Year in Review: Greater Lafayette's top stories of 2019

From new information released in the Delphi double homicide investigation, to a tragic death of and ISP trooper, News 18 has covered it all this year. Here is a list of Greater Lafayette's top stories of 2019.

Posted: Dec 31, 2019 10:11 AM
Updated: Dec 31, 2019 10:34 AM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — From new information released in the Delphi double homicide investigation, to a tragic death of and ISP trooper, News 18 has covered it all this year. Here is a chronological list of Greater Lafayette's top stories of 2019. 

Tyler Trent Death

The New Year started off in a tragic way when Purdue lost its super fan. Tyler Trent passed away on New Year's Day after a battle with bone cancer that inspired the nation.

However in light of it all, Trent raised millions in cancer funding through the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. The center celebrated $2 million raised in Trent's name in October. One student even walked 100 miles from West Lafayette to Bloomington to raise money for cancer research.

Trent became an household name after he correctly predicted that the Boilermakers would defeat #2 Ohio State in football in 2018.

Lane Butler Shooting

On Jan. 8, three Lafayette police officers were called to a home in the 800 block of N. 9th Street to serve a warrant. A large dog was caged inside and when it got out, Officer Aaron Wright's gun went off. The bullet hit Officer Lane Butler in the back left shoulder.

In the days after, LPD conducted a review board and released body camera footage that concluded the shooting was not the result of negligence.

Butler returned to the force in November and shared her recovery story exclusively with WLFI.

Delphi New Sketch

The biggest development yet in the Delphi double homicide investigation came in April. Indiana State Police released a video, additional audio and a new sketch of the suspect.

State police also announced they are looking for a vehicle parked in the DCS office lot between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Feb. 13, 2017. The office is on County Road 300 North near the Hoosier Heartland Highway.

Police also said the suspect appears to be from, or have close links to Delphi. Investigators believe he is between 18-40 years old. The first sketch, released July 17, 2017 is now considered secondary.

Abigail Williams and Liberty German were killed while walking near the Monon High Bridge in Delphi on Feb. 13, 2017. Nearing the three-year anniversary, their killer has still not been found.

Wet Spring Delays Planting

Farmers across the Midwest lost millions due to an extremely wet spring. April's rainfall total was more than an inch and a half above average for Lafayette. Agriculture officials said the wet spring forced some farmers to consider switching corn acreage to other crops.

A weekly crop report for Indiana showed just 22-percent of Indiana's corn acreage was planted by late May. That was far behind the five-year average of 85-percent of Indiana's corn crop planted by that date.

Owen Jones Search

On May 23, 4-year-old Owen Jones was with friends and family at Delphi's Riley Park when he was swept away into the Deer Creek

Rescuers used air boats, drones, helicopters, and cadaver dogs to search Deer Creek and the Wabash River. Professional divers swam through the waters looking for any sign of him, with no success. Increasing water levels made the search difficult.

Six months after Owen went missing, his mother shared her good news exclusively with WLFI. 

The DNR continues to search for Owen's body.

Paul Etter Manhunt

A manhunt for a kidnapping and rape suspect ended in June when he killed himself in Boone County. Paul Etter was on the loose for nearly six days after police said he held a woman against her will at his home on Tippecanoe County Road 775 East.

Etter appeared to post on a WLFI story saying that he was intoxicated, and the devil was involved.

Fair Oaks Animal Abuse

In June, an undercover video by an activist group showed calves being thrown and kept in hot pens at Fair Oaks Farm. They said they had someone working at the farm undercover for three months documenting what they saw.

The owners said they were not aware of any abuse before the video was released.

Three men were charged in connection. Edgar Vazquez pleaded guilty to animal cruelty on Dec. 18, and was sentenced to one year, which will be suspended in favor of probation.

Two other employees were charged, but never taken into custody.

Indiana Beach Death

A 12-year-old Lafayette boy died on June 27 after collapsing on the Hoosier Hurricane at Indiana Beach. The White County Coroner said the boy died from a health-related issue, however his cause of death was ruled undetermined.

Brayden Cooper's family filed a lawsuit against Indiana Beach. His family said he did not have any pre-existing medical conditions. Court documents said Brayden's parents believe his death was due to negligence by the park.

White County doctors also treated another 12-year-old who suffered from electric shock. As we reported at the time, her injury came just days after Brayden's death.

Lindberg Village Fires

On July 12, multiple fire departments responded to a large house fire at the 3600 block of Tesla Drive in the Lindberg Village neighborhood. The fire was massive and destroyed five homes, with four others damaged. Nobody was home at the time.

Investigators said the incident was not related to a natural gas explosion. Seven weeks after the fire, investigators ruled the cause undetermined.

The community came together to help the families displaced in the aftermath.

Barnett Child Neglect Case

September brought one of the strangest stories seen in our area in quite sometime. Charges were filed in Tippecanoe County against two parents accused of changing their adopted daughters' age from 8 to 22, putting her in a Lafayette apartment and moving to Canada.

Michael and Kristine Barnett said Natalia would try to kill them. Natalia, who has dwarfism, went on Dr. Phil and claimed she is now 16 and never tried to harm the Barnetts. Prosecutors have since charged the Barnetts with additional counts of neglect resulting in bodily injury.

A gag order is in effect. The case in on-going.

ISP Trooper Death

Indiana State Police Trooper Peter "Bo" Stephan was killed in Tippecanoe County on Oct. 11 while responding to a call near Americus. Stephan's car veered off of Old State Road 25 North, rolled once and hit a utility pole. He died of the injuries he sustained during the crash.

Law enforcement officers from 19 states gathered for his funeral.

Serial Bank Robber Arrested

Police arrested an Illinois man who admitted to robbing at least four Greater Lafayette banks. Police said 41-year-old Joseph Kruger was the fake-bearded man behind a rash of local robberies within a six month span.

The arrest came after he robbed the Centier Bank in West Lafayette in late October. Banks were robbed in Linden, Lafayette, West Lafayette and Hillsboro, and a majority involved fake beards or other costumes.

Woman Strangled to Death by Python

On Oct. 30, a woman was found dead in a reptile home with a snake wrapped around her neck. Laura Hurst died by asphyxiation in a home owned by Benton County Sheriff Don Munson.

The Battle Ground mother was visiting the home, which had 140 snakes inside.

Frankfort Fire Baby Death

Tragedy struck Frankfort on Dec. 2 when a 1-year-old boy died in a house fire. The cause was ruled accidental.

The fire started from a space heater located in the infant's room.

Tippecanoe Mall Shots Fired

Just days after Christmas, people thought there was an active shooter at the Tippecanoe Mall. It turned out to be shots fired in the parking lot.

The mall was shut down while police investigated. Nobody was found with a gunshot wound. A 17-year-old was arrested.

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