The new year has brought a new radio program to Huntington County, created by recently-reinvented online station Z103 and the city of Huntington.
Radio host Monte Sieberns, who “grew up listening to it and hanging out in the studio as a child” recently debuted the web-based revival of the the now-defunct on-air station on Jan. 3.
“I’ve always wanted to bring that back, and now I’ve had the opportunity to bring that back as a stream,” Sieberns said. “Everyone is listening to TuneIn these days on all their devices and even in their cars, so we brought Z103 back to Huntington and we brought the other version of Z103, Z-Country, back to Huntington.”
The station is operated out of the old Carnegie Library building in downtown Huntington, and Sieberns said that his goal is to serve Huntington and other small towns in the area “that aren’t being served by big market radio.” One way the new station hopes to serve the local market is through a partnership with the city.
“Monte Sieberns from Z103 approached us with his idea for a program giving the mayor and other officials a platform to reach out to the community,” Huntington Communications Coordinator Kevin Krauskopf said. “In talking with him we saw the potential for it to be a new and effective communications piece.”
Sieberns said that the first two broadcasts have gone well after the first meeting with the mayor last year.
“I got it up and running in its test mode in October and were just really excited,” Sieberns said. “We set an appointment with the mayor, went to his office and talked. He and the communications director were really on board with it. It just worked out better than we had ever dreamed it could.”
Those broadcasts now take place every Thursday morning at 8 a.m., two shows – on Jan. 6 and Jan. 13 – already having aired. Krauskopf said that while Mayor Richard Strick has appeared on the first two broadcasts, the plan is for the show to have a “rotation of different topics.”
“One will be discussions with the mayor on big projects that will make an impact on infrastructure and industry in our community,” Krauskopf said. “Another will be an interview format where Monte can ask questions that he or other community members have as Huntington residents. Finally, we plan to open up some conversation opportunities to county officials and other community members to talk about their own projects and ideas.
Krauskopf said that one of the city’s major areas of emphasis has been to engage with the community using channels and mediums that are already in use.
“That’s why in addition to the city website we launched a digital newsletter last year and stay active on social media,” Krauskopf said. “We’re also working on an online 311 portal that we hope to roll out within the next few months that will give residents a quick connection to their city officials. A radio program makes sense because we believe it will reach more people who might not use those other channels.”
Huntington County’s long-awaited jail expansion project was completed on Thursday after a year and a half of work.
At a ceremony held inside the new facility, county officials and others that worked on the project cut a ribbon to mark the opening of the jail. Sheriff Chris Newton, one of the strongest proponents of the expansion, spoke at the event.
“I hadn’t really thought about [how the day would feel.] It’s just another normal day for me,” Newton said. “But when I was standing there at that podium, I looked up when I started to talk and saw all of my jail staff standing back there, smiling. That’s when it finally hit me that I am happy; this is a good thing.”
Newton said that the expansion had been needed for many years, and called the legislation requiring most Level 6 felony offenders to serve their sentences in local jails the “tipping point.”
“There’s only been five jails ever built in Huntington County since 1834. This has been a long time coming, going back to 1982 when this was originally built,” Newton said. “We were over capacity. It’s been an ongoing problem, and it’s been identified. With today’s crime trends, it’s not likely to end any time soon. Five sheriffs – that’s nearly 40 years – have envisioned this project and prayed that it would come to fruition.”
County Commissioner Rob Miller, who opened the ceremony, mentioned how those concerns led to the beginning of the expansion effort four years ago.
“Back in 2018, Sheriff Chris Newton, [then-Police Chief] Chad Hammel and new leadership in the sheriff’s department quickly realized that there were significant issues and challenges on several fronts,” Miller said. “An aging facility that was built in 1982. An expanding jail population, compliments of our state legislators and the Department of Corrections. We had safety issues for our staff and our jail population.”
After county officials arrived at the conclusion that expansion was necessary, the County Council approved the funding in January of 2019 and workers broke ground at the site in June of 2020.
“19 months later, in January of 2022, here we are,” Miller said. “Mission accomplished.”
He also thanked those that helped with the project, including consulting firm DLZ and Weigand Construction.
“I’m probably the guy that has the least impact ... If I look to my left, I see the team that wore the boots day-in and day-out. 125 tradesmen plus countless subcontractors... Just the amount of coordination it takes; I want to thank everyone for that effort,” Jeremy Ringger, president of Weigand Construction, said during his remarks. “It’s good to be a part of a solution for a community. It’s what gets us up in the morning, it’s what gets you coming to work every day, to get to a day like this.”
Newton emphasized that the expanded jail is designed with a primary focus on the safety of both inmates and staff.
“We have created an environment with this design and build that promotes safety, which is what I wanted from the very beginning,” Newton said. “An inmate that’s in here, regardless of the smallest crime they’ve committed versus the worst crime they’ve committed, everybody gets treated the same. We don’t judge in here.”
There are still some finishing touches left to complete. Newton said that some desks and tables were “in the China Sea on a boat” and are still without a definitive arrival date. The remodeling of the old jail will also begin soon after inmates and equipment are fully transferred to the new facility in the coming weeks.
“We’re hoping [the remodel will be completed in] July,” Newton said. “That’s tentative, but you don’t know when you’re getting into a project like this, what’re you going to run into. There’s always something in a remodel. Hopefully we’ll get done soon; I’m ready.”
Under Illinois law, a sibling may not be prosecuted for harboring, aiding or abetting a fugitive.
However, Indiana law only exempts parents, children and a spouse from prosecution.
This distinction between the two states’ laws has come to light with the recent arrest in North Manchester of a suspect in the murder of one Illinois police officer and the injuring of another.
Kankakee County, Illinois State’s Attorney Jim Rowe submitted an official request to the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois and to the U.S. Attorney General to review the first-degree murder cases pending against Darius D. Sullivan, 26, of Bourbonnais, Illinois, and Xandria A. Harris, 26, of Bradley, Illinois, for federal murder charges, and to pursue a federal sentence of death against both defendants.
Additionally, the State’s Attorney’s Office has also filed state charges against Sullivan and Harris for the first-degree murder of a police officer, and attempted first-degree murder of a police officer, among other charges. The state charges will proceed in the Kankakee County Courthouse and Rowe will seek life sentences for both offenders.
The Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigation Zone 3 is investigating a shooting involving officers from the Bradley Police Department in Bradley, Illinois, according to the Illinois State Police. At around 12:20 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 30, the Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigation Zone 3 was requested to investigate the shooting of two Bradley Police Department police officers. Preliminary reports indicate that BPD officers responded to a hotel in the 1500 block of North State Highway 50 for a noise complaint. While investigating the incident, BPD officers initiated a conversation with subjects inside of the hotel, according to the Illinois State Police. During the interaction, Sgt. Marlene R. Rittmanic, 49, and Officer Tyler J. Bailey, 27, were fired upon. Rittmanic and Bailey sustained serious injuries after being struck by gunfire and were transported to area hospitals for treatment. Rittmanic later succumbed to her injuries. Bailey remains in critical condition at the hospital. ISP Zone 3 Agents obtained Kankakee County arrest warrants for Sullivan and Harris concerning this incident.
“I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to all of the law enforcement agencies, emergency personnel, first responders and medical personnel for their assistance during this terrible time,” Illinois State Police director Brendan F. Kelly said during a press conference held at the Bradley Police Department on Wednesday, Jan. 5. “I’d like to thank the men and women of the Illinois State Police, particularly ISP Division of Criminal Investigation Zone 3 special agents and Illinois State Police Crime Scene Investigators, the U.S. Marshals, Indiana State Police, the Kankakee County States Attorney’s office, Bourbonnais and Bradley Fire and EMS, Fulton County Indiana Sheriff’s Office, Wabash County Indiana Sheriff’s Office, Kosciusko County Indiana Sheriff’s Office, Warsaw Police Department, North Manchester Police Department, Akron Police Department, North Manchester Fire Department. Manchester University Security, Lutheran EMS and the Wabash Fire Department and the numerous other individuals who have been tirelessly working to ensure these violent individuals face justice.”
At around 4 p.m. Friday, Dec. 31, Harris, accompanied by her attorney, turned herself in at the Bradley Police Department and was taken into custody by the Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigation Zone 3 Investigators, according to the Illinois State Police. Harris will remain in custody and will be held at the Jerome D. Combs Adult Detention Facility in Kankakee, Illinois. Harris faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. The state’s petition to deny bail to the defendant was granted by the court on Monday, Jan. 3, and Harris remains in the custody of the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department without bond.
Darius Sullivan was arrested early Friday, Dec. 31 at a residence in North Manchester. Arrangements are being made for him to be extradited from Indiana to Kankakee County at this time. Darius Sullivan is charged with six counts of first-degree murder, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and one charge of aggravated battery with a firearm. Darius Sullivan remains in the custody of Indiana law enforcement, where, on Monday, Jan. 3, he refused to waive extradition to Illinois.
“It feels too often like we are living in a cynical, self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish time. Every day, law enforcement officers like Sgt. Rittmanic and Officer Bailey ... leave their homes and families to serve and protect their communities because they are selfless. That’s why it is nearly impossible to express the depth of my sadness and condolences to the entire Rittmanic family, her friends, and the Bradley Police Department family. We will continue to pray for her and seek justice for her and for Officer Bailey and their families during this painful time. The families, friends, the Bradley Police Department and every first responder in our state are hurting right now,” Kelly said.
Rowe said there is recent precedent for the United States pursuing the death penalty for the murder of a law enforcement officer, citing the case U.S. v. Stephen Wiggins, Middle District of Tennessee in 2018; and precedent for pursuing a federal sentence of death in non-death penalty states, citing the case U.S. v. Brent Christensen, Central District of Illinois in 2018.
“Officer Bailey was viciously attacked because he was doing his job. Sgt. Rittmanic was executed because she was doing her job. … These alleged acts were cowardly acts of evil. The Illinois State Police will continue to assist our Bradley Police Department family and will be vigilant in the pursuit of justice as this investigation continues. Through turmoil and tragedy, through good times and bad, the Illinois State Police will always remain ready to aid our law enforcement partners and safeguard everyone in Illinois,” Kelly said. “We all want justice, we all want freedom, we all want safety, no one more than those who serve in law enforcement. But there is no safety, there is no freedom, there is no justice without the law. And there is no law without law enforcement. And there is no law enforcement without people like Sgt. Rittmanic, Officer Bailey, … without brave souls like those who serve in the Bradley Police Department ... the Illinois State Police and all law enforcement. And every one of us should get down on our knees and thank God for every one of them.”
Rowe said Sullivan and Harris “will now face justice for these heinous crimes thanks to the quick work of all local law enforcement officers, firefighters, paramedics, first responders, dispatchers, the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Department and Coroner’s Office, U.S. Marshals, KAMEG, Illinois State Police, countless Indiana law enforcement departments and the willing cooperation of civilians.”
Rowe said during the investigation were Darius Sullivan’s mother, Nichele Newton-Caroll, and his brother, Jalmen Sullivan, were also arrested. Allegations against these individuals include obstruction of justice for making false statements to law enforcement and harboring a fugitive to aid in his escape, respectively. Newton-Caroll is alleged to have made false statements to law enforcement during an interview that occurred in Demotte, which ultimately places the jurisdiction for those charges in the hands of the Newton County, prosecutor’s office. Rowe said he has been in contact with the Newton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and has requested that they file all applicable charges and prosecute Newton-Caroll “to the fullest extent of the law.” Rowe said Jalmen Sullivan allegedly transported his brother, Darius Sullivan, from Kankakee County, Illinois to Wabash “to aid Darius in escaping justice.”
On Friday, Jan. 14, Illinois State Police Southern Region Public Information Office Trooper Josh Korando referred all future questions about the potential prosecution of Jalmen Sullivan to Wabash County authorities.
“No other information on this case is being released by Zone 3 at this time,” Korando said.
Also, on Friday, Jan. 14, Wabash County Prosecutor William C. Hartley, Jr. said he could not publicly discuss his office’s pending decision as to whether or not to charge Jalmen Sullivan locally.
Rowe did not respond to a Plain Dealer request for further comment on this case as of press time.
During a press conference on the afternoon of Friday, Dec. 31 at the North Manchester Police Department, Indiana State Police Lowell District public information officer Sgt. Glen Fifield was joined by Sgt. Travis Heishman with Fulton County Sheriff’s Department, Fulton County Sheriff Chris Sailors and Wabash County Sheriff Ryan Baker.
Fifield said at around 3:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 31, the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department initiated a traffic stop on a vehicle traveling the wrong way on a one-way road in Rochester. As a result of that traffic stop that was initiated, a pursuit took place which ended off Mitchell Drive at the seawall. They fled on foot but were shortly apprehended, police said in a probable cause affidavit. Two individuals – Bryce J. Baker, 20, and Joshua J. Adams, 26, both from Kankakee, Illinois – were taken into custody without incident. Those two individuals were charged with possession of stolen property, resisting law enforcement and possession of a handgun with no license. Police said they found a bag of marijuana and a handgun in a towel that Baker told them he pitched into the lake. The two are charged with carrying a handgun without a license, theft of a firearm, possession of marijuana and resisting law enforcement. Adams’ resisting charge is a felony because he was the alleged driver and used a vehicle to resist. On Tuesday, Jan. 4, Baker and Adams appeared before Fulton Circuit Court Judge Christopher Lee for their initial hearings. Lee set both men’s bonds at $75,000 surety, approved public defense attorneys for the suspects and set future court dates. They are both set to appear for a pretrial conference at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 14 and their trial date is now set for June 7.
At approximately 9:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 31, officers with the U.S. Marshall’s Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force requested the assistance of the Indiana State Police SWAT to serve a search warrant on a residence located in the 1000 block of North Bond Street in North Manchester. During the execution of that warrant, two individuals were taken into custody. One of the individuals, Darius Sullivan, had active warrants for first-degree murder, attempted murder and aggravated battery with a firearm. These charges stemmed from the murder of Rittmanic and the injuries to Bailey. Also arrested at the residence was Daniel Acros, 19, from Kankakee, Illinois. He was preliminarily charged with weapon and narcotics charges in Wabash County as a result of the search warrant.
Assisting at the scene were the Fulton County Sheriffs Department, Wabash County Sheriffs Department, Kosciusko County Sheriffs Department, Warsaw Police Department, North Manchester Police Department, Akron Police Department, North Manchester Fire Department, Manchester University Security, Lutheran EMS and the Wabash Fire Department.
Fifield said Manchester University was locked down during the search warrant “and there was a building that was searched as a result of some other investigation.” On Monday, Jan. 3, Manchester University’s Office of Strategic Communications assistant director of media relations Anne Gregory said they issued the lockdown alert at 9:22 a.m. and the all-clear alert at 10:54 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 31.
Rowe said the investigation into this matter continues “to ensure that all who aided or abetted these individuals are caught and brought to justice.”
“The public is reminded that criminal charges are not evidence of guilt and that all individuals are presumed innocent until and unless they are found guilty in a court of law,” Rowe said.
Rowe said anyone with information related to the ongoing investigation and prosecution of the above offenders is asked to call the Illinois State Police Hotline at 815-698-2315.
No further information was available as of press time. This story will be updated as more information is released.
The Indiana Department of Health will hold a COVID-19 mobile clinic from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Boys & Girls Club of Huntington County, located at 608 E. State Street in Huntington. According to the city of Huntington, appointments scheduled for the original location will still be valid at the new location.
Free rapid and PCR tests, vaccines and boosters will be offered at the clinic. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will be available.Walk-ins will be accepted at the clinic, and pre-registration is available at ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211.
Last month, the City of Huntington released its meeting schedule for this year. The City Council will meet on the following dates:
Jan. 11 (7 p.m.)
Jan. 25 (6:45 a.m.)
Feb. 8 (7 p.m.)
Feb. 22 (6:45 a.m.)
March 8 (7 p.m.)
March 29 (6:45 a.m.)
April 12 (7 p.m.)
April 26 (6:45 a.m.)
May 10 (7 p.m.)
May 31 (6:45 a.m.)
June 14 (7 a.m.)
June 28 (6:45 a.m.)
July 12 (7 p.m.)
July 26 (6:45 a.m.)
Aug. 9 (7 p.m.)
Aug. 30 (6:45 a.m.)
Sept. 13 (7 p.m.)
Sept. 27 (6:45 a.m.)
Oct. 11 (7 p.m.)
Oct. 25 (6:45 a.m.)
Nov. 8 (7 p.m.)
Nov. 29 (6:45 a.m.)
Dec. 13 (7 p.m.)
Dec. 27 (6:45 a.m.)
The Board of Public Works and Safety will meet at 3:30 p.m., in the Council Chambers on the following dates: Jan 18, Feb. 7 and 22, March 7 and 21, April 4 and 18, May 2 and 16, June 6 and 21, July 5 and 18, Aug. 1, and 15, Sept. 6 and 19, Oct. 3 and 17, Nov. 7 and 21, Dec. 5 and 19.
The Economic Development Commission will meet in the Mayor’s Conference Room on the third floor of the City Building at 9 a.m. on the following dates: Feb. 1 (Organization Meeting), March 1, April 5, May 3, June 7, July 5, Aug. 2, Sept. 6, Oct. 4, Nov. 1, Dec. 6.
Last week, the town of Roanoke announced the schedule of Town Council meetings for 2022. All meetings will be held at 6 p.m.
Jan. 18, Feb. 1 & 15, March 1 & 15, April 5 & 19, May 3 & 17, June 7 & 21, July 5 & 19, Aug. 2 & 16, Sept. 6 & 20, Oct. 4 & 18, Nov. 1 & 15, Dec. 6 & 20.
The Huntington Solid Waste Committee will meet on the following dates this year. Meetings are held in Room 103A at the Huntington County Courthouse, and all meetings will begin at 8 a.m.
Feb. 14, March 14, April 11, May 9, 2022, June 6, 2022 July 5, 2022 (Tuesday), Aug. 1, Sept. 12, Oct. 10, Nov. 7, Dec. 5.
With frigid winter temperatures here to stay in Huntington – temperatures aren’t expected to rise above 40 degrees in the next two weeks and many days won’t even surpass 30 – Huntington County Fire Marshall David Teusch has advice to share.
“The main thing is to make sure that you’re heating your home appropriately,” Teusch said. “When it comes to your furnace, you want to make sure that your filters are cleaned. If you haven’t replaced your furnace filter in a while, you might want to do that.”
Additionally, Teusch also recommends using a space heater with an automatic shut-off function and that county residents make sure not to plug multiple heaters into the same outlet – and “definitely” not to use an extension cord.
“A lot of people like to use space heaters this time of year,” Teusch said. “It’s important that you keep space heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, such as bedding, clothing and curtains.”
While the county has avoided significant inclement weather, Sheriff Chris Newton shared his advice for drivers during the winter. Newton said that “hundreds” of accidents that occur each year in the county can be blamed on drivers driving too fast relative to the weather conditions.
“I think people think because the speed limit is 70 mph on the interstate when there’s bad weather, mentally they think they can still drive 70 mph,” Newton said. “People just need to slow down.”
Newton suggested that drivers keep a greater distance between their car and the one in front of them “in case they need to make a sudden stop.”
“When they see stop signs coming they need to not wait until the stop is where they’d normally apply their brakes – they need to plan ahead of time to get those brakes applied so they increase that stopping distance,” Newton said. “We always recommend the ‘five-second rule,’ but sometimes they need to plan eight to 10 seconds.”
Also, he said that another crucial component for safe driving is adequate planning.
“When they see that bad weather coming they need to know in the back of their mind that it’s probably going to be slick,” Newton said. “They need to leave early in the morning and make sure they plan enough time to get to and from work safely.”
Before traveling, drivers should check the forecast, let someone know their route and keep their gas tank “at least half-full,” Newton said. He advised that drivers should keep a kit in their car that includes blankets, a flashlight, extra batteries, a brightly colored cloth, sand or cat litter, a shovel, a candle, matches, “non-perishable high calorie food,” a first aid kit and jumper cables.
While driving, areas of particular concern include bridges, underpasses and shaded areas where ice can be slow to melt. Newton said that drivers should “avoid abrupt stops and starts” and slow down gradually instead.
If a driver does become stranded, Newton recommended that they don’t leave their car as “it’s the best protection you have.” He also suggested tying a “brightly colored cloth” to the antenna, slightly rolling down a window to allow fresh air, keeping the exhaust pipe unblocked, and not to panic.
Finally, Newton suggested that “if the conditions make drivers feel frightened” they should “find a safe place to pull over and simply wait out the storm rather than risk a tragedy.”