Fair fight leads to murder charge

By Mitchell Banks

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A 32-year-old northern Indiana man faces a murder charge in connection with a fight July 27 at the Jackson County Fair that led to a second man’s death.

Zachariah David Konkle of Warsaw was initially arrested on a charge of strangulation after the fight that led to the hospitalization of Michael J. Steele, according to a probable cause affidavit written by Detective Mark Holt with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.

Steele, whose address was not available at press time, died at 10:46 p.m. Saturday at IU Health Methodist Hospital, Holt said. He had been transferred to the Indianapolis hospital from Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, where he was taken after being injured in the fight.

The investigation that led to Konkle’s arrest started when county Officer Jordan Hawn, who was working a security detail at the fair, responded to a 911 call about a battery.

Hawn said he found someone, later identified as Konkle, administering CPR to a non-responsive male lying on the ground.

That male, later identified as Steele, was then treated by personnel with Jackson County Emergency Medical Services and taken to Schneck Medical Center.

Hawn said he was able to make contact with Konkle, who said he had been in a fight with Steele around closing time July 27. Both men reportedly worked for Poor Jack Amusements.

During a later interview, Holt said Konkle told investigators the fight occurred after a family attending the fair had asked him if they could find someone in charge because someone around the Long Shot game had made fun of their special needs child and they wanted to file a complaint.

Konkle said he told the family he would take care of the problem, Holt said.

When asked if he contacted anyone in charge of the Poor Jack workers, Konkle said he had not, Holt said.

The fight reportedly occurred around 11:30 p.m. July 27. That’s when Konkle said he went to the area of the Long Shot game and had words with a man — not Steele — operating the game.

While talking with that man, Konkle said Steele approached him and said, “If (you’re) going to slap someone, slap me.”

Konkle said Steele then punched him on the side of the head, and he threw a punch back but could not remember if he hit him.

During the ensuing fight, Konkle said he laid on Steele’s back while he was face down on the ground until he heard him gasp for air.

A witness also told police Konkle punched Steele five or six times in the back of the head after getting him in a headlock, according to court records.

Konkle told police when he heard Steele gasp for air, he said to himself, “I can’t do this.”

Once Steele’s body went limp and stopped breathing, Konkle got off of him, the witness said.

A woman, who said she did not witness the fight, told police she attempted CPR on Steele but was pushed off by Konkle, who had returned. He told her she was not doing CPR right, the woman said.

Konkle then continued attempting CPR until law enforcement arrived.

He later told police he had an anger issue and took things too far with Steele, Holt said.

Konkle also said he had taken things into his own hands instead of contacting the person in charge, and he shouldn’t have done that, Holt said.