicle and the baby was taken home.
Police said the mother did not appear intoxicated and the baby was left in her care.
The baby's mother reportedly told police Arroyo was supposed to leave the baby in the care of an adult nephew staying at their house. She had no idea Arroyo had been drinking and chose to take their son, despite not having a baby seat in the vehicle.
CROWN POINT — The suspect in the robbery last year of a Hammond restaurant was identified after he allegedly wrote his note demanding cash on an advertisement mailed to the mother of his child, court records state.
Clarence Ross, 31, of Chicago, is wanted by authorities in the robbery Nov. 14 of a Pizza Hut in the 7300 block of Indianapolis Boulevard in Hammond.
An employee told authorities a suspect wearing a facial covering and sun glasses approached the counter about 11 p.m. and showed him a note demanding cash, records state. The robber stole about $100 from a cash drawer and fled the scene, leaving behind the note.
A surveillance camera captured the suspect's face while it was briefly uncovered, records state. A photo of the suspect was published by The Times in an article about the robbery, which resulted in a caller identifying him as Ross.
Police noted the suspect also wrote his demand on the back of an advertisement letter mailed to a Chicago woman. Police learned the woman owned a 2000 Mitsubishi Gallant. The vehicle's license plate number were entered into the Hammond Police Department's license plate reader, which revealed the vehicle was in the area of the Pizza Hut at the time of the robbery.
Ross was also the father of the woman's child, records state.
Ross is charged in Lake Criminal Court with robbery, a level 5 felony. His surety bond is $30,000.
Members of Northwest Indiana’s legislative delegation said they were shocked to learn that someone they know has been identified as the accused killer of T. Edward Page, a respected member of the legal community.
“That just blew my mind. It was like somebody punched you in the gut,” said state Sen. Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago.
Sources close to the investigation have identified Bill Landske, husband of the late state Sen. Sue Landske, R-Cedar Lake, as the alleged shooter.
Randolph said he knew Sue Landske even before he was in the General Assembly. She ran the Bureau of Motor Vehicles branch where Randolph’s father worked as the examiner for driving tests.
Randolph knew Page well, too. Page was a law clerk assisting Randolph when they worked in the Lake County prosecutor’s office.
Page was one of the smartest people around, Randolph said, so attorneys liked to rub it in whenever they discovered they were right and Page was wrong.
“You realize how precious life is, and it can be taken from you just like that,” Randolph said.
State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, called the news “a super shock.”
Bill Landske was “always such a mild-mannered man” when he accompanied his wife to events while she was in the Indiana Senate, Brown said.
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said Bill Landske and Soliday’s wife would go to events for lawmakers’ spouses when Soliday and other legislators were at summer conferences.
“My total experience with the guy was he was a very gentle spirit, very quiet,” Soliday said. “I’d never heard anything to the contrary.”
“I’m just stunned and feel terrible for everyone involved,” Soliday said.
State Sen. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, has known the Landskes a long time. The Niemeyers and Landskes’ political lives were connected through the Indiana Senate.
“She finished my dad’s term, and she was in that seat until she decided not to run again, and then I took that seat,” Niemeyer explained.
Niemeyer said his reaction was “disbelief, like anyone else.”
State Rep. Michael Aylesworth, R-Hebron, and his wife, Dolores, have known the Landske family a long time. Dolores Aylesworth and Page knew each other because they were both public defenders and ran into each other at conferences and other events.
“Like many of us, we can’t hardly believe it,” Michael Aylesworth said. “My wife and I were speechless.”
“It’s shocking when someone you know is killed by someone else you know,” he said.
State Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, was similarly stunned.
“I just this minute finished reading the article in the paper about it, and I was sitting here with my mouth dropped open when you called,” he said.
State Sen. Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond, was “just shocked” to learn Bill Landske was implicated in the crime, he said.
“He always seemed to be rather stable and good-natured,” he said.
Landske also served two terms on the Cedar Lake Town Council after voters swept him and other Republicans to power in the 2003 general election.
He served on the council from 2004 to 2011.
"I just couldn't believe he would do something like this. I just thought it had to be a different Bill Landske," said Cedar Lake Town Councilman Robert H. "Bob" Carnahan, who served with Landske for four years.
A 23-year-old and alleged member of the 22nd Avenue Boys street gang is awaiting extradition in an Iowa county jail after he was captured by the U.S. Marshals early Thursday morning in connection with a 2015 murder at a Gary gas station.
The U.S. Marshals' Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, which includes Gary officers, was assisted by the Scott County Sheriff's Department in the arrest of Dontrall "Trall" Phillips.
Phillips was taken into custody at about 9:30 a.m. at a residence in the 2600 block of North Pine Street in Davenport, Iowa, Mark Gregoline, inspector with the U.S. Marshals' Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, told The Times.
Phillips was reportedly staying with a relative to evade police. He had previously appeared on Lake County's Most Wanted list for homicide.
Gary police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said Phillips initially fled into another residence and barricaded himself. A Gary police dog assisting the U.S. Marshals that day was sent in to apprehend Phillips, who suffered a dog bite as a result, Hamady said.
Phillips was taken to Genesis Medical Center in Davenport to be treated for the K-9 bite before he was booked at 4:10 p.m. into the Scott County Jail, according to the Quad-City Times.
A botched robbery turns fatal
Phillips' charging information was not immediately available in Lake Criminal Court records on Thursday. However, a co-defendant, Walter A. Rondo III, was charged with murder and attempted robbery in June in connection with the case.
Rondo's charging documents detail how Phillips was one of two gang members allegedly involved in the ambush and botched robbery on April 12, 2015, at the 23rd Street gas station near Broadway.
Rondo told police he served as a lookout for Phillips and a second gang member while they robbed Donald Fuzzell, 21, and ultimately killed him in a shooting at the gas station, records show.
Rondo said he initially didn't come forward because he feared retaliation from Phillips and others involved.
A break in the case came through conversations with a woman jailed on burglary charges in May 2015, records state. She told police a day or two after the murder her boyfriend and his two friends confessed they attempted to rob a man at a gas station, but he fought back so they shot him twice.
When police first interviewed Phillips in June, he denied his involvement, instead telling police he heard of the murder only after it happened.
In a subsequent interview that same month, Phillips allegedly lied and said he only served as a lookout and that he was supposed to split proceeds with three other people.
However, a man also involved allegedly told police he and Rondo served as lookouts while Phillips and a second man carried out the armed robbery, records show.
Hamady commended the hard work of detectives who worked the case and members of the U.S. Marshals Service that assisted in his arrest.
"These individuals, they try to flee the area, but we tracked this guy down all the way to Iowa, and it was our Gary dog that bit him inside that closet," Hamady said. "Our detectives worked hard to put a good case together."
CROWN POINT — A 20-year-old man was arrested Sunday in Hammond on allegations he robbed a woman at gunpoint.
A second man was arrested on vehicle theft and resisting law enforcement charges after he allegedly fled from officers searching for the robbery suspect.
Deshawn R. Anderson was charged Thursday in Lake Criminal Court with armed robbery, intimidation, pointing a firearm and misdemeanor resisting law enforcement.
A woman called 911 Sunday night to report she was sitting in her vehicle in the 7000 block of Alabama Avenue when a man pointed a firearm at her and ordered her to give him her purse, records state.
The woman said the suspect wore a blue shirt and fled in a dark-colored minivan, records state.
A police officer spotted a purple minivan parked at a gas station in the 6800 block of Indianapolis Boulevard. He noted a man in a blue shirt was inside the business. The officer attempted to question the man, but he managed to flee the scene, records state.
Police found a 9 mm handgun and the woman's purse in the minivan. Anderson was later arrested and admitted he robbed the woman, records state.
A second man was arrested while police were searching for the robbery suspect, records state.
Jeremi J. Williams, 25, was charged Tuesday with unlawful gun possession, auto theft and resisting law enforcement after he allegedly started a high-speed pursuit in a stolen vehicle.
A police officer searching for the robbery suspect spotted Willliams early morning Monday sitting in a vehicle parked illegally in the 1000 block of Drackert Street, records state. Williams drove away and the patrolman attempted to stop his vehicle, which resulted in a police pursuit.
Williams briefly stopped the vehicle, but then fled again, eventually reaching speeds of 120 miles per hour on Calumet Avenue before the officer canceled the pursuit. The vehicle was found abandoned near 119th Street and Front Street in Whiting. Williams was found hiding in a garage nearby, records state.
Police learned the vehicle was stolen the day prior from Williams' friend, records state. A 40-caliber handgun was found in the vehicle, which Williams was prohibited from owning due to a 2012 conviction in Illinois for residential burglary.
Anderson is in custody on a $95,000 surety bond, records state. Williams' surety bond is $75,000.
GARY — A convicted felon wanted for robbery out of Terre Haute is in custody after leading police on a high-speed car chase in a stolen car Wednesday night.
The 26-year-old suspect, whose name is being withheld pending formal charges, ended the pursuit when he reportedly crashed into an abandoned building near 37th and Broadway, according to Gary police Cmdr. Jack Hamady.
Hamady said a Gary police officer was patrolling in the city's Midtown section about 7:15 p.m. Thursday and noticed a driver of a Toyota Rav 4 blow a red light near 19th and Broadway.
The suspect was speeding and driving aggressively despite the officer's attempts to initiate a traffic stop. He fled southbound on Broadway, striking another vehicle in the intersection near 37th Avenue, which sent his car veering off into a vacant building, Hamady said.
The driver then fled the car and hid in the building, prompting the officer to send in a K-9 police dog to apprehend him.
Police learned the driver was a convicted felony, had a warrant out of Terre Haute robbery, and had been driving a vehicle reported stolen out of Indianapolis, Hamady said.
About 19 grams of suspected marijuana was seized from the vehicle. Formal charges are expected to be filed this week.
GARY — Police are investigating after two men were shot early Thursday morning while standing at a gas station near 49th Avenue and Georgia Street.
Gary police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said police were dispatched at 1:29 a.m. Thursday to the gas station for a report of two gunshot wound victims.
Two men reported they were standing near the gas pumps when a vehicle of unknown description drove by, firing several shots, Hamady said.
One victim, a 23-year-old from Gary, ran to a residence in the 4900 block of Vermont Street to report the shooting, while a second victim, a 34-year-old, also from Gary, was met by police at the gas station with gunshot wounds.
The 23-year-old was struck in his left arm and grazed in his chest by a bullet, Hamady said. The 34-year-old was struck in his left arm and lower, middle back.
Both victims were transported to area hospitals. The circumstances behind the shooting remain under investigation.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Detective Sgt. Mario Gonzales at 219-881-1210. To remain anonymous, call the Gary Crime Tip Line at 866-CRIME-GP.
MUNSTER — Two union members were arrested Thursday morning on federal extortion charges in the alleged attack on non-union laborers two years ago at a Dyer construction site.
Thomas R. Williamson, 67, of Schererville, and Jeffrey R. Veach, 55, of Portage, were indicted Wednesday for committing a Hobbs Act extortion conspiracy and two counts of attempted Hobbs Act extortion. The charges were unsealed Thursday.
The men allegedly used threats and violence against non-union laborers Jan. 7, 2016, to extort a favorable labor contract from the owners of a construction company and a steel-working company, the indictment states.
The men appeared with their attorneys, Paul Stracci and Kevin Milner, at initial hearings Thursday morning, court records state.
The men entered not guilty pleas and were released on $20,000 unsecured appearance bonds, records state. The men are prohibited from traveling outside the continental United States under the terms of their bond agreements.
The allegations stem from a brawl that broke out Jan. 7, 2016, at the work site for Plumb Creek Christian Academy, located in the southwest corner of 213th Street and Calumet Avenue in Dyer.
D5 Iron Works claims in a lawsuit filed that year in U.S. District Court Williamson approached its workers Jan. 6, 2016, at the construction site to solicit a labor agreement that would call for Iron Workers Local 395 to work the job.
He was told to leave.
Williamson returned the next day and began arguing with workers about the labor agreement. He and other men allegedly returned later that day and attacked the laborers. Some of the men from Iron Workers Local 395 wore steel-toed boots during the attack and yelled, “This is 395 territory," the lawsuit states.
At least one worker at the site suffered a broken jaw, according to the lawsuit.
Dyer Police Chief David Hein told The Times in June 2016 he referred his investigation of the brawl to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He said police worked with the U.S. Department of Labor on the investigation.
Veach and Williamson are named defendants in the lawsuit. The parties failed to reach a settlement at a March 22 conference meeting, court records state. A trial is scheduled for Nov. 26.
Robert T. Hanlon is representing D5 Iron Works and its employees in the lawsuit.
“These guys acted like a bunch of animals," he said about the union members allegedly involved in the attack. "They get what they deserve.”
He said the union members were "cowards," who exercised their Fifth Amendment rights during depositions in the civil case.
“They should have manned up and owned up to what they did, but they were cowards and couldn't even do that.”
He said the settlement conference in March was a "big waste of time," but a second court-ordered conference is scheduled for October. He said he expected the case would head to trial.
Jeffrey Veach was listed Thursday on the Iron Workers Local 395 as a business agent and president for the union.
A person who answered the phone Thursday at Iron Workers Local 395 said the union did not comment on "active investigations."
HOBART — Three years ago, prominent Region attorney T. Edward Page eulogized his client and friend Indiana Sen. Sue Landske following the lawmaker's death from lung cancer.
On Wednesday, the late senator's husband was arrested on allegations he shot Page, a longtime Landske family friend, outside of the attorney's Hobart residence, sources with direct knowledge of the investigation confirmed.
The sources said the 83-year-old Cedar Lake man being held in the shooting death of Page is William "Bill" Landske.
Prosecutors have said they expect to charge the suspect Friday in the Wednesday shooting death of Page.
Page had been working as an attorney for William Landske in a civil case, authorities said.
Sue Landske died at age 77 in 2015 after serving 30 years in the state Senate.
Just three years ago, William Landske sat before Page as the attorney and Landske family friend delivered a eulogy for Sue Landske during her funeral service at Memory Lane Funeral Home in Schererville.
Page, 64, a well-respected judge, attorney and Hobart resident, had served as Sue Landske's attorney and remembered her as an exemplary leader and loving woman who put others before herself.
"Her loss is felt by all who met her, and all those who were not blessed to have met her," Page said.
Many of Page's colleagues said the same of him Wednesday, after learning of his slaying.
The Rev. Ed Tlucek, of Holy Name Catholic Church in Cedar Lake, pointed to William Landske during the 2015 funeral service as he described how the Landske family's love spilled over into the community.
"It's not jealous. It's not rude. It forgives. It's amazing," Tlucek said. "And that was the love that was there. This deep family love."
Police weren't confirming Thursday what motivated William Landske to kill Page.
Hobart police Lt. James Gonzales said he couldn't confirm or deny the identity of the suspect pending formal charges.
Investigators planned to attend Page's autopsy Thursday morning and were working with the Lake County prosecutor's office to file charges by Friday morning, he said.
Hobart police said Wednesday the suspect was Page's longtime friend and client. The suspect had been welcomed onto the attorney’s gated property with two of his daughters to collect unspecified documents Wednesday.
Police declined to comment on a possible motive.
Police responded about 11:45 a.m. Wednesday to Page's home in the 1200 block of West Fourth Street after an off-duty officer who lives nearby reported to Lake County dispatch that he heard multiple shots, people screaming and a person yelling for help.
A second 911 caller reported a person had been shot at Page's property, police said.
Gonzales told The Times he attended Page's autopsy Thursday morning. The official cause of death is multiple gunshot wounds in a homicide, he said.
"I can confirm he was shot four times," Gonzales added.
Page's husband tackled and disarmed the suspect, and officers took the suspect into custody when they arrived.
A firearm and other evidence were recovered from the scene.
William Landske served two terms on the Cedar Lake Town Council after voters swept him and other Republicans to power in the 2003 general election. He served on the council from 2004 to 2011, Cedar Lake Clerk-Treasurer Amy Gross said.
Page served as magistrate judge of the Lake Superior Court from October 1984 to December 2000 and continued to serve as a part-time judge through the state's senior judges program.
Page also worked for the Lake County public defender's office and had put in his letter of retirement Tuesday, said Marce Gonzalez Jr., chief public defender. Page was expected to leave the office by the end of the month.
Page recently told The Times he planned to spend more time working as a senior judge and teaching.
Page had served as president of the Association of Indiana Magistrates, treasurer of the Lake County Bar Association, president of the Calumet Council of the Boy Scouts of America and president of the South Lake County Bar Association.
Page's homicide marks the third in Hobart this year.
Map: Homicides in Northwest Indiana in 2017 and 2018
CROWN POINT — A 24-year-old former Lake Central High School teacher pleaded guilty Thursday to possession of cocaine, a Level 6 felony, on allegations she was caught snorting the drug in a classroom.
Samantha M. Cox admitted in a plea agreement filed Thursday in Lake Criminal Court she possessed cocaine Nov. 22, 2017, on school property.
Cox, a former teacher taken into custody after a student allegedly videotaped her using cocaine in an empty classroom, would be sentenced to 12 months of probation under the terms of the agreement. She would need to complete a drug treatment program while on probation, or face 12 months in jail.
If she successfully completed her probation, Cox would be able to petition the court to reduce her felony conviction to a Class A misdemeanor. The state would dismiss one count of misdemeanor drug paraphernalia as part of the plea agreement.
Defense attorney Ray Szarmach told Judge Salvador Vasquez his client already completed a 30-day in-patient drug treatment program. He said his client currently worked for a psychiatrist.
Vasquez said he wanted to see Cox's medical records before determining whether to accept a plea agreement.
An acceptance of plea and sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 14.
Cox was arrested Nov. 22, 2017, after a student allegedly posted a video on social media of the teacher using cocaine in her classroom. The video was brought to the attention of school administrators, who called police.
A search of the teacher's desk turned up a plastic cigarette wrapper filled with pieces of tin foil and a piece of paper rolled up like a straw. More drug paraphernalia was found in her vehicle.
Cox admitted she purchased $160 worth of cocaine before school. She said she usually used it after school, but she was feeling sick that morning. She said she had used cocaine for four years.
CROWN POINT — A 23-year-old man allegedly impregnated a 14-year-old girl and ran away with her to Arizona, according to court records filed Tuesday.
Trevontae Williams was charged Tuesday in Lake Criminal Court with sexual misconduct with a minor, a Level 4 felony.
The girl's mother told Griffith police Jan. 10 her 14-year-old daughter was pregnant and she suspected Williams, who lived with the family as a guest in October.
She said her daughter ran away with Williams, but the couple was detained by police after departing a pregnancy clinic in Glendale, Arizona, records state.
The girl was initially uncooperative in an interview with detectives. She eventually admitted she lost her virginity to Williams and she considered them to be dating.
Police found messages between the girl and Williams on the girl's cellphone, records state. She allegedly had Williams saved in a messaging application as “Babydaddy.” Williams allegedly sent her a message telling her to tell pregnancy clinic staff she was 17.
A warrant was issued Tuesday for Williams' arrest. His surety bond is $25,000.
The Emmanuel Baptist Church of South Haven has had many different safeguards in place for years aimed at protecting children from abuse, according to Senior Pastor John Allen.
But two years ago, then-youth pastor Timothy Lawrence was charged with having inappropriate sexual contact with the two girls from the church during 2013-14, including one girl who had confided with him that she had suffered abuse at home, according to charging information.
"We tried to prevent what happened to us," Allen said Wednesday. "But you can't ... We did everything we could."
The case involving Lawrence, which is still pending in the courts, is among several sex-related accusations leveled at church leaders from various denominations across the Region over the years. Some of the cases resulted in convictions, while others were never charged or the charges were dropped.
The cases shed light on the significant challenges churches face in attempting to prevent these types of offenses and the struggles they face in recovering once they occur. The challenge is not unlike the seemingly insurmountable task of keeping students safe in this era of school shootings.
"It isn't any one segment of religion," Allen said. "Anywhere there are people there are potential problems."
Emmanuel Baptist Church conducts regular background checks of anyone in a leadership role having contact with children, and requires adults to operate in pairs, undergo training in child protection and attend the church for at least six months before taking charge in anyway, he said.
"You can't guarantee that nobody will ever do anything wrong," Allen said.
The Catholic Diocese of Gary has its own lengthy education/awareness program required of all employees and volunteers who have contact with children, said Director of Communications Debbie Bosak.
There are also age-appropriate instructions for students so they understand what is appropriate and not, and where they can go for help, she said.
"Their safety and well being is always a priority," Bosak said.
The local diocese, which covers Lake, Porter, LaPorte and Starke counties, implemented these efforts in the early 1990s, which was ahead of the national awareness of the issue, she said.
"We didn't want to be reactive," she said.
If allegations of sexual abuse do arise, the diocese both notifies police and conducts an internal investigation led by a review board.
Emmanuel Baptist Church reported its alleged offenses when they came to light and not only stepped up its vigilance since, but also created a security team that patrols the property in preparation for any types of problems, Allen said.
"We don't ever want this to happen again," he said
"It takes its toll," Allen said, describing how the church lost members in the wake of the allegations.
The case also "crushed the teens" at the church and left Allen particularly sensitive to Tuesday's news of the grand jury report of more than 300 "predator priests" in Pennsylvania leaving more than 1,000 known sexual abuse victims in their wake over 70 years.
"Obviously your heart just breaks for what's going on," he said.
GARY — A priest accused of impregnating a 17-year-old girl, forging a pastor's name on a church marriage certificate and later divorcing her in 1957 was accused several years later of sexual misconduct with a teen girl in the Catholic Diocese of Gary, records show.
The Rev. Raymond Lukac was among hundreds of priests identified in a damning Pennsylvania grand jury report released Tuesday detailing child sex abuse allegations in six of that state's dioceses.
The 17-year-old was the second teenage girl Lukac was accused of abusing in the Greensburg Diocese of southwestern Pennsylvania. He was sent to a New Mexico for “treatment and repentance,” before he was assigned on "a trial basis" to the Diocese of Gary between June 1961 and June 1963, the report says. It's believed Lukac died in 2000, NBC5 Chicago reported.
The grand jury wrote in its report that letters and documents showed Lukac served as a high school teacher at Bishop Noll High School in Hammond during his time in the Gary Diocese.
"Despite having sex with a minor, despite fathering a child, despite being married and being divorced, the priest was permitted to stay in ministry thanks to the diocese’s efforts to find a 'benevolent bishop' in another state willing to take him on," the grand jury's report said.
The Diocese of Gary said Wednesday it contacted the Diocese of Greensburg, Pennsylvania – where Lukac had been ordained in 1954 – in 2012, while investigating the allegation Lukac abused a teen girl while serving in Northwest Indiana approximately 50 years earlier.
“Kelly Venegas, safe environment coordinator for the Diocese of Gary, convened a meeting of the Diocesan Review Board to examine the allegation, which then was thoroughly reviewed with due diligence," said Debbie Bosak, spokeswoman for the Gary Diocese.
“The conclusion reached was there was a lack of sufficient evidence to determine the credibility of the accusation,” Bosak said.
The Gary Diocese was not asked to provide any documents or other records for the Pennsylvania grand jury’s investigation.
When asked about the age of the alleged victim and circumstances of the alleged abuse, Bosak said, “In order to protect the anonymity of the accuser, we cannot reveal those details.”
The Gary Diocese has worked since the early 1990s to establish procedures for handling allegations of sexual misconduct, she said.
“This has included the appointment of a bishop’s delegate to facilitate and review all allegations, along with an advisory board of professionals,” Bosak said. “The diocese also requires all employees and volunteers who work with children to undergo safe environment training. Programs are run in our schools and religious education programs to teach our children what is appropriate and what isn’t, and, in compliance with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the diocese undergoes annual audits to assure continuing compliance with guidelines.”
Allegations piled up
Lukac was ordained in 1954 in the Diocese of Greensburg, despite resistance from some church officials because of concerns about his conduct, the grand jury's report says.
He was accused in 1955 of being romantically involved with an 18-year-old female organist. He was transferred that year to another church within the diocese, and within one year the new church’s head pastor learned Lukac was accused of abusing the 17-year-old, records show.
The church's head pastor reported to Bishop Hugh Lamb that a wedding ring and marriage certificate were found in Lukac's room. The marriage certificate included the head pastor's forged signature, but it did not appear the certificate was associated with a formal, legal marriage, records say.
Lamb wrote to Archbishop of Philadelphia John O’Hara in January 1957, warning of “a danger of scandal” and asking that Lukac be removed “for the good of his own soul and for the welfare of the church.”
“Despite having the marriage certificate as proof of a relationship between Lukac and a minor, Lamb told O’Hara, ‘There is no conclusive proof that he has gone the limit in the three cases brought to our attention of the two parishes to which he has been assigned,'” the grand jury’s report says.
Details about the third victim were not contained in diocesan records, the grand jury said.
Lamb also asked O’Hara to send Lukac to a retreat, but before final arrangements were made Lukac eloped with the girl – who by that time was older than 18 – and a legal marriage was recorded Jan. 18, 1957, in Virginia.
Lukac returned to the church and was sent in July 1957 for “treatment and repentance” in New Mexico. The girl gave birth to Lukac’s child, and Lukac divorced her in December 1957, records show.
“In a letter dated June 30, 1961, the Bishop of Gary, Andrew Grutka, accepted Lukac into his diocese on a ‘trial basis,’” records say. “Lukac was given all faculties of the priesthood in the Diocese of Gary, with the exception of the ability to hear confessions.”
A letter Grutka wrote in June 1963 said Lukac was to leave the Gary Diocese and noted, “He is also troubled with impetuosity with a tendency toward indiscreetness. In my humble opinion an assignment in a boys’ school would be in the best interest of Father Lukac.”
A June 1963 letter written by Bishop Noll Institute Superintendent Brother I. Conrad said, “Father Lukac’s besetting fault seems to be a lack of prudence. This has been noticed in his dealings with some of the students, particularly the girls. … However, I am not aware of any scandals in this regard, although his conduct at times gave me a few moments of uneasiness and apprehension.”
In 2012, the Gary Diocese contacted the Greensburg Diocese because of an allegation Lukac had engaged in sexual misconduct while serving in Northwest Indiana, records show.
“The only note appearing in Lukac’s Diocesan file regarding this matter stated the following: ‘Woman approx. 1961-1964 teenage sex relation,” records say.
After leaving Hammond, church officials attempted to find another “benevolent bishop” to accept Lukac, records show. A bishop in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese agreed to consider Lukac but ultimately did not accept him.
Lukac then made his way to Posen, Illinois, where he was accused many years later of abusing an 11-year-old girl in a church rectory. He later served in Wheeling, West Virginia, and in 1967 requested a full-time chaplaincy in the Veterans Administration Service.
A woman claiming to be Lukac’s daughter contacted the Greensburg Diocese in 1993, records show. Diocese officials contacted the Archdiocese for Military Services, which claimed to have no record of Lukac.
Victims left with 'nothing'
The Pennsylvania grand jury spent two years investigating clergy sex abuse, reviewing documents that showed "credible allegations" against more than 300 priests. The grand jury identified about 1,000 victims, but said the actual number could be in the thousands because of lost records and victims who never came forward.
Just two of the priests were charged, because the statute of limitations under Pennsylvania law prevented charges in most cases. The grand jury heard from victims in their 50s, 60s, 70s and even one who was 83 years old.
"We spent 24 months dredging up the most depraved behavior, only to find that the laws protect most of its perpetrators, and leave its victims with nothing," the grand jury report said.
The grand jury said it hoped its report would encourage victims to come forward and noted the church has made some progress in improving its handling of child sex abuse allegations.
The Gary Diocese offers outreach to any possible victims of abuse, Bosak said. Victims of clergy abuse may call Kelly Venegas 219-769-9292 or Steven Butera at 219-838-8001.
Critics have said the Pennsylvania report shows the Catholic Church cannot be trusted to investigate child sex abuse allegations against its own clergy.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represented many of the victims in the Boston church scandal, said anyone who believes they may be a victim should contact their local police and an attorney with experience in clergy sex abuse cases.
It's also important for victims to obtain therapy, he said.
"The injury and trauma suffered by a person who has been a victim of sexual abuse is continuing and ongoing," Garabedian told The Times for a 2014 story.
HOBART — The alleged gunman in custody in connection with a prominent attorney’s homicide at his home late Wednesday morning was a longtime friend and client who had been welcomed onto the attorney’s property that morning, Hobart police confirmed.
Attorney T. "Tracy" Edward Page was shot and killed by an 83-year-old man from Cedar Lake outside of his home, authorities said.
The client, whose name is being withheld pending formal charges, was reportedly welcomed onto the property of Page's gated home, with two of his daughters, to collect unspecified documents, Hobart Police Lt. James Gonzales said during a news conference at the Hobart Police Department Wednesday night.
Page was representing the suspect and one of the suspect’s daughters in a civil matter.
Police were mum on a motive and declined to say if the documents were related to any civil cases in which Page represented the suspect.
“We’re going to hold off on releasing what the possible motive is. We’re going to confirm that,” Gonzales said.
He did say Page’s husband reportedly tackled and disarmed the suspect in the shooting, Gonzales said.
Officers responded at about 11:45 a.m. to the 1200 block of West Fourth Street for a report of multiple shots fired.
An off-duty officer who lives nearby reported to Lake County dispatch that he heard multiple shots, what he described as people screaming and yelling and a person yelling for help, Gonzales said. A second 911 call received reported one person had been shot at Page’s property.
Once on scene, officers were able to take the suspect into custody without incident, he said.
A firearm and other evidence were recovered from the scene. Ballistics tests will be conducted on the firearm, he said. Gonzales said police are still trying to determine who owned the weapon and if the suspect had a license to carry.
Page’s husband was interviewed on scene and released, while other witnesses were interviewed and also released Wednesday.
Police are investigating the shooting as a homicide.
Page was a well-respected judge, attorney and resident of Hobart, Gonzales said.
Page, 64, served as magistrate judge of the Lake Superior Court from October 1984 to December 2000 and continued to serve as a part-time judge through the state's senior judges program.
He also worked for the Lake County public defender's office. He put in his letter of retirement Tuesday, said Marce Gonzalez Jr., chief public defender. Page was expected to leave the office by the end of the month.
"I'm totally shocked and saddened," Gonzalez said.
Page recently told The Times he planned to spend more time working as a senior judge and teaching.
Page had served as president of the Association of Indiana Magistrates, treasurer of the Lake County Bar Association, vice president of the Calumet Council of the Boy Scouts of America and president of the South Lake County Bar Association.
Police were at the scene for several hours Wednesday. Shortly after 1:30 p.m., a Lake County coroner's van could be seen driving down a long paved driveway toward the gated home and two Hobart police officers tied yellow crime scene around two trees, blocking off the driveway.
An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday morning for an official cause and manner of death. Charges will be presented to the Lake County prosecutor's office late Thursday or early Friday morning, Gonzales said.
Highland High School and Highland Middle School were briefly placed on a soft lockdown Wednesday morning after police received a call about a suspicious person entering the high school, an official said.
County dispatchers received a 911 call about 7:25 a.m. about a suspicious person entering the school's front doors, police Cmdr. John Banasiak said.
Police spoke with the caller, and school staff immediately checked and tracked an individual, who was found to be a current high school student, he said.
Highland High School and Highland Middle School were placed on a soft lockdown for about 20 minutes as a precautionary measure, police said.
After the individual was identified, school administration and police determined there as no threat to students, faculty or staff, Banasiak said.
CROWN POINT — A 26-year-old man is charged in an armed robbery last month outside a Hammond gas station.
Justin A. Harris was charged Monday in Lake Criminal Court with armed robbery, battery by means of a deadly weapon, intimidation and interference with the reporting of a crime.
Hammond police were dispatched in the early morning hours July 14 to Nice & Easy, 4508 Calumet Ave.
A man said he and his girlfriend stopped at the gas station so he could use the bathroom, records state. He said while outside the building, a man put a gun to his head and said, “Give me your chain, mother (expletive), or I'll blast you,” records state.
He said the robber took his gold chain and Armani Exchange watch. He also smashed his phone, records state.
Police were able to identify the suspect in surveillance footage as Harris. The man and his girlfriend both identified Harris as the robber from a photograph, records state.
Harris was previously charged in January 2011 with raping a woman during a party in Hammond. Harris pleaded guilty to criminal confinement and theft, and he was sentenced to four years in prison, which was suspended for probation. He received an additional four years probation for carrying a handgun without a license in an unrelated case, records state.
A warrant was issued Monday for Harris' arrest. His surety bond is $75,000.
CROWN POINT — A woman testified Tuesday she did not want to pursue charges against her boyfriend, Elias Costello, for the alleged July 8 burglary of her Hammond home.
Denise Mata said at a bond hearing for Costello, who is jailed on allegations he burgled the woman's home and then later participated in a different woman's gang rape during a second home invasion in Hammond, she wanted a criminal court judge to reduce Costello's bond in the burglary case.
She acknowledged the state could pursue charges without her assistance — her mother is also a victim of the burglary — but she said she wanted to have contact with Costello.
Costello, 18, is charged in Lake Criminal Court with burglary on allegations he broke into the woman's home July 8 and stole television sets, four purses and jewelry.
Costello was arrested July 16 after a second burglary he allegedly plotted with another girlfriend, Alexis Lietz. Police allege Costello and two other defendants, Nathaniel J. Asbury, 21, and a 16-year-old boy, raped a 19-year-old woman at gunpoint during the home invasion.
A judge pro tempore initially granted Costello a bond reduction in the rape case, but Judge Samuel L. Cappas reversed that decision during a second bond hearing last week. Costello's surety bond in the rape case is $125,000, of which he would need to post $12,500 to be released from jail.
Costello's bond in the second burglary case is $100,000. Defense attorney John Cantrell argued Tuesday the bond was unnecessarily high, given the nature of the offense.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Infinity Baulos argued the bond was high because Costello was a danger to the community. She said Costello was a suspect in multiple burglaries in Hammond, and he posted photos on social media posing with stolen firearms.
Cappas asked whether Costello was charged or expected to be charged in other burglaries, at which point Baulos requested they speak at the bench. After the discussion, Cappas agreed to reduce Costello's surety bond to $60,000, with the condition he wear an ankle monitor while awaiting trial.
“Whether he is or isn't a suspect (in other burglaries), this bond cannot be used as a punitive measure for something that will take place in the future,” he said.
Costello would need to post the bonds in both cases to be released from jail.
HAMMOND — A medical waste company is facing a slew of city violations after officials said they discovered blood oozing from a container stored in a semitrailer at MedAssure’s Summer Street facility. A wider investigation into the company's operations is underway.
MedAssure Services, whose Midwest office is based out of Indianapolis, has been operating at 1717 Summer St. in Hammond for some time, but never has received proper zoning approval or a business permit from City Hall, said Kris Kantar, attorney for Hammond.
State environmental regulators have been contacted. The biohazard medical waste facility has been under a lease agreement at this location since at least June 2014, according to a 2014-16 agreement provided by the city.
MedAssure is considered a medical waste transport station, where waste is transferred from truck to truck.
Kelly Kearney, the city's chief building Inspector, said his department went to 1717 Summer St. at about 4 p.m. Aug. 6 to investigate the oozing blood. His department and others are reviewing the case for zoning and code enforcement violations.
"Blood dripping out of a trailer is not a common sight out here," Kearney said. "We're looking into hazardous waste violations. It's a potential bio-hazard.
“The semitrailers are being used to store and then haul the medical waste for treatment. They couldn't get a DOT driver and the container started to leak blood,” Kantar said.
A MedAssure representative did not respond to requests for comment. Property owner Andrew Young said MedAssure has been a "good and responsible" tenant since it began operations in 2014. They operated at the site without incident up until this point.
"This was a relatively minor incident. It was cleaned up shortly after it happened by MedAssure," Young said in a statement.
"The property currently has the heaviest zoning classification in the city. It has been used historically for heavy industrial uses," he added. "MedAssure only uses the property as storage for their trucks/trailers. They have no operations at the site besides this."
He alleges the city of Hammond has been aware of MedAssure's tenancy for well over a year when he filed in court for bankruptcy on the property.
The lease agreement with HRP II LLC requires them to comply with all local, state and federal rules and regulations, he said.
Hammond City Planning Director Brian Poland, who handles zoning issues, said the property is zoned I-2 (industrial), which allows for trucking and can include transfer of materials from truck to truck.
However, a business must obtain conditional zoning approval through the city's Board of Zoning Appeals if the material it handles is explosive, flammable or other potentially dangerous material — which did not happen in this case.
"So the question then becomes what are they transferring?" Poland said. "We know medical waste, by its very nature, must be contained properly and disposed of properly, and if it’s not, then it is potentially dangerous," Poland said.
Ron Novak, director of the Hammond Department of Environmental Management, said he received a call Aug. 6 from Hammond City Code Enforcement indicating it had uncovered MedAssure’s operation and leaking blood.
Novak said achieving proper zoning and permitting is critical, especially when dealing with biohazards and medical waste materials.
Novak said he spoke with a company representative last week, explaining, “No one knew you were here. What happens if you have an incident here and police, fire, or code enforcement is called out? They don’t know what they’re walking into. Nobody likes surprises. This is serious stuff," he said.
“When there’s a spill or a leak, there are two things I get concerned about: radiological and biohazards.”
Novak said he notified Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s emergency response team of the incident.
MedAssure has been paying $500 in monthly rent to the property owner, HRP II LLC, under a lease agreement that expired in June 2016. It’s unclear if that lease agreement was renewed on an annual or monthly basis.
Novak said MedAssure potentially faces up to two years of city violations. Under city ordinance, the fine is $2,500 for the first two and $7,500 for the remainder.
“I told them if they were to move out as expeditiously as possible, that would be taken into account (when assessing the fines),” Novak said.
The property in question is currently in the midst of bankruptcy court proceedings, city attorneys said.
VALPARAISO — While back-to-school photos and choosing just the right outfit are foremost on students' minds as they begin returning to classes this week across the Region, local educators and law enforcement were called on Tuesday to consider things much more unpleasant in the name of school safety.
Among the recommendations are to have large numbers of chest seals, tourniquets and other trauma medical supplies on hand and staff trained to handle "combat injuries" should a school shooting occur.
The recommendation to the Porter County Safe Schools Commission came from Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt, who was at the helm on May 25 when a 13-year-old student opened fire at a middle school there, injuring a teacher and student.
The presentation was part on an ongoing effort to both prevent and prepare for an active shooter at a school in Porter County.
Comparisons were made Tuesday between Noblesville and Porter County, the latter of which experienced its own school attack nearly 14 years ago.
Then-15-year-old Valparaiso High School freshman James Lewerke attacked fellow students with a machete and tree saw at the start of classes Nov. 24, 2004. Before school administrators tackled Lewerke in the hallway, the boy left seven students wounded.
That attack came five years after the infamous Columbine High School shooting rampage that left 13 dead in Colorado.
Jowitt said he was under no false impression that his school district was immune from the threat of a school shooting. The district became serious about school safety nearly 10 years before May's shooting, he said.
While unable to discuss many details of the shooting, Jowitt shared what worked and what he would do different if it were to happen again.
He stressed the need for training for local law enforcement, school staff and students. He said school staff members responded right on cue to their training and that not one student fell out of line whether they were building very effective barricades to keep the shooter out of classrooms or fleeing to predesignated areas.
"They did a fantastic job," Jowitt said. "These kids did exactly what they had been taught to do."
Jowitt encouraged police departments to make sure officers were properly armed with weapons and protective gear, and properly trained. Proper staging at a shooting scene and an organized flow of communication are also key, he said.
Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter warned the commission members Tuesday against relying too heavily on technology or a quick fix.
"I believe this is a really a people problem, too," he said.
Jowitt said it is key to try to identify and report changes in a student's behavior or other warning signs before he or she acts out with a shooting.
Legislative changes are needed to allow more sharing of this type of information, he said.
Gallery: March for Our Lives across the Region and Chicago
CROWN POINT — A man on parole for robbery is charged in Lake Criminal Court with murder and attempted murder on allegations he fatally shot a man and wounded his girlfriend last month in Gary's Emerson neighborhood.
Donjulian L. Hobson, 21, of Gary, is accused of murder in the July 14 shooting of Antonio Adams, 23, in an alley behind the 700 block of Georgia Street, court records state.
The man's girlfriend was also shot in the head, but the 21-year-old woman managed to flee the scene and wave down a passing vehicle.
Hobson was in custody Tuesday with no bond, records state.
Gary police were dispatched about 11 p.m. July 14 for reports a battered woman waived down a vehicle near the intersection of Eighth Avenue and Tennessee Street, records state.
She was transported to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus, where a CT scan revealed the woman had sustained a gunshot to the back of her head. She was then flown to a Chicago hospital.
Police learned the woman's boyfriend was Adams. Officers searched the couple's home in the Oak Knoll Renaissance Apartments, but he was not found.
A man collecting scrap metal found Adam's body two days later in an alley behind the 700 block of Georgia Street. He was dead from two gunshot wounds to the head. Four 9 mm shell casings were found at the scene, records state.
Police learned a juvenile reported his firearm was stolen on the day of the couple's shooting near the Oak Knoll Renaissance Apartments. Police spoke with the juvenile who said “Pookie,” identified as Adams, came up to him in the park and took his 9 mm handgun, claiming to be an undercover police officer.
The girlfriend was interviewed by detectives at the Chicago hospital. She told police she and Adams were with “Don-Don” on a trail somewhere and there was a fight about a gun. She said “Don-Don” shot both of them during the altercation, according to records.
Adams' sister provided detectives a photo of who she believed was “Don-Don,” records state. An ATF special agent was able to identify the suspect as Hobson.
The girlfriend identified Hobson as the shooter in a photograph array, records state. She said she, Hobson and Adams were together at their apartment, when Hobson asked Adams to “make a run with him,” records state.
She said Adams had a firearm, but he gave it to Hobson. They drove to an alleyway and began walking, at which point Hobson pointed a gun at Adam's face. The men struggled over the firearm, but Hobson managed to shoot Adams before fleeing.
She said she ran down a road for a few minutes before finding help, records state.
Hobson was arrested on a parole violation at his residence in the 4100 block of Monroe Street in Gary. He allegedly attempted to hide from Gary SWAT team members while armed with a 40 caliber handgun reported stolen from Indianapolis, records state.
Hobson admitted in an interview he was with Adams and his girlfriend July 14. He said he had known the girlfriend since seventh grade and they were friends. He said Adams asked him for a ride to purchase marijuana, so he drove them to the area of 700 Vermont Street.
He claimed Adams went into a house and returned with the hood on his sweatshirt covering his face. He said Adams swung a handgun at him, but he managed to hit Adams in the head with it, which caused it to fire.
He said a man with dreadlocks appeared and began shooting at him, so he returned fire and fled the scene.
Police noted in the affidavit Adams was shot twice in the back of the head, his body was found in an alleyway, and only four casings were recovered at the scene.
Hobson was previously sentenced to six years in prison for a robbery committed in Marion County in November 2013, court records state. He was released to community corrections, but was charged in 2016 with failing to return to lawful detention
His probation was revoked and he was ordered to serve an additional two years and nine months in prison, records state. He was on parole in Gary at the time of Adams' killing.
Hobson* is also charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon, as well as two sentencing enhancements for using a firearm in the commission of the offenses.
*An earlier version of this story misidentified who is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon and two sentencing enhancements. Hobson also faces those charges.
HOBART — An inmate taken Monday to St. Mary Medical Center briefly escaped from custody before police found him, according to a police report.
Thomas Gross III, 28, of Lake Station, was taken from the Lake County Jail to the Hobart City Jail on Monday for an appearance in Hobart City Court, police Lt. James Gonzales said.
While at the city jail, Gross told officers he had a headache and requested medical attention. Police asked medics to respond to the jail, and it was determined Gross should be taken to a hospital, police said.
Before leaving the city jail, Gross signed an affidavit promising he would not leave the medical facility without an escort from police. The affidavit also stated Gross could be charged with felony escape if he failed to return to custody.
Hobart police typically do not guard nonviolent offenders while they receive medical care, because of staffing and efficiency, Gonzales said.
Gross was being held at the county jail in connection with a theft from Walmart and a warrant for felony possession of a hypodermic needle. Neither charge would have met the threshold to place an officer at the hospital, Gonzales said.
His prior arrests were linked to traffic offenses, drug possession, possession of paraphernalia and theft, police said.
Gross was taken to St. Mary Medical Center about 5:25 p.m.
About 6 p.m., the hospital notified Hobart police Gross left and had been seen running south from the hospital toward a wooded area by the former Hind Hospital, Gonzales said.
Hobart, New Chicago and Lake County police began searching the area. Hobart police used a K-9 and drone, and the sheriff's helicopter assisted, according to police.
A Hobart officer searching on foot found Gross in a NIPSCO right of way west of Lake Park Avenue and took him into custody, police said.
Hobart police are seeking a felony escape charge against Gross, Gonzales said.
A 2015 double murder case of a Hammond teen and Hammond man will be reviewed for possible death penalty charges later this year.
According to court documents filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Hammond, the case against Ivan Reyes, of Calumet City, Illinois, will be forwarded to the capital case section for review. Depending on the review, the case could be elevated to include the death penalty.
It was announced during a status hearing on Friday that the case would be reviewed in Washington D.C. in December.
Ryan Holmes, public information officer for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District of Indiana, said cases such as this are automatically forwarded for capital case review.
Reyes was charged in January with two counts of murder in connection with the shooting deaths of Lauren Calvillo, 16, of Hammond, and Christopher White, also of Hammond, on June 29, 2015.
Caught in the crosshairs of feuding gangs outside her home in June 2015, Calvillo was struck down by a stray bullet while protecting other children on her front porch in the 5500 block of Beall Street. She later died at Franciscan Health Hammond hospital.
White was shot as gunfire erupted that day, charging documents show. He was left a quadriplegic and died in December 2015 in an area nursing home.
At the time, about 20 people gathered around a memorial for Robert Vilella, 23, of Hammond, who was fatally shot in the same neighborhood just days earlier. Several of the attendees were Latin King gang members, court documents state.
Charges against Reyes alleges the shooting was the result of "an ongoing gang conflict between the Latin Counts and Latin Kings in Hammond" and to further a conspiracy to distribute marijuana and cocaine by the Latin Counts.
According to court documents, the government is not seeking the death penalty against Robert Loya and did not make a decision as to whether charges against Eduardo Luciano and Jeron Williams will change at this time.
Luciano, Williams and Loya were indicted with Reyes in January on counts of conspiracy to participate in racketeering activities. The four are allegedly members of the Jackson Street Latin Counts, operating in Hammond.
(Editor's note: This story was edited from a previous version.)
HAMMOND — Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua P. Kolar has been named a new magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court in Hammond.
Kolar will succeed Paul R. Cherry on Jan. 1, 2019, following Cherry’s retirement.
Kolar, 42, was among 43 people who applied for the judgeship. A panel of lawyers and non-lawyers reviewed the applications and recommended five finalists. The judges on the court interviewed the finalists and selected Kolar.
"It's quite an honor," Kolar said.
Chief Judge Theresa L. Springmann said Kolar has served as an assistant U.S. attorney for more than 11 years and has practiced both civil and criminal law.
“He has the intellect, demeanor and practicality that will make him an outstanding magistrate judge,” Springmann said.
Kolar was chosen from a group of highly qualified applicants, Springmann said. She commended the Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Committee “for doing an outstanding job of screening the applicants.”
The judges of the Northern District of Indiana “look forward to having Joshua P. Kolar as a United States magistrate judge on our court,” she said.
As a federal magistrate, Kolar’s duties will include conducting most preliminary proceedings in criminal cases and presiding over hearings and the trial in civil cases and misdemeanor cases with the consent of all parties. At the request of district judges, magistrate judges also handle pretrial motions and attempts to resolve civil cases short of trial.
Kolar is a graduate of Northwestern University and the Northwestern University School of Law.
He has handled national security, public corruption, fraud, narcotics and tax investigations as an assistant U.S. attorney since 2007.
Kolar has served as an officer in the United States Naval Reserve for almost nine years and holds the rank of lieutenant. He grew up in the Chicago suburbs before moving to Northwest Indiana in 2015.
CROWN POINT — A jury trial was scheduled Monday for a 37-year-old Gary man charged with attempted murder in his ex-wife's shooting at a flea market in Calumet Township.
Judge Salvador Vasquez scheduled a jury trial Nov. 29 in Lake Criminal Court for Rashawn S. Benford.
Benford is accused of shooting his 32-year-old ex-wife March 16 while she was working at Vonna's Country Kitchen, a restaurant in the Market City Flea Market, 4121 Cleveland St., according to court records.
A security guard ordered Benford to drop the weapon after the shooting and placed him in handcuffs, records state. The woman was treated at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus for a gunshot wound to the leg.
Defense attorney Benjamen W. Murphy told the judge Monday parties were working toward a pretrial resolution.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for Oct. 29.
Benford is in custody on a $65,000 surety bond, records state.
CROWN POINT — A 37-year-old man who pleaded guilty Monday in Lake Criminal Court to felony intimidation on allegations he battered his pregnant girlfriend last year in Merrillville, causing her to lose three of her four children due to a miscarriage, won't serve any jail time unless he violates probation.
James E. McGhee Jr. pleaded guilty Monday in Judge Clarence Murray's courtroom to intimidation, a Level 5 felony. The offense is typically punishable by one to six years in prison, but attorneys agreed McGhee would be sentenced to three years in prison, which would be suspended for three years of probation.
He also agreed to attend a batterer's intervention program as part of his probation, records state.
McGhee was represented at the hearing by defense attorney Jamise Perkins. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Sept. 25.
McGhee was charged last year with multiple felonies on allegations he kicked and punched his girlfriend Feb. 20, 2017 at the couple's apartment in the 7000 block of Broadway, court records state.
The woman, who was pregnant with quadruplets, said McGhee also put a kitchen knife to her throat. She provided medical records that showed she lost three of the four fetuses she carried due to the attack.
On March 8, 2017, attorneys agreed McGhee could be released from jail on a $80,000 surety bond, records state. McGhee signed an order prohibiting contact with his girlfriend.
A warrant was issued March 28, 2017, after McGhee failed to appear at a court hearing, but the warrant was recalled April 21 at the defense's request.
On May 17, 2017, McGhee allegedly kidnapped the same woman after she agreed to meet him in a motel parking lot in Merrillville, records state. The woman was not found until June 20, after the woman's mother contacted authorities to report she received a text message from her daughter that read, “Don't reply, mom, I love you bye,” records state.
Merrillville police tracked the woman's cellphone to a Gary fireworks stand, where she and her son were located hiding in the business's bathroom.
McGhee was charged June 28, 2017, with the woman's kidnapping. Perkins informed Murray at an Aug. 4 hearing McGhee was hospitalized, records state.
McGhee appeared at an Aug. 7, 2017, court hearing. Murray determined McGhee violated his order prohibiting contact with the victim and revoked his bond, records state.
Murray agreed to again release McGhee after a Sept. 18, 2017, hearing on the condition he wear an electronic-monitoring device, records state.
McGhee was scheduled for trial on the charges Sept. 10.
Bradley Carter, the spokesman for the Lake County Prosecutor's Office, said the supervising prosecuting attorney who crafted the plea agreement was not available for comment Monday.
A man was arrested early Monday morning in Ogden Dunes after allegedly breaking into a home, confronting the resident and fleeing.
The man, who has not been identified by police pending the filing of formal charges, was captured by a police K-9 unit about a half hour after the incident began.
According to police, they received a call at 3:14 a.m. Monday that a person had broke out several windows at a home on The Thumb, just north of Diana Road, and entered the home.
Ogden Dunes officer Tim Beach responded to learn the man fled when the resident confronted him. Officers from Portage, Burns Harbor and Chesterton responded to the call.
A Portage K-9 unit began tracking the suspect who was found hiding under a deck in the rear of a nearby home about 3:40 a.m. The suspect sustained a bite wound and was taken into custody, according to Town Marshal James Reeder.
The man was treated for his bite wound at Portage Hospital and transported to Porter County Jail following his release.
PORTAGE — A partner in the Catalyst Lifestyles Sport Resort has filed an appeal in the recent dismissal of a bankruptcy lawsuit involving the proposed $75 million development.
A judge in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Indiana granted the dismissal in a ruling late last month, saying Tony Czapla, one of three managers on the project, did not have standing to file the original bankruptcy without consent of the other two partners.
Czapla filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Oct. 31. About two weeks later, a motion to dismiss the case was filed by managers Todd Thomae and Joshua Sherrard.
"Sport Resort seeks to utilize Chapter 11 reorganization to ensure repayment of its debts to creditors, successful restructuring and the eventual completion of the development," according to a written statement from Czapla.
In April 2016, a ceremony was held on the land on the west side of Ind. 249 and just south of U.S. 12 marking the beginning of construction, with promises that some of the development would be opened by year's end. Instead, aside from moving some earth, there has been no construction.
Several liens were filed on the property. The city of Portage filed a foreclosure lawsuit last year after the developer failed to make a $600,000 payment on land it was purchasing from the city.
Thomae had also filed a petition for the dissolution of the company last summer and asked that what assets are remaining be placed in the hands of a receiver. The petition claimed there have been disagreements between the partners and they do "not have sufficient cash or capital to continue any operations or development of the real estate."
After Czapla filed for bankruptcy in October, all other court matters were stayed. Those were revived briefly when the judge ruled July 27 to dismiss the bankruptcy case. The appeal, however, again stays other legal actions involving the development.
CROWN POINT — A neighborhood brawl last week in Gary ended after a 19-year-old man was shot in the head with a rifle, according to court documents filed Friday.
Wednesday's shooting was the second time in less than a year the victim has been shot in the head, according to police.
Robert F. Jones Jr., 36, was charged Friday in Lake Criminal Court with attempted murder, three counts of felony battery and pointing a firearm on allegations he shot the neighbor Wednesday in the 600 block of Harrison Street, documents state.
Jones' two brothers — Daniel R. Armstrong, 25, and Mitchell O. Armstrong Jr., 30 — also face felony charges on allegations they participated in the altercation.
Mitchell Armstrong remained wanted by authorities Monday.
Sergeant Gregory Wolf is investigating this incident, according to a news release. Anyone with further information is urged to contact the Gary Police Department Violent Crimes Division at 219-881-1210 or the Crime Tip Line at 866-CRIME-GP.
Gary patrol officers were dispatched about 8:30 p.m. Wednesday after receiving reports a man was shot in the head, documents state.
Two men – Jones and Daniel Armstrong – were taken into custody at the scene and a third man was transported to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus to be treated for the gunshot wound. The victim was later flown to a Chicago hospital for further treatment.
The victim's family told authorities Jones was the shooter, records state. The victim's grandmother said Daniel Armstrong, a neighbor, approached them as they were sitting on the porch and told the victim and two other men they was going to start selling crack cocaine for him.
The defendant allegedly said he made a connection in prison with a “Mexican guy,” who was going to “flood” the city with the drug, documents state.
The men refused to participate and an argument ensued. Daniel Armstrong allegedly punched one of the men before Jones and Mitchell Armstrong exited their home and joined the street brawl, documents state.
The fight eventually ended and the men returned to their respective homes, records state, but Jones and his brothers returned to the neighbor's home armed with long guns.
The men pointed the guns at their neighbors. A 15-year-old boy managed to disarm Mitchell Armstrong and empty the weapon of its cartridges, and the victim allegedly was pleading with everyone to stop fighting.
Jones then allegedly shot the victim in his head, and Mitchell Armstrong struck a man in the back of the head with a rifle, causing a large laceration, documents state.
Mitchell Armstrong fled the scene before officers arrived, documents state.
Officers found a vial of crack and a bag of marijuana outside the brothers' home, documents state.
Mitchell Armstrong is charged with two felony counts of battery, one misdemeanor count of battery and two felony counts of pointing a firearm.
Daniel Armstrong is charged with felony pointing a firearm and misdemeanor battery.
Gary Police Detective Cmdr. Jack Hamady said Monday the 19-year-old victim, who uses a wheelchair due to impaired mobility, was previously shot in the head in September 2017.
Police were dispatched Sept. 25 after receiving reports the 19-year-old man was bleeding in an alley in the 500 block of Taney Street, Hamady said.
The victim was transported to the hospital and treated for the gunshot wound. Hamady said no one was ever charged in that shooting, but anyone with information about it can contact Wolf.
Jones' surety bond is $100,000. Daniel Armstrong is held without bond until Aug. 28, at which point his surety bond will be rescheduled for $25,000. Mitchell Armstrong's surety bond is $70,000.
An allegedly intoxicated man was arrested Sunday at Deep River Waterpark for public intoxication and battering law enforcement after causing a disturbance at the pool, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Department.
Phillip Lillard, 36, of Gary, remained in custody as of Monday morning.
An off-duty officer working security at Deep River said he was advised by staff just before 6 p.m. of a man who appeared intoxicated and was dangerously and improperly going down the water slide.
Lillard allegedly had watery and blood shot eyes, and was acting "very belligerent" towards staff and security while refusing to comply with the officer's request to calm down, the report states.
Once handcuffed, Lillard then tried to "pull away violently and attempted to flee," so the officer brought him to the ground as he continued to struggle, the report said. The officer suffered injuries to his hand during the struggle.
Several members of Lillard's family then arrived and began yelling at the officer for having him in custody. Other police departments from Merrillville, Lake County and Winfield were called in to assist.
While walking through the facility's filter building toward the squad cars, the man "banged his own head on a pipe ... in a deliberate manner before officers could prevent," causing a small head laceration, the report states. He further banged his head against the interior back window of the squad car, the report states.
He was taken to the Lake County Jail, where he will be charged with battery on law enforcement, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, resisting law enforcement, and refusal to identify, according to a report.
VALPARAISO — A 35-year-old Center Township man was arrested early Monday morning after battering a neighbor living in a tent just north of Valparaiso over what he felt was an excessive and ongoing noise problem, according to Porter County police.
Brant Heavilin, who faces potential misdemeanor counts of battery and disorderly conduct, reportedly told police the three neighbors living in tents in a backyard in the 1400 block of Wildwood Road have been continually noisy.
He said he became upset when he heard loud music from the site Sunday night since his children started school the following morning.
One of the tent residents, who had been staying at the site for three months with the permission of the landowner, said he was watching a movie in one of the tents with the two others when he heard Heavilin outside yelling at him, police said.
When the man opened the zippered tent door to see what was wrong, he said Heavilin grabbed him by the neck, pulled him out of the tent and threw him on the ground, police said. When the man stood up, he said Heavilin shoved him to the ground.
The three tent occupants ran from the camp site and called police.
Heavilin said he knocked on the tent wall and asked the group to turn down the music, which caused one of the occupants to begin yelling at him, police said. He said the confrontation never became physical and he never put his hands on anyone.
The school bell rang bright and early as classes resumed in some districts Monday morning and teachers wasted no time getting down to business.
Fourth-graders in Jennifer Herold's class at Eads Elementary School in Munster were introduced to the "Power of Yet" project. Across the county line, Amelia Mota, the dual language teacher at Valparaiso's Parkview Elementary School, led her first-grade students in full immersion Spanish.
Outside the school buildings, police are reminding drivers to slow down in school zones during the morning and afternoon hours.
"Many students will be walking to and from school today and motorists should be aware of the increase in pedestrian traffic around schools in the city," Valparaiso Police Sgt. Mike Grennes said.
"Motorists should provide additional time on their daily commute due to the start of school this week," he said. "School buses will be making frequent stops causing additional traffic congestion and motorist should obey all school bus stop arm laws."
Valparaiso police have increased patrols in school zones.
Munster police are investigating a series of car break-ins that occurred Saturday at Munster Community Pool.
Lt. Ed Strbjak said the incidents occurred between 6:30 and 7 p.m. He said thieves targeted four cars.
"The thieves could see the purses belonging to people clearly through the windows," he said. "They broke the windows and took the purses out with credit cards and other belongings. They then fled the scene."
Strbjak said anyone who may have information or who saw these incidents should contact Munster police at 219-836-6630 and ask for the detective bureau.
Strbjak said another car break-in occurred Friday night in the 7600 block of Hohman Avenue. He said that happened about 10:40 p.m. The owner said he came out of his house the next day and saw that his tires were missing.
Strbjak said the four tires were taken off of a Hyundai, and the vehicle was left on blocks.
In addition, Strbjak said Munster police and firefighters are investigating what appears to be an arson fire in the bathroom at the girls softball field at Community Park.
"It appears that someone started a fire using toilet paper," he said Sunday.
"There was about $10,000 worth of damage," he said. "The building sustained smoke damage. The fire went out on its own due to a lack of oxygen and combustible materials."
Authorities are continuing to investigate all three incidents, and ask that anyone who saw anything contact the Munster Police Detective Bureau at 219-836-6630.
HAMMOND — A Crown Point man at the center of a “sextortion” case involving a North Carolina girl entered a guilty plea this week in U.S. District Court admitting to producing child pornography, court records show.
Adam Russell Hegyi, 31, was indicted in July 2017 on accusations he produced child pornography featuring an underage girl and a second underage female victim.
In the first case, he is accused of stalking the North Carolina girl online and releasing nude photos the girl previously sent to him via multiple social media phone applications.
In a plea agreement filed Thursday, Hegyi said he will plead guilty to two counts of producing child pornography.
On each count, he faces 15 to 30 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and five years to a lifetime of supervised release.
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors would agree to drop four other charges of receiving, transferring and distributing child pornography and online stalking.
Digital images of at least three other girls and one boy who appeared under age 18 were discovered during the investigation into Hegyi and discussed in court last year.
According to the criminal complaint, Hegyi, between Jan. 1, 2015, and June 2, 2017, used social media outlets — including KiK, Snapchat, Skype, Instagram, Facebook and FaceTime — to communicate with a girl beginning when she was 12.
Hegyi and the teen allegedly engaged in sex acts in video chat and exchanged nude photos after the two met online through Omegle, an online chat service that pairs random users together, court records show.
In October 2015, the teen became distraught and filed a police report with the Rowan County, North Carolina, Sheriff’s Department and turned over her cellphone as evidence.
At least seven images of Hegyi’s genitals were found on her phone, along with photos the teen had sent to Hegyi and screenshots of a Skype video conversation, court records show.
Even after the girl contacted police, Hegyi allegedly continued to contact her — at one point threatening to rape and kill her and her family, documents show. Hegyi also allegedly encouraged the girl to kill herself, court records show.
Eventually, the girl’s mother received a nude photo of the girl via Facebook messenger, court records state. That same day, the girl’s father received a Facebook message purporting to be from Hegyi, alleging his daughter constantly texts him and that he has the family’s home address.
Then, on May 30, Hegyi went even further by sending multiple nude photos of the girl to classmates, according to court records.
Police later determined four Facebook accounts allegedly utilized by Hegyi stemmed from the same computer IP address after they submitted emergency disclosure requests to the social media giant.
A change of plea hearing is set for 11 a.m. Sept. 12 before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph S. Van Bokkelen.
HOBART – The Board of Works and Public Safety wrapped up a two-day hearing Friday without reaching a decision on whether to impose a recommended suspension for a police officer seriously injured during a drunken brawl involving other officers.
Officer Adam Ahmad requested the hearing after Hobart Police Chief Richard Zormier recommended Ahmad and officers Andrew and Adrian Bustos, who are brothers, each receive a 60-day unpaid suspension for their actions while off duty during a June 3 party after a baby shower for Andrew Bustos’ wife.
The Bustoses each accepted the recommended suspensions last month. Ahmad denied the allegations and requested a hearing.
Ahmad testified Friday he did not pull a man from a car by his hair or instigate fights with other officers. Ahmad said he attempted to break up several fights before Adrian Bustos punched him multiple times in the face and Andrew Bustos knocked him out with a punch and kicked him in the face while he was down.
“I tried to do the right thing and shouldn’t be punished because my brother officers did the wrong thing,” Ahmad said in a statement issued after the hearing.
Zormier said he asked Griffith police to conduct an independent investigation into the brawl and the results revealed a lot of “he said, she said.”
“I think there was some elements of self-defense in there on behalf of different parties,” Zormier said after the hearing.
Ahmad and the Bustoses each have commendations in their files for life-saving efforts, he said. He didn’t want to end their careers, so he recommended the unpaid suspensions with the hope it would “get their attention,” he said. The suspensions will result in the loss of thousands of dollars in pay.
“I don’t condone anybody ever putting their hands on each other,” Zormier said.
The board is scheduled to announce its decision during a meeting Aug. 28, said City Attorney Anthony DeBonis Jr., the administrative hearing officer.
Two sides to the story
Ahmad testified Friday he arrived about 5 or 6 p.m. June 3 at Andrew Bustos’ Hobart home and spent six or seven hours there.
Ahmad said he drank 250 milliliters of whiskey during that time, but did not consider himself to be intoxicated. Records and testimony show Adrian and Andrew Bustos also admitted to being intoxicated.
Ahmad said he helped separate Andrew Bustos and a younger brother, Jesse Bustos, as they argued and later attempted to break up a fight between Andrew Bustos and Rudy Azcona, who had arrived to pick up Jesse Bustos.
Ahmad said he was trying to help hold back Andrew Bustos after Azcona entered a vehicle when Adrian Bustos shoved him, knocking him to the ground. He suffered an abrasion to about one-third of his right palm.
“I stood back up and I asked Adrian why he had done that,” Ahmad said.
Adrian Bustos said nothing and punched Ahmad two or three times in the face, Ahmad testified.
The situation was so out of control, Ahmad said, he called an on-duty patrol sergeant to respond to the house, he said.
Ahmad said he recalled Sgt. William Granzow arriving and then seeing Andrew Bustos before “things went black.”
A uniformed office helped him off the ground and took him to the emergency room at St. Mary Medical Center, he said.
Statements submitted by Granzow and Cpl. Timothy Pochron, who responded to the home at the request of Granzow, show they saw Andrew Bustos kick Ahmad in the face.
Granzow, the first to arrive, wrote in a report that he was checking on Andrew Bustos’ pregnant wife and trying to get people to calm down when he turned around and saw Andrew Bustos hit Ahmad in the face, causing him to fall down. As Ahmad lay “dazed or unresponsive,” Andrew Bustos kicked Ahmad in the head and face area, according to Granzow’s report.
Pochron arrived to the scene after Ahmad was down, his report shows.
Pochron wrote he saw a man, later identified as Ahmad, lying in the middle of the street.
“I observed Officer (Andrew) Bustos kick the male subject approximately two times and on the third time I observed Officer (Andrew) Bustos bring his right leg back and with tremendous force kick the male subject in the face as I was exiting my police vehicle,” Pochron’s report says.
Pochron recalled hearing Ahmad say, “Tim, I can’t see please help me.”
Andrew Bustos testified Monday, the first day of Ahmad’s hearing, that he wrestled with Azcona inside the house and Ahmad stepped in to help remove Azcona. He said he stayed inside while Ahmad continued outside with Azcona.
Adrian Bustos testified Monday he saw Ahmad grab Azcona by the hair and attempt to pull him from the vehicle. Adrian Bustos and his sister Alexandra Bustos said they were yelling at Ahmad to stop when Alexandra Bustos got between Ahmad and her brother and Ahmad shoved her.
“It was a hostile push,” Adrian Bustos testified.
Adrian Bustos testified he hit Ahmad on the left side of his face “near the lip and between the cheekbone,” and Ahmad grabbed him by the neck. He said he couldn’t breathe, blacked out for “more than a couple seconds” and later discovered bruise marks on his chest.
Azcona did not say Ahmad grabbed his hair.
“I do have long hair, and my hair was down, so it did get tangled up a little bit,” Azcona testified. “But that was honestly about it. Nothing too serious. My hair got tangled up into it, so that’s why my head was down like that, and I was protecting my face. Because my hair was tangled in all of it.”
Andrew Bustos testified he went outside after he was told Adrian Bustos and Ahmad were fighting and Ahmad had called Granzow. He said he began pushing Ahmad back toward the house and Ahmad walked toward Granzow’s car and told Ahmad to stop.
Andrew Bustos testified Ahmad hit him, causing his nose to bleed. However, that contradicted an earlier statement he gave to a Griffith police detective. In the earlier statement, Andrew Bustos said Ahmad didn’t punch him but must have shoved him to the ground, causing his nose to bleed.
Ahmad denied hitting Andrew Bustos.
Andrew Bustos admitted he punched Ahmad, causing him to go down. However, in testimony Monday, he described the actions that followed as something other than a kick.
“After he fell to the ground, I — at that time, I was wearing sandals,” he said. “He was laying down on the left – the left side of his face was down,” Andrew Bustos said. “I recall grazing the right side of his face with the bottom of my sandal. It wasn’t a kick.”
In an earlier statement to Griffith police, Andrew Bustos said, “I kick him,” as he recounted the events and recalled “blood all over the ground” but “absolutely no blood on my sandal.”
“It was stupid. It was a horrible mistake of me,” Andrew Bustos told the Griffith detective. “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Off-duty Portage police Detective Jerremy McFadden also was involved in the fight, but DeBonis struck the testimony he gave Monday after he refused to answer further questions Friday and took the Fifth Amendment. McFadden is the boyfriend of Alexandra Bustos.
Adam Mindel, attorney for the Hobart Police Department, said in closing statements that Ahmad shared the blame.
“Where there is smoke, there is fire,” he said. “It simply doesn’t make sense that all these altercations could have occurred without any provocation from Officer Ahmad.”
The goal wasn’t to vilify any of the officers, but simply to discipline them for their actions, he said.
No criminal charges considered
Ahmad’s attorney, Christopher Cooper, questioned why Zormier didn’t order the arrest of Andrew Bustos the night of the fight.
Two on-duty officers witnessed the kick, and there was ample evidence an aggravated battery had occurred, Cooper said. He didn’t fault the officers who responded to the scene, he said.
“He suffered a horrific beating,” Cooper said.
Ahmad testified he spent six hours in the emergency room. His eye now sits differently in the socket, which may require surgery to prevent deterioration of his eyesight if the bone doesn’t heal properly. He’s at risk for retinal detachment because of the extent of his injuries, he said.
He had four chipped teeth, including one that was sheared off. A dentist told him two teeth may require root canals or crowns in the future.
Cooper said Zormier should have asked the Lake County prosecutor’s office to review the case for criminal charges and asked the Board of Works to turn over its findings to Prosecutor Bernard Carter.
Zormier said all of the officers, including Ahmad, initially said they didn’t want the fight to become a criminal matter.
“I respected that,” he said.
Zormier said he’s leery about presenting the case for criminal prosecution now, because the record has been muddied by the administrative proceedings. However, he didn’t rule out forwarding the case to Carter’s office.
A spokesman for the prosecutor’s office confirmed Friday the case had not been forwarded for review.
Carter could request to review the case, Zormier said.
Ahmad testified Zormier visited him several days after the fight and suggested alcohol treatment might be part of the punishment for the Bustoses.
Zormier said he visited with all three of the officers and told each of them drinking likely negatively influenced their actions and decisions. He didn’t require alcohol treatment as part of the discipline, because he didn’t feel he could administratively charge them with an alcohol-related offense, he said.
They were drinking in a private home during a private party, he said.
None of the officers submitted to a portable breath test the night of the fight, Zormier said.