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Final defendant sentenced in teen kidnapping case
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The third and final defendant in the June 19, 2019 abduction, assault, intimidation and humiliation of a 14-year-old Madison girl by three fellow teenagers has been sentenced to nine years in prison with six of that suspended under a plea agreement with the Jefferson County Prosecutor’s Office.

Jaylon Walker Wayne Pace, now 20, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of aiding, inducing or causing an offense (kidnapping) of the teen during a five-hour abduction by two older girls who removed her from a sleepover and forced her to walk to two other homes where they humiliated and assaulted the victim repeatedly.

The ordeal, which was captured in part on video, ultimately ended up at Pace’s home where he witnessed but did nothing to stop the abuse.

Pace, who has been incarcerated since his arrest, pleaded guilty to a Level 3 felony before Jefferson Circuit Judge D.J. Mote in September.

Mote followed recommendations by the prosecution on Friday when he sentenced Pace to nine years in the Indiana Department of Correction with three years of that sentence executed and six years suspended in lieu of six years supervised probation with the Jefferson County Community Corrections.

Pace will receive credit for time already served — 501 actual days and 167 good time days for a total of 668 days credit — and will be eligible for probation after serving 320 more days based on good time credits.

In announcing his verdict, Mote noted that Pace’s lack of physical participation in the assault and battery of the girl and his decreased mental capacity — he has the mental maturity of a 13 or 14 year old — were factors in his leniency.

Mote also agreed to recommend that Pace serve his time in a minimum security facility but noted that it will be up to the DOC to evaluate and determine his security status upon intake.

“This offense was serious but he did not participate,” the judge noted.

The hearing was held on Zoom with court officials and Pace’s grandparents looking on. Mote told Pace that with good behavior he stands to be released very soon and did he have a plan going forward. Pace said that he hoped to get a job and provide for his baby and grandparents.

The other two defeats in the case had been sentenced earlier.

Elaine Hines, now 18, pleading guilty to kidnapping, a Level 3 felony, and was sentenced to 12 years in prison with six years of that on supervised probation with the community corrections.

Hailey P. Bartley, now 17, pleaded guilty to criminal confinement, a Level 3 felony, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison with six of that on supervised probation with community corrections.

Video store closing marks end of an era
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It’s what looks to be the end of an era, Madison’s Family Video location, open since 2010, will close next month due to the company’s ongoing financial struggles amid a resurging COVID-19 pandemic combined with a viewer shift to online options for movie and gaming content.

The move marks the closing of the final local brick and mortar outlet dedicated to movie and game rental in a industry that began here in the early 1980s and involved more than a dozen shops at its peak while transitioning from various platforms from beta video to high definition DVDs over the past four decades.

“We are very thankful to have been able to provide entertainment for many family movie nights, and want to thank the people of Madison and our incredible staff for the many years of support and service,” said Keith Hoogland, CEO of owner Highland Ventures, LTD.

With the pandemic taking a toll on many already-struggling industries, the Glenview, Illinois-based company announced in October it would close more than 200 stores throughout the Midwest and South, including locations like Valparaiso in Indiana and others in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky as well as other states.

More recently, the Scottsburg and New Albany stores announced they were also closing.

Family Video is now down to about 300 stores throughout the country, the company said on its website, after struggling to keep up with the influx of Netflix, Hulu and other streaming platforms. The company had more than 700 locations in 2018, according to Newsweek.

In recent years the company has tried to make up for declining rental revenue by selling CBD products and Marco’s Pizza at certain locations. Family Video joins a host of other retail businesses with Madison locations closing this year, including JCPenney and Gordman’s.

“You may have heard that we’re closing select locations ... it’s true. We’ve enjoyed serving so many communities over the years, but recent events have caused us to make some tough business decision[s],” Family Video said in a statement on its website.

Store manager Leila Cassidy said employees were notified earlier this month that the location would close on Dec. 20. The Madison location, the city’s final video rental store, is liquidating all of its merchandise on sale until then, she said.

Cassidy said a two-month shutdown for COVID-19 accelerated business struggles. Since reopening, things had been even slower for the DVD rental store, she said.

“It’s definitely been slower. I think now that we’re selling things off we’ve been the busiest we’ve been the whole year,” Cassidy said.

The North Vernon store is the closest Family Video remaining open for now, she said.

Cassidy, 25, has worked for the Madison store for five years and noticed business slowing as streaming grew in popularity. She said two employees used to work the registers most of the time, but gradually that was reduced to one person running the store at a time. The store is now down to four total employees.

“We had a lot of people after we opened back up from being shut down tell us ‘We haven’t been in here because we switched and got Netflix’ or ‘We got Disney Plus,’ ” she said.

With the era of video stores coming to a close, Cassidy is grateful for the regulars who stopped by even more during the pandemic.

“We’re pretty sad, because even in the time we slowed down after being shut down for the pandemic, we still had our regular customers who came in four, five or more times in the week, so it obviously has brought them down that we’re closing,” she said. “We appreciate all those who did stick with us through everything up to the end now.”

COVID numbers keep climbing
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Jefferson County’s number of COVID-19 cases increased to 738 on Friday — including 37 new cases and 348 active cases — and there have been nine total deaths linked to the pandemic since June.

Mayor Bob Courtney, who is self-quarantining with his wife, Tammy, this week after she tested positive for the virus recently, said both are doing fine and appreciate the support they are receiving while in quarantine. He also encouraged all Jefferson County residents to be COVID-19 tested and follow CDC guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

Courtney said the City of Madison will announce new efforts to “Get Back to Blue” on the state metric map. Jefferson County is currently in the red zone, meaning the county must revert back to tighter crowd-size limits based on Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order on Wednesday.

Currently, Madison Consolidated High School, Southwestern Jefferson County Schools, Prince of Peace Catholic Schools, Canaan Community Academy and Hanover College have shifted to virtual learning due to the virus impact on students, faculty and staff.

According to the Regenstrief Institute dashboard, Jefferson has had 38 total hospitalizations from March 1 through Nov. 12 including seven who were treated in the Intensive Care Unit. A total of 92 people were seen at the emergency room and three of the nine death have come at the hospital.

Meanwhile, on Friday Indiana stood at 236,565 positive cases of the coronavirus overall — including 5,708 new cases on Thursday and 50 new deaths — with 4,613 deaths overall.

Switzerland County now has about 200 positive cases and one death and the county’s infection numbers have doubled since the beginning of the month.

Across the Ohio River, Carroll County has reported 258 positive cases and six deaths and Trimble County has seen 131 cases and one death as the most recent reporting.

Madison continues athletic upgrades with new press box
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The Madison Consolidated Board of School trustees approved a $254,000 contract with stadium construction firm Dan Clayton Wednesday night to build a new press box in what will be the second phase of upgrades for the football-track athletic complex at the high school.

The board approved a $5.3 million bond issue in February that covered a new turf football field and Mondo track, plus solar panels at different district buildings, and previewed more changes to come like a new concession stand, locker room and press box.

The press box is the next step in the process and to create a more professional-grade facility for broadcasting, student media and hosting events, Madison Superintendent Jeff Studebaker said Wednesday.

Studebaker talked about the need for the new press box at the board’s Nov. 5 work session, describing the current box as about the size of a single-wide trailer with missing girder support, no heating or cooling and a rotting floor and foundation. A few years ago, a coach’s leg went through the floor due to water leaks and cheap construction of the small building, he said.

The floor has since been replaced, but even that repair begun to deteriorate, as has the foundation, Studebaker added.

Dan Clayton Corp. will build the new press box in the coming months after being recommended to the school by the Motz Group, the company in charge of the new football at Madison, the Indianapolis Colts and numerous other schools in the region.

Studebaker said while he’s “not jumping up and down about the price tag,” the box would sufficiently meet their needs and hopefully be one more key to hosting Indiana State High School Music Association competitions in a few years, a major revenue draw for any host school. The contract does not include the cost of demolition.

The board unanimously approved the contract.

In other business, the board approved this year’s collective bargaining agreement between the district and the Madison Teacher’s Association and made several other human resources-related changes.

This year’s negotiations yielded a 1.5% stipend to all eligible teachers (a $120,726 expense overall), base salary increases for 28 teachers ($63,400 total) and an agreement for Madison to cover a 0.67% increase in health insurance premiums for teachers.

The contract also agreed to change the deadline for a $3,500 incentive to retire provision to Jan. 1, 2021 for the first 10 teachers who notify the district. Other changes include a new compensation model for virtual teachers, a program for helping offset the cost of new teaching certifications for staff and removing coordinators, specialists and interventionalists from the bargaining unit.

The board then addressed the current pandemic situation in Jefferson County, which forced Madison to resort to virtual learning this week amid staff shortages and positive tests. On Friday Madison Athletic Director Joe Bronkella and Southwestern Jefferson County Consolidated School Corporation A.D. Tom Scroggins issued a joint statement announcing another postponement of the annual Turkey Shootout boys and girls basketball games to late January due to tighter crowd restrictions that issued by Gov. Eric Holcomb this weekamd impacting Jefferson County.

Student representative Jacob Smith addressed this and what he and others at Madison called the “White House down” situation in his report, adding that he was one of three positive cases in the district following fall break last month.

Studebaker then relayed statistics on COVID rates at each district school. As of the meeting Wednesday night, the high school and E.O. Muncie alternative school had a combined rate of 0.007% while the junior high and Anderson Elementary were both at 0.003%, Rykers’ Ridge Elementary was at 0.005%, Deputy was at 0.001% with only one student testing positive and Lydia Middleton had no cases as of Wednesday, but was waiting to hear back on a test result.

He said that while having cases in every building is alarming, the number remains low and the district would not allow rates to climb to a point in which a total shutdown is necessary.

“The student positivity rate in each of our buildings is low. We don’t want to see any positive cases, but we do have positive cases in nearly all of our buildings … We know that even one case rattles everybody. We understand how hard that it is,” Studebaker said.

“The DOE (Department of Education) has actually put out their guidance that if a building hits 20%, that’s when you would actually close. Folks, we’re not going to allow it to get to 20% … when you start doing the math on it, 20% of a building with 800 kids is 160 kids. There is no way we’re going to be at those stakes.”

Other highlights from Wednesday’s meeting included:

• Board approval of a 1.5% performance stipend for administrators to match the stipend approved for teachers in the bargaining agreement.

• Board approval giving the superintendent and Director of Finance and Human Resources Bonnie Hensler authority to grant additional personal leave days for non-certified employees, including but not limited to snow days and health-related emergencies.

• Board approval for the purchase of an electronic display totaling $186,353 from Daktronics that covers video boards and a display panel at the scorer’s table in Connor K. Salm Gymnasium.

Hanover driver dead at scene of Circle K crash
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Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputies responding to a single vehicle crash in Hanover Wednesday found the driver dead in the vehicle but the death appears to be unrelated to injuries from the accident.

The crash occurred at about 4 p.m. near the Circle K in Hanover when a vehicle driven by Sharon Washburn, 71, of Hanover, went into a ditch near the entrance to the parking lot of the gas station and hit a guardrail, Chief Deputy Josh Taylor said.

Officers arrived to find the vehicle nearly on its side with a tire over the guardrail and Washburn dead at the scene.

Officers believe Washburn’s death is related to a medical incident suffered prior to the car making impact with the guardrail, Taylor said. As of Thursday, the sheriff’s office had not been notified of an official cause of death.

No other vehicles were involved.

“With that being a populated place and school letting out around that time, it’s fortunate nobody else got hurt,” Taylor said.

Washburn’s funeral arrangements can be found in today’s obituaries.

WKM News hires Hanover grad as reporter
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WKM News, The Madison’s Courier’s video media partner, has announced the hiring of a reporter to cover Jefferson and surrounding counties for the online news website WKMNEWS.COM.

Lindsay Holley has replaced Aaron Lux, who left WKM recently to take a video production position at his alma mater, Hanover College.

Like Lux, Holley is a graduate of Hanover College where she was a communications major with an emphasis on video production. While at Hanover, Holley was involved in a number of student projects and was vice president of the student broadcasting association. She also served an internship in the summer of 2019 at the Lees-McRae Summer Theatre in Banner Elk, North Carolina, and has experience in video photography, production and editing with applications for news, advertising and public relations.

“I studied video production at Hanover College because it has been something I’ve always loved, but reporting was something that I had never thought about,” said Holley, who added that she’s always had an interest in cameras dating back to childhood and was already creating video projects in high school. “I took a class on broadcasting, and I loved the thrill of finding stories and meeting new people.”

“Lindsay has been on the job about two weeks and is already producing interesting and informative stories from our community for our viewers at WKMNEWS.COM — all while relocating to Madison and getting settled in the community,” Madison Courier Editor Mark Campbell said. “She has shown that she is a skilled videographer and editor, an energetic and interested employee and she is enthused about reporting on our communities. She’s just the kind of employee we want for our viewers and readers.”

Holley was actually born in Madison but her family relocated to the small community of DeMotte in northwestern Indiana when she was 10 months old. However, she’s always remained close to Madison and visited often while growing up.

Holley developed an even greater fondness for Madison and Jefferson County while attending Hanover College so when there was an opportunity to work and live here, the decision to return to the area just months after graduating was easy.

Lindsay and her boyfriend, Chris Schlenker, whom she met at Hanover College, have now settled in — they’ve already adopted a kitten from the local animal shelter — and she’s ready to tackle the news coverage and advertising production needs of WKM News viewers and advertisers. You can also expect to also see Lindsay’s work in The Madison Courier print edition as part of our overall cooperative news coverage team.