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ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — Indiana’s chief justice wants every county to adopt a drug court to help people get treatment and stay out of prison.

Madison County Drug Court started in Anderson in 2000 and, after 23 years, just over 1,300 people have participated. It’s the type of program that Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush wants to see statewide.

Madison Court Circuit Court Judge Angela Sims said, “I do think that the fact that we do have these resources in our community makes our community better.”

Sims he is one of 58 problem-solving judges in the state. Her court in Anderson presides over the county’s adult drug court, mental health court, and reentry court. The goal of the three courts is to address the root causes of crime, such as addiction, and encourage people standing in front of her court to make positive changes in their lives.

“Certainly when you’re dealing with those that come into the criminal justice system, it’s a very multifaceted problem you’re dealing with. Certainly, the drug use is kind of the gateway that gets you here, but, with what we learn about these people and those are typically addicted to drugs, again they have … their lives are kind of … live in shambles. … It’s chaotic on lots of levels, with employment, with education, with their social economic status, depending on those things. Their family unit is usually destroyed or in disrepair, and so we really work in a very holistic approach to these people. I often say in court to people that, ‘Well, judge. I’ve been sober for six months. I’ve been sober for a year,’ and I often look at them and say, you know, being sober by the easiest thing you will do in this program.” 

Who gets into drug court programs and how are they chosen was among I-Team 8’s questions a few weeks ago during an interview with Rush. She would like to see these courts expanded in Indiana to every county, as she says, to eliminate a justice-by-geography anomaly that disadvantages drug offenders depending on whether the county they are arrested has a drug court.  

Rush said, “This is what we are looking at, you know, what are the interventions in the crisis interventions. It doesn’t just start deep end. Usually, have touched that person a couple of times before, so getting that diagnosis of substance use disorder up front, it could be on a first time DUI case, and then making sure that what you order as a court are things that actually work, and we now know is evidence-based and works. So, I guess I want to say, it’s not always the rock-bottom person. You always say, ‘When they hit bottom, they’ll come up.’ I cannot tell you the parents that would come to court, into my courtroom, and say, ‘I couldn’t wait for my kid to get arrested so I could get them so help.’ We need to make the help available for those family members prior to the fall.”

Every drug court in Indiana holds a graduation for people who successfully complete the program. Many of these programs take up to two years or longer to complete. Everyone in the Madison County Drug Court program is randomly drug tested at least twice a week. In 2022, out of 6,000 drug tests, only 1% tested positive for drugs. Participants have to attend hundreds of counseling session, maintain a job, and meet with the judge at least 30 times to discuss their progress.

“It’s needing all the other pieces put together to ensure that sobriety lasts and recovery last well beyond the program, and that’s certainly our ultimate goal is that they don’t recidivize. They do not come back to the system, and they move on and they live good, productive lives in our community. So, I do think that the fact that we have these resources in our community makes our community better, and sometimes that’s hard to see because, again, we like to focus on the negative and those that don’t make it, and the tragedies that do occur in the community. But, I can equally sit down and point to, you know, a lot of people that have been successful not only in the program, but have continued to maintain success and contribute in a very positive way to our community, and so that’s important. I think the other thing we have learned throughout the process, even those that do not successfully complete the program, they have gained and garnered certain skills and tools while they’ve been here, but still allow them to build upon that even if they’re outside of the program, and some of them going to be very successful, even though they didn’t successfully complete the program.”

How does the programs’ success get measured? Numbers tell one side of the story. According to data collected from Sims’ court from 2015 to 2021, graduates of the problem-solving court program had recidivism rates of less than 20%, which is half of the national averages.  

“And if we can provide these services that keep them out of the system, keep them from committing crime again, the ripple effect of that is probably, it’s hard even to quantify when someone is restored back to sobriety and recovery. It’s just not that one person. It’s that person’s, maybe, even parents their children, their children’s children. If we’re able to restore those things and break that cycle, I see that the positive effects really, again, are pretty unquantifiable.”

Funding for problem-solving courts remains an issue. The General Assembly didn’t add any additional funding in the state budget that was just passed.

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — In a county northeast of Indianapolis, bodies are being stored in the freezer of a barn with a gravel floor.

Indiana authorities are leaning on the county government to clean things up.

The state says employees don’t have running water or proper supplies to conduct death investigations. 

The Madison County Coroner’s Office is facing some serious fines from the Indiana Department of Labor, and the whistleblower told I-Team 8 that the penalties are just the tip of the iceberg.

Katherine Callahan. a former Madison County coroner, told I-Team 8, “I will come back here to the pole barn. I will bring the body out, and I will draw my toxicology in that pole barn without any running water, without sharps containers, without anything.”

Inside of the pole barn at the end of a street just north of downtown Anderson is the Madison County Coroner’s Office freezer.

The barn doesn’t have a concrete floor, sinks, or a proper examination table.

Callahan is a nurse practitioner and, until recently, was the deputy coroner in Madison County. She turned the county in to the Indiana Department of Labor for a number safety violation.

Her breaking point came a year ago when Elwood Police Officer Noah Shahnavaz was murdered. Callahan said, “We go to remove the body from the hearse, and we get it on the gravel flooring, and it is so hot, the family, the honor guard are just sweating, and they are asking do we have any ventilation. I’m like this is the best we have got.”

Shahnavaz’s body was carried across the gravel floor and put into a walk-in freezer.

In the weeks following, Callahan raised her voice and tried to get the county commissioners to properly fund the coroner’s facility. She says her concerns fell on deaf ears.  

Callahan said, “As hurt as they were, those officers did everything. I just couldn’t do this anymore. I have been asking since we took office in January of 2021, and the only thinking I get is sent to my seat.”

The state Department of Labor found six serious violations, from no running water to how contaminated laundry and needles are disposed of.

If the county government’s leaders don’t correct the violations, they could face a fine of $22,500.

I-team 8 asked Callahan if the threat of fines will get the county to shape up,  

“This is what I was told by a commissioner who is no longer in seat: They are going to circle their wagons until they strangulate you, until they force you to tap out. That is what is going to happen. This is only going to get worse.”

Callahan owns and operates a medical practice, and, on Wednesday, she started as a deputy coroner in Marion County, which serves Indianapolis.


ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — An Anderson man was arrested in connection to the shooting of an Indianapolis man Wednesday afternoon inside a gas station, Anderson Police Department said Thursday.

Maine Diamond, 28, remained in serious condition in intensive care at an Indianapolis hospital, the department said in a news release issued Thursday night.

Police were called to a shooting at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Conoco station at 1002 Nichol Ave. That’s near downtown at the intersection with Madison Avenue.

Bernard M. Stidhum, 33, of Anderson, surrendered to authorities as part of a search warrant issued for a home in the 1500 block of West Fourth Street. That’s a residential area near River Bend Park in the Madison County city.

Caleb McKnight, the department’s public information officer, says Stidhum entered the gas station and began shooting at Diamond.

Stidhum, according to records from the Madison County jail and an online court records system, was last charged Sept. 14 in Anderson City Court with driving while suspended with a prior suspension within 10 years, and refusal to identify self while stopped for infraction/ordinance. No bond had been set.

Stidhum has other cases listed in online court records involving driving charges in Anderson, Elwood and Hancock County.

Diamond was taken to an Anderson hospital and later moved to an Indianapolis hospital.

Anyone with information on the shooting was asked to call the department at 765-648-6755 or report an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-8477.

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — A male shot another male inside a gas station Wednesday afternoon, Anderson Police Department says.

Police were called to a shooting at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at the Conoco station at 1002 Nichol Ave. That’s near downtown at the intersection with Madison Avenue.

Caleb McKnight, the department’s public information officer, says the male suspect entered the store and began shooting at the other male. A news release from McKnight did not give either male’s name or age, or whether they were adults or children.

The male shot was taken to an Anderson hospital before being sent to an Indianapolis hospital, where he remained in critical condition on Wednesday night.

Investigators had multiple leads, but no immediate arrest had been made Monday night. The release contained no information on a possible suspect.

Anyone with information on the shooting was asked to call the department at 765-648-6755 or report an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-8477.

ANDERSON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A subsidiary of Italy-based Sirmax Group says its new plastics recycling facility in Anderson is now operational. SER North America says it plans to bring total employment at the $18 million plant to 40 by the end of the year.

The 130,000-square-foot facility produces recycled polypropylene out of post-industrial waste. The company says the product will be used in both industrial applications and sent to the nearby Sirmax North America facility to be processed as a raw material for the production of refined compounds that could be used in household appliances and automobiles.

“SER North America marks a new stage in Sirmax’s sustainable growth,” Lorenzo Ferro, U.S. country manager at Sirmax Group, said in written remarks. “These new green products give us the opportunity to enter sectors where we do not yet have a presence, such as industrial packaging or garden furniture. Our production processes and the fact we have full control of supply sources also means that we are ready to bring post-consumer mechanical recycling technology to the United States by 2024.”

Plans for the facility were first announced in July 2019. The company says it has already hired 25 employees with the goal of adding 15 more by the end of this year.

ANDERSON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A company in Anderson is making a name for itself by manufacturing pools out of shipping containers. Trek Container Pools was founded four years ago by Joel Cookston, who was looking for a less costly option to a traditional in-ground pool. The company, which operates out of a former GM plant, is on pace to produce more pools in 2022 than all of its previous years combined and is currently being featured on a six-episode run of the popular television show “This Old House.”

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Cookston said the company has seen organic growth and is looking to scale even further.

“We’ve proved the model of the number of people it takes to build a pool a week,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got about eight or nine people from fabrication to coatings to [pool] equipment to water testing, and so if those eight people are building one pool a week, or shipping one pool a week, then I think we could find a larger building. We’re looking at an 80,000-square-foot building actually here in Anderson to then duplicate those eight people, and how many sets of eight people do we need based on sales volume?”

Cookston says he saw similar ideas for container pools in other countries, but nothing in the U.S. He teamed up with a union fabrication company in Indianapolis for the design, as well as Sherwyn-Williams to understand the coating of the metal and Hayward Pool Equipment in Ohio to properly configure electric and plumbing for the pools.

The first pool that was built sits in Cookston’s backyard. The company made six pools in 2019, about 15 in 2020 and nearly 40 last year. He says so far this year, they have made more than 20.

“We’ve really found a sweet spot and now, it’s just trying to keep up with demand and setting expectations to make sure that customers are aware of time frames,” he said. “We’ve learned a lot. It’s fun to work with these folks and provide a product that really fits a lot of needs and niches in the U.S. here.”

(photo courtesy of Trek Container Pools)

Trek Container Pools moved into a 10,000-square-foot space in the former GM plant on 23rd Street in Anderson last year, but a larger space is on the horizon.

“We didn’t think we’d need any more [space] when we moved in a year ago. Now, it’s very evident that we need about four times that size,” said Cookston.

Cookston says the upcoming episodes of “This Old House” will showcase the pool being craned into the backyard of a home and a deck being built around it. He says being featured on such a legacy show is an honor.

PENDLETON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — A popular Indianapolis-area restaurant is getting set to open its seventh location. The owners of Wolfies Grill say the new restaurant in Pendleton is slated to begin serving customers this spring.

The new restaurant will be located near the I-69 interchange at State Road 38. The owners are currently renovating the former Downing’s Old Trail Bar & Grill location to match the design of the existing Wolfies restaurants.

“Pendleton was a natural next step for us,” co-owner Scott Wolf said in a news release. The last census saw a growth trend that we see continuing to increase given the population growth in surrounding counties. We’re excited to be where people want to be.”

Scott and Nyla Wolf opened their first location in 2004 near Morse Reservoir in Noblesville. Since then, the restaurant has expanded to Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Westfield and West Lafayette.

PENDLETON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — An Indianapolis-based junk removal company is continuing its statewide expansion. Fire Dawgs Junk Removal has established operations in Pendleton to serve the Muncie, Anderson and Fishers markets, with plans to add a dozen jobs.

Fire Dawgs, which also has operations in Bloomington and Fort Wayne, has acquired a four-acre property in Pendleton and plans to renovate the three buildings on the property by the end of the first quarter of next year.

While financial details of the expansion have not been disclosed, the project is being made possible with help from a U.S. Small Business Administration 504 loan from Lake City Bank and the Indiana Statewide Certified Development Corp.

“As the sole owner, with no outside investors, a company like ours needs to pay close attention to cash flow. Keeping profit in the company allows us to reinvest in our people, as well as buy more trucks and equipment for future growth into new Indiana markets,” owner Bennett Grove said in a news release. “The 504 helps us conserve cash with a smaller down payment than that of conventional financing.”

In an interview last year on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick, Grove said he wants the company to have a presence in every major Indiana city.

In an email to Inside INdiana Business on Thursday, Grove said the company has begun its plan to set up operations in Lafayette in the first quarter of 2022, with plans for further expansion into South Bend, Evansville, northwest Indiana, and Terre Haute over the next 2-3 years.

Grove says Fire Dawgs currently employs 50, but expects to have more than 100 employees by the end of next year.

ANDERSON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Anderson-based Bankable has launched the Indiana Black-Owned Business Loan Fund. The nonprofit community development financial institution says the fund aims to narrow the ongoing wealth gap between white and Black families “by unleashing the wealth building power of entrepreneurship.”

Bankable says the fund will provide several benefits for Black-owned businesses, including making loans more accessible by providing fair financing and business development support; providing financial support to businesses impacted by the pandemic, particularly those that missed out on federal relief funding; and helping small businesses build a positive credit history, completing accurate financial reporting and reaching profitability.

“We are thankful to be able to utilize grant funding from both the SBA [Small Business Administration] and CDFI [Community Development Financial Institution] Fund to be able to support Indiana Black-owned businesses that are unable to secure traditional bank financing,” Adam Hoeksema, executive director of Bankable, said in a news release. “These grant funds will allow us to approve more loans and waive all closing fees for eligible businesses.”

Bankable says the fund will provide loans of up to $50,000 for eligible businesses. Business owners interested in the loan fund can find more information by clicking here.

ANDERSON, Ind. (WISH) — An 18-year-old man was in custody Friday as police continued to investigate the fatal shooting of a 35-year-old man on Thursday night.

Aundray Ivy Jr., of Anderson, was in the Madison County jail on a 72-hour hold as the investigation continued Friday. The prosecutor will decide on charges after its investigation is done.

The man who was fatally shot was identified Friday as Christian M. Cox.

Anderson Police Department was called to a reported shooting shortly after 9:30 p.m. Thursday in the 1600 block of West Ninth Street. That’s between Raible and Madison avenues, just west of downtown.

Officers found Cox near the road. He was taken to a local hospital before he died.

Police located Ivy, who was seen fleeing the area, according to Caleb Knight, public information officer for the department. Ivy later was taken in to custody without incident.