Surveillance video clips released in Piatak Meats murder
BY CARRIE NAPOLEON Post-Tribune correspondent February 24, 2014 12:14PM
"It's been pure hell," Diane Cash, the grandmother of murder victem Andrew Fugate, 25, said of the months that have passed without an arrest since Fugate's death in November. | Carrie Napoleon/For the Post-Tribune
Police seek help
Anyone with information about the murder of Andrew Fugate, whose body was found Nov. 4 at Piatak Meats in Merrillville, is asked to call the Merrillville Police Department’s anonymous tip hotline at 219-769-3531 ext. 545 or the ATF hotline at 800-283-4867 (ATF-GUNS).
Updated: February 24, 2014 8:29PM
MERRILLVILLE — Police have released surveillance video and are seeking the public’s help in identifying two suspects in the Piatak Meats homicide.
Robert Wiley, chief of detectives with the Merrillville Police Department, and Don Foley, commander of the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force, Tuesday released the images in a press conference.
They also announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those involved in the Nov. 4 murder of 25-year-old Andrew Fugate inside the business. Half that award will come from the Merrillville Police Department and half from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.
Wiley said police have pieced together video surveillance clips from at least a dozen businesses but have been unable to positively identify the suspects or their vehicle. The clearest of the clips from five of the businesses were compiled for the media. Wiley said police have done what they can with the video and are hoping the public recognizes the vehicle in the pictures. They are describing it as a white or light-colored General Motors SUV, possibly a Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon or Cadillac Escalade, produced in the late 1990s or early 2000s.
Fugate was killed early Nov. 4; he had arrived about 4:30 a.m. to work at Piatak Meats, 6200 Broadway in Merrillville. There was no forced entry at the businesses.
Wiley said police believe Fugate knew his attackers and let them in to the businesses through the employee door. The door locks automatically. A key must be used to gain access from outside. That door was locked when the next employee arrived to work at 7:30 a.m.
Fugate was found in the walk-in cooler. He was shot three times in the head. Several cases were knocked over inside the business, but they were on an unstable rack so it is unclear if that is related to the crime, he said.
Wiley said police cannot disclose any possible motive at this time, though “we have some theories.”
There are no suspects at this time though several persons of interest have captured police attention.
“The tips we have received we are still working on. I can’t say if they are valid or not. Every tip we receive is taken seriously,” Wiley said. “I believe this crime was personal in nature. I believe this was a personal crime.”
Police have been able to capture the SUV on surveillance video heading south on Broadway from about 48th Street to 61st Avenue, when it turned west, going behind the Crossroads shopping center. A camera across the street from Piatak Meats shows the vehicle backing up to the employee entrance. Two shadowy figures can be seen exiting the vehicle.
Wiley said the camera is motion-activated and shut off shortly after the vehicle arrived. About 10 minutes later the camera reactivates and captures two figures entering the vehicle and leaving northbound on Broadway.
Surveillance cameras were able to capture the vehicle as it then headed northbound on Broadway from the 6200 block to the 4800 block. Wiley said the vehicle was traveling at an undetermined high rate of speed as it headed toward 47th Street in Gary.
Wiley said police hope the video will jar someone’s memory or encourage someone who has suspicions and no emotional ties to come forward.
“This is a horrible crime against an innocent man… Help us solve the case. Help us bring this murderer to justice,” Wiley said.
Fugate’s family attended the press conference.
“It’s been pure hell,” Diane Cash, Fugate’s maternal grandmother, said in describing what the family has endured since her grandson’s death. Cash was the lone family member to speak. Others, including his mother and father, Steve and Janet Fugate, attended but declined to comment.
Cash said her grandson may have known his attackers but he also was a helpful young man who would have opened the door of the family business to a stranger in need of help. By all accounts, Fugate had no enemies. Family members do not understand why the crime happened.
“We just want our questions answered. Why? Why has this happened?” Cash said, fighting her emotions.