Tag Archives: Hammond

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.

Columbia Avenue Closed for Over an Hour Due To Hit and Run

29 Dec interstate 80 94 accident

by Ken Davidson

The 7000 block of Columbia Avenue was closed at approximately 7:30 pm tonight due to a hit and run accident.  A red mini-van reportedly struck a passenger car and left the scene.  Officers looked for the van for approximately 30 minutes before locating it at 176th Street and Howard Avenue.  The driver of the van had fled the vehicle.  A citizen reported seeing a white male fleeing on 176th place and officers then began the search for that individual.    A suspect was ultimately located and arrested.  The driver of the vehicle that was hit was injured but refused medical treatment.  The scene was ultimately cleared at approximately 8:30 p.m.

 

 

Gazette Receives Permission To Use Fedex Crash Pictures

29 Dec Joe Wzolek receives Highlands Award

by Ken Davidson

After what turned out to be an embarrassing error in judgment, the Gazette has received permission to publish photos of the truck that crashed into a Hessville home on December 13. The homeowners report that the crash occurred after a delivery was made at a school across the street. The driver stated that the gas pedal stuck and he lost control of the vehicle. A 12 year old resident of the home was on the couch in the living room of the home which was struck by the truck. She was injured and received treatment for a concussion. The driver of the truck had to be cut from the vehicle.

There is a soccer field at the school and the family questions why the driver could not veer in that direction, avoiding risk. The home is a total loss.

federal express truck crashes into house in hammond, indiana

Victim Hit in Head with Gun, Robbed at Village Discount in Hessville

27 Dec gary indiana cell phone theft

by Ken Davidson

A loyal Gazette reader reported a robbery at Village Discount Outlet on 165th Street in Hessville about 5:30 p.m. today. The Gazette has confirmed that a man was robbed at gunpoint and struck in the head during the robbery. A woman was heard screaming for help as police and an ambulance rushed to the scene. Witnesses said the suspect was wearing a hoodie and black ski mask and fled eastbound on foot. This is the second robbery in the area in as many days. Yesterday there was a robbery at 2732 165th Street, directly across the street.

NIRPC Passes Illiana, Lowell Residents Outraged, Union Members Cheer

12 Dec

by Ken Davidson

In perhaps one of the most contentious public meetings of the year, a room full of people who face losing their farms and family homes squared off with union members looking for temporary jobs.  Union members cheered as NIRPC voted to approve the Illiana Toll Road while farmers cried.  Perhaps the best comment was from a Lowell resident who said “move the road closer to Cedar Lake and Crown Point since they want it so bad.”  That comment clearly points out the irony of communities who have nothing to lose weighing in on the fate of people’s homes in rural south county Indiana.

Christine Cid stood up to the machine once again and voted against the Illiana.  You will recall that Cid was the lone democrat on the County Council standing against the income tax.  This time Cid was joined by County Chair Thomas McDermott.  McDermott, acting as Mayor of Hammond, clearly stated that communities along the 80/94 corridor may be harmed by the southern corridor.  Thus, the question as to why Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson decided to support the controversial plan.  Freeman-Wilson would appear to have the most to lose with the construction of the tollway as she has pinned Gary’s revitalization hopes to the plan to be a transportation hub.  The Illiana Toll Road is expected to be a catalyst for the proposed Peotone Airport as well as a truck route to avoid congestion.  The primary economic growth Gary has seen in recent years has been along the 80/94 corridor.  In the event the Illiana is successful in removing even 20% of the truck traffic from the area, that could be a large loss in jobs and tax revenue for Gary.

The real story here is Governor Mike Pence.  Pence chimed in today praising the Board for passing the plan.  Pence would do well to remember his base if he plans to run for re-election.  It seems that he was outmaneuvered politically during this entire process.  Maybe we will see a Governor McDermott after all.

Man Charged in Death of One Week Old Child May be Morton Grad

11 Dec

by Ken Davidson

The Gazette received a tip that a 23 year old Michigan man charged with murdering his one week old child is a Hessville native. According to The News-Herald of Michigan, Luis Marco Smolen was charged with First Degree Felony Murder in Taylor, Michigan earlier this week. The charges stem from a call to emergency personnel reporting that the child was not breathing on December 7. The police immediately believed foul play was involved according to the News-Herald. Under Michigan law Smolen faces life in prison without parole if convicted.

A search for Luis Smolen in Hammond, Indiana reveals a birth record in 2009, presumably for another child, and a mention on the Scott Middle School honor roll in 2005 for an 8th grade student. The Gazette has not yet positively confirmed that this Luis Smolen is the individual who graduated from Morton High School. We continue to follow this story and welcome any information from our readers.

Robbery in Freddy's steak House parking lot

10 Dec

Reader Submitted

Last night at Freddy’s Steak house a female was sitting in her vehicle at approximately 8:00 p.m. A black male subject wearing a dark stocking cap approached her vehicle and demanded her money, he reached into the vehicle and stole her purse. Victim was not sure if he was armed. A witness believe he saw subject get into a dark Pontiac Grand Am and flee north bound on Kennedy. Everyone please be careful when out and about, pay attention to your surroundings.

Miss Print Seeks Help for Haven House

5 Dec Angel Tree Hosted by Miss Print of Munster and Hammond

by Ken Davidson

Angel Tree Hosted by Miss Print of Munster and Hammond

Angel Tree Hosted by Miss Print of Munster and Hammond

Miss Print of Munster and Hammond is once again hosting an Angel Tree to benefit Have House Domestic Violence Shelter.  The friendly staff of Miss Print invites you to stop by and pick a card from the tree.  Each card has an item which the Shelter needs.  Among the items listed are toiletries, toilet paper, office supplies and other staples used by the Shelter to help domestic violence victims.   Donations are accepted during normal business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9-Noon on Saturday(Munster location only).  Miss Print has two locations, 8244 Calumet Avenue, Munster, Indiana and Miss Print Sign Company at 6931 Calumet Avenue in Hammond. Donations are accepted at either location. Please follow Miss Print on Facebook for more information about them.

The Gazette spoke with Lisa Wein, Executive Director of Haven House, to discuss her holiday wish list.  Lisa told us that the greatest need with winter coming is twin size blankets.  Donations of gently used clothing items for women and children are always welcome also.   Volunteers are always needed at Haven House and you can find more information about volunteering on the Haven House Website. Donations are also accepted at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church located at 7132 Arizona Street in Hammond and the Jean Shepherd Community Center located in Dowling Park.

The purpose of Haven House is to provide safe housing, the essentials for everyday living, and support services to female adults and their children who are victims of domestic/sexual assault and to assist them in breaking the cycle of violence through education, counseling, advocacy, referral and skill building techniques.  Haven House, Inc, founded in 1983 and located in Hammond, IN. is a 24-hour emergency shelter for domestic violence victims and their dependents. Haven House provides services to Hammond, East Chicago, Whiting, Munster, Griffith, and Highland, which comprises a significant geographic area of Northwest Indiana.

A Christmas Story Exhibit to be Featured at Riley Children's Hospital

27 Nov A Christmas Story Comes Home

Gazette Staff

A window scene from the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority’s annual “A Christmas Story” Comes Home exhibit will be spending this holiday season at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

According to Speros A. Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore CVA, the organization wanted to share Northwest Indiana’s holiday cheer with the hospital.

“Watching the holiday classic ‘A Christmas Story’ has become tradition for many families. We wanted to provide Riley Hospital for Children’s patients and families the chance to experience the annual exhibit during their time at Riley,” said Batistatos.

In addition to providing one of the window scenes for display, the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority will be coordinating several special events. The special events will offer patients and families the opportunity to experience Christmas traditions while at Riley Hospital for Children.

The “A Christmas Story” Comes Home exhibit, which is presented in agreement with Warner Bros. Consumer Products, will open at the Indiana Welcome Center on Saturday, Nov. 9 and run through Sunday, Jan. 5. The Indiana Welcome Center is open seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and is located at 7770 Corinne Drive, Hammond, Indiana 46323.

For more information on the exhibit, weekend and holiday hours, special events, or the partnership with Riley Hospital for Children, contact Bethany Randolph, special events and services manager for the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, at 219-554-2229 or visit www.AChristmasStoryComesHome.com

Johnson Sentencing Delayed Again

25 Nov

by Ken Davidson

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Amid reports of uncharacteristic confidence on the part of the Defendant, the sentencing of David Johnson of A-1 Dave’s Tree Service has been continued again.  The official reason given was “a dispute of guideline applications in this matter.”  Sources familiar with the process continue to stress that this is an unusual number of delays in the matter.  Such delays usually indicate cooperation with the Government-not good news for Lake County Democrats.  The Motion indicates that Assistant United States Attorney Gary Bell had no objection to the continuance.  The hearing will be held on February 6, 2014 absent any further delay.

Johnson pled guilty to bribery involving federal programs in October 25, 2012.  Co-Defendant Alfonso Salinas subseqently pled guilty on May 13, 2013.  Salinas was sentenced on August 13 and reported to the Bureau of Prisons on October 1 to serve his 42 month sentence.

Johnson previously had been sued for racketeering by the Attorney General of Indiana in the “Sidewalks for Votes” scheme in East Chicago.  Despite the fact that he settled that case, Dave’s Tree Service continued to receive local government contracts.  This was particularly the case in Hammond where Johnson was the preferred contractor for tree services.  Dave’s Tree still does work in the City of Hammond but it is not clear at this time if any of those jobs are a result of City contracts.