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CHILD CUSTODY SLAYING

2 women charged in man's killing amid child custody dispute

PORTLAND, Ind. (AP) — Two Indiana women who are softball coaches at an Ohio high school face murder charges in the fatal shooting of a man that allegedly arose from a child custody dispute. Twenty-nine-year-old Esther J. Stephen and 18-year-old Shelby N. Hiestand, both from the eastern Indiana city of Portland, were charged Wednesday in the killing of 31-year-old Shea Michael Briar. The Portland man died Sunday after he was shot in the head. A probable cause affidavit alleges Stephen was angry at Briar for initiating a child custody case over a child they shared and that she and Hiestand conspired to kill Briar.

ELECTION 2020-INDIANA GOVERNOR

Indiana Gov. Holcomb keeps padding huge campaign cash lead

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has continued adding to his already huge campaign cash advantage over his potential Democratic rivals. New state campaign finance reports filed Wednesday show the Republican governor raised nearly $2 million in the last six months of 2019, leaving him with about $7.25 million in the bank for his 2020 reelection bid. The governor’s fundraising dwarfs that of the two Democratic candidates, health care business executive Woody Myers and tech business executive Josh Owens. Myers reported raising $180,000, while Owens raised $84,000. Both candidates say they are starting more aggressive fundraising.

INDIANA LEGISLATURE-SMOKING AGE

Indiana panel backs higher fines for underaged tobacco sales

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The push to toughen Indiana’s penalties on stores for selling tobacco products to underage customers is facing some questions over whether the proposed fines are too steep. Members of state Senate’s health committee voted 11-0 on Wednesday to endorse the bill that includes raising the minimum age for smoking and vaping from 18 to 21 to conform with the new federal law.  The Senate proposal would triple possible retailer fines to between $600 and $3,000 based on number of violations in a six-month period.

AP-US-COLLEGE-PRESIDENT-ARRESTED

Ex-Indiana college president charged in Wis. sex sting

STURGEON BAY, Wis. (AP) — The fired president of Franklin College in Indiana is charged with three felonies after police in Wisconsin say he contacted what he thought was a teenage boy on a dating app but was actually an undercover officer. Fifty-six-year-old Thomas Minar is charged with child enticement, use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime and exposing a child to harmful material. Prosecutors allege Minar was in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, on Jan. 6 when he started chatting with what he thought was a 15-year-old boy on Grindr. The boy actually was an undercover officer. Franklin College later fired Minar.

INDIANA UNIVERSITY-MOLD

Lawsuit against Indiana university given class action status

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — A judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit alleging an Indiana university breached its contract by provided substandard living assignments to thousands of students staying in residential halls where mold was found. Circuit Court Judge Holly Harvey's Monday ruling comes as Indiana University's residence centers Foster and McNutt are being renovated, where mold was a problem during the 2018-19 school year. Those projects made more than 2,000 beds unavailable at the residence halls forcing students to live off campus. The Herald Times reports that despite efforts to clean up the mold, university officials agreed that only a full-scale renovation of the residence centers would eliminate it.

ELECTION 2020-OVERSEAS TROOPS

Democrats differ on US-Mideast wars, with no clear exit plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic presidential field is united in lambasting President Donald Trump’s handling of America’s military presence in the Middle East. But the candidates differ on how to do it better. Elizabeth Warren has pledged to “get our combat troops out” while Joe Biden has predicted that without U.S. combat troops on the ground, extremist forces like the Islamic State group will make a dangerous comeback. Trump himself campaigns on ending what he calls “endless wars” in the Middle East but instead is sending even more troops there. The Democrats also decry long wars but offer no clear-cut exit plan.

AP-US-RETIRING-AT-102

Man who is Indiana's oldest state employee retiring at 102

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A 102-year-old man who is Indiana's oldest state employee is retiring after nearly six decades on the job, saying that “your body tells you when it's time to go.” Bob Vollmer plans to report to work for the last time Feb. 6 as a surveyor for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. He joined the DNR in 1962. The World War II veteran still travels Indiana collecting technical field data and confirming boundary lines for DNR-managed properties, but he tells WXIN-TV that his body is telling him it's time to retire. The southern Indiana resident plans to spend his retirement reading and farming.

ELECTION 2020-THE LATEST

The Latest: Democratic debate ends with talk of hope for '20

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Six Democratic presidential candidates have wrapped up their final debate before primary voting begins with talk of hope, defeating President Donald Trump and bringing a divided nation back together. Former Vice President Joe Biden said “Character is on the ballot” in 2020. Sen. Bernie Sanders said “this is the moment when we have got to think big,” while Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she has hope in America's future despite its challenges. Sen. Amy Klobuchar says she'll be a president who finds “common ground instead of scorched earth," while Pete Buttigieg says Democrats have a shot to "send Trumpism into the dustbin of history.”