Make your home page

SOUTHPORT, Ind. (WISH) — Nineteen-year-old Samaria Blackwell was laid to rest on Monday.

She was one of the eight people killed in the FedEx shooting a week and a half ago.

Provided Photo/Blackwell family

“Today is a tough day. Today is a sad day, but it is a day that is not without hope,” Tim Jensen, her former basketball coach, said.

There have been many reports of Blackwell’s hopes of becoming a police officer. Six different police departments from across the state were at the service and took part in the large police procession that led family and friends to the grave site. Those departments include IMPD, Avon, Beech Grove, Portland, Southport and the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department.

The parking lot was packed at Southport Heights Christian Church for Blackwell’s service. It is estimated that 500 people were at the service but even more people came to show their respects during the visitation.

“The people that are in there and the people that you will see are just a testament to everything that she has done and the people that she has affected,” Jensen said.

While Southport Heights isn’t the families current church, it is the church that Samaria’s parents were married in.

“It is really overwhelming and I think the family is sensing that,” Matthew Barnes, a representative for the family, said.

Blackwell’s family spoke for the first time publicly since her passing by releasing a statement the day of her funeral.

“On behalf of our family I want to say thank you to all who have demonstrated such incredible love to our family the past 10 days or so. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. Your love has reached through the fog of our sorrow and has been felt. We covet your prayers going forward as well.
Samaria was the baby of our family. We loved her with all our hearts and long for the day when we can see her again. We have hope because we believe in the promises of God, and while we cannot bring her back, we can go to her. Samaria recognized her need for a Savior, put her faith in Jesus Christ, and was baptized at a young age. The Bible says that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life. The Scriptures also say that weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
We look forward to that joy, but until then we will honor Samaria’s memory. While her race in this life was short, she lived it to the fullest. She was funny, thoughtful, and sincere. To know her was to love her. We hope that everyone who hears my words will experience the love of God as we have, and will be able to spend eternity with Jesus and with Samaria.
We want to thank the IMPD officers and chaplains who sat with us while we waited for the news. Particularly Beverly Wilson and Helen Jackson who serve as Victim Assistance Counselors with the IMPD. They went above and beyond their duty to serve our family.
We are praying for the officers who had to process the crime scene. In all of our interactions with IMPD we found them to be professional, compassionate, and caring. They embodied the reasons Samaria wanted to join their ranks and we will never forget their kindness.
We also want to say that we are praying for all of the other families who are experiencing this horrible loss. We especially want to say that we are praying for the Hole family. I cannot imagine how your grief is doubled. We pray that God’s love will surround you and you will sense His presence in a profound way.
I will close with a few Bible verses that Samaria had picked out for her basketball senior night ceremony – Romans 8:37-39
“’In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.’”

Jeff Blackwell, Samaria’s father

“I think in heaven they are celebrating today. Samaria is experiencing a life that we could only hope to experience in the future,” Jensen said.

During her service, family and friends shared memories of the bright and “fiercely loyal” teen.

“It was a time of laughter, it was a celebration of life more than mourning a loss in there today,” Barnes said.

They worshiped through song and held each other closely as they prepared to say goodbye.

“There were laughs there were tears, but it was a great time of honestly, worship, inside the service today,” Barnes said.

The Patches for Stiches project has garnered worldwide attention. The project was named Stitches, honoring a nickname Blackwell had earned following a basketball injury.

Provided Photo/Matthew Barnes

“We have over 200 patches that have arrived from departments throughout this country and even outside the United States,” Deputy Chief Brian Nugent of the Avon Police Department said.

Nugent says when all of the patches have arrived at the station they will work with the family to decide how to display them. Police say they have already gotten offers for people to put them on a blanket and create a board displaying them all.

Provided Photo/Matthew Barnes

The Indianapolis Indians also made a custom jersey that was displayed at the front of the church with Blackwell’s name and high school number on the back.

SOUTHPORT, Ind. (WISH) — The local Burmese community is closely following developments in Myanmar after a military coup.

The community is banking on President Joe Biden’s administration and other international leaders stepping up to reverse the military action.

Myanmar is a country in unrest. Countless Burmese citizens who now live in the United States are watching the aftermath of the coup. For 50 years, ethnic cleansing has wreaked havoc on the region.

Elaisa Vahnie, executive director of the Burmese American Community Institute in Marion County, said Monday, “It is troubling, disturbing, and grave concern over what’s happening in Burma.”

In the last decade, some progress was made in creating a democratic government. The military, which holds quite a bit of power, has taken control after complaints of widespread voter fraud in November’s elections. The military has detained multiple government leaders.

“We always said that this could happen. The military always comes and takes over the power,” Vahnie said.

He said Indiana’s Burmese population sits at roughly 23,000. Many escaped to the United States the last time a military takeover happened, and safety concerns about family still in the country remains high among relatives living in the United States.

“They have shut down the Internet connection, telephone lines, and we have not been able to reach a lot of our family members,” the institute’s executive director said.

Vahnie said a mass exodus could happen. He’s hopeful international leaders will respond to the military takeover and provide safe haven for people looking to escape the Southeast Asian nation.

“This is unbelievable. This is something beyond one can imagine.”

The Indy Burmese community says the last time the military took control it said it would be for a few months but became 20 years.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Many Marion County bar and nightclub owners are preparing to reopen Tuesday at 25% capacity indoors, but some said the continuing restrictions are not doing them any favors.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett made the announcement on Thursday morning and cited the city’s progress in lowering COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. For bars and nightclubs with outdoor space, that can reopen at 50% capacity. Bar seating will remain prohibited, and people are asked to remain seated at a table while inside.

Local bars and nightclubs that have been shut down for several months during the coronavirus pandemic. A group of bar owners who met Thursday with News 8 said they are finding it hard to be excited about reopening.They say the mayor’s announcement felt like a slap in the face to the entire industry.

Ryan Greb of Taps and Dolls in downtown Indianapolis on Thursday found the most activity he’s had in months at the second-floor tavern with 50 taps, video games and weekend dance parties.

“We’ve been closed five months. We’re lucky we’ve even made it this long,” Greb said.

Taps and Dolls is not open just yet though. All the people at the venue were not there for fun.

Greb said, “We fall upon deaf ears. That’s what I say when it comes to this. Nobody’s listening to us. Nobody hears our cry. Nobody feels our pain.”

The eight Marion County bar owners noted Hogsett’s attempt to joke about the situation during his announcement. The mayor said, “I promise you that Dr. Caine and her team will go full ‘Footloose’ on your business if you’re operating as a dance club.”

That comment offended all eight bar owners.

Greb said, “I’m offended by it, that they would say it that way. It’s not a joke. This is not a joke to us. This is our lives.”

Cherie Smith from After 6 Lounge, which is also downtown, said what bothers her more than the joke is when it comes to the pandemic all industries don’t seem to be treated equal.

Smith said, “We shut down like everyone else did at the beginning of the year but we are the only industry left that has such strict restrictions in place.”

When Hogsett ordered a second round of closures back in July, he and the Marion County Department of Public Health pointed to data that showed a rise in cases for people from ages 18-30.

Bar owners say it’s not fair for them to take all the blame.

Smith said, “We do not think that, single-handedly, bars and clubs are the reason why the numbers have spiked in Marion County.”

The owner of Whiskey Business in Lawrence and Southport, Mike Doran said he just wants a little guidance from local government leaders, some such as “we’re gonna look for something to help you guys out. We’re gonna look for some kind of forgiveness.”

But so far, he says, that hasn’t happened.

Doran said, “It’s just close your doors. Sorry you (had to) put your life into this and your life savings.”

For many that savings is gone and if things don’t change, they fear their businesses will be next.

Greb said, “People come to town. There’s nothing here. They walk into the streets, and it’s a ghost town.”

Below is the full announcement from Mayor Joe Hogsett. App users can go to the WISH-TV Facebook page to view it.

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

Treasured Teachers: Mrs. Carter from Perry Township

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Teachers in Indiana work hard. It’s one of the biggest understatements you can say but every year some districts see a drop in teacher retention, stagnating salaries and wonderful educators leaving the calling to use their skills in another industry. 

Thursday on Daybreak, reporter Brenna Donnelly sought to honor one excellent local teacher for being exactly that, an excellent, treasured teacher. 

She didn’t have to travel far; she found Mrs. Kerri Carter in a first-grade classroom inside Douglas McArthur Elementary School in Perry Township. 

“Mrs. Carter is all heart for the kids,” said fellow first-grade teacher Angie Merder. “She is loving. She cares about them as a person.” 

Our news crew went to Douglas McArthur Elementary to learn what we could about Mrs. Carter without her knowing. We met with her class in the library and got to hear from fellow teachers and students about what makes Mrs. Carter such an impactful teacher. 

“I just want to read this to Mrs. Carter,” said Adrian, one of her students, as he held a hand-written nomination letter in his hands. “Mrs. Carter is the best.” 

“First she helps me,” said another student, reading off her paper. 

“She is nice and she helps me with math,” smiled another. 

“I think Mrs. Carter is a nice teacher,” another echoed. 

“She always makes every day good,” said a student. 

“She wears pretty dresses,” said a boy with his nose pressed to his letter. 

“I like the mistakes she makes and my class laughs,” grinned Adrian. 

Merder says the proof of Mrs. Carter’s diligence with the students is evident in their love not only for her, but for learning. She says that requires a lot on the part of Mrs. Carter.

“Patience. Some ability to get down on their level,” she said. “and just developing their personality traits. Good morals and values and trying to model those so these 6-year-olds can mimic them.” 

We gathered all the video clips of students and prepared to surprise Mrs. Carter in class a few days later. 

“Is this Mrs. Carter’s class? First grade? At Douglas McArthur Elementary?” Brenna Donnelly asked, walking in the classroom with two cameras rolling. 

Mrs. Carter looked dumbfounded but replied that it was. Brenna pointed at the group of eager students.

“They wanted to honor you as a great teacher on the news today, so we wanted to surprise you and let you know how much they love you, and how much we appreciate all that you’re doing for first-grade students,” Brenna said. “But we have another surprise for you.” 

Our team sat Mrs. Carter down and played the video of student letters, and as the students cheered, grinned, and spoke her praises, she became emotional 

“‘I’m very overwhelmed. I’m very touched. That kind of brings it all together of why I do this,” Mrs. Carter said. “It’s just made my world.” 

The school’s principal, Star Hardimon, said Mrs. Carter deserves every ounce of this recognition. 

“Year after year I have kids wanting to come back to the school and see her,” she said, noting a difference in students who have been through her classroom. “They’re very confident, they care about others and are so compassionate with each other.” 

As an exceptional teacher with 29 years of experience in first grade, we gave Mrs. Carter an opportunity to share advice or encouragement to her fellow teachers. She advised balance in your life, but an undying pursuit to do what’s in your soul. 

“After retirement, I will find other avenues to touch lives. It’s just something that was instilled in me. Both my parents were educators and so I, that’s just what I’ve seen. That’s just my calling as well,” she said through tears. 

We honor your Mrs. Kerri Carter, and thank you for your service and love for the students of Perry Township.

If you want to honor a teacher as one of WISH-TV’s Treasured Teachers, email Brenna Donnelly at or tell her about your nomination on Facebook

SOUTHPORT, Ind. (WISH) — Funeral arrangements have been announced for a Southport police officer who died while working a part-time security job.

The funeral for Detective Sgt. Jason Swanson will be at 10 a.m. March 13 at the The Life Center at Southport, 4002 E. Southport Road, according to a tweet from Southport Police Department. Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Tuesday at Simplicity Funeral & Cremation Care, 7520 Madison Ave. 

Swanson had been with the department since March 2015, according to the department. The funeral home had not posted an obituary for Swanson by midday Wednesady. 

“A procession route to Crown Hill Cemetery has not been finalized yet, but will be announced when confirmed,” another tweet said. 

The results of an autopsy were pending a toxicology report, the Marion County Coroner’s Office said Wednesday. 

SOUTHPORT, Ind. (WISH) – Southport Police Department is training people who live in the area on how to protect themselves from thieves.

Police started Monday to hold one class a month. During the training, residents can expect to learn what crimes are trending in the area and what you can do to avoid becoming a target. The first course was called Residential Safety and Security. 

Southport resident Annie Singleton is a kids’ bus driver from the Marion County town. The kids have come and gone, and the community has changed since she moved to Southport 60 years ago.

“Of course, we didn’t use to have to lock our doors. Now we do. But, it’s still a great community,” she said. 

“I think the local police they have a handle on where things are,” Singleton said.

According to Southport Police Chief Tom Vaughn, the department wrapped up 2018 with no residential burglaries or robberies. Vaughn said he wants to keep it that way. That’s why police are hosting the training courses. 

“It’s more of an interaction. They can say, ‘Well, I’m seeing this.’ A lot of times we can find problems that we’re not aware of,” Vaughn said.

Monday’s course focused on what residents can do to help prevent becoming a victim of a break-in. 

The classes are being conducted the Southport Municipal Complex, 137 Worman St.

A list of the classes is on the Southport Police Department Facebook page. To register, call the Southport Police Department at (317) 787-7595.

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Lauren Cullison’s October went well.

The junior at Southport High School smashed a volleyball better than any player in program history.

The goofy outside hitter who is verbally committed to play at the University of Indianapolis in 2020 now owns the most kills in a game and the most kills in a season at Southport. 

Here comes the tricky part: The records were previously owned by Cardinals Head Coach Chelsea Hoffman.

“I’ve been trying to do it since freshman year. It’s been a huge goal of mine,” Cullison said. “My dad would be in the stands trying to signal to me if I was getting close.” 

Coach Hoffman had a good seat to watch her own history go down. 

“It’s not that I’m gone and 20 years from now someone I don’t even know breaks it. It’s the fact that I got to coach her and help her break it,” Hoffman said. “I think it is pretty awesome.” 

Coach Hoffman’s tip of the cap isn’t enough though. At least, that is what IBEW Local 481 thought Instead, with the help of Lauren’s biggest supporters at Southport, IBEW Local 481 and WISH-TV delivered Cullison one last perfect set. 

A surprise meeting with friends and family was topped off with a $1,000 scholarship check for college. 

“I feel like, I don’t even know what’s happening, this is crazy,” Cullison said. “Without my family I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I wouldn’t have been able to play club volleyball and its a lot of money to do that, I’m really thankful.” 

What is next, one thing is for sure. Lauren is going to kill it.

SOUTHPORT, Ind. (WISH) — The Southport Police Department on Thursday was mourning the loss of one of their own again in what has turned out to be one of the most difficult years the department has faced. 

Southport Police Officer Rich Parnell lost his battle with cancer Thursday morning. Parnell is the fourth officer the small department has lost in the past 14 months. Three of those deaths have come in the past three months alone. 

“It does affect you,” said Southport Police Chief Thomas Vaughn. “We can be tough and we can do our job, but we’re still human and we’re still feeling. A lot of these guys they worked the same days. Five or six days. they are family. Sometimes you see them more than you see your wives or your kids sometimes.” 

Vaughn said he’s doing everything he can to keep morale up when times are at their lowest of lows. 

“We’re all family here because we are so small,” Vaughn said. “We know everybody’s wives and kids. So to lose one. It’s like truly losing a brother each time.” 

Losing four police officers is a huge hit for the Southport Police Department, which only has 45 officers. 

Nearly all of them are reserves. 

It all started when Lt. Aaron Allan was killed in the line of duty in July 2017. Vaughn remembered Allan’s kind personality. 

“He was a teddy bear,” Vaughn said. “He was a big teddy bear.”

Then, Officer Joe Baughn died in June 2018 from pancreatic cancer. 

“He was the jokester,” Vaughn said. “He always liked to tell jokes and give you a hard time.” 

The hits kept coming. 

Just a month ago, Officer Phil Parmelee died of a sudden heart attack. 

“Phil was a former police chief, so he gave me a lot of stuff,” Vaughn said and then laughed as he reminisced about Parmelee’s knack for mentorship. 

Then Thursday morning, Parnell, died after a yearlong battle with cancer. 

“It (the cancer) was just everywhere,” Vaughn said. “His parents both passed away around the same time. He was the only son, the only kid. So, for the last year, every Friday, I would take him to chemo and his appointments. Rich had a big heart. Rich cared and did whatever he could for anybody.”

All tough losses the men and women in blue of Southport have taken to heart. 

“It is very important to get these officers to understand it’s OK to grieve and it’s OK to break down,” Vaughn said. “We just need to manage that, make sure that they’re healthy mentally and emotionally.” 

As the grieving process continues, Vaughn said, the public can do one simple thing to help ease the pain his officers are feeling. 

“Just say ‘hi’ to them,” Vaughn said. “Just, you know, give them a hug. Do something. That’s the best way to show the support to them right now. They need to know that that community is still there and that they do care.” 

Vaughn added that the department is also taking contributions to help fund Southport training and equipment as part of a new memorial dedicated to Lt. Aaron Allan. The cost is $100 per person and $250 per business. Each contributor’s name will be placed on the memorial wall outside the Southport Police station. 

Since Parnell doesn’t have any family left, Vaughn also encouraged the public to attend his funeral and visitation on Monday. Visitation will be from 5-7 p.m. at Singleton Community Mortuary and Memorial Center, 7602 Madison Ave. in Indianapolis. Services will start at 7 p.m.

SOUTHPORT, Ind. (WISH) — An officer with the Southport Police Department died Thursday following a long fight with cancer.

Officer Rich Parnell served as a member of the Southport Police Honor Guard and as a field training officer.

The department expressed condolences on its Facebook page

Southport Police Chief Tom Vaughn released the following statement on Thursday:

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that the Southport Police Department must announce the passing of Officer Richard “Rich” Parnell. Rich served the City of Southport Police Department with honor, integrity, and distinction since 2015. Prior to that Rich has a lengthy law enforcement career. Rich was a proud member of the Southport Police Honor Guard and also served as a Field Training Officer. Rich was diagnosed with Cancer in 2017 at which time he began treatment and has battled with the cancer advancing. On September 27, 2018 at approximately 11:00am Rich lost his battle against cancer while surrounded by his friends, family, and fellow police officers at an Indianapolis Hospital. Funeral Details for Officer Richard Parnell will be announced as soon as they are available.

Thomas L Vaughn

Chief of Police

City of Southport

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Central Indiana teachers are turning to an online crowdfunding website to purchase school supplies and tools for their classrooms with major success. 

The website Donors Choose began in 2000 and is geared toward connecting teachers with education-minded donors and foundations who can make their classroom projects a reality. 

Kristen Jordan taught social studies at Southport Middle School in Perry Township for the last 10 years and now directs the school’s Project Lead The Way computer coding class. Through Donors Choose, Jordan has funded 25 separate projects for her classroom. 

“We’ve done calculators, we’ve done tablets and decorations, even rugs for social studies classroom, class sets of novels,” Jordan said, listing projects she and her fellow teachers have completed, “We’ve had science kits for eighth-grade science teachers. All of our math teachers use the same calculators through Donors Choose.” 

She said the website hosts the fundraiser and purchases the requested equipment or item and ships it to the school so the teachers never actually handle the donated money. 

“It gives us the chance to provide for our students, to provide things that maybe the school isn’t able to,” Jordan said. 

In the Project Lead the Way class, Perry Township has supplied students with computers and tablets to help students learn more about computer science. 

“I’ve kind of always wondered how apps are created, and we actually get to create our own and put it on the Google Play store at the end of the semester,” said Matt Youmans, a seventh-grader in Jordan’s class. 

As Jordan’s class has grown to around 30 students, there aren’t enough tablets to go around. After posting the request on Donors Choose and telling the world her story, Jordan said a box arrived at school with two new tablets to help complete the classroom set. 

“It’s awesome. It’s a great feeling when you put out this idea and someone thinks it’s a great idea and they donate and they help bring your goal or your wish to life,” she said. 

Jordan has also funded a class set of the game Battleship to teach her students about latitude and longitude in a fun, interactive way. She said science, technology, math and engineering projects tend to get extra attention with donors, along with projects for special-needs classrooms. 

As for who donates, Jordan said, it’s almost always a mixed bag of group such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, local businesses such as Salesforce, and people across the country. 

Students can write thank-you cards to each donor who helped their teacher complete a fundraiser. Jordan said that teaches students a great lesson in gratitude and responsibility as new equipment and technology flow in the classroom door. 

“I think it’s cool because you don’t have to buy all the things and people support you for it,” said Angel Cazares, another of Jordan’s seventh-grade coding students. “It helps out a lot of people.” 

Jordan has two open projects: one for headphones and another for 2 additional tablets

To see other local classroom fundraisers, enter your ZIP code into the search bar on Donors Choose