1. A decades-long ban on Pinball machines in Kokomo is overturned

A decades-long ban on pinball machines in Kokomo gained national attention before it was unanimously repealed by the Common Council on Dec. 12.

The original prohibition was codified in 1975, but possibly could have stretch back to 1955, according to an article printed in the Kokomo Tribune on July 26, 1955.

The story titled, “City Council Outlaws Pinball Machines” outlined reasons for the ban, adding that the ordinance states that pinball machines “… tend against peace and good order, encourage vice and immorality and constitute a nuisance.”

Referred to as one of “the worst forms of modern-day gambling” in an editorial printed at the time, some were happy to see the classic arcade game go.

The city law, though unenforced for much of its lifespan, states that it was “unlawful for any person to operate, permit to be operated, or permit to be offered or available to operation, any pinball machine,” as written in city records.

And the punishment for the crime would result in a $300 fine and six months in jail.

"There are, not just locally but even nationally and statewide, laws out there that have been on the books for years that are silly, are outdated, are no long relevant," said council member Steve Whikehart, who is sponsoring the ordinance.

On Dec. 13, atop a pinball machine at American Dream Hi-Fi, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight signed into law an ordinance reversing the 61-year-old ban on pinball in the city. He also threw in a reference to “Pinball Wizard” by The Who before the first legal game was played in Kokomo.

2. The “Tommy Gun” Tussle

A crime spree by the infamous John Dillinger in the 1930s created a struggle for property ownership between two cities in different states in 2016.

When the Peru Police Department was robbed by Dillinger and his gang on October 1933, they got away with a large arsenal, including one Colt Thompson Submachine Gun, also known as a Tommy gun.

There were only 15,000 of these guns produced after wartime, and according to a book titled “Colt Thompson Submachine Gun Serial Numbers & Histories,” written by Gordon Herigstad, the Peru Police Department owned two.

Tommy gun 5878 was purchased and shipped to the Peru Police Department in 1929, along with a second Tommy gun with the serial number 7117. During Dillinger’s heist, Tommy gun 5878 was taken and used in crimes sprees across the country.

But the crime spree came to an end in Tucson, Arizona on Jan. 22, 2934 when Dillinger was taken into custody after the hotel he and his gang were holed up in caught fire. All of the stolen weapons were confiscated by Tucson police and some returned to the original owner. The Tommy gun from Peru, however, never made it home, according to Herigstad’s research.

Josh Sigler, assistant to Peru Mayor Gabe Greer, drew the connection between Peru’s missing Tommy gun and the Tommy gun on display in the Tucson Police Department’s lobby through research and matching the serial numbers of the missing gun and the one on display.

But convincing the Tucson Police Department to return the gun did not prove to be an easy task, mainly because of the need for more solid proof.

“It’s our gun,” he said. “It’s an important piece of our history, and it’s worth a lot of money. I feel like Tucson should give it back. Just because some gangster took it out there and they confiscated it doesn’t mean it’s theirs.”

Peru City Attorney Pat Roberts, who is providing legal counsel in the case, said with only the serial number as proof of ownership, there wasn’t enough documentation to legally demand that the gun be returned.

A copy of the purchase order would also be needed to make their case.

After the story published in the Kokomo Tribune and gained national attention, a gun curator at The Works Ohio Center for History, Art and Technology, and author of “The Ultimate Thompson Book,” notified officials in Peru that he had the original purchase request and shipping receipt showing that Peru purchased two Tommy guns in 1929.

“This is unequivocal proof that gun is ours – bought and paid for – and we never intended it to leave our city,” Sigler said. “I think we’ve proved beyond any doubt that gun belongs in Peru.”

In the most recent chapter of this saga, the Peru city attorney has sent a letter to the Tucson police chief officially asking the department to return the gun. Now we wait to see how this story further unfolds.

3. Miami Co. converts jail kitchen into morgue

What does a county do when the local hospital can no longer house its dead bodies?

They turn an old jail kitchen into a morgue. At least that’s what Miami County officials approved plans for earlier this year.

Commissioners voted to spend $15,000 to renovate the kitchen at the former jail on Court Street into the county’s first morgue and office for the coroner after Dukes Memorial Hospital said it would no longer pick up corpses or hold them for the county.

Holding and transporting cadavers using the hospitals ambulance service has become a burden, said Dukes CEO Debra Close.

The hospital can only hold two bodies at a time, which becomes a problem when families don’t immediately claim deceased family members, leaving them in the hospital morgue for weeks at a time.

The hospital morgue should be used for hospital patients, not a holding area for the county, Close added.

“We cannot hold them that long,” Close said. “Some people think that if they just leave them with us, we’ll take care of the plans for them. That puts us in a quandary because we want to treat all the bodies with respect.”

Commissioner Josh Francis said officials made the right decision to take steps to create a county-run morgue and transportation service for the coroner. And in the long run, having a county morgue will be more convenient and practical than using the hospital’s services.

4. Waupecong’s Lost Cemetery

A corn field and swampy pond is all that is left near a cemetery once located about a half-mile southwest of the small, unincorporated town of Waupecong.

In the last 20 years, fragments of tombstones have been found, revealing the last resting place of at least two early settlers buried there in the 1850s.

With the discovery of this cemetery, there are several questions such as who built it, and who was buried there, also how and when was it destroyed?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one shred of documentation that clarifies these questions.

“The cemetery is a mystery,” said Linda Hutchinson, chairperson of the Miami county Cemetery Board.

But although the burial site may be unknown, it is no longer forgotten.

This year, a monument was erected along the north side of 1350 South to honor the unknown graveyard, which has now been dubbed Waupecong Cemetery.

The site shows two new headstones, one of a 20-year-old woman and the other of a 2-year-old boy whose gravestones were discovered by farmers plowing the area. But this is the extent of the information gathered on the lost graveyard.

Even with the scant details about the burial site, the fact there was indeed a cemetery near Waupecong demands some kind of memorial, said Shirley Griffin, a volunteer archivist at the Miami County Museum and member of the cemetery board.

“Whether or not we have stones, the people buried there still need to be remembered and recognized,” she said. “It means a lot to the people of this community.”

5. Increased cases of distemper-infected Raccoons

The number of raccoons infected with distemper spiked by more than 400 percent this year in the city of Kokomo and in the county.

By October, approximately 43 raccoons with the disease were captured by animal control according to Karen Wolfe, executive director of the Kokomo Humane Society. That’s up from 10 raccoon cases in 2015.

The virus, which is not considered a threat to humans, causes infected raccoons to act disoriented or lethargic, but they can become aggressive if cornered.

If a pet comes in contact with an infected raccoon, the results are almost always deadly. Canine distemper is a contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

And once a dog is infected, there is no cure.

Dog owners were urged to get their pets vaccinated to prevent the spread of the disease, which can happen by direct contact or airborne exposure.

“It’s not really alarming, it’s just curious, since the raccoons are not attacking people,” Wolfe said. “As long as people keep their animals vaccinated it will be fine, but not everybody does that.”

Cara Ball can be reached at 765-454-8565, cara.ball@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @CaraKTVideo.

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