Top Ten Local News Stories Of 2013
(Undated) – There are stories of tragedy, triumph, and scandal that make up Eagle 99.3 News’ list of the top ten southeast Indiana news stories of 2013.
Eagle 99.3 made the list based of each story’s impact, its longevity, and how popular it was on our website, www.EagleCountryOnline.com.
Share your thoughts on our top local news stories of 2013 on Eagle 99.3’s Facebook page.
1. Crash Claims Three South Ripley Students’ Lives – March
A road sign lay in a field at the scene of a crash that claimed the lives of three South Ripley High School students.
Mike Perleberg-Eagle 99.3
The top story in southeast Indiana during 2013 may also be the most tragic. It was the morning of Thursday, March 7 when students with the South Ripley High School Future Farmers of America were participating in an off-campus event serving breakfast to area farmers.
Two pickup trucks carrying six of the students left the function. Minutes later, those two trucks collided at the intersection of Fairgrounds Road and County Road 850 West in western Ripley County.
Three were killed. They were students Timothy Bowman, 17; Jacob Vogel, 18; and Samantha Hansen, 18. The two drivers – Bowman and Thomas Crawford, 17 – may have been trying to beat one another through the intersection when the trucks violently collided.
In May, Crawford admitted to delinquent acts of Reckless Driving and Reckless Homicide. He was given 120 days in a youth facility and won’t be able to receive his driver’s license until he turns 21.
South Ripley Schools Superintendent Rob Moorhead tells Eagle 99.3 that South Ripley High School is still healing. Siblings of the three crash victims continue to attend the school
“Certainly the student body still feels the loss of the wonderful students who were victims of this tragedy, and at times like the holiday season, I am sure the memories are even stronger,” Moorhead said. “My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the Bowman, Vogel and Hansen families as I am sure the first holiday season without their loved ones was extremely difficult.”
Moorhead said South Ripley is a close-knit, strong community and will continue to help and support one another in good times and bad.
In the nearly ten months since the crash, the school corporation has taken time to reflect on the situation and look at its policies and procedures for off-campus functions, according to the superintendent.
“We have done this and will continue to make adjustments that we deem necessary,” Moorhead said. “We certainly want to continue to allow our students to participate in off-campus field trip type activities as we believe there are many learning opportunities that these types of experiences provide. Although there are never any 100 percent guarantees, we will continue to work to make sure that in all activities, both on and off campus, the safety of our students is our top priority.”
The one-year anniversary of the South Ripley crash will come on Friday, March 7, 2014. Regarding a possible memorial ceremony, Moorhead said the school corporation will consider the wishes of the Bowman, Vogel, and Hansen families as the time approaches.
2. Heroin and Drug Epidemic Grips Southeast Indiana – Various months
Scourge of heroin and other opiate drugs, such as prescription painkillers, have become the cause of much crime and heartbreak in southeast Indiana.
Many crimes committed in the region are done to help fuel drug addictions. It’s not a problem restricted to one segment of society. Anybody from restaurant workers living with their parents to a funeral director were controlled by their addictions.
Deadly overdoses have become an all too common occurrence – a report ranked Indiana 17th in the nation in frequency of overdose deaths. In September, Greendale resident Eric DeRosa died of an overdose. The friend who dealt him the drugs – Adam Lelli, 29 – is facing a charge of Reckless Homicide.
Unlike Dearborn County, Ripley County does not have drug court or community corrections options. Prosecutor Ric Hertel believes statistics show such programs can be very effective in supervising and monitoring for extended periods of time addicts who commit crimes.
“As it is painfully apparent we have a drug problem in Ripley County, and I’d like to focus on working toward solutions to that problem, and maybe these things offer that,” said Hertel.
Hertel said the State of Indiana continues to offer money to help fund those programs which “the criminal justice system in Ripley County desperately needs.”
In Dearborn and Ohio counties, Prosecutor Aaron Negangard spent a number of his evenings in 2013 holding town hall meetings in various communities on the topic of drug abuse prevention. His “Protect Your Family” series informed parents about ways to stop their children from become addicts.
“Middle school is when temptation hits. We’ve had a child in one of our classes who was in 6th grade who said there was an 8th grader who told her she could get any drug that she wanted. It is naïve to think that 10 is too young,” Negangard said previously.
In August, Negangard partnered with Bright Christian Church to distribute free home drug testing kits during an open house hosted by the Sunman-Dearborn Intermediate School PTO. The story made national headlines.
3. Newspapers Question Lawrenceburg Grants, Elected Officials – Various months
A series of newspaper reports this year put the City of Lawrenceburg’s 10-County Regional Grant Program in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.
In May, The Indianapolis Star ran a report about several grants given out in recent years and the companies who received them not delivering on the promise of creating jobs. In many cases, the grants could be connected to elected officials or their relatives.
Another Indianapolis Star report came in November. The newspaper claimed local state lawmakers Senator Johnny Nugent (R-Lawrenceburg), former Democrat representative Bob Bischoff, and Representative Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) stood to personally benefit for grants that they advocated for, creating conflicts of interest.
The reports have led some Lawrenceburg City Council members to call for changes to the grant program. Some at the Indiana Statehouse say the state should have more control of the local gaming revenue.
McMillin, who resigned from the Lawrenceburg Grant Committee in December citing a number of reasons, said he is planning to introduce legislation during the 2014 legislative session that would provide guidelines, improve transparency and accountability for such grant programs.
4. Milan Widow Murdered During Home Break-In – Various months
This story actually happened in 2012, but it occurred after we did our 2012 top local news stories countdown, so we’re putting it on this year’s list.
Sixty-eight-year-old Milan resident Nancy Hershman was shot to death in her home during a botched burglary attempt in the early morning hours of December 30, 2012. The widow was a community-minded, former school bus driver.
Within a week of the murder, three people were arrested. The big break in the Indiana State Police investigation came when a man who had been robbed at his Ripley County home the prior night stepped forward with information about who he believed broke into his home.
Investigators say Allison Moore, 23, of Colerain, pulled the trigger during the break-in when she was confronted by Hershman. Two teenage boys, ages 15 and 16, also from Colerain were in on the burglary. They have been waived to adult court in Ripley County.
Each of the three suspects are scheduled to go on trial for murder next year.
A memorial service for Hershman is planned on January 4, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. at New Craven Cemetery on State Road 101 south of Milan, where she is buried.
5. Catholic Churches Forced To Close, Merge – June
Dozens of southeast Indiana Catholics attended Archbishop Joseph Tobin’s June 6 announcement of his decrees affecting churches throughout the Batesville Deanery.
In southeast Indiana, churches are often the centerpieces of rural communities. That will be changing in many areas.
In June, Archbishop of Indianapolis Joseph Tobin announced that 27 churches in the Batesville Deanery would either close, merge, or partner.
“The coming months will bring changes that touch all the faithful of the Batesville Deanery, as well as a particular grief for the members of the parishes that will close. I truly regret the pain these decisions will cause,” Tobin said, later explaining that the changes were forced not by a lack of parishioners, but a lack of priests.
Under the archdiocese’s decree, among 12 churches in the deanery ordered to close by the First Sunday of Advent in 2014 are Holy Guardian Angel in Cedar Grove, St. Mary of the Rock in Batesville, St. John the Baptist in Dover, St. Martin in Yorkville, St. Paul in New Alsace, and St. Pius in Milan. The deadline has since been extended for some of those churches.
At least two of the affected churches are appealing their closures to the Vatican. They are Holy Guardian Angel and St. Martin.
In October, four Dearborn County churches merging into one parish – St. Paul of New Alsace, St. Joseph of St. Leon, St. Martin of Yorkville, and St. John the Baptist of Dover – voted on the new name All Saints Church.