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WROI News Archives for 2022-01

Man severely injured when his home exploded

An explosion and fire damaged a Royal Center home early Sunday morning.


Just before 2:00 am Sunday, Cass County Central Dispatch received several 911 calls regarding a fire and explosion in Royal Center on US 35 North. Deputies from the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and troopers from the Indiana State Police responded. Fire units from Royal Center responded and requested assistance from Harrison Township Fire, Cass County Fire District #1 and Logansport Fire, as well as Cass County Emergency Medical Services. Initial scene assessment found a residence in the 400 block of North Chicago Street (US 25) had exploded and caught fire.


Preliminary investigation by Detective Sergeant Dale Campbell found Jody Thompson, 51, of Royal Center had been asleep in his home when his residence exploded. A neighbor responded to the scene after hearing and feeling the explosion. The Good Samaritan kept Thompson in his vehicle until medical personnel arrived to provide care. Cass County Emergency Medical Services transported the victim to Logansport Memorial Hospital where he was later transported via ambulance to a trauma center in Indianapolis. A medical helicopter was not available because of impending weather.


The Indiana State Fire Marshall’s Office was requested to assist with this investigation.


The fire departments extinguished the fire, searched for other victims and assisted the sheriff’s office and State Fire Marshall’s office with the investigation of the incident. The agencies were able to confirm no one else was at the residence when the explosion occurred.


Sheriff Ed Schroder stated, “This is a terrible tragedy that critically injured Mr. Thompson while destroying his home and personal possessions. We received reports of citizens hearing and feeling the explosion from at least eight miles away.”


This incident is still under investigation by the Cass County Sheriff’s Office with assistance from the Indiana State Fire Marshall’s office. Anyone with additional information is asked to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 574-753-7800.

Twelve Mile woman killed in Thursday crash

A woman was killed when a vehicle ran off the roadway and struck a large gravel pile.


The Cass County Sheriff’s Department says its dispatch received a call just after 11:00 am Thursday.  A vehicle going eastbound on State Road 16 just east of State Road 25 ran off the road and struck a large pile of gravel on the south side of the road.


The vehicle, a 2020 Nissan Cube, rolled over and landed upright on the south side of the rock pile.  Trudie Harrison, 53, of Twelve Mile, was pronounced dead at the scene.  Harrison was ejected from the vehicle.


Indiana State Police, Logansport Police, Logansport Fire Department, Twelve Mile Fire Department, Harrison Township Fire Department, Cass County Emergency Medical Services and the Cass County Coroner’s Office were at the scene.


The crash remains under investigation.  Anyone with information is asked to call the Cass County Sheriff’s Department at (574) 753-7800.


Former Northfield basketball coach indicted on child seduction, pornography charges

An investigation of child seduction and possession of child pornography has resulted in an indictment.


The Wabash City Police Department says it has been investigating allegations against Rick L. Brewer, 58, of Marion. In early January, a Wabash County Circuit Court Grand Jury indicted Brewer on two counts of Child Seduction and one count of Possession of Child Pornography.


Brewer is a former teacher at Northfield High School and was the boys varsity basketball coach at Northfield the past three seasons.

Increase in Covid testing hours starting February 3

The Fulton County Health Department has announced that based on high demand the testing site will now be open Thursdays, temporarily, starting February 3.  
It will be at the Fulton County Fairgrounds, 1009 W. 3rd Street, Rochester.
It's a free drive-up testing site.  No appointment required.  Enter from State Road 31.
Rapid and PCR Tests available per state criteria
Rapid - 18 years & younger OR symptomatic 50 years & older
PCR - Anyone 2 years or older, regardless of symptoms
Monday, 9:00am - 4:30pm
Wednesday, 11:00 am - 6:30pm
Thursday, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Friday, 8:00 am - 3:30 pm
Saturday, 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
*Subject to change based on county needs

Indiana Department of Health strike team at Winamac Knights of Columbus thru Jan 22

The Indiana Department of Health will have a strike team at the Winamac Knights of Columbus continuing through Saturday, January 22.


The strike team will be offering free vaccines and COVID-19 testing from noon to 8pm each day. 


Both Moderna and Pfizer will be available and open to anyone over the age of five years old. Pfizer is only offered to those 18 years or older. 


As a state site, rapid testing is only available for those under 18 or symptomatic patients over the age of 50. Anyone testing between the ages of 19-49 or those 50 and older who are asymptomatic will be given a PCR test, with results available in 2-3 days. 


The site is free to anyone, with walk-in appointments available. 

Michigan man arrested in Fulton Co. on drug and theft charges

A recent traffic stop by Indiana State Police troopers led to the arrest of a Michigan man in Fulton County.


Jason Werry, 38, from Howard City, MI. He was incarcerated in the Fulton County Jail to face criminal charges for possession of methamphetamine, dealing methamphetamine, dealing a legend drug, dealing marijuana, possession of a narcotic drug, possession of marijuana, theft from a motor vehicle, and possession of drug paraphernalia. 


in the 10:00 am hour Sunday, the troopers initiated a traffic stop, on a 2001 Buick passenger car, on U.S 31 near State Road 25 for allegedly traveling 72 miles per hour in a posted 60 miles per hour zone. 


Indiana State Police say that during the traffic stop,  they noticed indicators that criminal activity was afoot.  


In a subsequent search of the Buick, officers allegedly found a handgun, over four pounds of marijuana, approximately 19 grams of methamphetamine, prescription medication, drug paraphernalia, a stolen license plate, and a stolen laptop computer. 


The troopers were able to use identifying information from the laptop computer to track down its owner who drove to Peru to pick up the computer which had been reported stolen from Kent County, MI. 


Werry was incarcerated in the Fulton County Jail. 

Rochester Superintendent Jana Vance on move to virtual learning

Day one of the latest stretch Covid-induced E-learning is in the books for Rochester schools.


Rochester Superintendent of Schools Jana Vance says they've been struggling to maintain daily activities and schedules with staff shortages in every department.



Vance says virtual learning is not advantageous for anyone.  They hope extending to January 31 will get past the peak Covid numbers that are still anticipated.



Vance addresses the desire to keep athletics and extra curricular activities running.


Plymouth man sentenced to 65 years for murder of 11-month old Mercedes Lain

The man charged in the death of a Plymouth 11-month-old received the maximum sentence of 65 years in prison on Tuesday.


Justin Miller entered guilty to the crime last month, with a deal that dismissed a habitual offender enhancement that would have added an additional 20 years.


11-month-old Mercedes Lain was reported missing on August 14 by her father who told authorities Miller had been babysitting.  Miller had failed to return Mercedes that Sunday and stopped responding to texts. A Silver Alert was issued that evening.


Miller was arrested August 16. The parents were also arrested and are still facing child neglect charges. 


Miller eventually led investigators to Mercedes body, which was located in rural Starke County, near the intersection of County Road 1025 East 50 North. 


Mercede's parents, Kenneth Lain and Tiffany Coburn, are set for hearings this week on child neglect. 

Farming For Life - Rochester's hidden gem that's changing lives and diets


Farming For Life, located at 915 E Ninth Street in Rochester, could make your healthy start to the new year a little easier to digest, with their gut-healthy food and drinks. 


Owner Joe Gady has been fermenting probiotic foods and beverages for almost two decades. From his dozens of European crocks in his certified kitchen on Ninth, Gady  produces nothing but organic, nutrient dense products.


His passion in organic farming and fermentation has changed lives and diets across the state of Indiana. 



Gady discovered that fermenting fresh, organic vegetables increased their nutritional value as much as ten percent. The health benefits from including just one bite of fermented foods with each meal is said to help everything from arthritis, acid reflux, migraines and more. 



Whereever he goes, Gady always has around a dozen handouts on him about the many health problems caused by an imbalance in the gut flora. Those curious about Farming For Life walk away from the store with free samples, and if Gady's there, a whole new understanding about gut health. 


Farming For Life is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10am-4pm. 





Rochester schools to go virtual starting Wednesday

The Rochester Community School Corporation will return to virtual learning starting Wednesday, January 19.


Superintendent Jana Vance released information Tuesday related to the school corporation's decision to go virtual.  In the release, Vance states:


As you are aware, the Covid virus continues to be a problem for all businesses including Rochester Community School Corporation. 


Due to a shortage of staff in all areas from teachers, to instructional assistants as well as transportation, food service and maintenance we have been forced to make the decision to go to virtual learning. 


EVENTS & ACTIVITIES:  All athletic and extra-curricular activities will continue as scheduled for as long as we can sustain this area.    


SCHOOL: Wednesday, January 19 - Rochester Community Schools will begin E-Learning.  Teachers and staff will report during contracted time.  E-learning will take place beginning at 10:00 am tomorrow, Wednesday, January 19, and we will resume in-person learning again on Monday, January 31, 2022. 


Vance goes to state that through working with the Fulton County Health Department they have determined that next week Covid cases in the county should be at their peak.


More information on lunch plans, procedures and other important updates will be released in the next couple of days.  You can follow Rochester's school website, social media and GIANT fm News and the Fulton County Post for continued updates.


Should you have questions regarding this information, please contact the Central Office at 574-223-2159. 


Rochester Mayor Ted Denton highlights improvement projects in State of the City

Mayor Ted Denton gave his State of the City address this week top open the new year.


The mayor included items of interest related to continued growth and planned improvement projects.


Waste treatment


Street, storm sewer improvements


City pool


The entire State of the City can be heard here.


Residents looking to get broadband urged to participate in Indiana Farm Bureau Internet speed test by Jan 18

Pulaski County has ranked near the bottom of the state  (83rd of 92) in access to broadband internet service. Because of this, the Pulaski County Broadband Task Force is urging every resident in Pulaski County to perform the Indiana Farm Bureau Internet speed test.


The mission of the Task Force is to bring broadband service to everyone, despite the location. The test is not just for those in Pulaski County and is available to anyone in the state of Indiana. RTC Communications is also actively seeking grants to build fiber to as many people in Fulton County and urges its residents to participate in the test as well. 


The Speed Test can be performed from this website ( from a computer or mobile device connected to your home’s internet connection. If you don’t have access to internet, you can also state that on the form.


This free test will help gather critical information used to access state and federal funding for broadband projects that will directly benefit residents. Testing only takes a few minutes to perform. 


While the test can be taken at any time, both Pulaski County Broadband Task Force and RTC Communications are asking it be completed by January 18 so that two proposed Fiber To The Home (FTTH) projects have this information to bolster their application.

Investigation of Logansport burglaries leads to Fulton County arrest

A investigation of burglaries at a Logansport business led to Fulton County.


On Tuesday, multiple agencies worked together to serve a warrant at 1628 West 1000 South in Fulton County.  During the residential search multiple items were found connected to burglaries and illegal narcotics use.


Justin Overholser, 38, was charged with two Level 5 felonies and two other Level 6 felonies connected to two September burglaries at Dunham’s Sporting Goods in Logansport.


Agents with Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives joined officers with the Cass and Fulton County Sheriff’s Department and Indiana State Police at the scene on Tuesday.


The investigation is ongoing.  Anyone with any information is asked to call Detective Dillon with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office at 574-725-2826.


Silver Alert: Katelin Rogers, Wabash

The Wabash Police Department is investigating the disappearance of Katelin Rogers.


Rogers is described as a 13 year old white female, 5 feet 3 inches tall, 160 pounds, red hair with brown eyes.


She was last seen in a black 2015 Ford Explorer with Indiana license plate 496RBA.


Katelin is missing from Wabash and was last seen on Tuesday, January 11, at 11:36 am. She is believed to be in extreme danger and may require medical assistance. 


If you have any information on Katelin Rogers, contact the Wabash Police Department at 260-563-9223 or 911.

Mammoth Solar, Moss Creek Solar Economic Development Agreement and Tax Abatements approved by Pulaski County Council

The Mammoth Solar and Moss Creek Solar Economic Development Agreement and tax abatements were both approved in a 5-1 favorable vote by Pulaski County Council members Monday evening.


The meeting lasted for more than three hours at the Pulaski County Highway Garage, and included a public hearing opened by council members. The room was packed wall-to-wall with concerned farmers, home owners and life long residents from Pulaski County, who came to voice their opinions. Most who spoke were against the project, bringing up their concerns on potential environmental issues, area job losses, the affect on home property value and more. 


The solar project is a $1 billion investment in Pulaski County that will include the several thousand acres of agricultural land throught five townships. According to officials with Baker Tilly, the proposed utility property abatement would be a 20 years and would result in property tax savings of over $40 million. During that 20 year period, Mammoth Solar is expected to provide $34.6 million in minimum Economic Development payments to the county. 


The tax abatement is said to result in an estimated property tax savings of more than $10 million. Moss Creek Solar would provide $6 million in minimum Economic Development payments to the county over an eight-year period. It also would lower property taxes from the proposed increased assessed valuation of property for soly this project, without any outside assessed valuation determined in the county. 



Pulaski Co. authorities still investigating deadly New Year's Day crash

A New Year’s Day crash killed a Plymouth man.  Now, days later, a Medaryville woman has died after being taken from the scene for medical treatment.

The Pulaski County Coroner’s Office is investigating the death of 23 year old Darlene Harwood of Medaryville.

Harwood was pronounced dead on January 7, by Pulaski County Coroner Jon Frain at Pulaski Memorial Hospital in Winamac.  The cause and manner of her death are pending investigation. 

John Partee, 55, was southbound on the highway about three miles south of Francesville in rural Salem Township on the evening of January 1. He was driving a 2014 Honda SUV.  Harwood was northbound in a 2008 Chevrolet SUV.  It’s unknown what caused the vehicles to collide causing Partee’s car to leave the roadway.

Toxicology tests are being performed for both drivers.  Evidence at the scene indicates both drivers were driving too fast for conditions with sleet and ice at the time of the crash.

The obituary notice for Darlene Harwood is on our news website, Fulton County Post.

First Federal Savings Bank announces Evan Gottschalk to assume the additional role of CEO

First Federal Savings Bank has started its 56th year having enjoyed an enviable run of management continuity and leadership. 


Dick Belcher, First Federal’s founding Chairman and President/CEO, has stepped down after leading the bank for over half a century. The Board of Directors recently promoted Evan Gottschalk, the bank’s current President, to assume the additional role of CEO in January. 


In the same meeting, Nancy Gruesser, Belcher’s daughter and current board member, was approved to become the next Chairman of the Board, also beginning in January. 


In addition, the Board appointed three new Directors.  Joining the Board in January are Dr. Dan Belcher and Cynthia Maves, children of Belcher and previously Advisory Directors.


The third appointment to the Board is Joe McCarter, current President and CEO of RTC Communications Corp. in Rochester, Indiana, where First Federal is headquartered.


Founded in 1966, First Federal Savings Bank has expanded over the years to have six branches located in northern Indiana and is considered to be a leading mortgage lender in Indiana.


First Federal’s mission is to serve our customers with the newest, competitively priced products delivered to them with state-of-the-art technology; to provide to all First Federal Family members a favorable working environment with reasonable compensation and benefits; and to treat all customers and First Federal Family members in the manner that all would like to be treated.

Rochester schools receive safety, tech grants

Two significant grants awarded to Rochester schools will aid in the areas of technology and safety.


Supt. Jana Vance says Rochester received a grant that from the U.S. Justice Department.  Only two Indiana corporations were awarded the grants to deal with school safety.



Vance says Rochester schools have a good camera system but they can always be better.



She also noted a technology grant that aids the Rochester schools improving IPad technology.  Tech that’s need was enhanced by the pandemic.



State health commissioner tests positive for Covid-19

State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG, is recovering at home after becoming re-infected with COVID-19, the Indiana Department of Health announced Tuesday.

Box tested positive through a rapid test on Tuesday morning after becoming symptomatic Monday night. She also received a PCR test, which will be sent for sequencing to determine whether she has been infected with the Omicron strain. Indiana and much of the nation are experiencing a surge in cases that is testing healthcare systems, due largely to the highly infectious Omicron variant. On Tuesday, the state reported 8,533 new cases and a seven-day positivity rate of 20.5 percent.

Box, who is fully vaccinated and received a booster dose in November, is one of an estimated 113,000 Hoosiers to suffer a breakthrough case since Jan. 18, 2021. She was experiencing symptoms including muscle aches, chills, coughing and a sore throat and was isolating at home. She will follow the isolation guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which call for her to isolate for five full days and allow her to return to work fully masked on the sixth day if her symptoms are improving.

This is her second time to become sickened with COVID-19, after testing positive in October 2020. An estimated 15,000 Hoosiers have become reinfected with COVID-19. The CDC says some reinfections are expected and is studying the frequency of such cases. Individuals who have previously had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated to prevent serious illness that can lead to hospitalization or death.

COVID-19 can be spread even by people who show no symptoms. Hoosiers can take steps to protect themselves and others during this surge, such as wearing surgical masks or KN95s when in public, staying home when sick, getting tested, getting vaccinated and receiving a booster when eligible. For information on testing sites, click here. Hoosiers aged 5 and older can get vaccinated. To find a vaccine clinic or schedule your appointment for your first, second or booster dose, go to

Fulton Co. Covid testing changes in response to demand and tests shortage

The Indiana State Health Department today announced changes to Covid-19 testing operations.  Full story available here:


In response, due to high demand and a national shortage of rapid test kits, the Fulton County Health Department has released information specific to its site at the Fulton County Fairgrounds.


Rapid antigen tests are only available at some locations for anyone age 18 and younger and symptomatic individuals age 50 and older due to the limited supply. PCR tests with results in two or three days are available for everyone, regardless of age or symptoms.


Fulton County Health Department Covid-19 testing site hours

Monday, 9am - 4:30pm

Wednesday, 11am - 6:30pm

Friday, 8am - 3:30pm

Saturday, 9am - 12:30pm


1009 W 3rd Street, Rochester - Fulton County Fairgrounds

Free Drive-up testing site. No appointment required.

Enter from State Road 31


Rapid and PCR Tests Available per State Criteria

Rapid - 18 years & younger or Symptomatic 50 years & older

PCR - Anyone 2 years or older, Regardless of symptoms


Health Department announces changes to testing operations

The Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) is making several changes to testing operations due to high demand and a national shortage of rapid test kits.

  • Hours are being extended at the community testing and vaccination clinic outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays through Jan. 22. The changes are effective today.
  • The clinic, which is being held in the INDYCAR parking lot at 4551 W. 16th St., Indianapolis, across from Gate 2, will accept walk-ins only from noon to 4 p.m.
  • The two-dose Pfizer pediatric and adult vaccines, as well as the two-dose Moderna vaccine, are available.
  • Also effective today, rapid tests at state and local health department testing sites will only be available to individuals aged 18 and younger and symptomatic individuals aged 50 and older. This change is necessary due to the national shortage of rapid antigen tests and is designed to help ensure that students can stay in school and that Hoosiers who are most likely to need a monoclonal antibody are identified within the prescribed window in which they can be administered. Indiana typically uses about 50,000 rapid tests per week but is only guaranteed to receive 11,000 a week at this time.
  • Appointments for rapid tests previously scheduled for today will be honored while testing supplies last, but no appointments for rapid tests will be honored at state or local health department sites going forward except for individuals who fall within the above categories. PCR tests, which are the gold standard, will continue to be offered at all testing sites, with results expected in two to three days.

Click on the testing map at  to find a testing location. Visit to find a vaccination site.

Plymouth man killed in weekend crash

The Pulaski County Coroner’s Office and the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department are investigating a fatal car crash.

The crash occurred around 7:00 pm Saturday approximately three miles south on US 421.  Johan Partee, 55, of Plymouth, was pronounced dead at the scene by Coroner Jon Frain.  The cause and manner of death are pending further investigation. 

Assisting Frain was Chief Deputy, John Behny from the coroner’s Office. 

For unknown reasons, two vehicles collided causing the vehicle Partee was driving to leave the roadway. The driver of the other vehicle was transported to Franciscan Health in Rensselaer.  The crash remains under investigation by Deputy Cody Foust.  Assisting Foust was Deputy Matt Pickens and Detective Chris Schramm from the Pulaski Couunty Sheriff’s Department.  

Responding agencies include Pulaski County Coroner’s Office, Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department, Pulaski County EMS, Francesville Fire Department, Monon Police Department, D1 Towing, and Indiana DNR. 

Jeff Finke finishes 12 years serving Fulton County Community Foundation Board, still continues to serve local community

2022 is a new start for Jeff Finke. 


Finke's term is up after 12 years on the Fulton County Community Foundation Support Board. Between being the past Vice President and President of that board, Finke has also served as a committee member on the Grants Committee, the Scholarships Committee, and the Lilly Scholarship Committee.


During his time serving he helped establish three funds for the Kewanna area: The Kewanna Fund, The Kewanna-Union Township Endowment Fund, and The Kewanna Fall Festival Fund (In Honor of Luke Mate).


Finke says his time serving the community has been rewarding. 



Serving the community isn't something that's just going to stop this year for Finke. He also serves on the Kewanna Town Council as President, and is President of Kewanna's H.E.A.R.T., Inc., a not-for-profit corporation. 


As for his career, Finke has been at Kewanna Metal Specialties, Inc. for the past 32 years where is Vice President of Sales & Administration.


Finke said at the end of the day, he does what he does to try to make the community a better place for his friends and neighbors.

Suspects in Bradley, IL police officers shooting arrested; pursuit and two arrests in Fulton Co.

Law enforcement in Fulton County contributed to arrests of suspects connected to the shooting and killing of one officer and injuring another in Bradley, Illinois.


Pictured:  Darius Sullivan


About 3:30 am Friday the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle driving the wrong way on a one-way street in Rochester.  A car and foot pursuit followed with two men taken into custody.


Indiana State Police confirm that a handgun and narcotics were recovered. Bryce Baker, 20, and Joshua Adams, 26, both of Kankakee, have been charged with possession of stolen property, possession of a handgun without a license and resisting law enforcement.


By 9:30 am Friday, officers with the U.S. Marshall’s Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force requested the assistance of the Indiana State Police SWAT to serve a search warrant on a residence located at 1001 N. Bond St., North Manchester.  During the execution of that warrant, two individuals were taken into custody without further incident.


Several weapons and narcotics were recovered.


One of the individuals, Darius Sullivan, 26, from Kankakee, had active warrants for First Degree Murder, Attempted Murder, and Aggravated Battery with a Firearm.  These charges stemmed from the murder of Sergeant Marlene Rittmanic and the injuries to Officer Tyler Bailey, both of the Bradley Police Department.  At last report, Officer Bailey was in critical condition.


Sullivan was held at the Wabash County Jail pending his return to Kankakee.


Indiana State Police wouldn’t comment on the Illinois State Police investigation but did confirm Sullivan is the suspect in the shooting of the Bradley officers.  No explanation was given for Sullivan or the other suspects connection to the location in North Manchester.


Also arrested at the residence was Daniel Acros, 19, from Kankakee.  He is preliminarily charged with weapon and narcotic charges in Wabash County, IN as a result of the search warrant.


A woman wanted by authorities, Xandria Harris, has since turned herself in to Bradley Police.


This is an ongoing investigation by the Illinois State Police. 


Assisting at the North Manchester scene were the following agencies:  Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, Akron Police, Wabash County Sheriff’s Department, Kosciusko County Sheriff’s Department, Warsaw Police Department, North Manchester Police Department, Akron Police Department, North Manchester Fire Department, Manchester University Security, Lutheran EMS, and the Wabash Fire Department. 


Anyone with information about the suspects is urged to call the Illinois State Police Hotline at 815-698-2315. Tipsters can also remain anonymous by calling that number or CrimeStoppers at (815) 93-CRIME.