Make your home page

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A New Palestine man died in a crash involving an overturned vehicle that closed U.S. 40 near the Marion-Hancock county line on Thursday afternoon, Indiana State Police said in a news release.

Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter about 1:25 p.m. Thursday alerted dispatchers of a serious crash he had come upon along U.S. 40 between Muessing Street and Carroll Road in Cumberland, the release and the Indiana Department of Transportation said.

“Emergency crews were called to the scene and Superintendent Carter rendered aid to the victims until medics arrived,” the release said.

Jeffrey Denton, 64, died after being taken to a hospital.

Two occupants in another vehicle went to a hospital with minor injuries.

Denton was driving a silver Chrysler — the release did not say what type of vehicle — west on U.S. 40 when he crossed the centerline and struck a 2019 Dodge Journey sport utility vehicle. The SUV overturned and came to rest on its top. The silver Chrysler continued across the eastbound lanes and into a deep ditch on the south side of U.S. 40. 

Police don’t yet know what caused the crash. Both drivers were to be tested for intoxication.

The eastbound lanes of U.S. 40 were closed until 4:00 p.m. while the crash was investigated. The Indiana State Police was assisted by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, the Cumberland Police Department and the Sugar Creek Fire Department.

The road, which was closed for several hours, reopened sometime before 6:20 p.m.

NEW PALESTINE, Ind (WISH) — Tonii Pyle was elected the New Palestine clerk-treasurer in the last town election.

Almost right after she assumed the office in January, there was trouble.

Jim Robinson, the town manager, told I-Team 8 that Pyle hasn’t worked in the physical office for weeks. Her desk has been cleaned off. Her computer has been disconnected and unplugged.

“In the last 30 days, she has cleaned out the office,” said Robinson, who isn’t real sure if Pyle has partially given up on the job.

“At the end of the day, some things are getting done, you know. Our payroll was done but it was late. It was complete. We do have late invoices, but day-to-day operations, if a constituent were to walk into the Town Hall, they would not be met with a town clerk,” Robinson said.

There is some family history involved: Pyle’s father in-law, David Book, served as town manager for 30 years. He was fired in March and died a short time later. His obituary is taped to a filing cabinet in the clerk’s office. The Town Council has filled legal action against Book and Pyle.

“There are two ongoing investigations. Currently we have one with the former town manager, David Book, and, from what I understand, it has been turned over to the prosecuting attorney, and we have another against the clerk-treasurer. Originally, it was filed with the sheriff’s office, and ghost employment,” said Town Council member Angela Fahrnow.

I-Team 8 found Pyle at her house in the Hancock County town east of Indianapolis and asked her to explain why she was away from the office. She agreed to talk and had a four-page document of issues between her, council members and other town employees. She says, shortly after taking office, a council member physically threatened her.

“He wouldn’t move and continued to get louder and more belligerent and continued to threaten me, and so I pushed the door closed behind me so he would get the hint to please move and he didn’t,” Pyle said.

She began working from home at the start of the pandemic, and when the rest of the town employees come back to town hall she continued to work from home. She loves the job. However, she says, the environment is hostile in part because of her father-in-law. She says her intentions are to keep working,

“I wish they would focus on what is best for the town and not worry so much about what I’m doing. I’m doing my job. If I wasn’t doing my job, they would know. Things would not be getting paid. Things wouldn’t be running. If they have any questions, all they have to do is reach out and ask me,” Pyle said.

The clerk-treasurer is the keeper of the town’s money and records and, as the Town Council prepares for a new budget, they have no idea how much money is in the bank.

Pyle says she probably will not seek a second four-year term and questions whether she will complete this one.

NEW PALESTINE, Ind. (WISH) — New Palestine High School welcomed students back on Monday as Indiana battled a resurgence of the coronavirus.

District officials were made aware of the high school’s second confirmed COVID-19 case before the end of the day.

A student who tested positive attended the first day of in-person classes after a family physician provided a note “with an incorrect return-to-school date,” Hancock County health officials and the Community School Corporation of Southern Hancock County said in a joint statement.

Administrators isolated the student and initiated contact tracing efforts after they were notified by the county health department.

On Friday, three days before the district’s six schools reopened, New Palestine High School football players learned a teammate had tested positive for COVID-19.

Administrators canceled an optional football practice and ordered the student athlete’s close contacts to quarantine for 14 days, but did not change the district’s reopening plans.

“I’m worried,” said Brittany Durre, whose daughter is a New Palestine freshman. “I know that there’s more [COVID-19 reports coming]… For the most part, kids aren’t getting as sick. So they’re a lot more likely to take it home and spread it to somebody who will get really sick before anybody knows what’s going on.”

Haley Holcombe, a New Palestine senior, said she expected the school to ultimately close over coronavirus concerns.

“I give it maybe two weeks,” she told News 8.

By Monday, at least five school districts across central Indiana had reported COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Without state-mandated reopening rules or a national pandemic policy for schools, the districts took varied approaches.

Elwood Junior Senior High School pivoted to all-virtual learning for the week of Aug. 3-7 after at least one staff member at the school tested positive for COVID-19, but athletic activities were permitted to continue.

Avon High School continued in-person classes after a staff member – who had not been in close contact with colleagues or students – tested positive.

Warren Central High School did not cancel athletic activities or delay its scheduled reopening after a student athlete on the football team tested positive.

Greenfield Central Junior High School did not cancel classes after a student tested positive on the first day of school.

The responses were largely informed by how many people were believed to have had contact with the positive cases and their roles in the school community.

A spokesperson for the Elwood Community School Corporation, the only district among the five to suspend in-person classes, said a “few staff members at Elwood Junior Senior High School were within close contact.”

The districts all conducted contact tracing and said they alerted “close contacts” who may have been exposed to the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a close contact as any person who is within 6 feet of an infected person for more than 15 minutes, regardless of the use of a face covering.

A spokesperson for Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb directed News 8 to YouTube videos of the governor’s weekly coronavirus briefings in response to an inquiry about calls for more uniform pandemic policies at schools following new cases among students and staff.

The most recent briefing was July 29, before schools in Greenfield, Avon, New Palestine, Warren Township and Elwood reported positive cases.

The Indiana Department of Education does not have the authority to mandate policies for local school districts.

NEW PALESTINE, Ind. (WISH) — Police in Hancock County said Thursday are looking for two men in connection to a theft last week at a New Palestine hardware store.

Hancock County Sheriff’s Department was called to a report of a “theft/driveoff/shoplifter” about 8:30 a.m. May 20 at New Palestine Hardware and Walker-IT LLC, 4083 S. Arbor Lane. That’s northwest of New Palestine off U.S. 52 between county roads South 650 West and South 600 West.

Surveillance video from the business shows a pickup driving in the back of the business. Minutes later, a man is seen hopping a fence and taking propane tanks. One of the men is then caught looking in the back of a box truck but apparently didn’t find anything. Both men are then seen going inside a greenhouse. Video shows them taking some potted plants and a hose reel. Minutes later, the video shows the men by a dump truck. One of them appears to be taking items from a box on the side of the truck.

The store owner estimated $60,000 in damage and stolen property, according to a police report.

Anyone with information on the men is asked to call the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department at (317) 477-1147.

(Photo Provided/Hancock County Sheriff’s Department)
(Photo Provided/Hancock County Sheriff’s Department)
(Photo Provided/Hancock County Sheriff’s Department)
(Photo Provided/Hancock County Sheriff’s Department)

Coronavirus updates from News 8 at 6:30 p.m. April 6, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There are dozens of videos online on how to make any number of types of personal protection equipment

When a history teacher at New Palestine High School was told there was a need to make face shields, he figured out a way to make them and enlisted others to his cause.

Mitch Burk bought a 3-D printer for his classroom and, until a few days ago, he hadn’t touched it.

“I brought it home, fired it up. This was actually the very first thing I ever printed on this 3-D printer and the first one finished in 45 minutes and I realized how easy it would be to kind of mass produce on a smaller scale at least,” Burk said.

Over the weekend, he produced 25 headbands that will be used as face shields. His wife and mother are both health care professionals. His efforts are personal since his wife has moved into the front line of care of COVID-19 patients.

Once Burk got the hang of producing the face shields, he enlisted the help of a fellow teacher, who with the permission put the school’s 3-D printers into service.

“He jumped on board as soon as contacted him. We have a handful of machines there and he has been stopping by the school every morning to reload. He got about 40 finished over the weekend and we are looking to produce as many as we can over the next, until the need runs out,” Burk said.

So far he has helped produce 70 face shields, but, more importantly, this is a call to arms.

“I feel like it has become my space here to let schools know they have so many untapped resources. Obviously, the buildings are going to be pretty much vacant the next couple of months, and I have been trying to yell from the rooftops that schools have these things there and available, whether it is gloves, masks, goggles, we have already been able to collect those. 3-D printers just seem like the next step,” Burk said.

The New Palestine school district already has hundreds of gloves and goggles from the science department, N95 masks from the construction classes, and disinfecting solution.

Burk says by the end of the week they will have produced about 200 masks at a cost of 75 cents in material per mask.

Indiana coronavirus timeline

New Palestine, Indiana, street commissioner pleads guilty to drunken driving

NEW PALESTINE, Ind. (WISH) — A town employee previously questioned about record-keeping errors pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge but was not immediately removed from his position.

Stephen Pool, 59, the street commissioner for the town of New Palestine, was sentenced Jan. 16 in Shelby Superior Court.

He received a 10-day jail sentence and a 355-day suspended sentence to be served on probation. His driver’s license was suspended for a total of three years.

Special conditions of Pool’s probation include completing an alcohol and drug assessment program, and agreeing not to consume or possess any beer, wine or liquor, according to court documents obtained by News 8.

Pool was arrested in Sept. 2019 and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated after driving his truck into a Shelby County creek.

Deputies dispatched to the crash scene noted the smell of alcohol coming from Pool and asked for his license; he handed them a credit card, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Pool told deputies he had five alcoholic beverages and was heading to Indiana Grand Racing & Casino, charging documents state.

A breath test revealed Pool’s blood-alcohol content to be 0.115. He failed three field sobriety tests and initially refused to submit to a blood test. 

“Mistakes happen,” said Jenny Jessen, a New Palestine resident. “But unfortunately, as an adult, that’s not the type of mistake that you just make. It was a conscious decision to drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. That’s not the type of person I want representing the community.”

She called for town officials to replace the disgraced street commissioner with a more appropriate role model for her daughter, a freshman at New Palestine High School, and other impressionable children in the “family-oriented” community.

Another longtime resident called Pool’s drunken driving arrest “an embarrassment to the community.”

The town manager and council president did not immediately respond to requests for comment from News 8. 

New Palestine councilors had previously stated they would wait until Pool was sentenced to make personnel decisions in response to his arrest. 

His sentencing came days after town officials questioned him about record-keeping errors that began before he commenced his three-year tenure as street commissioner. 

Miles of unreported roads resulted in the municipality missing out on an estimated $200,000 to $500,000 in tax revenue over several years. The money would have funded local road maintenance, officials said.

Pool failed to note the mistakes until state transportation officials denied the town’s 2019 bid for a Community Crossing Grant.

Jessen, an advocate for street upgrades including safer crosswalks at New Palestine schools, said the oversight was “shocking.”

“It’s pretty unsettling,” she told News 8. “It just makes you wonder where the money could have been used.”

She and her daughter called for increased investment in safety upgrades at a crosswalk on U.S. 52, near New Palestine High School. A 14-year-old student was struck by a vehicle and critically injured at the crosswalk in Nov. 2019 while riding his bicycle to school.

Jessen was one of the first parents at the scene of the accident and rushed to calm students who witnessed the victim “being flung into the air,” she said.

“It’s something I will never, ever forget, just watching that young man laying there,” Jessen told News 8. “There are areas that could definitely use some improvement.”

Residents deserve a street commissioner they can trust to drive on — and advocate for — the streets of New Palestine, she said.

Pool did not immediately respond to requests for comment from News 8.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two central Indiana police departments are raising funds for a trained K-9 officer and the Indy Winter Classic Dog Show is helping out.

This weekend the Hoosier Kennel Club is donating $1,000 each to the New Palestine and Fortville Police Departments to help them fund the purchase of a new K-9 officer. 

Both departments have been raising money for weeks. New Palestine PD’s target goal is $20,000, which includes the dog, training, equipment including a K-9 friendly vehicle cage and veterinary care.

“This is the biggest community initiative that our police department has undertaken in recent memory,” writes officers on the NPPD’s Go Fund Me page.  

NPPD’s K-9 will be dual trained to track suspects and find missing people as well as detect narcotics, according to the page. The dog would also be available to help neighboring agencies.

The Fortville Police Department had a K-9 officer in 2012 and retired her after an officer was ambushed and she suffered from anxiety, according to the FPD’s Go Fund Me page

“We have decided that now is the time to re-introduce a K-9 program back to the police department,” writes the officers, noting the current opioid epidemic and the large population growth in Fortville. 

Kevin Allen, chairman of the Hoosier Kennel Club, presented the $1,000 check to the New Palestine Police officers Friday and anticipates meeting the Fortville officers Saturday.

The Indy Winter Classic Dog Show runs through Sunday in the West Pavilion at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.  

NEW PALESTINE, Ind. (WISH) – Firefighters at Sugar Creek Township Fire Department are ready to celebrate after getting moved into their new firehouse.

The firehouse was completed around the end of February and this weekend they will hold a dedication ceremony and open house.

The project has been underway for about a year. 

Firefighters there said they had outgrown their old house and really needed the extra space.

“We tried to build this place for the future so everything that we put into it, we looked at the growth for the township. We didn’t want to build anything too big but we wanted to meet needs. Health and safety was huge, physical fitness was huge so we tried to accommodate all of that as well,” said Captain James Wolsiffer with the Sugar Creek Township Fire Department.

Additions include an improved workout room and lounge area. There are eight private bedrooms so they can hold up to eight firefighters. Each will share a Jack-and-Jill style bathroom.

“We put geothermal system in here, helps out with the heating and cooling. We put closed loop water system here to help out with how quick we got hot water, LED lighting throughout so those are going to save tax payers alone in itself,” Wolsiffer added.

The hope is that with a better facility, the firefighters will be able to better serve the community.

“This space is stretched out a little bit. We still wanted it to be tight, we wanted it to still feel like home.
Sleeping arrangements are a lot better for the guys. Physical fitness room is a lot better for us. Better area for guys to spread out and not be so cramped,” he added.

The dedication and open house will take place June 3 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will be refreshments, firehouse tours, and activities for the kids.

NEW PALESTINE, Ind. (WISH) — A guidance counselor has been placed on administrative leave and criminally charged in connection to the theft of prescription drugs from a clinic at New Palestine High School, the school district said.

Y Michelle Long, 47, has been charged with five counts of theft, according to online jail and court records. 

Southern Hancock Schools issued a news release Monday night that said its administrators became aware of the theft of prescription medicine from a locked cabinet. New Palestine Police Department investigated, the release said.

The district placed Long on administrative leave from her job and increased its security and surveillance measures in its school clinics.

The release said school officials were not at liberty to discuss other details about the incident and referred questions to the New Palestine Police Department.

The town’s police force said it is looking at two suspects in a theft case.

On Sunday, New Palestine police officers were sent to Woodland Terrace, a senior community, for a reported theft. Officers obtained video of a man and a woman who made their way into the facility, 4400 Terrace Drive, in an attempt to steal items. A news release from the department said the suspects made off with laptops and power tools worth about $3,000. Police have recovered the stolen items.

Police are not releasing the names of the suspects until charges are filed. Police said Tuesday night that they are continuing to collect evidence.