Top crime stories of 2021: The breaking news that made headlines this year

·7 min read

Dec. 29—From homicides and shootings to local cases that created national attention, plenty of local crime and breaking news stories made the headlines in 2021. Here are the top five.

HOMICIDES ACROSS THE COUNTY

According to Howard County Coroner Dr. Steve Seele, the coroner's office investigated four homicides in 2021.

That number was actually a dramatic decrease from last year, which saw 10, Seele added.

On March 18, local businesswoman and Greentown resident Aimee Romero, 43, was killed during a domestic incident at her residence.

According to police reports at the time, Romero's husband, 51-year-old Richard "Chase" Romero, shot Aimee in the neck before turning the gun on himself.

The couple left behind three children.

The next month, on April 25, police were dispatched to a residence in the 1600 block of Rue Royale North shortly before 1 p.m. in reference to an unresponsive infant.

Upon arrival, authorities located 10-month-old Ace Groleau lying in a rear den area with just his diaper on, and reports filed at the time stated that the child had bruises throughout his body.

The boy ended up passing away at an area hospital, and his mother, Nicole Groleau, was arrested in connection with his death.

Groleau is currently facing a single count of battery with death to a person under 14 years of age, a Level 2 felony, and two counts of battery resulting in bodily injury to a person under 14 years of age, both Level 5 felonies.

A pretrial conference is set for Jan. 27 in Howard Superior Court 4.

Then, on Oct. 23, police located the body of 27-year-old Kokomo resident Harvey Lenoir near the intersection of North Wabash and West Monroe streets.

He had suffered an apparent gunshot wound to his neck.

Further investigation into the incident revealed that a physical altercation with another Kokomo man named Mycah Fowler, 26, led to the shooting, police reports noted.

Fowler is currently facing charges of voluntary manslaughter, a Level 2 felony, reckless homicide, a Level 5 felony, and criminal recklessness committed with a deadly weapon, a Level 6 felony, for his alleged role in the incident.

He is scheduled for early trial on Jan. 28 in Howard Superior 1.

And shortly after midnight on Nov. 23, police responded to a shooting in progress in the 800 block of North Ohio Street.

When authorities arrived on scene, they located an unconscious male named Rodney Tolle, 69, in a bedroom of a residence and the body of 29-year-old Joshua Briscoe outside.

Tolle had sustained a gunshot wound to his head, while Briscoe had apparently suffered multiple gunshot wounds throughout his body.

Russiaville resident Zachary Thomas, 38, was arrested on a Level 1 preliminary charge of murder in relation to Briscoe's death, and he has a pretrial conference on March 29 in Howard Superior 2.

Tolle later passed away from his injuries at an Indianapolis hospital, and while his death actually marked the county's fifth homicide of 2021, Dr. Steve Seele noted that his death investigation and autopsy were under the direction of the Marion County Coroner's Office.

SHOOTING AT KOKOMO BEACH

In June, while families were inside the gates of Kokomo Beach Family Aquatic Center enjoying a hot summer day, the sound of a gunshot rang out in the parking lot nearby.

When police arrived on scene, they located a 15-year-old male who had suffered an apparent gunshot wound. Further investigation, including eyewitness accounts, indicated that the boy was shot as a result of a fight between several juveniles earlier that day.

Police ended up arresting 18-year-old Tristyn Listenbee, who was 17 at the time the incident occurred, for his alleged role in the shooting.

He is facing a preliminary felony charge of attempted murder, and he is scheduled for a pretrial conference on Jan. 27 in Howard Superior Court 4.

Two other juvenile males, one from Anderson and one from Kokomo, are also each facing a felony charge of aiding, inducing or causing attempted murder, according to police.

The Kokomo Beach shooting sparked a wave of new safety measures in the immediate area surrounding the shooting, including increased patrol around nearby Foster Park and a bag check station at the water park.

Speaking to the Tribune shortly after the incident occurred, Kokomo Police Department Capt. Scott Purtee took a few minutes to address the shooting and the uptick in violence, particularly among the city's youth.

"If your intention is to come to our city parks and cause problems or cause harm to other people or citizens, we will stop it," he said at the time. "We don't necessarily want to have to arrest people in our city parks, but if they're here to cause problems, we will do whatever we have to do to keep the community safe."

KRYSTAL SCOTT SENTENCED

In a case that garnered national attention and was solved in part due to what authorities called "internet sleuths," a Kokomo woman was sentenced in federal court last month to 30 months in prison and five years supervision for her role in the deaths of multiple animals that were under her care.

Krystal Scott was first arrested in July 2020 on two counts of animal crushing after several incidents involving what authorities referred to as the "intentional killing" of dogs, cats and unborn kittens.

Many of those incidents were then uploaded to social media sites or performed live online.

Court documents at the time indicated that Scott was mostly given cats or kittens by unsuspecting people who believed Scott was a "willing caregiver."

But then, shortly after being turned over to Scott's custody, the cats were killed.

Scott took full responsibility for her actions during November's sentencing hearing, adding that she did not know how to properly display her feelings and emotions when the crimes were taking place.

TEENS ARRESTED IN CONVERSE HOMICIDE

On Sunday, Nov. 28, authorities were called to an apartment in Converse in reference to a shooting that had taken place.

When police arrived on scene, they located the body of Anthony Leadford, 23, who officials say died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.

Further investigation into the shooting led police to arrest four teenagers — Aryan Vandiver-Stone, 19, Marion; Benjamin Jones, 18, rural Converse; a 16-year-old male and a 15-year-old male — in connection with the incident.

All four of the defendants in the case are now facing a felony charge of murder, while Vandiver-Stone and Jones are also facing preliminary charges of burglary with serious bodily injury, a Level 1 felony, robbery resulting in serious bodily injury, a Level 2 felony, and robbery, a Level 5 felony.

Due to the confidential state of juvenile records, it's unclear at this time whether the additional charges related to burglary and robbery were also filed against the juvenile defendants in the case.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed through the Miami County Prosecutor's Office, Leadford's girlfriend — who was also in the apartment at the time, along with two children — told investigators that Leadford had been receiving threats from Jones concerning a "drug debt."

Vandiver-Stone and Jones are both due back in court for separate pretrial conferences on Jan. 20 in Miami Circuit Court, and because of their ages, pending court appearances for the juveniles are not publicly provided.

FORMER KOKOMO TEACHER ARRESTED

An investigation that began in February after KPD detectives received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children ended up with the arrest of a Kokomo Center Schools teacher in mid-April.

Brian Lee Jakes — an Elwood Haynes Elementary School kindergarten teacher at the time — was arrested on four Level 4 felony counts of child exploitation and 10 Level 5 felony counts of possession of child pornography.

Jakes, who is no longer employed with Kokomo Center Schools, ended up pleading guilty to all counts against him, and he was sentenced to 14 years in the Indiana Department of Correction during a September hearing inside Howard Superior 4.

He was also required to register as a sex offender for life, per sentencing guidelines.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting