Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton sat down with The Brazil Times Friday to update the public on some of the remaining major open cases the department is actively investigating.
* Monday, Nov. 26: An unknown caller made a "prank bomb threat" at Northview High School, causing an evacuation of students and staff while law enforcement personnel searched the building for an explosive device.
Although the caller apparently sounded like a female, the department is not limiting the investigation only to female suspects.
"We are still investigating phone records and working with information that we have to help solve this case," Heaton said. "Cell phone tracking makes some aspects of the investigation difficult."
Heaton explained that investigators have to work with each individual service provider, which have inconsistent legal policies about how law enforcement can access their records.
"We are able to do it, but it just takes a little while longer," he said.
* Friday, Nov. 23: The Poland branch of the First Financial Bank was robbed of an undetermined amount of cash by a white male suspect in his mid-to-late 30s, approximately six-feet tall, wearing what appeared to be similar sunglasses, baggy cargo pants, a Carhart style jacket and a baseball cap.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation became involved in the Clay County Sheriff's Department's case when they determined the possibility that the suspect could also be involved in another bank robbery in Darlington, Ind., on Oct. 31.
With the FBI's assistance, Heaton said CCSD Detective Jeff Maynard and an Indiana State Police detective in Darlington are working together to interview people and locate potential evidence collected during a recent search warrant served in Hendrix County to solve this case.
* Thursday, Oct. 18: Several shots were fired at Van Buren Elementary from inside a black van traveling northbound on Harmony Road (County Road 200 East) at the school. A custodian was injured by flying glass when one of the shots pierced both glass cafeteria door windows on the west side of the building and lodged into the ceiling.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a $5,000 reward for information about the shooting incident shortly after two witnesses came forward with information about a black van matching the same description was seen traveling southbound on Harmony Road seen in the area on Oct. 17.The van's side door was open and some of the people inside were sitting with their feet hanging outside of the vehicle.
"This case is a puzzle," Heaton said of the countless man-hours spent on the ongoing case that has run out of leads. "Investigators have exhausted every means to track down information in this case."
Concerned local citizens provided more than 3,000 tips to the department.
"The community's response was great. People realized the serious nature of this incident and reported information, even if they weren't sure if it was important," Heaton said. "We never know which tip will lead us down the path to the right information and an arrest. We still encourage people to call us. We know there were two individuals involved in this case, and it is very difficult for two people to remain quiet."
Although the shooting took place during high volume of traffic that happens during the Parke County Covered Bridge Festival, which officials believe made it difficult to find the suspect's vehicle right away, Heaton said they remain hopeful it will turn up.
"We have followed up on numerous tips about a possible location for the van," he said. "About a week after the shooting the Indiana State Police dive team investigated a local strip pit in an attempt to find it. This case is open, and will remain open until we find the suspects."
* Thursday, Aug. 30: A motion detector alerted authorities when someone cut a hole in the back wall of the Clay City Dollar General Store to gain entry and rob the building. Officers from the Jasonville Police Dept. and the Knox County Sheriff's Dept. participating in state-wide multi-jurisdictional drug interdiction project sponsored by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute along Interstate-70 that night responded to the scene with local law enforcement.
A Knox County K-9 unit released their dog into the building to secure the scene before officers entered to retrieve the surveillance footage from the store camera.
Security footage showed a male suspect wearing what appeared to be some type of cast on his right wrist, between 5-foot-6-inches and 6-feet tall, wearing blue jeans, T-shirt and a ball cap.
Heaton said investigators are currently comparing fingerprints from the Clay City robbery with another Dollar General robbery in another county.
* Thursday, June 8: A locked door foiled a robbery attempt by a white male wearing a dark-colored ski mask who tried to forcibly open the front door of the Center Point branch of Riddell National Bank. The suspect did not show a weapon during the incident. When tellers wouldn't open the door, the suspect left the scene in a late model, white, four-door compact vehicle.
"Rural banks are obvious targets, but after being robbed previously in the 1990s the Center Point bank didn't become a victim," Heaton said about the updated modern security system in place at the bank. "We are comparing the video surveillance footage and information about the robbery with other area bank robberies."
Heaton said that is where case involvement with the FBI is really is helpful. Although the agency may not be actively involved in a case, but they keep track of bank robberies to find matching information.
"Officers check open cases all the time to see if they missed something during the initial investigation," he said. "Plus there is always new technology that opens the possibility for new information to be discovered that will help break case."
To report information about any of these cases, contact the Clay County Sheriff's Department at 446-2535.