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Appellate court upholds grandfather's 55-year child molesting sentence

INDIANAPOLIS — A Michigan City grandfather will spend the rest of his life in prison after the Court of Appeals of Indiana upheld his 55-year sentence for molesting multiple children.

David Edward Allen is incarcerated at the Indiana State Prison with an earliest possible release date of Feb. 26, 2064.

“Allen acknowledges that his offenses are ‘depraved’ and ‘vile’ and that he should be punished,” the appellate court writes in its order, issued Friday. “... However, Allen claims that the sentence is ‘excessive’ and will basically have the effect of a life sentence.”

But the judges affirmed all 55 years, noting that even the minimum sentence would have required the now-73-year-old to serve almost 17 behind bars, still likely a life sentence.

Allen was charged in La Porte Superior Court 1 in 2018 with 12 felony counts of child molesting that carried a collective maximum prison sentence of 562 years. He pleaded guilty to two of those counts later that year.

In April 2019, Judge Michael Bergerson sentenced Allen to 45 years on the Class A felony count of child molesting – intercourse or deviate sex with a victim less than 14; and 10 years on the Level 4 felony count of child molesting – fondling or touching a child under 14.

The judge ordered the sentences to be served consecutively.

Each count to which Allen pleaded guilty applied to a different victim, although he was originally charged with molesting four girls and one boy – ages 5-14 – between September 2000 and November 2016.

But in his appeal, Allen claimed 55 years in lockup was inappropriate given the nature of the offenses and his character.

The Court of Appeals disagreed on both counts.

“Our review of Allen’s offenses indicates that he took advantage of his relationship with young, vulnerable children in order to fulfill his own despicable desires,” the court writes.

“Allen violated his position of trust with (Victim A) and (Victim B). Even though (Victim A) ‘cried out,’ Allen continued to molest her for almost a year. Likewise, he molested (Victim B) for almost eight years. … We find that the nature of the offenses does not warrant a reduction in his sentence.

“Allen fares no better when we consider his character. Allen proclaims to be a ‘changed’ man, and that he has ‘extreme remorse and shame.’ ... He also claims that he will be ‘extraordinarily vulnerable’ in prison. ... His self-serving argument is not well taken.”

The judges note that Allen never apologized to his victims and even denied their allegations during his sentencing hearing.

They also take exception to his claim that he lacks significant criminal history, despite three convictions for operating while intoxicated.

“Throughout Allen’s brief, he claims his excessive drinking caused him to not remember the molestations or specific acts,” the court writes. “This does not reflect favorably on his character. He also asserts that his ‘biography is not the worst of the worst justifying no chance at freedom.’ ... We disagree.

“Allen molested multiple victims … over many years. We agree with the trial court’s observation that Allen does not seem to understand or appreciate the ‘incalculable misery that he has caused his victims’.”

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Home prices continue to rise in Michigan City

MICHIGAN CITY — Prices of homes in Michigan City continue to soar, and more and more buyers seem to be shifting their focus from pricey lakefront homes to the inner city.

In 2018, the average price for a single-family home in Michigan City (excluding the lakefront) surpassed the $100,000 mark for the first time ever, according to Mike Conner of @properties, who provided research on sales to the Economic Development Corporation Michigan City in early 2019.

And the interior of the city – away from the lake – is on pace to surpass gross sales on the lakefront for the first time in history.

While 2018 was a significant year – with the average home selling for $100,841, 2019 saw the price growth trend continue.

“This past year shattered that record by 15 percent,” Conner said, with the average home price at $114,980.

To put that number in perspective, just five years ago, in 2015, the average home sold for under $80,000; and in 2013, the average price was under $70,000.

But Conner believes the bigger story, for both homeowners and real estate professionals, is that the market for sales away from the lakefront is closing in on shoreline numbers.

“Historically, the inner city of Michigan City has lagged behind its lakefront cousin in investment dollars and percent of sales in the area,” Conner said.

In 2019, Area 522, all of the city except the beachfront, saw total sales of $42 million, an increase of $17 million, while the lakefront market has seemed to “plateau” at $50 million to $60 million per year, he said.

“It won’t be long before total sales in the interior of Michigan City beats the lakefront in gross sales. This is an unprecedented moment for investors and homeowners,” said the long-time area realtor and investor.

“The interior of Michigan City has done only half the volume of the lakefront up until now. But I’m seeing a trend that this area will surpass the lakefront in gross sales.

“This is great for the overall health of a community. Things are better for everyone if we all benefit and grow together.”

Conner believes it has to do with how people see the city.

“I believe it has everything to do with the way Michigan City is now perceived in the marketplace,” he said. “It has the beach and the Double Track is coming, and it offers the most affordability of all the housing markets in Northwest Indiana.”

He’s not the only local realtor to feel that way.

After the EDCMC report was released, Annette McIntyre of Century 21 Affiliated said she’s never seen anything like the current market.

“This is the best I’ve ever seen in Michigan City,” she said. “Investors are homing in on this area and there’s been a nice upward swing in home prices. It hasn’t been this great around here in a long time.”

She said a lot of homeowners who had wanted to sell are now doing so.

“They were holding on to their properties, or using them as rentals, because there used to be a time you could not sell in some of those areas.

“Now those properties are selling in just days.”

Cari Adams, with Beach Girl Properties, part of Merrion & Associates Realtors, has some simple advice for buyers in Michigan City.

“You need to see the property that day and make an offer over the asking price because if you don’t, somebody else will. Multiple offers are the name of the game.”

When the EDCMC released its 2018 figures last year, Adams said realtors were already seeing the change in the market.

“It used to be a buyers’ market in Michigan City, but now, as soon as something goes on the market, multiple offers are coming in,” she said.

“But there is still the affordability factor, so it’s a great opportunity for sellers and buyers.”

Conner agrees about the affordability.

“Michigan City is the best bargain. It is now viewed as a value area that can provide a great quality of life. Where else can a wonderful home be bought for $100,000 and you pay $1,000 a year in taxes, plus have access to all of the amenities in this city?

“It’s been on the rise for a while, but dramatically so in the last three years.”

He expects both trends to continue, with home prices continuing to rise and inner city catching up to the lakefront in sales.

“I don’t think it will be long before the numbers will reverse,” Conner said. “The geographical area of the interior is much larger and the opportunities much more vast – and overlooked for many years.

“There’s not a lot of new development on the lakefront, just trading – buying and selling – but no new inventory,” he said.

“I think we’re about two years away before non-lakefront sales exceed lakefront totals. That will be an unprecedented event in Michigan City history.”

Conner said from preliminary numbers, it appears about half of the buyers of inner-city property are homeowners, and the other half are investors.”

And the sales are all over the city, from the core (within three or four blocks of Franklin Street) to the east side to the west side, he said.

“It’s great to see people returning to these neighborhoods and investing,” he said. “They’re no longer afraid of investing on the east and west sides.”

He sees the trends continuing in 2020.

“Homes in Michigan City are still very affordable, and barring some nationwide issue, I seeing 2020 being as good or better than 2019,” Conner said.

“Great things are in store for Michigan City and its residents this year.”

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Michigan City, La Porte mayors focus is on jobs, youth, development

La PORTE — A month into their first terms, Michigan City and La Porte’s top elected officials are refining their visions for their communities – views that have more in common than not.

Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry and La Porte Mayor Tom Dermody laid out their priorities and fielded questions from the audience during a Mayor Roundtable event Tuesday at the Holiday Inn Express in La Porte. The Lakeshore Society of Human Resource Management hosted the talk, which brought together the local leaders, who both assumed office five weeks ago.

Dermody – a former state lawmaker who captured more than 80 percent of the vote to win his seat last fall – said his main focus right now is on cleaning up La Porte: repairing roadways, ratcheting up code enforcement and fighting drug trafficking in neighborhoods.

The mayor said in just his first week in office, code enforcers issued 112 citations, a figure that has now climbed to around 250.

“We had situations where neighbors...were living around drug homes, and were ignored for a couple of years,” Dermody said. “On day one, we knocked on doors and people were arrested.”

Dermody is also committed to developing a “gold star workforce” in La Porte, which will entice businesses to want to invest in the city, he said.

Parry – a former Michigan City councilman who became the city’s first Republican mayor in 44 years after unseating Ron Meer in November – is also focused on building the labor pool within his community, he said.

He intends to hold job summits to address gaps in the city’s job skills and wants to work with the school district’s career center to encourage more students to consider trade jobs.

“We’re not back-fitting the trades like we need to, because they are the backbone of America,” Parry said.

“Too many young people don’t see that working with your hands for a living is a very noble occupation. You work hard, but you make a good living and you produce things.”

Rebuilding Michigan City’s sense of identity – which Parry feels has diminished over the past 60 years as industry has moved out of the city – is another priority.

“For a long time, Michigan City was so hungry for anything good to happen, (it) would grasp at anything,” Parry said. “I’m not that type of person. I want quality.”

Both officials expressed an interest in doing something with their communities’ dormant malls – Michigan City’s Marquette Mall and La Porte’s Maple Lane Mall.

Parry’s administration intends to track down the Marquette Mall owner – using code enforcement, if necessary – to find out how the two can work together to revitalize the property, he said. The mayor supports leaving the structure intact, as malls are still popular in parts of the country, he added.

Parry would also like to redevelop the former St. Anthony’s Hospital building downtown, possibly into a veterans’ clinic, he said.

“It’s big enough, we could even have a veterans’ home,” he said. “The closest veterans home is in Lafayette. We need those types of facilities here.”

Like Parry, Dermody is confident La Porte’s economic development team will breathe new life into Maple Lane.

“(It’s) the first thing people see when they drive into our community,” Dermody said. “We need to clean up the parking lot. We’ve had broken windows and stuff there. My hope is that, sooner than later, there is going to be a great opportunity to develop that property.”

The two are also looking to get local youth more engaged with their communities.

The La Porte mayor said he is hoping to announce a youth council shortly, which would give young people a chance to get more involved with local government. He has also talked to high school officials to see if the city can assign volunteer work to students temporarily suspended from classes.

“Breaking up concrete or raking up some leaves never hurt anybody,” Dermody said. “It will make them feel a part of turning something around, as well.”

Parry, meanwhile, would like to revamp Michigan City’s Promise Scholarship, offering a more substantial benefit and opening applications to all city residents, not just those who own their homes, he said.

It is one of several ways the mayor would like to retain the city’s youth, rather than have them move away when they become adults.

“We got to keep our kids home,” he said. “That’s our future.”