Bradford Raths

The investigation into the suspicious deaths of 2 people in northern Martin County has led to the arrest of a Shoals man on murder charges.

During the overnight hours of Tuesday into Wednesday, Martin County sheriff’s deputies were searching for 52-year-old Tom Tharp of Shoals. Tharp had been reported missing earlier in the day by his family. Nathan Baker

Just before 10 o’clock yesterday morning, a deputy went to a residence in the 8000 block of Fred Sims Road in Shoals trying to locate Tharp. While checking a detached garage, the deputy found the body of 82-year-old Alan Sims of Shoals. Police say Sims suffered a single gunshot wound and his death appeared to be a homicide.

Martin County deputies and Indiana State Police soon identified 33-year-old Nathan Baker of Shoals as a person of interest. Police found that Baker had previously lived on Sims’ property until he was asked to leave. Sims had also been on the property several times within the last few days according to police.

Now state police had previously dispatched for officers to be on the lookout for a green 1997 Pontiac Sunfire belonging to Tharp. The vehicle was found in Lawrence County just after 2:15 pm and deputies there tried to pull the vehicle over. The driver did not stop and led Lawrence County deputies on a pursuit to State Road 158, where he crashed.

Police immediately found that Baker was driving the car. He was arrested shortly after 2:30 yesterday afternoon. During his arrest, officers found a shotgun that investigators say was the murder weapon. Meanwhile, Tharp’s body was found a short time later during a 2nd search of Sims’ property. Investigators say Tharp also suffered a gunshot wound.

Baker was booked into the Martin County Jail, where he is currently being held. He is facing 2 counts of murder, which are Level 1 felonies.

A Michigan man is facing charges in Dubois County after his online attempts to solicit sex from a Jasper Middle School student.

Yesterday afternoon, Jasper Police obtained warrants for the arrest of 44-year-old Michael Paul Van Houten of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Van Houten was wanted on a Level 5 felony for child solicitation.

Now the charges stem from a nearly 5 month long investigation. JPD says Van Houten had been having online chats with a girl he believed was 14 years old and a student at Jasper Middle School. Police say during those chats, Van Houten tried to solicit various sex acts from the girl and made plans to meet with her on two separate occasions. Those meetings never materialized.

Grand Rapids Police took Van Houten into custody yesterday afternoon. He will be extradited to Dubois County to face the felony child solicitation charge.

Huntingburg Police, the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department, the Dubois County Prosecutor’s Office and Grand Rapids Police all helped with the investigation.

Dubois County employees will soon have the chance to register their opinion on how things are going at work and what can be done better.

First year county council members Craig Greulich, Charmian Klem and Becky Beckman are among those leading an effort to introduce a countywide employee satisfaction survey. Officials say results from the survey could lead to changes in county policy and salaries as well as departments.

Now this survey stems from the county council’s long debate over whether or not to do a salary study for county employees. That idea was put on hold last year amid the county’s ongoing budget shortfalls.

Beckman says one of the biggest goals will be resolving any inconsistencies with salaries among other things:

Meanwhile, Klem says the biggest goal is to hear concerns that county employees may have:

The study will be put together by John Siebert with Jasper-based Siebert Consulting. Klem says there will be about 30 questions with topics ranging from work environment to family friendliness.

The study is still subject to approval from the Dubois County Commissioners. The issue will be discussed at the commissioners’ meeting next week.

If all goes well, the survey could be administered starting in October. Beckman and Klem say their preference would be to have the survey done online though nothing is set in stone yet.

Next Act Inc. will be holding a major fundraiser at the historic Astra Theatre in October.

The group will bring in Boscoe France for the show. The show will take place Saturday, October 3rd. Doors open at 5:30 pm eastern time.

Now the show will start at 7 o’clock that night with the showing of the PBS Documentary “Shoeless Blues: The Journey of Boscoe France.” The Boscoe France Band will then take the stage at 8 o’clock. COncessions, including beer and soft drinks will be available in the lobby.

Tickets will be $20. You can get yours by going online to You can also go to Next Act’s Facebook and Twitter platforms to find links to buy tickets. Any tickets left over the day of the show can be purchased at the door starting when doors open at 5:30 pm. All net proceeds from this event will go to Next Act’s ongoing campaign to purchase and restore the Astra Theatre.

Of course, the fundraiser is part of 3 days of major events in downtown Jasper. The Astra will be screening films from this year’s Southwest Indiana Film Fest on Friday, October 2nd. Doors open at 6 o’clock for that event with short films to show starting at 7 o’clock.

Then on Sunday, October 4th, the Greater Downtown Jasper Business Association will show a children’s feature in what could be the last time the Astra Theatre is open to the public this year. More information on this event will be announced at a later date.

The Huntingburg Teen Outback will be hosting its annual ‘Back to School’ bash tomorrow.

The event will be held at the Teen Outback’s headquarters along Main Street next to Memorial Gym. The bash will take place from 6 to 10 pm and is open to students in grades 4 through 8.

The back to school bash will feature different activities for kids. These will include obstacle course races, a tug of war contest, a dunking booth, and a basketball contest.

Huntingburg mayor Denny Spinner is asking youth from all over the area to be a part of Friday’s festivities:

The bash is open to youth from Dubois and all surrounding counties. For more information, you can go to or you can like them on Facebook.

A deer is being blamed for a 2 vehicle accident in southwestern Dubois County this morning.

Just after 6:30 am, Dubois County Sheriff’s deputies were called to State Road 64 just west of County Road 585 West. Deputies say Jack Parks of Oakland City had been going westbound on State Road 64 at the same time as Marleny Soto de Mendez of Velpen was going eastbound. Authorities say Parks had to swerve after a deer ran out in front of him. Deputies say Parks’ vehicle then hit Soto de Mendez’s vehicle in the left front side after Parks swerved. Parks’ vehicle continued westbound and off of the south side of State Road 64 where it came to rest on the edge of a field. Meanwhile, Soto de Mendez’s vehicle continued east for a short distance before coming to rest in the middle of the highway.

Soto de Mendez complained of ankle pain and had cuts on her face according to authorities. She refused treatment at the scene. Parks was not injured.

Both vehicles were totaled in this crash. State Road 64 was closed for about an hour while debris was removed from the highway.

Huntingburg Police, Memorial Hospital EMS, and wreckers from KARS and Uelbehor and Sons all assisted.

Though there has been much debate surrounding the salary of the new director at Dubois County Community Corrections, talks are also continuing on how to fix the county’s budget going forward.

The Dubois County Council held another lengthy discussion on the matter earlier this week. Of course, this marks the 2nd year in a row that Dubois County is facing a budget deficit. It was $1.6 million this year after being around $1.3 million last year.

Now councilman Craig Greulich stated earlier this week that the council should start taking some sort of action on budget cuts at each meeting going forward. He said the idea is to avoid having an even bigger budget hole to climb out of next year. The county council had to make some $1.7 million in reductions and moving of items to county EDIT funds to avoid the shortfall.

Council president Greg Kendall says budgeting for needs and not wants will help the county in the short and long terms:

The 2016 general fund for the county originally came out to just over $9.7 million originally. The cuts brought it down to around $8 million, the same as it was last year. The council also gave employee raises at $15 bi-weekly for full-time employees and added an assistant security officer at the Dubois County Courthouse.

A public hearing will be held September 9th and the budget will likely be adopted at the council’s September meeting.