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Two meth dealers sentenced in drug bust

Two meth dealers were recently sentenced after selling drugs to confidential informants with the Huntington City Police Department in a drug bust involving 12 dealers.

Clifton Ray Rose, 43, of Fort Wayne was sentenced on Feb. 4 to nine years in prison with an additional 3 years of probation for a Level 4 felony count of dealing in Methamphetamine in an amount of less than one gram. Rose filed a plea agreement on Jan. 14 and the court dismissed an additional Level 5 felony charge of dealing in methamphetamine.

Nichalas Neils Howard, 25, of Huntington, was sentenced to 8 years in prison on Oct. 1, 2019 for a Level 4 felony charge of dealing in methamphetamine in the amount of less than one gram.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Rose sold methamphetamine with a weight of 1.99 grams to a Confidential Informant working for the Huntington City Police Department on May 4, 2017. On May 3, 2017, Rose sold .71 grams of methamphetamine to the Confidential Informant.

Rose admitted the transaction took place in the garage of his home, according to the plea agreement.

On January 18, 2018, Howard sold 3.51 grams of methamphetamine to a confidential informant with the Huntington City Police Department.

In a statement to the Herald-Press in March of 2019, Huntington County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jeremy Nix said he hopes the convictions deter people from making the decision to deal drugs.

"We do hope that as drug dealers are convicted and sentenced that other people who might start dealing drugs in our community are convinced that it is not worth the time they might spend in prison," Nix said.

Jordan Lee Kipp, 26, of Huntington was sentenced to 15 years in prison and an additional three years of probation after pleading guilty to two Level 4 felony counts of dealing in methamphetamine in an amount of less than 1 gram, according to court records.

Javaun David Houston was sentenced to 14 years in prison and four years on probation after he plead guilty to a Level 2 felony charge of dealing narcotic drugs and a Level 3 felony charge of dealing cocaine, according to court records.

Cameron Levi Martin was sentenced to six years in prison and four years on probation after he pleaded guilty to a Level 4 felony charge of dealing methamphetamine and a Level 6 felony charge of dealing a substance represented to be methamphetamine.

Damek Xan Vogleman was sentenced to ten years in prison and eight years on probation after he pleaded guilty to a Level 2 felony charge of dealing a controlled substance and a Level 6 felony of dealing a controlled substance, according to a plea agreement filed in Huntington Superior Court.

Misty Star Smith was sentenced to 18 years in prison and seven years on probation after pleading guilty to a Level 2 felony charge of dealing a schedule II narcotic within a drug-free zone.

Robert J. Hardy was sentenced to six years in prison and three years on probation after he pleaded guilty to a Level 3 felony charge of dealing a narcotic drug and a Level 4 felony charge of dealing a narcotic drug.

Steven Michael Johnson was sentenced to serve 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a Level 4 felony charge of dealing methamphetamine in excess of one gram and a Level 5 felony charge of dealing methamphetamine, according to a plea agreement.

Elizabeth Michelle Eckert, 24, was sentenced to three years in prison and six years on probation after she was charged with a Level 4 felony of dealing in Methamphetamine in an amount of less than one gram and a Level 5 felony of dealing in a schedule II controlled substance with weight between 1 and 5 grams.

Regina Renee McBride was sentenced to two years of prison and two years of probation after she pleaded guilty to a Level 5 and two Level 6 felony dealing in a controlled substance charges, according to court records.

Only one more of the 12 suspected drug dealers still await trials. Austin Lee Estep was arrested on Oct. 10, 2018 on a Level 4 felony charge of dealing in methamphetamine and an additional habitual offender charge.

Local shops prepare for Valentine's rush

As Valentine’s Day approaches Friday, several local florists and candy shops are preparing for a wave of last minute shoppers.

Flower shops around Huntington County have been filling orders and designing arrangements since the beginning of the week, but they expect an influx of customers on the day of Valentine’s Day and are trying to get ahead of the steep incline in business.

“Call now,” said Kari Heim, owner of Gebhart Floral Barn and Greenhouse with her husband Joshua. “Call your local flower shop instead of going on the website because we have limited availability. If you’re a last-minute shopper we still want to make sure you get the best product you can. What (florists) have on (their) website isn’t necessarily going to be what (they) have at that exact time, so definitely call and actually speak with a person.”

Mazie’s Flowers in Markle put in their order for flowers a month ahead based on the previous year’s sales, which are constantly growing, according to owner Trisha Abbott.

“It’s fun, you meet a lot of new people which is good and exciting, but they all wait until the last minute,” said Abbot. “I’m not open on Mondays, but yesterday I was in here processing flowers and my phone started ringing yesterday and has not stopped and today has been crazy too.”

Abbot and Heim expect to have extra staff on hand to make deliveries all across Huntington County and several towns outside of the immediate area including Wabash, Bluffton and Gas City.

“We already have a lot of orders,” said Heim. “We’ve got great (helpers) that are working all day to get all of the flowers done.”

Several local candy stores are preparing for last minute customers as well. The Party Shop in Huntington has been preparing their signature heart-shaped turtle candies every day ahead of the holiday.

“It’s not a holiday people plan ahead for,” said Lynette Dowden, owner of The Party Shop. “We stir in the copper kettle for an hour and a half to make the homemade caramels, so every day we’re making fresh turtles.”

The Sweet Spot in downtown Huntington has a less-traditional take on Valentine’s Day candy, with Valentine’s inspired cotton candy flavors.

Valentines Day related businesses plan to have their doors open to welcome the last-minute shoppers, even the ones who may not make it in the doors on Valentine’s Day.

The small business owners say they’re all looking forward to meeting new customers as well as welcoming in the familiar faces. Whether those celebrating the holiday are looking for flowers or chocolates or both, the local shops aim to please.

“We value our customers,” Heim said. 

The Huntington County Visitors Bureau is encouraging the community to shop local. They say people shopping for sweet treats can find them at The Party Shop and Little Sweets Spot in Huntington, or A Spoonful of Sugar in Roanoke. The traditional gift of flowers, according to the department, can be found at Huntington Nursery and Florist and Town and Country Flowers and Gifts in Huntington, Gebhart's Floral Barn and Greenhouse in Warren, Mazie's Flowers in Markle, and Lynnlee's Flower & Design in Roanoke.

Unions ask: Is it time to rethink school shooting drills?

The nation’s two largest teachers unions want schools to revise or eliminate active shooter drills, asserting Tuesday that they can harm students’ mental health and that there are better ways to prepare for the possibility of a school shooting.

The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association joined with the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund in calling for an end to unannounced drills or drills that simulate gun violence.

“Everywhere I travel, I hear from parents and educators about active shooter drills terrifying students, leaving them unable to concentrate in the classroom and unable to sleep at night,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association. “So traumatizing students as we work to keep students safe from gun violence is not the answer. That is why if schools are going to do drills, they need to take steps to ensure the drills do more good than harm.”

The report released Tuesday recommends schools concentrate on training teachers to respond to an active shooter incident rather than drilling students.

It also issued guidelines for schools that decide to use drills. Those include never simulating an actual shooting; giving parents, educators and students advance notice of any drill; working with mental health officials to create age-appropriate and trauma-informed drills; and tracking the effects of drills.

About 95 percent of schools drilled students on lockdown procedures in the 2015-16 school year, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics.

“In Indiana they were shooting teachers with rubber pellets so they would feel the adrenaline of what a school shooting would feel like,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, which is part of Everytown. “In California recently, a superintendent hired a stranger to wear a mask to rattle the doors of classrooms without letting faculty and students know. We’ve seen students asked to pretend to be victims and lie down using fake blood in the hallway.”

Jean-Paul Guilbault, the chief executive of the Alice Training Institute, which runs active shooter drills, said they are effective when done appropriately. He said his company never runs surprise drills but believes that simulating an event is the best way to prepare for one “and allow students to practice their options, whether that be lockdown or evacuation.”

“According to a recent study conducted by The U.S. Secret Service, most school shootings last for two minutes or less, and nearly half of the events studied ended within one minute,” he said in a written statement. “That means it is up to us to keep ourselves safe for those seconds that will feel as slow as a lifetime. We drill so everyone has a plan when faced with danger, to give people a chance at survival.”

Indiana governor says he'll keep up pregnancy protection bid

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s governor pledged Tuesday he would keep pushing for a law requiring more businesses to provide workplace accommodations for pregnant women even though the state Senate rebuffed his proposal last week.

Republican senators stripped out from a bill the requirement that businesses modify jobs for pregnant women who need longer breaks, transfers to less physical work and unpaid time off after childbirth. The vote came despite Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb’s endorsement of the proposal and inclusion in his priorities list for this year’s legislative session.

The proposal faces opposition from some business groups, including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Manufacturers Association, over possibly exposing more businesses to lawsuits.

Holcomb said he will “absolutely” work on winning support among lawmakers before the legislative session ends in March.

“We’ve got our work to do, but I’m still hellbent on making sure that that becomes a reality in the state of Indiana,” Holcomb said.

Top Holcomb administration health officials joined several doctors and other health advocates in backing the plan as a way of improving Indiana’s infant mortality rate, which was the country’s seventh-worst in 2017 with about 600 infant deaths.

The proposal would cover Indiana businesses with more than 15 employees. Federal laws already require larger companies to provide pregnancy accommodations. Twenty-seven other states have laws similar to Holcomb’s proposal.