LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — A barbecue restaurant is making plans to reopen after sustaining damage in a fire Wednesday morning.
Lizton-Union Township Fire Department was called shortly after 8:05 a.m. Wednesday to Rusted Silo Southern BBQ & Brew House, 411 N. State St. That’s just south of the I-75 interchange for State Road 39 in northern Hendricks County.
The restaurant was closed when the fire broke out, and no injuries were reported.
The fire minimally damaged the restaurant structure, the department said in a news release. The restaurant’s website said Wednesday night, “Rusted Silo is Temporarily Closed Due to Fire Damage. We will be back soon!”
Owner Rob Ecker told News 8 by email, “What we know currently is that the fire started in a slow cooking unit overnight, possibly due to a power surge or lightning strike from the passing storms. The fire spread into the adjacent wall where some studs were ignited and left smoldering, creating an abundance of smoke and intense heat.”
Ecker added, “We will be closed for the foreseeable future, pending restoration efforts. Plans are in the works to serve a limited menu from our food truck, onsite at the Silo, as soon as next week.”
He also called the outpouring of support, prayers and offers of assistance “greater than we could ever have imagined.”
In a video on Facebook, Ecker said, “I wanted to say thank you to everybody who’s switched out and shown us support today. If you can’t tell how much it means to me, your support and your love, then I’m not sure anybody would be able to see it.”
The fire department’s release said Ecker “is an asset to the community. He truly cares about everyone before himself. Previously Rob traveled back to his hometown in Bay County, Florida to help victims of Hurricane Michael. Rob took food and supplies down to feed as many people as he could. He fed over 3,000 on his trip down there. As a community we will come together and help Rob and his family reopen. The LUTFD sends our deepest condolences to the Rusted Silo family and we are here for anything they need to help reopen.”
Pittsboro Fire Department and the Brownsburg Fire Territory assisted. A Brownsburg crew was working to confirm the cause of the fire.
Lizton is a town of nearly 500 about 12 miles west of Indianapolis.
LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — A husband-and-wife administrative team at Tri-West High School were criminally charged Friday with failure to report child abuse or neglect, according to the Hendricks County Prosecutor’s Office.
Stacey Begle, the dean of students, and Nathan Begle, the athletic director, were charged after a suspended Tri-West football coach and teacher was arrested in January. Tyler Bruce was charged with two counts of child seduction and a count of obstruction of justice. The school district fired Bruce in March.
Information from the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office investigation indicated the Begles and Tri-West Principal Adam Benner had received tips about “a secret relationship of a sexual nature” involving Bruce and a student as early as Feb. 22, 2019. All three administrators agreed that any further information about the relationship be brought directly to Benner. Police did not learn of the allegations until receiving an anonymous tip on May 12, 2019.
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.
The Begles continue to be employed by the school district, according to its website. Online records on Friday night did not show warrants had been issued for the Begles, or any information about them being jailed.
Benner was charged in January with failing to report the allegations of the relationship. A jury trial is set for Oct. 21. Matt Rund was named the new principal of Tri-West High School in May.
The case against Bruce led to an acrimonious atmosphere between the public school district, its leadership and many people in the community. Michael Springer retired from his job as the district’s superintendent in October. His departure was announced after months of community controversy over the school board’s decision to keep Bruce on the job, against Springer’s termination recommendation.
The criminal investigation against Tyler Bruce
After the sheriff’s office received the anonymous tip, deputies worked with the Indiana Department of Child Services and the North West Hendricks School Corp. to investigate. The district placed Bruce on administrative leave as the investigation started.
A complaint filed in September with the Indiana Department of Education 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 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.
Bruce’s trial on the criminal charges is set for Sept. 23.
In addition, the family of the student who said she was harassed by Bruce filed a tort claim Aug. 6 accusing him of “multiple incidents of child molestation and abuse” between January and May, during the student’s junior year. It also claimed the district failed to properly screen and monitor Bruce and negligently retained him as an employee.
Calls for a North West Hendricks School Board overhaul
LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — A teacher and athletic coach charged with felony child seduction remained employed by the North West Hendricks School Corporation two weeks after his arrest, prompting calls for a school board overhaul from community members.
Tyler Bruce, 31, was arrested Jan. 28 following a monthslong investigation into allegations of inappropriate contact with a student.
Teacher charged with felony child seduction, obstruction remains employed weeks after arrest
Bruce is charged with child seduction, attempted child seduction and obstruction of justice — all felonies.
School board members voted in July 2019 to place the Tri-West High School teacher on paid administrative leave after the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office launched its investigation.
Bruce’s employment status was changed to unpaid suspension immediately following his arrest; a North West Hendricks School Corporation spokesperson said the district would move to terminate him.
However, the termination process was stalled by Bruce’s decision to exercise his right to due process, administrators said Tuesday.
During a school board meeting Tuesday night, board members addressed community unrest over the matter by reading a passage of the Indiana code governing termination of public school teaching contracts.
“It could take 45 days [to fire Bruce],” said Donna Petraits, a spokesperson for the school district. “We’re talking about an individual that still has rights, that has not been convicted. Legally, we have to consider his rights as well.”
At least three community members criticized the district’s handling of accusations against Bruce during the public comment period of the board meeting.
Calls for board members to resign garnered applause and standing ovations from dozens of parents in attendance.
Cody Brunes, a Tri-West graduate who addressed board members during public comment, laid out various community concerns related to the Bruce scandal, including district accountability and spending. He also urged administrators to enact new policies protecting students from predatory behavior and whistleblower staff members from retaliation.
“It’s pretty alarming when [the district] can spend the money to pay a teacher that they originally said they would terminate once he was arrested,” Brunes said of Bruce’s nearly seven months on paid leave. “And now they’re saying he’s got to be found guilty? They just keep backtracking on [moving forward with termination]… They had enough grounds to terminate him months ago and they never did.”
Board members are “also very frustrated that they can’t be more transparent about the process,” Petraits said.
One man took the podium during the public comment period to speak in support of school administrators. He appreciated their concern and understood their hands were tied by state law, he said.
Some meeting attendees clapped; others heckled him.
“You have failed this victim! How dare you?” another Lizton resident shouted at board members, referring to the female student who accused Bruce of touching her and coercing her into sending him explicit photos on Snapchat.
Bruce has denied all allegations against him.
A pretrial conference is scheduled for March 11. A trial is scheduled to begin April 22.
Tri-West teacher, coach charged with 3 felonies
LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — A central Indiana public school teacher charged with felony child seduction was suspended without pay and given preliminary notice of termination following his arrest Tuesday night, district officials announced Wednesday.
Tyler Bruce, 31, a math teacher and athletic coach at Tri-West High School in Lizton, faces three felony counts stemming from an 8-month investigation into allegations of inappropriate contact with a student: child seduction, attempted child seduction and obstruction of justice.
He was released Wednesday from the Hendricks County Jail after posting $500 cash bond, according to online court records.
Bruce and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
Prior to his suspension, Bruce had been on paid administrative leave since July 2019, when North West Hendricks School Corporation board members voted to reject then-superintendent Michael Springer’s recommendation to terminate him.
Parents and anonymous tipsters had shared concerns with administrators about Bruce’s contact with a female student as early as Feb. 2019, according to a probable cause affidavit obtained by News 8.
Multiple sources reported Bruce and the girl were “possibly engaged in an inappropriate relationship” and “worked out” together in a school weight room with the door locked, the document states.
Although then-principal Adam Benner addressed the concerns during a meeting in March 2019, the district did not immediately contact the girl’s parents or notify the Department of Child Services (DCS), charging documents allege.
The Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office formally launched a criminal investigation in May 2019, after an anonymous source reported Bruce’s wife had caught him messaging the girl on Snapchat.
During forensic interviews in May and July 2019, the girl stated Bruce had touched her over and under her clothing; asked him to send her naked pictures with her face cropped out; and told her she “blue balled” him when she declined to visit him at his home while his wife was out of town for Mother’s Day weekend.
Benner resigned from his post as Tri-West principal in June 2019, weeks after authorities began investigating the allegations against Bruce.
Springer resigned in Oct. 2019 amid controversy over the district’s handling of its internal investigation.
Lizton residents angrily confronted administrators about the matter during school board meetings as tensions threatened to divide the community.
However, the criminal investigation appeared to stall, failing to result in charges for months.
Initial data downloads had recovered minimal evidence from Bruce’s cell phone, according to the affidavit.
Authorities obtained a warrant to search the phone in July 2019; the phone was missing its SIM card when Bruce turned it over to the sheriff’s office, the affidavit states.
No relevant evidence was found stored in Bruce’s Apple iCloud or Snapchat accounts, despite preservation orders issued in August.
Finally, on Jan. 23, a “software update” allowed detectives to access a more comprehensive forensic download of Bruce’s phone, according to the affidavit.
Additional Snapchat data was recovered, including a “contact trail” indicating Bruce had sent content to the girl using the app, investigators said.
Bruce was arrested at his home five days later.
Benner was charged with failure to report, a misdemeanor, according to an affidavit filed Wednesday.
Benner and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
Jeff Gibson, a Carmel-based attorney representing the alleged victim, emailed a statement to News 8 on behalf of the girl’s family:
“We are encouraged that law enforcement, along with the Hendricks County Prosecutor’s Office, are taking the necessary steps to hold Mr. Bruce and Mr. Benner accountable for their actions. As parents of students that attend North West Hendricks schools, our number one concern is the safety of all students. Unfortunately, these criminal charges and the current investigation [led by the U.S. Department of Education] show the school system has a long way to go. We are hopeful that this is a first step in the right direction.”
Donna Petraits, a spokesperson for the North West Hendricks School Corporation, emailed a statement to News 8 addressing the district’s action in response to Bruce’s arrest:
“The North West Hendricks School Corporation and the Board of Trustees are grateful to the Hendricks County Sheriff and the Department 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.”
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.
North West Hendricks schools reviewing policies after Title IX complaint, outcry over parent rules
LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — Administrators at an Indiana public school district vowed to undertake an “aggressive policy review” after federal education officials launched a Title IX complaint investigation.
During a school board meeting Tuesday night, North West Hendricks School Corporation administrators voted to implement a slew of policy changes promoting Title IX compliance, including the hiring of a law firm to “provide Title IX training to all district administrators.”
Board members also discussed proposed amendments to the district’s controversial “Parent Code of Conduct.”
The policy posted on the district’s website states parents should not “use Facebook or any other social network to make rude/offensive comments toward individual staff members or the school in general.”
Parents in violation of the policy could be removed or banned from school grounds, according to the code of conduct.
Critics slammed the policy as a free speech violation and notified the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana.
Some parents said they feared the policy could be enforced to improperly silence criticism of the district’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations.
The school district became embroiled in controversy after Tyler Bruce, a teacher and football coach at Tri-West High School in Lizton, was accused of molesting and abusing a student during the 2018-2019 academic year.
The Indiana Department of Education determined Bruce “committed acts that involve immorality, misconduct in office, incompetency and/or willful neglect of duty” and sought to revoke his teaching license, according to a complaint filed in Sept. 2019.
A criminal investigation into the allegations against Bruce, led by the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Office, remained ongoing Tuesday.
Bruce remained employed by the district and on paid administrative leave, a North West Hendricks School Corporation spokesperson confirmed Tuesday night.
“This is not something that anyone is taking lightly,” district spokesperson Donna Petraits told News 8. “Regardless of what people may think, the district is doing what it can to amend policies that have come into question. We have to sit back and allow the legal system to do its work. We will all be relived, I am certain, once a decision has been made [in the pending criminal and Department of Education investigations].”
The amended Parent Code of Conduct will not police conduct on personal social media accounts, she added.
Administrators declined to confirm details about proposed amendments to the policy but said Indiana School Boards Association (ISBA) attorneys were consulted following “recent scrutiny.”
“The ISBA made recommendations for improvement and the school board had its first reading of those changes to the policy at the board meeting,” Petraits said in an emailed statement to News 8. “Patrons can anticipate a Parent Code of Conduct that is clearer and within all legal guidelines. It will be posted and available once it is board approved, potentially at the February school board meeting.”
Despite administrators’ insistence they had taken “bold and proactive steps” toward making “responsive policy changes,” some community members remained unsatisfied. Parents urged the district to support open dialogue and increase investment in student safety.
“We don’t need a new athletic complex; we need a board that’s going to start standing up for our kids,” one mother told administrators during public comment. “None of you have done that. None of you have done a damn thing about it. None of you even have the balls to sit there and answer a question.”
Other parents in the audience applauded as she spoke at the podium.
Kathy Frederick-Caldwell, a longtime Lizton resident whose children attended North West Hendricks schools, addressed board members by reading a poem written by a female student at Tri-West High School.
The text of the poem was provided to News 8 by Frederick-Caldwell and sources close to the anonymous 12th-grader:
“We’ve been told the dress code is enforced to prevent other students’ from being distracted.
But little did we know it was more for the adults who wouldn’t be punished for the inappropriate ways they have acted.
Our exposed skin isn’t an excuse for predatory action.
We are here to learn; we are not here for their satisfaction.
They’re looking down my shirt while they’re supposed to be teaching me fractions.
But I guess it’s okay because of their authority; I’ve been taught to respect them and take trust in their actions.
I would be lying if I said I feel comfortable walking down the halls with grown men leaning up against the corners of the walls, inspecting girls’ bodies as they walk by, wondering what a 17-year-old girl would taste like; but that’s okay, right?
This isn’t about legality; you’re supposed to be teaching me about character and morals.
I’m confused; a grown, married man came after a young girl, but somehow she’s the whore though?
There are too many snakes in this grass, I think it’s time to mow.
This school system is corrupt, it’s time to take action so it can regrow.
This is about the students, our futures and the future of this school, but many of you would put more importance on a football game.
It’s disgusting that everyone in the school knew, yet the adults our parents entrusted us to are all trying to shift the blame.
The school board is relishing in their 15 minutes of fame.
Congrats! You made the news and now everyone knows our little school’s name.
But in the end, it’s the students who lose; considering Tri-West High School’s name on our diplomas will now bring us shame.
This is an embarrassment to this community and to the young kids that have to grow up in this system.
Lucky for me, I’m out after this year and I’ll go out into the world with new wisdom.
You’ve shown me and my classmates how corrupt and disgusting even the most minute school system can be.
So keep defending a predator; but in the end, it’s God who will judge you, just like he will judge me.”
Lizton, Indiana, business offers free BBQ for help in robbery case
LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — A restaurant owner is offering free BBQ to the person who solves a burglary at the restaurant.
Rob Ecker, owner of Rusted Silo Southern BBQ & Brewhouse in Lizton, said the restaurant was broken in to overnight Friday.
He says the suspect or suspects used a crowbar to open the front door, unscrewed the lights in the dining area so they wouldn’t be seen and took an undetermined amount of cash from the register.
A 100-year-old cash register was destroyed in the process.
If you have information, Ecker can be reached at 317-994-6145.
Tri-West High School volleyball coach fired in Lizton, Indiana
LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — A Tri-West High School volleyball coach has been fired by the school.
Louie Aguilar has been terminated by the school after accusations of inappropriate behavior with a minor
Accusations against Aguilar include Snapchatting a girl enrolled in a Boone County school, parents and staff told News 8 on Thursday.
The Boone County Sheriff’s Office is aware of the allegations and has opened an investigation. No charging decision has been made.
The move comes days after the corporation’s superintendent abruptly resigned.
Parents, staff and community members suspected North West Hendricks School Corp. Superintendent Michael Springer was “pushed out” after clashing with school board members over the handling of sexual misconduct allegations against the Tri-West football coach, Tyler Bruce.
Bruce has not been charged.
Second Tri-West coach accused of misconduct
LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — A second athletic coach at a central Indiana school embroiled in a sexual misconduct controversy has been accused of inappropriate behavior with a minor, administrators confirmed Thursday.
The varsity volleyball coach at Tri-West High School faces disciplinary action for improper communication with a minor, according to interim principal Kelly Simpson.
Administrators declined to confirm if the coach had been terminated.
The accusations against the coach include Snapchatting a girl enrolled in a Boone County school, parents and staff told News 8.
A spokesperson for the Boone County Sheriff’s Office confirmed authorities were aware of the allegations and had opened a criminal investigation into the matter.
Accusations against the volleyball coach surfaced days after the North West Hendricks School Corporation’s superintendent, Michael Springer, abruptly resigned.
Parents, staff and community members suspected Springer had been “pushed out” after clashing with school board members over the handling of sexual misconduct allegations against the Tri-West football coach, Tyler Bruce.
Board members did not immediately respond to requests for comment from News 8.
No criminal charges had been filed Thursday against Bruce or the volleyball coach.
LIZTON, Ind. (WISH) — A person has died in a Friday afternoon crash in northern Hendricks County, said a sheriff’s office spokeswoman.
Authorities were called at 2:50 p.m. to the crash in the 6600 block of North State Road 39. That’s about a mile south of Lizton in northern Hendricks County.
Preliminary investigations revealed a vehicle headed northbound traveled left of center, striking and killing 65-year-old Michael Smith.
The driver of the vehicle headed northbound was sent to St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital by medical helicopter and is said to be in critical condition.
Lizton Union Township Fire is being assisted by the Brownsburg, Pittsboro, Danville and North Salem fire departments.