Make your home page

LAGRANGE COUNTY, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The LaGrange County Economic Development Corp. has announced Chief Executive Officer Bill Bradley will retire at the end of the year. Bradley has led the organization since April 2018.

Bradley joined the organization after serving as executive director of the Jay County Development Corp. for nearly 12 years. He also serves on the boards of directors for the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and Northeast Indiana Works.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors of the LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation, I want to thank Bill for his service to the organization and the community,” said Mark Eagleson, chair of the EDC’s board. “We wish him all the best in his retirement.”

Bradley says he plans to remain in the LaGrange County area for the foreseeable future, with a goal of “hopefully building a new church building sometime soon.”

BUTLER and LAGRANGE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Elkhart-based Forest River Inc. is growing its northeast Indiana manufacturing footprint. The recreational vehicle manufacturer says it will invest a total of $7 million to expand operations in DeKalb and LaGrange counties and create up to 369 jobs by the end of 2023.

Forest River will invest $3.5 million to build and equip a 63,000-square-foot production facility and expand its existing 30,000-square-foot building in Butler. The company says the expansion will allow it to boost production of its XLR Toy Hauler line.

Construction is underway and is expected to be complete by February. 

Additionally, another $3.5 million is being invested to build and equip a 95,000-square-foot facility in LaGrange, which is designed to increase manufacturing capacity for the company’s Cherokee RV line. 

Forest River plans to break ground on the LaGrange project in October. 

“We’re excited to continue expanding our operations in Indiana, which provides access to a talented workforce, strong RV manufacturing ecosystem and business-friendly environment,” said Mike Stump, project manager at Forest River. “With the support of the state and local communities in Butler and LaGrange, Forest River will continue to deliver high-quality products to customers around the world, while providing great career opportunities for Hoosiers here at home.”

The expansion is expected to create 120 jobs in Butler and 249 jobs in LaGrange. The company says it plans to begin hiring at both locations in January for manufacturing, operations, administrative, and management positions.

Forest River employs some 9,500 Hoosiers at 10 locations throughout the state.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. has offered Forest River up to $4.1 million in conditional tax credits, which the company will not be eligible to claim until Hoosier workers are hired for the new jobs. The city of Butler and the town of LaGrange will consider additional incentives.

WOLCOTTVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — A married couple is accused of molesting a young girl over the course of four years.

Indiana State Police arrested 34-year-old Robert Hoff and 38-year-old Mandy Hoff in the case.

Police say they’ve been molesting a girl over the last four years.

They were arrested on Wednesday and taken to the LaGrange County Jail.

They each face two preliminary counts of child molestation, a level one felony.

WOLCOTTVILLE, Ind. (WANE) – Indiana State Police have asked for the public’s help and a $5,000 reward has been offered as authorities work to solve a July robbery of a Wolcottville bank.

Just before 3 p.m. July 26, a shirtless male with a moustache and beard walked into the Farmers State Bank, 107 N. Main St. in Wolcottville. He was wearing a dark-colored ball cap and carrying a dark-colored backpack. The man showed what appeared to be a black-colored handgun and demanded money, police said.

He made off with an undisclosed amount of cash and fled northbound on foot before running west down a nearby alley. State police said he was last seen driving from the area in what appeared to be a silver or light blue colored Ford Crown Victoria or Mercury Marquis.

Anyone with any information on the incident was asked to call the Indiana State Police Post in Fort Wayne at (260) 432-8661 or Greater Fort Wayne Crime Stoppers at (260) 436-7867. Anonymous calls will be accepted.

An anonymous entity has offered a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person involved in this robbery, police said.

Wolcottville is a town of about 1,000 people located about 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis. 

A University of Indianapolis forensic anthropology team was sent to a rural part of northern Indiana after skeletal remains were found in a field, Indiana State Police said Tuesday.

The UIndy team went to the site Monday. The body was decomposed and unidentifiable, so the team will do DNA testing and an anthropological exam to try to determine the manner of death and the person’s identity, police said.

The site near LaGrange County roads South 950 East and East 350 South is about a half-mile south of the unincorporated community of Mount Pisgah, which is about 40 miles north of Fort Wayne.

A news release from state police said a property owner found the skeletal remains. 

The investigation was continuing Tuesday.

LAGRANGE, Ind. (WANE) — After a fire ripped through three buildings Tuesday in downtown LaGrange, business owners are trying to figure out what to do next.

According to LaGrange County dispatchers, a fire was reported around 10 a.m. in a series of three buildings housing a Family Dollar store, Gould Sports and Santa Cruz Tienda Y Carniceria, in the 100 block of North Detroit Street.

For the owner of the Mexican grocery, Manuel Aguilar, it wasn’t a question of “if” they would rebuild, but a matter of when. Santa Cruz Tienda Y Carniceria has been in business for 16 years. Aguilar said it is the only Hispanic grocery store in the community.

“It’s very important to us to still remain in business for the community,” said Jeanette Aguilar. “Not just the Hispanics, but everybody.”

Jeanette works at her father’s grocery store. She said rebuilding will be a huge undertaking. The roof is damaged along with all the merchandise inside, and there is water the basement. The family was only able to salvage a few valuables.

“I was panicked,” said Jeanette. “You don’t think about stuff like that. I don’t even know what to get. So I just grabbed the safe and the money out of the register and I went outside.”

Several hours after fighting the fire, the building housing the Family Dollar store collapsed, but neighboring businesses continued to burn. Fire crews spent the majority of yesterday battling the massive fire. Crews were still on scene more than 24 hours later.

“A lot of my guys have been up since yesterday morning when they got up to go to work,” said LaGrange Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dave Elick.

A stretch of the downtown roadway was blocked off, which forced several businesses on North Detroit Street to close. Chicago Joe’s restaurant sits on the next block over from where the fire began. Although the fire didn’t spread to that business, the owner said the restaurant is closed because of smoke damage.

The Aguilars are not certain when the store will reopen. Rebuilding could take months. Jeanette said there’s a long road ahead, but they are thankful for the firefighters and the outpouring of support from the community.

“I just want to say thanks to all the firefighters for the effort for helping us,” she said. “Thanks to them, [our building] is still up.”

Fire officials have not determined the cause of the fire.

LAGRANGE, Ind. (WANE) – A horse in LaGrange County that appeared badly emaciated was the subject of an investigation by the state veterinarian and the county’s sheriff’s office.

On Wednesday, LaGrange County Sheriff’s deputies and the Indiana State veterinarian went to a property at 3455 North State Road 9 in Howe after receiving “several” complaints about possible animal neglect. In a Facebook post by Allen Yoder that has been shared more than 33,000 times, a horse is shown severely underweight and with cuts to its hoof.

Dozens of people contacted 24-Hour News 8’s sister station, WANE, about the horse this week.

At the property, the sheriff’s office said the state veterinarian inspected all animals on the property. Officials found “adequate water supply and food source” on the property. A news release said that “adequate medical and health care requirements” were being administered to the animals on the property.

The sheriff’s department said the property owner was “cooperative and forthcoming of information.” He was not identified.

The state veterinarian will conduct a follow-up visit later to verify the owner was caring for the animals.

LAGRANGE COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) A 13-year-old girl was killed early Wednesday when she was struck by a passing vehicle as she rode her bicycle west of LaGrange.

Police and medics were called just before 8 a.m. Wednesday to a stretch of C.R. 050 North near C.R. 250 West on a report that a vehicle crashed with a bicycle. Responders arrived to find 13-year-old Lovina Schwartz down.

Schwartz was airlifted to a Fort Wayne hospital, where she died.

Investigators said a 2011 GMC driven by 37-year-old Benjamin A. Hanlon of Middlebury was headed eastbound on 050 North near 250 West when he struck Schwartz on her also-eastbound bicycle. LaGrange County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Aaron Knisley said “blinding sunlight” contributed to the crash.

The incident remains under investigation.

LAGRANGE COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) Two former employees of a LaGrange County campground have been arrested on allegations they stole thousands from the business.

Indiana State Police said Tuesday that investigators closed a two-month investigation into internal theft from the Twin Mills Camping Resort in Howe with the arrests of 25-year-old Ariel Lynn Allen and her live-in boyfriend, 27-year-old Michael L. Sawyer.

Police said an internal audit by Twin Mills officials found that more than $19,000 in cash and $3,000 in checks were not deposited between July and August 2016. After the early September discovery, Indiana State Police Det. Mike Carroll, along with the LaGrange County Sheriff Department, began to look into matter.

A release said Carroll “quickly turned” his focus to Allen, Twin Mills’ administrative assistant who was in charge of making the campground’s monetary deposits, along with fellow Twin Mills employee, Sawyer. After an interview with the couple, police searched a Twin Mills property and found a bag with all of the missing checks, two Twin Mills burlap money bags, and paperwork that would have been included in the money drops, police said.

The cash was not found.

Allen and Sawyer were both arrested on felony theft charges. Sawyer was also charged with misdemeanor assisting a criminal.

LAGRANGE COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – Indiana State Troopers are investigating a fiery crash involving three semis which killed one driver on the Indiana Toll Road Monday afternoon.

According to a press release from Indiana State Police, officers were called to the scene of the crash at 1 p.m. A preliminary investigation concluded that a semi tractor-trailer was stopped on the outer shoulder of the road attending to a problem with his truck when his trailer was struck by another eastbound semi tractor-tanker.

The semi tanker then collided with another eastbound semi tractor-trailer, forcing both trucks into the center median. The semi tanker caught fire after the collision. The driver of the semi tanker was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the press release.

Another driver involved the crash was taken to a local hospital for his injuries. The press release does not mention which driver was taken to the hospital.

The crash caused both east and west bound lanes of the road to come to a standstill in the area. The Toll Road is currently restricted to a single lane in both directions.