News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 27, 2013

2013 Year in Review: Jail overcrowding to multiple homicides

2 cold case mistrials, pleas in officer Long’s death, more school security

Lisa Trigg
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — In the area of police and crime news for 2013, coverage of five events stand out in the community’s collective memory.

• Overcrowding at the Vigo County Jail — This issue resurfaced, as the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint against county officials in August.

Inmate overcrowding has been an ongoing problem since before the facility was built in 1980, and even since an expansion project added inmate capacity. Sheriff Greg Ewing and the Vigo County commissioners are faced with a class-action complaint for breach of contract for not complying with a 2002 agreement that the jail population will not exceed 268 inmates, except for short-term emergency situations.

In an emergency move to alleviate the overcrowding, several inmates were transferred to the Knox County Jail for temporary holding, and a committee has been established to recommend a solution, which could result in a building project.

• Two mistrials in cold-case homicide — Court proceedings against Richard Boswell Jr., 57, both resulted in mistrials and freedom from jail for the accused, who faces charges in the 1979 killing of Riley housewife and mother Kathy Jo Baker. Trials were conducted in January and May; both ended in mistrials. A January 2014 date has now been set for a third trial of Boswell in Vigo Superior Court 6.

Boswell was arrested in October 2010, after a cold-case investigation into the May 22, 1979, killing of Baker and the attempted homicide of her then-toddler son.

The case went unsolved for years, until a person submitted a tip to police in 2008 about a possible suspect in the Baker case. That tip didn’t pan out, but DNA testing on evidence led police to Boswell.

• Plea deals stem from officer shooting death — Plea agreements resolved the cases for two of the five defendants connected to the July 2011 shooting death of a Terre Haute police officer.

Co-defendants Heather Elkins and Charles Elkins both had their plea agreements accepted in Monroe Circuit Court, while resolution of the cases against Roberta Utterback, Jesse Padgett and Jenny Torres is expected in January. Their charges include resisting law enforcement, false informing, visiting a common nuisance and assisting a criminal.

The five criminal cases — originally filed in Vigo County following the July 2011 incident — were transferred to Monroe County after the defendants claimed they could not receive fair trials in Vigo County due to pretrial publicity and public outrage about the death of Officer Brent Long. The THPD officer was killed in an exchange of gunfire with a wanted suspect at a house on North Eighth Street.

• Homicides — Area police investigated several homicides that resulted in arrests, and resolution of the cases are pending.

Lorenzo Archer Jr. was charged in the May death of his wife at the couple’s Terre Haute home after her body was found dumped in an Ohio ditch.

Earl Edwards was arrested in Georgia after he fled the Rosedale scene where he allegedly killed Kathryn Bays, whose body was found June 14 in the kitchen of the home the couple shared.

Jordan Buskirk and Randal Crosley were arrested in Greene County for the murder of 19-year-old Katelynn Wolfe, who they allegedly conspired to rape. Buskirk has already submitted a guilty plea and has agreed to testify against Crosley at his trial, now set for April.

Matthew Cook was charged in the October homicide of Shirley Moyer, whose body was found in her Gaslight Estates residence.

And, Damien Tyler, Amber Reynolds and Marteail Brewer were charged with murder in the Nov. 8 shooting death of Ronald Arrowsmith following a failed robbery attempt.

• School safety — Security increased dramatically at all Vigo County schools through a cooperative effort spearheaded by Sheriff Greg Ewing, school superintendent Danny Tanoos and Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse.

A school protection officer was placed at each school to be a visible presence of protection for students and teachers in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school massacre in December 2012.

Ewing, Tanoos and Plasse chose to act without waiting for funding in setting up the program, and the program has become a model for other communities on how to improve school safety while discouraging acts of school violence.