Beth Mullendore

Beth Mullendore

Husband Gets 73 Years for Murdering Wife

By Marda Johnson/The Lebanon Reporter

Lebanon — Dennis Mullendore fumbled to pick up his “Every Man’s Bible” with shackled hands, then was escorted out of the courtroom to begin serving a 73-year sentence for stalking and murdering his estranged wife.

In August of this year, Mullendore was convicted of murder, stalking, intimidation, attempted intimidation and false reporting. He was sentenced by judge Rebecca S. McClure Tuesday afternoon in Boone Superior Court II.

Beth Mullendore died on Jan. 6, 2007, after being shot as she drove along Interstate 865 on her way to work at St. Vincent Hospital. During the jury trial, Mullendore admitted to stalking and intimidating Beth, but he maintained his innocence in the murder. The court found him guilty of shooting her with a shotgun from another vehicle, with the prosecution using cell phone records to place him in the area of the crime.

During the sentencing hearing Tuesday, family and friends from both sides were given a chance to present aggravating and mitigating factors to be factored into the length of the sentence given.

Beth Mullendore’s daughter, Bobbi Noland, told the judge that her life changed forever the day her mother died.

Noland said she tried to call Beth to talk to her as she drove to work, but that Beth never answered. When Beth didn’t call back, Noland said she began to worry. Then Noland’s grandmother told her that Beth “had been in a car accident and that she did not survive,” Noland said, speaking quietly and beginning to cry.

“I thought it was a bad dream,” she said.

Soon afterward she learned her mother had died from a gunshot wound — not a crash.

Noland continued to weep as she read from notes on folded white sheets of paper, saying her mother enjoyed helping others, and going out after work with her friends. She said Beth had put herself through nursing school.

“She worked very hard for everything she had in her life,” Noland said.

Since Beth Mullendore’s death, Noland said, she worries about her children and is always watchful, concerned for her own safety.

“My world has completely changed, and I’m OK with that. But what I’m not OK with is why this happened. ... The unanswered question — why they had no other option but to kill.”

Three people testified on behalf of Dennis Mullendore, Pastor John Hattabaugh, longtime family friend; William Fullerton, the husband of Mullendore’s cousin; and Deana Mullendore, his ex-wife and mother of his two children, Kelly, 27, and Derek, 19.

Although they have been divorced about 15 years, Deana Mullendore said she had an ongoing relationship with Dennis Mullendore because of the children. She said Mullendore was a good father who provided for their children, and later for Beth Mullendore’s children, and that he kept up with child support payments until his incarceration.

Pastor Hattabaugh and Fullerton told the judge that Mullendore’s life revolved around his family, his farm and the church.

“He is a thoughtful and helpful person,” Fullerton said. “It is my estimation that Dennis has a good heart and that he is a good man.”

He asked McClure for mercy and leniency in the sentence.

“More than one family has been hurt in these proceedings,” he said.

And for the first time, Mullendore spoke on his own behalf.

Mullendore offered condolences to members of Beth Mullendore’s family. “I’m deeply sorry that Beth died.” But he said of the guilty verdict for murder, “it’s an injustice to me.”

After the statements, Boone County Prosecutor Todd Meyer, asked McClure to sentence Mullendore to the maximum of 65 years for murder, with the maximum 8 years for stalking added onto that sentence.

Meyer said the premeditation required for the killing, and the frequency and language used in voice mail messages left for Beth Mullendore were aggravating factors. Meyer also said that Mullendore tried to use his son and son’s friends to help him establish an alibi, which should be considered an additional aggravator.

Meyer also cited Mullendore’s lack of remorse, saying that Mullendore didn’t apologize for Beth’s death, but only offered condolences.

Mullendore’s attorney, Michael Gross, did not represent Mullendore during the trial. In September, Mullendore fired his defense attorney, Gary Colasessano, and Gross was appointed to represent Mullendore during the sentencing hearing.

Gross told McClure that the level of premeditation and intimidation were already considered as elements of the crimes, and should not be considered as aggravators.

Gross said Mullendore’s character was a mitigating factor, and that a lack of remorse is appropriate if a person is not guilty of the crime. Meyer had brought up two arrests in Mullendore’s past — one for battery, and one for hunting off season — but Gross said Meyer was making “much ado about nothing.”

The defense asked for sentences to be served together, and to be at or below the recommended sentence for the crimes.

After a brief recess, McClure said that, except for the past criminal history, the prosecution’s arguments were considered aggravating factors. She said that the fact that Mullendore had been a respected member of the community prior to the incident was a mitigating factor.

She sentenced Mullendore to 65 years for murder, with 8 years additional time for stalking. Sentences for less than two years each were given for intimidation, attempted intimidation and false reporting, and are to be served concurrently. Because Mullendore has been declared indigent since his arrest, McClure waived all fines and court costs, but did require him to pay $17,436 to Indiana Farm Bureau for costs associated to insurance paid after the crash.

Mullendore has already served 654 days. With good-time behavior and time served, Mullendore will still spend almost 35 years in jail. He is 54.

Gross told McClure that Mullendore plans to appeal.

Monday afternoon, Boone County Sheriff Ken Campbell said he appreciated all the hard work that went into the case, which started just five days into the sheriff’s administration.

“I can’t say enough about the job the investigators, police officers and prosecutors (and their staffs) have done,” Campbell said.

The sheriff said that it had been a long case, and that family members on both sides should be commended for handling the trial and sentencing well.

“There are no winners here,” Campbell said. “Both families have suffered a loss.”


According to detectives, Beth Mullendore "was shot in her left cheek or left side of her head. A single shot we believe."

Police think the fatal shot came from a pickup as it drove alongside Beth Mullendore. Married 15 years and with no children, the couple was in the final stages of divorce. Court records show Beth Mullendore had a restraining order against her husband. It was a stormy marriage, say police who had been called to the couple's Lebanon home six times for domestic disturbances from 1997 until a month before Beth Mullendore's death.

In addition to murder, this week prosecutors also filed intimidation and stalking charges against Mullendore who remains held without bond that the Boone County jail.

"From November of 2005 until Mrs. Mullendore's death there were incidents that support that charge," said Meyer.

Elizabeth Lepucki

Judge hands out 65-year sentence in murder case

VALPARAISO | Mark Dunn told the court Friday his sister, Elizabeth Lepucki, had stayed with her boyfriend, John Norris, not out of love, but out of fear.

Dunn called Norris an animal and described how he mistreated Lepucki before beating her so badly June 18, 2008, that she later died.

"This court should show no compassion for this sentencing," Dunn said.

Porter Superior Judge Bill Alexa sentenced Norris to the maximum 65-year sentence, but suspended 10 years to be served on formal probation upon his release from prison. The sentence can be completed in half the time with good behavior and participation in various prison programs.

Norris, a Valparaiso resident who was appointed the continued use of a public defender after announcing his plans to file an appeal, said he was sorry and that he will have to live with his girlfriend's death the rest of his life.

"Beth was my best friend," he said. "I miss Beth more than words can ever express."

A jury found Norris guilty last month of murdering Lepucki. An autopsy revealed she had 46 old and new bruises on her body and died as a result of bleeding on the brain caused by blunt force trauma to her head.

Deputy Prosecutor Tammy Gregg said Friday the evidence presented during the trial was beyond horrifying and predicted Norris would continue with his violence if released from custody.

Defense attorney Dolores Aylesworth said Norris was abandoned by his father at age 3 and lived in fear from the ages of 5 to 15 with a stepfather who drank alcohol and verbally abused with his mother.

"Tragically, cycles of abuse repeat themselves," she said.

The Rev. Leonard Dubi, of St. Victor's Catholic Church in Calumet City, spoke out on Norris' behalf.

He said Norris did a good job while working as a custodian and maintenance man and is a kind person. He asked the judge for leniency.

Dubi said he did sit through the trial and did not know all the facts in the case.

While the sentence fell short of the maximum prison time sought by prosecutors and the victim's family, Lepucki's oldest daughter, Aubrey Lepucki, of Merrillville, was not upset.

"We're just glad it's over," she said. "We hope he doesn't get far with the appeal."

Norris will be back before Alexa on June 14 to stand trial on an unrelated charge of failing to register as a sex offender.

Preliminary hearings in that case are set for April 5 and May 10.

Jaron Mitchell

Teen Gets Minimum Sentence for Murder of Pregnant Woman

Gunman's friends say 45-year term still too long; prosecutors say they're happy

July 2, 2008

An Indianapolis teenager whose stray bullet killed a pregnant woman in her apartment has gotten the minimum sentence for murder.

Jeffrey Whitsey, 19, was sentenced to 45 years, a term which with good behavior could free him when he's 41. Outside the courtroom, roles were reversed, with Whitsey's friends complaining it's still too much, while deputy Marion County prosecutor Courtney Curtis says she's satisfied.

"Any time a person who's going to try to be the big man in his neighborhood takes a gun and kills two innocent people, and then spends the prime of his life in the Department of Correction, we are happy," Curtis says.

Jamitra Mitchell, 22, had just moved into an eastside apartment to get away from a neighborhood she considered unsafe for her three children. She was killed last April when Whitsey fired a gun outside the complex in an argument with several other people.

Deputy prosecutor Courtney Curtis asked unsuccessfully for separate sentences for the murders of Jamitra Mitchell and her unborn son Jaron, who was nearly full-term. Marion Superior Judge Patricia Gifford gave a shorter sentence based on Whitsey's youth and the fact he'd never been in trouble before.

Whitsey said he was sorry about what happened, but insisted he didn't fire the fatal shot. He complained witnesses he expected to back up his story didn't show up for his trial.

Curtis says cell phone audio and digital video introduced at trial make clear Whitsey did fire his gun. And Whitsey acknowledged under questioning from Gifford he hadn't given his lawyer the names of the witnesses he believed would clear him.

Mitchell's mother, Lillie Vaughn-Butler, says she's just glad Whitsey will pay a price for "doing something stupid."

See post for dear mother Jamitra Mitchell here.

Brittany Alexander

Man Arrested After Woman Fatally Shot

Officers See Man Toss Handgun

POSTED: 6:26 am EDT June 29, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS -- A man was arrested Saturday night, minutes after a woman was found fatally shot on Indianapolis' north side.

Police were called to 3301 N. Orchard Ave. at about 6:50 p.m. As they arrived, they saw a man, identified as Walter Hawkins, 26, coming from the direction of the home.

"They saw him throw a weapon. He was immediately detained at that time," said Indianapolis Metro police Sgt. Matt Mount.

Police said the woman, Brittany Alexander, 20, was found dead in the home. Officers said the victim did not live at the home but might have been staying with a friend.

Police arrested Hawkins on a murder charge. Investigators said they don't have a motive in the shooting.


July 1, 2008

Brittany J. Alexander 20, Indianapolis, IN, died June 28, 2008. Brittany was a Home Health Aide with QRL. She was known for her caring and outgoing personality. She is survived by her mother and step father, Vickie and David Knight; step brothers, Nicholas and Christopher Knight; half brother, Brian Joseph Alexander and grandparents, Wayne and Patricia Bowers. Services will be private. Burial will be in Washington Park East Cemetery. Contributions in memory of Brittany may be made to Community Health Network Foundation. Online condolences may be made at

Watasha Kenyata Clark

Watasha Clark

Man Fatally Shot Mother Of His Child

Witnesses: Man Seen With Victim After Shooting

POSTED: 4:30 pm EDT June 21, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS -- A man was arrested Saturday morning following a shooting that killed the mother of his child.

Police were called to an apartment in the 6600 block of Eagle Pointe Drive South, on Indianapolis' northwest side, just before 4 a.m.

Indianapolis Metro police officers said they found Watasha Clark, 29, outside an apartment suffering from a gunshot wound. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Chris Gordon, 29, was seen running from the apartments, police said. He was arrested a short time later and is expected to be charged with murder.

Police said witnesses saw Gordon with Clark after the shooting. Officers found a gun they believe was used in the shooting.


Indianapolis - A family is hoping to toughen up Indiana law regarding domestic violence after their daughter's murder.

Sandra Radford's daughter, 29-year-old Watasha Kenyata Clark, was shot to death on June 21st. Clark's boyfriend, 29-year-old Chris Gordon, was charged with her murder. Her parents say there was a history of abuse.

"He had my daughter's hair, her ponytail in one hand and a pistol in the other hand and was dragging her down the alley. He had struck her with the pistol and broke her nose. He left the scene. Police arrived and said well he's not on the scene there is nothing we can do. She doesn't want to press any charges. She was scared of him," said Radford.

"There were times when he's run her off the road and my son was in the car with her," said Clark's father, Ronald Radford.

The Radfords are petitioning the state of Indiana to change its law to better protect victims of domestic violence.

"We know the victims are scared, brainwashed. Family members and friends that see this abuse. We need to be able to press charges without the consent of the victim," said Ann Delaney, Julian Center executive director.

However, Delaney says creating a new law won't solve the problem. She says the policy the Radfords are looking for is already in place and that charges can be pressed without the victim's consent or testimony. But Delaney says without that testimony it's hard to build a case.

"Because even if you get to a jury with that, the jury looks at it and says, well, she didn't care about prosecuting him so why should we care about locking him up?" Delaney said.

Police records show Clark had a restraining order against Gordon. Gordon has a lengthy arrest record, and a conviction in 2001 for shooting one of Clark's family members in the head.

"If all of this information was available to the road officers, his prior conviction, this testimony from the family member about pointing the gun at them and all of that, then the officer should have taken action," said Delaney.

After responding to multiple domestic disturbances involving the same victim over the course of ten years, the last police report on record with Clark's name now reads homicide.

"I can't save my daughter now. My daughter is gone. But I do want to be able to save other parents from losing a child," said Sandra Radford.

Call 317-327-1211 to report domestic violence to Indianapolis Metro police.

Shattering the Silence - Learn how you can get help for yourself or someone else who is facing a domestic violence situation.

Susan Snedeker

Three dead in Argos in apparent murder-suicide

Tragedy strikes the small town of Argos

November 6, 2007

Police say 39-year-old Terry Snedeker shot and killed his wife, 36-year-old Susan; and 19-year-old daughter, Shayla, before turning the gun on himself.

The bodies were found around 6:00am Monday morning by the Snedeker's 12-year-old son, who was waking up to go to school.

Police say the couple had been in the process of getting a divorce for about a month now. Police say they had been called to the house in the 14000 block of Michigan numerous times, but for small domestic incidents, and nothing that would have indicated something like this would happen.

Those who knew the family are in complete shock.

“It’s not how it should have ended,” said Dustin Younger, a former co-worker of Susan Snedeker. Younger says he came to the house as soon as he heard something had happened.

Even though police and friends say they knew there were marital problems, they say there were no signs this would happen; despite a bold statement on a sign on the side fence of the home, reading:

“No trespassing, violators will be shot, survivors will be shot again.”

“Last time I was here it was all good. It didn’t seem like they had any problems or anything. Came over here to get my tools, and stuff, we were all sitting in the garage and talking,” Younger said.

“Our officers have been here for civil process, and those types of thing. We’ve had some interaction with the family, but nothing that would give us any indication,” said Detective/Lieutenant Ward Byers of the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department.

…Any indication that the lives of a wife and her 19-year old daughter might be in danger.

Shayla was a 2007 Argos High School grad, and played softball while in school. Friends say she worked at a pizza place in Plymouth, while attending Ancilla College.

Younger says he had known Susan since he moved to the area a few years ago.

“We were really close. She was like a second mother to me. She did things for me if I needed something she’d help me with it. And if she needed something I’d help her,”

Younger says Terry had previously worked at Hoosier Tire, and believes he was on sick leave after recently losing a toe after being bit by a brown recluse.

Police say the only remaining member of the family, the couple’s 12 year old son, is in safe hands.

“He’s with other family members. He’s been taken from the home and he’s safe with other family members right now,” Byers said.

Police say they haven’t seen any evidence yet that goes against that theory of this being a double homicide suicide.

The only good news they have for the town of Argos is that, because this appears to be a domestic dispute, no one else in town should have any feeling of being in danger.

In the small town of Argos news traveled very fast Monday morning. Counselors were on hand at Argos High School to help any grieving students.


Susan M. Korp Snedeker Date of Death 11/5/2007

ARGOS — Susan M. Korp Snedeker, 36, of Argos, died Monday, Nov. 5.  She is survived by a son, Brennen Snedeker of Argos; parents, Paul and Catherine (Jones) Korp of Puryear, Tenn.; and a brother, Paul (Wendy) Korp Jr. of Knox; and a niece, Sarah Korp of Knox.

Visitation is Thursday, Nov. 8 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the M.C. Smith Funeral Home, Knox Funeral services are Friday, Nov. 9 at 11 a.m. at the funeral home. Burial will take place at Crown Hill Cemetery, Knox.

See post for dear daughter Shayla Snedeker here.

Jamitra Mitchell

Jamitra Mitchell

Man found guilty in young mother's shooting death

Posted: Jun 18, 2008 11:33 AM EDT 

Marion County - An Indianapolis man learned his fate Wednesday in his bench trial for a 2007 fatal shooting. Prosecutors say Jeffrey Whitsey, 19, fired the gun that killed a mother of three in her new apartment.

After his bench trial, Judge Patricia Gifford found Jeffrey Whitsey guilty of two counts of murder.

Whitsey says he is not guilty of shooting Jamitra Mitchell and her unborn son dead in March 2007.

"I heard gunshots too. I ran too. I don't know what's going on," he said. "I never had a gun."

But minutes after Judge Gifford delivered a guilty verdict, Mitchell's brother and stepfather hugged outside the courtroom. Her mother spoke for the family.

"My daughter, she died for nothing, for something stupid he did. So justice was served today," said Lillie Vaughn-Butler.

She said her daughter's death "has broken us apart. She has three small babies that still talk about her and wonder where their mother is. It really has destroyed our family."

The shooting happened March 31, 2007, around 11:00 pm. Mitchell and her three children, ages five, four and two, moved into Amber Woods Apartments the same day of the shooting.

"She wanted something better for her children. She thought Amber Woods Apartments would be better," said Vaughn-Butler.

Prosecutors say during a fight between two people on the basketball court, Whitsey opened fire. A bullet entered Mitchell's apartment, striking her in the head.

Both Mitchell's family and prosecutors say Whitsey had nothing to do with the fight and should have never come out with a gun.

"There was no reason for him to take out a gun to start chasing and shooting at two of the individuals who were involved in the fight," said David Wyser, Marion County deputy prosecutor.

"I am a little surprised. We disagree with the verdict but that is what the appeals process is for," said Kelly Bauder, Whitsey's attorney.

"Now I got to fight this on an appeal to come back and try to beat this case," said Whitsey.

Whitsey faces more than 100 years in prison when he's sentenced on July 2nd. Prosecutors have not decided on how much time they will ask the judge to give him.

See post for her dear son Jaron Mitchell here.

Ida T. Jefferson

Man Accused in Slaying Surrenders

March 6, 2008

An Evansville man suspected of fatally shooting his former girlfriend is in custody in Georgia after turning himself in Wednesday afternoon at a police station near Atlanta.

Joaquin Starks, 25, was wanted in connection with the death of Ida T. Jefferson, who was shot multiple times early Friday morning outside her residence at Ross Center Apartments in Evansville.

Officials immediately identified Starks as a suspect. He has a history of violence against Jefferson, and was identified as the shooter by a woman with whom Jefferson was living who said she witnessed the attack.

But efforts to locate him since Friday had proved unsuccessful.

He remained at large until Wednesday afternoon, when he walked into the Sandy Springs, Ga., police station and told officers he was wanted for questioning for a domestic violence incident, Evansville Police Department Chief Brad Hill said.

It wasn't long before police there entered his information and realized he was wanted for Jefferson's death.

Hill said police should know by today if Starks will waive extradition from Georgia back to Evansville. Otherwise, he said authorities will have to initiate a lengthier legal process to return him to the state.

Hill said Starks had been following the case online and turned himself in after receiving encouragement to do so from family members and an acquaintance who he had stayed with briefly in Georgia.

But Hill said Starks had not said much about the case and declined to speak about it with investigators who tried to question him in Georgia.

"I don't think he's made any admissions down there at this time," Hill said.

Starks was brought to the police station shortly before 2 p.m. by the acquaintance, who Hill did not identify.

It was still unclear Wednesday how long he had been in Georgia or how he had traveled there, Hill said.

According to an Evansville police affidavit, Jefferson was killed while she was living temporarily with Tammy Funches at Ross Center Apartments because of difficulties with Starks.

Starks was convicted in 2004 for an incident involving Jefferson and was out on bond for a Feb. 6 incident for which he was charged with battery resulting in serious injury, strangulation and domestic battery.

According to a police affidavit, Funches told authorities that when she and Jefferson returned to their apartment Friday morning, Starks appeared with a gun in his hand.

The affidavit said Funches told authorities she was "150 percent" certain it was Starks who fired at Jefferson.

Speaking just hours before he turned himself in Wednesday, Starks' mother and his sister said they did not believe he was the one who pulled the trigger, despite Funches' description.

"I feel like she's just blaming my brother," said Antrea Starks, Joaquin Starks' sister. "How can you be 150 percent sure it's my brother? Well you just came from a nightclub, it's dark outside and this person has got on all black. You just assume it's my brother. That's not right."

Antrea Starks and her mother, Doris Starks, said Joaquin Starks likely fled only because he was scared and knew his history with Jefferson would immediately make him the primary suspect.

They said more suspects need to be considered because they do not believe Joaquin Starks was capable of the act.

"I love (Jefferson), I'm sorry for her death," Antrea Starks said. "But my brother didn't do that to her. I don't care what anybody says. ... My brother is not this type of person they're explaining him to be."

Joaquin Starks was being held Wednesday night at the Fulton County, Ga., jail.


A 14 News exclusive interview with the roommate of a murdered Evansville woman.

Tammy Funches was in the apartment where her friend, 25-year-old Ida Jefferson, was shot to death. Funches says she was shot at too.

The murder suspect, 25-year-old Joaquin Starks, is still at large. But police think they found his car.

14 News caught up with Tammy Funches Monday at Animal Control in Evansville. She was there to pick up Ida Jefferson's dog and told us what happened inside the apartment last Friday.

Funches says, "I just know I seen what I seen, what did you see? my friend get murdered."

Funches was Jefferson's roommate, "She was my sister, my best friend, my everything. I mean we did everything together, everything."

Funches was in the apartment last Friday when the shooting took place. Chilling 911 calls from the scene were released Monday.

911:"Okay, what's going on?"
Caller: "Somebody got shot."
911: "Somebody got shot?"
Caller: "Yeah"
911: "Okay, Where is the person that shot the other person?"
Caller: "I don't know."

Funches says she is the one screaming in the background. The shooting happened on Jefferson Road in Evansville.

Now the trauma of having seen her dear friend shot to death and with the killer still on the loose, Funches says it's almost too much to take.

Funches says, "I have nightmares, I can't sleep and I can't eat. I just can't do anything but have flashbacks."

Police got a break in the case when they found Starks' Oldsmobile. It was recovered Saturday morning on Burkhardt Road.

Monday Funches and friends were at the animal shelter picking up the little dog, which belonged to Ida.

Funches says, "This is Biggie, Ida's baby. She loved Biggie so my friends and I found her and came and got her because that what Ida would have wanted."

Now Funches wants the killer caught and has a message for women who are in an abusive relationship.

Funches says, "Every woman out there that's been beaten of whatever, it ain't worth it. It ain't worth your life that's all I've got to say."

Starks had a pending domestic violence case against him involving Jefferson at the time of the shooting and was ordered by a judge to have no contact with her.

Kristina M. Lamberson

Elwood man kills wife, self

March 3, 2008

An estranged Elwood couple is dead after a man gunned down his wife late Sunday and then turned the weapon on himself, apparently while their 4-year-old daughter was in the home where the shootings took place.

Marian Dunnichay, Madison County chief deputy coroner, said 26-year-old Kristina M. Lamberson died of a single gunshot wound to the head. Her death has been ruled a homicide. Dunnichay ruled the death of Robert W. Lamberson, 26, a suicide, also caused by a single gunshot wound to the head.

According to Elwood police, Kristina’s 4-year-old daughter called her aunt, April Thompson, shortly before 11:30 p.m. and told the woman her mother wasn’t responsive. Thompson then called 911, telling dispatchers the girl told her “her mommy needed help and that they needed to come right now,” according to a news release.

“She thought her mommy was dead and could not get her up,” Thompson also told dispatchers, according to the release.

When police arrived at Kristina’s apartment at 1647 Main St. they immediately smelled gunpowder, and quickly discovered the two dead in a bedroom. Robert was lying dead on the floor with a shotgun underneath him. Kristina was found dead next to the bed.

Initially, the 4-year-old girl couldn’t get the apartment’s door open, and officers had to force their way inside. The girl was not injured, and is being cared for by relatives.

“The little girl was smart, God love her,” Police Chief Jack Miller said Monday.

Miller said the apartment where the shooting took place was Kristina’s apartment. Robert had been staying at a home in the 2200 block of South B Street.

Dunnichay said a limited autopsy was performed on the two Monday at Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Court records revealed that Kristina and Robert shared a short, unhappy marriage.

The couple married Aug. 23, but separated the day after Christmas. Kristina, who also has an 8-year-old son, filed for divorce Jan. 15, two days after Elwood police arrested the couple near the intersection of Main and Anderson streets on misdemeanor public intoxication charges.

According to the probable cause affidavit in that case:

At about 12:30 a.m. on Jan. 13, Officer Andy McGuire found the couple arguing near the intersection of Main and Anderson. Both smelled of alcohol and were given a portable breath analysis test. The test determined both were above Indiana’s legal limit of 0.08 percent.

While McGuire was arresting Robert, he yelled that Kristina had pills in her back pocket. McGuire found two hydrocodone pills on Kristina. She admitted she didn’t have a prescription for the pain medication, but said Robert had given them to her. Kristina was also charged with possession of a controlled substance, a Class D felony.

What the couple had been arguing about at the time of their arrest wasn’t included in the affidavit. But according to a restraining order Kristina got against Robert the same day she filed for divorce, the two had been arguing at Sam’s Wonder Bar the day before they were arrested. Robert had threatened to hurt Kristina, and used vulgarities to describe her children.

It wasn’t the first time he verbally abused her, according to the restraining order. On Dec. 22 along South B Street, Robert cursed at Kristina and pushed her into some mud. On New Year’s Eve, also at Sam’s Wonder Bar, Robert spit in Kristina’s face.

The restraining order, issued through Madison Superior Court 1, was in effect when he called Kristina’s cell phone several times recently and left messages. Elwood police arrested him for invasion of privacy, a Class A misdemeanor, at about 6:30 a.m. Saturday, for violating the restraining order. Kristina contacted police and an officer recognized Robert’s voice on a message, Miller said.

Robert was allowed to post 10 percent of his $3,000 bond, signed a no-contact order and was released from a holding cell at the Elwood Police Department at about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Miller said.

On Monday, Elwood City Court Judge Kyle Noone said Elwood police should have waited 24 hours to release Robert, even though he had enough money to post bond.

Under Noone’s standing court order, anyone arrested on suspicion of committing a crime involving a domestic partner is to be held for a day so they can cool off. The crimes include domestic battery, intimidation, criminal recklessness and invasion of privacy, among others.

Miller said his department didn’t violate Noone’s standing order. He said it didn’t fall under the court’s order because the original restraining order was filed in Madison Superior Court 1, and not Elwood City Court.

Noone said that because the invasion of privacy charge was filed in his court, the standing order requiring the 24-hour hold applied.

“I expect every law enforcement agency to follow my standing order,” Noone said.

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones

Police Kill Homicide Suspect Who Allegedly Threatened Kid

Authorities: Man Shot Ex-Wife, Led Chase With 4 Children

October 4, 2007

PLAINFIELD, Ind. -- A state trooper fatally shot a homicide suspect who pointed a gun at a child in his lap following a chase on Interstate 70 west of Indianapolis Wednesday night, police said.

Major Jones III, 28, of Indianapolis, killed his ex-wife, Jessica Jones, outside a Terre Haute hotel late Wednesday before leading officers on the chase with four children -- ages 2, 4, 5, and 6 -- in his SUV, according to police.

Police chased Major Jones east for about 40 miles at speeds up to 90 mph, and he stopped on I-70 at about 11:35 p.m. after deflating three tires on stop sticks between the Monrovia and Plainfield exits, authorities said.

Jones released three of the children during a 25-minute standoff in which he stayed in the SUV and became increasingly agitated, state police said. The standoff ended at about midnight when Trooper Terry Watson shot him after Jones pointed a gun at the fourth child and officers, state police said.

"(Jones) did make a wave of the gun toward the child and was making some comments that were considered life threatening," state police Sgt. Rich Myers said. "It turned out good in one way that we were ultimately able to get the children out safely."

None of the children was hurt. Police said three of the kids were the couple's and one was Jessica Jones' by another man.

Watson, 52, is a three-year veteran of the Indiana State Police and a member of their SWAT team.

Police said Major Jones killed his ex-wife before leading officers on a chase in this SUV with four children as passengers. The SUV stopped after 40 miles, and a state trooper shot Jones after Jones pointed a gun at a child in his lap, police said.

Police said Major Jones and Jessica Jones, 26, planned to meet Wednesday at a Ramada Inn in Terre Haute so he could give her child support money. They had been divorced for about four years.

The two met at the Ramada and got into an argument, and Jessica Jones escaped and ran to the nearby Drury Inn, where she worked, but could not get in because the building was locked after hours, said Bill Bergherm, assistant chief of criminal investigations for Terre Haute police.

Major Jones fired several shots just before 11 p.m., and Jessica Jones died near the doors of the Drury Inn, police said.

Vigo County Coroner Dr. Roland Kohr said Jessica Jones died of multiple gunshot wounds, at least one to the head. Five casings were found outside the Drury Inn.

County officials were working to place the children with Jessica Jones' mother, Bergherm said.

Major Jones had lived at his mother's east-side Indianapolis home since his divorce. At that home, a family representative said relatives saw no sign that he would kill his ex-wife.

"Our primary focus and concern right now is for the children. We want to see them safe and sound and taken care of," said the spokesman, Mel Keaton.

Major Jones and Jessica Jones had joint custody of their three children, court records show.

Kristine Cowger (Williams)

Kristine Cowger

Young fathers involved in severe claims

In the weeks before 3-month-old Kristine Cowger died from severe head and neck trauma, nurses at a Lafayette clinic visited her parents' apartment to teach them how to care for a newborn.

One point they emphasized: Never shake a baby, said Tippecanoe County deputy prosecutor Laura Zeman, who is handling a felony fatal neglect case against the girl's father, Robert Cowger, 18.

"And still, it happened," Zeman said. "I'm seeing a lot of very young fathers who are just not prepared for how hard it is to take care of a newborn. ... But I don't remember ever in my career having this many so close together."

Kristine's death on Feb. 8 was one of about a dozen child abuse and neglect cases in Greater Lafayette that has occurred or has gone before a court in the past two months. Several of those incidents involve allegations against parents -- strikingly fathers -- who are in their mid-20s and younger.

Child advocates note that the number of cases declaring children as wards of the court in Tippecanoe County appears to have dropped or held steady so far this year. But the severity of abuse and neglect seems to have worsened, they say.

And the number of confirmed abuse and neglect victims is rising faster than the child population, according to the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Last year in Tippecanoe County, there were 576 confirmed cases of sexual or physical abuse or neglect, or 17.5 victims per 1,000 residents under age 18. In 2005, there were 513 confirmed cases, or 16.1 victims per 1,000 children.

Among the cases recently heard by juvenile court Judge Loretta Rush:

A child so severely beaten that blood pooled around her eyes.

A young girl whose father is accused of holding her arm under hot running water for so long that the child's skin blistered.

A father who allowed his children to live in an apartment littered with feces, rotten food and trash.

Just this past week, child advocates were scrambling to schedule a hair test for a boy, born on March 8 at Home Hospital, whose mother admitted to smoking marijuana two to three times a week during the length of her pregnancy. The woman tested positive for opiates in her system, a Department of Child Services investigator testified.

"A tremendous amount of physical abuse has been against children who are under 5," Rush said. "Why is this happening now? I don't know why."

Aiyana case anniversary

This weekend marks the three-year anniversary of the death of 4-year-old Aiyana Gauvin, a Lafayette girl whose horrific story of abuse cast a spotlight on child abuse and neglect in the community. Her death also helped lead to statewide changes in the child welfare system.

Raised awareness could have something to do with the increased number of victims. Since Aiyana's death, the number of reported abuse and neglect cases has shot up 62 percent, from 1,767 in 2005 to 2,872 in 2007, according to a draft report from the Indiana Department of Child Service. Of those 2007 cases, 576, or 20 percent, were substantiated.

At the Tippecanoe County branch of the Indiana Department of Child Services, staffing has tripled -- from 13 family case managers and two supervisors in 2005 to 40 case managers and six supervisors now, said executive director Angela Smith Grossman.

Both she and Rush point out that Child in Need of Services, or CHINS, cases went down in 2007 compared to 2006. That has only happened once during Rush's 10 years on the bench.

CHINS cases are filed in Rush's court after caseworkers have tried to work with parents or guardians and determined that a judge's intervention is necessary to protect the child's safety.

"Reporting has been good," Smith Grossman said. "People know their obligation to report suspected abuse and fulfill that obligation."

Since Aiyana's death, hundreds of residents have attended three annual summits aimed at curbing child abuse and neglect in Tippecanoe County. Many educators, law enforcement officers and social service workers have received training in the Search Institute's 40 Developmental Assets for Children program, designed to address what children need to survive and thrive.

Yet despite these efforts, the recent string of child abuse cases has child advocates wondering if it's enough.

Rush says resources for parents are plentiful.

"My hope is that young parents are using the resources we have in the community to help them," she said. "It's hard sometimes hearing these cases and seeing the photos. You have to take a moment to collect yourself."

Help for new parents

Robbin Lamblin is the coordinator of Healthy Families, a free voluntary support program through Family Services in Lafayette for the parents of all newborns at Home Hospital. Called Baby Talk, representatives visit with parents after a child's birth.

Family Services offers an assessment and does home visits weekly for the baby's first year, biweekly the second year and then monthly until the child turns 3. That can be adjusted depending on the needs of each family, Lamblin said.

"We tell them that it's OK to feel overstressed, to take a breather, to ask for help from somebody," she said. "We teach them how to cope when babies are crying. We let them know that all parents get frustrated sometimes."

Parents also learn about the dangers of shaking an infant.

Lamblin said that they have had parents shake a small container holding egg yolks or Jell-O -- meant to represent a baby's fragile brain -- to see the damage that can occur.

Susan Smith, president and chief operating officer of Family Services, said the agency and other community organizations are working to establish Warmline, a telephone help line for parents.

The plan is to offer the service through Lafayette Crisis Center by calling 211, the national abbreviated dialing code for information and referral. Warmline currently is being considered by the Crisis Center's board of directors.

"Part of the Baby Talk model of supporting new parents is providing a listening ear," Smith said. With Warmline, a parent who felt stressed, frustrated or overwhelmed would be able to call 211. Operators would listen, then offer advice on what to do or where to get further help.

"They'll be able to cover anything that, in some of these recent abuse cases, might have driven parents to the point of frustration that it triggered violence."

A newsletter called "Growing Child" is distributed in dozens of doctors office and social service organizations in the Lafayette area, Smith said.

'Time to grow up'

One of Rush's goals in her court is to help parents better themselves so that they can be reunited with their children.

For example, this past week an emergency hearing was called to determine where to place a 4-year-old boy whose mother checked herself into a center for mental health treatment. He currently is in foster care.

The Department of Child Services has substantiated parental neglect three times because of lack of supervision by the mother. Allegations of molestation by the mother's boyfriend have been raised.

The boy's birth father, Billy Ray Burkhardt, 46, appeared before Rush for possible custody.

"She has called before saying she can't handle him," he told the judge. ". ... I'd love to have him."

But Burkhardt has his share of problems, including a history of alcohol-related arrests and an arrest in February on suspicion of battery. Rush ordered that he stop using marijuana.

"You may have to change how you live your life," she said. "It's time to grow up."

Cycle of abuse

Ken Weller, executive director of Legal Aid Corp. of Tippecanoe County, has represented parents in dozens of CHINS proceedings. Many times, a parenting problem can stem from the type of childhood that parent had.

"It is not uncommon for me to be representing the children and grandchildren of clients that I represented in the 1980s," Weller said. "Many parents have substance-abuse problems or mental health problems -- sometimes both.

"Typical clients that we represent are undereducated, underemployed, underhoused and under-represented legally."

For Tippecanoe County's Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASAs, the recent string of child abuse and neglect allegations -- some of them involving groups of siblings -- has required volunteers to take on more cases.

In 2007, there were 126 CASA volunteers who assisted 517 children by serving as the kids' voices in court.

Executive director Coleen Hamrick said the organization "had a lull for a little bit, but it didn't last very long."

Volunteers also have noticed that the children involved have been getting younger.

"If you look nationwide, abuse and neglect affects a lot of children under the age of 5," Hamrick said. "You see a higher rate of abuse, likely because children in that age group can't protect themselves.

"With having so many younger parents involved lately, you can't help but wonder if they have had a previous history of their own in the child welfare system."

Brandi R. Thomas

Domestic violence deaths reviewed

Lafayette Police Investigations Captain Bruce Biggs said the Team reviewed the 2008 death of Brandi Thomas, who was found dead in a house fire after a fight with her boyfriend Jeremy Taylor. He was sentenced to 60 years for voluntary manslaughter and arson. Biggs said the group will meet April 28 to discuss a death from 2005.

(She was found dead and disfigured by fire after a fight with her boyfriend, Jeremy Taylor - his bloody clothes were found in nearby trash can - it is uncertain whether she died in the fire or was killed before.  Happened 1/10/2008.)


Brandi R. Thomas, age 34 of Lafayette, died at her residence on Thursday, January 10, 2008. Born in Lafayette on October 27, 1973 to Brenda (Ravenscraft) Johnson (husband, Roy) of Lafayette and Wayman D. Thomas of Lafayette, she was a lifetime resident. She had worked as a receptionist for Thomas Harris Insurance Agency and as a general laborer at SIA. She enjoyed reading, crocheting, traveling, and being around the water. Surviving with her parents are two sons, Jordan S. and Logan D. Thomas both of Lafayette, three brothers, Wayman D. Thomas, Jr. of Lafayette, Richard and James Glaze of Lafayette, a step-brother, Randy K. Johnson (wife, Lisa) of Brownsburg, maternal grandmother, Phyllis R. Ravenscraft and paternal grandmother, Onita Thomas. Visitation Friday, January 18, 2008 two hours prior to the 2 p.m. service at Hippensteel Funeral Home. Pastor Greg Tyra officiating. Interment at Tippecanoe Memory Gardens. Brandi loved animals, especially her dog, Sam. She is also survived by several nieces and nephews. Preceded in death by maternal grandfather, Malcolm "Mac" Ravenscraft and paternal grandfather, James E. Thomas. Hippensteel Funeral Home entrusted with care. Share memories and condolences online at

Kimberly Patches

1 gunshot killed 2 in trailer

Man's suicide apparently led to 2nd death: Coroner

January 8, 2008

A single shot from a muzzle-loading gun killed a Cromwell couple over the weekend in an apparent suicide with unintended consequences, the Noble County coroner said Monday.

Police were called about 9:15 p.m. Saturday to the Shady Acres Mobile Home Court, 3757 N 900 W, in Cromwell.

They found 48-year-old Kimberly Patches dead inside her mobile home at Lot 207, and another resident at the home, 40-year-old Shane Feightner, in critical condition.

Feightner was taken to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, where he died just before 3 a.m. Sunday, police said.

Patches was standing within 10 feet behind Feightner when he shot himself with a muzzle-loading “long gun,” Noble County Detective Shawn Dunafin said.

That shot, the only one Feightner fired, went on to strike Patches.

Based on preliminary results of autopsies Monday, Feightner’s death has been ruled a suicide, Noble County Coroner Terry Gaff said. Patches’ death has been ruled an accidental homicide – meaning she died as a result of Feightner’s action, but apparently he didn’t intend to shoot her, Gaff said.

According to Dunafin, alcohol may have been a factor, although Gaff said it will be several weeks before toxicology tests are completed.

In general, a muzzle-loading rifle or other firearm is packed with gunpowder that ignites to fire a solid lead ball or bullet-type projectile, said Indiana State Police Detective Mark Heffelfinger, who could not comment specifically on the Cromwell case.

The Shady Acres Mobile Home Court has dealt with numerous police and fire department calls in recent years.

A man was shot with a Taser and arrested after he refused to surrender to police and let a woman leave his home in September.

In January 2007, 29-year-old Christine Ratliff drew an eight-year prison term for voluntary manslaughter after admitting to killing her boyfriend with a hammer in a home in the park.

That same month, the park saw its sixth unexplained fire since the summer of 2006. Several of those fires were ruled suspicious, authorities said at the time.

Laura M. Lewis

Woman found dead in Bloomington condo

Updated: Jan 15, 2008 7:01 PM EST

Lake Monroe - A woman was found dead in a condominium on Lake Monroe, and a man found in the condominium was taken to the hospital with injuries.

Indiana State Police Troopers were called to "The Pointe", a subdivision in southern Monroe County, by security for the subdivision to investigate the death of a female found in her residence just before 3:00 p.m.

Troopers arrived at 9586 S. Pointe LaSalle Drive and found 59-year-old Laura M. Lewis deceased.

Also found at the scene was an adult white male who was transported to the Bloomington Hospital.

Assisting at the scene was the Monroe County Sheriff's Office and the Monroe County Coroner's Office.

(It was found she had been shot by her husband.)