‘Man up Rally’ puts pressure on Indiana community to speak up about murder

By Erica Morse
Publisher, Victims News Online

Originally published 8:37 a.m., November 13, 2016
Re-printed 8:50 a.m, April 28, 2020

(VNO) — It was an emotional afternoon yesterday in Michigan City, Indiana, as the family of a 17-year-old girl murdered five years ago continued to put pressure on the community – and the police – to solve her case.

Approximately 200 people showed up to support Kalvon Hawkins and his wife, Janice Hodges-Hawkins, at a community rally hosted by High Praise Outreach Ministries. However, of those 200, only two people who were actually present the night NeKeisha was killed attended today’s event.

“I appreciate the support of my friends and family, but it looks like we’re missing about 300 people”, Kalvon Hawkins said to those in attendance.

It was July 24, 2011, just four days before NeKeisha Hodges-Hawkins’ 18th birthday. After two separate fights broke out, NeKeisha and another male subject were caught in the middle of crossfire, and both were shot. The male sustained a gunshot wound to the leg, and NeKeisha died from her injuries.

“The police told me they had her case solved an hour after it happened”, Kalvon Hawkins told Victims News Online. “I’m not going to keep quiet and I’m not going to be silent anymore. They can threaten me, trump up charges to throw me in jail and silence me, but I will get back out and keep talking”.

Hawkins’ statement that police knew who killed his daughter almost immediately appears to be supported by at least one arrest in connection with this case. According to the case summary report obtained by Victims News Online, on July 25, 2011 — one day after NeKeisha was killed — 18-year-old Cameron Omar Kent was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated battery, reckless homicide, and criminal recklnesness.

However, the case summary obtained from our team shows an October 2012 plea hearing, where all charges except the criminal recklesness were dismissed. No reason was given for the dismissal of charges, but the findings were as noted below:

Court fnds the Defendant is guilty of the lesser included offense of Criminal Recklessness, as a Class D Felony, Count III, as charged in the Information. Defendant is sentenced to eighteen (18) months in the LaPorte County Jail, fully suspended and served on supervised probation. If Defendant successfully completes probation, he can petition the Court for modifcation of the felony charge to an A Misdemeanor and the State will not object. Judgment shall enter for Court costs of $166.00. As a special condition of probation, the Defendant agrees to cooperate with the on-going investigation in the shooting of NeKeisha Hodges-Hawkins.

Earlier this week, ‘Keisha’s’ father, Kalvon Hawkins, took his frustrations to video, after receiving copies of posts made on Facebook regarding his daughter’s death. The videos went viral, as Kalvon began putting pressure on the very department which claims to be working to solve his daughter’s case.

There were anywhere from 100 – 150 teenagers present at the party when NeKeisha Hodges-Hawkins was killed. According to both Kalvon Hawkins – and Michigan City Police Department’s own Police Chief, Mark Swistek, teens could be heard running past both men screaming that they knew who did it, and naming name(s). However, not a single witness – according to the MCPD – has come forward to swear out a statement to the department, giving them a solid eyewitness to the crime.

In addition to those teenagers, many parents were present as well. It is the belief of both NeKeisha’s family – and the MCPD – that the parents persuaded their children not to get involved, and not to speak up about the shooter.

Detectives Anna Painter and Jillian Ashley, who were recently assigned to the case, are asking eye-witnesses to come forward, admit they were there and give police the information they need to make an arrest:

“We’re asking for an opportunity to do this effectively”, Ashley said. “But we cannot do that without you all. So if you know anybody – anybody – anybody – send them our way”.

‘Moms on a Mission’ Founder Christine Salzer attended the rally, and was frustrated at the lack of support by those who were present the night NeKeisha was killed:

“Those children are now adults”, Salzer told VNO. “So much time has passed that – anyone who comes forward now – no one would know who that person is. There is no reason to be scared of retaliation”.

When asked if any safety or security measures were prepared to be put in place for witnesses to come forward, Michigan City Police Chief Mark Swistek said there were.

The now-infamous “Facebook posts” which sparked this week’s outrage were also addressed by the audience, and officers indicated those statements were not enough to make an arrest, because anyone can put anything on Facebook and it may not all be true.

People have already been talked to concerning what was put on Facebook”, Detective Ashley said. “But I’m telling you now, that’s not enough.

“Sometimes, people put things on Facebook that aren’t necessarily ‘accurate'” Ashley said. “When I come to them, they say, ‘I’m not coming to you with anything unless I get a deal. We don’t have authority as detectives to make deals. We don’t operate in the court system like that. We have an authority to investigate the case”.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to create a $5,000 reward to entice witnesses to talk. Hawkins says if the money has to be used as a ‘bounty’, then “so be it”.

“I don’t care anymore”, Kalvon Hawkins told VNO by phone late last night. “They ignored the hell out of me the whole time. I was blinded by depression, but not anymore. I have had enough. It needs to be solved”.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Anna Painter at (219) 873-1465 Ext. #339, or Detective Jillian Ashley at 874-3221 Ext. #1082.

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