CODE Name Columbus FBI Operative
Katlyn "Katie" Collman
CROTHERSVILLE, Indiana (AP) -- Hundreds of mourners paid their final respects Sunday to a 10-year-old girl who police believe was abducted and slain so she would not reveal methamphetamine activity in her neighborhood. More than 600 people attended funeral services for Katlyn "Katie" Collman at Crothersville Community School, where she was a fourth-grader. The Rev. Jon Pearce told the crowd Collman's death should serve as "a wake-up call," urging residents to form neighborhood watches and confront suspicious activity.
"If Katie hadn't been walking by a meth lab, she would be alive today," he said. "We can't forget her. We need to remember that she was a sweet little girl." Collman's body was found January 30 in a creek after she had been abducted, authorities said, to intimidate her from revealing that methamphetamine was being made in an apartment near her home. Her family planned to raise money to build a playground in her memory on the site of the methamphetamine operation linked to her death. "It's going to be up to us now to see to it that Katie's death was not in vain, and we have enough people here that are wanting to see this happen," said Terry Gray, a spokesman for the girl's family and chief of the community's volunteer fire department. Charles James Hickman, 20, was arrested Wednesday and charged with murder in Collman's slaying. Prosecutors allege Hickman tied the girl's hands behind her back. Hickman first told investigators the girl tried to run away and fell into the creek, but also said he might have "bumped" her into the water. Timothy C. O'Sullivan II, 22, and a 17-year-old boy were charged Friday with false informing, but their connections to the crimes were unclear. The girl's death was the first homicide in 25 years in the town of about 1,600 people some 40 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.
Police Were Notified Twice
The uncle of 10-year-old Katlyn "Katie" Collman called police to complain about suspected methamphetamine production at a Crothersville, Ind., apartment complex on Dec. 30 -- less than a month before her death was linked to drug activity she reportedly witnessed at the same address, police records show. The uncle, Jerry Neace, said in an interview this week that he called 911 on his cell phone after driving by the Penn Villa apartments and smelling a chemical odor so strong it made his throat burn. Records from the Jackson County Sheriff's Department show the call was received at 10:59 p.m., and the first of four police officers arrived at the scene at 11:20 p.m. Terry Gray, a reserve deputy with the sheriff's department, said no arrests were made that night because he and the other three officers couldn't smell anything unusual. In the interview, Neace said he is frustrated police couldn't do more to root out drug activity in response to his call.
"They didn't follow up with it and get it stopped," he said of the Sheriff's Department. "If they'd got it stopped, then Katie would still be here." A second visit was made to the apartments on Jan. 5, records show, based on a similar complaint about meth. The complaint came to the Sheriff's Department, which forwarded it to the Crothersville Police Department. Crothersville police investigated but, like the sheriff's office, did not turn up enough evidence to search the apartments or make an arrest. There were thus two instances in which police were alerted to the possibility of the illegal activity that they now believe led to Katie's death. Jackson County Sheriff Jerry Hounshel said his department takes the region's meth problem "very seriously" and does everything it can to follow up on drug complaints. But it's not uncommon for meth producers to continue to evade police after multiple complaints, he said, and some drug labs take up to a year of investigative work to close. Katie was abducted Jan. 25 while returning from an errand several blocks from her home. A 20-year-old Crothersville man, Charles Hickman, has been charged with murder and criminal confinement in the case, and two others have been accused of making false statements to police. According to a police affidavit, Hickman told authorities that Katie was abducted because she stumbled upon methamphetamine activity at the apartment complex.
With her hands tied behind her back, she later drowned in a creek north of Seymour, police have said. Her body was found five days after she disappeared. The Crothersville Police Department, the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, the Indiana State Police and the FBI continue to investigate the murder, and authorities have said additional arrests are possible. Hundreds of leads have been investigated so far, said Sgt. Jerry Goodin, a spokesman for the state police. He declined to comment on the drug complaint from Katie's uncle and said police are "not going to give up anything we have to tip anybody off." The second complaint regarding Penn Villa was initially described by Crothersville police as taking place a week before Katie's abduction, around Jan. 18. But police said Wednesday that the call actually was made Jan. 5 by Janice Hoene, a Seymour real estate broker who is co-owner of the apartment complex. Hoene, who bought the apartments with her husband 14 months ago, has said she received a tip about meth production in the apartment that Katie apparently visited. She said it was the first time she had been aware that drug activity might have been taking place there. Katie's father, Johnathon Neace, said he is close to his brother Jerry but wasn't familiar with details of his Dec. 30 complaint. He said in an interview that he knew at least one person at Penn Villa, but declined to give that person's name. At least half of the eight-unit complex was vacant at the time of Katie's abduction. Johnathon Neace said Katie wouldn't have known what she was witnessing, assuming she did stumble upon drug activity on her way home the afternoon of Jan. 25. "She didn't have any idea about what was going on over there," Neace said of his daughter, "and none of our friends or family had anything to do with drugs." Jerry Neace has said the family's understanding is that Katie went to the apartment to let residents there know that their dog had been killed on nearby railroad tracks.
Johnathon Neace said he and his wife, Angela, continue to receive daily cards, letters and flowers from well-wishers. The family is focusing its energy on a community effort to buy the Penn Villa apartments, he said. They would be demolished and the site turned into a playground in Katie's memory."The best thing we can do is fight back," Neace said. "We're not going to tolerate drug activity in our community. There's a lot of hatred and anger in me, and my daughter knows I'm not a violent person. I decided to take all my anger and turn it into something good."
KATIE COLLMAN FUND
The family of Katie Collman has decided to raise money in order to buy the apartment complex where the methamphetamine lab was located, demolish it, and build a park in memory of their daughter Katie Collman. Currently, I am in the process of establishing a non-profit bank account where additional donations can be sent to. A portion of the proceeds from Code Name Columbus FBI Operative will be donated to the USO and the Katie Collman Fund.