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Police: Intoxication led to head trauma, accidental death Saturday

A Marion man is dead after suffering trauma to the head over the weekend, according to the Marion Police Department.

A coroner has ruled the man's death accidental according to information obtained Tuesday.

MPD Deputy Chief Stephen Dorsey confirmed Monday evening that Odale Cobb, 38, died early Monday morning at a Fort Wayne hospital.

An autopsy revealed the man died from a laceration to his scalp.  

"Cobb's intoxication contributed to his falling and striking the back of his head against an object in his home," Dorsey wrote Tuesday. 

Cobb was initially listed as in stable but critical condition as of Sunday afternoon, according to Dorsey.

In a news release issued Sunday, Dorsey said Cobb reportedly called 911 at approximately 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15 and reported he was bleeding and needed help. Police and emergency personnel were dispatched to a residence at the 400 block of W. 29th Street and found Cobb conscious but lying on the floor and bleeding, according to Dorsey.

Responding officers applied medical aid to stabilize the uncontrollable bleeding wound to the back of Cobb’s head, according to Dorsey, and medical personnel later determined Cobb sustained a blunt force laceration to the back of his head.

Cobb was initially transported to Marion General Hospital via ambulance and was later transported to a hospital in Fort Wayne for further treatment, Dorsey said. Police executed a search warrant for the residence in an attempt to locate possible evidence, according to police.

Officers responded to the same residence earlier that day at approximately 3:16 p.m. Saturday for a welfare check on the individuals that reside in the home, Dorsey said. Cobb and a 40-year-old woman told police at that time that they had been in an argument but were “fine,” according to reports.

Dorsey said officers had noticed blood on the floor of the residence when responding in the afternoon, with the woman stating Cobb had fallen. Both Cobb and the woman were reportedly intoxicated and uncooperative with officers, according to Dorsey.

Police questioned the woman again when they returned in the evening, and she stated that she found Cobb lying on the floor when she arrived back at the house, according to Dorsey.

“(The woman) and Cobb were very intoxicated which made it hard for police to obtain factual information,” Dorsey said.

The case is active with the criminal investigations division handling further investigations into the incident, Dorsey said.

The Chronicle-Tribune will update this story as more information becomes available.

Local singers Circle the State with Song

Choir boys and girls from around the region gathered at Marion High School to Circle the State with Song on Saturday.

About 420 singers from elementary and junior high schools in Adams, Grant, Huntington, Kosciusko, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties came together for a day filled with practice and growth in song. The festival, as the name suggests, is held statewide. This year, about 5,000 students will gather at different sites Feb. 15 and March 7 for the events.

McCulloch Junior High Choral Director Christina Huff was the junior high coordinator for the event, while Aeron Kincaid, a choral director with Oak Hill United School Corporation, was the elementary coordinator. Huff said Marion Community Schools have been involved with the festival for at least 10 years, but this was the district’s first time to host. The number of students has grown over the years, along with the number of students who return to the special choir year after year.

“We have grown every year we have been involved,” Huff said. “This year over half of them have done it before.”

Shelly Neal, art and music teacher for Northview Elementary School in Gas City, said singers from each school worked hard for several months leading up to the event to learn the songs. But Saturday, students spent all day putting the pieces together for the performance by learning from clinicians and singing with students from around the region.

At this region’s festival, middle school students learned from Scott Buchanan, director of choral activities at the Indiana State University School of Music, while elementary students learned from Leeann Starkey, a conductor with the Indianapolis Children’s Choir.

Since Circle the State is an honors choir, the singers who participate are among the best from their school’s choir. Participants must learn Circle the State songs in addition to the songs they sing with their regular school choir.

“It is important for students to have as many diverse experiences in music,” Huff said. “The more they are pushed in music, the more they grow as a person.”

Riverview Elementary School fourth-grader Hannah Huff and Justice Intermediate School fifth-grader Aliya Cruz said they enjoy Circle the State because it lets them meet new friends and learn from others who love singing just as much as they do.

“It is sort of like extra practice for us,” Cruz said. “It is great for us, especially if we want to go into singing as an adult.”

McCulloch Junior High students John Wells, Abigail Crouch and Damien Martin said they each like Circle the State so much they have come back multiple times over their school singing careers.

“I started out doing it (Circle the State) because my sister made me, but I came back because I really like the friends and bonding time we get,” Wells said. “It is also more practice that we get with different songs and different directors that we don’t normally get.”

On My Way Pre-K expands eligibility requirements

On My Way Pre-K, a grant program for low-income families to send their 4-year-olds to high-quality preschool programs, will be able to serve more families this coming school year due to a change in eligibility requirements.

“We’re hoping to extend that voucher to families and maybe serve the population that was missing, the families that come in just above the poverty level but still can’t afford quality child care,” Kim Gordon of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration said. “Hopefully, we can just serve more families that way.”

On My Way Pre-K will now be able to serve a percentage of families that come in just over the 127 percent poverty level, including those that might be receiving supplemental security income (SSI) or disability and children whose grandparents are raising them and who may not be working as well.

To be eligible for the On My Way Pre-K program, the child must be 4 but not yet 5 years old by Aug. 1, 2020 and be a resident of Indiana. Parents or guardians in the household must have a service need such as working, attending school or job training.

“Our goal each year is to fill 100 seats,” Gordon said. “We’ve hit our goal every year in Grant County, and last year we exceeded our goal.”

Last year, Gordon said On My Way Pre-K served 116 children in Grant County due to the generosity of the Grant County United Way.

“(Alicia Hazelwood, executive director of the Grant County United Way) just said we’re not going to turn a child away,” Gordon said.

Westminster Preschool, located at 1100 W. Jeffras Ave. in Marion, is one of many programs that offers On My Way Pre-K in the county.

Danielle Svantner, director of Westminster Preschool, said she believes the program is vital for young children in Grant County.

“With our On My Way kids especially, or with any of our kids that are on vouchers, a lot of them come in, and this is their first experience in a classroom. You see an aunt dropping off this or that and a random guy picking them up the next day and a lot of inconsistency in their home life,” Svantner said. “If they are here 8 hours a day, that’s providing consistency.”

Svantner said a quality preschool experience improves children’s social and emotional behavior.

“The No. 1 thing that kindergarten teachers say they look for is social and emotional skills,” Svantner said. “Not that they can come in and write their name really, those are all extra, but that they can sit in circle time, and they can listen to directions.”

On Friday morning, Marion Mayor Jess Alumbaugh walked through Westminster Preschool with Svantner and Gordon and discussed the importance of early childhood education and On My Way Pre-K.

“My four kids went here. I’ve had another grandchild go through here, and now I have another grandchild in here today going through this place,” Alumbaugh said. “It’s just a great ministry for children in our community, and they continue to do it first class.”

Other qualifying Grant County On My Way Pre-K sites include St. Paul Catholic School, Mt. Olive United Methodist Preschool, all Little Giants programs, Tiny Tots in Training, Kings Kiddiland, George’s Jungle and Westview Elementary School, Gordon said.

“We really work well together, and it shows because Grant County has been a leader in the state for On My Way Pre-K,” Gordon said.

The application for next school year’s On My Way Pre-K program will be released in March, and Gordon suggested applying as soon as possible.

For more information and assistance with the application, email Kim Gordon at kimberly.gordon@fssa.in.gov.

Board of Works reviews Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance

The City of Marion’s Board of Public Works and Safety (BOW) met Monday to discuss the Neighborhood Preservation Ordinance and adopt it into the board’s manual.

Marion Building Commissioner Jerry Foustnight stated that multiple parties, including the city council, building department, health department and a number of citizens, were involved in the creation of the ordinance to ensure all parties knew what it would turn into.

The ordinance will make the BOW the go-to entity for any individuals who wish to appeal any violations from the ordinance, according to Foustnight.

Foustnight said one major portion of the ordinance is an annual property registration list for landlords.

“A lot of times, these are property owners or LLCs that live out of state. They don’t care about Marion, Indiana. … We really had no way to get a hold of these property owners,” Foustnight said.

In the past, Foustnight said attempts to reach out to property owners didn’t work.

The ordinance mandates anyone who owns a property and lives outside of the area must designate a “property maintenance individual” who is at least 21 years old, lives within 30 miles of Marion and has a current telephone number.

Property owners must register their properties and pay the $5 per-unit fee before April 1, 2020 or be subject to a fine of $500 per day, per unit, Foustnight said.

While Foustnight claimed there have been no complaints from reliable property owners, some landlords have expressed their concerns, especially at the possibility of simply forgetting to re-register.

Council President Deborah Cain was present at the meeting and recalled some conditions tenants in the city have been subjected to at the hands of careless landlords.

“We’re not out to get money,” Cain said. “We want to make (property owners) understand that it’s really important.”

Cain recalled one family that was living with rodents, without water, whose landlord had taken their water heater.

“Those are the situations that brought this about. … There’s nothing we could do before this,” Cain said. “We have landlords that throw people into places they (themselves) wouldn’t live in and they don’t care.”

Cain said the ordinance is designed to target those who have ignored the city’s efforts in the past, with Foustnight confirming the city will pursue legal action to collect any fees or fines due.

Cain said those individuals who might not be able to afford the fines or fees should contact the building department to discuss their options.

“My door is always open,” Foustnight said.

The building department hopes to finish mailing out notices and reminders to landlords by next week, Foustnight said.

Also at the meeting, Foustnight sought approval to add another property to the city’s demolition list.

Foustnight said the house at 2911 S. Boots St. has been deemed an unsafe structure and needs to be demolished.

A letter from an attorney representing the property owner requested that the board approve a 90-day extension instead, but Foustnight said the individual has owned the property since 2010 and has done little to repair it in that time.

“A 90-day window after 10 years seems like an insurmountable feat,” board president Brian Flynn said.

Foustnight confirmed the owner had received a letter about the property in September 2019, and asked the building department about a temporary solution, but the department said it was not structurally secure.

In the letter, the attorney stated the owner had purchased new doors, windows, insulation and more, but the board said they felt those projects alone would not make the structure safe.

The board voted unanimously to approve the demolition, with Foustnight stating the department has completed two other demolitions in that area in the past few years in an effort to address blight complaints coming from neighbors.