Week in Review for October 22-26, 2012

Here is a look at some of the news that made the news in the Kankakee Valley this week.

Linda Belork (L), Commissioner Kathy Norem, Dan Bridegroom, Kasey Clark, and Auditor Kay Chaffins reconcile the cash balances

After an emergency meeting Monday, the Starke County Commissioners closed the Starke County Treasurer’s Office as it was found that newly reinstated Starke County Treasurer Linda Belork does not hold bond for that office. The Commissioners halted all transactions through that office until further notice. As a result, the Starke County Commissioners and County Attorney Marty Lucas will come before Jasper Circuit Court Judge John Potter on Monday, October 29 at 3:00 p.m. to explain why they should not be held in indirect contempt of court after they approved a motion to close the Treasurer’s Office. Judge Potter had issued an order that Belork return to office immediately and in his order this week, he found that the Commissioners circumvented the order to restore Belork to her office. Meanwhile, Commission Vice-President Dan Bridegroom declared that the Treasurer’s Office is now open and tax payments can now be accepted in the office. 

40-year-old Brian Strauss of Michigan City, a former teacher at South Central High School, was recently arrested after an alleged online relationship with a 15-year-old girl. They allegedly began the online relationship in 2008 and the former student told police that she and Strauss allegedly had several sexual encounters at school. He was arrested on charges of Sexual Misconduct with a Minor, Child Seduction and Vicarious Sexual Gratification. He recently resigned at Principal at South Adams Elementary School in Berne.

Could there be a record number of absentee ballots in this election? Starke County Clerk Evelyn Skronski said that walk-in and mail-in ballots total 800 so far which is a significant amount at this point in time in the early voting stages. Pulaski County Clerk Tasha Foerg reported almost 300 walk-in and mail-in ballots have been received in her office which is high. If you would like to vote absentee, you can do so all week. Visit our website at wkvi.com for the schedule. Make sure you have a valid photo ID with you when you go to vote absentee.

A public meeting was recently held concerning the Hamlet Post Office and a change in operating hours was well attended. It was revealed that a number of surveys were returned that supported the option of shortening the Post Office’s hours from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday’s hours will not change. That change will not likely take place until after the first of next year, if the change is formally approved. A postal inspector will also take a look at the post office boxes and determine what improvements can be made.

Christopher Stonebraker

The trial in the case of Christopher Stonebraker was held this week in Starke Circuit Court. Stonebraker was charged with Rape as a Class B Felony and Domestic Battery as a Class D Felony after he allegedly raped his ex-wife and pushed her head into a wall. He also reportedly scratched her back in the presence of two children. He was arrested by Indiana State Police on November 28, 2011.

James Lindahl of Medaryville was arrested Monday after a Pulaski County police investigation found that he allegedly stole tools, jewelry, electronics and household items from several different homes in June. A warrant was issued for his arrest and Lindahl was taken into custody Monday. He remains in the Pulaski County Jail on $50,000 bond. He has been charged with two counts of Burglary, four counts of Theft, one count of Criminal Mischief and one count of Conversion.

Reagent Chemical and Research Plant Manager, Tim Gunter, asked the Knox City Council to approved a ten-year tax phase-in to allow him to expand his business, but the Council tabled the request. The request will be discussed at a special meeting of the council on Monday, Oct. 29 at 7:00 p.m. By that time, both City Attorney, David Matsey, and Gunter’s legal counsel, Todd Wallsmith, will be able to review the paperwork. $2.5 million in manufacturing equipment, building expansion and new construction is planned at the site in the Knox Industrial Park.

LaPorte County Sheriff's Department
La Porte County Sheriff's Office

The LaPorte County Council approved the transfer of $30,000 to be used to help fund the overtime budget for the LaPorte County Jail. At a previous meeting, Sheriff Michael Mollenhauer requested $70,000 to keep jailers and nurses on staff, but the Council denied that request which forced the closure of the fifth floor of the jail. Inmates from the fifth floor were disbursed with the rest of the population and that has caused an overcrowding situation at the jail. The transfer of this money could enable the fifth floor to open again soon. The inmate population ranges from 300 to 320 a day.

Ernest Wireman

The Indiana Court of Appeals in March upheld Starke Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall’s sentence of 110-years for Ernest Wireman who was found guilty by a jury on charges of Murder, Attempted Murder and Arson after the brutal murder of his wife Mary Wireman and the attempted murder of his step-son Jeremy Risner. This week, the Indiana Supreme Court denied Wireman’s petition to transfer jurisdiction. The court affirmed the Court of Appeals findings.