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DANVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Fruit growers across Indiana are inspecting their crops for damage today after Tuesday’s snow and cold brought an unwelcome sight to their orchards. The National Weather Service in Indianapolis says the temperature dipped to a record low of 27 degrees overnight at Indianapolis International Airport.

In Hendricks County, Beasley’s Orchard owner Calvin Beasley has been inspecting his 25 acres of apple trees and four acres of strawberries at the family’s U-pick farm.

“We had a low measure here on the farm of 26. I think we were at that temperature for probably less than an hour. But currently, the apple trees are in full bloom and your critical temperature at full bloom, that is going to be 28,” said Beasley.

He says trees start to sustain 10% crop loss at 28 degrees. The colder it gets, and for longer periods, the worse it gets.

“One of the guys who work for me, he’s been here for almost 30 years, and he’s never seen anything like it either,” said Beasley, who runs the 75-year-old farm.

Beasley says he hopes the three inches of snow that the orchard received provided a protective barrier to the tender blooms and buds.

“We’re hoping that it actually covered the buds up enough from the ice to encase them and actually trapped some of the heat in there and prevented from escaping in the atmosphere,” said Beasley.

Fruit growers will often irrigate budding trees in early spring when they expect low temperatures, but he is not sure snow on blooms will have the same effect.

He is also trying to protect his four acres of strawberries. Beasley had a crew of workers in the field before the snow to put straw on the plants, providing a barrier.

“We’ll leave that straw on the strawberry through tomorrow (Thursday) morning and start removing it tomorrow,” said Beasley.

Beasley says he grows 30 varieties of apples, which bloom at different times. He says later blooming trees have a bit more hardiness and may sustain less damage. But for now, it is a waiting game.

“Experience has taught us it’s better to wait,” said Beasley, who says the forecast calls for cold temperatures again Wednesday night, but not quite as cold,

“I’m thinking late (Thursday) afternoon, the snow all melted off. And then to make it easier to get around the trees and look at things,” said Beasley. “That’s when we will start really doing some detailed analysis to see how we came through this whole thing.”

The National Weather Service says the airport received two inches of snow. While rare, it is not a record in terms of late-season snow. The NWS says the latest measurable snowfall in Indianapolis was May 9, 1923, when .9” of snow fell.

DANVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A zoning board in Hendricks County on Tuesday night recommended the rezoning of 80 acres of land for developers to build a campus for the Muslim community.

The board advanced the measure with a 4-3 vote. The board’s recommendation now goes to the Hendricks County Board of Commissioners for their final approval.

About 60 people showed up at a zoning meeting at the county fairgrounds to voice their opinions on the project. The crowd was significantly larger than normal.

The issue gained a significant amount of attention after a petition online against the project brought about hateful speech regarding the Islamic community.

The proposal calls for a former Clermont golf course near Brownsburg to be transformed into a community center that will include prayer rooms, residential units, and a private school and dormitory.

Developers say they will not build a separate mosque, and the residential area will not include apartment units.

“From what I was reading on the petition, the comments that were being left behind by the people that were signing it, it struck me that the primary reason that anybody is objecting to it going in is based on religious grounds,” said Kevin Wightman, who lives near the proposed project.

A petition opposing the project garnered more than 600 signatures and quite a few comments about why they don’t think the project is a good fit for the area.

“We did not anticipate such opposition. Some of the comments are based on some valid concerns about the traffic, about noise; others are rooted in, unfortunately, anti-Muslimism rhetoric,” said Hiba Alami, executive director of the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network.

A small group of protesters gathered outside of the meeting with signs that read “Love your Muslim neighbor.”

Protester Nadia Lovko said, “I think if this was a Christian community trying to build itself, I don’t think we would necessarily be having the same issue of ‘Well, there aren’t enough resources.’ I don’t think that is a topic that would even be approached.”

Gary Avery says he was not at the meeting to fight an issue of religion but rather to get some answers about logistics. He had not decided where he stands on the proposal.

“I think it is important that we understand what private or public money is needed to support something like that,” Avery said.

Developers addressed concerns of environmental impact and traffic issues, and planned to fix many of those problems at their own expense.

Before public comment started Tuesday evening, one of the board members made it very clear the zoning board would only hear comments regarding zoning issues and not hear matters based on religion.

DANVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — College student Caleb Needham was home from Indiana State University over the weekend. 

He was driving to his parents’ house in Danville on I-70 just south of Plainfield when a pumpkin crashed through his windshield. 

Needham said, just before he went under an overpass, he noticed the semi in front of him swerve and saw pumpkin splattered in the road. Before he knew it, one landed on his passenger seat and he quickly realized someone had dropped it from above.

Covered in glass and in shock, Needham calmly pulled to the side of the interstate, called his parents and then called police.  “I just started shaking I guess because I was just like scared I guess because I could have died in that instance,” Needham said. 

He is now back at school with just a few scratches, something his dad, Joe Needham, is thankful for. “This could have caused a major accident, not just with Caleb. You know, he could have jerked the steering wheel or went off the road. It could have killed him. He could have ran into other vehicles. He could have crossed the median. You know, so many other things could have happened with this.”

Those are all points Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine really hopes to drive home. “These can be deadly, and we’ve seen that before and we really want people to understand the potential ramifications that can come from throwing something at a moving car.”

Caleb and his family said they forgive the person who dropped the pumpkin and they’re hopeful they come forward. “Maybe they’ll come and apologize or something and say, ‘Hey, I was wrong,’ but maybe it will at least impact them from where they’re at today to where they’re at in the future so they don’t do this to someone else.”

Police said so far this is the only report of people dropping pumpkins they’ve received and are investigating. They are asking people on the interstate to pay close attention and call them if they see anything suspicious.

DANVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Visit Hendricks County has unveiled a campaign designed to boost meeting and conference business throughout the county. The organization says Host It Local encourages local businesses and residents with incentives to choose a Hendricks County venue when planning their next event.

Visit Hendricks County says each business referral sent to the organization boosts the local economy. Businesses that make such a referral will receive assistance from Visit Hendricks County with their event or meeting, including finding a venue, securing a hotel room block for guests, promotions and marketing, and more.

“As we move forward with plans to meet and gather again, we know the experience will be different, but we really wanted our locals to consider helping their neighbors by keeping these events close to home,” said Becky Harris, director of sales for Visit Hendricks County. “Just know, we will do our best to help you plan a fun, memorable and socially responsible event whenever the time is right for you to start meeting again.”

Additionally, the organization says businesses that make a referral will be eligible to receive All In Hendricks County merchandise for their event. The first five qualified meetings or conferences booked through the effort will receive a $100 cash donation in their name to the Hendricks County Rapid Response Fund.

You can learn more about the initiative by clicking here.

DANVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — At least two Hoosiers reported receiving unsolicited face masks from China amid a federal investigation into unsolicited seeds shipped in similar packaging.

James Rowings washed his hands after handling the masks. (WISH Photo)

James Rowings, an attorney at Hinkle Law Firm in Danville, said he received a package containing five pleated masks in individual plastic bags. 

The masks are black and have a texture similar to coated denim.

The plastic mailing packet was addressed to Rowings at the law firm and appeared to be sent from a warehouse in Shanghai.

“It’s nothing that I ordered. It just showed up unannounced. I haven’t gotten any emails to indicate an order was placed,” the attorney told News 8.

It arrived Wednesday after the U.S. Department of Agriculture and all 50 states issued warnings about unsolicited seed packets from China that had appeared in more than a thousand mailboxes nationwide.

The seeds “appear to be delayed packages due to COVID-19, not brushing [scams],” an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement to News 8.

Amazon officials did not immediately respond to questions from News 8 about the unsolicited masks.

Rowings wondered if his name and information had been shared by a China-based Amazon seller he previously ordered from.

He purchased a webcam from the seller in February to facilitate virtual classes at Ivy Tech Community College, where he teaches as an adjunct faculty member.

The product never arrived.

“My brother in St. Louis says he got a package of masks like this, too. But his were white and he only got three,” Rowings said.

On Wednesday, the Anderson Police Department in Indiana received a call from a resident who claimed they also found three unsolicited masks in the mail, a police spokesperson said.

U.S. Postal Service officials did not immediately respond to emails from News 8.

Rowings reported the masks to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s fraud prevention unit and was advised to throw them away, he said.

State and federal authorities had not yet confirmed investigations into the unsolicited masks Thursday night.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WISH) — Indiana conservation officers have proposed criminal charges against people on both sides of an altercation July 4 near Lake Monroe, according to a report submitted to the Monroe County prosecutor.

The prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that it was continuing to review the evidence and, by Thursday afternoon, had announced no action.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the report to News 8 on Thursday afternoon. Information redacted from the report included witnesses’ addresses and dates or birth, and identifying information on juvenile witnesses.

DNR conservation officers were called about 8:10 p.m. July 4 to an altercation between two groups of people southeast of Bloomington on the shore of Lake Monroe. One group was camping on property owned by Bruce McCord; the other group was camping in the Hoosier National Forest. The report said the altercation involved Vauhxx Booker, who is a member of the Monroe County Human Rights Commission; Sean Purdy, the boyfriend of McCord’s daughter; and Jerry “Bubba” Cox, Sean’s boss and friend.

Booker has said the altercation was racially motivated and involved dialogue about a rope and a noose, but Booker, through his attorney, rejected two requests for interviews with conservation officers about what happened. In a statement from Booker’s publicist to the news media, Booker’s lawyer has referred to the altercation as “an attempted lynching and violent prejudice fueled attack.” Booker met July 13 with FBI agents. In a news conference Friday at People’s Park in Bloomington, Booker called for a grand jury to investigate the altercation.

The DNR case data report of the altercation at Lake Monroe suggests these criminal charges:

Purdy told conservation officers he had encountered people throughout the day who were trespassing on the McCord property. According to the report, Purdy “would explain to them all, where the property lines were, and that the McCord’s (sic) did not wish to have them on their property.”

Booker and his friend Watkins were among people who Purdy encountered on the McCord property. Purdy said he gave Booker and Watkins a ride on a cart to direct them to a campsite on adjacent property. Purdy told conservation officers that “Booker was not friendly to him during that encounter and further explained that they did not like his (Purdy’s) hat. Purdy described his hat as a cowboy hat with a confederate flag on it,” the report said.

Purdy said he later noticed Booker yelling while “as close as two inches” to his girlfriend, Caroline McCord, but did not hear what was said because of a radio being played nearby. Booker and McCord were on a hill near Booker and Watkins’ campsite, Purdy told conservation officers.

The report said, “At that point, Purdy said he forced his way in between Booker and McCord by pushing Booker (He demonstrated this with his hands). Purdy later said that he did not move Booker with the push, due to Booker being much larger than he was. Purdy said, he told Booker ‘Don’t talk to my lady like that, you are over here on our property, you are not going to come over here and do this.’ Purdy then said he got punched in the jaw, causing the bruise on his chin. Purdy said he went down after the punch and then his memory was a little blurry after that because of the punch.

“Purdy said he didn’t remember how they ended up in a position where he was holding Booker up against a tree. He specifically said ‘I don’t remember a minute or so’. He said he was mainly holding Booker up against the tree with his legs. Purdy said he did not think Booker was trying very hard to get out of being held up against the tree. Purdy said he remembered Booker could breathe fine and said ‘I was just holding him in place, not letting him go, were gonna, you know. I wanted to stop it from happening, ready for it to be over, you know’. Purdy said he did not know when/how Jerry Cox got involved. Purdy also said Caroline said he (Purdy) had been hit three times but he only knew of one time. Purdy said he did not say any threats to Booker and did not hear any others. Purdy admitted to drinking quite a bit that day. I also asked Purdy why he did not report getting punched that evening (July 4, 2020). Purdy said he just wanted it all to go away.”

Conservation officers interviewed Cox, who is from Danville, on July 6 at the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office in Martinsville. Cox said Purdy has been his boss and friend for 15 years, the report said. Cox had a black eye at the interview.

Cox was drinking with other people on a boat near the shoreline when he saw the interaction between Booker, McCord and Purdy.

The report said, “Mr. Cox said that he could hear Mr. Booker talking about Sean Purdy’s Confederate Flag hat that he was wearing that day. Mr. Cox said that the next thing he saw was Sean Purdy and Vauhxx Booker ‘rolling around in the bushes.’ Mr. Cox states at that point he ran over to that location to ‘get things settled’ and got Mr. Booker stood up, and that’s when he said Mr. Booker punched him in the face. Mr. Cox said that he punched Mr. Booker back after he was punched and further stated that his right hand was hurting him pretty bad the next day. Mr. Cox said that he believed he punched Mr. Booker ‘a couple times.’ Mr. Cox said that after that, they told Mr. Booker to just leave and get out of the area. Mr. Cox stated that he knew that we had seen the video and that he said some things that he shouldn’t have said.”

Later in the interview, “Mr. Cox said that he did not really ‘remember greatly’ exactly how everything happened once the fight started,” the report said.

Cox also told investigators that he never stated “get a rope,” “get a noose” or anything similar to that.

The report said, “Mr. Cox said the reason he was so angry was because Mr. Booker punched him in the face and also because of some things he had said during the incident. Mr. Cox commented that ‘you could clearly see in the video that he wanted me to call him the ‘N’ word’ and that Mr. Booker said ‘just do it, just do it, you know you want to.'”

Cox told investigators he was sorry for directing a racial slur toward Booker.

“Mr. Cox said that Mr. Booker wasn’t trying to resolve things and was making things worse,” the report said.

Conservation officers who responded to the incident said injuries were minor. Cox had a small cut on his forehead and redness under his eye. Booker had a small scratch on his left cheek and complained of a headache.

The next day, July 5, Booker reported to DNR that he’d had pieces of his hair pulled out and had suffered a concussion in the altercation.

The conservation officers interviewed 15 people, obtained multiple videos and photos received from people at the altercation, and made transcripts of audio from the videos, the report shows.

One person at the campsite where Booker and Watkins stayed, Fredrick “Max” Walsh, refused to turn over his videos of the altercation to the FBI and conservation officers.

“There were others around the tree but Purdy appeared to be the only one holding Booker down. Multiple people could be heard instructing Purdy to ‘let him go,'” the report said.

One video showed Booker being pinned against a tree. Booker also was “bent over and appeared to be being held down” by Purdy, the report said.

A conservation officer on July 7 found the tree Booker had been pinned against in the video but found no evidence of blood or hair at the site along Lake Monroe, which is a reservoir. “The tree was clearly within the Corp of Engineers property line,” the report said.

Other videos showed the interactions between the two groups as Booker’s group was walked back to its campsite.

In addition to the criminal investigation, the altercation led to at least three demonstrations in nearby downtown Bloomington, including one demonstration that led to a 66-year-old woman being criminally charged after two people were injured.


“In an extraordinary and prejudicial move the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) officers who on July 4th 2020 refused to arrest the very people who called Vauhxx Booker by ugly racist slurs and threatened to lynch him, have improperly released a record of their investigation, which they refused to even admit they were conducting.

“This is inappropriate conduct by a law enforcement agency to publicly release documents which are generally denied even under Indiana Public Access Laws. Why are they doing it? Because they are threatened and embarrassed, since they didn’t do the right thing two weeks ago.

“Vauhxx Booker is the victim.

“Even suggesting that a victim of a hate crime is a suspect is inexcusable, immoral, and more evidence that racism is systemic.

“Vauhxx Booker has not committed any crimes and is a free man. He did not refuse interviews with law enforcement in fact he has been and continues to work with the FBI. He refused to be subjected to an interview with the same DNR officers who refused to listen to him July 4th when he was attacked.

“Vauhxx was being held against his will, battered, and threatened because of the color of his skin. Vauhxx Booker’s friends saw it and they put it on tape. The DNR report confirms Booker’s previous accounts that Sean Purdy had been wearing a confederate flag hat.

“This is yet another outrageous example of how Black people in America cannot get justice and are repeatedly re-victimized by the system. We again call on The United States Attorney to pursue Hate Crime charges and convene a grand jury to examine this case.

Statement from Vauhxx Booker and his attorney, Katherine Liell, from publicist Shoshanah Wolfson

“Based upon a press release yesterday on behalf of the accuser, it appears Mr. Booker’s lawyer and publicist want to strong-arm a prosecutor’s decision by stirring up the sentiments of a public who does not yet know all the facts. Mr. Booker was the bully fake county commissioner on July 4. Now his lawyer and publicist are acting like bullies, calling the Monroe County Prosecutor out by name yesterday (a person Booker has previously openly declared he had supported during her campaign), publicly imploring her to ‘do the right thing.’ For Mr. Booker, his lawyer, and his publicist, the ‘right thing’ seems to be what they want, not what the evidence demands. It is what they have done from the beginning of this shameful ordeal – loudly push out a narrative that accomplishes Mr. Booker’s financial and notoriety goals regardless of the truth. Ms. Liell has been a licensed attorney for over 31 years. Surely she knows prosecutors cannot and do not issue warrants. Or perhaps yesterday’s press release was written by Mr. Booker’s publicist,, who is untrained in the law but apparently is learned in ways to make more money and garner more attention for her client. Was it Mr. Booker who said the local paper in Bloomington wasn’t big enough for his story, or was that Booker’s publicist speaking again? Putting public pressure on elected officials to try to get your way is sad and desperate. It is also wrong. The Bloomington and Monroe County communities should appreciate they have, in Erika Oliphant, an elected prosecutor of high integrity and strong character who makes charging decisions in high-profile cases only after thoroughly following where the evidence and the law lead, not allowing baseless, histrionic calls for action to dictate her timeline in doing so.”

The criminal defense team of Baldwin, Perry and Kamish PC, which represents Sean Purdy

AVON, Ind. (WISH) — Nurses at IU Health West Hospital in Avon and health care workers around the world celebrated National Nurses Day a lot different this year.

Greg and Lisa Frazee at the Brownsburg Landscape Co. are trying to make sure different is a good thing.

“We brought a little happiness to the nurses and passed out some flowers,” Lisa said. They call it “Hanging Baskets for Healthcare Heroes.”

“It really does go a long way and makes a big difference in the spirits and the morale of the team,” said Kapri Ames, chief nursing officer. “It’s been a lot of hard work that they’ve done lately and a lot of stress and they’ve made a lot of personal sacrifices as well.”

The nurses showered the Frazee couple with thank yous for their kind gesture.

“It’s very heartwarming to see everybody smile,” Lisa said.

Starting their National Nurses Week on the bright side, as they go back to face the daily challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, “It goes a long way to inspire and motivate and keep us moving,” Ames said.

Brownsburg Landscape brought a total 250 baskets to IU Health West Hospital. They also delivered baskets to health care workers in Danville at Hendricks Regional Health Hospital in Danville.

Indiana coronavirus timeline

Hendricks Regional Health launches 24-hour hotline for free coronavirus screenings

DANVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Hendricks Regional Health officials said they’ve received more than 100 calls since launching a 24-hour hotline offering free coronavirus screenings.

The hospital said they’ve been working around the clock since the second case in Hendricks County was confirmed on Sunday night. Health providers are answering calls with their cellphones.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michelle Fenoughty said callers have been parents worried about their children.

“Their biggest concerns are how sick am I? Am I sick enough that I need to be seen? If I need to be seen, is that my primary care’s office tomorrow? Is that an immediate care this evening or do I need to go to the emergency room?” said Fenoughty.

The hospital said they’re adding more healthcare providers to answer the high volume of calls.

The Indiana State Department of Health has also been busy adding more staff to their hotline.

HRH’s hotline is educating callers on the coronavirus, calming fears and telling them what to do next if symptoms occur, like fever and shortness of breath.

Health officials are asking people to call the hotline first to be screened, although the hospital’s emergency rooms haven’t been overcrowded.

“Emergency rooms still are taking care of heart attacks, strokes and motor vehicle accidents, and we need them to still have capacity to do those other very important things,” said Fenoughty.

Fenoughty said many people calling the hotline are experiencing mild symptoms and are told to wash their hands, use sanitizer and avoid social contact.

“We recommend that people frequently clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched, they avoid rubbing their eyes and touching their mouth. Stay away from their face so they don’t contaminate themselves,” added Fenoughty.

Click here to learn more about the 24-hour hotline or call 317-520-5500.

DANVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Hendricks County will welcome back one of the biggest springtime consignment sales in central Indiana for its eighth year.

The Here We Grow Again consignment sale gives hundreds of families in the community a chance to shop on a floor with more than 120,000 items. Katie Awwad, who helped start this project, says she enjoys bringing people from all over the community together.

“I look forward to the community aspect this sale brings,” Awwad said. “The main goal was just to be a blessing to the community. We felt like there was a need on the west side for families who needed help reusing and reselling items.”

It’s one of the largest sales around, especially for new parents, where you can shop for gently used clothes, toys and more for lower prices than you would find in bigger retail stores.

What are the hot items for families?

“Our large equipment,” she said. “Strollers, high chairs, cribs. That whole room will be depleted pretty quickly.”

She also says their boutique inventory sells well every year, giving shoppers the option to purchase items usually sold at retail stores for $70 for as low as $10.

According to Awwad, they’re expecting at least 620 families to make their way to the Hendricks County Fairgrounds. “Most families depend on these sales to budget their next season of clothing for their kids.”

Everything that’s not sold by Sunday, March 15th, will be donated to Active Grace; a nonprofit in Camby, Indiana, that battles homelessness and supports families in need.

Former Tri-West principal charged

DANVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — The former principal of Tri-West High School has been formally charged with failing to report allegations about a possible relationship between a coach-teacher and a 17-year-old girl who was his aide.

Adam Benner, 43, was charged Wednesday with a misdemeanor in Hendricks Superior Court 2. No court date has been set for Benner’s case. He has not been arrested.

A spokeswoman for the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office said Wednesday she did not know if Benner will be summoned to court or if an arrest warrant will be issued. The prosecutor will argue those points, and the judge will ultimately decide, the spokeswoman said.

Benner resigned as principal in June.

Indiana law requires anyone, regardless of their professional capacity, to report any belief that a child is the victim of child abuse or neglect to the state Department of Child Services.

Court records say the school in Lizton in February received information via a new website, Quick Tips, created to allow students to anonymously submit concerns. The information relayed information about the teacher-coach, Tyler Bruce, and the 17-year-old girl.

One tip read, “I have heard the whole school saying Mr. Bruce and (the girl) are in a secret relationship of a sexual nature. Action should be taken immediately.”

Another tip noted Bruce and the girl had been seen working out alone together in the weight room with the door locked.

Bruce, 31, was charged Tuesday with two counts of child seduction and a count of obstruction of justice. He was booked into jail Tuesday night and released after paying a $500 bond, according to the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office. He was arrested Tuesday night at his home in Pittsboro. No court date has been set for Bruce.

The allegations against Bruce, which prompted a criminal investigation in May, led to an acrimonious atmosphere between the North West Hendricks public school district, its leadership and many people in the community.  The district suspended Bruce with pay on May 28. On Wednesday, the district changed his status to unpaid suspension and announced plans to cancel Bruce’s contract.

Michael Springer retired from his job as the district’s superintendent in October. His departure was announced amid months of community controversy over the school board’s decision to keep Bruce on the job against Springer’s termination recommendation.

According to the charges against Benner, the Quick Tips information about Bruce and the girl was discussed at an administrators’ meeting March 1. At that meeting, Benner told other administrators that any further information about the possible relationship should go through him. Benner also said he and the athletics director, Nathan Begel, spoke to Bruce about no longer working out with the girl in a one-on-one setting.

Another administrator, after finding Bruce and the girl alone in his office with the lights off in early May, reviewed surveillance footage from the end of April and early May and found they were together in Bruce’s office on multiple occasions. After the footage was found, an assistant principal warned Bruce not be be alone with the girl under any circumstances.

The Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office first learned about a potential inappropriate relationship between Bruce and the girl in an anonymous call on May 12. A deputy contacted school administrators. Stacey Begel, the dean of students, told the deputy that the report was not “new information” and no formal report had been made to Child Services.

The Department of Child Services first learned about potential inappropriate conduct between Bruce and the girl in an anonymous call on May 17. The caller to Child Services said Benner and other school administrators were aware of the situation, court documents said. A Child Services caseworker met with the family May 24 at the home of the girl and her parents. Over the course of that meeting and another one later, the girl relayed information about her relationship with Bruce. She described inappropriate touching and social media exchanges.

Court documents said, “On November 4, 2019 a search warrant was requested and granted for Bruce’s school email account and personnel record. There was no indication of Benner making any contact with Bruce in any way regarding the concerns expressed via the QuickTips in February 2019. There was at least one email from Bruce to another teacher regarding (the girl). The teacher asked to speak with him in person rather than responding to the email.”

On Nov. 7, the deputy went to interview Benner, but he would not agree to be interviewed. Other Tri-West administrators had previously talked with investigators.

Details of what may have occurred between Bruce and the girl were first revealed in September in a complaint compiled by an Indiana Department of Education attorney. It said Bruce became involved with a female student who was in his math class and she interacted with him outside school hours as a coach’s aide. He asked the girl to use Snapchat to communicate with him “after his wife went to bed” because that way “there would not be proof.”

The Department of Education complaint said the girl sent naked photos of herself to Bruce after he repeatedly asked for them and threatened her grades. He also asked her to work out with him alone after school, encouraging her “to take ice baths after sporting events.” He would stay while she took the baths and ask her to remove some of her clothes. He also told the girl “she was too shy around him,” according to the Department of Education complaint.

The complaint states that Bruce on separate occasions touched the girl on the back, stomach, butt and pubic area.

The Department of Education has not announced any action regarding the complaint.


“North West Hendricks School Corporation and the Board of Trustees are grateful to the Hendricks County Sheriff and the Dept. of Child Protective Services for their efforts in investigating the charges against Tyler Bruce. Their thorough investigation has provided evidence that was previously unavailable and inaccessible to the board. The board finds this conduct egregious and contrary to everything the school district stands for.

“Based on this new information, the school administration has changed Mr. Bruce’s status to an unpaid suspension effective immediately and has given preliminary notice to Mr. Bruce that his contract will be canceled and employment terminated in accordance with I.C. 20-28-7.5. The status of Mr. Bruce’s teacher licensure is a separate issue that is handled by the Indiana Department of Education.

“This has created great division in our small community and the school board joins the community in its desire for a swift resolution to this matter. In the meantime, the board and administration are committed to restoring trust, aggressively reviewing policies and procedures and seeking remedies to bring harmony back to our community.

“The safety and security of our students is our foremost responsibility. We look forward to strengthening our community partnerships to protect them while providing the best possible education.

“There is no further comment at this time, but we will continue to share information as appropriate. For more information regarding this case, please contact the Hendricks Co. prosecutors’ office.”

Donna Petraits, communications consultant, North West Hendricks School Corp.