The Porter County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is moving to dismiss the
murder charge against a Valparaiso man accused of beating his step-daughter
to death in February.
On Thursday, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Frost filed a motion to
dismiss the charge of murder filed against Allen Warnes, in connection with
the death on Feb. 21 of his step-daughter, Shawnna Forgus.
That motion is short and to the point. It notes that the murder charge was
based on the statements which Forgus’ mother, Forgus’ sister, and a family
friend provided to investigators with the Valparaiso Police Department.
But that, at a bond hearing on May 15 and May 29, all three “completely
recanted” those statements.
“No physical or forensic evidence has developed to counter the recantation
of the witnesses,” Frost stated in his motion. “Recent attempts by the
Valparaiso Police Department to gain the cooperation of the witnesses has
Accordingly, Frost concluded, the “State of Indiana is forced to seek a
dismissal in this cause.”
Forgus was found dead in her bedroom around 9:14 a.m. Feb. 21, with trauma
to her head and neck and showing signs of having been strangled.
In the early days of the investigation, detectives focused their efforts on
an acquaintance of Forgus’ called “Chris,” because Forgus’ mother said that
she saw him leaving in his car earlier that morning. What Forgus’ mother and
sister and the family friend didn’t tell detectives—not until Feb. 24—is
that Forgus and Warnes had argued on the night of Feb. 20.
According to the probable cause affidavit filed by VPD Det. Brian Thurman,
three days after her daughter was found dead, Forgus’ mother added this
information to her initial statement: that Forgus and Warnes had a “verbal
argument” in the living room which involved “some aggressive name-calling.”
Forgus’ mother also added this piece of information: that, after going to
bed, she was awakened “by a verbal argument” and realized at the time that
Warnes was not in bed with her,” Thurman stated in his affidavit.
Forgus’ sister, for her part—after initially telling investigators that she
hadn’t heard any disturbance during the early morning hours of Feb.
21—eventually said that she heard “a heated verbal argument” between Forgus
and a man whose voice she identified as Warnes’, Thurman stated.
Finally, a family friend said that, after hearing “two or three screams”
during the early morning hours—and the sound of “shoving and bumping into
things in Shawnna’s room”—she saw a man “rushing out of Forgus’ room.” The
family friend described the man as having a similar build to Warnes’ and a
beard and long hair, Thurman stated.
Both Forgus’ sister and the family friend told investigators that they had
originally withheld this information because they were fearful of Warnes,
Thurman stated in his affidavit.
All three, however, since recanted those later statements made to
investigators, on which the murder charge was based.