Top ten stories from 2017


1. Overdose deaths

On Aug. 31, 75 people gathered at One Chamber Square in Seymour in recognition of the third annual International Overdose Awareness Day.

Jackson County, like many communities in Indiana and around the United States, continues to face a growing opioid-addiction crisis. Without adequate resources for treatment and recovery, communities also are seeing more and more deaths.

Through mid-December of this year, there were 16 drug overdose deaths in the county, making 2017 the deadliest in at least three years. In 2016, 13 people in Jackson County (including two stillborn infants) died from drug overdoses; the number was 14 in 2015 and 15 in 2014.

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The Jackson County Drug-Free Council, which organizes the overdose awareness event, is just one of the groups meeting to address drug and alcohol abuse in the county.

2. Tornado hits Tampico area

In the early-morning hours of March 1, a series of storms moved through Jackson County and southern Indiana.

One of those storms produced an EF2 tornado that moved across the southern part of Jackson County, destroying the home of a Brownstown man in the 5500 block of South County Road 125 East, a couple of miles west of Tampico.

About 4.25 miles away, East County Road 600 South was closed for several days so large steel Duke Energy transmission poles damaged by the wind could be replaced. Other homes and structures in the area also suffered damage from the intense wind.

The same series of storms also caused major issues in Seymour and forced the cancellation of school for two days.

At one point after the storms moved out, more than 7,700 customers in the Seymour area were without power, including downtown businesses, schools, residences and businesses across the city.

The most serious issue involved a substation that caught fire after being struck by lightning at 10th and O’Brien streets on the city’s northeast side. Duke brought in two portable substations from corporate headquarters in Plainfield to restore power to those affected by the outage.

A second major outage involved a wooden transmission pole that broke at Tipton Street and Airport Road. That affected about 900 Duke customers, who were eventually switched to a different circuit. Airport Road was closed for nearly two days as crews replaced the wooden pole with a steel pole, which is more durable.

3. Fugitive arrested

The trial of a man wanted for abducting and molesting a girl in Jackson County more than 18 years ago is set for 8:30 a.m. Feb. 6 in Jackson Circuit Court.

Charley Hollin, 61, of Salem, Oregon, and formerly of the Clearspring area, was arrested and charged in January in connection with a January 1999 incident involving the abduction of a 10-year-old girl at knifepoint from outside Girls Inc. on West Second Street in Seymour.

The girl was taken to a secluded area, molested and released naked on a country road near Cortland. Her abductor threw her clothing out of the vehicle before she was found and rescued by a passing motorist.

Investigators said Hollin was identified as a suspect from evidence collected at the scene, including a coat and a day planner that belonged to him and DNA evidence in the car. The car also had been recovered as evidence. He initially was charged in 2000 by the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office but disappeared before police could arrest him.

At the time of his arrest this year, U.S. District Attorney Josh Minkler said Hollin had first fled to Minnesota and later to Oregon. Minkler said Hollin had been arrested living under the name of Andrew David Hall, an 8-year-old boy who died in a car accident in Kentucky in 1975. The FBI identified Hollin using facial recognition technology comparing an older photo of him to Hollin’s passport renewal application as Hall, Minkler said.

Hollin faces three Class A felony counts of child molesting and two Class B felony counts of criminal confinement. A Class A felony is punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison if convicted.

4. Salem man murdered

The trial of a Dudleytown man accused of shooting and killing his girlfriend’s 35-year-old son is set for 8:30 a.m. March 27 in Jackson Circuit Court in Brownstown.

Darrell Edward Stanton faces charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter in connection with the April incident that left Dustin L. Robbins of Salem dead.

Investigators believe Robbins likely died because of a domestic dispute at a home shared by Robbins’ mother and Stanton. The two had been struggling before Robbins was shot, police said. The fight occurred after Stanton came home and found Robbins and his wife visiting Robbins’ mother, police said. Stanton then threatened Robbins, a father of three, and his wife.

5. Downtown fire

On Jan. 4 in downtown Seymour, a dryer fire in an apartment above a cosmetology school and salon on West Second Street quickly spread to two adjacent businesses.

No one was hurt in the blaze that forced the temporary closure of four business, including Hair Force Beauty Academy, and forced the Killey family to find a new home.

In June, five months after the fire changed their lives, the Killeys reopened the academy in the former Tapatio’s Mexican Restaurant building at 119 W. Second St., just a stone’s throw away from the old building at 110 W. Second St.

Through donations and support from other stylists and salons in several different communities, Alan Killey was able to get needed supplies and tools, including hairspray, curling irons and blow dryers. He gave most of it to Maria Isabel Ponce, who lost her home and two businesses — Isabel’s Estetica and Novedades Maria — next door to Hair Force in the fire.

Ponce reopened her salon at 512 E. Tipton St. later in January and plans to stay in her new location.

Seymour Main Street has purchased Killey’s old building and the building that housed Ponce’s businesses and plans to save both buildings and restore their historical integrity and find new businesses to fill them, said Becky Schepman, executive director of Seymour Main Street.

6. Interstate 65 project

In May, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced E&B Paving would be the contractor for a $143 million Next Level project involving the construction of six lanes of Interstate 65 — both northbound and southbound — between U.S. 50 in Jackson County and State Road 58 in Bartholomew County.

The interstate currently has two travel lanes in each direction along the 14.25-mile stretch between State Road 58 and U.S. 50 but will be expanded to three lanes for northbound and southbound travelers with the upcoming 2.5-year project.

Actual construction for the project is expected to begin in the spring at Exit 64 in Walesboro and proceed south to Exit 50 in Seymour by 2020.

7. Schneck expansion

In October, Schneck Medical Center officials announced plans to spend $44 million in the next couple of years to provide better access to health care.

The need for improving that access by adding 30 doctors and a five-story building to house them was determined through a process that began with a community needs health assessment in 2015, said Debbie Mann, Schneck’s vice president of finance and chief financial officer.

The project to be built on the northwest side of the campus along Tipton Street in Seymour also will include a parking garage that will hold nearly 400 vehicles.

Mann said the assessment indicated access to health care is a barrier throughout the region with almost 40 percent of those living in the service area experiencing difficulties or delays in receiving needed health care.

8. First sectional

On the night of Feb. 4, the Crothersville High School girls basketball team was able to do something no other team at the school had ever done in the past — take ownership of a sectional trophy.

The squad beat West Washington 72-69 that night to claim the school’s first team sectional title since it joined the Indiana High School Athletic Association 103 years ago.

9. Judicial center

In June, county officials conducted a groundbreaking ceremony for a $12.14 million, 38,000-square-foot judicial center on Sugar Street in Brownstown.

The center, which will house the county’s three courts with room for a fourth court when needed, is being built adjacent to the annex and just east of the courthouse.

The center will allow for safer transfer of prisoners with business in front of one of the judges from the jail and eliminate the need for county clerk’s offices at each court and probation offices at Jackson Circuit Court and Jackson Superior Court I in Seymour.

It also will bring the court system up-to-date in terms of handling electronic case management and electronic filings and help eliminate confusion for those visiting the courts, two in Brownstown and one in Seymour.

10. Rose Acre’s move

In June, Rose Acre Farms officials completed the move of corporate offices from west of Cortland to a new 27,000-square-foot, $5 million building on Seymour’s far west side.

The new building may resemble a chicken house, but you won’t find a chicken there. What you will find is the heart of the nation’s second-largest egg-producing company with more than 2,100 employees and egg-laying farms in seven states.

The building on 6.477 acres at 1657 W. Tipton St. features large, naturally lit open office spaces for 80 employees on both the east and west sides of the building, collaborative work areas, a boardroom and multiple conference rooms.

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