Jeziah King

Jeziah King

Indiana Woman Charged In Son's Oil And Vinegar Death

December 29, 2010

FORT WAYNE, Ind. — An Indiana woman accused of feeding her young son olive oil and vinegar until he stopped breathing and died and then hiding his body more than a year has been formally charged.

Latisha Lawson, 31, of Fort Wayne faces two felony counts of battery and three felony counts of neglect of a dependent, according to a probable cause affidavit filed Tuesday in Allen County Superior Court. The document also provides details from an interview with Lawson's 10-year-old daughter, who was also allegedly neglected.

DNA results are still pending to definitively determine whether remains found Dec. 21 at a home in which Lawson was living are those of her 3-year-old son, Jezaih King. An autopsy found the cause of death for the young child found in the house to be asphyxia due to compression of the neck.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Lawson told authorities that Jezaih died more than a year ago after she gave him three doses of oil and vinegar and then held his mouth shut for 10 minutes until he stopped struggling.

No attorney for Lawson was listed in court records Wednesday. She was being held in the Allen County Jail on $130,000 bond. An initial court hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

During an initial interview, Lawson said she believed her children were possessed by demons, according to police. She also said she could not take Jezaih's temper tantrums.

Police said she told them she gave both children doses of oil and vinegar, but that she left her 10-year-old daughter alone when she spit it out.

According to the court document, the daughter told police how Lawson put Jezaih's body on a couch and called her over to say goodbye to her brother. The girl said her mother then placed Jezaih on a bed and told her to pray over her dead sibling.

A former roommate told police Jezaih died in an apartment on Nov. 19, 2009, according to court records.

Lawson was taken into custody on Dec. 21. Someone tipped off authorities about where she was after media reported that Fort Wayne police were looking for a missing family of three. Lawson's daughter was placed in protective custody.


June 24, 2011

FORT WAYNE - A Fort Wayne woman who forced her 2-year-old son to drink a concoction of olive oil and vinegar because she thought it would exorcise a demon from him has been sentenced to 62 years in prison for his murder and other charges.

Latisha Lawson was convicted in May of the 2009 death of toddler Jezaih King, who died from asphyxia due to neck compression and suffocation. The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne reports that Lawson was sentenced Friday to 62 years in prison for murder, neglect and battery charges.

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull said Friday that children look to parents to protect them and keep them safe, but Lawson did neither.

Lawson's roommate is scheduled to stand trial later this year on neglect and battery charges.

Kevin Mote

Ax Murderer Receives 45 Year Prison Sentence

December 20, 2010

STEUBEN COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Steuben County Superior Court Judge William Fee accepted the recommended sentence of 45 years for Norma Jean Mote’s murder of her husband Kevin Mote.

Unfortunately the reason why Norma Mote murdered her husband is still not clear.

The prosecutor said in all his years, he has never once been unable to figure out why a murder was committed.

Mote's defense attorney said, “The straw that broke the camel's back, I really can't give that to the courtroom.”

Judge Fee said, “We don't know what the tipping point was.”

Norma Mote did take the stand and described a volatile relationship with her now dead husband Kevin.

She talked of years of emotional and physical abuse.

She spoke of having to sleep in a hallway to separate the children from Kevin.

She said there were arguments that day over whether Kevin had smoked marijuana and other lies, all leading up to her killing him.

Kevin Mote's twin sister Karen Friedel said that Norma and Kevin's children had all been given a life sentence.

Norma Mote's sister also took the stand saying Norma faced years of abuse recalling she could never visit her sister without Kevin's approval, and that Norma always spoke with her head down.


STEUBEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) - According to the Herald-Republican , Norma Mote pled guilty Monday to murdering her husband with an ax in Steuben County in December of 2009.

On December 18, 2009, police found Norma's husband, Kevin Mote, 56, dead in an upstairs bedroom of their Fox Road home and recovered an ax that the officials would later rule as the murder weapon.

Mote’s plea agreement calls for the minimum sentence under the charge of murder, 45 years.

When Mote entered the courtroom Monday morning, she wore a calm smile and waved at family members in the first row of the courtroom. She communicated silently with them a couple of times, mouthing words as she sat with the other orange-clad jail inmates.

Her court-appointed attorney, Anthony Kraus and the Steuben County prosecutor’s office proffered the plea agreement, and Steuben Superior Court Judge William Fee took it under advisement. It calls for the minimum sentence in Indiana under the charge; the maximum is 65 years and up to a $10,000 fine.

An autopsy on Kevin Mote determined a cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head resulting from numerous strikes with an ax.

Fee briefly interviewed Mote to establish preliminary probable cause for her admission.

“You called 911 to report that you had just killed your husband with the ax?” Fee asked. Mote replied in the affirmative.

“When you struck Mr. Mote with the ax do you remember these incidents?” Fee continued. Mote said yes.

Fee then asked her if she intended to kill her husband. Again, Mote answered yes.

At the time of the arrest, officers said they did not have any concrete motive for the murder, but did have a call to the residence eight years ago for domestic violence.

Steuben County Sheriff Richard Lewis said the couple's two teen-aged kids were home at the time but they were sleeping and told officers they did not hear anything.

Kevin Mote was a maintenance employee at Cameron Memorial Hospital. A hospital spokesperson said he'd been working there since 1996. A co-worker described him as a good guy who was always willing to help out.

Kraus asked for sentencing within 30 days. Mote will be in court Dec. 20 at 8:30 a.m.

Angela Dodson

 Angela Dodson

Man Arrested In Girlfriend's Killing

Woman Fatally Shot Outside Home

December 13, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS -- A man was arrested Monday in the fatal shooting of his girlfriend on the city's southeast side.  Curt Lowder, 33, was arrested on a charge of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Angela Dodson, 32.

Indianapolis police were called to St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove just before 4 a.m., where Dodson had been taken, suffering from a gunshot wound to the head.

Police were originally told that the shooting happened at a convenience store at Southeastern Avenue and Sherman Drive, but later determined that it happened outside Dodson's home in the 1100 block of South Drexel Avenue.

Dodson was transported to Methodist Hospital from St. Francis, where she was pronounced dead a short time later.

Police questioned Lowder and said that he drove Dodson to the hospital.

"Our investigators are diligently working to ascertain the reason that led up to the shooting," said Kendale Adams, Indianapolis police public information officer.

Witnesses told police that Lowder showed up at the house to ask for alcohol before shots were fired.  Police declined to release information about a motive in the shooting.

"Once our investigators have had time to interview those folks, we will be able to come out with a determination as to what led up to this," Adams said.

Christine R. Craig

 Christine R. Craig

Farrell: "I loved that woman to death"

Defendant found guilty in Benton Co. murder trial

By Ava Wilhite, Erin Coduti
December 14, 2010

BENTON COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - UPDATE: The jury has delivered a guilty verdict for the charge of murder.  The defendant took the stand today in a Benton County trial for a man accused of murdering his fiancée last November.

The defendant, 58-year-old Steven R. Farrell, stands accused of murdering his fiancée, 40-year-old Christine Craig, on the day they had planned to marry.

In the second day of testimony on Tuesday, a witness questioned by the prosecution alleged that Farrell had raped one of Craig's family members before Craig's murder took place.

On the witness stand Thursday morning, Farrell said he had intended to marry Craig on the day of her death. However, Farrell admitted that he had sex with a relative of Craig's on the day of Craig's death. While Farrell indicated that this sex was consensual, the relative was a minor.

Farrell said that he called Craig after having sex with her minor relative because he felt guilty.

Farrell also admitted to having a gun in his hand when confronted by Craig, but said he doesn't remember pulling the trigger. Farrell claimed the gun went off when he fell, and that he had brought the gun to kill himself, not Craig.

Farrell said that he remembers Craig saying, "My god, I've been shot," but he left the state instead of helping her.

Farrell admitted to traveling to Danville, Illinois, after Craig was shot, and buying clothes, a razor, and gasoline. He also admitted to traveling to the Indianapolis International Airport, catching a cab, and buying a bus ticket to Las Vegas, Nevada. Farrell said his intention was to stay in Las Vegas for a few days.

Farrell said he then took another bus to Mesquite, Nevada. Farrell said his intention in Mesquite was to kill himself by overdosing on multiple prescription medications. Farrell was arrested while in Mesquite.

Farrell also admitted in the testimony that he was already married to a Utah resident, and said that the wedding planned with Craig was purely ceremonial.

When Farrell was cross-examined, the prosecutor asked Farrell if he had killed Craig. Farrell replied, "I'm not sure how to answer."

When the prosecutor repeated the question - "You killed her?" - Farrell replied "Yes."

The prosecution submitted as evidence a letter that Farrell wrote to a friend. In this letter, Farrell wrote that a second friend had given him a lot of ways "to do away with Christine."

When given the opportunity to respond to this letter, Farrell said, "I never wanted to kill her. I loved that woman to death."

It took a Benton County jury less than two hours to come back with a guilty verdict for Steve. R. Farrell.

The jury began deliberations at 1:45 p.m. and returned shortly after 3:10 p.m. Farrell was found guilty of murder, a felony.

While the jury was out Farrell changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on a second charge of being a felon in possession of a handgun.

Sentencing for both charges is tentatively scheduled for December 14.


May 17, 1969 - November 27, 2009

Christine R. Craig, 40, West Lafayette, passed away at 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27, 2009, in Benton County.

Born May 17, 1969, she was the daughter of Cindi Armstrong Riehle and Robert Craig.

Chris loved her family and friends. She loved life itself and had a special fondness for animals. She enjoyed playing Bingo, but most of all, she just loved having fun with her kids.

Surviving with are her mother, Cindi Riehle, of Kokomo; her father and stepmother, Robert and Sharon Craig, of Tennessee; her children, Holli, Ann, Jazzlyn and Randy Travenicek, all of Lafayette;one sister, Kim Craig, Tennessee; four brothers, Patrick (Sandy) Craig, Cary Craig, of Kokomo; Rick Craig and Roger Craig; and her grandmother, Virginia Armstrong, of Logansport.

Funeral Information

Funeral services will be held at 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, 2009, in Fisher Funeral Chapel with celebrant Patricia Fisher officiating. Interment will follow in West Cemetery.

Friends may call from 1 p.m. until the time of services.

Donations Information

Memorial contributions may be made to the Christine Craig Memorial Fund in care of Fisher Funeral Chapel.

Melissa Field

Melissa Field

Husband Kills Wife Then Dies in Car Accident

Mother was stabbed while children were at the home. Husband left the residence and lost control of his vehicle slamming into a tree 4 blocks from the home.

By News Staff Fox59
December 13, 2010

Indianapolis - An Indianapolis mother and her husband are dead, after a violent attack followed by a car accident.

Police received a frantic 911 call to a home in the 4700 block of south Rural St just before 5:30 a.m. Sunday. When medics arrived, they found 44-year old Melissa Field dead from stab wounds.

Three children who were in the home told police the couple had a heated argument which lead to the husband, 51-year old Kevin Field becoming angry and stabbing his wife. The husband then left the home and lost control of his vehicle, slamming into a tree in the 4600 block of Carson. The suspect was killed upon impact.

Police say they have never been called to the home. The couple had two children together.

"Certainly it is one of the more tragic incidents we've had in the last six months, you know, both parents to be so violently taken out of this community, it's really sad," said IMPD spokesperson Kendale Adams.

The children are staying with nearby family members after speaking with homicide detectives.

Shirlen Dyson

Daughter Speaks Out After Father Kills Mother

Shirlen Dyson was just seconds away from her mother's house in Noblesville when her estraged husband, Vincent Dyson, shot and killed her.

October 19, 2010

Noblesville, Ind. — Shirlen Dyson was just seconds away from her mother's house in Noblesville when her estraged husband, Vincent Dyson, shot and killed her.

Police say he had followed her from her job near downtown Indianapolis and when she arrived in the subdivison, he ended her life. Then, minutes later, he killed himself near I-465 and Meridian Street in the middle of the evening rush hour.

In one day, Sheena Dyson lost both of her parents.  "I'm not angry but I am hurt. And it's a hurt I don't wish on anybody," she told Fox59's Kara Brooks.

Shirlen and Vincent had broken up 20 years ago but they reunited about year ago and got married. They lived in a northwest side neighborhood where neighbors knew something just wasn't right back in August.  "He heard some knocking in the garage and he heard her cry for help. And so when he heard that he called the police," said neighbor Michelle Perkins.

Sheena also knew there was trouble in her parent's relationship. She was very close with her mother and they talked often.  "After he hit her, she told me 'Sheena I'm scared.' I said, 'Mom you got to get out of this, you know.' She was like, 'I don't know how," said Sheena.  "Once he hit her she just finally got the courage to leave. He was acting crazy."

Shirlen got a protective order against Vincent but neighbors still saw him lurking around.  "{He} went real fast passed and then went on around. So I think he had been stalking her," said Michelle.  So she moved in with her mother to get away but he still found her.  "My momma is gone and that's hard to believe because I was just on the phone with her," said Sheena.

Sheena Dyson says her mother had a strong faith and described her as someone who always found the best in somebody.

Police: Noblesville, Carmel shootings were murder-suicide

Police now say two deadly shootings that occurred Monday in Noblesville and Carmel are connected. They're calling the incidents murder-suicide.

Marion County court records show a pending divorce and allegations of abuse leading up to the murder-suicide on Monday in Noblesville. Police say that 46-year-old Shirlen Dyson was shot and killed in her car by her husband, 46-year-old Vincent Dyson, in a Noblesville neighborhood near Verizon Wireless Music Center.

Police believe Vincent Dyson ran her off the road and fired two rounds into the vehicle, hitting Shirlen Dyson in the chest.  A short time later on I-465 in Carmel, Fishers police stopped a vehicle matching the description of the suspect vehicle given by witnesses at the Noblesville shooting scene. Police say as they approached the car, Vincent Dyson shot himself in the head.

Shirlen Dyson filed a burglary report with Indianapolis Metro Police on August 11th after the home she shared with her husband was burglarized. That was two days after officers were called to the home for a domestic disturbance.

According to court records, Shirlen Dyson filed for a protective order the following week saying that her husband struck her and that she planned to file for divorce. The judge granted the protective order in September.prohibiting Vincent Dyson from calling or contacting his wife. Investigators are zeroing in on what was apparently a stormy relationship.  "What the situation was between the two of them and then what potentially led up to this incident," said Lt. Bruce Barnes, Noblesville Police Department.

According to court records, when Shirlen Dyson filed for protective orders, she also requested an eviction notice forcing her husband to leave the home they shared.

Lisa Pattison

Lisa Pattison

Scott Pattison indicted for murder

October 25, 2010

WABASH, Ind. (WANE) - The Wabash County Sheriff's Department has arrested Scott Pattison after a grand jury indicted him for murder in connection with the death of his wife. Wabash County Prosecutor Bill Hartley announced the arrest at a news conference Monday afternoon.

According to Prosecutor Hartley, Pattison was picked up without incident by deputies at his mother's home in Swayzee. An initial hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m.

When asked by NewsChannel 15 about his arrest, Pattison replied, "I am not guilty." His attorney, Shane Beal echoed his statements in a phone interview. Beal denied Pattison had any wrongdoing, or involvment in Lisa's death.

A grand jury began hearing testimony related to the death of Lisa Pattison last week. She was found dead in their home on a weight bench on July 2, by her husband Scott. The Grant County Coroner ruled her death a homicide.

The grand jury began deliberating Monday after Wabash County Sheriff's Deputies loaded a truck with disassembled exercise equipment. That equipment was taken from the judicial building where the grand jury proceedings took place to an unknown location.

Prosecutor Bill Hartley had planned on having the grand jury proceedings wrap up last week. A spokesperson for Hartley's office said a witness had been involved in a traffic accident, and was not able to testify, which delayed the proceedings.

On Thursday of last week, Lisa Pattison's sister testified before the grand jury, as did her 18-year old son, among other witnesses. Scott Pattison testified to the jury on Wednesday, the second day of the proceedings.

According to authorities, around noon on July 2, 2009, Scott Pattison reported he found his wife Lisa unresponsive in the fitness room of their LaFontaine home on the weight bench with the bar bell across her throat.

Pattison told police he removed the bar, began CPR and called for emergency assistance. After the call, Pattison decided to place his wife in the cab of his truck and take her to Marion General Hospital.

On the way to the hospital, Pattison was stopped by Grant County police and medical personnel, where they took Lisa from the truck, placed her in the ambulance and immediately started resuscitation.

After continued resusciation efforts at the hospital failed, Lisa Pattison was pronounced dead at 12:49 p.m. . The coroner initially ruled the cause of death as asphyxia caused by compression. Lisa Pattison's death would later be ruled a homicide, clearly defining that her death was not accidental, but was at the hands of someone else.

With no confession to a crime by anyone, and no eye witnesses, Hartley said he called in a grand jury to hear the body of evidence that is for the most part, circumstantial. Hartley also said it would relieve some of the political pressure off of him whether to file murder or manslaughter charges against Scott Pattison.

Lisa Pattison left behind an 18-year old son, among other family members. Her father, Jerry Young spoke out on Lisa's death exclusively to NewsChannel 15.

"It's bad enough for a father, or mother to lose their child," said Young. "But to then not know what happened, that just adds to the pain." Young called his daughter a loving mother, and a creative and motivated marketing professional.

Court documents show Scott Pattison had filed divorce from Lisa in March, but then filed a continuance in May. The petition for a continuance showed the two parties were "trying to reconcile."

Hartley said in a grand jury indictment, charging information is not publicly available, even after charges have been filed. Details into the evidence the grand jury reviewed will not be available until a trial plays out in a Wabash County Court. That's when information about the evidence would be revealed.

Quinton S. Lewis

Quinton S. Lewis

Parolee arrested in man's April slaying

Charles V. Lawrence had served 14 years for a woman's 1995 killing.

March 2, 2011
By Ellie Bogue
of The News-Sentinel

A Fort Wayne parolee convicted of shooting a woman nine times in 1995 was in court Tuesday for the first day of his trial in the April killing of a 29-year-old city man.

Charles V. Lawrence, 35, watched as the jury was selected for the trial in the April 24 slaying of Quinton S. Lewis in a Kekionga Drive apartment building. Lawrence, released from state prison in February 2010 after serving 14 years of a 30-year sentence for a 1996 attempted-murder conviction, is being tried on charges of murder and possession of a firearm by a violent felon.

Lewis was gunned down at 2 a.m. in an apartment building at 4320 Kekionga Drive, in the Indian Village Garden Apartments complex off Engle Road. Police found him lying in the hallway, and medics pronounced him dead at the scene.

Police were called at 10 p.m. April 23 for a reported domestic violence, when Lawrence's sister, Tekella Lawrence, said Lewis – who lived with her – had battered her before leaving in her car with her cell phone, a probable-cause affidavit said.

According to testimony Tuesday, Tekella Lawrence said she had been involved with Lewis for 11 years.

According to her, the two had argued over her plans to go out for the evening, and Lewis hit her in the mouth with a liquor bottle.

According to Deputy Prosecutor Steve Godfrey, police records show it wasn't the first time the two had fought.

In addition to calling 911, Tekella Lawrence contacted her sister Louise and brother Charles, who along with several other friends went to Tekella's apartment.

According to testimony from Louise and Tekella, the visitors stayed about 20 minutes and left.

Charles Lawrence stayed about five minutes longer. Louise told the court that her brother didn't seem angry over the incident.

Godfrey pointed out that police records said when Tekella was questioned about the events of the night, shortly after they happened, she had said her brother had stayed with her to protect her. Louise Lawrence and Charles' fiancée, now wife, Sanya Perry Lawrence, both denied this in their testimony.

While Louise Lawrence and friends headed out to a club, Sanya Perry Lawrence testified she and Lawrence went to the Burger King on Bluffton Road, where they argued. He got out of the car on Bluffton Road and she returned to their apartment on Fairfield Avenue.

She couldn't sleep, but after 10 minutes, Lawrence called her and said he would be home shortly and apologized for their earlier disagreement.

Godfrey questioned this in court, and pointed out to Sanya Perry Lawrence that according to police records, shortly after the shooting she had said Lawrence was with her all night.

Tekella Lawrence testified that after people left her apartment she smoked marijuana and took two Vicodin.

She said she awoke to hear a popping noise that sounded like fireworks. She moved from the bedroom to the living room, where she noticed the door to her apartment was slightly cracked open; she closed the door. She lay down on the couch, and when she awoke it was to the knock of the Fort Wayne Police Department.


April 11, 2011

A 36-year-old Fort Wayne man convicted of murder for the fatal shooting of his sister’s boyfriend was sentenced Monday to 90 years in prison.

Charles V. Lawrence Sr. maintained his innocence in the death of Quinton Lewis and said he plans to appeal his conviction.

Lawrence, who was on parole for attempted murder at the time of Lewis’ death, was convicted by a jury early last month.

The murder case was built largely on earlier statements by Lawrence’s siblings to police, which put him inside his sister’s apartment at the time Lewis was shot in the face with a .45-caliber pistol.

But prosecutors battled those same witnesses’ subsequent stories from the witness stand, all putting Lawrence somewhere else at the time, even at different places at the same time. At varying times Lawrence’s sisters said he was with them, or not with them, and his wife said he was with her, and then not with her.

Prosecutors played a portion of interviews his sisters had given police, and Lewis’ girlfriend – Lawrence’s sister – said Lawrence promised to stay with her that night.

On the stand during the trial, that sister, Tekella Lawrence, said her brother left her apartment after he, another sister, his then-fiancée and another friend came over to check on her after Lewis battered her in the face.

Lewis, 29, left with her keys, cell phone and car and when he returned early the next morning, someone fired a gun as he opened the door, shooting him in the face. The shooter then followed him down the stairs and shot him in the top of the head, killing him, according to testimony.

The gun used was later found in a wooded area at Kekionga Middle School by a group of students out on a nature walk with their teacher.

Defense attorney Donald Swanson argued during the trial that there was no physical evidence tying Lawrence to the shooting inside the Kekionga Drive apartment. Other than his cross-examinations of the state’s witnesses and his opening and closing statements, Swanson presented no additional defense of Lawrence.

(This was a difficult post, as the victim was also a perpetrator).

Mary Jane Frisby

Mary Jane Frisby

Lawyer Found Dead in Home After Suicidal Gunman Shoots at Downtown Indy Firm

Posted Aug 26, 2010 9:59 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

The body of Mary Jane Frisby, 44, a former partner at the Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburg, was found in her home, the apparent victim of homicide.

Police discovered her body after her estranged husband, David Frisby, shot himself at a parking garage near the firm, which she'd recently left, reports Channel 6 in Indianapolis.

The news outlet reports that the couple was getting a divorce. Police went to Mary Jane Frisby's home after finding a tape recording apparently left by David Frisby in his car, WTHR Channel 13 reports.

Late Thursday afternoon, Barnes & Thornburg staff were under lockdown, told by police to stay away from exterior walls which had been penetrated by two bullets, firm partner Don Knebel told Indiana Lawyer.

Knebel told the publication that lawyers were getting news updates about the shooting on their BlackBerrys.

"Indiana Supreme Court public information officer Kathryn Dolan, who has an office in the 30 S. Meridian building across from the parking garage, said several people in the Division of State Court Administration heard the gunshots and saw the man shoot himself and then fall from the garage," Indiana Lawyer reports.

Frisby is believed to have fired six shots from the top floor of the parking garage before shooting himself, then falling to the ground below, according to several news reports.

"He turned and it's like he looked directly at us and fired two shots," Barnes & Thornburg lawyer Anthony Prather told Channel 6.

Channel 6 reports that David Frisby, 58, had posted a message on Facebook condemning the law firm, writing, "The bad lawyers at the Barnes & Thornburg law firm ... do not respect the institution of marriage and corrupted my wife Mary Jane (sex and drugs). Someone (maybe one of their good lawyers) please make them pay. Justice demands the truth out. It's a tragedy."

Barnes & Thornburg Managing Partner Alan A. Levin released a statement Thursday, saying, "The Barnes & Thornburg family is deeply saddened by the tragic incidents that occurred today. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of our beloved former partner, Mary Jane Frisby. Mary Jane was a valued member of Barnes & Thornburg for several years. She will be missed by all of us. This is a very sad day for the firm."

Last week, Mary Jane Frisby left the firm to accept a position at Cummins, according to Channel 13. Cached versions of her profile at the firm show that she was a longtime IP lawyer, who handled IP litigation and non-litigation enforcement matters.

The couple's adult son and high-school aged daughter were not believed to be at the couple's home at the time Mary Jane Frisby was killed.

Nickim Cornett

West side couple found dead

Updated: Aug 27, 2010 5:44 PM EDT

Indianapolis - Metro Homicide detectives are investigating the deaths of two people on the city's west side.

Autopsy results revealed that Maurice Smith, 31, had no trauma to the body. His cause of death is pending the outcome of toxicology tests.

Nickina Cornett, 26, died as a result of gunshot wounds. Her death is being investigated as a homicide.

A friend of Smith's found their bodies in their home at 3030 North Harding Street Thursday after not hearing from him for a while.

Their bodies apparently had been in the house for several days based on the decomposition.

The couple's three-year-old daughter had been staying with a relative at the time of their deaths, according to police. Officers say it wasn't unusual for the girl to spend multiple days with the sitter because the mother and father worked long hours at multiple jobs.

Family members promise to raise the child. The young girl is now staying with an aunt.

Darlene E. Day

Darlene E. Day

Kinslow arrested for May murder, rape

Kinslow was also arrested for rape in 2002

Updated: Wednesday, 18 Aug 2010, 6:21 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - On Tuesday detectives with the Fort Wayne Police Department arrested Edward Kinslow, 50, in connection with the May 18, 2010 murder of Darlene Day. At approximately 3:35 pm. officers located the suspect, Edward Kinslow, at his home on 4606 E. Washington Blvd. Kinslow was taken into custody without incident and transported to the Allen County Jail on charges of murder, felony murder, and rape.

Fort Wayne Police said they were tipped off when friends of Day called the department.

"A friend of Miss Day contacted the department because they had not seen her in a few days and they were concerned," said Raquel Foster with the Fort Wayne Police Department.

The coroner said that Day died from blunt force trauma to the head. The investigation revealed that Kinslow and the victim were long term acquaintances. Kinslow had been identified as a suspect early in the investigation and was brought in for questioning. Through further investigation, detectives were able to develop probable cause to make the arrest.

Kinslow had also been arrested for rape in July of 2002. He had been watching television with a woman. When the woman tried to leave, he forced her to have oral sex with him and then intercourse. Kinslow told her that he would kill her if she didn’t do what he said.

The 50-year-old was released from prison May 9, 2010, just nine days before police say he raped and killed Day. Kinslow was scheduled to be released in August of 2010, but got out on parole early. According to the Indiana Department of Corrections, Kinslow was also released from prison August 7, 2009. But he was sent back because of a parole violation.

This investigation is ongoing with the Fort Wayne Police Department, Allen County Coroner’s Office and Allen County Prosecutor’s Office.

Debra Aynes

Debra Aynes

Friend: Woman’s ex a bit controlling, but not violent

Pendleton diner closes temporarily after shooting deaths

PENDLETON — A woman allegedly shot by her ex-boyfriend — who then reportedly killed himself — had split with the man because she wanted to be her own person, said the woman’s best friend and business partner.

“I think she still cared for him and they were just growing apart,” Donna Cantrell said Saturday afternoon. “She had things that she wanted to for herself and her family.”

Pendleton police said in a news release that Robert Jones, 56, of Madison County, entered The Diner (sometimes called Deb & Donna’s) with a revolver and a semi-automatic handgun at about 5 a.m. Saturday. He confronted his ex-girlfriend, Debra Aynes, 51, co-owner of the place, then shot her before turning the gun on himself, the police said.

Cantrell briefly spoke Saturday afternoon about Aynes’ winning personality and her recent attempts to be a better grandmother.

She stood outside the taped-off diner as a crew from Aftermath Inc. worked inside the building and former employees comforted each other outside.

A bright-orange poster hung in the front window next to a painting of a grinning chef that read: “Closed until notice. We lost our beloved Deb today. We will miss you and remember you forever. Love you.”

“She had a natural energy,” Cantrell said, eyes glistening. “She was just full of energy.”

Cantrell said the best friends of 20 years worked at a declining restaurant 14 years ago and decided to open The Diner on customers’ suggestions. She said the two worked together well, and both loved the diner.

In fact, Cantrell said, the love for the business was why she believed Aynes couldn’t have thought Jones would become violent after their break-up. She said Saturday was Aynes’ first day back to work since leaving Jones on Wednesday.

“I know, if she felt like he was a danger, she wouldn’t have brought it to work,” Cantrell said. “She wouldn’t have brought it to the diner.”

Cantrell speculated that most employees and friends wouldn’t have thought Jones would be capable of what he’s alleged to have done Saturday, Cantrell said.

She said it was well-known that Jones spun tall-tales, but no one seemed to view him as dangerous. Cantrell said there was no previous domestic violence.

Friends, Cantrell said, recognized that Jones was a bit controlling, but not overly so.

“It wasn’t to the point that she couldn’t go anywhere,” Cantrell said. “It was just, he wanted her spare time to be his. ... And he was good at spinning ideas to where she thought they were hers.”

Cantrell said Saturday evening she would call Jones’ son to ask if he would like to comment on events, but the son had not contacted The Herald Bulletin by publication time.

It was the draw of spontaneity, freedom and, mostly, a relationship with the children of her three children that finally pushed Aynes to call her relationship quits after 25 years, Cantrell said.

“In getting her own business and getting her own way, I think she thought it was time,” Cantrell said, adding that Jones wasn’t comfortable around children and Aynes yearned to have her grandchildren spend the night with her.

Cantrell said Jones wanted Aynes to call off the breakup. She said the one waitress and one customer in the diner Saturday morning said they’d heard Aynes say, “I’ll come back home.”

The customer was a regular who often made it to the restaurant even before the waitresses and made coffee for Aynes, Cantrell said. She said the customer and waitress were “pretty shaken up.”

Co-owner Cantrell, who wasn’t at the business Saturday morning when the tragedy occurred, later found unfinished gravy in the kitchen, which told her Aynes had just gotten to work.

“Coming around the bend and seeing all the lights, it just made you realize it was true,” she said. “I was hoping it was somebody’s really sick joke.”

Mariah Dawson

Toddler died at hands of abusive mother

July 8, 2010

CROWN POINT | After her toddler's death last September, Maya Levee Willis allegedly told the child's former baby sitter the 19-month-old succumbed to a seizure.

But in pursuing murder charges against the 31-year-old Willis, police claim a substance found in the dent of a wall in Willis' apartment matches the child's DNA profile.

Lake County prosecutors charged Willis, of East Chicago, on Tuesday with murder, two counts of battery and four counts of neglect of a dependent.

According to a seven-page probable cause affidavit filed in Lake Superior Court, Willis is charged with repeatedly abusing and finally killing her daughter, Mariah Dawson, one of four children born to Willis by as many men.

The court document depicts Mariah as an unwanted child who, in her resemblance to her father, drew her mother's rage.

An autopsy report shows the child died of head injuries and blunt force trauma to the body. Contributing factors included vaginal and rectal injuries consistent with sexual abuse, according to the pathologist's report. Multiple old scars covered her body.

East Chicago Police Chief Gus Flores said Wednesday the allegations are among the worst to have crossed his desk.

Flores described Willis as almost 6 feet tall and weighing about 200 pounds.

"This is among the saddest, most disgusting cases I've ever read," Flores said of the documents prepared to launch the case.

"I can't imagine the hell this poor child lived through," Flores said about the child's injuries. "She appears to have been old enough to know what was happening to her."

The child's condition came to light when police were called Sept. 30, 2009, to the emergency room at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago, where the child was declared dead, the court documents show.

The child is described as covered with bruises, scars and marks all over her body, including a big bump on the back of her head, a laceration to the lower lip and a cut and bleeding gum line.

Further examinations revealed vaginal swelling, anal trauma and a distended abdomen.

In statements to police, Willis said the child fell in a hallway and began crying. Willis said she later noticed the child's left side was "paralyzed looking." The child appeared to stop breathing in the car as she drove to the hospital, she told authorities.

Willis denied causing any of the fresh injuries, though she is alleged to have admitted to disciplining the child by "popping her on the hands and legs with a plastic spaghetti or pasta scooper and with a short piece of belt."

Police recovered two belts with similar markings to ones found on Mariah's back, the court documents state.

Willis is alleged to have explained burn scars on the child's back and head to a set of hot curlers falling on the child.

Willis later changed her story by telling investigators the child's fatal injury stemmed from a fall from a bunk bed.

Willis' remaining three children are in state custody, according to court documents.

Mary Alice Simonson

20-Year-Old Man Arrested In Great Aunt's Slaying

July 8, 2010

A man was arrested Thursday in his great aunt's slaying after he called police and told them he had "just murdered someone."Greensburg Police Chief Brian Heaton said Mary Alice Simonson, 76, was found dead in her bed in a mobile home in the 2000 block of Moscow Road, on the northwest side of the city, 6News' Renee Jameson reported.

Heaton said James LaFramboise, 20, called police at about 9 a.m. and he'd cut his aunt's throat. "He walked down to the entrance of the yard here and he called the police and said, 'Send somebody over, I killed my aunt," said LaFramboise's mother, Nicola Smith, 59.

LaFramboise was arrested without incident on a preliminary charge of murder, police said. "He was in close proximity to this trailer. He was taken into custody. He has given a statement," said Detective Bill Meyerrose.

LaFramboise and his parents lived in the mobile home with Simonson. Smith said she doesn't know why her son would act out so violently. "I talked to him and I asked him, 'Son, what happened?' And he said, 'Mom I don't know, I just don't know,' and he fell apart," Smith said. "At this point, he says he's not sure what happened, why it happened. All he knows is that he remembers the fact that she's gone. I mean, he loved her to death."

LaFramboise was being held in the Decatur County Jail on Thursday evening.

Linda Nickle

Man, 63, held in shooting deaths of 2 Indianapolis women

A 63-year-old man has been arrested and charged with murder after he told police he shot and killed his girlfriend and her son’s fiance after their bodies were found in the couple’s Far Westside home.

The two women, 61-year-old Linda Nickle and 24-year-old Elizabeth Newcomer, were found about 5 p.m. Saturday in the 6800 block of Westdrum Road.

Sgt. Paul Thompson, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police, said Elwin Hart, Indianapolis, called police from a nearby church to turn himself in about 20 minutes after the bodies were discovered.

Thompson said a domestic dispute might have been the cause of the shootings.

The couple lived together in the home. The couple, he said, bought the house to rehab it and that there may have been an argument Friday possibly related to the house that spilled over to Saturday afternoon.

Police said Nickle’s son, who was out of the city at the time, knew about the argument and became worried when he was unable to reach his mother and Newcomer, so he had a friend break into the house in an attempt to make contact. The bodies were discovered at that point.

Newcomer also resided at the house.

Hart was arrested at the Lynhurst Baptist Church, 1250 South Lynhurst Drive, about 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Thompson said Hart also faces charges for possession of marijuana after police found several bags of the controlled substance and a one-hitter pipe in his possession.

Also see post for her son's fiance Elizabeth Newcomer here.

Elizabeth Newcomer

2004 Fostoria grad slain in Indianapolis

2nd woman also killed; boyfriend held

INDIANAPOLIS — The prosecutor’s office was expected to file charges today against an Indianapolis man arrested after a former Fostoria woman and her fiance’s mother were found dead of gunshot wounds in the home they shared, police said Tuesday.

Elizabeth Newcomer, 24, a 2004 graduate of Fostoria High School, was killed in the attack Saturday along with Linda Nickle, 61.

Police Sgt. Paul Thompson said the women were found about 5 p.m. by a friend of Ms. Nickle’s son who had gone there to check on them at his request. Ms. Newcomer’s fiance was out of town at the time and could not reach them by phone.

Less than a half-hour after the shootings, Ms. Nickle’s boyfriend, Elwin Hart, 63, called police and said he was the person they were looking for, Sergeant Thompson said.
Police picked up Mr. Hart at a nearby church about 5:30 p.m. and said they found a semiautomatic handgun in his vehicle, suspected marijuana, and a pipe believed to be used for drugs.

Sergeant Thompson said investigators believe the shootings erupted from a domestic incident, although police had no record of prior domestic violence reports at the home where Mr. Hart and Ms. Nickle lived.

“Newcomer had moved in. … Apparently [Mr. Hart] wasn’t too happy with the arrangements of the kids moving in. There may have been some other details we can’t release right now, but we think that is the focal point of what happened.”

See post for fiance's mother Linda Nickle here.

Jeffrey Spence Jr.

Jeffrey Spence Jr., 28, killed June 27

Spence was fatally stabbed during an argument with his brother while at a party at the man's home at 421 E. Pettit Ave., police said. Spence was taken to a hospital around 11:20 p.m., when police were called, but died shortly after midnight of wounds to the chest. His brother, Jeremy A. Spence, was arrested on a preliminary charge of aggravated battery after admitting to stabbing his brother because he had been shutting the door to his home without consent, according to police. Witnesses said heavy drinking played a role. Jeremy A. Spence pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received 30 years in prison, with 10 years suspended.


A Fort Wayne man has been arrested in connection with his brother’s stabbing death Saturday night.

Jeffery Spence Jr., 28, died shortly after midnight Saturday of a stab wound to the chest, the Allen County Coroner’s Office said in a statement. The death was ruled the county’s 17th homicide this year. Spence was taken to a hospital in critical condition after police were called to a home at 241 E. Pettit Ave. about 11:20 p.m. Saturday on a report of a stabbing.

Based on the initial investigation, police believe that Spence was visiting a resident of that home. An argument between Spence and the resident turned physical and Spence was stabbed during the fight, police said.
The victim’s brother, Jeremy A. Spence, 27, was arrested and taken to the Allen County Jail on a preliminary charge of aggravated battery in connection with the stabbing, police said Sunday.

Police were first called to the house at 11:08 p.m. when a neighbor reported a disturbance. Jeremy Spence and a woman, who both live at the house, were arguing loudly, said neighbor Rick Papazian, 56.

"There seemed to be something going on between the two of them," Papazian said. He heard glass bottles break and decided to call the police.

According to daily activity logs, police left the scene at 11:17 p.m.  "I was about ready to call the cops again because there was a lot of commotion going on," Papazian said.  Shortly after that, he heard the female neighbor calling for help.

Police spokeswoman Raquel Foster said the police were called, and the woman flagged down a nearby police officer.  Neighbors said they called the police twice in the past several weeks for disturbances at the house.

Papazian said the neighbors had always been loud, but things seemed to get more out of control this summer.  "There’s nothing like this that ever happened around here before," said Papazian, who grew up on the block.

Arlena Roby

Gary Man Convicted in Hammer Murder

June 18, 2010

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) - Jurors have convicted a Gary man of bludgeoning his mother to death with a hammer. Lake County deputy Prosecutor Robert Neary says 34-year-old Rasson Roby struck his 59-year-old mother, Arlena Roby, a minimum of 18 to 24 times with a hammer. A Lake Criminal Court jury found Roby guilty Wednesday of voluntary manslaughter in his mother's February 2007 death.

He was initially charged with murder, but the judge gave jurors the option of convicting him of the lesser charge. Judge Diane Boswell banned Roby from his trial because he had been disruptive earlier, and he did not take the stand. Roby has a history of mental illness and told police he attacked his mother with a hammer in her Gary home because she "got into his personal space."


A Gary man was sentenced today to 25 years in prison for beating his 59-year-old mother to death with a hammer in 2007. the Northwest Times of Indiana reports.

A Lake Criminal Court jury found Rasson Roby, 34, guilty last month of voluntary manslaughter for Arlena Roby's death. Roby originally was charged with the more severe crime of murder, but jurors found him guilty of the lesser charge.

Arlena Roby was found dead in her Gary on Feb. 1, 2007, police said.  Deputy Prosecutor Robert Neary told the jury during the trial that Rasson Roby struck his mother a minimum of 18 to 24 times with a hammer.

Mya Lee

Mom's boyfriend accused of murder in toddler's death

June 24, 2010

CROWN POINT | A Chicago man is facing murder and other multiple charges in connection to last year's death of a Hammond toddler left in his care.

A probable cause affidavit filed Tuesday alleges Stacey M. Daniels, 30, told police he struck his girlfriend's daughter, 21-month-old Mya Lee, with a brush causing the girl to lose her balance and hit her head.

The child died at 7:25 a.m. July 24, 2009, at the University of Chicago Comer Children's Hospital from what the Cook County Medical Examiner's office determined a homicide resulting from child abuse, the affidavit states.

An autopsy found the girl suffered brain edema, a subdural hematoma and multiple scalp hemorrhages. Her legs showed signs of bruising of a type doctors said is not typical of bruising suffered by toddlers, including a large hematoma on her right thigh.

Daniels is charged with murder, two counts of battery and three counts of neglect to a dependent.

Daniels is alleged to have told police he was at his girlfriend's apartment in the 2200 block of Woodhollow Avenue in Hammond, where he stayed off and on, when the child was injured on the morning of July 23, 2009.

Daniels reported Mya as still asleep about 7 a.m. when her mother left for work leaving the child in his care, the affidavit states.

Daniels said the child woke up crying about 7:05 a.m. and continued to cry, which he said was not unusual. He was trying to get the girl ready to leave to stay with a babysitter when he picked up a hairbrush and tapped the girl on the thigh as she walked away from him, he told police.

The child lost her balance, fell, hit her head on the floor, and started to cry, he said.

Daniels said he put the child back in her crib and left the room after which he heard "a shaking sound" coming from the bedroom. Re-entering the bedroom, Daniels said he found the girl unresponsive and shaking uncontrollably before going limp.

Daniels is alleged to have told conflicting stories of how the child hit her head.

The child's mother told police she had gotten up at 5:50 a.m. to get ready for work and had asked Daniels to take the child to the babysitter for the day.

She reported the child as healthy and uninjured that morning but for a braid that had been pulled from her head when it got caught in a shopping car.

Lauren McConniel

Lauren McConniel

MUNCIE -- In the months leading up to her death, 5-year-old Lauren McConniel was treated twice at Ball Memorial Hospital, once at Southway Urgent Care Center, once at St. Vincent Randolph Hospital in Winchester and three times at Merdian Services, a behavioral health care provider.

Despite staff seeing broken fingers, malnutrition, a head injury, weight loss, unusual vaginal appearance and bizarre behavior, only one of these professional caregivers called Child Protective Services (CPS), which was just a 1-800 telephone call away, police say.

Karen Royer -- a counselor at Meridian who reported that in all of her years of dealing with kids she had never heard of such bizarre behavior, and who believed the girl was being seriously sexually abused -- did contact CPS. Lauren looked exhausted, frail and fragile to Royer.

But that was on March 1, and the target of the sexual abuse allegation was not the girl's father, Ryan, or stepmother, Brittany, who had custody of Lauren. The target was Amber Huggins, the girl's natural mother who was living in Knoxville, Tenn. Huggins had last seen her daughter seven months earlier, when Lauren was in good health, and Huggins had been desperately searching for her.

By March 3, Lauren was hospitalized at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where she developed seizures, respiratory failure and shock. She died there six days later.

"Child Protective Services was contacted by Karen Royer over allegations of sexual abuse that Ryan and Brittany made about the natural mother," said Muncie police Sgt. Jimmy Gibson. "The trouble is, Karen Royer believed Ryan and Brittany. They were believable. But I don't suspect the natural mom at all. The natural mom hadn't had contact with the child since August, and here this (allegation) was coming up in February and March. When the natural mom had custody of her, her weight was normal and the pictures showed she was healthy and happy."

And those weren't the only lies the McConniels told to caregivers, Gibson said. They also claimed that Lauren was being treated for malnutrition by a Winchester physician, who had never even seen her once.

Also, at Southway Urgent Care on Feb. 4, the McConniels presented themselves as rescuers of the child, claiming they had just recently obtained custody of the girl. "When questioned about the girl's weight, they acted concerned and blamed the natural mom," Gibson said. "And they were convincing."

Bill Gosnell, a nurse at Southway who treated Lauren, declined comment, saying, "This is going to trial."

On Dec. 8, Lauren was treated by physician Tom Mengelt in the emergency department at BMH for broken right fingers from jumping on the bed.

"I don't know why they didn't report that to (CPS)," Gibson said. "People don't want to believe that parents would hurt their kids that way. They think surely the parents care or they wouldn't bring a kid in with broken fingers."

The child was seen again at BMH on March 2 for a head injury caused by a fall. A clinical impression of malnutrition and behavioral problems was also noted during that visit. The hospital sent Lauren home after treatment including a CT scan.

On that same day, the McConniels took the child to Valle Vista Health Systems in Greenwood for psychiatric treatment (the couple were unable to contact Meridian).

Ellen Harrington, a counselor at Valle Vista, diagnosed the girl's problem as lack of supervision, failure to thrive, malnutrition and medical neglect. Harrington referred Lauren to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, where she was taken in the early morning hours of March 3. She died there on March 9.

"We can't comment regarding any specific patient or related processes, but we are cooperating fully with the investigation, and our hearts go out to the family," BMH spokesman Neil Gifford said.

Hank Milius, president of Meridian Services, said, "We at Meridian Services are deeply saddened by the death of Lauren McConniel. While privacy laws prevent us from commenting specifically on this case, in the event there is a suspected case of child abuse or neglect, Meridian staff are trained to make a report to the Indiana Department of Child Services."

Gibson credits Southway with referring Lauren to Meridian Services, and he credits Meridian Services for contacting CPS.

Under Indiana law, anyone who has reason to believe that a child is a victim of child abuse or neglect is required to report it.

Investigation ongoing

Police have not closed their investigation of the hospital's and Southway's failure to report the McConniels to CPS. Failing to report is a misdemeanor, Gibson said.

"Any red flag could be reported to us," said Ann Houseworth, a spokesman for the department of child services. "We would rather assess a situation that was not a case of abuse and neglect than not assess a situation and find that the child was placed in more harm."

The child abuse hotline is staffed 24 hours a day. If a child is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm, CPS is required by law to respond within an hour. If a child may be a victim of abuse, the agency must respond within 24 hours, and if a report of child neglect is made, the maximum response time by law is five days.

"If someone sees something that makes you wonder, you might want to ask questions to find out more," Houseworth said.

She declined comment on Lauren's death.

After Royer reported the suspected abuse of Lauren to CPS, "I believe CPS here contacted CPS in Tennessee, because that's where the allegations were," Gibson said. "Lauren was scheduled to be interviewed by SMART (Sexual Molestation and Abuse Response Team), me or (Sgt. Linda) Cook, on March 3. We were doing it as a courtesy for Tennessee. That's when she went into Riley. I wish I could have talked to her. I hate it that I didn't."

Police also haven't closed their investigation into other family members for failure to report.

Lauren's stepgrandparents Robert and Angie Lee and her step aunt Samra Lee shared a house at 2304 S. Ebright St. with the McConniels, Lauren and Lauren's older sister.

"There are a whole lot more family members (than the McConniels) who could be held accountable," Gibson said. "But how far do we go? Do we arrest everybody? We're behind on other cases and under-staffed."

Amber Huggins, Lauren McConniel's mother, spent six months trying to find daughters

MUNCIE -- The biological mother of Lauren McConniel says she lost custody of the girl because she couldn't afford an attorney.

She also says she pleaded unsuccessfully with the girl's father and stepmother -- via e-mail -- to tell her where they were living in the months before Lauren's death.

"I was kept from my daughter for six months," said Amber Huggins, a Marion native now living in Knoxville, Tenn. "I looked everywhere for them (Lauren and her 9-year-old sister) for six months."

Five-year-old Lauren's father, Ryan McConniel, and stepmother, Brittany McConniel, have been charged with felony neglect of a dependent resulting in Lauren's death on March 9.

Amber and Ryan's divorce decree in White County, Ark., granted Ryan custody of both children to the father.

"I did not have the financial resources to have an attorney," Amber said this week in a telephone interview. "Ryan had an attorney and I did not. There was no other reason he got custody. I was not an unfit mother. I never hurt my children."

Ryan kept the older daughter, but let Amber have Lauren starting at Christmas of 2008 after Amber filed a complaint of child abuse.

"She had bruises on her," Amber said. "I asked her what happened and she said she didn't know. I took pictures of the bruises but they were old and not good quality pictures. Child protective services in White County said it was not enough."

Amber had Lauren until August 2009 when Ryan took her back. He gave Knoxville police an address in Winchester where he said he would be living.

But Amber later traveled to Winchester, and, accompanied by the police, went to the address Ryan had provided to Knoxville police.

Nobody had lived at the address in a long time.

"I sent numerous e-mails begging them to give me their address," Amber said. "I was told they were living in Winchester. I heard they were living in Farmland. I heard Fort Wayne. I heard Muncie. I heard everything."

Amber said Ryan and Brittany responded by e-mail that she could see the girls when they got old enough to decide for themselves if they wanted to see her.

"I went to the Muncie police the same day I went to Winchester," Amber said. "They told me to file contempt charges against Ryan (for denying her court-ordered visitation rights). I was in the process of filing contempt charges when I got the phone call that Lauren was in the hospital."
Ryan, Brittany and the two girls had been living with Brittany's sister, Samra Lee, and Brittany's mother and stepfather, Angie and Robert E. Lee, on South Ebright Street.

"My daughter was alive and perfectly happy and normal and healthy when she was with me," Amber said. "She was a normal delivery, a normal pregnancy and a normal daughter. I should be signing her up for kindergarten and she should be cheerleading."

After Lauren's death, child protective services removed the 9-year-old from Ryan and Brittany's custody and placed her in foster care.

On March 19, Muncie attorney Kimberly Dowling, representing Amber, filed a petition for emergency custody of the 9-year-old, who now lives with Amber. The petition said Lauren was emaciated, significantly bruised and had elevated salt levels in her blood when she died.

"Child protective services in Arkansas was involved in December of 2008 or January of 2009 over allegations that Lauren had bruises," said Muncie police Sgt. Jimmy Gibson. "They investigated it, and I believe it was reported by the father and stepmother that Lauren was now living with the bio-mom, so the case was closed. The father and stepmother reported that Lauren had bumped into a trash can. The bio-mom had pictures of bruising but I think they were taken with a cell phone and weren't very good."

The Lees remain under investigation by Gibson for failure to report child abuse and neglect.

"Hopefully, some family might come forward and have a conscience and do the right thing," Gibson said. "The uncle next door threatened to call child protective services but never did."

Angie Lee gave police a statement, while Samra Lee declined to be interviewed, according to Gibson. Robert E. Lee went in for a police interview but reported he was hurting and ended up putting himself in the hospital, according to Gibson. "He said he needed to leave and never came back."

Larry Self

Larry Self

Man's body found buried in home's backyard

Victim's sister had reported him missing; partner is arrested

By Vic Ryckaert
Posted: June 17, 2010

Backyard burial victim had been shot

A man found buried in the backyard of his Near-Southside home had been shot, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police said this morning.

Larry Self, 46, was shot in the midst of a fight on March 14 with his partner, Anthony Sachse, 41, Sgt. Matthew Mount said today in a press release. Police do not know what the argument was about.

Police say Sachse confessed to his role in the killing, but are not releasing his statements.

Police recovered Self’s body on Wednesday and arrested Sachse, who is held without bond in the Marion County Jail.

(Earlier -- Man's body found buried in home's backyard)

An Indianapolis man accused of killing his partner and burying his body in the backyard of a Near-Southside home was arrested Wednesday on a preliminary charge of murder, police said.

Anthony Sachse, 41, is suspected of killing Larry Self, 45, on March 14, police said. Sachse was being held without bond Wednesday at the Marion County Jail.

Sachse admitted to the killing Wednesday morning after detectives served a search warrant at the home he shared with Self in the 1700 block of South Meridian Street, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Sgt. Paul Thompson said.

Police recovered Self's body, and an autopsy was performed Wednesday, Thompson said. Police would not disclose the cause of death.

Police stepped in when Self's sister filed a missing-person report June 4, telling officers she had last spoken to her brother by phone March 6.

"He buried him in the backyard," Patricia Self, 56, told the Indianapolis Star on Wednesday. "What kind of monster does that?"

Larry Self was on disability, his sister said, and she thinks Sachse cashed her brother's Social Security checks after his death. Patricia Self, Springfield, Ill., said her brother and Sachse had been in an off-and-on relationship for more than two decades.

"I really didn't believe he would just throw him in the ground, someone who loved him for 20 years-plus," she said.

Patricia Self said she spoke to her brother often by telephone, and she became concerned when the calls stopped. She said she received e-mails from her brother's account, starting in April, that she now believes Sachse wrote.

In late May, her brother's doctor's office called, saying it could not reach him and that someone had told the office he had died. About a week later, she said, she got a message from her brother's e-mail account that seemed suspicious.

"It was a nasty e-mail . . . saying he didn't want to talk to me," she said. "My brother would never send me a hateful e-mail. Never."

She filed the missing-person report later that day. According to the June 4 report, she told police she feared her brother had become a victim of foul play.

Police dug up Self's body with help from University of Indianapolis forensic anthropologist Stephen Nawrocki. Officers also seized a 9 mm handgun from the home, the report said.

According to a police report, Sachse called a suicide hotline and threatened to kill himself March 25. Police went to the home and took Sachse to St. Francis Hospital -- Beech Grove.

"Mr. Sachse stated that his partner passed a couple weeks ago, and he has had a very hard time getting past this," officer Klinton Streeter wrote in the report.

Patricia Self said Self relocated from Texas about five years ago in hopes of helping Sachse get away from bad influences.

"My brother had a big heart. He didn't have any enemies," she said. "He was HIV-positive and . . . stayed with Joe because he didn't want to endanger anyone else."

Debra Houser

Debra Houser

Rodney Houser Guilty of Ex’s Murder

Jurors reject lesser charges

Published: May 14, 2010 3:00 a.m.

COLUMBIA CITY – Rodney Houser swore he killed his ex-wife in a sudden fit of anger. But a Whitley Circuit Court jury disagreed, convicting the 44-year-old man of murder.  After two days of dramatic testimony, almost 300 exhibits and nearly four hours of deliberation, the jury decided not to convict Houser of voluntary manslaughter.

Court-appointed defense attorney Anthony Churchward conceded at the beginning of the trial that Houser is to blame for his ex-wife’s disappearance and death last November. Churchward asked the jury to convict Houser of a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter because he acted in “sudden heat” as defined by state law.

But Whitley County Prosecutor Matt Rentschler argued Houser intended all along to kill his wife and therefore committed murder, stomping her to death with a pair of cowboy boots.

Police arrested Houser the day after his ex-wife went missing, after a friend told the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department that Houser had killed 49-year-old Debra Houser at her Old Trail Road home and asked for his help in disposing of the body. Confronted by police, Houser told them his ex-wife was at work and had called his cell phone that morning at 7:30, later admitting he had made the call on her cell phone himself.

Twenty-nine days later, on Dec. 15, her battered body was discovered in a Whitley County creek by detectives acting on a tip from a farmer who thought he had seen Houser’s truck in the area the day of Debra Houser’s disappearance. An autopsy revealed she died from multiple blunt-force injuries, caused by what was later revealed to be a pair of black leather cowboy boots.

Houser took the stand on Wednesday. He said his ex-wife had provoked him to a violent rage by confronting him about his failure to be home to get their son off the school bus, throwing him out of the house, insulting his girlfriend and hitting him during the argument.

But Rentschler asked the jury whether that was enough provocation to cause an ordinary person to go into such a violent rage.

“Is that provocation?” he asked. “Even if it’s true? Don’t lower the standard to his level. … Nothing takes away our God-given choice of free will. Calling (the crime) something less than murder just doesn’t fit.”  He again played for the jury a recording of a jail-house phone conversation Houser had with his girlfriend. During the call, an obviously irritated Houser describes his ex-wife as “the curse of his life.”

“I’m happy with the world and the outcome,” Houser said on the phone. “Instead of just accepting, … I decided on my own. … For once something (expletive) happened that got (expletive) changed.”

Churchward argued that the evidence clearly showed Houser became enraged that night, demonstrated by the manner in which he killed her, using his feet.

“He used what he had at his disposal at that split second when it happened,” Churchward said.  Houser seemed passive, as he had through much of the trial, as the jury’s verdict was read.

Debra Houser’s daughter and family friends hugged and cried as the jury filed out of the courtroom.  Elaine Tuttle, a 20-year friend of Debra Houser, described her as a generous and caring person but wondered whether her desire to help other people contributed to her death.

“But that’s why we all loved her so much. You always knew you could count on her,” she said. “She was the best kind of best friend I could have had.”

After the verdict, Rentschler said he believed the taped jail conversation made a difference for the jury, allowing them to see a difference in Houser’s demeanor.

“I think the jury did a wonderful job examining the evidence,” Rentschler said.

Amber Kunkle, Debra Houser’s daughter with another man, was a constant presence at the trial, sitting directly in line with the witness chair and taking it all in.

She said her mother raised her to be a strong person, and she said she felt her presence throughout the case.  “You can’t change the past,” Kunkle said, standing in front of the Courthouse. “But you can look to the future to make it better.”

Kunkle has custody of Debra and Rodney Houser’s 10-year-old son.

The boy has asked some questions about what is going on, Kunkle said, and knows that what happened to his mother was caused by his father, which will result in a long jail term.

“For right or wrong, though, he loves his parents,” she said.

With prior felony convictions for battery to his son, invasion of privacy, stalking and intimidation, Houser could face more than 55 years in prison when he is sentenced in mid-June.

Roberto Pedraza III

Roberto Pedraza III

Father Sentenced in Son's Shaking Death

March 16, 2011

PLYMOUTH — Roberto Pedraza Jr., 21, of Walkerton, was sentenced today to serve 20 years in prison for neglect of a dependent resulting in death. Pedraza’s 2-month-old son, Roberto Pedraza III, died Jan. 18, 2010, from severe internal and brain injuries obtained while in the care of his father.

According to police testimony, Pedraza was caring for the child while the mother, Whitney Adams, formerly of Plymouth, was at work.

Pedraza Jr. admitted he shook and squeezed the baby, which resulted in death. He pleaded guilty to a plea deal that dropped voluntary manslaughter and battery resulting in death charges.

In the plea agreement sentencing today, Marshall County Superior Court 1 Judge Robert Bowen allowed the investigating officer and families of the victim to take the stand before deciding whether to accept the plea agreement for a 30-year prison sentence with 10 years suspended.

Neglect of a dependent resulting in death is a Class A felony, punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison.

Plymouth Detective Leo Mangus said Pedraza Jr. gave conflicting statements of what actually happened to the victim, but admitted he was solely responsible.

Mangus said Pedraza first said the baby’s ribs were broken because the infant stopped breathing and he performed chest compressions. In another scenario Pedraza said the baby fell from a swing, he picked him up, shook him and then dropped him.

Maternal grandfather James Adams placed a framed photo of the infant on the stand while reading a statement from the victim’s mother, who has since moved to Florida.

"What you did to our son was disgusting and implorable," he read to the defendant. "You hurt so many people with your disgusting act, and now you act like you’re the victim.

"The victim is my son," Adams said, in reading from the mother’s letter.

Adams also accused Pedraza Jr. of prior abuse in the days preceding the child’s death.  Paternal grandfather Roberto Pedraza Sr. took the stand and said his son did not intentionally hurt his grandson.

"We are all grieving at this time," said Pedraza Sr., pointing out that his son has no past history of violence. "Now Whitney’s family is degrading my son as a baby beater and killer."

Pedraza Sr. said his son should have told the truth of what happened in the beginning; but, he said, he was scared and didn’t know what to do.

Assistant Prosecutor Marc Morrison said he believed this was a case of shaken baby syndrome, but the defendant has never come forward with details of what actually happened.

"Obviously his actions are horrible, but we’re not saying he’s a killer," Morrison said. "We’re not here today saying there was intent to kill the baby, but he still needs to be held responsible because, although he’s sorry, it won’t bring back Roberto."

The defendant’s attorney, Thomas Strickland, asked for the minimum sentence since the defendant had no prior record, felt remorse and the act was less than intentional.

Pedraza Jr. said he could not understand why the mother of his children wrote such a letter to the court, saying he thought she still loved him.  "I wish she was here so I could apologize," he said. "It was an accident and I’m hurt, too. I’ve forever lost my son and now my daughter."

Pedraza and Whitney also have a 3-year-old daughter.

"Everybody suffers here," said the judge, who accepted the plea deal. "If there was any evidence or reason to believe this was intended, this would be a different matter."

"But a child was placed in a situation of trust and died by your hands," Bowen said to Pedraza Jr.

Bowen sentenced Pedraza Jr. to 30 years in prison with 10 years suspended, and remanded him to the Marshall County Jail.  Several family members wept and told the defendant they loved him. Pedraza bowed his head and did not respond.

Sandra Kessler

Sandra Kessler

Prominent doctor suspected in girlfriend's death

Fox59 News has learned Dr. John Reynolds, the Chief Health Officer for the Morgan County Health Department could be facing an indictment for causing the death of his former girlfriend, 61 year-old Sandra Kessler.

Kimberly King Fox59
1:05 PM EDT, May 25, 2010

Martinsville, Ind. - Fox59 News has learned Dr. John Reynolds, the Chief Health Officer for the Morgan County Health Department could be facing an indictment for causing the death of his former girlfriend, Sandra Kessler, 61.

Kessler died November 9, 2009. Her death was suspicious and an investigation began. Now a grand jury is reviewing evidence this week.

Fox59 News learned Dr. Reynolds is, what's called, the target suspect, meaning the lead suspect in causing Kessler's death. Dr. Reynolds remains in his job as the Health Department's spokesman. It's a job he's held for approximately 10 years. Meanwhile, Sandra's daughters are remembering their mom as the case comes to light.

"She was the most loving caring and most wonderful person in the whole wide world," said Stephanie, Sandra's adult daughter.

"She didn't deserve to die."

"Everyone loved her in this community, she worked here 15 years," said Cassandra Kessler, Sandra's other daughter.

Fox59 News obtained the Coroner's report that lists her cause of death as intoxication with the narcotics morphine and codeine.

"They're pain medications and the side effect is sedation and an overdose results in respiratory failure," said Dr. George Ostheimer, a board member of the Morgan County Health Department.

Ostheimer said he knows Dr. Reynolds well. The news Reynolds is the focus of a grand jury investigation, to him, comes as a surprise.

"The administrator at the health department said they'd been called as witnesses to testify and that's all she knew," said Dr. Ostheimer.

Fox59 News learned Sandra may have received the narcotics at Dr. Reynolds spacious home that sits on a hill a few miles outside of downtown Martinsville.

"I don't want to discuss that," said Dr. Reynolds at his front door when asked about Sandra's death. As for his former girlfriend's death from narcotics, Dr. Reynolds had little to say.

"I haven't seen the toxicology report and I'm just not willing to discuss it."

The night Sandra died, investigators said instead of calling nearby Morgan County for an ambulance, Dr. Reynolds dialed to a Columbus ambulance service way out of town. Investigators say they found that suspicious.

"He's never had any lapse in moral ground or in the professional realm, he's always been impeccable," said Dr. Ostheimer who recommended Reynolds for the Health Officer job a decade ago.

Board chairman Dr. Paul Broderick said by phone that Dr. Reynolds had done an excellent job as director.

Sandra's daughters don't wish to discuss evidence or their possible testimony in the grand jury proceedings. They simply want to remember their Mom as their best friend.

"She always worked so hard for us, we didn't have a lot of money growing up but she was always there for us," said Stephanie.

Another woman may also have been involved in the scenario. Dr. Reynolds was also reportedly facing financial problems. It's unclear how those factors played into Sandra Kessler's death but they are reported as relevent in the grand jury case. Fox59 News will follow the investigation and have an update possibly in the next 10 days if Reynolds is cleared or indicted.