Police: Man arrested in 8-year-old's shooting death
By Kevin O'Neal
February 9, 2008
Indianapolis Metropolitan police have arrested a 26-year-old man in Friday night's fatal shooting of 8-year-old Karissa Hitchings on the city's Near Northside.
Emmanuel McClendon Jr. was being held in the Marion County Jail today on a preliminary charge of murder, according to an IMPD news release. Formal charges were expected to be filed with the Marion County prosecutor's office by Monday or Tuesday.
Karissa was shot in the head while she was inside a house in the 2300 block of White Avenue shortly before 10 p.m. Friday, police said. Witnesses told police they heard a series of gunshots fired outdoors.
Karissa was pronounced dead after being rushed to Riley Hospital for Children. Several relatives who were with Karissa inside the house were not injured. Someone inside the house called police, according to a news release.
The second-grader attended Indianapolis Public Schools No. 44, police said. School authorities had been notified of her death.
Police said the investigation is ongoing and ask that anyone with any information about the crime call IMPD's homicide division at (317) 327-3475 or CrimeStoppers at (317) 262-TIPS.
Lt. Jeff Duhamell, police spokesman, said the shots were fired at the house. Duhamell said investigators were trying to determine whether there was more than one shooter and the reason the shots were fired at the house.
A man who came to the scene Friday night and identified himself as Darryl Webster, 44, said he was a relative of the girl's. Her death is "senseless, and it's sad," he said.
Karissa is the fourth preteen child to be shot to death in Indianapolis this year.
In January, police said, Dwayne E. Johnson Jr. fatally shot his 8-year-old daughter, Jordan, and killed himself in their Eastside home.
Earlier last month, a 23-month-old boy, Jordan Hunt, and a 5-month-old girl, Charlii Daye-Yarrell, were shot to death along with their mothers in an attempted robbery in a Hovey Street house on the Near Northside.
Police: Mother began drinking hours before 2-year-old's death
If convicted of neglect, woman faces 20- to 50-year prison term
By Jon Murray
February 9, 2008
An Indianapolis woman accused of smothering her son by passing out on top of him began drinking gin as much as 12 hours earlier, a police affidavit says.
Marion County prosecutors filed a single neglect charge Friday against Latasha McMorris. A few hours earlier, the sobbing mother had her first court appearance.
McMorris, 24, now faces the prospect of 20 to 50 years in prison if she is convicted of causing the death of her 2-year-old son. Sheldon Bartley Jr. died about an hour after McMorris' boyfriend found him beneath her just after midnight Wednesday at an Eastside motel.
"I can't fathom consuming enough alcohol to pass out on top of and suffocate a 2-year-old," Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said. "This tragedy was totally preventable."
A legal expert said the neglect charge makes mounting a defense difficult. The charge is based on an adult putting a child in a dangerous situation that resulted in death.
Henry Karlson, a professor of criminal law at Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis, also rejected the idea that the incident was an accident.
"A drunken driver who travels at 150 mph and hits a school bus and kills children -- is that an accident?" Karlson said. "I think they charged this case the correct way."
McMorris has acknowledged having a drinking problem lasting 10 years. After a judge in an earlier neglect case ordered her into rehabilitation, family members planned to take her to a treatment center Wednesday.
But about 11 a.m. the day before, McMorris checked into an Econo Lodge motel with her son and her boyfriend, Willie Clark, according to Clark's statements in a probable-cause affidavit filed Friday in court.
McMorris began drinking as soon as they checked in, Clark told police.
While McMorris told police she never left the motel, Clark said he drove McMorris and Sheldon to the homes of two relatives in the afternoon and evening. She and Sheldon returned to the motel about 9 p.m., the affidavit says; Clark thought she had become even more intoxicated.
Clark left the room about 10:30 p.m., according to the affidavit. When he returned at midnight, "Willie observed Latasha lying on her back and on top of Sheldon's head and upper shoulders.
"She was lying with her arms spread out as if she had passed out. . . . Latasha did not wake up after he shoved her off of Sheldon."
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department released recordings of two 911 calls. One came from Clark.
"Yes, I've got this baby here who looks like he can't breathe. He's (expletive) blue in the face," the call begins.
The other caller apparently was Sheldon Bartley Sr., Sheldon's father. He was not at the motel, 3525 N. Shadeland Ave.
On Wednesday, police found gin and vodka bottles and a "baggie corner" in the motel room, but the affidavit does not say whether it tested positive for an illegal drug.
Sheldon Jr.'s cause of death had not been determined. A forensic pathologist found signs of suffocation during the autopsy, the affidavit says, and police took blood from McMorris to test for alcohol content.
McMorris is being held without bond in the Marion County Jail.
In October, McMorris pleaded guilty to a lower-level felony neglect charge and avoided jail. That case stemmed from a July incident in which an officer found Sheldon and his 6-year-old sister playing in the street while McMorris was drunk.
The Department of Child Services has launched a review to find out why it was never made aware of the criminal case, a spokeswoman said.
An IMPD spokesman declined to release recordings of 911 and dispatch calls involving two police runs to McMorris' home that day in July, since they now are part of an internal investigation.
The description of McMorris in the police account is vastly different from the friend Tonya Willard remembers.
She attended the brief court hearing.
Willard said their friendship ended shortly before Sheldon's birth, but she said McMorris was a good mother then and abstained from alcohol during the pregnancy.
"She was a good person," Willard said. "They're putting her out there like she murdered that baby on purpose. Drugs and alcohol got ahold of her.
"She needs counseling, and she needs help."
Man gave child herpes, police say
By Jon Murray
February 9, 2008
An Indianapolis man sought by police has been accused of molesting a 5-year-old girl and infecting her with a sexually transmitted disease.
An arrest warrant has been issued for Jose Luis Oviedo, 30.
Prosecutors filed four counts of felony child molesting against Oviedo this week in Marion Superior Court after the girl described touching and sexual activity to investigators, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Cultures taken from the girl at St. Francis Hospital tested positive for the herpes virus, the affidavit says, and a witness in the case told police Oviedo has herpes.
The activity occurred in late January, the affidavit says. The Indianapolis Star generally does not identify the victims of sexual assault.
The girl told an interviewer that Oviedo had threatened to kill her mother if the girl told anyone, the affidavit says. Her grandmother later discovered lesions on the girl's body and became suspicious, it says.
Three of the four counts are Class A felonies, the most serious under Indiana law. Conviction on one count could bring a penalty of 20 to 50 years in prison.
Oviedo was convicted of domestic battery and battery in the late 1990s, and he has more recent drunken driving convictions, Marion Superior Court computer records show. Two domestic battery cases against him were dismissed last year.