Mariah Dawson

Toddler died at hands of abusive mother

July 8, 2010

CROWN POINT | After her toddler's death last September, Maya Levee Willis allegedly told the child's former baby sitter the 19-month-old succumbed to a seizure.

But in pursuing murder charges against the 31-year-old Willis, police claim a substance found in the dent of a wall in Willis' apartment matches the child's DNA profile.

Lake County prosecutors charged Willis, of East Chicago, on Tuesday with murder, two counts of battery and four counts of neglect of a dependent.

According to a seven-page probable cause affidavit filed in Lake Superior Court, Willis is charged with repeatedly abusing and finally killing her daughter, Mariah Dawson, one of four children born to Willis by as many men.

The court document depicts Mariah as an unwanted child who, in her resemblance to her father, drew her mother's rage.

An autopsy report shows the child died of head injuries and blunt force trauma to the body. Contributing factors included vaginal and rectal injuries consistent with sexual abuse, according to the pathologist's report. Multiple old scars covered her body.

East Chicago Police Chief Gus Flores said Wednesday the allegations are among the worst to have crossed his desk.

Flores described Willis as almost 6 feet tall and weighing about 200 pounds.

"This is among the saddest, most disgusting cases I've ever read," Flores said of the documents prepared to launch the case.

"I can't imagine the hell this poor child lived through," Flores said about the child's injuries. "She appears to have been old enough to know what was happening to her."

The child's condition came to light when police were called Sept. 30, 2009, to the emergency room at St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago, where the child was declared dead, the court documents show.

The child is described as covered with bruises, scars and marks all over her body, including a big bump on the back of her head, a laceration to the lower lip and a cut and bleeding gum line.

Further examinations revealed vaginal swelling, anal trauma and a distended abdomen.

In statements to police, Willis said the child fell in a hallway and began crying. Willis said she later noticed the child's left side was "paralyzed looking." The child appeared to stop breathing in the car as she drove to the hospital, she told authorities.

Willis denied causing any of the fresh injuries, though she is alleged to have admitted to disciplining the child by "popping her on the hands and legs with a plastic spaghetti or pasta scooper and with a short piece of belt."

Police recovered two belts with similar markings to ones found on Mariah's back, the court documents state.

Willis is alleged to have explained burn scars on the child's back and head to a set of hot curlers falling on the child.

Willis later changed her story by telling investigators the child's fatal injury stemmed from a fall from a bunk bed.

Willis' remaining three children are in state custody, according to court documents.

Mary Alice Simonson

20-Year-Old Man Arrested In Great Aunt's Slaying

July 8, 2010

A man was arrested Thursday in his great aunt's slaying after he called police and told them he had "just murdered someone."Greensburg Police Chief Brian Heaton said Mary Alice Simonson, 76, was found dead in her bed in a mobile home in the 2000 block of Moscow Road, on the northwest side of the city, 6News' Renee Jameson reported.

Heaton said James LaFramboise, 20, called police at about 9 a.m. and he'd cut his aunt's throat. "He walked down to the entrance of the yard here and he called the police and said, 'Send somebody over, I killed my aunt," said LaFramboise's mother, Nicola Smith, 59.

LaFramboise was arrested without incident on a preliminary charge of murder, police said. "He was in close proximity to this trailer. He was taken into custody. He has given a statement," said Detective Bill Meyerrose.

LaFramboise and his parents lived in the mobile home with Simonson. Smith said she doesn't know why her son would act out so violently. "I talked to him and I asked him, 'Son, what happened?' And he said, 'Mom I don't know, I just don't know,' and he fell apart," Smith said. "At this point, he says he's not sure what happened, why it happened. All he knows is that he remembers the fact that she's gone. I mean, he loved her to death."

LaFramboise was being held in the Decatur County Jail on Thursday evening.

Linda Nickle

Man, 63, held in shooting deaths of 2 Indianapolis women

A 63-year-old man has been arrested and charged with murder after he told police he shot and killed his girlfriend and her son’s fiance after their bodies were found in the couple’s Far Westside home.

The two women, 61-year-old Linda Nickle and 24-year-old Elizabeth Newcomer, were found about 5 p.m. Saturday in the 6800 block of Westdrum Road.

Sgt. Paul Thompson, a spokesman for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police, said Elwin Hart, Indianapolis, called police from a nearby church to turn himself in about 20 minutes after the bodies were discovered.

Thompson said a domestic dispute might have been the cause of the shootings.

The couple lived together in the home. The couple, he said, bought the house to rehab it and that there may have been an argument Friday possibly related to the house that spilled over to Saturday afternoon.

Police said Nickle’s son, who was out of the city at the time, knew about the argument and became worried when he was unable to reach his mother and Newcomer, so he had a friend break into the house in an attempt to make contact. The bodies were discovered at that point.

Newcomer also resided at the house.

Hart was arrested at the Lynhurst Baptist Church, 1250 South Lynhurst Drive, about 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Thompson said Hart also faces charges for possession of marijuana after police found several bags of the controlled substance and a one-hitter pipe in his possession.

Also see post for her son's fiance Elizabeth Newcomer here.

Elizabeth Newcomer

2004 Fostoria grad slain in Indianapolis

2nd woman also killed; boyfriend held

INDIANAPOLIS — The prosecutor’s office was expected to file charges today against an Indianapolis man arrested after a former Fostoria woman and her fiance’s mother were found dead of gunshot wounds in the home they shared, police said Tuesday.

Elizabeth Newcomer, 24, a 2004 graduate of Fostoria High School, was killed in the attack Saturday along with Linda Nickle, 61.

Police Sgt. Paul Thompson said the women were found about 5 p.m. by a friend of Ms. Nickle’s son who had gone there to check on them at his request. Ms. Newcomer’s fiance was out of town at the time and could not reach them by phone.

Less than a half-hour after the shootings, Ms. Nickle’s boyfriend, Elwin Hart, 63, called police and said he was the person they were looking for, Sergeant Thompson said.
Police picked up Mr. Hart at a nearby church about 5:30 p.m. and said they found a semiautomatic handgun in his vehicle, suspected marijuana, and a pipe believed to be used for drugs.

Sergeant Thompson said investigators believe the shootings erupted from a domestic incident, although police had no record of prior domestic violence reports at the home where Mr. Hart and Ms. Nickle lived.

“Newcomer had moved in. … Apparently [Mr. Hart] wasn’t too happy with the arrangements of the kids moving in. There may have been some other details we can’t release right now, but we think that is the focal point of what happened.”

See post for fiance's mother Linda Nickle here.