Week in Review for Dec. 3-7, 2012

The investigation into the fire at the Sandbar at Bass Lake continues. Five fire departments helped contain the fire that started in the early morning hours on Sunday. Bass Lake Fire Chief Les Jensen has not given a preliminary cause of the fire, saying only he would release the official cause when determined by the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office. 

Stephen Suthard

The preliminary autopsy results in last week’s Culver shooting incident showed that 44-year-old Michael price shot 16-year-old Stephen Suthard multiple times and then shot himself. The incident happened Wednesday, November 28 and the pair were found dead by Price’s wife when she returned to her Madison Street residence in Culver that night. The Culver Police Department continues to work this case with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department, Marshall County Coroner and Indiana State Police Crime Scene Technicians.

Steven O'Bryant

Steven L. O’Bryant, 43, who was found guilty in a jury trial on charges of three counts of Child Molesting as a Class A felony, was sentenced to serve 150 years in prison. He was sentenced in Starke Circuit Court Thursday afternoon. A jury trial in his case was held in November where a dozen witnesses were called to the stand, including ten from the state and two from the defense. The jury took less than two hours to find that he was guilty of molesting a juvenile while he stayed at that juvenile’s Starke County residence over the course of two months from March 30 to May 30.

The Yellow River logjam removal project has begun. Trees will be removed from the river beginning at the U.S. 35 bridge in Knox to the Starke-Marshall line. This project is expected to take up to two months to complete. The project is funded by an OCRA grant that was awarded to Starke County in the amount of $190,140.

Matthew Norem of Knox was arrested Saturday, December 1 after he was taken to the Starke County Jail after a traffic stop and searched. A Knox City Police officer pulled over the vehicle driven by Norem and allegedly found narcotics in the vehicle. Police searched Norem and reportedly felt possible contraband in his pants. He was searched at the jail where officers found a tube containing a white powdery substance. He was eventually strip-searched and in Norem’s underwear, 23 pieces of aluminum foil containing suspected heroin was found. Norem was arrested and has preliminary charges of Possession of a Schedule I Controlled Substance with Intent to Deliver, a Class A Felony, and Trafficking with an Inmate, a Class C Felony.

An investigation continues into the death of a Hebron man who reportedly fell off scaffolding at NIPSCO’s generating station in Wheatfield Tuesday morning. Troy Jabaay, working for Safeway Services, LLC, was performing maintenance at the station when the accident occurred. An autopsy was to be performed this week to determine the exact cause of death. The Indiana Occupation Safety and Health Administration is conducting an investigation to determine whether or not Jabaay was properly trained with the right equipment. That investigation may take up to six months to complete.

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

An incident with police caused a pregnant inmate at the LaPorte County Jail to miscarry. A 23-year-old inmate was reportedly involved in a physical altercation with another inmate. When a jail deputy stepped in to diffuse the situation, the jailer was taken to the ground. Other officers arrived and ordered the inmate to release the deputy and their commands were not followed. She was then tased. She was taken to IU Health LaPorte Hospital to be evaluated since she was pregnant and the fetus reportedly died. No other injuries were reported. The LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office Detective Bureau is investigating this case and the LaPorte County Coroner and Indiana State Jail Inspector’s Office is assisting.

North Judson Town Board and Department Heads

The North Judson Town Board approved the third reading and adopted the ordinance that expands the number of members of the board from three to five. Clerk Treasurer Donna Henry said the ordinance will be published at the Recorder’s Office and the Board will hold an executive session to discuss and review potential candidates to fill the two seats. A final decision of those candidates will not be made until December 17.

Over $600,000 has been brought into the county’s general fund by efforts of the Starke County EMS Department. The estimated total of $622,728 is $60,000 over the project revenue for the year and Starke County Commission President Kathy Norem said it is largely due to the new Advanced Life Support service offered by the EMS Department. Mary Lynn Ritchie of the EMS Department told the Commissioners yesterday that they are hoping to break $700,000 by the end of the year.

The Knox Community School Board approved a resolution Monday night to move forward with a possible construction project at the Knox Community Elementary School. The resolution suggests constructing new building to replace the deteriorating Palmer Wing at the west end of the school. The Board wants to make sure the students have an adequate educational setting and new construction with the ability to upgrade technology infrastructure and more advantages is the key. Two patrons spoke in favor of the project during a public hearing held on the matter. Superintendent A.J. Gappa said the hard cost will be $12.5 million with the total cost not to exceed $16 million. The tax rate would be 28 cents per 100 to help fund the project. If the bonds are sold at the current rates, the tax rate could be a little less.

This is the old Starke County Economic Development Foundation location

Salvageable items are now being removed from the building that formerly housed the Starke County Economic Development Foundation and the old movie theatre in downtown Knox. Charles Weaver, the Executive Director of the Economic Development Foundation, said after a series of studies, it was found that it was not worth the money to restore the building. So, the decision was made to demolish the building. A Kokomo-based company is removing items from the building and the Habitat for Humanity organization has removed items that may be usable for their building projects. An OCRA grant was just approved this week to help fund the demolition. Demolition bidding will be taken toward the end of this month.