Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

December 28, 2013

TOP news stories of the past year

Staff reports Hendricks County Flyer
Hendricks County Flyer

---- — This past year marked another series of milestones, tragedies, triumphs, endings, and beginnings.

Here are the top five news stories of 2013, in chronological order, as selected by the staff of the Hendricks County Flyer.

Deadly crash closes I-70

On Jan. 13, a massive wreck on Interstate 70 in Plainfield resulted in a shutting down of traffic, multiple injuries, and one fatality.

The call for the accident came into the Hendricks County Communications Center just after 2 p.m. There were multiple vehicles involved in the accident on both the east- and west-bound lanes on I-70 under South County Road 725 East (Bottom Road).

Twelve people were transported to area hospitals — the majority to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, some were taken to IU Health West in Avon, and some to Hendricks Regional Health in Danville.

In addition to the epicenter of the crash, there had been multiple subsequent crashes of vehicles that did not get stopped in time and numerous other vehicles that drove into the ditch to avoid wrecking.

Numerous vehicles were stranded along the road, although not involved in the wreckage, including a chartered bus with Plainfield High School juniors and seniors who had visited Indiana State University in Terre Haute, and a tractor-trailer that was transporting three grown elephants.

Some motorists were stranded there for hours before the interstate reopened.

Indiana State Police worked the accident, with assistance from the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department, Plainfield Police Department, the Avon and Plainfield fire departments, and several other agencies.

Earlier this month, Hendricks County Flyer staff writer Steven Penn received to Hoosier State Press Association Awards for his coverage of the accident. He won a first place for Best Spot News Photo and a second place for Best News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure.

Suspect killed,FBI investigation

On May 10, the Plainfield Police Department supported the FBI investigation involving multiple scenes after a robbery at the State Bank of Lizton branch in Plainfield.

Members of the Safe Streets Task Force were investigating an armed robbery at a bank branch on Madison Avenue in Indianapolis. A vehicle that was believed to be connected to that crime was tracked by federal law enforcement to Plainfield.

Task force members observed two men — Demetrius Worley and William McKnight — enter the State Bank of Lizton branch and an alert was issued that an armed robbery might be in progress. Worley and McKnight were observed leaving the branch and re-entering the vehicle. Federal law enforcement officers gave pursuit in neighborhood streets. The vehicle pulled over on the side of the road and Worley and McKnight exited the vehicle before it sped away. According to court documents, McKnight was armed and refused to comply with orders to disarm. At that time, he was fatally shot by police. Worley was taken into custody.

Earlier this month, U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett announced the conviction and sentencing by U.S. District Judge Jane Mangus-Stinson. Worley, 24, entered a guilty plea related to the May 10 incident. He was sentenced to 126 months (10 years, six months) for his participating in the robbery.

Pursuit of the vehicle continued and after a traffic stop, a third person, Lori A. Armstrong, 44, of Indianapolis, was arrested. She is currently awaiting trial.

WWII parkdedication held

What started in 2009 as an idea to honor veterans and particularly those of the World War II era culminated this May with a dedication ceremony to celebrate the memorial park’s completion

Hundreds turned out on an overcast day to watch the dedication, which concluded with WW II veteran, Avon resident, and Ben Davis High School graduate Brigadier Gen. Clyde “Chet” Wright placing a wreath at the statue that was modeled after his likeness as a representative of a soldier from that generation.

Wright served in the 139th Field Artillery Battalion, 38th Infantry Division, and also is a member of the memorial committee.

The ceremony began with the Avon High School Jazz Band playing military themed songs and included three soldiers reading Letters To Home from soldiers who fought in WWII.

Brigadier Gen. Brian Copes noted that there are about 1.5 million men and women currently serving in the military.

“That comes out to about one-half of 1 percent of the American population that wear the uniform,” he said. “Never in our nation’s history have so many been defended by so few. Though the world may badmouth us or have their own points of contention, when the world gets in trouble, they look for us to help them.

“Thank you to the town of Avon, the visionaries who envisioned this memorial and placed it next to the school where the young people can go by it every day and be reminded of it. Chet is someone that these young people can put a face to and say ‘this is somebody from my hometown.’”

Missing man found in pond

Plainfield resident Morgan Johnson had been missing for just over two years when detectives with the Plainfield Police Department recovered his body and his vehicle on July 19.

The vehicle was found in a retention pond near the 1500 block of Perry Road and the body found inside has been positively identified by the Hendricks County coroner.

Johnson was last seen May 18, 2011, at the Value Place Hotel in Plainfield. He was reported missing by his family on May 25 of that year.

PPD detective Lt. Jeff Stephens had taken a forensics class on cell phone records given by Glenn Bard, a retired Pennsylvania State Trooper.

“I gave the cell phone records we had from the case to him and he was able to learn that he was on the phone the last time it went off,” Stephens said. “I knew you could ping cell phones to tell where they have been, but I didn’t know until this class that you could go back like this and find this kind of information.”

The vehicle was found in a pond that had been searched earlier in the missing person case.

Stephens contacted the Texas Equusearch Mounted and Recovery Team. Dennis and Tammy Watters, a husband and wife team from Illinois, complete most of the water sonar searches for the organization. They came to Plainfield in July with special equipment to help search the three-quarter mile area.

The team used a drone boat fitted with sonar equipment to search ponds in the area. They were able to get an image of a small car under the pond’s surface.

Fire departmentmarks milestone

In November, the Avon-Washington Township Fire Department celebrated its 50th anniversary with a special celebration.

Jim Searcy was one of the original volunteer firefighters in the department, which started on Aug. 1, 1963.

“It’s nice to be recognized for what we did 50 years ago,” he told those assembled during a ceremony marking the anniversary.

At one time, Avon-Washington Township would get fire protection from surrounding communities. The guy who set about establishing a volunteer unit in Avon did so because his house burned when all of the nearby fire departments were too busy to respond.

“From the beginning, our jobs were to save lives and properties,” said Searcy, who served with the department for 23 years. “Avon has changed a lot, but the job of a firefighter has not. I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished.”

Jon Rubeck, current battalion chief for the Avon-Washington Township Fire Department’s A shift, feels the same way. His first day on the job 21 years ago was one he had dreamed of his whole life. Both his father and grandfather were also firefighters.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Rubeck said.

Avon has grown tremendously in his time with the department. When Rubeck started there were only six stoplights in all of Washington Township, and the closest roundabout was Monument Circle. He recently counted 28 stoplights and seven roundabouts.