Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

December 28, 2012

Year in review: The odd news

Kokomo — This year, a few odd headlines graced the front page of the Kokomo Tribune. An armed robbery gone hilariously wrong, a slew of quirky new Miami County laws, and a lovable Praying Mantis arriving in town were notable moments of 2012 that we’re all sure to remember in 2013 and beyond. Read on for our top weird headlines of the year.

Peru outlaws pigs, ducks

PERU — Thinking about getting a pet pig or peacock in Peru? Think again.

The Peru Common Council in September passed an ordinance banning a slew of seemingly random animals within city limits that officials said were causing disruptions.

The ordinance states it’s unlawful to own, keep or breed a horse, pig, pony, mule, donkey, goat, chicken, peacock, turkey, duck, cow, llama or other livestock in the city.

The ordinance allows zoological parks and “bona fide” circuses or carnivals to own the miscellaneous animals.

People found violating the new ordinance are guilty of a Class A infraction, which city code states is punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Human skull found in Wildcat

A human skull found by a fisherman in the Wildcat Creek in April sparked a speculative firestorm about its origins, but police said the skull was most likely only the remnant of a medical exhibit or display.

Stephen Nawrocki, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Indianapolis, confirmed the skull was human. He said tests showed it to be more than 50 years old.

An examination revealed the bones had been painted or white-washed and contained drilled holes — signs which Nawrocki said indicate the skull had been adapted for a display or medical exhibit.

He said the bones did not indicate any criminal activity.

Police were called to the McCann Street bridge around 1:15 p.m. April 30 to remove the skull after the fisherman said he saw what looked like bones in the water.

The discovery provoked a slew of theories about where the skull came from.

Those commenting on the Kokomo Tribune’s Facebook page speculated the bones originated in a graveyard or American Indian burial site and washed into the Wildcat Creek.

Kokomomantis invades town

She’s just a mantis. Standing in front of a town. Asking it to love her.

That’s what Kokomo’s newly installed, 17-foot-tall praying mantis sculpture posted recently on her Facebook page.

Some people in town just can’t bring themselves to love her, though.

The mantis has been called “freaky,” “weird,” “hideous” and “creepy” by posters on Facebook.

She was placed at the corner of Sycamore and Washington streets Oct. 5. The Kokomantis was constructed from re-purposed metal. Her torso and wings are made from World War II fuel pontoons, and her legs are made from stop light arms. Developer Scott Pitcher came up with the idea for the mantis, but he said it was a public art project funded by private donations. Pitcher approached metal fabricator Scott Little about the project two years ago. Little said he spent about 220 hours perfecting the details of the mantis.

A week after the mantis popped up on Pitcher’s property, a Kokomantis page popped up on Facebook. She has over 2,000 followers on Facebook.

Inquiring minds want to know who the voice behind the mantis is, but she prefers to remain anonymous. At least for now.

She did say that she is a writer who lives out of state but grew up in Kokomo.

No one asked her to create the character. She said she decided for herself it was something she wanted to do.

After a friend sent her a photo of the sculpture, she quickly fell in love with the weirdness of it, she said. And the idea of creating a character for the sculpture just came to her.

“I was interested to see if it was possible to turn this stream of negativity I was seeing into something a bit more positive,” the mystery woman said in an email. “I deeply, deeply love my hometown of Kokomo. I have been looking for opportunities to be a part of the community for the past year or so. ... This was a chance for me to feel like an active part of the community even from a distance.”

The stick-up

Kokomo police arrested a man on a robbery charge Dec. 4 after they say he held up a Village Pantry store armed with a large tree branch.

Officers received a 7 a.m. call of a robbery at Village Pantry, 1718 Home Ave. The clerk told police the man entered the store armed with a tree branch, walked behind the counter and forced the clerk to open the cash register. The man then fled with cash and cigarettes, Detective Scott Purtee reported.

Officers caught the man, 34-year-old Michael T. Wilson, Kokomo, a few blocks away at Garden Square Apartments after receiving information from an anonymous source that Wilson was inside the apartment.

Police arrested Wilson and charged him with a Class B felony charge of robbery.

Donkey-ball benefits Outreach

It was a packed house. Crowds were cheering and yelling. The stench of competition was in the air.

But, before you paint a picture of high school basketball in your head, you are going to need a whole new set of brushes. This game may have involved a basketball, but it also involved donkeys. And that stench of competition? Well, some of the stench was just the fragrance of tomorrow’s fertilizer.

It was a biennial event which drew crowds in November out for a good cause — raising money for Bridges Outreach —  and an even better laugh as they watch principals, community leaders and teachers play basketball ... on a donkey.

But, before you get caught up in the ri-donk-culousness of it all. Meet the ladies behind the shovel who put some sass into their scooping: The pooper scoopers.

“They add in some fun doing a job no one else wants to do,” said Casey Cline co-founder of Bridges Outreach, a local organization designed to help students connect with their community and church.

“We volunteered [to scoop poop]. We’ve been living with our husbands for 20 years, so we’re pretty confident about moving B.S. around,” said Della Clouse, Kokomo High School librarian, with a laugh.

Connie Clark, Kokomo High School secretary, said the gals really put some pride in their poop-scooping duties and prefer to be addressed by their proper name. “We go by The Pooper Scooper Sisters,” she said with shovel in hand.

Bungled armed robbery

GREENTOWN — An almost unbelievable string of blunders led detectives to four men responsible for a Sept. 10 armed robbery of a Greentown convenience store.

Detectives said one of the suspects, Luke K. Spence, 22, provided the first big clue when Spence left a credit card at the crime scene.

According to a press statement, three Kokomo men and a Fairmount man walked into the Smart Mart convenience store at 713 W. Main St., Greentown, around 5 a.m. During the robbery, three customers entered the store. The robbers forced the customers and store clerk into the store office, took the store’s phone out of the office and locked the customers and clerk inside, police said. They forgot one important detail: one customer’s cell phone. The customer called 911 to alert police.

Investigators said clothing matching that worn by the suspects was also located by a resident along 700 East shortly after the robbery.

After executing a search warrant at Spence’s residence in the 700 block of West Sycamore Street, Kokomo, and searching Spence’s gray 2007 Chevy Malibu, police said they found evidence which led them to a trailer in the 2700 block of North Washington Street.

At the trailer, police arrested Christopher A. Taylor, 26, Gregory M. Riley, 25, and an individual not apparently connected with the robbery, Brandon Hahn, 22, Kokomo, who was arrested in a misdemeanor charge of carrying a handgun without a license.

Detectives said they located money, guns, clothing and other property associated with the robbery during the search, as well as equipment associated with marijuana cultivation.  

Also located in the home was a “home video surveillance system,” investigators said. According to police, “examination of the system’s memory showed all four suspects preparing for and returning from the robbery.”

Three of the suspects — Spence, Riley and Taylor — are each facing felony charges of robbery, criminal confinement and theft/receiving stolen property, as well as a misdemeanor charge of interference with reporting of a crime.

Miami County commemorates pauper’s cemetery

PERU — Miami County officials in November erected a commemorative monument dedicating a destroyed pauper’s cemetery after the property owner donated the lot to Washington Township trustees this year.

Shirley Griffin, a volunteer researcher at the Miami County Museum who’s investigated the cemetery for the last year, said the pauper’s graveyard located on West 250 South was the site where the county buried the dead from the “asylum for the poor,” or county farm.

However, sometime after 1972, all the grave markers and cemetery boundaries were mysteriously destroyed after the county sold the asylum and its 160 acres of farmland, which included the cemetery.

Griffin said documentation indicates at least 42 people were buried in the pauper’s cemetery, but other sources say there were more than 100 residents laid to rest on the lot.

“To see any cemetery destroyed is disturbing,” she said. “We need to remember these people that lived, and you do that by putting up a monument. In a small way, it commemorates the lives and deaths of those who were buried in that cemetery.”

Peru passes, then repeals, ‘shy bladder’ policy

PERU — A $15 penalty fee for Peru city employees unable to produce a urine sample in 15 minutes for required drug tests was pulled from the books after the city’s drug-screening company said it accidentally sent an email stating it would charge the city for workers who have a “shy bladder.”

Indiana Testing Inc. said earlier this year it would begin charging the city $15 for employees who couldn’t produce a sample in 15 minutes, $30 after an hour and $45 after two hours.

The Peru Board of Works in November approved a new policy that passed those charges onto workers.

The company issued an apology to the city and said it had sent the email by accident after media inquires were sent asking about the penalty fees.

“This email, stating rate increases charged for waiting one to three hours for shy bladders was not intended for cities, towns, schools, or county highways under Department of Transportation federal regulations,” said company President Mike Williams in an email. “It was strictly for the private sector.”

Peru Clerk-Treasurer Jackie Gray criticized the company for wrongly sending the city the new penalty charge. She said the only reason the city changed its policy was because of the new fees issued by Indiana Testing Inc.

“If they would have done their homework, we would never have been in this situation in the first place,” she said. “But we’re glad it’s been lifted, because we don’t want any employee to have to pay any extra expenses.”

Mayor creates parking spot

LOGANSPORT — A sign reading “Mayor Parking Only” turned up in an area previously reserved for police squad cars in July after Mayor Ted Franklin received a ticket for parking in a no-parking zone outside the City Building.

Franklin received a $20 ticket after his yellow Chevrolet Corvette was spotted with its front end sticking into a yellow no-parking zone.

“The complainant refused to give their name, but they had received a ticket for the same offense and felt like the individual should receive a ticket,” according to a police report.

A few days later, a large yellow parking space with a sign reading “Mayor Parking Only” was discovered painted in an area previously reserved for police squad cars.

Franklin said he paid the ticket and said he believed the new parking space would allow him to get in and out of the building quicker.

“I’m just not going to play that game,” Franklin said.

Franklin had been at odds with some members of the police department since shortly after he took office.


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