Chesterton Tribune


State seeks to dismiss murder charge after witnesses recant

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The Porter County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is moving to dismiss the murder charge against a Valparaiso man accused of beating his step-daughter to death in February.

On Thursday, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Frost filed a motion to dismiss the charge of murder filed against Allen Warnes, in connection with the death on Feb. 21 of his step-daughter, Shawnna Forgus.

That motion is short and to the point. It notes that the murder charge was based on the statements which Forgus’ mother, Forgus’ sister, and a family friend provided to investigators with the Valparaiso Police Department.

But that, at a bond hearing on May 15 and May 29, all three “completely recanted” those statements.

“No physical or forensic evidence has developed to counter the recantation of the witnesses,” Frost stated in his motion. “Recent attempts by the Valparaiso Police Department to gain the cooperation of the witnesses has been futile.”

Accordingly, Frost concluded, the “State of Indiana is forced to seek a dismissal in this cause.”

Forgus was found dead in her bedroom around 9:14 a.m. Feb. 21, with trauma to her head and neck and showing signs of having been strangled.

In the early days of the investigation, detectives focused their efforts on an acquaintance of Forgus’ called “Chris,” because Forgus’ mother said that she saw him leaving in his car earlier that morning. What Forgus’ mother and sister and the family friend didn’t tell detectives—not until Feb. 24—is that Forgus and Warnes had argued on the night of Feb. 20.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed by VPD Det. Brian Thurman, three days after her daughter was found dead, Forgus’ mother added this information to her initial statement: that Forgus and Warnes had a “verbal argument” in the living room which involved “some aggressive name-calling.”

Forgus’ mother also added this piece of information: that, after going to bed, she was awakened “by a verbal argument” and realized at the time that Warnes was not in bed with her,” Thurman stated in his affidavit.

Forgus’ sister, for her part—after initially telling investigators that she hadn’t heard any disturbance during the early morning hours of Feb. 21—eventually said that she heard “a heated verbal argument” between Forgus and a man whose voice she identified as Warnes’, Thurman stated.

Finally, a family friend said that, after hearing “two or three screams” during the early morning hours—and the sound of “shoving and bumping into things in Shawnna’s room”—she saw a man “rushing out of Forgus’ room.” The family friend described the man as having a similar build to Warnes’ and a beard and long hair, Thurman stated.

Both Forgus’ sister and the family friend told investigators that they had originally withheld this information because they were fearful of Warnes, Thurman stated in his affidavit.

All three, however, since recanted those later statements made to investigators, on which the murder charge was based.



Posted 10/12/2012