Vigilante sting operations raise concerns for Jackson Co. prosecutor, police

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office and local law enforcement are urging people not to take the law into their own hands. That comes after recent civilian efforts to capture pedophiles through so-called sting operations on social media.

Prosecutor Jeffrey Chalfant and agencies including the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, and police departments in Seymour, Brownstown and Crothersville issued a warning this week discouraging residents from taking part in the operations, saying that being a vigilante is extremely dangerous.

In these stings, a person pretends to be a child on social media and convinces a target to appear in a public place soliciting sexual acts with a child. The target is then recorded, accused of being a sexual predator and the results of the operation are posted to social media. Authorities warned that eventually one of these operations will lead to violence, injury and even death.

According to the warning, private citizens don’t have the training and knowledge to carry out these sorts of operations and the prosecutor’s office will not file criminal cases based on vigilante investigations. Instead, if you have information about sex crimes, sex trafficking or other crimes, you should contact your local law enforcement agency and let police handle the investigation.

Area counties see improvement in COVID-19 stats, but remain red

COVID-19 metrics are improving in several area counties, but they will remain at the red advisory level until those numbers can stay improved for two consecutive weeks.

Based on their current numbers, Jackson, Jennings and Brown counties are now showing serious spread of the disease on the Indiana State Department of Health statistics from yesterday. However all three counties will remain at the red level on the state’s color-coded map, indicating a severe spread of the disease, until that two-week benchmark is met. Johnson and Shelby counties both remain red with current metrics and the advisory level. Bartholomew and Decatur counties are under the orange, or serious spread level.

Statewide, there were 3,733 new positive cases announced yesterday, and 62 deaths statewide. That pushes Indiana to 601, 937 positive cases since the pandemic started and 9,218 deaths since the first last March.

Indiana’s coronavirus restrictions will remain in place as Gov. Eric Holcomb is extending the state’s emergency order for another seven days. Holcomb says Indiana’s coronavirus numbers have been falling for weeks and the state’s seven-day positive rate dropped to 10.8 percent, but he wants to be cautious.

Agricultural scholarship applications available in Jackson County

Applications are now being accepted for the Dick Moren Agribusiness Scholarships through the Seymour Chamber of Commerce.

Two scholarships will be awarded to Jackson County High School seniors who plan to pursue a degree in an agriculture-related field starting this fall.

The chamber will host a breakfast for the scholarship winners, their families, FFA members, area farmers and chamber members this fall.

You can find scholarship application at the Seymour chamber’s website at seymourchamber.com. You can also email info@seymourchamber.com or stop by the chamber offices at 105 S. Chestnut Street.

Groundhog Day activities in Hope go virtual for Grubby

Grubby the Groundhog will have a chance to see her shadow from the comfort of her own home at Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitators next month.

For the past few years, Grubby has taken part in Groundhog Day festivities on the Hope Town Square, organized by the Main Street of Hope group.

But this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will be largely virtual. The only live attendees will be the staff at Utopia, Main Street of Hope members and the media. Local dignitaries will be in costume, reading proclamations and reciting Groundhog Day history.

You can watch live starting at 8:30 p.m. on February 2nd through the Utopia Wildlife Rehabilitators Facebook page.

Mayor sets date for 2021 State of the City address

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop is planning a virtual State of the City address on February 2nd.

The mayor said that due to COVID-19 concerns and social distancing, the video version of the annual community update will follow the regularly scheduled City Council meeting on that night. Both the council meeting and the State of the City will be live-streamed through the city website.

The city council meeting starts at 6 p.m. that night.

You can watch them live by going to the city’s website at columbus.in.gov and clicking on the video link. You can also find archives of other city events and meetings.

Couple arrested after warrant service uncovers drugs

Jennifer Hardesty. Photo courtesy of Jennings County Sheriff’s Department.

An attempt to serve a warrant on a woman led to the arrest of both the woman and her husband on drug related charges in Jennings County.

The Jennings County Sheriff’s Department is reporting that they went to a home near Paris Crossing at about 5:30 to serve a felony arrest warrant on 40-year-old Jennifer Hardesty. But when they arrived, police discovered 19 grams of methamphetamine, a controlled substance, drug paraphernalia and marijuana.

Jennifer Hardesty and 40-year-old Wilbur Hardesty were arrested on charges including possession of more than 10 grams of methamphetamine, maintaining a common nuisance and possession of a controlled substance, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Wilbur Hardesty, Photo courtesy of Jennings County Sheriff’s Department.

Overdose leads to arrest on drugs, weapons charges

Clinton Mings. Photo courtesy of Columbus Police Department.

Columbus police saved a man’s life from a drug overdose, then took him to jail on drug and weapons charges.

The incident happened Monday night starting at about 11 p.m., when officers were called to the 3200 block of Nicholas Lane about a possible overdose. 30-year-old Clinton J. Mings of Columbus was found unconscious inside a bathroom. After four rounds of Narcan, Mings finally regained consciousness.

During the rescue, police noticed drugs and paraphernalia inside the apartment. After getting a search warrant, they discovered methamphetamine and heroin alongwith drug paraphernalia including digital scales and two firearms.

Mings was taken to Columbus Regional Hospital for treatment and after his release was arrested on preliminary charges of dealing in methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine and paraphernalia; being a felon in possession of a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm by a domestic batterer, and invasion of privacy.

Jail makes changes in face of COVID-19 surge

A surge in cases of COVID-19 in the Bartholomew County Jail is causing some changes to policies at the facility.

The sheriff’s department is reporting that 11 inmates tested positive from March through December, along with 19 department employees. But already this year, seven inmates are showing symptoms and five have tested positive, with one refusing a test and another being released.

The sheriff’s department reports that no visitors will be allowed in the jail. The department is working with the courts to reduce jail population and staff is adjusting cell block populations to make more room for inmates both in and out of quarantine.

Pence returns to hometown after time in Washington

Former Vice President Mike Pence returned to his hometown of Columbus yesterday, with plans to return to Indiana for good this summer.

His wife, Karen, pointed out that the plane that brought them home again, Air Force Two, was the exact plane that took them to Washington D.C. four years ago.

Pence and his wife were welcomed by the lieutenant governor, his brother Congressman Greg Pence and a small crowd of well-wishers.

The former congressman, governor and now vice president, choked up looking over the crowd greeting his return to Columbus Municipal Airport.

He thanked his extended family, his children and their spouses, his wife and Jesus Christ for the journey to vice president.

Photo courtesy of Kentucky National Guard

Reports: Pence returning to Indiana after inauguration

Vice President Mike Pence is trekking back to Indiana today.

NBC News reports Pence will fly to Columbus in the afternoon following President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Indiana Republicans said he’s expected to “thank friends and longtime supporters” after his role has vice president is complete. Pence tweeted a thank you to America on Tuesday, calling it an honor and privilege to serve as VP.

Pence and the top Republican leaders in Congress are skipping President Donald Trump’s big send off event at Joint Base Andrews today. The Vice President’s office cited the logistics in getting Pence from the base in Maryland back to the Capitol in time to attend the inauguration. The top two Republicans in Congress, Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman Kevin McCarthy will also not attend the Trump event. Trump is the first President in 150 years to skip the swearing in of his successor.

Air Force Two photo courtesy of Kentucky National Guard