Selected as Super Cyclones for the month of September at Sand Creek Elementary School are, row one, left to right, Nehemiah Petro, Rylee McCammon, Braiden Courtney, Jayden Smith, Cavin Rosenbalm, Leslie Ramirez, Braylon Ross, Max McGuire, Jimmy Weddle, Elijah Hobbs, Peyton Strong, Andrea Perez Perry, Luis Labra and Isaiah Hammon. Row two, C.J. Sparks, Brenna Vermillion, Virginia Scott, Ashly Garcia De Arcia, Jace Smith, James Goodwin, Crayden Ross, Haley Ross-LaCroix, Olivia Hair, Aaden Crater and Cooper Lane. Row three, Abi Ayers, Maquila Wright, Lyndsay Domingues, Aaron Perez, Eutiquio Hernandez, Ana Acton, Robin Stayton, Alex Hatton, Pearl Hughes, Makayla Eder, Tina Rabe, Kaleb Eden and Alexander Perez-Romero. Row four, Carrington McGuire, Rebekah Blair, David Bratten, Ofelia Garcia De Arcia, Drew Yeager, Wyatt Brooks, Abagail Diekhoff, Zoie Suhre, Nathaniel Acton, Kayla Moriarty, Jonah McDonald, and Nevaeh Foor.-Photo Contributed
It took a Jennings County Circuit Court jury less than two hours of deliberations Thursday to return a guilty verdict of felony murder against Jody Michael Brooks, 23, of North Vernon.
The jury of eight women and four men convicted Brooks of killing Richard A. Smith in a brutal beating in downtown North Vernon on Oct. 17, 2014, that Jennings County prosecuting attorney Brian Belding called a "stomping death."
JoVonnie Mays, 22, of Seymour, is also charged in the murder with his jury trial currently scheduled to start Jan. 26, though expected to be postponed.
"The jury made the right decision," Belding said after the Brooks trial ended. "We are pleased with the conviction."
The jury's quick decision Thursday was in stark contrast to Brooks' first trial last August when a different panel could not overcome a reported 11-1 impasse on two of the charges: murder and robbery resulting in serious bodily injuries. That resulted in a mistrial and the second trial was scheduled.
"Everyone on my staff put in a lot of work, just like they did the first trial," Belding said. "They did a great job, as did the jury."
All the same witnesses testified as in Brooks' first trial, except Mays, along with two additional people, a Jennings County jailer and a probation officer. The testimony of the latter, Chasity Gerkin, added to the case against Brooks, according to Belding. She related how Brooks was upset with Mays for his testimony during the first trial in which he blamed the killing on Brooks. Monday, November 23, 2015
The House-Senate conference committee, which includes U.S. Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind. 6th District) reached an agreement on a framework to improve K-12 education and replace the No Child Left Behind Act on Thursday, Nov. 12.
This week's Pets of the Week at the Jennings County Animal Control Shelter are Tess, a 1-year-old intact female orange domestic shorthair; and Richard, a 2-year-old intact male black Lab mix. For more information on adopting these or other animals, call Animal Control at 812-346-5725 or stop by 580 W. CR 350N. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturdays (except holidays).-Submitted photos Wednesday, November 18, 2015
The annual Our Hospice of Jennings County Mardi Gras themed gala benefit is scheduled for Saturday, February 6, 2016, at St. Mary's Church (Klingner Hall), 212 Washington Street, North Vernon.
The evening will begin at 6 p.m. with a social hour, silent auction and cash bar. Also included in the evening's events are dinner, entertainment and a live auction. Tickets are $35 per person. For tickets call Our Hospice of Jennings County at 812-346-5944. Wednesday, November 18, 2015
For the next six weeks, Kendall Wildey and other volunteers are intensifying their mission.
That is because the Jennings County United Way fund-raising campaign can gain nearly $12,000 in matching funds.
"We have the opportunity to match new money by 100 percent," said Wildey, who is chairing the drive. "For example, a $100 pledge becomes a $200 pledge. You can double the dollars you give to boost the community. It is a great way to contribute to improve Jennings County."
All pledges and donations representing "new money" made to the United Way by Dec. 31 will be matched up to $11,760 by the Indiana State Association of United Ways.
"If you already gave, we can match the increase of your personal contribution, your corporate pledge and your employee campaign increases," Wildey explained. "If you didn't give last year, we can match pledges of $100 or more and double the impact you have on lives right here in our community. You can impact tomorrow today by giving to United Way."
Slapped with a $90,000 penalty by the Internal Revenue Service, Jennings County government is now trying to recoup $40,000 in bonds from then-Auditor Janice Ramey and then-Deputy Auditor Lori Leahigh.
The IRS penalty resulted because the auditor's office did not pay all payroll taxes for county employees during 2014.
"This was an unfortunate mistake that I greatly regret," Ramey said. "I thought this was being taken care of, but it wasn't. Nothing illegal happened, but it falls back on me. I apologize to the taxpayers and the county. This really bothers me and I'm sorry."
There were no discrepancies involving the county funds except for the fact that the payroll taxes were not paid in the timely manner as required by the IRS, according to Ellie Bright, county attorney.
"This is a taxpayer issue and the taxpayers have a right to know about it," Bright said. "We will recoup as much of the penalty as we can."
County officials learned of the payroll tax delinquency and IRS penalty earlier this year after the new auditor, Kay Vance, and her staff took office. The auditor's office then paid $452,388.94 in payroll taxes for the previous year that was due in December 2014 as well as filing previously unfinished quarterly reports from 2014 with the IRS.
The IRS denied the county's appeal to reduce or eliminate the penalty. Two months ago, the Auditor's office paid the IRS penalty from the county general fund to avoid any additional charges.
Last Thursday, the county commissioners voted unanimously to make a claim on the then-auditor's $30,000 bond and the then-deputy auditor's $10,000 bond. The county council did the same two days earlier.
"I contacted a state examiner who said this is what the State Board of Accounts recommends," said Matt Sporleder (R-District 1), president of the commissioners, during their meeting. "He said this has happened before in Indiana, but not in our county."
The commissioners and council members declined further comment, referring all questions to the county attorney.
"The ultimate responsibility falls on Janice," Bright said. "If someone in her office misses a deadline, it is she, the department head, who is held responsible. The buck stops there." Monday, November 16, 2015
A new jury trial for Jody Michael Brooks, 23, of North Vernon began Monday morning, Nov. 16, in Jennings County Circuit Court. Brooks is charged with the murder and robbery of Richard Smith of Dupont in downtown North Vernon on Oct. 16, 2014.
North Vernon Mayor-elect Mike Ochs is seeking four more weeks of paid vacation from his current job as security officer at the Jennings County Courthouse. He wants to take the time off to work on his transition into the mayor's office.
When the 2016 budget for Jennings County government kicks in on Jan. 1, all employees will get a raise. Full-time employees will gain a $500 salary hike, about 2 percent more than before.
Meanwhile, pay for the county's part-time workers will go up $250 annually - with one notable exception.
Elected officials that do now work full time for the county - seven Jennings County Council members and three county commissioners, along with the surveyor and coroner - will receive a $500 hike.
"That is news to me," said Commissioner Matt Sporleder (R-District 1) earlier this week. "In our budget request to the Council, we put in for a 2 percent salary increase (about $250). So this probably looks bad to the voters.
"But, at the same time, I'll take it. We are still paid less than most county commissioners in Indiana - a heck of a lot less, for example, than commissioners get in Bartholomew County," he added.
The council voted for the raises when it unanimously approved the 2016 budget last month. There was little discussion before that vote, with only a vague reference to a raise for county employees and no mention of the part-time elected officials' hike, during that session.
Council President Howard Malcomb (R-at large) said Tuesday that the raise was discussed at length during a budget session last August, when the Council formulated a first draft of the budget. He said the across-the-board $500 hike was aimed more at hired county employees than elected officials.
Ron Bridgewater has performed often at the Park Theatre Civic Centre. The concert he and his group will play there this Saturday evening, Nov. 14, will be a departure from anything Bridgewater has done previously there.