CIRCUIT COURT: Elkhart woman charged in death of her own daughter
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CIRCUIT COURT: Elkhart woman charged in death of her own daughter

Jun 23, 2023


Elkhart County Courthouse

GOSHEN — An Elkhart woman is facing felony charges in connection with the death of her own infant daughter in early July.

Alauraeve Allen, 24, met with Elkhart County Circuit Court Judge Michael Christofeno for an initial hearing on charges of murder and neglect of a dependent.

On July 7, at approximately 7:46 p.m., the Elkhart police and Elkhart fire departments were dispatched to an apartment at 324 Middlebury St., Elkhart, concerning a 6-month-old baby unconscious and not breathing. Upon their arrival, the Elkhart Police and Elkhart Fire departments rendered aid to the baby.

The baby was transported to Elkhart General Hospital, and subsequently to South Bend Memorial Hospital, where she died July 8. Investigators of the Elkhart County Homicide Unit observed numerous visible injuries on the baby’s body.

A forensic autopsy was performed on the baby at the Homer Stryker School of Medicine located at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. The cause of her death was ruled a homicide.

Allen initially advised investigators that she had left the baby in the care of friends July 8 and after returning home, the baby had vomited on her so she took a long bath. Upon finishing, she was told the baby was not breathing so she called 911.

Allen was interviewed again July 19, at which time she advised that she had been angry with the baby and shook her July 6 in their apartment on Middlebury Street, as well as having struck the baby and caused injuries prior to this on other occasions.

She was given a public defender in the case.

Allen also requested that the court enforce with the jail system her mental health treatment, which Christofeno agreed to. Allen’s status conference is currently scheduled for Sept. 28, trial status conference for March 21, and jury trial for April 15.

Judge Christofeno denied the request of Jordon Norton’s attorneys to stay his trial, which is scheduled for Monday. It’s the second jury trial for Norton after the first one resulted in a hung jury on Nov. 4, 2021.

In November 2021, Norton was found guilty of Count 2, battery by means of a deadly weapon, a Level 5 felony, and Count 3, criminal recklessness, a Level 6 felony, but the jury couldn’t make a decision on Count 1, murder.

Norton is accused in the Aug. 26, 2020, murder of David Artley at Hardy’s Bar, 610 S. Main St., Elkhart. Norton now has two self-defense notices filed in the case — one with ongoing evaluations for post-traumatic stress disorder, and one of his defense attorneys indicates a theory of double jeopardy. Norton is also attempting to file an appeal for the two felonies of which he was found guilty.

Christofeno denied both motions to stay the case and one for interlock appeal, explaining his logic that if Norton is determined innocent by the jury and acquitted, it won’t matter, and if he is convicted, the trial will follow Norton’s other two felony charges to the appellate court. Public defender Christopher Petersen confirmed that Norton’s legal team will make the claim of self-defense in the new trial, as in the first. Christofeno said that throughout the trial, he would make the determination of whether or not Norton may also be found guilty by the jury of criminal recklessness toward Artley, adding that Norton’s previous conviction of criminal recklessness was in relation to others within the bar and not the victim.

The judge did agree to allow the testimony of a psychologist who reviewed and interviewed Norton to testify subjectively on Norton’s perspective during the time of the crime.

The trial remains set to begin Aug. 7.

A man in connection with the crash that resulted in the death of an Elkhart teen saw his trial status conference reset.

Ronnie Hapner, 34, Elkhart, has a jury trial scheduled for Aug. 28, and the defense suggested that there would be a chance of continuing the trial, asking for an additional status hearing Aug. 10, which was approved, although the judge told them it’s unlikely he will allow the trial itself to be continued to a later date.

Police arrested Hapner, on a charge of leaving the scene of a serious body injury accident and a charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident after the deceased teen’s mother Jennifer Fisher, Mishawaka, shared a home security video of a white pickup truck to Facebook, asking her community to help police find the vehicle and suspect.

Hapner is accused of hitting and killing Elkhart teen, Blaine Fisher, 18, and serious injury to another, McKade Nielsen, 18, June 4, 2021.

An Elkhart teen entered into a plea agreement for an armed robbery charge.

According to a probable cause affidavit from Elkhart County deputies, Matthew Malone, 18, Elkhart, allegedly met a man at the New Paris Apartments, 18856 U.S. 6, New Paris, at 2 p.m. Dec. 12, from the Facebook Marketplace to purchase a 2016 orange Mustang 5.0 that he’d agreed to pay $35,000 for. Instead, the affidavit reads, when Malone came out of the apartment, the seller said Malone held him up using a black handgun and took the vehicle, allowing the seller’s 8-year-old son to get out of the Mustang, before robbing him of his wallet, threatening him, and then taking off in the vehicle.

Malone is also accused of a series of battery charges against public safety officials at the Elkhart County Juvenile Detention Center March 9 and April 18.

Malone agreed to plead guilty to armed robbery, a Level 3 Felony; and two counts of battery to a public safety official, each a Level 5 Felony. Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 31.

A woman accused of robbery and battery by means of a deadly weapon entered into a plea agreement with the court Thursday.

Shontera Wilson, 28, along with Brett Birdsall, 29, are accused in the March 9, 2022 stabbing of James Kephart in the 200 block of State Street in Elkhart.

According to a police affidavit, Kephart told police he’d been using illegal drugs with two individuals, a man and a woman, and a conversation of a sexual nature ensued before the three of them broke into a garage at 209 State St., Elkhart. There the man allegedly pulled a knife and demanded money from him. A scuffle ensued during which Kephart was stabbed and his wallet was stolen.

The two individuals left the scene and later on, police found two people matching the description provided “acting suspicious and looking back toward the location of the victim,” according to court documents.

Both Birdsall and Wilson denied to officers any involvement in the robbery but admitted they’d been in contact with Kephart, with Wilson reportedly stating that he’d found the wallet on the ground and picked it up knowing nothing about the stabbing or robbery. Birdsall stated in the charging affidavit that he had been in the garage with Kephart, but that Kephart had attacked him with a knife instead and the wallet fell out of his pocket and was then taken.

Wilson will plead guilty to one count of possession of methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony; as well as one count of criminal trespassing, and two counts of theft, both Class A misdemeanors, for previous cases she was on probation for at the time of the incident.

Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 31.

An initial hearing took place for a man accused of auto theft and burglary July 24.

Tristan McFall, 27, is the accused. Officers were informed at 11:28 p.m. that night that two people had entered Synergy Industries, 25813 Modrell Ave., Elkhart, by breaking a window and fled north through a hole they cut into the fence. One fled on a stolen yellow ATV, and the other fled on foot.

The ATV was located within a tree line on C.R. 9 just south of Northpark Avenue and McFall, believed by police to be the foot fleer, was found not far away near Adams Street. McFall proclaimed innocence, stating that he “doesn’t steal.” Officers advised McFall that he was actively on probation for a previous burglary charge. A security camera nearby showed a man in similar attire as McFall and another man pushing the ATV out of the garage at Synergy Industries.

McFall was provided a public defender. McFall’s pretrial conference is scheduled for Aug. 31, with omnibus date Sept. 28, trial status conference March 21, 2024 and a jury trial scheduled for April 15, 2024.

One of two Elkhart teens charged with armed robbery saw the court approve his request to combine a probation violation with his ongoing robbery case.

Keondre Harris, 17, is charged with a Level 3 felony of armed robbery and a misdemeanor count of resisting law enforcement from a gas station robbery March 23, 2021.

According to police in a probable cause affidavit, he and Elijah Coleman, also 17, used a gun to hold up another teenage victim and steal cash outside the Sunny Side Food Mart along Benham Avenue in Elkhart March 23. The victim had met them at the store, believing it was a meet-up to purchase an iPhone for $700, according to the affidavit.

Coleman allegedly swiped the cash from the victim and took off running. But the victim chased and pushed Coleman to the ground, which caused him to spill the cash, the affidavit reads. The victim stopped to pick up his money and was able to recover about two-thirds of what was stolen off the ground, according to the affidavit.

As police responded, they caught up to the suspects and arrested them following foot pursuits, according to the affidavit. After they were taken into custody, police said in their report about $140 from the stolen loot was found on Harris. Added to what the victim recovered, a few dozen dollars were still missing from the $700 that was initially taken, according to the affidavit.

The matter was reset for Aug. 24, at which time defense attorney Mark Doty said he’s confident they’ll have reached a resolution.

Coleman also had his status conference reset to Sept. 21 during Thursday’s court proceedings.

Harris went on to hire private counsel in the case, while Coleman has a public defender.

During Thursday’s proceedings, attorneys told the judge that they’re still trying to schedule a deposition. Another further proceedings and status conference is scheduled for Sept. 21. The trial is scheduled for Dec. 4 with a trial status conference Nov. 9.

A certified nursing assistant accused of burglarizing an apartment at Hubbard Hill Estates had a prestatus conference Thursday.

According to a probable cause affidavit, a resident of Hubbard Hill Estates, 28070 C.R. 24, Elkhart, was coming home from vacation around 2 p.m. Jan. 11 and noticed an abundance of her family heirloom jewelry missing, an estimated value of $4,610.

The retirement home’s apartment doors allow for keyless entry, and the IT department determined that the door had been opened while the resident was away by a CNA through a different location.

Using the web platform LeadsOnline, which provides access to transactions of reporting businesses, officers stated in the affidavit they discovered that Jasmine S. Williams, a CNA for the company, had visited Gold & Diamonds Jewelry and Pawn, 3420 S. Main St., Elkhart, and pawned items matching the description Jan. 9. At the pawnshop, detectives were able to obtain fingerprints of Williams’ and security footage, and during the investigation, Williams reportedly admitted to stealing the items Jan. 7.

Williams, 38, Elkhart, is charged with burglary and theft. A status conference is scheduled for Dec. 28, and a jury trial is scheduled for Jan. 22, 2024.

The court did not agree to lower the bond for a man accused of causing death while operating a motor vehicle. Cameron Woolf, 21, Shipshewana, allegedly had marijuana and cocaine in his system when his passenger Adam Maxson-Jones died on Nov. 16, 2022.

According to the police report, on that day, just west of Goshen, Woolf was traveling with Maxson-Jones, 21, in a 2012 Chrysler 200 south on C.R. 15. At the stop light at C.R. 32, he entered the intersection in front of a 2020 Jeep Wrangler driven by Wendy Streeter, 40, Goshen, heading east. Streeter’s vehicle struck the passenger side of Woolf’s vehicle, the report reads.

Maxson-Jones was taken to Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Woolf and Streeter both submitted to blood draws. Streeter’s came back with a BAC of 0.06, but Woolf’s came back with metabolite THC and cocaine, according to the charging affidavit.

A man accused in a domestic situation that turned into a battery and burglary had a status conference for several of his charges Thursday.

Cristian Gomez Benitez, Elkhart, is charged in Elkhart County Circuit Court Thursday on charges of burglary with a deadly weapon, intimidation with a deadly weapon, domestic battery with a deadly weapon, and invasion of privacy. Additional misdemeanor charges of battery and invasion of privacy were added to the case during court Thursday due to an incident in June.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Gomez Benitez initially violated the restraining order against his former partner, of which he has two children, March 24.

Police responded to a call at a home at 1128 Whitfield Court in reference to Gomez Benitez allegedly inside the home with a gun, and in violation of a restraining order, at 2:18 p.m. The victim said he entered the home without permission and entered the kitchen, threatening her, before going upstairs to the bedroom, and that he had not been to the home since he was arrested in January, according to the affidavit.

The victim said she and the children left the home as soon as he went upstairs, and contacted police, despite Gomez Benitez’s reported warning not to, and went to Victim’s Assistance.

Police searched the home and found Gomez Benitez lying on a bed in a bedroom, the affidavit reads. A gun was found the bathroom wedged between the fan and a light fixture, police noted. In January, Gomez Benitez had been charged with invasion of privacy and violation of a restraining order from an ongoing domestic battery case with the victim.

All cases are scheduled for a trial status conference Oct. 12. A bench trial for misdemeanors and a jury trial for felonies are scheduled for Nov. 6.

A pretrial conference was held for a man charged with burglary after a homeowner allegedly found him sleeping in her garage, drunk on her beer. Daniel Bradley, 44, San Diego, California, is charged with burglary, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of a firearm as a violent felon from the July 1 incident.

Elkhart City Police responded to a call about a burglary in progress at 1723 Greenleaf Blvd., Elkhart. There, the homeowner told officers a man, later identified as Bradley, was sleeping in her garage.

The homeowner told officers that when she arrived home around 12:20 a.m., her garage door was locked, but she didn’t lock it. She found Bradley asleep and immediately contacted the police, noting that her tools had been moved out of cabinets and drawers in the garage, according to the charging affidavit. Bradley also allegedly drank hard seltzers she’d had in the garage fridge.

While escorting handcuffed Bradley to the patrol vehicle, he reportedly told officers on the scene that he was drunk and could not walk. While searching him, according to the affidavit, officers found a red credit card-sized pouch with meth inside, and three drill bits, which the homeowner claimed were stolen from her collection of tools in the garage.

A further proceedings is set for Nov. 2, a trial status conference for Feb. 8, jury trial for March 4.

Darius Tate, 31, Elkhart, waived his bond hearing for a case accusing him of auto theft Feb. 11.

The Elkhart Police Department says the owner told them he’d forgotten to take the keys out of his 2014 Yamaha Zuma X at Rosedale High-Rise, 501 W. Indiana Ave., Elkhart, and sometime between the evening of Feb. 10 and the afternoon Feb. 11, the vehicle had been taken.

Surveillance footage showed a man officers were able to identify through previous interactions as Darius Tate, according to the charging affidavit. Tate initially denied that it was him in the photos, the affidavit reads, but eventually agreed. A case was opened June 19 with a bench warrant and Tate was arrested June 22.

Further proceedings are set for Sept. 7.

Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at [email protected] or at 574-538-2065.


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