In the first days after Shawnna Forgus was found dead in the bedroom of her
home, at 9:14 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21, investigators focused their efforts on
an acquaintance of hers called “Chris” because Forgus’ mother said that she
saw him leaving in his car earlier that morning.
What Forgus’ mother and other people living in the home at 403 Courtney St.
didn’t tell investigators—not until Friday, Feb. 24—is that Forgus and her
step-father, Allen Warnes, had argued on the night of Feb. 20.
They didn’t reveal that information, Valparaiso Police say, because they are
afraid of Warnes.
On Monday, Warnes, 55, was formally charged with Forgus’ murder. He is being
held without bond pending his initial hearing.
According to the probable cause affidavit filed by VPD Det. Brian Thurman,
the first apparent lead in the case was provided by Forgus’ mother, Rebecca
Warnes, who advised that around 4:30 a.m. Feb. 21 she heard the front door
open and a “green car leave the area,” which she believed to be the same car
driven by “Chris” the day before, Monday, Feb. 20, when he dropped off
Forgus. “She indicated that she only saw the taillights of the car and the
taillights of that car resembled the taillights of the car driven by ‘Chris’
the previous day,” Thurman stated in his affidavit.
Investigators subsequently located “Chris” and interviewed him and “he
indicated that he had not seen or spoken to” Forgus since Feb. 20. “Once
friends and acquaintances of Shawnna had been interviewed and provided
alibis, investigators turned to the occupants of the home” at 403 Courtney
St., Thurman stated.
A round of fresh interviews was accordingly held on Friday, when Rebecca
Warnes added this information to her previous statement: that around 12 a.m.
Tuesday, Shawnna and her step-father, Allen Warnes, had a “verbal argument”
in the living room. “Allen was upset with Shawnna, thinking she had not
attended school that day,” Thurman stated. “Monday, Feb. 20, 2012, was
Presidents’ Day and Shawnna did not have to go to college classes that day.
Rebecca heard some aggressive name-calling occurring between the two and
then the fighting stopped.”
Rebecca Warnes also added this piece of information: that, after going to
bed, she was awakened “by a verbal argument coming from upstairs” and
realized at that time that Allen Warnes was not in bed with her, Thurman
Meanwhile, Forgus’ sister, after initially telling investigators that she
hadn’t heard any disturbance during the early morning hours of Feb. 21,
eventually admitted having “heard it all,” Thurman stated. Specifically,
Forgus’ sister “heard Shawnna’s bedroom door open and then heard a heated
verbal argument between a male and a female. She identified the voices as
Shawnna and Allen (Warnes). She indicated the verbal argument occurred for
about 15 minutes, followed by a long period of noises that sounded like a
physical disturbance. She indicated that it sounded like someone was being
knocked around on the walls.”
Forgus’ sister also advised “that she did not tell investigators the things
she heard because she was afraid of Allen (Warnes),” Thurman stated.
Finally, a family friend also living at the home told much the same story.
She was sleeping downstairs in the living room when she heard “two or three
screams,” then about 15 minutes later, after deciding to investigate
upstairs, the sound of “shoving and bumping into things in Shawnna’s room,”
Thurman stated. “As she is on the landing, she sees a male rushing out of
Shawnna’s room. She describes the male as similar build to Allen (Warnes)”
with “a beard and long hair.”
The family friend similarly reported being “scared to say anything” and
remains “concerned that Allen (Warnes) will come after her and harm her,”
Allen Warnes, for his part, denied any involvement in Forgus’ death. “At no
time did Allen (Warnes) admit to having a problem with (his wife’s)
22-year-old living with them and not working,” Thurman stated.
When confronted by the statement of the family friend—who’d reported seeing
him upstairs—Allen Warnes “indicated that the only way he would have been
upstairs is if he was sleepwalking.”
The cause of Forgus’ death is pending the results of tissue tests, but
Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris has said that Forgus sustained trauma to
the head and neck and showed signs of having been strangled.