Entries in Indiana (44)


Boy Rescued from Sand Dune Hole in Critical Condition

ABC 7 Chicago(MICHIGAN CITY, Ind.) -- Rescuers using heavy equipment pulled a young boy from a hole in a large sand dune on an off-limits area of an Indiana beach after more than three hours on Friday, officials said.

The boy, 6, appeared to have vital signs upon being pulled out of the dune. After the rescue, the boy was taken to St. Anthony Hospital in Michigan City, Ind., before being taken via helicopter to the University of Chicago Medical Center. The child is still in the hospital in critical condition on Saturday.

Some officials initially gave the boy’s age as 8.

The boy was walking with his parents along the sand dunes by Lake Michigan from near Mount Baldy, Martin said, when he came across a rotted tree that may have caused some type of sinkhole in the sand dune.

The area where the boy fell was off limits to the public, Rowe said.

The call for help went out at approximately 4:30 p.m. CT, officials said. Rowe said local first responders arrived within about 15 minutes.

Those responders included medical personnel, the Michigan City Fire Department and Michigan City police, Martin said.

As they were digging, the hole became larger, so they called in heavy equipment in to move the sand, Martin added.

Fire department rescuers said that as they were digging they found a soft spot or pocket in the sand at least 11 feet down and saw the boy’s head.

Rescuers were able to lift him out at approximately 8:05 p.m. CT, Martin said.

Laporte County Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Huffman told ABC News that the boy may have been saved by an ancient tree which created an air pocket inside the dune. Huffman added that the boy appeared to have ingested sand into his lungs and that it will require extensive therapy to restore the child's lung strength.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Leopard Killed in Indiana Backyard

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(CHARLESTOWN, Ind.) -- An Indiana woman trying to protect her cats from wild animal attacks was stunned to discover that the animal she and her boyfriend shot, thinking it was a bobcat prowling in her backyard, was actually a leopard, and now authorities are trying to determine how it got there.

Officials at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources confirmed that a leopard, which is not native to North America — let alone Indiana — was found at the woman’s residence in Charlestown. The DNR is investigating where the animal might have come from.

Donna Duke, a friend and neighbor of the woman who found the leopard, told ABC affiliate WDRB-TV in Louisville, Ky., that the woman had been concerned about her cats after a spate of attacks on pets in her area.

“She’s got cats that are basically her family,” Duke told WDRB.

According to Duke, the woman and her boyfriend stayed up all night Thursday to determine whether there was a bobcat loose in their area. When they saw the big cat in the woods at the edge of her property, the woman’s boyfriend shot and killed the animal before it could get any closer, not realizing it was a leopard.

Residents of Indiana are allowed to own exotic large cats but they must have a permit. The owner of a local wildlife refuge center located near the woman’s home told WDRB-TV that none of his animals were missing.

Anyone with information on the animal can contact the Indiana Conservation Officers Central Dispatch at (812) 837-9536 or 1-800-TIP-IDNR.

On Friday, an employee at an exotic feline rescue center in western Indiana was seriously injured in a tiger attack.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Two Dead in Indiana Plane Crash 

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(SOUTH BEND, Ind.) -- Two people have died and at least three others were injured on Sunday when a small plane crashed into a neighborhood near an airport in South Bend, Ind., according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

The pilot of the Hawker Beachcraft Premier 1 twin-jet plane, which had taken off from Tulsa, Okla., radioed the tower to report electrical problems while on approach to South Bend Regional Airport.

The plane crashed into the neighborhood, hitting three houses before finally coming to a stop, lodged in a house.

FAA spokesman Roland Herwig in Oklahoma City said there were four people on the plane, and two of them have died.

The crash shattered the calm of a Sunday afternoon in the quiet residential neighborhood.

“We thought a house was on fire on the next street, cause it was just blowing and it was like ash that was going through the air, little pieces,” said  Florence Retek, who lives nearby.  “It was a loud noise and it sounded like a truck had crashed and then we looked out the front window, door and there was smoke.”

The neighborhood was evacuated because of concerns about gas leaking from the plane’s fuel tank.

South Bend Assistant Fire Chief John Corthier said the jet fuel leak made the situation “very dangerous.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Indiana Man Dubbed ‘Internet Casanova’ to Face Charges

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(INDIANAPOLIS) -- The man dubbed the “Internet Casanova” for breaking hearts online is now facing charges for not just stealing women’s hearts but also their money.

Authorities allege that Ray Holycross, 29, who also went by the names Ray Cross and Ray Tompson, scammed and robbed more than 38 women in at least seven states.

Holycross, of Plymouth, Ind., will be arraigned on Friday in an Indiana courtroom on one charge of theft, accused of stealing the camera of Theresa Bridegroom, a woman from Mishawaka, Ind., according to ABC News affiliate RTV6.

Police say Holycross spent years logging onto dating websites to meet women before moving in with them and then stealing from them.

Bridegroom, 35, began dating Holycross in September.  Police arrested him at the apartment they shared on Tuesday after Bridegroom discovered he pawned her camera and turned him in, RTV6 reports.

Holycross is also wanted in Oregon on two counts stemming from an identity theft charge.

“I think he relies on girls that he meets on the Internet to provide him with what he needs to get through life,” Lt. Michael Budreau of the Medford Police Department in Oregon told ABC's Good Morning America in August as the first reports of his alleged fraud emerged.

Jennifer Clark told GMA in August that she met Holycross on the online dating site  She was smitten, she said, and the two quickly moved in together.

“We lived together in my house,” she said.  “I decided I wanted to help him.”

Clark told GMA that Holycross convinced her to sell her home and her car and promised to move to Chicago with her.  Instead, he took her laptop and iPhone, withdrew nearly $1,000 from her bank account, and then vanished, she said.

“He made me feel like he was going to take care of me and, instead, I was left with absolutely nothing,” Clark said.

Many of the women who met Holycross online told a similar story.  They said he is an online charmer who took off with their cash once they let him into their lives and homes.

ABC News has also learned of allegations against Holycross from male victims, who claim he swindled them out of money and other possessions.

Even his own brother refused to defend him.

“He digs holes, gets into lies and it’s just a non-stop thing,” David Holycross said.  “My heart goes out to all the victims.  And if anyone has the opportunity to avoid my brother after seeing this, do so.”

Attempts to reach Ray Holycross were unsuccessful.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Indiana Couple Could Face Jail Time for Saving a Deer

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Should an Indiana couple go to jail for saving a deer?

That’s the question surrounding the case of Jeff and Jennifer Counceller, who rescued an injured fawn and nursed it back to health at their Connersville, Ind., home.  The couple now faces the possibility of jail time and fines after state officials charged them with a misdemeanor for harboring the animal.

Jeff, a police officer in Connersville, and his wife were charged with unlawful possession of a deer, a misdemeanor that punished to its fullest extent could put the Councellers in jail for up to 60 days and cost them up to $2,000 in fines.

The couple rescued the deer more than two years ago after finding it on their neighbor’s porch.  The Councellers said the deer had sustained injuries, and they wanted to nurse it back to health.

“I could feel all of the open wounds all along her back side and she wouldn’t stand up,” Jennifer told ABC News.

They brought the deer home and named her Little Orphan Dani.

The Councellers said an Indiana Conservation Officer stopped by their home and discovered the deer this past summer.  The Indiana Department of Natural Resources wanted to euthanize Dani, saying she might be dangerous and a threat to people.

“I was devastated.  I spent a year and several months nursing her into adulthood, getting to the point where she was able to go out on her own,” Jennifer said.

On the day Dani was to be put down, the Councellers said she inexplicably escaped from their backyard.  Even though Dani disappeared back into the wild, the Councellers’ legal problems didn’t go with the fawn.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources said it couldn’t comment on pending litigation but that it did discourage people from taking in injured wildlife.  

The case could go to court next month, and if charges aren’t dropped, it will be left for a jury to decide whether the Councellers broke the law.

“No matter what the law is, we did what was right for the animal,” Jennifer said.

Meanwhile, the story has caused uproar on the Internet.  A Facebook support page has more than 6,400 “Likes” in support of the couple.  An online petition to drop the charges already has more than 3,800 signatures.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


String of 50 Midwest Church Robberies Believed to Be Connected

SE Michigan Crimestoppers(LINDEN, Mich.) -- Authorities believe that at least 50 church robberies that have taken place across a string of Midwestern states in recent months – with the thieves taking everything from money for the poor to gift cards for seminary students – are connected.

According to a crime bulletin released by law enforcement agencies in southeast Michigan and northern Ohio, authorities are searching for two young white males caught on tape by security cameras. One man, wearing a navy blue sweatshirt, is holding a crowbar in the photos.

That was one of the weapons used to break into the Family Tabernacle Church of God in Unadilla Township, Mich., this fall. In fact, the church has been burglarized twice in the last year, but the most recent incident came on Oct. 30 when the robbers smashed a window and ransacked the church's office looking for money. Fortunately for the church, they had installed an alarm system after a break-in last spring saw over $7,000 worth of musical instruments stolen.

"After that we got an alarm system," Pastor Jeff Howard said in a phone interview Friday. "We're in a rural area, but on a state road with a lot of neighbors in front of us and on one side of us, so we felt pretty safe, but evidently we're not."

Howard's church is just one of many – stretching from Flint in eastern Michigan down into northern Ohio and even west into northern Indiana – that have been victimized, a string of robberies that Howard finds deeply disturbing.

"It shows that we as a society are moving away from God instead of moving towards Him. That concerns me," he said. "The thing that's puzzling is if we're responding to these tough times this way, it means people must be angry with God. That's disturbing. All our blood sweat and tears are in this building. It really hurt to see it torn apart like that, but at the same time it showed us how important what we are doing is for this community that we live in. I told them at church that the folks did this came to the right place for help, but they came in the wrong way and at the wrong time. We would still reach out to them today to do everything we could to help them. I just pray that they get the help they need."

Authorities have now posted security photos of two suspects, a development that sprang from an Oct. 7 break-in at Hope Lutheran Church in Linden, Mich.

"They came in the early morning and used a crowbar to break into the church through our doors. They pried open some filing cabinets and got into our safe. They were apparently only looking for money because they left all our computers and other equipment," Pastor Jim Roth said in a phone interview. "We don't store money here, but they took gift cards from our safe that were for seminary students. One of the gift cards was for Wal-Mart and they were able to get pictures of the guys at Wal-Mart in southern Michigan and it matches the ones we took with our security cameras."

"The police thought that because we got pictures of them here and there that that would be very helpful in catching them," Roth noted.

In a press release Friday from the Lenawee County Sheriff Department and the Michigan State Police, authorities said they are looking for two "people of interest" and they believe the break-ins – which started around Aug. 13 with a robbery in Woodstock Township – "are all related."

"We've got photos of the guys now, so that's good," Detective Jeff Smith of the Monroe County Sheriff's Office told ABC News. "We may get some leads coming in soon."

"The last I heard, there are well over 50 churches that have been broken into," he said. "Here in Monroe County I've got eight reports on my desk. They're mostly looking for money. They're going for small, out-of-the-way churches, not hitting the big churches. I think that is because these churches are out in the country, they may not have surveillance systems, they're usually on dark, unlit roads, and some of these congregations lock up after Sunday and don't come back until later in the week. The robbers know it's going to be a few days before the break-in will even be discovered."

According to Howard, the thieves are not getting away with considerable amounts of money, despite the huge number of churches they have hit.

"These guys are looking at prison time from these break-ins and with us, they didn't get anything. With some break-ins they're getting only $200," he said. "So even though they've broken into over 40 churches, they're not getting that much at all. It's just hard to justify it."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Two Questioned in Connection with Indiana Neighborhood Blast

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Indiana authorities have made an apparent break in their investigation into who triggered the massive explosion that killed two people and leveled some of an Indianapolis neighborhood earlier this month.

"Our investigators are talking to individuals we have identified as potentially having relevant information," prosecutor Terry Curry said.

Earlier this week, ABC News learned that authorities now believe the Nov. 10 blast in the subdivision just south of Indianapolis that killed John and Jennifer Longworth was caused intentionally.

Police won't say who they are questioning, but cellphone video captured by Brad Horton and his girlfriend Whitney Essex shows a SWAT team descending on a mobile home park in southwest Indianapolis.

"These people came in tanks with people on top of them," Essex told ABC News.

The couple says their neighbor, Bob Leonard, was led away for questioning.  Leonard is the brother of Mark Leonard, who is dating Montserrate Shirley, who along with Mark Leonard, lives in the home that exploded.

"It was pretty serious.  They don't pull those [tanks] out for just anything," Horton said.

Much of the attention since the explosion has centered on Shirley and Mark Leonard, who lived at the house in the center of the blast area.  The two ignored questions from reporters on Tuesday.

The couple says they were at a casino, and the home was empty when the explosion rocked the quiet neighborhood, killing the Longworths and damaging nearly 100 homes.

An attorney for Shirley and Mark Leonard said they are cooperating with police.

Overnight, prosecutors refused to confirm if they believe Bob Leonard is involved, or if they believe the blast was triggered by a remote.

"As we develop additional information, and identify individuals who potentially have pertinent information, we'll just pursue all those leads and that's exactly what we're doing," Curry said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Authorities Probe Cause of Indianapolis Explosion

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(INDIANAPOLIS) -- Two days after a massive explosion in Indianapolis' Southside area left two people dead and dozens of homes destroyed, authorities continued their investigation Monday, and shaken residents banded together to help each other recover.

"It is still an investigation so we're very limited on the information we can give out," said Gary Coons, the chief of the Indianapolis division of the Department of Homeland Security. "We're looking at everything -- all causes, all possibilities. There's a lot of possibilities out there. ... There's a lot of possibilities that could trigger an explosion like this."

Authorities said they had launched a probe into the explosion, but cautioned they might not know the cause for days.

"You're talking days -- it could be weeks," Capt. Rita Burris, spokeswoman for the Indianapolis Fire Department, told ABC News. "They're going over the scene and processing evidence. It's still in the investigation stage."

Sarah Holsapple, a spokeswoman for Citizens Energy, said that no gas leaks had been found and that other lines were being tested. She said, however, that she did not know how long the testing would take.

"It's too early to speculate if this could have been caused by a leak," Holsapple said.

Displaced residents gathered at a nearby Presbyterian church to meet with officials about when they could go retrieve any belongings from their houses. Most were told they would have only an hour to go in and take what they could.

Marcy Snow said she has been coming to the church since 1954. Her niece's home was destroyed in the blast.

"The main thing that I have seen repeatedly, manning this door, is people want to help," she said, standing in a room at the church full of food and supplies. "They're a very loving and giving community. They're proud to be here. They hate to see anybody hurting."

"They need time," she said, choking up.

The owner of a house in the blast area, who now lives elsewhere, said he believed a faulty furnace in the house caused the explosion, though Citizens Energy's Holsapple said the company had not gotten any calls about a faulty furnace.

"About a week and a half ago I got a text from my daughter that the furnace was out and they were going to spend the night at a hotel. If I were to suspect anything, that's where the problem was," said John Shirley, who is divorced and now lives in Noblesville, Ind. "Supposedly they got it fixed, but because of what happened I don't think they got it fixed. I think that's what caused the problem. It either wasn't fixed correctly or, knowing my ex-wife, she probably compromised on the fix."

Shirley said that his ex-wife, Monserrate, has "a protective order" against him.

Asked if he believed his ex-wife started the explosion intentionally, Shirley said, "I don't think so because there was no real reason to. I pay a thousand dollars a month for one kid because she had a lawyer and I did not, so she has more than enough money," he said. "At one point the house was slipping into foreclosure. Last spring she had a buyer but she chose not to sell. We were in some bankruptcy but that's pretty well cleared up."

When asked about Shirley's claims, Burris told ABC News, "That's totally too far to even say anything. I can't even speculate. It's totally not something we've heard, but I'm sure it's something we'll look into."

The explosion took place around 11 o'clock Saturday night, destroying dozens of homes in the Richmond Hill neighborhood south of downtown.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Teacher's Aide Fired for Revelation of Role in Grisly 1965 Killing

Indiana State Prison| BCLUW Yearbook(CONRAD, Iowa) -- An Iowa teacher's aide has been fired from her job following the revelation that she was a member of an Indiana family notorious for torturing and killing a girl in their basement in 1965.

"A week ago today we got an anonymous report that the now Paula Pace was the previous Paula Baniszewski involved in this 1965 murder case in Indiana and it was a real attention-seeker out there, a heinous crime," Grundy County Sheriff Rick Penning told ABC News Wednesday.

Paula Baniszewski was 17 years old in the summer of 1965 when a 16-year-old girl named Sylvia Likens and her sister came to stay with Baniszewski's family. In the months that followed, Likens was beaten, burned, malnourished and branded with a hot needle. Her body was found in the basement of the home in October of that year.

The case became one of the most infamous crimes in Indiana and has been the subject of several books and movies.

Baniszewski's mother Gertrude Baniszewski was convicted of first-degree murder and Paula Baniszewski was found guilty of second-degree murder for her participation in the torture. Several other family members were also convicted.

Paula Baniszewski appealed her conviction and ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter. She served time and was released from prison in 1972. She completed her parole and moved to Iowa.

Baniszewski, now 64, has been going by the name Paula Pace and has worked for the BCLUW school district in Conrad, Iowa, since 1998. She had done some custodial work and was most recently working as a teacher's aide for special needs students.

Recently, information about Pace's true identity began circulating around Facebook and an anonymous tipster called police to tell them they should look into her background. Police immediately notified the school and both began doing background checks.

Pace's birth date matched Baniszewski's and a current photo of her beared a striking resemblance to the 1965 mugshot.

"The superintendent had called her in and she admitted to it, so she was suspended," Penning said.

The school called a special meeting of the school board on Tuesday and the seven-member board unanimously voted to fire Baniszewski.

"Paula Pace's employment was terminated at a board meeting yesterday," superintendent Ben Petty told ABC News. "Her employment was terminated for providing false information on her application."

Petty would not comment further on how she was able to lie on her application.

Penning said that Baniszewski is not facing any criminal charges and the matter is between her and the school.

Baniszewski could not be reached for comment. An Iowa phone number listed for Pace had been disconnected.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Parents: Indiana Boy Sexually Abused by Second-Grade Classmates

Creatas Images/Thinkstock(MUNCIE, Ind.) -- The parents of an Indiana boy allege that their 8-year-old son was the victim of "horrific and ghastly" sexual abuse by his second-grade classmates.  The parents say the boys acted out scenes from pornographic videos that they watched at school without supervision.

The parents are identified only as John Doe and Jane Doe in order to protect the identity of their son, identified only as Junior Doe.  They filed the lawsuit on Friday in Delaware County, Ind., against Ball State University, which runs the Burris Laboratory School, where the alleged abuse took place.

The alleged abuse and molestation occurred on at least 11 occasions over a three-month period in the fall of 2011, the parents say, and involved four boys (including their son).

The parents say they discovered the abuse when another parent overheard her son talking to another boy about what was going on in the bathrooms at school.  When she asked her son for names, Junior Doe's name came up and she called his parents.

"You hear something of that nature, that your child basically lost his innocence forever engaging in the most private sexual acts possible with other students at school," Jason Delk, the attorney for John and Jane Doe, told ABC News.  "They were absolutely horrified."

"The Does discovered that due to Burris and Ball State's complete lack of supervision and institutional controls over their eight (8) year old son during the school day, Junior Doe was forced, on multiple occasions, to engage in explicit sex acts with other children and forced to perform oral sex on other children his age," the lawsuit alleges.

The parents allege that the school gave the young students "unfettered access" to the Internet, where the boys would view the videos and then "act out" the scenes on one another.

The parents believe the abuse took place in the school's bathroom, library and classroom.  They are suing the school for negligence, violation of Title IX and deprivation of constitutional rights.  They are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

The parents claim that students approached their teacher "on more than one occasion" to inform her that certain boys in the class "were doing things to other boys' private parts," according to the lawsuit.  The teacher, who is also being sued, allegedly told the students to sit down, stop "tattling" and took no other action.

Ball State denies the allegations.

Ball State spokesman Tony Proudfoot said in a statement that the university could confirm that it "became aware of reported concerns about allegations of inappropriate behavior among four second grade students at Burris."  He said that the concerns were reported to the Indiana Department of Child Services and local law enforcement.

The attorney representing the defendants did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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