Murder charge against Valpo man dropped
By James. D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent October 11, 2012 2:56PM
Updated: November 13, 2012 6:28AM
VALPARAISO — The Porter County Prosecutor’s Office has dropped the murder charge against a Valparaiso man accused of killing his stepdaughter.
Chief deputy prosecuting attorney Matthew Frost filed a motion to dismiss the charge against Allen R. Warnes, 56, on Thursday, 11 days before Warnes was to go to trial.
Although Porter Superior Court Judge William Alexa granted Warnes a $100,000 surety bail bond on May 29, Warnes has remained in Porter County Jail since Feb. 27, when the county charged him with the death of 22-year-old Shawna Forgus.
Frost stated in the motion to dismiss that during testimony at Warnes’ May 15 and May 29 bond hearings, witnesses Rebecca Warnes, Kimberly Coates and Margaret Zell recanted statements they had given police during the investigation.
“No physical or forensic evidence has developed to counter the recantation of the witnesses,” the motion states. “Recent attempts by the Valparaiso Police Department to gain the cooperation of the witnesses have been futile.”
According to the motion, “The State of Indiana is forced to seek a dismissal in this cause.”
Warnes’ attorney, Scott King, wasn’t surprised when the prosecutor faxed the dismissal to him.
“After the petition for bail, if other evidence didn’t develop, it was clear they didn’t have a good case,” King said.
King had brought up the possibility of Forgus’ boyfriend as a suspect during the bond hearing, although police had ruled him out for lack of motive and because his cell phone showed he wasn’t at the Courtney Street residence early Feb. 21 when Forgus was beaten and strangled.
“My client maintained from the first day I met him that he just didn’t do this,” and Warnes also had no motive and nothing in his past to suggest he would commit murder, King said. “I hope he can put his life back together.”
Court documents stated that Warnes and Forgus had fought the night before her death about her not going to classes, although they were canceled for Presidents Day.
Witnesses said in February they heard other noises from Forgus’ room early in the morning and that no dogs had barked, which they would have if a stranger had been there.
Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel said Indiana has no statute of limitation on murder, and because of the type of filing his office made, Warnes could still face murder charges.
“We did not dismiss with prejudice,” Gensel said.