Troopers, police out in force to crack down on impaired, dangerous drivers

Indiana State Police will be joining hundreds of law enforcement agencies from across the state for the Safe Family Travel campaign. You will see more officers out over the next six weeks, to discourage impaired driving and to ensure drivers and passengers are properly buckled.

The increased high-visibility patrols are funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. They will be concentrated around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

Last year during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, there were 2,352 crashes in Indiana which resulted in 450 injuries and eight fatalities.

Two arrested after Jackson County traffic stop

Patrick Doornbos. Photo courtesy of Indiana State Police

Two people were arrested on drug dealing charges after a traffic stop Monday in Jackson County after more than a pound and a half of methamphetamine was found in their vehicle.

According to Indiana State Police reports, troopers pulled over a vehicle just south of the Seymour exit Monday for several traffic violations. But the trooper became suspicious and his police dog alerted to the odor of drugs in the vehicle.

A search uncovered about 1.6 pounds of meth, along with fentanyl pills, three guns, drug paraphernalia and about $2,000 in cash.

Amber Balser. Photo courtesy of Indiana State Police

The driver, 36-year-old Patrick J. Doornbos and a passenger, 30-year-old Amber L. Balser, both of Monticello were arrested on charges of Dealing in and possessing methamphetamine, and for possessing the narcotics and drug paraphernalia.

Doornbos is also facing an additional charge of possession of a handgun by a serious violent felon. Balser is being charged with possession of a handgun by a convicted felon.

Evidence photo courtesy of Indiana State Police

Area hospitals plan to comply with vaccine mandate

Two area hospitals are announcing their plans to comply with a federal mandate on COVID-19 vaccination for staff.

Columbus Regional Health and Schneck Medical Center in Seymour issued a joint statement today, saying that they intend to comply with the mandate from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid that requires all healthcare facilities workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Members of the workforce must receive their single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or the first dose of the Moderna and Pfizer two-dose vaccines by December 5th. The second dose must be taken by January 4th.

The workforce includes hospital employees, licensed practitioners, students, trainees, volunteers, and individuals who provide care, treatment, or other services for hospitals or patients under contract or other agreement.

Employees can also show proof of a valid exemption from receiving the vaccine.

The majority of patients served by Columbus Regional Health and Schneck Medical Center are covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

Dr. Eric Fish, president and CEO of Schneck, said that the vaccines are safe and effective. He said that COVID-19 vaccines cannot make you sick with the virus and they do not contain the virus that causes COVID-19.

He urged everyone to “Protect yourself. Protect your loved ones. Protect your community.”

The hospitals said that they are working to achieve compliance with the mandate. Both facilities are committed to ongoing communication and transparency with the patients and communities, as well as employees.

Bartholomew County closing in on highway garage move

The Bartholomew County Highway Department is getting close to a move into its new highway garage on rural 25th street.

County Commissioners approved several change orders and expenses at the site during their meeting Monday. The five final change orders for the project totalled more than $21 thousand dollars. Those included changes to doors, paneling, caulking, electrical outlets and painting and including a panic button in an electrical room, a requirement to occupy the building.

Commissioners President Larry Kleinhenz said that the county would soon be issuing a certificate of occupancy for the new building. A final inspection was set for Monday afternoon and Kleinhenz said he was sure that the county would pass that inspection.

The county has been working for years to move out of its aging existing facility on State Street.

Jennings deputies hope to help children in need with Fill-a-Hummer effort

Jennings County Sheriff’s Department is working to fill a Humvee with toys to take to children in need for Christmas.

The department is partnering with Jennings County Helping Hands and Family Ford. The department Humvee will be at Family Ford and toys will be accepted until Dec. 20th. The toys will be wrapped by Helping Hands and delivered to those in need by sheriff’s department staff.

Sheriff: Man sentenced in Jackson County kidnapping

Andrew Howland. Photo courtesy of Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.

A Pennsylvania man has been sentenced to between 30 and 105 years in prison after abducting a Jackson County teen last year.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department reports that 39-year-old Andrew Howland of Lancaster, Pennsylvania was sentenced last week after being found guilty of felony charges including:

  • Kidnapping of Minor-Facilitate Felony/Flight
  • Unlawful Contact with Minor-Sexual Offenses
  • Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse Person Less Than 16 years of age
  • Statutory Sexual Assault: 11 years or older
  • Aggravated Indecent Assault-Complainant Less than 16
  • Child pornography
  • Criminal use of a Communication Facility

The incident happened in December of last year when a 13-year-old Jackson County girl was reported missing from the Seymour area. Investigators determined the girl was no longer in Indiana. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department traced the suspect’s cell phone and Howland was arrested in Pennsylvania and the girl rescued.

According to reports, Howland had met the teen online and lured her from her family home in Indiana, kidnapping and sexually abusing the victim.

Sheriff Rick Meyer said that thanks to the good work of law enforcement here and in Pennsylvania, the perpetrator will not be able to hurt others.

Decatur fire chief arrested in shooting incident

Craig Jones. Photo courtesy of Decatur County Sheriff’s Department.

A Decatur County fire chief has been arrested after a shooting incident Sunday in St. Paul.

Few details have been released by the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department, but according to police reports, deputies were called to a report of a disturbance with shots fired. After an investigation, Adams Township Fire Chief Craig Jones was arrested on four felony counts of criminal recklessness with a firearm.

Other agencies assisting at the scene include the St. Paul Police Department, St. Paul Volunteer Fire Department, Decatur County EMS and Greensburg Fire Department.

Woman arrested after driving through yard

Stephanie D. Denney. Photo courtesy of Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

Bartholomew County deputies arrested a woman Sunday on drunk driving related charges after she fled from police and ran into a home.

According to reports from the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department, deputies noticed a vehicle driving at twice the speed limit on 25th Street near Talley Road. Deputies tried to pull the vehicle over, but the driver pulled into a driveway in the 6000 block of East 25th Street, then drove through the grass to another home, where she got out and ran inside.

Deputies arrested the driver, 34-year-old Stephanie Denney of Columbus on preliminary charges including operating a vehicle while intoxicated, operating a vehicle while intoxicated endangering a person, resisting law enforcement and reckless driving.

Franklin police mourn loss of canine officer

Franklin Police officers are mourning the death of Pepper, a 7 year old police dog, who died Sunday morning.

Her handler, Officer Jesse Brown, found Pepper unresponsive and not breathing. The dog was taken to Purdue University and results of an autopsy are pending.

Pepper, a Belgian Malinois originally from the Netherlands, began working with the Franklin police in November 2015.

She was a dual-purpose canine officer and was responsible for narcotics detection, area searches and tracking events during her career with the department. Brown and Officer Jeffrey Dawe were her handlers during her time with the department. They said Pepper loved meeting members of the community, playing with tennis balls and showing off her detection skills.

Photo courtesy of Franklin Police Department.

Driver facing charges after fatal accident

Kevin W. Shuffitt. Photo courtesy of Columbus Police Department.

An arrest has been made in a fatal accident earlier this month in Columbus.

44-year-old Jeremy O. Stillabower of Columbus was seriously injured in the crash at 7th Street and Central Avenue at about 6:30 p.m. the evening of Nov. 8th. He was flown to IU Methodist Hospital where he later died of his injuries.

According to Columbus Police Department reports, 21 year old Kevin W. Shuffitt of Columbus is facing three felony charges of criminal recklessness, reckless driving and driving while suspended after the incident.

Police report that witnesses saw Shuffitt driving a truck at high speed before crashing into the back of a vehicle at the intersection. He then crashed into the vehicle again, before continuing on into the intersection where he hit a third vehicle. Stillabower was a front-seat passenger in the third vehicle.

Formal criminal charges against Shuffitt were filed by the Bartholomew County Prosecutor’s Office on Friday and he was taken into custody by Columbus police.

Shuffitt was also wanted on several outstanding warrants.