Valpo man accused in stepdaughter’s death could go free on bond
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent May 29, 2012 5:56PM
Updated: July 3, 2012 12:46PM
VALPARAISO — Although murder suspects are rarely given bail under Indiana law, Judge William Alexa granted it to the Valparaiso man accused of strangling his stepdaughter in February.
After a second day of hearings and testimony, Allen R. Warnes, 55, had his bail set at $100,000 cash. But as of Tuesday evening, Warnes was still in Porter County Jail.
State law allows bail for murder under circumstances like possible self-defense or cause for doubt, but not “if the proof is self-evident or the presumption strong.”
Alexa made the decision after almost five hours of testimony on Tuesday by Warnes’ wife, his surviving stepdaughter and multiple Valparaiso Police Department detectives.
The hearing began on May 17, and defense attorney Scott King began raising doubts about whether police had the right man in Warnes instead of the 22-year-old boyfriend of 22-year-old victim Shawnna Forgus. King also raised doubt about the police investigation.
Witnesses Rebecca Warnes, Forgus’ mother, and Margaret A. Zell reversed what they previously told police, saying officers and detectives coerced them.
Much of Tuesday’s testimony followed the same theme, beginning with cross examination of Rebecca Warnes. She repeatedly said she didn’t recall telling police about her husband and Forgus fighting Feb. 20, the night before the murder, or her husband being out of their bed. She also said she didn’t go upstairs to check on her daughter when her husband told her to in the morning because she’s afraid of heights.
She denied she told others to check on Forgus because she was afraid what she might find.
Forgus’ half sister, a minor who the Post-Tribune is not identifying, testified Forgus sneaked her boyfriend into the home before, which caused problems in the family. She said she checked on Forgus and felt wetness in the dark but “I thought it was puke.”
The half sister also said she told police about fights between Forgus and Warnes because “I felt very pressured,” but she couldn’t say why she, Zell and her mother all told the same story while separated.
Detective Jeff Balon of the Valparaiso Police Department said Warnes became a suspect after police went through a list of acquaintances. With the boyfriend, they found no motive, and his cell phone showed he was away from the house when the murder happened, Balon said.