Detectives are working to secure charges against a St. John man for his alleged involvement in a Crown Point teen girl's disappearance across state lines and into Arkansas over the weekend.
Madison Elizabeth Yancy Eddlemon's disappearance sparked a nationwide search in which state police issued a Amber Alert to aid in her recovery. The 16-year-old was first reported missing early Saturday, and located safe in Arkansas on Sunday with assistance from the FBI, according to Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez.
Martinez told The Times that Alex Curry-Fishtorn, the 22-year-old believed to be involved with Eddlemon’s disappearance, was taken into custody without incident.
He said Curry-Fishtorn must be extradited from Arkansas to Indiana. He remained in custody in Arkansas as of Sunday afternoon.
The girl's mother, Nichole Cain, said the family is "on cloud nine" right now and anxiously waiting to be reunited with Eddlemon.
"We're waiting to hear when we get to see her," Cain said. "This was hell."
Cain previously told The Times that Curry-Fishtorn has a history of being controlling and abusive to her daughter. He became upset when the relationship ended after the family found out the two were seeing each other, she said.
In March, he allegedly began harassing and stalking Eddlemon, and the family notified police, filing a no-contact order the same month, Cain said. She said she has reason to believe her daughter was afraid he would hurt her.
Martinez said his office is working with the local prosecutor’s office to have Curry-Fishtorn's bond revoked, as well as determine what new charges are appropriate.
Curry-Fishtorn faces numerous charges related to stalking and violation of a protective order in Lake County. He was out on bond for the stalking charge when Eddlemon disappeared.
The Indiana State Police issued a statewide Amber Alert 6 a.m. Sunday for Eddlemon, seeking the public's help in finding the girl believed to be in "extreme danger."
"This positive outcome could only have been possible through the mutual cooperation of both state and federal agencies," Martinez said. "I would like to thank the FBI, in particular FBI GRIT in Lake County, and the numerous other state and local agencies that assisted."
Eddlemon was reported missing 12:01 a.m. Saturday, Martinez said. She was initially reported as a runaway from home.
In the early Saturday morning hours, Eddlemon's vehicle was found with no one inside at an intersection near her home. Police and family of the victim suspected Curry-Fishtorn, 22, of St. John was behind the girl's disappearance.
Curry-Fishtorn was described in the Amber Alert as being 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing 158 pounds and having brown hair with brown eyes. The suspect was believed to be driving a dark gray 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt with Indiana license plate number 645RIS.
It's unknown if the girl was taken by force or if she was voluntarily with Curry-Fishtorn, Martinez said.
Cain said her daughter's car was found parked at a stop sign at the intersection of Cleveland Street and Sherwood Drive in Crown Point. She said the teen left her clothes in the car and didn't take any belongings with her.
Eddlemon is set to begin her junior year at Crown Point High School on Tuesday.
Martinez said Sunday afternoon the girl still needs to be reunited with her parents and be interviewed.
“We do not want to rush her recovery, and we want to ensure a thorough investigation,” he said.
Check back at nwi.com for updates on this story as it develops.
CROWN POINT — A man charged with murdering a Gary mother told his friend he "lost it" and killed the woman because he believed she was involved with another man as he and the friend drove to Illinois a day after her disappearance to find a location to hide her body, court records allege.
James E. McGhee, 38, is accused of beating 27-year-old Sidne-Nichole Buchanan to death at his Gary apartment after they attended a concert July 27 in Tinley Park and dumping her body in a forest preserve off Illinois 394 in unincorporated Cook County.
It's not the first time McGhee has been accused of abusing a girlfriend. He is currently on probation for beating a 25-year-old pregnant woman in 2017, causing her to lose three of the four fetuses she was carrying.
McGhee was accused of kidnapping that woman months later, despite a no contact order, and holding her and her then-6-year-old son against their will. He pleaded guilty to felony intimidation in 2018 and was placed on probation for three years. In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped all remaining charges in both cases.
Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter on Thursday defended his office's decision to offer the plea agreement, saying the woman in the 2017 cases didn't fully cooperate and gave conflicting statements. Carter also said rumors that he is related to McGhee are false.
Buchanan, a mother of two, went missing July 27 after posting a video on social media of herself and McGhee attending a Wiz Khalifa concert in Tinley Park, Lake Criminal Court records state.
McGhee's friend, who was granted immunity from prosecution, led police to Buchanan's body Monday at the Thornton-Lansing Road Nature Preserve in unincorporated Cook County, court records say. The man previously took police to the preserve, but claimed he didn't know where Buchanan's body was located.
Sabrina Short, Buchanan's grandmother, said Wednesday after McGhee's arrest that she was happy he was in custody.
"Women in Northwest Indiana can sleep safely now that he's been caught. He should not have been walking the streets," she said.
Buchanan's mother, Kaneka Turner, said in a Facebook post that Buchanan "was full of ambition, altruism, passion and love."
"Sidne was a dynamic person. She cared deeply about her family and friends. Sidne was loved by many," Turner wrote.
Tip led police to witness
Defense attorney Jamise Perkins, who negotiated McGhee's plea deal in the 2017 cases and anticipated she would be hired to represent him in the murder case, said McGhee had been in contact with detectives at the FBI's Gang Response Investigative Task Force and Buchanan's family before his arrest.
He was on his way to turn himself in Wednesday night when he was arrested, she said.
"He's always maintained his innocence," she said. "I think he's just looking forward to his day in court."
McGhee is being held without bail in the murder case. Prosecutors have not yet moved to revoke his probation in the earlier cases, but Perkins said she is expecting the filing.
Turner, Buchanan's mother, told police she spoke with McGhee by telephone and Facebook voice after her daughter disappeared, and he claimed he dropped Buchanan off at home in Gary after the concert and she was highly intoxicated, court records say.
However, Turner told police she and other family members were up all that night and Buchanan never came home.
Buchanan's on-again, off-again boyfriend told police he received a call from Buchanan about 11:45 p.m. July 27. He attempted to call back and eventually spoke with a man who said he was dating Buchanan, court records say.
The man said he heard Buchanan in the background using profanity against him, but described her speech as slurred and said he had never heard her sound so "weird," documents state.
A Gary detective investigating Buchanan's disappearance called McGhee, who again claimed he dropped her off at home. McGhee also told the detective he had exchanged words with a man who placed an unwanted call to Buchanan on their way home, records say.
Police first spoke Aug. 7 with the witness who eventually was granted immunity, after receiving an anonymous tip that the friend had helped McGhee dispose of Buchanan's body after McGhee killed her, court records state.
'I beat her up bad'
The friend told police McGhee called him July 28, picked him up and drove on Interstate 80/94 toward Illinois. As they drove, McGhee said he had gone through Buchanan's phone and discovered she was involved with another man, according to court documents.
At one point, McGhee showed the man a picture of a woman believed to be Buchanan, saying, "I beat her up bad. This is when she was living," documents allege. He told the man he thought Buchanan was asleep, but she didn't wake up, and that he "messed up," records say.
During the drive, McGhee was on the phone with someone the witness believed was a drug dealer from Chicago who directed McGhee to the area of the forest preserve, documents allege.
McGhee at one point told the person, "I got it," and drove his friend back to McGhee's apartment at the Concord Commons complex in the 1900 block of Burr Street in Gary, records say.
McGhee's apartment was in disarray when they arrived, and the friend saw blood on mattresses in both bedrooms, documents state.
The friend said "he observed what he believed to be a body of a person concealed inside black plastic bags near the foot of the bed," records say.
The man became overwhelmed and left the apartment. Minutes later, McGhee exited the apartment dragging a suitcase that he placed in the trunk of his car, records allege.
They got back in McGhee's Chevrolet Impala and drove back to the forest preserve, where McGhee dragged the suitcase into the woods, documents allege.
The man told police he refused to help McGhee clean his apartment, but later returned to open the door for a mattress delivery team. He remained outside as the team removed the old mattresses, according to court records.
"He observed the mattresses had different stains on them, and it looked to him as if McGhee attempted to cover up the blood stains with some sort of substance," records say.
Police canvassed the Concord Commons Apartments after learning McGhee's and Buchanan's cellphones had both been active there between about midnight July 27 and 6 a.m. July 28. A neighbor showed police where McGhee lived, court records state.
When police executed a search warrant at the apartment Aug. 1, they found no one inside but smelled a strong odor of cleaning products.
Further investigation revealed the carpets in two bedrooms recently had been cleaned. When authorities removed the carpets, they found dark stains under both of them.
Tests detected blood on the carpet in one of the rooms, court records allege. The carpet in another bedroom smelled like urine, but tests did not detect blood.
On Monday, McGhee's friend led police back to the forest preserve, pointing out a row of trees and brush that ran parallel to a frontage road.
There, a detective detected an odor of death and discovered human remains in a small void along the tree line, records state.
The remains were in an advanced state of decomposition, but a tattoo matched Buchanan. The cause and manner of death has not yet been determined, court records state.
Prosecutor defends plea deal
In a statement, the Lake County prosecutor's office said it offered a plea agreement in McGee's prior cases to avoid having to dismiss them, because his prosecution had become questionable.
Prosecutors met with the victim in those cases several times, but she was unavailable for depositions and objected to a no contact order against McGee. During one hearing, she testified in support of McGhee, the statement said.
"There were numerous hearings in which the state of Indiana attempted to hold the defendant responsible for his conduct, including revoking his bond," prosecutors said.
Perkins said video evidence in the case showed the woman attending a concert and visiting a salon while she allegedly was being held against her will.
"The case was very complicated in terms of what the evidence was and what the state was or wasn't going to prove," she said.
Lake Criminal Court Judge Clarence Murray granted the no contact order over the woman's objections, she said. The case involving the attack that caused her to lose three fetuses came down to her word against McGhee's, because there were no other witnesses, Perkins said.
Lake Criminal Court Magistrate Natalie Bokota accepted McGhee's plea agreement in fall 2018, but not without reservation. She asked attorneys at the hearing to explain the agreement in light of what was alleged.
Hobart police said they also had contact in 2016 and 2017 with the woman, though no criminal cases were filed.
The woman reported her car stolen in November 2016 and her house ransacked in January 2017, Capt. James Gonzales said.
She initially told police she suspected McGhee stole her car, but later reported she had found it in Gary. Neighbors told police they saw two suspicious people outside her home the day of the burglary, Gonzales said.
Lake County Deputy Prosecutor Infinity Baulos, a member of her office's special victim's unit, and Supervising Deputy Prosecutor Eric Randall have been assigned to the murder case, the prosecutor's office said.
McGhee's initial appearance in the murder case is scheduled for Friday, Perkins said.
THORNTON — The man charged with the murder of a Gary woman was on probation for allegedly beating a pregnant woman in 2017, causing her to lose three of her quadruplets, court records state.
James McGhee, 38, of Gary, was taken into custody late Wednesday in Lake County by the FBI and Indiana State Police, said Chris Bavender, FBI public affairs specialist.
McGhee was charged with murder in the death of 27-year-old Sidne-Nichole Buchanan, of Gary, by the Lake County prosecutor's office, according to the FBI. He is being held at Lake County Jail without bond.
Buchanan, a mother of two, went missing July 27 and was last seen attending a Wiz Khalifa concert in Tinley Park.
Bavender said McGhee is the last person Buchanan was known to be with at the concert the day of her disappearance. McGhee was identified in a video Buchanan posted to Facebook before she went missing, Bavender said. He was known to frequent Gary, Hammond and Chicago.
Authorities apprehended McGhee crossing into Indiana from Illinois, according to the Lake County Prosecutor's Office.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the body found by investigators on Monday in Thornton-Lansing Road Nature Preserve in unincorporated Cook County was Buchanan, said Natalia Derevyanny, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner's office.
The cause and manner of death are pending at this time, she said.
“The only thing I'd like to say is that I am happy he's been apprehended,” Sabrina Short, Buchanan's grandmother, said. “Women in Northwest Indiana can sleep safely now that he's been caught. He should not have been walking the streets.”
Buchanan's mother, Kaneka Turner, of Gary, posted a formal letter on Facebook on behalf of Buchanan's family members informing the public of her death.
"Sidne was full of ambition, altruism, passion and love," the family wrote. "Sidne was a dynamic person. She cared deeply about her family and friends. Sidne was loved by many."
The family thanked the FBI, those who called the FBI with tips and people who spread the news of Buchanan's disappearance in hopes for her safe return.
Turner previously told The Times that Buchanan is the mother of a 9-year-old and 11-year-old.
"It's extremely difficult for her children," Turner said in a prior interview. "It's very tough for the family. She is very close to her siblings and very close to me. We are trying to shield her youngest from it, but her oldest is completely devastated."
On February 20, 2017, McGhee allegedly punched and kicked a pregnant woman after she told him she was moving out of his Merrillville residence and into her mother's house, court records said. After the woman told McGhee she was moving, he allegedly grabbed a kitchen knife and held it to the back of her neck, “threatening to kill her.” The woman fell to the floor and McGhee ordered her to stand up and walk up the stairs.
As she was walking up the stairs, McGhee grabbed her phone and became angry when he saw she had texted her friends. He then allegedly kicked her in the stomach, knocking her down. He began punching her and kicking her in the face and lower extremities, court records said. The woman was able to get away from McGhee and went to a hospital and the Merrillville Police Department.
Following the incident, medical reports from Community Hospital in Munster showed the woman was pregnant with four children and three of them died. The child who survived was in a separate embryonic sac from the others and blood was in the sac, medical records said. Court records alleged McGhee knew the woman was pregnant before the attack.
On February 27, 2017, McGhee was charged with aggravated battery, two counts of criminal confinement, intimidation, domestic battery resulting in serious bodily injury and domestic battery by means of a deadly weapon, according to the Superior Court of Lake County.
McGhee was taken into custody and posted an $8,000 cash bond on March 9, 2017. In June 20, 2017, the same woman's mother contacted police saying her daughter was missing. Merrillville police had the woman's phone tracked to an area near 3600 Broadway in Gary.
Police learned McGhee worked at a fireworks stand nearby, and they went to the business searching for the woman. McGhee told police she was not with him, however, officers found the woman and child in the fireworks stand bathroom after a search, court reports said.
The woman, with tears in her eyes, said she was afraid to identify herself or the child to police. The officer told the woman if she refused to identify herself, police could arrest her and get her and the child out of the building. She responded, “Yes, please do.”
Once in custody, the woman told police McGhee allegedly kept her and her 6-year-old son at the location against their wills.
She said on May 17, 2017, McGhee texted her asking to meet in the parking lot of Lee's Inn in Merrillville. She got into his vehicle and as the two were speaking, an unknown man got into the back of McGhee's car. McGhee then drove out of the parking lot and the unknown man punched the woman in the head, court documents said. McGhee allegedly told him, “If she gets out of the car, shoot her.”
McGhee then drove the woman to his Merrillville home and threatened to harm her family if she didn't obey him, court documents alleged. At one point, McGhee allowed the woman to go to her son's school and pick him up. She said she did this because she was afraid for her family's safety.
McGhee was apprehended and charged on June 28, 2017, with kidnapping, two counts of criminal confinement, intimidation and invasion of privacy.
On August 13, 2018, McGhee filed a plea agreement, pleading guilty to intimidation, a level 5 felony. On October 11, 2018, the plea was accepted and all other charges were dismissed.
A judge sentenced him to three years in prison but suspended the prison term in favor of probation, giving McGhee credit for 483 days in jail, which was subtracted from his sentence.
While he completed his prison sentence, McGhee is currently still on probation for those charges, according to court records.
An intense rage filled Larry Eyler as he drove north on Ind. 63 toward Chicago in July 1983.
The Crawfordsville, Indiana, native had just learned his lover, John Dobrovolskis, cheated on him with another man. So, he set off in search of something — or someone — to distract from the pain.
While driving, Eyler happened upon a young black man who had been hitchhiking on the side of the road near U.S. 41. He stopped his pickup truck and propositioned the stranger.
Eyler asked if he could tie up the man and perform a sex act on him, offering $75 in return.
After some thought, the stranger said yes. The pair then headed to an abandoned farmhouse in Newton County — just outside of Lake Village — arriving close to 4 a.m.
Eyler gave the man drugs and alcohol as they walked to the vacant barn. He then tied the stranger to a beam, blindfolded him with an Ace bandage and put tape over his mouth. Handcuffs also were placed on his wrists, with his pants pulled down to his ankles.
“OK … make your peace with God,” Eyler told the man.
Soon, Eyler shoved a knife through the stranger’s abdomen and chest multiple times before he succumbed to his injuries. Eyler knew exactly where to hide the unknown man’s body.
Eyler, later coined the Highway Killer, had visited the abandoned farmhouse twice in March and once in May of that year, using it as the site for the killings of Michael Bauer, John Bartlett and an unidentified white man, whose head and hands were cut off. Each time, he found himself enraged at his lover’s infidelity and in need of a release, with murder serving as the perfect solution.
He placed his newest victim in the same shallow grave as the three men and left a bit of space between them. Eyler didn’t think “it was proper to bury this (black) person next to the other three Caucasian men,” he wrote in a 1990 letter confessing to these murders in addition to 17 more across Indiana and Illinois. He only faced legal consequences for two.
The four bodies were discovered Oct. 19, 1983. Only Bauer and Bartlett would be identified by investigators, with the unknown men remaining nameless for the next 25 years.
‘You can’t forget a name’
In 2008, Scott McCord took over as the Newton County coroner.
His first mission? To find a proper office space for him and the agency’s past files — most of which were stored in dust-coated bankers boxes. As he poured through the cardboard containers to see what he could throw out, McCord made an interesting discovery.
“Every coroner just kind of handed everything down to the next,” McCord said. “I picked up one of the boxes and kind of shook it, and I’m like, ‘Oh, this doesn’t sound right.’”
Instead of old autopsy reports, McCord found himself staring at a pile of bones and a slip of paper with a case number for Indiana State Police District 13 in Lowell.
The box had been labeled “Victim Four,” with the remains belonging to the hitchhiker Eyler picked up on the side of Ind. 63 and murdered in July 1983.
Soon, he would find “Victim Three” — the unidentified white man — in another box.
He called ISP to find out more information about the case. However, District 13 officials told McCord it had been closed and the bones returned to the families. But clearly, they were wrong.
McCord then found his next mission in life: To find out who these men were and get them home. He dubbed the pair Adam and Brad — finally, they had a name.
“I gave them names,” McCord said. “Because if you give them names, then they are no longer numbers and you won’t forget them. … You can’t forget a name.”
McCord sent the two’s dental records and DNA to various databases — including the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) and the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) — to check for a match. Unfortunately, nothing came up.
He even had computer-generated composites made for the men, which show what they might have looked like when they were alive. These images are in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s poster collection of people who’ve disappeared.
“As a coroner, you take an oath to use every means possible to identify a body,” McCord said. “This just not right. If these were my kids, I would want somebody doing something, and maybe that’s what keeps me going. Somebody’s got to do it. If I don’t, who’s going to?”
As of August 2019, Adam and Brad’s true identities continue to remain a mystery. However, they aren’t alone. At least two of Eyler’s Indiana victims are still unknown, with one also in Illinois.
‘One heck of a story’
Eyler’s killing spree began with the murder of 19-year-old Steven Crockett.
Police discovered his body among scattered corn cobs in Kankakee, Illinois, just beyond the Indiana border, on Oct. 23, 1982 — almost an exact year before the four men would be found near Lake Village in Newton County.
Crockett had been stabbed more than 30 times and then discarded in the field.
A week later, John Johnson went missing from Chicago. The 25-year-old didn’t resurface until Dec. 25, 1982, in Lowell. He was stabbed to death and found right off the highway.
In just three days, police would find Steven Agan’s body in a wooded area next to Ind. 63 on Dec. 28, 1982. He disappeared from Terre Haute.
While the 23-year-old suffered several stab wounds similar to the other victims, his killing turned out to be much more violent. Agan’s abdomen and chest had been sliced open, with a gash across his throat, showing the killer had “tremendous rage.”
For the next few months, men’s bodies would continue to pop up across Indiana and parts of Illinois near the states’ shared borders. Gera-Lind Kolarik took note.
At the time, Kolarik worked as an assignment editor with a Chicago news station. She began to suspect the murders were committed by the same person since the killings followed a similar pattern.
Kolarik said each victim bore similar stab wounds and were found with their pants or underwear around their ankles. Some of the bodies — typically a hitchhiker or male prostitute — were dismembered or further mutilated after death.
“I went to a news meeting,” Kolarik recalled when she tried to pitch the story. “I said, “We have a bunch of killings, and they are definitely connected. ... It might be a homosexual serial killer.”
Indiana State Police were drawing similar conclusions and even formed a task force to address the various homicides in the spring of 1983, meeting in Indianapolis.
Following the statewide gathering, a man reached out to investigators June 6, 1983, saying he believed Eyler, his former lover, was involved in the string of murders. Kolarik said this placed Eyler on police’s radar, but he never was put under full surveillance.
Kolarik started working with the Indiana agencies, as well as ones in Illinois, to try to connect the killings. The bodies kept piling up, with little to no usable evidence because the men had been murdered several days or weeks before they were found by police, leaving them exposed to inclement weather and wild animals.
Ralph Calise changed this, Kolarik said. On Aug. 31, 1983, a landscaping crew stumbled upon his body, which had been hidden among a cluster of trees near Lake Forest, Illinois.
The 28-year-old was murdered about 12 hours earlier, Kolarik said. Police finally had a fresh crime scene. They recovered boot prints and tire tracks from the area.
Kolarik said Calise, the 12th murder victim so far, was dumped in the same area where investigators found Gustavo Herrera, 28, and Ervin Gibson, 16, four months prior. The bodies were discarded atop the carcass of a dog, which also had been stabbed to death.
At this point, she fully believed the slayings could be attributed to the same killer. There were just too many similarities. She relayed this to Mickey Babcox, the sheriff for Lake County, Illinois.
At first, he didn’t take her seriously.
“Mickey said to me, “Gere, you do your news stuff, I’ll do my cops stuff,’” Kolarik recalled. “He (then) called me at 11 o’clock that night and he said, ‘Agatha Christie, you have one heck of a story.’”
On Sept. 8 of that year, the Indiana and Illinois agencies finally met in Crown Point to discuss whether the bi-state deaths truly could be linked to the same perpetrator. At this point, Eyler’s name kept appearing in police notes, especially after the tip from his former lover. But he wouldn’t be arrested until later that month, and even then, he wouldn’t last long behind bars.
‘Freed to kill’
While driving in Lowell on Sept. 30, 1983, Eyler spotted his next victim — a young hitchhiker.
But before the killing could take place, red and blue lights flashed behind Eyler’s pickup, Kolarik said. The sound of sirens rang into the night. No one would die this night.
When the officer realized the man he had stopped for a simple traffic violation was a suspect in numerous murders, he started to search the truck without Eyler’s consent, Kolarik said.
A knife, rope and other materials were found tucked inside of a bag. Police then decided to arrest Eyler. At that point, he was being held on charges of sexual solicitation in regard to the young hitchhiker, who also had been detained. Both were questioned.
Eyler allowed officers to conduct a forensic exam of his vehicle, take his mugshot and collect copies of his fingerprints. He also agreed to take a polygraph test at a later date and admitted to enjoying being the dominant participant during sexual bondage sessions. Although, he wouldn’t discuss his sexuality and vehemently denied having any involvement in the murders.
Some days later, FBI investigators determined Eyler’s boot prints and tire tracks matched the evidence found at Calise’s crime scene, leading Illinois police to open a formal case against him based on what Indiana officers had recovered from the truck.
Near the end of October, Eyler officially was charged with the killing of Calise, whose blood also was found inside Eyler's boots. The evidence seemed damning, with his bond set $1 million.
But during a hearing in December 1983, a Lake County, Illinois, judge ruled that Indiana police illegally obtained the materials from Eyler’s vehicle since there wasn’t any probable cause for search and he had been arrested on solicitation charges, not murder. This meant his constitutional rights had been violated.
On Feb. 1, 1984, the same judge would decide to suppress the evidence from any future hearings, causing the Calise case to fall apart. Kolarik said Eyler was free to go after his reduced $10,000 bond was paid.
Kolarik, who attended the proceedings, spoke with Babcox after the judge’s decision. The two had chatted many times about the case since the “Agatha Christie” phone call.
“Babcox turned to me and said, ‘He’s freed to kill. Hell, it’s only a matter of time,’” she recalled.
And Babcox was right. Eyler’s murder spree would continue.
‘You are an evil person’
Almost three months passed before police found another body. They recovered 22-year-old David Block in Lake County, Illinois, in May 1984. As with past victims, Block was stabbed to death, with his body severely decomposed due to weather and time. He went missing in the winter 1982 from Highland Park, Illinois, after telling family he planned to visit a friend.
At this point, Eyler had been living at an apartment complex in Chicago’s Rogers Park, Kolarik said. Police kept him under surveillance, but they couldn’t monitor him 24/7, which is why they never saw him throw out several garbage bags in a nearby Dumpster on Aug. 20, 1984. Luckily, a janitor did.
That next morning, the man searched for Eyler’s trash bags since the receptacle wasn’t available for residents’ personal use. He located the sacks and pulled them out to inspect the contents. As the janitor removed the bags, he accidentally split one open, revealing a human leg.
Two days earlier, Eyler lured 16-year-old Daniel Bridges to his apartment. Kolarik said the boy was a male prostitute, starting at the age of 12. He even appeared in a NBC documentary on child exploitation in the U.S.
Kolarik said Bridges knew of Eyler and was wary of the man. But he also knew he paid well.
So, he went willingly into the apartment, where he was bound with clothesline to a chair before being beaten, raped, tortured and stabbed to death. Eyler then cut his body into eight pieces and placed the parts into six bags for the janitor to find.
On Aug. 22, 1984, Eyler formally was charged with Bridges’ murder. However, the trial wouldn’t start for another two years in June.
Eyler maintained his innocence. Later, he did admit to dismembering and disposing of the body, but he said he never delivered the fatal blow and alleged his accomplice, Robert Little, did it.
Eyler said Little — a library studies professor at Indiana State University — had been like a father figure for him, since his biological father and three stepfathers all abused him.
“Little began talking to me about killing six months before the Steven Crockett murder,” Eyler wrote in his 1990 confession letter. “He alone killed Danny Bridges. … He and I killed four additional people. He knew the details of all the murders. I brought him the victims’ T-shirts. In exchange, he gave me money and gifts and took me on trips. He was nice."
Eyler said he bore Little no ill will, adding that he “killed 17 people alone, so I am worse than he is.” But he couldn’t go down for Bridges’ murder, especially with the death penalty on the table.
However, no one would listen to the words of a serial killer, Kolarik said. Little and Eyler's lover, Dobrovolskis, ended up testifying on behalf of the prosecution in the eight-day trial.
On Oct. 3, 1986, Judge Joseph Urso sentenced Eyler to die after a jury convicted him following a three-hour deliberation.
“If there ever was a person (for whom) the death penalty is appropriate, it is you. You are an evil person. You truly deserve to die for your acts,” Urso told Eyler at his sentencing.
Kolarik said Eyler appealed the case on the grounds that Little actually killed Bridges, but it was denied each time. An initial execution date was set for March 14, 1990, with Eyler continuing to draw breath for four more years.
‘I ask God to forgive me’
After the 1986 conviction, Kolarik left her job as a broadcast journalist in Chicago to write a book detailing Eyler’s life and crimes. She titled it “Freed to Kill.” After its debut in 1990, police started to re-examine the other cases against Eyler, particularly Agan’s murder.
Although eight years had passed since the 23-year-old’s killing in Vermilion County, investigators were convinced they had enough evidence to convict Eyler of a second murder.
To their surprise, Eyler admitted his involvement in Agan’s death after learning of the impending indictment. But he insisted Little also played a role and agreed to testify against him.
Eyler officially pleaded guilty and received a concurrent sentence of 60 years. He retold the events for his lawyer, Kathleen Zellner, who wrote everything down. He ended his account with the line, “I ask God to forgive me because I can never forgive myself.”
Zellner, who took over as Eyler’s attorney, told police Eyler agreed to voluntarily confess the additional murders in Indiana and Illinois if his death sentence could be converted to life in prison without parole or else he would “take his secrets to the grave." Zellner, who is currently representing Steven Avery of Netflix’s “Making a Murderer,” declined to comment.
But the various jurisdictions never reached a consensus, so Eyler remained on death row. He still would testify against Little during the professor’s 1991 trial for Agan’s murder. But after seven hours, the jury found Little not guilty of all charges. Soon, he was reinstated at ISU.
‘He did confess’
On March 6, 1994, Eyler died of AIDS-related complications while in prison.
After his death, Zellner released his written confessions to the public and hosted a news conference, where parents of the victims waited for her to confirm their fears and suspicions.
"The reason I'm here is so that the families know, he did confess to the murders of your sons,” Zellner said at the March 8 gathering. “He told me that, and I hope that can bring you some peace of mind. ... I believe Larry was truthful. Larry had no incentive to lie to anyone.”
In total, Eyler confessed to 21 murders, four of which he claimed to have had help from Little or another nameless accomplice. He didn’t remember all of their names, but provided descriptions for the men, such as with the case of Adam and Brad in Newton County
Kolarik said she believed investigators didn’t charge Eyler with the rest of the murders because he was already sentenced to die, so it was ultimately unnecessary. She also thinks if Eyler had been killing women, the case would’ve been taken more seriously from the beginning, since men weren’t typical victims of serial killers.
“If they were young women, oh my God, you would never see a guy free on 25 murder charges,” Kolarik said. “But because they were men and possibly gay men, that was taboo.”
It’s a belief McCord also shares.
“I don’t understand a lot of it,” McCord admitted.
‘A game of waiting’
Despite his eight-year term ending in 2016, McCord continues to try to identify “his boys” and won’t stop until he does, estimating he’s spent thousands of hours working the case.
“These are my kids. I have two children of my own — those are my children — these are my kids,” he said. “I’ve always referred to them as my kids, and I always will until they go home and somebody else claims them. ... It’s a game of waiting.”
When he left office, McCord, who intends to run again in 2020, had a funeral for them. Now, their bones reside in coffins — which he paid for out of his pocket — within a mausoleum rather than bankers boxes. He believes it is only a matter of time for them to be identified.
“Wishful thinking? Probably, but that’s what keeps me going,” McCord said. “I will follow it until it’s done.”
PORTAGE — ArcelorMittal accepted responsibility for a chemical spill earlier this week that released cyanide into Region waters, killing fish and closing several Lake Michigan beaches.
In a statement released Friday night, the company said the incident happened "despite having safeguards in place and conducting regular sampling in accordance with permits."
"We are working closely with state and federal regulatory agencies to address the situation and to prevent its reoccurrence," the statement added.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management directed ArcellorMittal to identify the cause of the exceedances, and ArcellorMittal told IDEM that its blast furnace closed water loop station failed, according to the statement. Cleanup efforts should be completed by Saturday.
The Portage Port Authority, a local marina development and various individuals are teaming up to sue ArcelorMittal, put people at risk and disrupted business and recreation.
The group is filing notice of their intent to sue for violations of the Clean Water Act, attorney Thomas Dogan said.
The list of plaintiffs include Marina Shores at Dune Harbor, which bills itself as a marina and residential waterfront development in Portage.
The site was forced to shut down its gas dock this week and send its employees home as a result of the contamination that led to a large fish kill in the local branch of the Little Calumet River, Dogan said. Employees fear they were exposed to the chemicals while collecting the dead fish this week and disposing of them in a fish grinder, he said.
"What did they breathe?" he asked. "What went through their skin? How did it affect them?"
Dogan said he is also representing individual boaters, beachgoers and those who fish in the area.
"The plaintiffs are piling on rapidly," he said.
The company revealed Thursday it found levels of cyanide and ammonia in the local branch of the river near its Burns Harbor plant that exceeded permitted levels.
IDEM said the company exceeded the daily maximum limit for total cyanide and ammonia-nitrogen, which "appear to be the cause or a significant contributing factor to the mortality of the fish observed on the East Arm of the Little Calumet River."
"IDEM has requested that the facility initiate a spill response along with increased monitoring of its outfalls to the Little Calumet River," the agency said. "IDEM and DNR (Indiana Department of Natural Resources) ask residents to continue to avoid this area while cleanup and mitigation efforts are ongoing."
Portage Mayor John Cannon accused state environmental officials and others Friday of waiting several days before notifying the city of the contamination that resulted in a large fish kill, closed beaches and precautions with drinking water.
"Mayor Cannon holds ArcelorMittal responsible for this event, and also parts blame to IDEM for not informing the City of Portage until several days after the first incident," Cannon said in a press release.
He said IDEM and others were made aware of the problem Monday, but the city was not informed until Thursday.
"The Mayor is calling for action to be taken," Cannon said. "Further, the City of Portage will be taking aggressive action with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to ensure the breakdown of communication, like this, does not occur again."
Dave Benjamin, executive director of the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, said there were no warnings for surfers to stay out of the water Thursday.
"And now they are concerned about long-term health risks of this possible exposure," Benjamin said.
IDEM said in a statement Friday that both it and the DNR investigated a report on Monday and found one "distressed" fish in the East Arm of the Little Calumet River. The agencies received more reports of dead fish on Tuesday, and on Wednesday observed a "significant" fish die off.
Then on Thursday "IDEM was notified by ArcelorMittal that they had violated the daily maximum limit for total cyanide," the statement read. "When IDEM received this information, agency staff alerted local media, environmental organizations, and local officials including Indiana American Water and the mayor of Portage."
ArcelorMittal also reported that upon learning Wednesday about the presence of oil at the nearby Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, it deployed a containment boom and a vac truck pulled material from the waterway. A spill removal firm was brought in, which confirmed none of the oil went beyond the port into the open waters of Lake Michigan.
"Vessel traffic at the Port of Indiana was halted for a few hours and resumed once the spill was contained," according to ArcelorMittal. "The quantity and source of the oil are both unknown at this point in time, though it was contained in a timely manner."
IDEM is awaiting the results of testing done on water samples from the area in question, Public Information Officer Barry Sneed said Friday morning.
Indiana American Water, which provides drinking water to much of the Region, said it restricted water intake at its nearby Ogden Dunes filtration plant as a precaution, but had found no sign of contamination during real-time monitoring.
The National Park Service closed the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk beach area and water out to 300 feet until further notice, and the nearby town of Ogden Dunes closed its beach.
"All other national park beaches and trails remain open to the public, including trails at Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk," according to a press release from Indiana Dunes Tourism.
Lake Station resident Janice McMullen told The Times when she arrived Wednesday morning at her boat in the Marquette Yacht Club, she noticed emergency officials gathered at the nearby Sammie L. Maletta Public Marina.
McMullen said she didn't think much of it until she looked down into the water and saw a large number of fish belly up and swimming in circles.
"There are dead fish everywhere," she said Thursday morning. "They're up on shore, under the docks. I'm saying there are probably hundreds of fish."
Indiana American Water Company operates treatment plants in Ogden Dunes and Gary, both of which feed water into the same system that serves customers throughout the Region, External Affairs Manager Joe Loughmiller said when contacted by The Times earlier Thursday.
"We have spoken with a representative from the (Indiana Department of Environmental Management) emergency response team on site and are awaiting additional information from them as their investigation progresses," he said.
McMullen said it appeared to her the seagulls in the area were avoiding the water. She was surprised that with the emergency response Wednesday there had been no official announcement sooner of the problem. She said this concerns her because she and others swim and fish in the area.
ArcelorMittal said they have begun a daily sampling schedule and will report the findings to IDEM, in which they will be available to the public.
Staff Writer Anna Ortiz contributed to this report.