INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Sunday, dozens gathered on the steps of the Indiana State Capitol to demand change after the death of 4-year-old Judah Morgan. His body was found Monday morning inside the home of his birth parents in La Porte County.
Court documents say Judah’s body was covered in bruises.
When officers interviewed Judah’s birth mother, Mary Yoder, she admitted he was often beaten. She also told officers that Judah’s birth father, Alan Morgan, would keep him locked in the basement for days at a time.
“In this particular case (DCS) simply didn’t do their job. They didn’t do what they were supposed to. They didn’t follow up. Had they followed up, they would have seen the red flags,” said Genna Hullett, Judah’s foster mother.
Hullett was also Judah’s second cousin. She said the biggest reason she took custody of Judah was to keep him out of the foster care system and make sure he was safe at all times. Ultimately, she blames the Department of Child Services for the tragic outcome.
According to Hullett, not only did the department fail to follow up on Judah, it also failed to file the correct paperwork in the four years she had custody of Judah.
“Termination of parental rights on two different occasions and for some unknown reason they failed to do so — and all he could do is apologize and he said they just had to start the case over,” said Hullett.
Yoder and Alan Morgan are both facing charges. His foster family say that’s not enough.
“We want to share Judah with the world and make sure there is justice for him and make sure that it doesn’t happen for anybody else,” said Hullett.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Saturday night, a group of people gathered to pray for the victims of the unsolved murders in Indianapolis. According to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, 143 of the 221 homicides so far this year in Indianapolis remain unsolved — that’s about 65%.
The vigil was held in memory of Gregory Wilson Jr., who was fatally shot in 2015. His case has remains unsolved. His father, Gregory Wilson Sr., holds this vigil every year on the anniversary of his son’s death.
“It’s so many families that have lost loved ones — whether it’s father, mother, sister, uncle, brother — you name it. That’s why I’m here today — not just my son, but to make sure that people understand there’s lots of victims of violence,” Wilson Sr. said.
Wilson Sr. said he loses sleep thinking that his son’s killer could still be a danger to others.
“People are being killed. All I care about is one thing — saving lives. How do we save lives as a community?” Wilson Sr. said.
IMPD says the department has a dedicated group of detectives that only focuses on cold cases. Wilson Sr. said he has never heard from them.
“It seems like it’s been cold from day one, because I haven’t gotten the communication. I’ve tried, but I haven’t,” Wilson Sr. said.
Neighbors in the community said police alone can’t be blamed for the unsolved murders.
“We can’t get time with the mayor — they’re not interested. The council isn’t interested. Our elected officials aren’t interested,” Ted Feeney, a neighbor, said.
“We’ve seen homicides spike each and every year. The last six years have been the most violent in Indianapolis history. That’s a cause for concern for any resident,” Feeney added.
IMPD and families of the victims agree on one thing: Anyone with information needs to come forward — and they can even do so anonymously.
“(We want) the community that knows about some of this violence — who’s committing these violent acts — to turn these people in,” Wilson Sr. said.
Wilson Sr. said even though finding his son’s killer won’t bring him back, knowing they’re not on the streets will bring some closure.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indianapolis music scene is mourning the loss of longtime blues musician Governor Davis, who died Wednesday morning.
Music venue staff at the Slippery Noodle Inn said the downtown tavern loved hosting the musician because a full house arrived when he performed.
“For me personally, I have never heard anything but love from anybody’s mouth about him,” said Sara Atherton, the office manager at the Slippery Noodle Inn. “People that appreciated music, like he’s one of the best. I guess a loyal group.”
Davis, a Chicago native, arrived in Indianapolis during his college years. Fellow musicians said he made an impact on the city’s music scene almost immediately. Derrick Muncy says he was honored to play alongside Davis several times. He said Davis’ unique style made him stand out.
“It’s not about following. No one is going to follow Governor Davis, playing with his teeth and jumping up and down. No one is going to do that,” Muncy said.
He adds that the bond between Indy musicians gives them more fulfillment than any crowd, or wave of applause. “The love and comradery has grown to this immense portion that it’s not about any competition or anything like that. It’s about, ‘Man, I am so glad to see you,’ ‘I’m glad you’re alive,’ ‘I’m glad you’re vibrant,’ ‘I can see you’re still keeping up your light,'”
Muncy also said he knows Davis wouldn’t want his fans or fellow musicians to sulk; he would want them to keep enjoying live music and keep smiling.
The Slippery Noodle Inn will host a fundraising event for the Davis family on Oct. 27.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Part of the $150 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money proposed for public safety over the next three years would be used to hire 50 “peacemakers,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said Wednesday.
The “peacemakers” will be working to prevent gun violence and interrupt it if it happens, the Democratic mayor said.
Hogsett had a news conference Wednesday at the City-County Building with the leader of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform, which will help the city implement a program to reduce gun violence. David Muhammad, the institute’s executive director, said gun violence is heavily concentrated in specific communities. “Gun violence is tightly concentrated on a small number of individuals who have several high-risk factors.”
“First was to conduct a gun-problem analysis, and our organization did a deep, detailed analysis of gun violence in this city,” Muhammad said.
Hogsett added that, since the people and communities most at risk of gun violence have been determined, the next step is preventing the crimes.
An important part of the plan is to build stronger ties between Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the community because “when you have distrust in law enforcement you have an increase in crime and violence,” Muhammad said.
With the recent launch of an investigation into use of force by an IMPD officer, Muhammad said, building trust could be difficult. He also said the way use-of-force investigation is being handled should ensure the community that officers will be held accountable.
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“You saw the chief of police come out and very emotionally say this is not what we stand for, we are suggesting termination for this officer, and this officer was charged by the county prosecutor,” Muhammad said in reference to a Tuesday news conference by Hogsett and the IMPD chief. “I think that is the kind of accountability that the public wants to see.”
Hogsett first announced the plans for the $150 million from the American Rescue Plan Recovery Act in early August. It’s part of the city’s proposed $1.3 billion for public safety in the 2022 city budget. The City-County Council was expected to finalize the 2022 city budget in a meeting set for Oct. 27.
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Department of Homeland Security will assure haunted houses are up to code and safe for all visitors this Halloween season.
To have an operating permit, haunted houses must pass inspections by the department.
“Our inspectors, they go out all year long but this time of year there is a lot of emphasis on haunted houses,” said Joe Tanasovich, an investigator for the Indiana State Fire Marshal. Those inspectors assure haunted houses follow Indiana safety laws, but the inspectors’ main focus is fire safety.
“Making sure that they have a safety plan, if the building is required to have a fire suppression system, make sure that they have what’s required, that it’s working and operating correctly, make sure that there’s sufficient exits,” Tanasovich said.
However, having exits in every section of the haunted house isn’t enough.
“I want to make sure that not only is there a door, but there is a path to safety if there is a reason for somebody to need to get away from the building,” Tanasovich said.
These inspections need to be reviewed every year because haunted houses never stay the same.
“We have a year-round crew that rebuilds and builds new scenes and the whole show,” said Scott Waterman, owner at Hanna Haunted Acres.
Safety procedures weren’t required by law until a haunted house turned into a real-life nightmare in 1984. Tanasovich said, “In 1984, there was a fatal fire in a haunted house, and that’s where a lot of the codes we have today come from.”
Haunted houses should have their operating permits displayed. If visitors don’t see a permit, ask a staff member to see it. If the haunted house doesn’t have a permit, don’t enter and report the facility to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — The Asian American Alliance is hosting a clothing drive for the Afghan refugees temporarily housed at Camp Atterbury near Edinburgh, Indiana.
“We just want them to feel like now this is your home, you are my neighbor, and neighbors help neighbors,” said Rupal Thanawal, president of the alliance.
With that sentiment in mind, Thanawal says, the alliance took to social media to ask for culturally appropriate clothing donations for the refugees. She said the idea of the clothing drive came to her when she was volunteering at Camp Atterbury and noticed many of the refugees did not have access to ethnic clothing.
“So it’s about the religious belief, cultural belief, and just what makes them happy,” Thanawal said.
Thanawal says the refugees are very thankful for everything they have received so far. Having culturally appropriate clothing makes them feel comfort.
“Before I know, I had 10 collection centers throughout the town,” she said.
The alliance started receiving so many donations, Thanawal eventually had to find a trailer to transport the large amount of clothing. Thankfully, she found one and says she’s been offered more help than she could have ever expected.
A volunteer, Bobby Sponsel said, “I mean they don’t really have anything else, so given the first view of America and seeing that people are giving things, I think it’s the best view of America at these times right now.”
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A team of ambassadors from Stella & Dot, a jewelry, bags, accessories and clothing retailer, on Wednesday visited child care workers at the IU Health Day Early Learning Center in downtown Indianapolis.
The visit was part of the California-based company’s Lavish the Love giveback program to thank people making a difference.
The founder and chief executive officer of Stella & Dot told the teachers how much their work has helped families during the coronavirus pandemic. The company donated skin care products to the teachers since they are having to handle disinfecting chemicals multiple times a day.
Teachers who joined the event said gestures such as those by Stella & Dot make them feel noticed and appreciated.
Teacher Monica Stultz said, “Receiving small tokens just remind us everyday of the important work that we do. Just a small token, but it means a lot and goes far for the work that we do everyday so it impacts us in small ways.”