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More Serious Neglect Charge Against Swiontek Dismissed

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A Lake County judge has dismissed the more serious of one of the two neglect of a dependent charges against the mother of a two year old Portage girl whose body was found in concrete, in a swampy area of LaPorte County four years ago. Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. stated the state cannot prove Melissa Swiontek knowingly placed her daughter in a situation that likely led to her death. Published reports say the case revolves around whether the woman knowingly placed Jada Justice in a dangerous situation leaving the girl in the care of her cousin and her cousin's boyfriend with knowledge the couple used and dealt drugs. If convicted, Swiontek could receive six-months to three years in prison, before the judge's dismissal of the charge today, she faced between 20 and 50 years in prison.
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EB Borman (I-80/94) Backing Up near Ripley St.

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The center lane of eastbound I-80/94 is closed near SR 51 / Ripley St due to a stalled vehicle. Expect delays as you travel eastbound on I-80/94 approaching the I-65 interchange, near mile 15.3.
EB 80-94 at Ripley St. 06-2013
(photo from http://pws.trafficwise.org/ipws/nw/index.html))
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Minor Injuries When Garbage Truck Hits Rail Bridge

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Authorities report minor injuries to the truck driver after a garbage truck struck and damaged a railroad bridge this morning in Hudson Lake in La Porte County, toward the eastern end of the commuter line's service. La Porte County Sheriffs Police say upon arrival their deputies located a garbage truck that was wedged under the rural South Shore Railroad underpass at Point Road/Lake Park Avenue in the community of Hudson Lake.
Deputies learned that the driver suffered minor injuries to his face that were not life threatening.  Police say a preliminary investigation has determined the garbage truck had been traveling along East Lake Park Avenue when the driver tried to drive under the overpas,but the truck was too tall to fit under the 11’8” overpass and became wedged underneath.  As a result of the collision, the bridge and track sustained damage which resulted in the disruption of service to the rail road. 
South Shore is busing passengers between South Bend and Michigan City, and NICTD is advising passengers to expect delays to trains scheduled to originate or terminate in South Bend because of busing. NICTD spokesman John Parsons told the Region News Team that some trains are being annulled while the bridge is out of service, and those are trains that originate in South Bend and terminate in Michigan City, late-evening trains that are basically equipment moves to Michigan City that they open to service.
Parsons says there could be some rush-hour delays today related to busing, but they're not anticipated to have much of an impact through Lake and Porter Counties. Overall, throughout the day there are five trains that originate and return to South Bend, out of more than forty total.
Here is the NICTD website: www.nictd.com  . You can also hear more of our conversation with NICTD Spokesman John Parsons at News Audio on Demand here at our website.
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NICTD: Truck Strikes Railroad Bridge

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1 breaking-news
Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District officials say South Shore is busing passengers between South Bend and Michigan City this morning after a garbage truck struck and damaged a railroad bridge in Hudson Lake in La Porte County.  NICTD is advising passengers to expect delays to trains scheduled to originate or terminate in South Bend because of busing.   South Bend passengers who were on Train 14 as of just after 9 am today were being returned to South Bend, and NICTD was working to secure buses to transport these passengers to Michigan City in order to board Train 116.  More information as it becomes available.
www.nictd.com

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IDEM Region Office Now in Valpo

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The Indiana Department of Environmental Management Northwest Regional Office recently held an open house at their new location in Valparaiso.  IDEM says services provided by the office and staff levels remain the same.  IDEM’s Northwest Regional Office oversees the compliance of regulated operations, provides assistance on voluntary pollution prevention and recycling activities, and partners with businesses, environmental groups and municipalities on projects for the remediation of the Grand Calumet River area of concern.
“The new Northwest Regional Office address is in a central location in the three-county territory we cover, close to Interstate 65 and State Road 49, which allows for easy access,” said Thomas Easterly, IDEM commissioner. “We have made a smooth transition to our new Valparaiso location and will continue working closely with area residents, groups, and businesses to address Northwest Indiana’s air, land and water issues.”  
The new telephone numbers for the IDEM Northwest Regional Office are (888) 209-8892 (toll free) and (219) 464-0233 (direct). The new mailing address is 330 West US Highway 30, Suite F, Valparaiso, IN  46385.   The office used to be in Merrillville.
IDEM’s Northwest Regional Office is one of four regional offices that work, in addition to IDEM’s main Indianapolis Office, to provide businesses and citizens with compliance and technical assistance on federal and state environmental regulations and issues. More information about IDEM and its regional offices is available on the IDEM website at
www.idem.IN.gov/5217.htm ...

Read more: IDEM Region Office Now in Valpo

 

La Porte Crews Respond to House Fire

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In La Porte, emergency services responded to a house fire in the 400 block of H Street shortly before one-o'clock Wednesday afternoon. Police say the occupants of the home stated they smelled smoke, and one of the family members went upstairs to investigate, but could not see the source because of the heavy smoke. They called 911 and exited the home. There were no reported injuries. Preliminary investigation indicated the fire started in an upstairs bedroom. The cause remains under investigation.
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Woman Arrested After Shots Fired

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In Gary, police say a 24-year-old woman was taken into custody on a charge of criminal recklessness after allegedly firing shots into the air in the 400 block of Clark Road shortly before 2:30 Wednesday morning. Police say the woman stuck her arm out of the vehicle she was driving, and fired a gun three times. The woman, who police say had an outstanding warrant in Lake County for failure to appear in court, was arrested pulling into a gas station at Fifth and Clark Street
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Donations Sought for Griffith Shelter

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In Griffith, donations are being sought from residents and businesses for a new animal shelter to be built in the same area of the current one, a small facility described by one account as in 'dire need of repair'. Officials hope construction can begin later this year.
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Virgin Mary Statue Relocated

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statue moving WinCE
A group calling themselves “Save Our Lady” trying to prevent the relocation of a well-known statue in the Region says it's not over... though the marble statue of the Virgin Mary, hand-carved from Italy, and standing along US 41 in St. John for nearly sixty-years was moved Wednesday to the grounds of St. John the Evangelist Parish nearby. Those opposed to the move say the fifteen-foot hand-carved marble statue known as The Marian Wayside Shrine was just off the highway so the statue could be seen by all faiths. St. John the Evangelist Parish is placing a steel statue of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Millennium, about twice as tall, where the Legion of Mary Wayside Shrine had stood.
[Photo/Save Our Lady]
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Tests Show Food Additive Was in Lake

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The National Park Service has lifted the swimming advisory for all beach areas at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore that was in place following an oily looking substance that was sticking to swimmers Monday afternoon at Porter Beach. Officials say water samples ruled out an oil spill and further laboratory analysis indicated the presence of a food additive, tricalcium orthophosphate, an anti-caking agent. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore also says an increased amount of natural products, including algae and mica particles, were also found to be in the water. Lab tests conducted by both the U-S Geological Survey and Indiana Department of Environmental Management determined that the substances found in the water did not pose a health threat to swimmers. The United States Coast Guard used a helicopter and estimated it to be approximately 1/8 of a mile in length and being moved by lake currents to the east from Porter Beach towards the Indiana Dunes State Park and the eastern portions of the National Lakeshore.
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Three Parachute Off Trump Tower

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Three people reportedly parachuted from the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago overnight. Chicago Police say officials started getting 911 calls after midnight this morning from people who say they saw the three jump from the 92-story building along the Chicago River. It's the second-tallest building in the city, behind Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower. At last word, the three hadn't been located.
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Five Recent Arrests for Ridge Task Force

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Officials in Griffith say a new task force made up of officers from the Ridge area made five arrests in just the past few days, three of them reportedly drug-related. Griffith Police Chief Greg Mance says Griffith, Munster and Highland are sharing a Violence Reduction Grant that's going toward the initiative. Chief Mance told us during a recent Region Newsmakers interview that partnerships like these are great for the community and the police force.  To hear more of our interview, visit Region Newsmakers here at our website.
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Moving Forward on Trauma Center Study

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Local officials are at the very beginning of a process that will eventually lead a feasibility study of a trauma center in the Region, a directive spelled out in the so-called “Gary bill”, Senate Bill 585 passed by the Indiana General Assembly this session. Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority President/CEO Bill Hanna says the RDA is responsible, per the legislation, to deliver that study.  "So we're at the point right now where we're trying to get a stakeholder group developed," Hanna said. " We want to be very thoughtful about that and make sure we have the right balance that represents the two-county area."  Hanna said that group's function will be as a steering committee to guide whatever team is selected  to do the actual study.  Hanna also says they want to make sure those involved understand that the Region is a unique market, that the impact of Chicago has to be considered as well as how to finance such a center. You can hear more at News Audio on Demand here at our website.
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Defense Wants Charges Dropped

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A judge in Lake County is being asked by the defense to dismiss charges against the mother of a two-year-old Portage girl whose body was found in concrete in a swampy area of LaPorte County four years ago. Trial is scheduled to begin Monday for Melissa Swiontek, who's been charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent. Published reports say the case revolves around whether the woman knowingly placed Jada Justice in a dangerous situation leaving the girl in the care of her cousin and her cousin's boyfriend with knowledge the couple used and dealt drugs. Engelica Castillo was found guilty of murder and Timothy Tkachik pleaded guilty to neglect in the child's death.  A ruling from Lake Criminal Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr is expected by this afternoon.
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Woman Arrested for Machete Attack Last Week in Gary

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A 28 year old Merrillville woman has been charged after attacking a 30 year old Crown Point woman with a machete in Gary last week. Authorities report Endia Rivera was arrested Tuesday night and charged Wednesday with attempted murder, aggravated battery, and two other felonies for the June 11th assault of Angela Carrier in 45-hundred block of Georgia Street. Court documents state the victim suffered injuries to her arm, neck, back, hands, and shoulder, resulting in the permanent loss of the use of her right shoulder, and may have to have her left index finger amputated.
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LaPorte Woman Assaults Officers After Arrest for Battery

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Kristina Yacconi
(Photo Courtesy of the LaPorte PD)
A 34 year old LaPorte woman was arrested Tuesday night for assaulting a woman and the woman's ten-year old daughter, and then assaulting a two police officers while being processed. LaPorte Police report the victim informed them that she, along with another person, were playing cards at a home in the 300 block of State Street, when Kristina Yacconi, of LaPorte, came home and appearing intoxicated, allegedly proceeded to assault the victim and her daughter. Police called out to the scene just after 11:30pm and located the suspect minutes later at a neighboring residence where she was initially taken into custody on battery charges. Police say while processing Yacconi, she allegedly became combative, and assaulted a LaPorte Police Officer and a LaPorte County Jail Officer, and was additionally charged with felony battery to a law enforcement officer.
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CP Man Gets 4 Yrs for OWI Crash that Killed his Passenger

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A Crown Point man was sentenced to four years in prison for the death of his passenger in a July, 2011, crash. The Lake County Prosecutor's Office reports Nicholas Stockman was charged with felony operating while intoxicated causing death after his vehicle left the roadway while heading north on I-65, just north of the U-S 30 exit, and struck a light pole, causing both Stockman and his passenger, Desmond Ramos to be ejected. Ramos was pronounced dead at the scene, and authorities reported neither man was wearing their seat belt at the time of the crash.
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Gary Man Sentenced to 19 1/2 Years for House Burning

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A Gary man today received 19 and a half years in prison during sentencing for arson, battery, and stalking. The Lake County Prosecutor's Office reports James Gardner III was convicted of arson for damaging the residence of Kaneka Turner in December of 2008. Gardner was also found guilty of battery and stalking against Turner, as well as several other crimes, including harassment and criminal mischief.
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Read more: Gary Man Sentenced to 19 1/2 Years for House Burning

   

Substance in Water Posed No Threat to Swimmers

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A swimming advisory has been lifted for all beach areas at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Officials report lab tests conducted by both the US Geological Survey and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management determined that the substances found in water did not pose a health threat to swimmers. Park rangers were dispatched to the Porter Beach area Monday afternoon after visitors reported an unidentified substance sticking to swimmers. A US Coast Guard helicopter observed the extent of the material and estimated it to be approximately one-eighth of a mile long. Water samples taken ruled out an oil spill and further analysis indicated the presence of Tricalcium Orthophoshate. The US Coast Guard continues to investigate and a report is expected within a week.
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All Lanes WB on the Borman (I-80/94) Running Slow

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WB 80-94 at Calumet crash  06-19-13
Traffic westbound on I-80/94 is backing up just past Kennedy Avenue due to a crash on the outside shoulder near Calumet Avenue, which has the right lane closed between Indianapolis blvd. and Calumet.  Rescue crews are on the scene, be alert to slowdowns in the westbound lanes.
(photo from INDOT)
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