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43 Yr. Old Registered Sex Offender Charged in Afrika Hardy Murder

21 Oct

The Abandoned House Strangler has been identified by Hammond police as 43 year old Darren Vann of Gary. Vann is a registered sex offender who is current on his registration according to records maintained by Lake County Sheriff John Buncich. Vann was arrested on Saturday in connection with the murder of 19 year old Afrika Hardy. Charges were filed this afternoon for the Murder of 19 year old Afrika Hardy from Aurora, Illinois.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the case, Vann arranged a meeting with Hardy utilizing the site backpage.com. Hardy did not make the arranged meeting on Thursday night. On Friday at 5:30 pm Vann, who went by the screen name “Big Boy Appetite” on backpage.com, showed up at Motel 6 unannounced. After the “normal time” for such a meeting passed, Shameeka Cunningham and Eduardo Ayon, who helped to arrange meetings for Hardy, became concerned about Hardy’s welfare. The pair travelled to Motel 6 and found Afrika Hardy’s lifeless body in the bathtub.

Shameeka Cunningham dialed 9-1-1 and summoned police and ambulance personnel to the scene according to the affidavit. Upon arrival police found that “the beds were moved away from the headboards to suggest that there was possibly a struggle there.” A condom wrapper, a light colored shirt button and a fingernail were also found according to the report. Afrika Hardy had red marks on her neck, suggesting that “she had been strangled with something thin.” The coroner was called and the cause of death was determined to be strangulation. The manner of death was determined to be homicide.

During the interviews with Cunningham and Ayon, police were able to obtain information regarding a cell phone that had been utilized by “Big Boy Appetite” to arrange the meeting. Police supboenaed cellular phone records for the telephone and were led to a location in the 600 block of W. 49th Avenue in Gary according to the affidavit. Police then obtained a search warrant for that residence on October 18 and arrested Darren Deon Vann. A blue Jeep was towed and a search warrant was obtained for that vehicle. During the search, police discovered a shirt which was missing a button, an HTC cellular telephone in a pink case which matched the description of that owned by Afrika Hardy, and condoms of the same brand and type as the wrapper found in the motel room.

The affidavit states that Darren Deon Vann confessed to strangling Afrika Hardy with a cord when confronted with the evidence.

Prompt Ambulance Transport Involved in Fire on Toll Road

29 Jul

Hammond Fire officials were dispatched the the scene of a vehicle fire involving a Prompt Ambulance transport on Saturday night. There were no injuries and  another ambulance was dispatched and the transport was completed without incident, according to Jerry Miller, Director of Operations for Prompt Ambulance.. The incident occurred at approximately 10:45 pm on Saturday night on the Indiana Toll Road in Hammond.
Miller stated that ambulance fires are very rare and that Prompt Ambulance has only experienced one other fire in Company history. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Mayor’s Brothers, City Elite Hanging out at Aquavor

23 Jul

A glance at the Facebook page shows Mayor McDermott’s brothers, staff and Hammond Police officers partying it up at Hammond’s Aquavor. Janet Venecz, a McDermott appointee, has introduced a resolution which Aquavor staff say is designed to close the club.
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Mayor’s Brother and Hammond Realtor Aaron McDermott

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Philip Taillon Executive Director of Planning and Development at City of Hammond hangs out with the Aquavor gang before they became persona non grata in Hammond.  For full story, click here   http://wp.me/p3IAXO-5L

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Brett McDermott and Aaron McDermott, Mayor’s brothers and principals in Lattitude Realty.
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Members of the HPD celebrate Halloween at Aquavor.

Hammond Council Gives $3.5M to Flossmoor Brewery, Virtually Closes Aquavor

23 Jul

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July 22, 2013:  One nightclub is fighting the City for its survival as the Hammond City Council gave $3.5 Million to a brewpub to open.  Aquavor Nightclub remains open for business but the City has already placed No Parking after 11 PM signs all around the business.

The Hammond City Council gave final approval tonight to a Development Agreement with Hammond Station Restaurant and Brewery tonight.  Although the agreement was not available for review at the meeting, council members have previously stated that the Brewery would receive $3.5 Million to assist in construction of the estimated $10M facility.  Council Member Janet Venecz praised the Flossmoor location operated by the same company.  She stated she had visited the area around Christmas and was very impressed by the area.  Other councilman sang the praises of the proposed development, indicating it would be a jump start for development in the area.

Councilman Higgs was the sole member to question the project, although he ultimately voted in favor of it.  Higgs questioned why other areas of the City were not being developed, including the Woodmar Mall area.  Higgs also expressed concern over the plan by the developers to address hiring of minorities.  Construction is expected to begin as early as September.

There was no discussion as to how this subsidy to a restaurant/bar would affect struggling businesses in Hammond.  A copy of the development plan should be available for review by tomorrow and the Gazette will update this story at that time.

In other action, the City Council delayed action on a proposed ordinance that would ban parking in City lots after 11:00 p.m.  Despite this, signs have already been placed in the parking lots near downtown Hammond’s Aquavor Nightclub.  Club managers were present at the meeting but left when they saw the ordinance was not on the agenda.  They have repeatedly stated that this would close the nightclub which was once popular with City staff and politically connected individuals.  Aquavor remains open at this time.  You can find them on Facebook or at

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The City Council held off on an ordinance prohibiting parking in City lots after 11:00 pm but signs have already been placed in all lots near Aquavor Night Club.

NWI Prosecutors Seek NO Wiretap Warrants in 2012

20 Jul

The Federal Government may be monitoring your telephone conversations but in Northwest Indiana criminals can feel confident that their communications are secure.   Indiana issued just 3 wiretap warrants in 2012. All of the warrants were issued  in Marion County. No wiretaps were requested in Lake, Porter, or LaPorte Counties. No data was reported for the Northern District of Indiana which would lead the reader to assume either an error in the report or that no warrants were requested.  State, Local and Federal officials are required by Federal Law to report all requests for wiretap warrants to the Administrative Office of the Federal Courts each year.

Indiana has a stricter law than most states for portable electronic monitoring requiring the chief law enforcement officer of the jurisdiction (sheriff, chief of police, or Superintendent of State Police) together with the Prosecuting Attorney of a county to verify the facts of the warrant under oath.  Only the Indiana State Police can install the monitoring equipment required for a wiretap warrant.  (IC 35-33.5-2).

In total 3,395 local, state and federal wiretap warrants were issued in 2012, the US Office of The Admistrative Courts Reports. The vast majority of those were issued for mobile devices in drug investigations. The numbers vary greatly b state with the feds, California and New York requesting the vast majority-over 2500.

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Source:  Administrative Office of the Federal Courts,  http://www.uscourts.gov/uscourts/Statistics/WiretapReports/2012/Table1.pdf

Festival of the Lakes Opens to Sparse Crowds

18 Jul

Smokey Robinson brought the fans to Festival of the Lakes today despite high temperatures.  Nonetheless, crowds were sparse in other areas of the festival.  Whether security concerns or the high cost of parking kept families away, one Festival worker reported that she never saw a line at a single ride.  Parking was still available in the main lots at 8:00 pm as the concert began.  Many families were walking to avoid the $15 parking fee. Several neighborhood businesses offered $10 parking.

If you attended the Festival of the Lakes last night, we would love to hear your comments.

 

Crowds were sparse at showtime for Smokey Robinson

Crowds were sparse at showtime for Smokey Robinson

 

Hammond Festival of the Lakes Kicks Off Amid Security Concerns

17 Jul

Concerns over security cloud the opening day of the Hammond’s Festival of the Lakes after two events involving explosives in the Region.  The Hammond Festival features headliner Smokey Robinson on July 17.  Robinson is a music legend with hits such as Tracks of My Tears and My Girl and admission is free for all.  Local pop icon Nicole Jamrose will open for Robinson.  Other national acts to appear at the festival include Lifehouse, Better Than Ezra and LL Cool J.

The festival also features rides, a beer garden, and the Kathleen Pucalik Memorial 5K run and walk.

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Tribune Takes a Swing at Indiana With No Basis in Fact

9 Jul

Operator at 12 Pipestill Unit, Whiting Refinery Moderization Pro

The Chicago Tribune wants to kill jobs in Indiana and does not need facts to do it.  In typical politician/journalist fashion, The Chicago Tribune has taken up a fight started by Barack Obama during his short tenure as a US Senator-that BP in Whiting is dumping mercury into Lake Michigan.   Obviously, if this is true it is cause for alarm for all of us.  The Lake Michigan ecosystem is vital to life as we know it in Northwest Indiana.  

Those are the things on which we agree.  Without citing any sources, The Tribune article claims that 

Since 2005, BP has reported that the Whiting refinery’s treatment plant discharged between one-tenth of a pound and 2 pounds of mercury into the lake annually, according to state and federal records.”

I began my research with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).  The NRDC is a respected environmental organization that has pressured BP over releases of Air contaminants.  In fact, the NRDC was instrumental in a recent enforcement action that resulted in a fine of nearly $800M and promised upgrades by BP costing $400M or more (http://www.epa.gov/compliance/resources/cases/civil/caa/bp-whiting.html).  The NRDC praises the tribune article as “investigative journalism” but says little else about it.  In fact, the NRDC fails to point out that the Tribune article is neither investigative nor journalism.  As NRDC points out:  “The news this time around is a mixed bag.  BP, to its credit (and our pleasant surprise), made good on its 2007 promise not to use the additional leeway in its 2007 permit for ammonia and solids discharge, and IDEM granted the company’s request to revert to the previous permit levels for those pollutants. . .The other sort-of good news is that BP contracted with Argonne National Laboratory and the Purdue-Calumet Water Institute in the intervening years to do some research on cutting-edge technologies to control the discharge of mercury to Lake Michigan.”

Despite several blog articles repeating the Tribune claim, I could find no reports indicating a 2 lb. discharge of mercury.  In fact, in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, BP reported a release of .125 lbs of mercury.  Keep in mind that any amount of mercury is not good.  Nonetheless, more mercury enters our waterstream from CFL lightbulbs which environmentalists love.

So Why Is The Chicago Tribune pushing this story?  I would suggest the answer is complex.  First, the Chicago Tribune received awards and accolades from environmental groups and politicians for the 2007 article regarding BP.  Mass boycotts of BP put pressure on the company to make changes to the expansion plans even before the consent decree.  The Chicago Tribune rode the wave of that popularity.  Second, the expansion at the Whiting BP refinery is intended to enable BP to refine tar sand crude at that site.  Tar sand crude like that which will come from the Keystone Pipeline.  You remember the Keystone, that pipeline that environmentalists insist will cause the earth to boil over?

 

Open Door Church Celebrates 27 Years

9 Jul

An Open Door Church and Ministries will be celebrating 27 years of God’s Faithfulness. They invite you to celebrate with them at the following events:

THE FULLNESS OF MANIFESTATION
July12th-July14th
Guest speaker Friday, July 12th at 7:30PM
Apostle Steven Garner of Rivers of Living Waters Intl.

Leadership Ministry Session Saturday, July 13th at 10:00AM
Sessions will be taught by Drs. Meredith and Marilyn Shackelford. Lunch will be served at Noon, cost $15.00 per person

Guest Speaker Sunday, July 14th at 10:00am
Apostle George Hutcherson of King of Glory Evg. from Omaha, Nebraska

Come and celebrate with Drs. Meredith and Marilyn Shackelford along with An Open Door Church as we celebrate 27 years of God’s Faithfulness.
#opendoorchurch
#hammondchurch
#religiouscelebration

CTI Martial Arts Students Medal at McCormick

8 Jul

CTI School of Martial Arts has several students who have received medals at the USA Taekwondo National Championships. One Hammond Fighter still contending for Gold. CBS2 Chicago reports that a Gold Medal at this event could put participants in contention for the US Olympic Team. Those who have received medals so far are:

Jasmine Petika, 13 year old red belt – Silver medal
Tanya Castillo 10 year old blue belt – Silver Medal
Jacob Paulsen 17 year old blue belt – Silver medal
Kevin Luna 13 year old blue belt – bronze medal
Tito Prado 17 year old black belt – bronze medal

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Be sure to like CTI School of Martial Arts on Facebook Tell them NWI Gazette sent you!