John Dillinger in Starke County in 1934?

John Dillinger

There have been many stories about John Dillinger being in Starke County. The famous outlaw may well have been in Starke County on this date 77 years ago. He may not have been here long, as the Dillinger gang held up the Merchants’ National Bank in South Bend just before noon.

The man identified as John Dillinger entered the bank carrying a machine gun and announced the holdup. Dillinger fired the machine gun into the ceiling creating panic as he and his gang members took $28,500. Once on the street, they encountered Patrolman, Howard Wagner, and killed him.

They escaped and their getaway car was later found in Newton County in Goodland, about 100 miles away.

Goodland is southwest of Starke County and very well could have been on the escape route.

Forestry Discussion Tomorrow at Country Kettle Restaurant

Bruce Wakeland

The Arrow Head Country RC&D Forestry Committee and Forester Bruce Wakeland invite you to the Country Kettle in Knox, tomorrow, to discuss issues you may be having in your woodland areas.  The event will be tomorrow, June 21st, from 7:00-8:30 a.m. CT.

Wakeland and representatives from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Purdue, Consulting, and Industry Foresters will be available for conversation and questions.

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Starke County Mint Farmer Pleads Guilty to Discharging Pollutants without a Permit

A Starke County mint farmer has pleaded guilty to knowingly discharging pollutants without a permit in violations of the Clean Water Act.

Michael Materna, 56, of Hamlet was operating a still which harvests mint leaves and distills them to create mint oil. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, water that was heated to temperatures of 160 to 190 degrees and mint oil was also being discharged from the facility into a roadside ditch which then flowed into the stream. The water reportedly scalded a dog to death when Starke County resident, Pete Dailey’s, dog entered the heated water. Charges were filed May 31st as a result of an investigation by the Envrionmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division and IDEM.

Jim Shilling to be Featured on Friday’s “Ted Hayes Remembers” Program

Jim Shilling


This week on “Ted Hayes Remembers”, Ted will talk with Jim Shilling.

Jim and Melba Shilling have been in the forefront of collecting and maintaining a history of Starke County for decades. Jim has shown the Starke County Courthouse to hundreds of people, and taken hundreds more on tours of the Starke County Museum.

Ted asked Jim to talk about historical events over the past 50 or so years that have impressed him.

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Starke County Named in Disaster Declaration

Flooding occurred after a levee break on the Robbins Ditch. Photo by Becky Pulver.

Governor Mitch Daniels has issued a disaster emergency for 34 counties due to severe weather that caused widespread damage to homes, businesses and public property beginning April 18th.

Affected counties experienced flooding, damaged roads, downed power lines and other severe damage. The Executive Order includes Starke County, which is the only county in the northern part of the state to be included. Starke County EMA Director, Ted Bombagetti, told WKVI that the levee break on the Robbins Ditch was included in the claim along with a levee break by the Kankakee Fish and Wildlife area outside of North Judson.

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Court Dates Needed for Ten Cock Fighting Attendants

At least ten of the people arrested in the cock fighting raid that occurred in Starke County in late February still have not had their day in Knox City Court. Those cases where the defendants announced in court that they were securing attorneys have yet to be settled. According to court documents, those defendants are trying to work out settlements through their attorneys with the prosecutor’s office. If that is not worked out, trial dates will be set and those could occur in July.

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Turkey Tracks Hunt Begins Saturday Morning

The third annual Turkey Tracks hunting event gets underway in Starke County this weekend. The hunt allows physically handicapped youngsters to experience a turkey hunting experience with assistance from local Adopt-a-Hunter volunteers. Carol Corey outlines some of the events planned for the young hunters.

“They come to the Knox VFW Saturday morning before daylight to go out and find the turkeys coming off the roost and then in the evening, we invite all of our Adopt-a-Hunter volunteers and landowners there for a dinner. If you are an Adopt-a-Hunter or landowner, we would appreciate it if you would come and join us and meet our hunters.”

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Starke County Safety Partnership to Participate in Truck Seatbelt Enforcement

The Starke County Traffic Safety Partnership will be conducting a Rural Demonstration Project beginning Friday, April 29th through Sunday, May 15th. This is a special grant to be used for truck seatbelt enforcement.

During the Traffic Safety Partnership’s last enforcement blitz, 10 officers spent 41 hours on increased traffic patrol. 4 seat belt citations were given, 1 misdemeanor DUI arrest was made, 1 criminal misdemeanor arrest was made, 1 criminal felony arrest was made and 14 speed violations were recorded. 47 traffic warnings were issued with a total of 65 vehicles being stopped. The enforcement ran from February 26th through March 4th.

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Property Tax Collection Underway in Starke County Treasurer’s Office

Starke County Treasurer Linda Belork

The deadline date for paying the first installment of personal property taxes is just two weeks away, May 10th. Starke County Treasurer, Linda Belork, says the service in her office could be more efficient in the final rush days before the deadline, but currently, most taxpayers have not been too inconvenienced by long waits.

“Right now, taxes are coming in really well for us and most taxpayers, surprisingly, are paying for the whole year,” said Belork. “We do have some lines, but again we’re still trying to work with the County Council and the Commissioners to have our second Deputy in. They verbally gave me the approval and then at the public meeting, they backed off of it. I guess that’s an issue we’ll have to take up at budget time.”

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Jury Returns Guilty Verdict on 6 of the 7 Charges Brooke Case

A jury of 8 men and four women has returned a guilty verdict on 6 of the seven charges against John Brooke in Starke Circuit


Court.  The trial was conducted in front of Circuit Court Judge Kim Hall.

A stoic John Brooke heard the guilty verdict given, while friends and family in the gallery wept.

He was convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery, Intimidation, Possession and Manufacturing Destructive Devices, Resisting Law Enforcement,

Unlawful Use of Body Armour, and Assisting a Criminal.

The only count he was found not guilty on was a seventh charge, possession of a destructive device.

Sentencing has been set by Judge Hall for May 12th. at 10:00.

Brooke was part of a potentially deadly situation at Bass Lake in February of 2010 in which an occupant in his home opened fire on Starke County Police officers who were trying to serve an Illinois warrant.  Michael Drogosz, the shooter in that incident was sentenced to a lengthy prison term in August.

We’ll have more information in the morning.

Two Arrested after Traffic Stop in Knox

Two Starke County residents were arrested this morning after a routine traffic stop.

A Knox City Police officer pulled over a vehicle on 300 E. and 250 N. in Knox. During the course of the traffic stop, a K9 was deployed to search for drugs. The K9 indicated that drugs were the vehicle and methamphetamine was seized. After an investigation, the officer found a handgun in the vehicle. Traci Jacobs and Paul Higdon were then arrested on preliminary charges of Serious Violent Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Possession of Methamphetamine. They are currently being held in the Starke County Jail.

30 Meth Labs Dismantled in Starke County by the Indiana State Police in 2010

The Indiana State Police-Lowell and Bremen Districts released methamphetamine lab statistics from the counties they serve. 6 meth labs have been seized by the Department in LaPorte County and in Pulaski County, 6 in Jasper County, 7 in White County, 16 in Fulton County, 15 in Cass County, and 53 in Marshall County.

30 meth labs were seized by Indiana State Police in Starke County.

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Vote Center Decision to Come by 2012 in Starke County

The General Assembly has passed a proposal to allow any Indiana county to use centralized vote centers instead of neighborhood polling precincts. We asked Starke County Clerk, Evelyn Skronski, what comes next.

“Now it is up to each County Election Board to resolute that we do indeed go ahead and establish these voting centers,” replied Skronski. “The Commissioners and the County Council would have to approve this. Throughout Starke County I think about five voting centers would be in the numbers for us to handle that many and to make it convenient for the voters. The biggest issue here is the reduction of the cost of the elections.”

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Latest Filings for 2011 Municipal Election

Thirteen people have filed for candidacy for the 2011 Municipal election in the Starke County Clerk’s office. The two latest candidate filings include Donald Kring for Knox City Council and Bob Yung for Hamlet Town Board.

Clerk Evelyn Skronski explained that candidates filing for positions in the North Judson and Hamlet town elections have until August 1st to file while candidates for the City of Knox election have until February 18th to file. In general, Primary Elections are not held for the candidates of major parties, the Democratic and Republican parties, in towns under a population of 3,500 unless the town has adopted an ordinance to nominate candidates at a primary election. This applies for candidates running for positions in Hamlet and North Judson. If there is a party opposition on any of the seats open for candidacy in North Judson or Hamlet, a Town Convention will be held to determine the candidate for the General Election. Those are typically held in August.

The same rules apply for candidates in Pulaski County in the towns of Winamac, Medaryville and Francesville. One candidate has filed for candidacy for the 2011 Municipal Election. Christina Hoffa has filed for Winamac Town Clerk-Treasurer.