2016-05-24 / Front Page

Rock-Throwing Incidents Along U.S. 231 Land Area Men In Jail

Staff Report

Two Freedom men were formally charged Wednesday, May 18 following criminal investigations conducted by the Owen County Sheriff’s Department.

According to the probable cause affidavits filed in the cases, on May 11th, Owen County Dispatch began receiving complaints of cars being struck by large rocks while travelling on U.S. 231 north of Carp. During the subsequent days, dispatch continued to receive similar complaints, with all of the incidents occurring during the afternoon hours and against northbound traffic. Police also learned that officers in Putnam County were investigating similar reports.

Armed with this information, Owen County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) personnel began patrolling U.S. 231 in unmarked vehicles in an effort to hopefully catch the perpetrator or perpetrators. On May 17th, deputies caught the break they had been waiting for. While travelling northbound on U.S. 231, Sheriff Sam Hobbs was patrolling in his personal vehicle when his vehicle was struck by a rock thrown from the driver of a southbound vehicle. Sheriff Hobbs advised his deputies of the incident and called out a description of the suspects’ vehicle. Deputies intercepted and ultimately stopped the suspect at the junction of State Road 67 and U.S. 231.

Deputies detained the driver and the passenger, identified as 23-year-old Travis Joe Lester and 25-year-old Jonathan Joseph Koeling and transported the two men to the Owen County Security Center for formal interviews. OCSD Deputy Nathan Martin conducted the interviews and after advising the two individuals of their rights, they both admitted to their respective roles in the rock throwing incidents. The two suspects advised that they had thrown between fifty and one hundred rocks at northbound traffic during the last week. They advised that they both worked in Greencastle and collected large stones from various locations which they used to damage the oncoming traffic.

Lester and Koeling were arrested following their interviews and booked into the Owen County Jail on multiple criminal recklessness and criminal mischief charges.

According to Owen County Prosecutor Don VanDerMoere, Lester and Koeling were each charged formally by his office with nineteen counts of criminal recklessness (level 6 felonies) and nineteen counts of criminal mischief (B-misdemeanors). The prosecutor advised that both men appeared for their initial hearings on Wednesday afternoon where their bonds were set according to the court’s bond schedule. Prosecutor VanDer- Moere issued a reminder that criminal charges are only allegations and these defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The Owen County Sheriff’s Department advised that this is an ongoing investigation and asks that if you are a victim or have information regarding these incidents that you contact the OCSD by calling 812-829-4874 to make a report.

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