John W. Ward

Woman charged with fatally shooting husband while he slept

December 23, 2006

ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — Prosecutors have filed a murder charge against a woman accused of shooting her husband in his sleep. Kathy Jo Ward, 36, was being held without bond Saturday in the Madison County Jail. A not guilty plea was entered on her behalf Friday by a county magistrate.

Ward was arrested Monday after going to her parents' home and telling them she had killed her husband, 43-year-old John W. Ward, at their home in Pendleton, about 20 miles northeast of Indianapolis, police said. Documents filed by prosecutors Friday allege that Kathy Ward killed her husband hours after an argument in which he admitted drug use and infidelity and told her she should be checked for sexually transmitted diseases.

On Monday, the morning following the confrontation, Kathy Ward got a gun out of her car, went back inside and shot her husband while he slept, the documents allege. One of her attorneys, Bryan Williams, said Friday that additional details would emerge when the case went to trial.


June 29, 2007

Ward guilty of voluntary manslaughter

Distress over a crumbling marriage and fear of a violent husband transformed Kathy Jo Ward from a responsible wife and mother into a killer.

A jury found Ward, 37, guilty of voluntary manslaughter Friday in the December 2006 shooting death of her husband, John W. Ward. Madison Circuit Court Judge Frederick Spencer has set sentencing at 8:30 a.m. Aug. 15.

The charge carries a mandatory sentence of 20 to 50 years in prison. Ward was originally charged with murder, which carries a sentence of 45 to 65 years.

Jurors returned the verdict Friday after more than three hours of deliberation. In a post-trial conference with attorneys on both sides, the jury cited “sudden heat” for making the offense less severe.

“Her frame of mind,” one juror responded, when asked his reason for the lesser charge, “the rage in her.”

The trial revealed a marriage in disarray. John Ward was actively looking for an apartment while his wife pursued a divorce. During an argument-filled weekend in which he smoked crack and spent nights away from home, Ward told his wife he never loved her and had been unfaithful.

The defense team of Bryan Williams and Jeffrey Lockwood said Ward feared for her safety; her husband was an “intimidator and a manipulator” who had previously used violence against women. They said Ward was experiencing a rush of emotion known as “sudden heat,” considered a mitigating factor in cases of wrongful death.

All along, however, the prosecution insisted Ward’s “knowingly and intentionally” killed her husband.

“The evidence will show that this was not sudden heat,” Madison County Deputy Prosecutor Patrick Ragains said in closing arguments. “What happened the night before, I believe the evidence will show, was over. She was a little late.”

Ward’s 15-year-old son, Michael, sobbed in the courtroom after the verdict was read.

“I just want my mom back,” he said, as his maternal grandfather and other family members comforted him.

With good behavior, Ward could spend less than 10 years in prison.

“The difference for her is that Michael will still be a young man when he gets out,” Bryan Williams said. “He won’t be a middle-aged man. She’ll be there for most of his life.”

Co-defender Jeffrey Lockwood said he was unsure whether the verdict would be appealed.

“It’s too early to say. We still have sentencing and the appeal could depend on that,” he said. “We also have to talk to (Ward) and determine whether she wants to pursue an appeal. Another lawyer may even represent her in that.”

During closing arguments, deputy prosecutor Ragains asked jurors to find Ward guilty of murder, saying her actions did not suggest sudden heat.

“He said a lot of hurtful things to her,” Ragains said. “Did she go down right away and get the gun? That’s consistent with sudden heat, consistent with involuntary manslaughter. That didn’t happen.”

Anthony Willis

Man dead after stabbing

December 10, 2006

Indianapolis - Anthony Willis of Indianapolis was stabbed early Sunday morning at a house in the 3300 block of East 30th Street and died later at a local hospital.

According to police Willis and his girlfriend, 38-year-old Karen Miller were in a dispute when Miller stabbed him in the upper left shoulder. The wound was not very deep but severed an artery.

Miller did not not call for help immediately. She did summon help 30 to 45 minutes later and Willis was transported to Wishard Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

It is the 101st homicide of the year in IPD jurisdiction.

Faith VanArsdale

Boyfriend May Be Involved With Death

November 14, 2006

(COLUMBUS) - Columbus police are interviewing the boyfriend of a woman found dead Sunday.

Forty-one-year old Dana Roberts is a suspect in the death of 39-year old Faith VanArsdale.

Roberts reportedly drove to Indianapolis following the killing and told city police where to find VanArsdale's corpse.

Police discovered the woman's body at her home, the apparent victim of strangulation.

Roberts is a convicted sex offender who had allegedly been violent towards VanArsdale in the past.

From the appellate decision:

On November 11, 2006, Roberts was living in Columbus with his girlfriend of eleven weeks, Faith Vanarsdale, and her two children, five-year-old T.R. and seven-year-old C.R. At approximately 11:30 p.m., Roberts returned home from work, the children were asleep on the couch, and Vanarsdale took a shower and went upstairs to go to bed. Roberts ate dinner, drank a forty-ounce beer, and went to the bedroom to go to bed.

When he got to the bedroom, Vanarsdale and Roberts began arguing. Vanarsdale slapped Roberts and began screaming. Roberts placed Vanarsdale in a chokehold until she lost consciousness. He wrapped his arm around Vanarsdale’s neck, held her face to the mattress, and put his weight on top of her. Vanarsdale weighed approximately 100 pounds, and Roberts weighed approximately 200 pounds. When Roberts released Vanarsdale, she was dead. Vanarsdale’s death was caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain and the inability to move air into her lungs. Roberts hid Vanarsdale’s naked body under the bed, left the house, and drove to Indianapolis.

In the early morning hours of November 12, 2006, Roberts called 911 and reported the death. The 911 operator informed Roberts that he should go to the City County Building and turn himself in. Roberts did so, admitting to a Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy that he had killed Vanarsdale. The incident was reported to the Columbus Police Department which eventually confirmed Vanarsdale’s death. During an interview with Detective Marc Kruchten of the Columbus Police Department, Roberts admitted to killing Vanarsdale.

On November 13, 2006, the State charged Roberts with murder. At trial, Roberts testified and again admitted to killing Vanarsdale. A jury found Roberts guilty, and the trial court sentenced him to sixty-two years.

Debra Wilson

Arrest made in Ossian Murder

December 12, 2006

Terry Lee Brabson, 47, of 906 Woodview Blvd., Fort Wayne, has been charged with murder in connection with the death of Debra S. Wilson, 45 ("Debbie"), of 610 Ingle Dr.

He was held at the Wells County Jail under $1.5 million bond. Brabson was scheduled for a 1 p.m. appearance today in Wells Circuit Court.

Wilson’s body was found by her daughter around 2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11 lying in a pool of blood in the bedroom of her Rose Ann Heights residence. The cause of death was later ruled by the Wells County Coroner as blunt force trauma to her head.

The investigation has revealed that Wilson was probably killed during the evening hours, Tuesday, Oct. 10, the day before she was discovered by her daughter.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed with the court, Ossian Police Chief David Rigney, the lead investigator in the case, and Wells County Sheriff’s Det. Lt. Diane Betz and Detective Scott Holliday, in the course of their investigation, determined that Wilson was involved in illegal narcotic activity. A man that Wilson is alleged to have been involved romantically with reportedly told the Chief that Wilson was a “heavy drug user” and had been known to bring people to her Rose Ann Heights residence whom she hardly knew for the purpose of abusing illegal narcotics.

Interviews with neighbors showed that Wilson had a visitor to her residence on Oct. 9 and 10—a man who was reportedly seen unloading a large potted chrysanthemum from Wilson’s vehicle the day before the murder. The same man was also reportedly seen leaving Wilson’s residence in a hurry the night of Oct. 10.

Wilson’s boyfriend reportedly advised Rigney that Wilson may have been using her credit card to purchase drugs. A check of Wilson’s credit records reportedly revealed she had made several large purchases on two credit cards. Several of the purchases were at stores in Fort Wayne on Oct. 9 and 10 and videotapes of the days’ transactions were obtained by Rigney and Betz.

In their review of the tapes, they reportedly saw Wilson in the company of a man and a woman. The man was reportedly wearing a green T-shirt. One of the items that was reportedly purchased was a large potted chrysanthemum

The night that the murder is believed to have taken place, a man was reportedly seen carrying a laundry basket in the Rose Ann heights Addition. The same man was reportedly seen exiting the addition and heading north on Ind. 1.

A basket matching the description of the one the man was reportedly seen carrying was later located in the dumpster outside of the Ossian Medical Center, which is located along Jefferson St. It reportedly contained a pillowcase matching the bed linens in Wilson’s bedroom. Inside the pillowcase was a torn piece of mail, drug paraphernalia—and a soaking wet green T-shirt, matching the T-shirt worn by the man seen with Wilson in the store videos.

The Indiana State Police lab in Fort Wayne later determined that blood allegedly found on the back of the T-shirt was a DNA match to Wilson.

Rigney and officer Stephanie Tucker, who was also instrumental in the investigation, received a call from two employees at Fort Wayne Wire & Die that a man had spoken to them at their workplace, reportedly stating he had been in a fight with his girlfriend and she had thrown him out. He then walked from Ossian all the way to Fort Wayne.

The man was reportedly carrying a carton of Marlboro cigarettes. A carton of Marlboros was reportedly one of the items purchased by Wilson using her credit card as shown in the store videos.

As the investigation widened, a Fort Wayne patrolman reportedly recognized the man with Wilson in the store videos as Brabson. The officer said he had attended high school with Brabson and had recently spoken with him. Other police officers also identified the woman with Wilson.

Both Brabson and the woman had been earlier arrested on unrelated charges. On the book-in sheet, Tucker noticed that one of the items that Brabson had in his possession was a 4-inch long knife. Wilson reportedly had several cuts on her that appeared to have been made by a knife. A search warrant was used to obtain the knife from property that Brabson allegedly left behind at a Fort Wayne woman’s residence where he had been staying after he had posted bond following his arrest.

Also obtained was a pair of shoes with a tread pattern similar to a tread pattern found at the crime scene.

Search warrants had been used to search Wilson’s residence the day the murder was discovered and again later in the course of the investigation. During the search, a used potato chip bag was reportedly found that later was allegedly discovered to contain a print belonging to Brabson.

As the investigation narrowed its focus on Brabson as a prime suspect, Rigney, Betz and Tucker interviewed three known associates of Wilson. Reportedly, all three stated that Brabson had been with Wilson at her residence Oct. 9 and 10 and had gone shopping with her.

All three allegedly admitted that Brabson had spoken to them about an incident he claimed to have been involved in with Wilson.

Reportedly Wilson told Brabson he would have to leave her house because she was expecting someone to come to the house. She allegedly gave Brabson $25 and some crack cocaine and told him that he would either have to get a cab or walk back to Fort Wayne.

Allegedly, Brabson smoked the crack and then began smoking some of his own personal stash of dope. At that point, Wilson is alleged to have become enraged and tried to get her $25 back.

The two allegedly fought and Brabson is alleged to have left the residence and walked back to Fort Wayne.

Rigney and Wells County Prosecutor Mike Lautzenheiser are both declining to make any statements about the investigation out of concern the impact that anything that they say could be used by Brabson’s defense to weaken the case. All information has been gleaned from the probable cause affidavit filed with the court.

Rigney did, however, thank all of the agencies that were involved with the investigation including the sheriff’s department and Wells County Sheriff Barry Story, the Bluffton Police Department—which provided a crime scene investigator for the case—the Indiana State Police, the Allen County Sheriff’s Department and the Fort Wayne Police Department Detective Bureau, Homicide Division and Neighborhood Response Team.

Late plea negates Wells murder trial
Admits to manslaughter in '06 death of Ossian woman; 30 years possible
As the attorneys were getting ready to pick a jury in his Wells County murder trial, a Fort Wayne man admitted his role in the 2006 death of an Ossian woman inside her home.

Terry L. Brabson, 48, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. While the charge is a Class A felony, it offers a slightly lighter prison sentence than Brabson would have faced if convicted of murder after the two-week trial.  Wells County Prosecutor Michael Lautzenheiser Sr. said he was relieved by the unexpected plea, which will likely bring a sentence of 30 years.

Had the state won the murder conviction, Brabson would have likely faced up to 50 years in prison; but had the jury settled on a lesser offense, such as a lower-level felony manslaughter charge, Brabson would have had a 10-year sentence, Lautzenheiser said.

Doyle Nesbitt

South Bend man shot on Wednesday dies

October 30, 2006

ELKHART - South Bend man shot on Wednesday dies.  Doyle Nesbitt, the 24-year-old South Bend man shot in Elkhart on Wednesday night, died Saturday. A spokeswoman at Elkhart General Hospital confirmed Nesbitt's death Sunday afternoon. The Elkhart Police Department's Homicide Unit was called to an apartment in the 200 block of North Third Street in Elkhart at about 9 p.m. Wednesday. Kendra Ellis, 19, of South Bend, was arrested Thursday and was initially facing attempted murder charges.


According to our reporting partners at The Truth, an Elkhart woman faces eight years behind bars after admitting she shot and killed her boyfriend. 22-year-old Kendra Ellis pleaded guilty Thursday to shooting Doyle Nesbitt to death.
According to our reporting partners at The Truth, an Elkhart woman faces eight years behind bars after admitting she shot and killed her boyfriend.  22-year-old Kendra Ellis pleaded guilty Thursday to shooting Doyle Nesbitt to death.  It happened back on October 25th at the couple's apartment on Third Street in Elkhart.

You may also remember Ellis was accidentally released from jail after her arrest for the shooting, but was quickly re-arrested.  Her sentencing is set for January 18th.

Kimberly Mankhwala

Spousal fight may be tied to attack, fire

Woman recovering from injuries; man dies from smoke inhalation.

August 19, 2006
By YONIKA WILLIS Tribune Staff Writer

ELKHART -- White towels stained crimson with blood were the only visible signs of what police say might have been a fatal domestic dispute Friday morning. The spot where the towels lay was where 36-year-old Kimberly Mankhwala ran to after having allegedly been stabbed 10 to 15 times by her husband inside their Centennial Drive home, police said.

About 7:20 a.m. Friday, a resident in the Country Acres subdivision alerted police to a stabbing and a possible house fire at 27401 Centennial Drive. Police arrived to find Kimberly Mankhwala lying on a neighbor's lawn and smoke coming from her nearby bi-level home. Firefighters quickly contained the small fire in the home.

Before Kimberly Mankhwala was taken to Elkhart General Hospital, police said, she told them her husband, 51-year-old Ephraim Mankhwala, was inside their home. When authorities did not receive any response from Ephraim Mankhwala by calling or using a public address system, emergency units entered shortly after 9 a.m. and found him dead in the lower-level living area, said Capt. Sean Holmes, commander of the Elkhart County Emergency Services Unit. Elkhart County Coroner John White said Mankhwala died of smoke inhalation. "He had a high carbon monoxide reading," White said. "He had no other injuries, just injuries from the fire." A 3-year-old child and a 15-year-old boy reportedly were inside the home at the time of the stabbing, according to WSBT-TV.

The 15-year-old was treated for minor stab wounds at Elkhart General, said Trevor Wendzonka, of the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department. Kimberly Mankhwala was out of surgery and in recovery at Elkhart General Hospital Friday afternoon, Wendzonka said.

News of Friday's events shocked residents of Country Acres subdivision, who recently implemented a neighborhood watch in an effort to decrease vandalism and thefts in the neighborhood. "I've lived here for 23 years," said neighbor Deb Longcor. "This is way unusual. ... This just goes to show that this stuff crosses all barriers." Longcor's daughter, Erin Longcor, said the neighborhood has "break-ins and kids that come through the neighborhood, but nothing to offset and scare anyone like this." Neighbors said the Mankhwala family had recently moved into the area and seemed friendly. "I'd passed by and they'd always speak," neighbor Paula Mason said. "They're always in the yard cleaning up or out playing with the kids."

The Mankhwala family was in the news in June when 26-year-old Curtis Love received a 58-year jail sentence for murdering Ephraim Mankhwala's son, Vusani "Cy" Mankhwala. A police officer found the body of 17-year-old Vusani on June 30, 2001, near Chase and Main streets, around the corner from the teen's then-Morton Avenue home. The teen was found with multiple stab wounds to his body. That case, which was closed for several years, was re-opened by police in 2005.


Kimberly L. Mankhwala

Dec. 22, 1969 - Aug. 23, 2006

ELKHART — Kimberly L. (Sidwell) Mankhwala, 36, Elkhart, died unexpectedly Aug. 23, 2006, at Elkhart General Hospital.

She was born Dec. 22, 1969, in Anderson, and resided in Anderson until 1991. She resided in Elkhart for two years and in Goshen for 13 years. She had been an LPN for Americare Nursing Home for 2 1/2 years.

Survivors include her father, William Sidwell and mother, Linda (Bousman) Sidwell, both of Anderson; three children, Brittany A. and husband Robert Ressler of South Bend, and Kipsangi K. Mankhwala and John A. “Drew” Cole II, both of Elkhart; three stepchildren, LaToya Mankhwala of South Bend, and P.J. Mankhwala and Paso Mankhwala, both of Elkhart; a stepgranddaughter, Mimi Mwanza; two sisters and a brother-in-law, Rebecca Sidwell and Tari and Robert Murray, all of Indianapolis; two brothers, Samuel Sidwell of Anderson, and Stephen Sidwell of Elkhart; best friend, Adeeti Awori of Indianapolis; and several aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her first husband, John A. Cole; and second husband, Ephraim Mankhwala, on Aug. 18, 2006.

Services will be conducted at 1:30 p.m. Monday at Rozelle-Johnson Funeral Service with the Rev. Loyce Webb of Gospel Light Chapel officiating. Burial will be in Grovelawn Cemetery in Pendleton.

Visitation will be 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home.  Memorial contributions may be given to the family for the care and education of her children.

Jesse L. Livingston

Defendant's outburst interrupts trial

August 9, 2006

An emotional outburst by the defendant interrupted a murder trial Tuesday before the first witness took the stand.

Geraldine A. Livingston began to sob as the Tippecanoe County prosecutor's staff started setting up audio equipment in preparation to play a recording of a 911 call involving the death of her estranged husband, Jesse Livingston.

Judge Don Johnson of Tippecanoe Superior Court 1 dismissed jurors from the courtroom, hoping that Livingston would calm down. But when the prosecutor's staff began playing the 911 recording to test the equipment, the defendant erupted in loud groans. 

Livingston, 43, is charged with murder in connection with the Oct. 21, 2004, fatal shooting of her husband, who had left her two months earlier.

Courthouse bailiffs restrained Livingston, who is in custody, while family members attempted to calm her down. But eventually, she had to be led out of the courtroom.

Johnson dismissed jurors for the day at 2:50 p.m. and will attempt to resume the trial at 8:15 this morning.

He directed the Tippecanoe County Jail staff to have Livingston evaluated by a psychiatrist overnight to see if she can proceed with the trial.

If she is unable to keep her composure, Johnson likely will have to declare a mistrial. The judge told attorneys there's too much at stake in a murder trial to allow it to proceed without the defendant present.

Before opening statements in the case, Graham already had conceded that Livingston had shot her husband. He spent much of his time during jury selection coaching prospective jurors on the difference between murder -- intentionally killing another human being -- and manslaughter, which Indiana law defines as killing another person "in sudden heat."

"It's a manslaughter -- not a murder," Graham told jurors during his opening statement. "This is not a murder. This not a hit. This is not a drive-by. This is not a sniper shooting."

But John Meyers, chief deputy prosecutor, argued there is evidence, including the fact that Livingston bought the .38-caliber handgun nine days before the shooting, that the killing was planned.

Meyers said the evidence would show that Livingston fired four shots at her husband from the doorway to his apartment. One bullet struck him in the chest; another in his back. Two others went into the apartment floor. Then she fled the scene and called her daughter.

Two passersby discovered Jesse Livingston, 29, lying in the doorway of his apartment building in the 1300 block of North 15th Street, calling for help. He died in surgery later at St. Elizabeth Medical Center.

"There's no evidence of anything that could remotely be called provocation" by Jesse Livingston, Meyers said. "His only offense was not wanting to be married to the defendant."

(This was the only information I could find on dear Jesse.  Any other information or memories added to the comments would be appreciated greatly.)

Jan Griffin

St. Joseph County Woman Murdered by Boyfriend

Jan griffin was intentionally run over by boyfriend.  Her boyfriend had just been released from prison after serving 24 years for killing his wife.  Date of this was reported to be on August 14, 2006.  Nothing else is known of the case...if anyone could please add any information by commenting, it would be wonderful.  Thanks.

Cindy Venis

Lebanon man arrested for wife's murder

August 11, 2006

Boone County - A Boone County man is in jail, accused of killing his wife. It happened last night in Lebanon. A short time later, suspect Michael Venis of Lebanon, surrendered to police after a 30-minute standoff.

Just three months ago, 42-year-old Cindy Venis made a plea for her son-in-law, wanted for murder, to turn himself into police.

James Froman was arrested for the murder of a 19-year-old woman. Now as Froman sits in the Boone County jail, he learns that his mother-in-law is now a murder victim. The accused killer is Cindy Venis' husband Michael Venis.

"According to family, they had been discussing, perhaps, getting a divorce and apparently last night, things came to a head," said Lt. Brent Wheat, Lebanon Police Department.

According to the couple's adult daughter, at her parents' Lebanon home, the couple were arguing. Police believe Michael Venis had been drinking. "She stepped out of the kitchen, heard a commotion, then a single gunshot. She ran back inside the kitchen to find her mother had been shot and her father leaving at that point," said Lt. Wheat.

Police spotted Venis' car in Brownsburg where he surrendered after threatening to kill himself in a standoff with police. Investigators recovered the shotgun they say Venis used to kill his wife, shooting her at point blank range in the head.

Now, Michanel Venis is housed in the Boone County jail with his son-in-law, both accused of two separate murders that have torn their family apart.

Police say there's no history of domestic violence, only that the couple had been contemplating divorce recently. Investigators say they recovered the shotgun used in the shooting and that it was in Venis' car.


A jury trial was held October 16 – 19, 2007. The jury heard evidence of the above. Dr. Joseph Czaja, the pathologist who conducted the autopsy of Cindy, testified that she died from a single shotgun injury of the head. According to Dr. Czaja, the shot hit the left side of her head between the eye and the ear, tearing through her skull, and exiting with “a large and gaping” exit wound and “brain matter . . . coming out of the wound.” (Tr. 483). Dr. Czaja testified that muzzle stamping, from a gun held “up against the head in a near, very near contact or close contact” with Cindy’s head, left a visible “impression of the gun.” (Tr. 480, 478). Dr. Czaja testified that Exhibit 26 showed the brain matter extruded as a result of the injury.

Venis took the witness stand and testified that he had “pointed” the gun at Cindy after she “kept hollerin’” at him, pulled the hammer back “to get her attention,” and then “tapped [her] on the temple with the end of the barrel.” (Tr. 626, 625, 626). According to Venis, the gun then accidentally “went off.”

The jury found Venis guilty of murder. Subsequently, the trial court sentenced him to serve a term of fifty-five years.