Monthly Archives: November 2022

Greenwood man headed to prison after $14.3 million theft

A Greenwood man will serve six years in federal prison. That’s after embezzling more than $14 million from his employer, while managing a trucking company.

According to the U.S. Attorneys’ Office for the Southern Indiana District, 47-year-old Daniel Fruits was sentenced yesterday for wire fraud and money laundering. According to the prosecutor, a Kentucky group invested money into the trucking company from January 2015 to June 2019, but Fruits siphoned off the funds, using them to purchase real estate, vehicles including two Ferraris and a Corvette, farm equipment, a show horse, jewelry, firearms, private jet flights and escort services.

Authorities say that Fruits then produced false financial documents to bring in more investments to the trucking company. Fruits even fabricated a report from an accountant to cover his tracks.

As part of his sentence, Fruits is ordered to pay $14.3 million in restitution to his victims and a $14.3 million in a judgment.

State Road 3 lanes closing for delayed railroad work

INDOT says that there will be closures on State Road 3 in Decatur County starting next week.

According to the highway department, Central Railroad of Indiana will be working at the previous railroad crossing south of State Road 46 near Greensburg starting on Wednesday, Dec. 7th. Crews will be reinstalling the crossing for Lowe’s Pellets and Grain. The project is expected to last for about two weeks but the schedule is dependent on the weather.

Southbound State Road 3 will close first, followed by the northbound lanes. During the closures, traffic will be detoured to State Road 46 to State Road 9 to Interstate 74 to U.S. 421 and then back to State Road 3.

The closures were originally scheduled for earlier this month but were delayed.

INDOT reminds you to slow down, to use caution and to be alert to worker’s safety in all construction zones.

Downtown Columbus merchants celebrating with Not So Silent Night

Downtown Columbus merchants will be kicking off the holiday shopping season tomorrow, with their Not So Silent Night promotion.

Shopping specials, food, music and an elf scavenger hunt will be going on from 4 to 8 p.m.

Erin Hawkins with the Columbus Area Visitors Center said that there will be some new components to this year’s event including pop-up dance performances from the Nutcracker, put on by Dancers Studio Inc and the Columbus Area Arts Council in the Sixth Street Arts Alley.

The Bartholomew County Historical Society will be promoting its Christmas Trees through Time display on Thursday, with a visit from Santa Claus.

Santa will be in a sleigh in front of the museum from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.. Inside the museum is Christmas Trees Through Time exhibit, which features historic Christmas trees decorated with photos of Bartholomew County families’ Christmas memories. And there will be displays from the Xenia Miller creche collection. The museum will be open until 7.

There will be sleigh rides featuring Santa from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday evening, starting at the corner of Fifth and Washington streets downtown. Hawkins explains:

At various downtown shops you can enjoy holiday music, special shopping discounts and free holiday beverages.

Holiday parade organizers hosting public session tonight

A new group making plans to bring a Festival of Lights parade back to Columbus will be looking for your thoughts, and help, at a meeting set for tonight.

The new organizers, calling themselves Red Arch Community Events, Inc. announced earlier this month that they plan to bring the parade back to life, although they can’t do so this year. The parade will relaunch December 2nd of 2023, they say.

The goal is to produce and rebrand the parade, providing a safe and fun family event for years to come.

Organizers are inviting you to come to ask questions, to sign up to volunteer and to learn more about sponsorships and vendor applications.

The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. at Columbus City Hall.

You can get more information at

County prepares for incoming opioid settlement money

Bartholomew County Commissioners are preparing to receive millions of dollars from settlements with the opioid industry.

At their meeting this week, the commissioners gave their first approval to set up two special funds to receive the money when it starts coming in. One is a restricted fund, limited by state and federal guidelines on how the money must be spent, and the second is an unrestricted fund which can be used for any county government purpose.

County officials said it isn’t completely clear on what limitations will be placed on the restricted funds and are seeking state guidance on how that money should be allocated. In response to a question from the audience, commissioners said that the money would go through the normal appropriation process through the county council so that the public can know how it will be spent.

Commissioners are expecting up to $3 million dollars over the next 18 years to flow in from the opioid settlement. Although that is a sizeable amount, Commissioner Tony London pointed out that still doesn’t offset the damage that the opioid epidemic has caused in the community.

A second and final vote on the funds creation, will likely occur at next Monday’s county commissioners meeting.

Beach Boys-themed Christmas show set for Park Theatre

A band will be bringing some summer fun to the cold month of December, in an upcoming show scheduled at the Park Theatre Civic Center in North Vernon.

Sounds of Summer will perform their Beach Boys Christmas Show at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10.

The band includes four North Vernon-based vocalists and musicians: David Ertel on keyboards, Connor Ertel on guitar, Eric Wernke on drums, Matt Hurley on bass.

Organizers say the cover band’s music is a reproduction of the “Pet Sounds” created by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in the 1960s.

Tickets are $20. Tickets are available in advance at the Park Theatre box office and at the door. The box office is open 2 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

For more information, call 812-346-0330.

Two arrested on drug charges after Jennings traffic stop

A traffic stop led to the arrest of two men on drug related charges in Country Squire Lakes.

According to reports from the Jennings County Sheriff’s Department a deputy pulled over a vehicle for traffic violations on Sunday in the subdivision. After seeing several items in the vehicle that appeared drug related, a police dog was brought to the scene and it alerted to drugs in the vehicle. A search revealed about 5 grams of suspected methamphetamine, oxycodone pills, syringes and other drug paraphernalia.

The driver of the vehicle Gary Shane Lowe and passenger Randy McNeal were both taken into custody on preliminary charges for possessing the drugs and paraphernalia, along with maintaining a common nuisance and visiting a common nuisance.

McNeal is also facing charges for possessing methamphetamine and a syringe in a penal facility, after he was found to be carrying more drug-related items into the Jennings County Jail.

Columbus company falls just short in Coolest Thing competition

Columbus based Hiker Trailers is out of the running for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s Coolest Things Made in Indiana contest, despite making it to the final four.

The second annual competition started with 54 companies in 43 communities. Popular voting ended on Friday, with Hiker Trailers competing against companies from Gary, Leesburg and Syracuse for this year’s title.

The finals are now down to MapleLeaf Farms in Leesburg and Polywood in Syracuse.

Voting for the finals begins yesterday with the competition wrapping up at 10 p.m. Wednesday evening. The champion will be announced Dec. 14th at the Indiana Chamber’s Best IN Manufacturing Luncheon.

If you are still interested in voting, you can go to

Advocates plan launch of campaign to secure guns

A group of concerned residents and organizations are launching a new initiative to make sure adults lock up their firearms, keeping them out of the hands of kids.

The Be SMART for Kids campaign will launch at noon on December 8th in the Cal Brand meeting room at Columbus City Hall.

Supporters of the initiative include the city and county governments and law enforcement, Columbus Regional Health, schools and businesses.

Moms Demand Action is launching Be SMART To address unintentional shootings by children. The campaign stands for:

  • Secure: all guns in your home and vehicles
  • Model: responsible behavior around guns
  • Ask: about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes
  • Recognize: the role of guns in suicide
  • Tell: your peers to be SMART

The public education campaign seeks to reduce the number of shootings, suicides and homicides that come with an unsecured gun in homes with children and teens.

According to studies, 4.6 million children live in homes with at least one unsecured firearm. In an average year, more than 350 Americans are injured or killed in an unintentional shooting by a child who gained access to an unsecured gun.

The Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department will also be on hand to give out free gun locks, while supplies last.

You do not need to register in advance, but registration will help with the event planning. You can register here.

Threat of severe weather tonight; high winds this afternoon

We could be in for some high winds, heavy rain and lightning this afternoon and evening.

The National Weather Service says a low pressure system will track across the Great Lakes today and tonight, bringing a cold front through central Indiana. Severe storms are possible.

The main severe weather threat will be damaging winds, with gusts of 40 to 45 mph possible this afternoon, but a few brief tornadoes are possible as well according to forecasters. Lightning and brief heavy rainfall will also be threats.

The agency says wind gusts on Wednesday will be slightly lower, topping out at around 35 mph.

Forecasters say you should use caution if you are traveling especially if you are operating a high profile vehicle. And you should check on your outdoor holiday decorations to make sure that they are secure, along with any other outdoor furnishings.