Here's a look at the top 5 trending stories on nwi.com yesterday.
UPDATE: 'Heartbroken' family gives thanks in wake of Dillard murder conviction
VALPARAISO — Two and a half years after receiving word that his 23-year-old daughter, Nicole Gland, had been brutally stabbed to death, Matthew Gland and his family said they are thankful to everyone who paved the way to Wednesday night's murder conviction of Hobart resident Christopher Dillard.
"We firmly believe in the criminal justice system and have faith that a proper verdict was given in this matter," the longtime Chesterton High School teacher said Thursday morning.
"Let us start by saying that we miss our daughter more every single day and that we are heartbroken about the circumstances which caused her death," he said. "To relive those circumstances was extremely difficult for us. She meant so much to so many. Nicole Elizabeth Gland mattered.
"Her care for others, love for family and friends, and sense of humor are only a few of her character traits which we miss every day," Gland said.
Matthew Gland said he and his wife Jessica's granddaughter, who was born just four months ago, was given Nicole's name in honor of the aunt she will never have the chance to meet.
A Porter County jury deliberated for about 10 hours Wednesday before returning just before midnight to declare 53-year-old Dillard guilty in the death of Gland, who worked with him at the former Upper Deck Lounge in Chesterton.
Porter County Prosecutor Gary Germann said the guilty finding was the result of great work by the area violent crimes task force. He had brought in the task force to investigate the case after Dillard's confession was thrown out by the courts as a result of Chesterton police denying him an attorney during the initial interrogation.
"Our entire community should be very proud of the hard work they all devoted to the case," he said.
Germann also gave credit to deputy prosecutors Mary Ryan and Armando Salinas, who spent most of the last two-and-a half weeks slowly presenting the evidence to jurors.
Dillard opted not to testify on his own behalf, and the defense presented just two witnesses Wednesday morning before the lengthy closing arguments.
Sentencing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Jan. 2 before Porter Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Clymer.
Prosecutors said Dillard stabbed Gland, of Portage, more than 20 times overnight leading into April 19, 2017, while she was in her vehicle behind Upper Deck Lounge. Prosecutors said Dillard had been on a cocaine and alcohol-fueled binge and was frustrated that after delivering drugs to Gland, she rebuffed his sexual advances.
Defense attorney and public defender Russell Brown Jr. argued that prosecutors had no direct evidence linking his client to the crime.
But jurors heard from two Porter County Jail inmates, who said Dillard confessed to them. Jurors also saw surveillance videos from businesses in the general area of the Upper Deck Lounge that prosecutors said showed Dillard in the area during the hours leading up to and at the time of the killing.
Brown urged jurors Wednesday not to interpret jail telephone calls from Dillard as his confession to stabbing Gland.
"That's not, 'I committed a murder,'" he said.
But what jurors did not know when they began deliberating early Wednesday afternoon is that Dillard had confessed to the killing while in custody, according to police.
Dillard, who was picked up by police the same day of the killing, told his girlfriend while at the Chesterton Police Department, "I killed that girl. I didn't mean to," according to the charging information.
"He indicated to her that the drugs had a hold of him," police have said.
Jurors were not presented with that piece of evidence because the Indiana Appellate Court tossed out the confession, saying Chesterton police ignored Dillard's repeated requests for an attorney. Dillard requested an attorney three times during the nearly 11 hours he was held in a small interrogation room at the Chesterton Police Department, the court said in its 27-page ruling.
The Indiana Supreme Court then denied a request by prosecutors to consider reversing the state appellate court ruling.
The courtroom was packed with spectators Wednesday morning and into the afternoon as prosecutors and Brown spent hours giving jurors alternative ways of interpreting the evidence presented during the trial.
"We would like to thank our family and hordes of friends for their continued support throughout this ordeal every single day," Matthew Gland said on behalf of his family.
"It is impossible to imagine going through it without their support," he said. "Nicole’s friends have shown us an inner strength that cannot be put into words. They were always there for Nicole. Nicole was always there for them. They are always there for us. And we will always be there for them."
The last time Gary recorded more than 53 homicides was 2013, when 54 homicides were logged, according to FBI statistics posted online. The highest number of homicides before 2013 was recorded in 2007, when 71 people were killed in Gary.
Thirteen people have been killed since Oct. 3, when 26-year-old Ashley Miranda was fatally shot and a 14-year-old Urbana, Illinois, boy and 29-year-old Hammond woman were wounded when someone in a white SUV opened fire on Miranda's car in the 7100 block of West Fifth Avenue, police said.
The latest homicide victim was identified this week as Terrell Gill, 32, of Gary, according to the Lake County coroner's office. Gill died at the scene of a shooting about 8:30 p.m. Monday in the 800 block of County Line Road in the city's Miller section.
Wanya Burnside, 21, of Gary, died Sunday at an Illinois hospital from a gunshot wound to the head, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office. Burnside was wounded in a shooting about 12:40 p.m. Friday. Police records show officers responded at that time to the 1100 block of Noble Street for a report of shots fired and a gunshot wound victim.
Police searching for a missing person found a woman dead about noon Oct. 31 in the 1100 block of Colfax Street.
Sean Baker, 23, of Gary, was involved in a shooting in the 7000 block of East Fifth Avenue on Oct. 30. He later died after seeking treatment at a local hospital.
A man found shot to death Oct. 29 in the 500 block of Taney Street has not yet been identified, coroner's records showed.
Phillip Hearne, 60, of Gary, died Oct. 26 at a hospital after a shooting in the 3500 block of Pierce Street.
Nefretiri Jones, 52, Yoasha Carter, 25, and Dwayne Jones, 33, all of Gary, were found shot to death after a fire at their home Oct. 25 in the 3500 block of West 20th Avenue. Yoasha Carter’s boyfriend, Reginald Carter, 31, pleaded not guilty to three counts of murder and one count of arson.
Joseph Nieto, 32, of Gary, died at a hospital after he was shot Oct. 23 outside his home in the 2300 block of Edison Street. Enrique "Bapo" Gonzalez, 33, was charged with murder and auto theft.
Damarius Carr, 21, of Gary, died from a gunshot wound after someone brought him to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus on Oct. 22. Police think he was shot in the 1200 block of Johnson Street.
Antonio Reeves, 50, of Gary, was shot to death Oct. 19 at his home in the 500 block of Ralston Street.
Anyone with information about any of Gary's recent homicides is asked to call the Lake County/Gary Metro Homicide Unit at 219-755-755-3855. To remain anonymous, call 866-CRIME-GP.
Times staff writer Mary Freda contributed to this report.
Valparaiso woman granted protective order against Chicago Fox 32 news anchor
VALPARAISO — A woman at the center of a criminal case involving explicit photos being sent to another woman was granted a protective order against Chicago Fox 32 news anchor Rafer Weigel.
The Valparaiso woman accused Weigel of harassing her following the end of their sexual relationship.
In September, Weigel had filed a protective order against the Valparaiso woman. In court, he denied harassing the Valparaiso woman, saying "I begged her numerous times to leave me alone. Move on with your life."
Weigel and the Valparaiso woman are part of a criminal case that alleges another woman, Kathy Browne, of Virginia, sent nude photos of the woman to the woman's phone. Prosecutors also allege that Browne threatened to send the photos to the school the woman's children attend.
Browne has been charged with a misdemeanor count of distribution of an intimate image. The Times is not naming the Valparaiso woman because of her status as a potential victim in the criminal case.
Weigel, who was suspended from Chicago Fox 32 last week, further said he he had nothing to do with the Browne sending the photos to the woman.
However, the court ruled that at the time Browne came into possession of the nude photos, Weigel and Browne were allegedly spending time together in Chicago. The ruling said that Weigel asserted his fifth amendment right in declining to respond to questions involving his awareness of Browne's acquisition of the Valparaiso woman's photos and her intentions to use them.
The ruling further states there was no evidence Weigel tried to stop Browne from harassing the woman and that Weigel and Browne were angry at the woman when the threat was sparked.
The Valparaiso woman obtained a protective order last month prohibiting Browne from contacting and harassing her or her family, according to court documents.
The relationship allegedly began when the Valparaiso woman said Weigel contacted her through Instagram in March and then again in June. The two began sending each other explicit photographs and met for first time in July at the Hilton Garden Inn in Chesterton, court records said.
Weigel obtained the protective order against the Valparaiso woman in Cook County on behalf of himself and two others. Another hearing on that order is scheduled Thursday in Illinois.
UPDATE: Gary councilman charged with kidnapping two days after election
GARY — Two days after his reelection, Gary Common Council President Ronald Brewer faces felony charges for allegedly intimidating and kidnapping a young boy he believed to be involved in the September theft of his red Lexus.
Prosecutors have said the boy in question is not believed to have been involved in the Sept. 22 theft of Brewer's car, during which it was stolen in Gary and taken to East Chicago.
"You don't know how bad I want to blow your (expletive) back," Brewer allegedly told the teen as he pointed a weapon at him, charging documents state.
As the teen repeatedly denied his involvement, Brewer said, "You need to tell your buddies I need my (expletive) okay (sic)? I‘m coming for them."
The teen told police he feared for his life and that Brewer was going to shoot him, charging documents state.
Police originally accused Brewer of tracking down his stolen vehicle, firing a gun at the teens and taking a 14-year-old boy against his will into the city of Gary, rather than allowing police to handle the situation, police records show.
Brewer is fresh off his reelection two days ago to the Common Council, where he currently serves as president.
Since his arrest, Brewer has stood by his innocence, hiring defense attorney Scott King to represent him in the case.
On Thursday, prosecutors hit Brewer with three felony counts: kidnapping committed through use of a vehicle; criminal confinement through use of a vehicle; and intimidation, court records show.
The formal charges arrive more than a month after the alleged incident, which drew furor on social media, including from people who argued Brewer was justified in his actions.
In the last month, supporters, along with Brewer's attorney, have argued he had every right to make a "citizen's arrest" under Indiana law. But critics of Brewer argued he acted out of bounds of the law and should have let police handle the situation.
'Body bag' comment
In the week following his arrest, a 911 audio recording was released in response to a Times public records request, revealing Brewer allegedly threatened one of the teenagers found in the politician’s stolen Lexus.
According to charging documents, Brewer references a "(expletive) body bag" after the teen asks if Brewer could drive him to his mother's house.
WARNING: The following audio clips contain explicit language.
Brewer called Gary police at 3:55 p.m. the day before to report his vehicle was stolen from the County Market Express at 2560 Garfield St.
The following night, at 7:12 p.m., East Chicago officers were dispatched to the area of 145th Street and Indianapolis Boulevard in response to a report that Brewer's stolen vehicle had been located by Brewer.
Brewer and his wife allegedly pursued the teens another nine or 10 blocks to a gas station near the intersection of Michigan Street and Indianapolis Boulevard, where the teens bailed and Brewer detained a 14-year-old boy, police have said.
When police were en route to the area, the city's ShotSpotter technology indicated three gunshots were fired in a two-block radius of Brewer and his wife, Nicole Mabon-Brewer, who were chasing the teens in a vehicle pursuit, according to charging documents.
When police arrived in the area, Brewer and the teens in the stolen Lexus already had fled to the 5600 block of Indianapolis Boulevard area, police said. There, officers flagged down his wife, who explained Brewer already left, taking one of the teens to the Gary Police Department, records show.
The 14-year-old allegedly kidnapped by Brewer told detectives he repeatedly denied knowledge of the car being stolen, but Brewer didn't believe him, records show.
He told police he was picked up by some friends in the red Lexus to go play basketball. After playing ball, they drove to the Luke gas station at 5659 Indianapolis Blvd., where "a vehicle came up fast behind" them like the driver wanted to ram their car.
The teen told police the driver of the vehicle behind him "had his arm out the window firing shots," so everyone inside the Lexus bailed, records show.
Officers did not find any sign of trauma or bullet wounds on the teen, records state. When arresting Brewer outside his home in the 2300 block of West 20th Place, they noticed a fresh bullet hole in the trunk of the Lexus.
Asked if the bullet hole was new, Brewer replied, "Yes. That's new. Someone must have been after them while they had my vehicle," according to court documents.
Brewer does not appear to have been charged with any crime for police allegations that he fired a weapon at the teens. However, witnesses recall hearing shots fired in the area of the pursuit that night, and two teens interviewed by police identified Brewer as a man with the gun.
After Brewer's arrest, records indicate East Chicago police Officer Pies Honeywood received a call from an Indiana Department of Child Services caseworker.
Honeywood informed the caseworker that he saw a black juvenile female about 12 to 15 years old inside of Mabon-Brewer's vehicle during this incident, charging documents state.
A source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed a juvenile relative of Brewer was along for the ride as the Brewer family pursued the teens.
911 call audio
For several minutes in the 911 recording, Brewer can be heard telling the dispatcher a turn-by-turn narration of his pursuit of the stolen vehicle as it drove southbound on Indianapolis Boulevard.
According to East Chicago detectives, Brewer pursued the teens in the Lexus and shot at them at one point.
Based on the duration of Brewer’s 911 call, it appears Brewer stopped communicating with the dispatcher but didn’t hang up the phone after he exited his vehicle to pursue the teens outside the Luke gas station.
“Hello?” the dispatcher asks several times throughout the call, attempting to get Brewer back on the line.
“Come on, we got one. Let’s roll,” Brewer can be heard saying at one point, according to court records.
“He’s trying to take him somewhere,” the dispatcher announces, listening in.
A separate 911 call placed by Brewer’s wife places them at the Luke gas station in East Chicago at about 7:10 p.m. The recording indicates Brewer’s wife warns the teens not to leave until police arrive.
“Stay right here. I’m not playing with you. Don’t walk out the door. Stay right there. We’re not getting out until the police come,” his wife said, according to court records.
Throughout the majority of Brewer’s 911 call audio, Brewer accuses the teen repeatedly of stealing his car and using his credit cards.
“Y’all went to McDonald’s. Y'all went to Taco Bell. … Where my phone at?” Brewer asks.
The teen repeatedly tells Brewer some friends gave him a ride in the car and that he didn’t know the car was stolen.
“I don’t even know how to drive a car,” the unidentified teen said at one point, according to the 911 audio.
Authorities have told The Times the youth indeed did not know how to drive.
About 14 minutes, 32 seconds into the call, Brewer reportedly can be heard saying, “Man, I’m thinking about popping the (expletive) out of your (expletive).”
“Do you know I work for the (expletive) government?” Brewer later adds, according to records.
“Please …” the boy can be heard saying.
About 23 minutes in, Brewer reportedly tells the boy: “I need my phone. I need my (expletive) ID. I need my credit cards. I need all my (expletive). I’m so (expletive) mad, man. I’m trying to work with you.”
King previously told The Times that the belief Brewer fired a weapon or possessed a weapon was “pure speculation." King could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Popular with voters, Brewer handily won reelection Tuesday, securing himself a third term on the council.
Indiana law bars individuals with a felony conviction from running for elected office.
While Brewer faces felony charges in this case, he has yet to be convicted of any crime.
Former Genesis Convention Center executive director pleads guilty to stealing $16,000, courts say
HAMMOND — A Merrillville woman has been charged with stealing thousands of dollars from the Genesis Convention Center while acting as the executive director.
Deborah Black, 62, was charged with theft from a local government entity receiving federal funds, U.S. Attorney Thomas Kirsch said in a news release.
Black and prosecutors entered a plea agreement Wednesday, which would require her to pay back more than $16,000 to the city of Gary.
Black was the executive director of the Genesis Convention Center, a venue owned by Gary, from November 2016 to August 2017. While executive director, Black is accused of using her position to steal from the Genesis Center, Kirsch said.
If the plea deal is accepted by the court, Black would be required to pay $16,421.80 in restitution. The maximum sentence for the charge is 10 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine, the plea agreement stated.
“My office will continue to aggressively prosecute instances of public corruption,” Kirsch said. “Public officials are not above the law. I encourage anyone with information regarding official corruption to contact my office or the FBI.”
Black's co-worker, Victoria Wilson, was previously charged with theft from a local government entity for allegedly stealing money from the Genesis Center, Kirsch said.
On Sept. 17, Wilson pleaded guilty and is currently awaiting sentencing. In the plea agreement, she agreed pay $12,727 in restitution to the city of Gary.
The charges are a result of investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Indiana State Police and the Indiana State Board of Accounts.