Opinion: families of murder victims deserve better from your department

By Erica Morse
Publisher, Victims News Online

Originally published 1:43 p.m., November 13, 2016
Re-printed 9:00 a.m, April 28, 2020

Editor’s note: the following is an editorial. All opinions are that of the author.

(VNO) — This is not an easy one to write. The Michigan City, Indiana, Police Department needs a wake-up call, and I’m going to be the one to give it to them. Why? Because if Kalvon Hawkins can take on the entire community – and department – because it’s the right thing to do for his daughter, then I can write this one little article.

Watching the video from yesterday’s rally was frustrating. Interviewing those who attended it was frustrating. For many believe there is a major disconnect taking place between the PD sworn to uphold the law and the residents who feel their cries for help are being ignored. Kalvon Hawkins is not the first loved one of a homicide victim to have that conversation with me. I’ve heard time and time again from families of the missing and murdered in Michigan City, Indiana, that the police just don’t care.

Whether that is true or not, I don’t know. I cannot seem to get anyone from the MCPD on the phone to discuss these cases with me, which only strengthens the families’ claims. But it is the perception; and perception is reality.

Yesterday, I watched as my hometown Chief of Police, Mark Swistek, appeared uncomfortable and disconnected from the audience in front of him. While they wanted answers about NeKeisha Hodges-Hawkins, he wanted to talk about the nationwide crime epidemic and what’s happening in Chicago. He wanted to talk about the two homicide cases that have been solved this year, instead of the half a dozen unsolved cases whose victims have yet to receive justice.

And he got what I believe is a personal “dig” in while making that statement. David Morris. Why, Chief Swistek, in front of that community, did you only mention the name of David Morris? The only convicted killer whose name you said is the husband of a missing/murdered woman from that town. A man who fought your department for answers for years, and a man whom your department continually insinuated was a suspect, but never outright named him. A man who brought you multiple suspects, motives for his wife’s death, and nothing ever came to fruition. Please tell me that wasn’t a subtle threat to those who are trying to find answers in Keisha’s case; because it wouldn’t be the first time a family claimed your department was intimidating them.

I’m going to ask you one more time, Chief Swistek: why has the former boss of David Morris’ murdered wife not been arrested for 22 counts of fraud and forgery, when the Indiana State Auto Dealer’s Association’s investigation clearly found he was at fault? If that arrest had taken place – and this car-running/forged title business to and from Indianapolis – had been nipped in the bud sooner, Candi Brown Morris may still be alive, and so might Hufracio Arteaga, the man David Morris killed. Yes, I said it. This is not the hometown newspaper, and I do not cut and paste police reports out of fear.

Why has RJ Winter’s family not heard from you? In a December 2015 article by our team, RJ’s loved ones insisted people in the community know what happened, and they are seeking answers.

Damarius ‘Heavy D’ Kelly. Found frozen inside an abandoned house, after a group of young men decided to show him ‘who was boss’. I conducted an interview within days of his disappearance that generated a potentially critical piece of information in that case; and, after leaving numerous messages, received no response. I still have that information. Do you want it or not?

There is a disconnect taking place between the community and the PD. I don’t know why, but I can tell you what people on the streets are saying. Donnie Webb is out, and we’re back to the old days. That’s what people are saying, Chief Swistek. Are you aware of that? Do you know what the perception is of your department right now? I’m trying to tell you; that way, the next time you get up in front of a crowd who wants to start a conversation, you stay on-task. Stop talking about crime numbers from Chicago. Stop patting yourself on the back for catching a murderer who may have finally had enough and decided vigilante justice was the only way to go.

Start returning phone calls. Start engaging more with the community. And start holding those accountable who kill in your city – my city – their city. Believe it or not, Mark, I want you to succeed. I want you to be thought of as a good leader. But never has the heroin problem been so out of control until now, and never has the community been this divided until now.

We do not want to go back to the days of riots at Harborside or Pine Street. This is avoidable, if you give the victims’ families the time and attention they deserve, and start clearing these cases. During a recent trip home, I saw it with my own eyes: the addicts passed out in running cars, the unprecedented increase in police calls, the number of residents who have moved across the county or state line(s), just to “get out of Michigan City”. It broke my heart, and I want nothing more than to help you change it. That town – that beautiful City by the Lake – is going down on your watch, Mark. No one wants that for you, your department, or our beloved MC. Listen to them, Chief. They’re telling you what they need. Just give it to them.

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