Make your home page

BRAZIL, Ind. (WISH) — Indiana Sheriff’s Youth Ranch in December will host a new “Breakfast With Santa” event for students in kindergarten through Grade 6.

The nonprofit training retreat will provide clothing, toiletries and food for youths. Selfies with Santa will be encouraged, the ranch said in a news release. The free event will include a meal of pancakes, cereal, turkey sausage links, juices and milk.

The event will be from 9 a.m.-noon Dec. 11 at the 62-acre ranch about 2 miles south of Brazil at 5325 N. State Road 59.

No reservations are needed, but guests are asked to “respect one another’s pandemic precautions,” the release said. Face masks and social distancing are encouraged when possible.

For more information or to donate to the ISYR Chaplain’s Fund, call 317-460-4242, go online to Indiana Sheriffs’ Youth Ranch GoFundMe page or write to the ISYR Chaplain’s Fund, 5325 N. State Road 59, Brazil, IN 47834.

Organizers of the event include Clay County Sheriff Paul Harden, Greene County Sheriff Michael Hasler, former Marion County Sheriff John Layton, Owen County Sheriff Sam Hobbs, Parke County Sheriff Justin Cole, Putnam County Sheriff Scott Stockton, Sullivan County Sheriff Clark Cottom, Vermillion County Sheriff Mike Phelps, and Vigo County Sheriff John Plasse.

BRAZIL, Ind. (WTWO) – A local father each Thanksgiving is reminded of a painful and unjust memory of his only daughter.

Thirty years ago on Nov. 18, 1988, 16-year-old Tonya Pickett and 32-year-old Ricky Mustard were found dead with shotgun wounds in a Brazil home.

We asked Tonya’s father, because he can’t be with Tonya on the holidays, is there anything special he does to honor her. 

He says giving his first-ever on-camera interview with us, asking investigators and witnesses to go back to this case is how he honors his daughter on the 30th anniversary of her unsolved murder.

It was a murky case from the start. Pickett and her stepfather Mustard were found shot and killed in Mustard’s Brazil home.

Tonya’s mother, Cheryl Pickett, came home to the discovery.

“Like it or not, that’s the kind of memory Cheryl has now that she’s had to live with for 30 years and it’s affected her life tremendously,” Norval “Chuck” Pickett, Tonya’s father. said.

Chuck tells me Cheryl had to continue her day to day life. But after work each day, she would go back to the case and try to find an answer. It’s now been 30 years. Tonya’s father says time’s up.

That’s why he reached out to us for an interview.

“Every year that goes by you lose witnesses, one way or the other, you lose them … I think there’s some evidence out there, i think there’s people that know some things that aren’t talking.”

The investigation was initially handled by the Brazil Police Department in 1988. Police captain at the time, was Roger Lindsay. But the case went cold, then 20 years later, Indiana State Police reopened the investigation.

“They started from scratch, they didn’t take anyone’s word for anything.”

In fact, state police went to Florida where former police captain Lindsay was living and escorted him back to Indiana.

He was accused of falsifying information and misleading police in their investigation. He was not accused of the murders.

One person police did name as a murder suspect was John Lovett, Tonya’s boyfriend at the time.

In 2008, authorities arrested Lovett on two counts of murder. Chuck lived in Florida at the time, but tells me he sold everything to move back to Brazil and closer to the investigation.

“I had waited years and years for this … And I wasn’t going to miss it for anything.”

But a trial never came.

In 2012 The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled to throw some evidence out. Evidence Tonya’s father said was key.

Then the charges against Lovett were dismissed.

Three decades later the murders remain unsolved, and Tonya’s father is left to think about the crime.

Tonya was murdered before Thanksgiving and her birthday was just days before Christmas.

“She basically was a Christmas gift because she was born on the 23rd, but they kept her and her mother in there until Christmas morning,” Chuck said.

He shows us some of his last memories of his daughter. Pictures. Pieces of paper, that are now his most cherished possessions.

“What I haven’t shown you are pictures of my grandchildren, what I haven’t shown you are pictures of possibly my great grandchildren. Those people are not here because they don’t exist.”

“Everybody watching, if you know anything, please let the appropriate people know … Me and my family would really appreciate it … So thank you.”

Often times with cold cases as old as this one, relationships between witnesses change which could provide a better opportunity for the truth to come forward.

BRAZIL, Ind. (WISH) – A Brazil teenager has been missing since late October and one organization is asking for the public’s help.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 17-year-old Karrigian Saums was last seen on Oct. 29 at her home in Brazil, Indiana.

The organization says they believe the girl may have traveled to Indianapolis.

Saums is described as being 5’1″ tall with blonde hair and blue eyes.

Anyone with information on her disappearance should contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 or the Brazil Police Department at 812-446-2211.

BRAZIL, Ind. (WTWO) — Linda Messmer says she likes to be an informed voter. That means she reads up on candidates and pays attention to their ad campaigns at the beginning of election season. 

But, Messmer says, the negative ads relating to this year’s Indiana Senate race put her over the edge. 

“They were just throwing mud and cow manure at each other, and I thought I don’t like this, I wanna get away from it, so any time an ad would come on with these two people I would mute my TV or turn off my TV or radio,” Messmer said. 

She found that wasn’t enough and decided to take matters into her own hands. She bought a radio spot on WAMB in Brazil, Indiana, to send politicians a message.

“I am sick and tired of being bombarded with all the negative, hateful, mean-spirited ads. I say to all the politicians running these ads, stop it!,” said Messmer in part of the ad. 

Messmer said she fears the message these negative ads are giving to the newest generation of voters.

“It’s going to show kids, young voters, it’s going to show a whole generation of people, ‘Boy this is how you get what you want, you don’t respect anybody, you throw mud, talk about ’em, lie about ’em,'” Messmer said. 

The trend of negative ads is one that ebbs and flows in the United States but has been around for hundreds of years.

“In terms of a documented record, we have a lot from 1800, so that was John Adams was running for re-election against Thomas Jefferson, and it descended into incredible negativity,” said Chris Olsen, dead of Indiana State University’s College of Arts and Sciences. 

While television ads are more regulated in other countries, where there is less money spent on campaigns, that doesn’t mean negative ads aren’t circulated elsewhere. 

“Television is not the only medium anymore. Things are done on the Internet, and that negative advertising that makes it on television in the United States simply migrates over to the Internet in other countries,” said Terrence Casey, a professor in Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s political science department. 

Olsen said that while research shows that negative ads work, due to their easy-to-understand nature, he does not want people to be discouraged about changing the current campaigning formula. 

“I think it will take some sort of public response, though, and will, to kind of collectively reject that style,” Olsen said.  

A public response we see in Messmer, who’s being selective about where she puts her stamp of approval.

“The only other thing I would add is ‘I’m Linda Messmer and I approved this interview,'” Messmer, said and laughed. 

Olsen encouraged people to pay attention to the ends of political ads, where there will be a specific endorsement message if the candidate has approved the message. He said oftentimes the nastiest ads are not endorsed by a candidate, something voters should keep in mind.

Messmer is extending a challenge to Sen. Joe Donnelly and candidate Mike Braun to come visit her at her home to discuss these political ads and their agendas face-to-face.

BRAZIL, Ind. (AP) — A rural western Indiana county that’s home to the state’s only holding facility for people being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was paid more than $1.2 million last year to house and transport detainees.

Clay County has become a major service provider for ICE at a time when the country is debating the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy, the (Terre Haute) Tribune-Star reported.

The 176-bed Justice Center was overbuilt for the county of 26,000, said Sheriff Paul Harden. The agreement to house ICE detainees using open bed space generates upward of $1.3 million annually for its general fund, most of which officials said goes back into jail operations.

The Justice Center first began housing ICE detainees in August 2013 through an intergovernmental service agreement with the U.S. Marshals Service’s Prisoner Operations Division. ICE saw the existing arrangement while looking for spacious Midwestern jails and decided Clay County was a natural fit.

The agreement pays the county $55 per ICE detainee per day and transportation fees of $20 per hour per guard.

The jail is allowed to house an average of 65 detainees per day. Harden said the jail has an average 25 detainees on a given day, but Jail Commander Ryan Cannon said the averages don’t reflect the rapid fluctuations in daily numbers.

Harden said politics has nothing to do with the program and that it is money coming to the county.

“If we can have some money coming in and not just have an empty cell, why not have the money coming in?” Harden said.

He emphasized that the detainees at Clay County usually aren’t illegal-entry defendants, but that they are more often picked up for serious criminal offenses.

“Very rarely do they ever target someone that has not committed a criminal violation,” he said. “Now sometimes police will be making an arrest and another individual there is found without the proper paperwork to be in the United States. Then in that case, they may be picked up for a non-criminal offense.”

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – In just a matter of weeks, lawmakers will gather at the Statehouse to talk about sports betting, but the gaming option remains a year or more away for Indiana. 

This Indiana gathering will come after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a federal law that bars gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states, giving states the go-ahead to legalize betting on sports. Indiana lawmakers decided to study it this summer.

On Monday, New Jersey’s governor signed legislation allowing sports betting. Michigan is also considering it. 

Republican State Rep. Alan Morrison from Brazil, Indiana, said he has championed legal sports betting in Indiana for years. He has tried several bills in years past. “Ultimately, I think it’s a great thing for our gaming industry and, at the end of the day, it’s a win for states’ rights.”

His new plan is to create a bill that helps iron out the kinks of how it would work. “We have 13 casinos or racinos, boats. We have a handful of off-track betting facilities. Those would be the facilities that we would allow.” 

He said, “If we implement it correctly and do some things we need to, I imagine it will mean multiple tens of millions of dollars back to the state every year.”

Morrison said if progress is made as he would like, we could see sports betting in Indiana by summer 2019.

The Democratic Party leader in the Indiana House of Representatives, Terry Goodin from Austin, said he is ready to talk about sports betting.

Goodin  said, “If we do that, if we have a good strong civil debate, I think we can come up with a good solution. I don’t think any one person or one group can come up with the solution. I think the solution needs to be a mix of ideas and thoughts from everyone involved in the process.”

Not all Hoosiers support the addition of sports betting, though.

Christina Gray, executive director of the Indiana Council on Problem Gambling, said, “We think it’s going to open the door to a lot of possible issues with people having problems with gambling.” 

Gray said, “If they decide to allow sports betting, we would likely see an increase for those who may have a problem gambling. For treatment, also maybe some more funds to help us get the word out about problem gambling.” 

The state has a hotline — 1-800-994-8448 — and a website listing links to resources that can help people with gambling addictions. Another state website offers an anonymous self-assessment test to determine if someone has a gambling addiction.

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) – A newspaper reports a western Indiana couple has won more than $200,000 in settlements after a police dog bit their son during a school field trip to a courtroom.

The Terre Haute Tribune-Star reported Friday that public records requests show Michael and Gabriel Abbott of Brazil recently reached out-of-court settlements of $105,000 from the state and $80,000 from the city of Brazil. The couple had sued Clay Superior Court Judge Blaine Akers, the city of Brazil and the Brazil Police Department.

The lawsuit said their son, Jaxon, then 11, was placed in unnecessary danger in Akers’ courtroom in 2013 when police placed marijuana on some students and the drug-sniffing dog bit Jaxon’s leg before being forcibly pried off by officers. The lawsuit said the boy suffered scarring and nerve damage.

BRAZIL, Ind. (AP) – Authorities say four children were taken to a hospital for evaluation after an SUV crashed into a school bus in western Indiana.

The crash happened Monday afternoon in Clay County, about 55 miles west of Indianapolis. The sheriff’s department says the bus was hit by an SUV. Two area residents pulled the SUV’s 54-year-old driver from the vehicle before it burned.

Authorities say more than 40 children were on the Clay Community Schools bus. They were checked at the scene before four were taken to the hospital. Details on injuries weren’t immediately released, but the district’s superintendent says they’re grateful it wasn’t worse.

Investigators say the SUV’s driver passed another vehicle when he saw the bus and tried unsuccessfully to avoid hitting it. The crash is under investigation.

BRAZIL, Ind. (WTWO) — Many might not see see them, but there are homeless people living in communities all across the Wabash Valley.

A Clay County woman has made it her mission to help them.

But she isn’t just providing them with food and clothes through a church ministry — she’s added something that will make their days and nights more comfortable.

She’s doing it one mat at a time.

Plastic shopping bags are in big demand at Benwood Mt. Lebanon Church in Brazil.

It’s because the bags are transformed into sleeping mats for the homeless.

Charlotte Reyher got the idea from a Facebook page.

And in March, she incorporated the project into the church’s ministry to help the homeless.

“This would give them a barrier from the cold. It would give them some warmth in the winter time. And it would just be something they could use and maybe make their life a little easier.” says Reyher, who started Sleeping Mats for the Homeless at Benwood Mt. Lebanon Church.

Making the mats is pretty simple.

First, bags are smoothed before being cut into strips, called plarn (plastic yarn).

“So, we make yarn from plastic bags and keep them from the landfills,” says Rossanne Adams, a volunteer.

The plarn is tied together, then crocheted or woven together on a weaving loom.

These good folks are not just making mats; they’re also crocheting carrying straps, pillows and even backpacks.

They’re lightweight handmade items.

And the volunteers have faith their work will bring some comfort, one mat at a time, to Hoosiers who are homeless.

Soon, Rehyer will take the plastic sleeping mats to groups in Indianapolis, to be distributed to the homeless.

If you’d like to learn how to make them, contact Charlotte Reyer on her Facebook page: Hoosiers Helping the Homeless… 1 Mat at a Time.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The state is setting aside $20 million to help Hoosiers find work in high-demand jobs.

Gov. Eric Holcomb is going around the state this week to talk about the Next Level Jobs grant program.

You may not think many Hoosier companies are looking for workers since the state’s unemployment is at 3 percent, the lowest in nearly 20 years. But think again.

“We currently have between 80 and 100 manufacturing jobs available,” said Cory Lookebill, the Great Dane Trailers plant manager in Brazil, Indiana.

The state said nearly 95,000 jobs remain open across Indiana. About half of those in sectors the state deems in high-demand: advanced manufacturing, transportation, construction, health and tech.

State leaders said those areas could spur future employment. They’re jobs that require specific skills. But the problem is many people don’t have the necessary training to get these jobs.

“We need to connect the workforce with those job opportunities today. They need to be filled,” Holcomb said.

So the state unveiled the . There is $10 million for a grant program that could allow Hoosiers to enroll for free at Ivy Tech Community College or Vincennes University to get a certificate in those targeted areas of growth. Those certificates usually take a year to complete.

“With this, people can see the end of the tunnel. More importantly than that, they can see the link to high-demand, high-wage jobs that employers are just frankly begging for today,” said Chris Lowery, Ivy Tech senior vice president.

The state is enticing employers in these sectors, too. Another $10 million grant program can cover costs these companies take on to train new hires.

“I would think this will have an impact nearly immediately,” Lookebill said.

With so many job openings at transportation company Great Dane Trailers, Lookebill said it can struggle getting products to customers on time. But now there’s hope for more hires and better service.

“Will allow us to not only continue our strong manufacturing history in the state of Indiana, but also grow and offer our customers better deliveries and higher quality products,” he said.

These grants are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and job seekers can apply now. The grants are available for up to two years, but state leaders said that money could run dry much quicker.

For more information on how to apply, click here.

Never miss another Facebook post from WISH-TV