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Prosecutors seek habitual offender enhancement

A 46-year-old South Whitley man was arraigned on a charge of rape this week.

Police arrested Ben Kennath Benfer after 4 p.m. on April 23. According to the probable cause affidavit filed with the Huntington Circuit Court, prosecutors formally charged Benfer with rape, a Level 3 felony, as well as one other felony count.

The victim came to the Huntington Police Department to report the offense on April 18. During a follow-up interview on April 19, the victim stated that Benfer arrived at her apartment unexpectedly on the morning of April before engaging in “intercourse against victim’s consent,” according to the affidavit.

The victim claimed Benfer called to apologize and say it would never happen again.

Following multiple witness interviews which corroborated the victim’s statements HPD attempted to question Benfer on April 23, who instead requested to speak with a lawyer.

Detective Ty Whitacre, who wrote the probable cause affidavit, stated that he believes that Benfer is a “habitual offender.” Benfer was convicted and sentenced for a Class D felony of battery on a child on February 3, 2003, according to the affidavit.

Later, Benfer was reportedly convicted and sentenced for criminal deviate conduct and incest, Class B and C felonies, on June 28, 2010. Both cases were heard in front of the Huntington County Superior Court. Benfer was later released from prison in February of 2018.

A habitual offender enhancement could result in an additional ten years being added to any sentence if the defendant is found guilty.

Police say they obtained digital photographs and collected evidence at the scene, and the victim was taken to the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center for a forensic examination.

The victim reportedly missed work the day of the incident, which was confirmed by an employee who works at the same company.

Judge Davin Smith issued a no-contact order between Benfer and the victim on Monday.

Benfer’s bail was set at $60,000. He posted bail and was released April 27, 2021.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. on June 21.

Carrillo completes mural, prepares for future projects

After a month of painting, as well as months of fundraising and planning dating back to last year, America Carrillo completed the “Yes You Can” mural in downtown Huntington on Sunday, April 25.

The project took one month to complete, Carrillo said, although she didn’t paint every single day during that time. Carrillo said that she feels like she’s giving back to communities by creating public art.

“I really feel like I’m living my purpose when I paint these,” Carrillo said. “This is my purpose.”

Carrillo said that she studied graphic design during college. Those skills still prove vital during her work as a mural artist as she designs each mural in Photoshop before beginning the physical work on each building.

“I used to paint a lot but I took a break from it in college. Then I got back into painting; I was making collages,” Carrillo said. “I wanted those collages to be bigger because I was really intrigued by them. That’s how I got into mural art: wanting to make my art bigger.”

A Huntington native, Carrillo has painted murals all around the country. She said one of the best experiences she has had so far in her career was to paint a mural in a tiny town in South Carolina.

“People were absolutely amazed by it,” Carrillo said. “It wasn’t big; it took me about five hours to paint it. It wasn’t my favorite mural I’ve ever painted, design-wise, but it was just a really cool experience.”

Carrillo called the “Yes You Can” mural her “dream project.” She said that she has received a few emails from people criticizing the mural, but that the overall response from the Huntington community has been positive.

“I’ve had people tell me they didn’t like it and then change their minds” when they actually saw the mural, Carrillo said. “It’s like, the mock-up is so much different than seeing it in person.”

Carrillo said that she has been inspired by other artists, including “Mural Joe” in Arizona and John Pugh from California. She also said that she finds inspiration in her own life.

“I inspire myself everyday because I just keep pushing, you know? I never give up.”

Despite having just completed a project, Carrillo is already hard at work on a new mural in Huntington, on the southwest corner North Jefferson Street and East Park Drive. The new mural will be much smaller than the “Yes You Can” mural, however. Carrillo said that she is currently booked until June.

“I’ve got two more in Huntington on the same building as the toucan,” Carrillo said. “Then I’ve got a few residential ones, and I’ve got one in Fort Wayne.”

While mural painting on a deadline can be stressful, Carrillo said that she never feels burnt out from a creative perspective.

“I don’t really ever not feel like painting, to be honest,” Carrillo said. “Sometimes I’m just tired, like my body is tired, but I don’t really ever not feel like making something.

Huntington University grad to publish novel

Reilly Vore has always loved to write. It’s been her dream to write a book since she was seven or eight years old, but she’d been afraid, at first, to pursue those dreams.

“I’ve always been a bookworm,” Vore said. “I think that deciding to write a book in the middle of a time that was really uncertain – a lot of my plans post-grad got changed – writing a book in a tumultuous time was already stressful ... Getting over that fear and doing it was a big step for me.”

Now, those fears are gone. Vore’s first book, “All My Love, From the Trenches,” will be published in late August, she said. The story, set during World War I, falls into the historical fiction genre.

“It surrounds these two families whose children are really struggling with decisions that have to be made on the brink of this global crisis that had really overtaken most of Europe at this point,” Vore said. “I think I wrote it in the midst of our own global crisis, so the parallels were a little easy to draw from.”

With bachelor’s degrees in both history and english literature Huntington University, the novel fits snugly into Vore’s areas of expertise.

“A big part of writing a historical fiction novel is to make it not feel like a textbook,” Vore said “I kind of wanted to show that historical people aren’t really that different from us. They were struggling with all the same things, and they were unsure of what the next six months would look like, let alone the next 60 years.”

This will be Vore’s first fictional novel, although she has had other work published in the past. Vore was credited as an assistant editor on “Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories in American History,” a two-volume encyclopedia co-edited by Huntington University professor Jeffrey Webb. Additionally, her work was included in “Indiana’s Best Emerging Poets 2019: An Anthology.”

Vore said that she first had the idea for the book two years ago, but she didn’t begin the writing process until May of 2020 when she graduated from Huntington University.

“When COVID shut things down I was a senior,” Vore said. “I was trying to finish school and find a creative outlet. I just decided to start writing this idea that I’d had for a few years. I decided to flesh it out and kind of make it something.”

Later, she participated in the Creator Institute, a class created by Georgetown University adjunct lecturer Eric Koester.

“Basically, you take a class with a cohort of other authors. They’re anywhere from nonfiction, to poetry collections, to dystopian fiction and all across the board,” Vore said. “They pretty much take you through the ropes of how to write a book and how to develop characters and it’s really interesting. You’re writing, obviously, as you’re taking this class, and if you work with your developmental editor and get your word count that they want you to be at then you get greenlit through the publisher that they partner with.

Vore called the publishing company, New Degree Press, a “hybrid publisher.” Somewhere between the self-publishing model and a traditional publisher, New Degree Press requires authors to subsidize a portion of the publishing cost. “All My Love, From the Trenches” is available for pre-order through the crowdfunding website Indiegogo, and funds raised will go towards those publishing costs.

While she is still focused on publishing her first book, Vore said that she does plan on writing more novels in the future. She said that she tries to write her characters “as close to life as possible” to make them relatable to readers.

“I think every writer has one or two ideas in their back pocket while they’re publishing another one,” Vore said. “I think that’s definitely true for me as well.”

Humane Society to offer low-cost pet vaccines

In a year in which vaccinations have been at the top of many people’s minds, one local organization is preparing for a vaccination clinic – for pets.

The Huntington County Humane Society will hold a low-cost vaccination clinic on May 22 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at 390 Thurman Poe Way in Huntington.

Becky Blackmun, director of the Humane Society, said that this will be the first such clinic held by the organization. Pet owners do not need to make appointments before bringing their animals to the clinic, Blackmun said, and the clinic is not limited to Huntington County residents.

“It’s born from the need for affordable vet care, especially in times with the pandemic and everyone suffering in one way or another from that,” Blackmun said. “These are people that aren’t ordinarily going to the vet.”

Blackmun said that the organization had noticed cases where animals in the community were not properly vaccinated.

“We’re encountering animals, either through bite cases or animal control reports, they’re not vaccinated. They’re not current on their vaccines for whatever reason,” Blackmun said. “This is an easy way to offer that to the community at a low cost where they can get in, get the animals current, get them legal. At the end, it’s a much better situation for the animal, obviously, to be vaccinated.”

At the clinic, vaccines will be offered for $10 per shot. Blackmun mentioned the distemper vaccine, which is beneficial for cats and dogs, as well as vaccines for canine bordetella and rabies.

“Most importantly is rabies, the rabies vaccine,” Blackmun said. “We’re finding a lot are out of date or haven’t been done. That one is one that is required by state law. That’s the primary one, getting that one current and updated.”

In Indiana, dogs, cats and ferrets older than three months must be vaccinated against rabies. After those initial vaccinations, many rabies vaccines required annual or triennial revaccination, according to the state.

In addition to the vaccinations, the clinic will offer heartworm testing, microchipping and nail trims. Dr. Colleen Quinn, a veterinarian from Pet Pals Country Club in Columbia City, will be performing the exams.

“We will not be addressing any health concerns at that time,” Blackmun said. “It’s going to be easy exams, and if there is anything noted in the exam – bad ears or something funky in the eye, little lumps, bumps – those are all things that are going to be referred to a veterinary clinic.”

Blackmun said that she met Quinn while working on a behavioral case with an animal in the past, and that they decided to join forces for the clinic.

“We had some conversations and talked back and forth about her wanting to become more involved in the shelter aspect of things,” Blackmun said. “We had a need for someone like her, meaning a doctor, in our setting. We agreed at that time that when different opportunities arose that we would reach out to each other and continue to partner together.”


Herald-Press offices will remain closed

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Email any news tips to editor@h-ponline.com

County establishes vaccine helpline

The Huntington County Health Department and Huntington City-Township Public Library recently announced that a direct phone line has been set up to answer questions and help with registration for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment.

Anyone needing assistance scheduling a vaccination appointment can call the Huntington City-Township Public Library at (260) 356-2900. Staff is available to assist from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

May 1 – 200 West Clean Up

A community volunteer group will hold a clean-up event from focusing on trash pickup along 200 West, Salamonie Road, between Waterworks and Division roads. You can join the group at 8:30 a.m. that morning at the LaFontaine Saddle Club, 792 N 200 W, to participate. For more information, call (260) 388-4403.

May 8 – Music in the City

Music in The City is back after a year off from the pandemic. Rogues and Bandits will perform at 6:30 p.m. The concert will be held on the middle block of Jefferson Street. Don’t forget to bring your chairs to the event, and remember that many businesses in downtown Huntington will also remain open from 6-9 p.m. as well.

May 15 – Springtime in the Village

This annual town-wide garage sale in Roanoke will take place from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Historically, the event features more than 70 garages and lawns full of items. The event culminates at the town fire station with a hog roast.

May 28 – Final Fridays

The Sweetwater All Stars are scheduled to perform at this event at Riverside Park in Warren. The concert will begin at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

June 1 – Agriculture Education Workshop

The Indiana Farm Bureau will host a workshop at Huntington University from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The workshop is open to interested K-12 teachers and Agriculture in the Classroom volunteers.The cost per person is $30, with lunch and teaching materials provided. Registration information can be found online at app.infarmbureau.org/EventRegistration?event=85

If you would like to include your event on our calendar, email information to hpnews@h-ponline.com