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Bloomington Herald-Times

June 10, 2011

IU student Lauren Spierer: IU, McRobbie issue statement
By Mike Leonard
June 9, 2011

Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie issued a statement on the disappearance of student Lauren Spierer late Thursday afternoon.

It reads:

"The entire Indiana University community is deeply concerned over the disappearance of Lauren Spierer. We will continue to cooperate in every way possible with the Bloomington police and others who are conducting an intensive investigation and search for Lauren.

"I have met with the parents, as has Provost Karen Hanson, and we both have pledged to them that IU will do all that we can to support them and to help find out what has happened to Lauren. The Dean of Students, Pete Goldsmith, will continue to serve as the university's main contact with the family but we have deployed other university resources to this effort, as well.

"University police, facilities staff, campus ROTC and many other university employees have participated in the effort to find Lauren. We will continue to assist the family and the authorities in any way that we can."

Goldsmith said the university has reached out to faculty and staff and encouraged them, if they feel distressed, to make use of the Counseling and Psychological Services office at the IU Health Center.

"We also understand that this is a community issue," Goldsmith said. "It affects more than the family and Lauren's friends. We're trying our best to assist in every way we can."

In response to a question, the dean of students said he's well aware that hundreds of families will be visiting Bloomington in the coming weeks as orientation for the 2011-12 school year takes place. "I always do a session with parents and I intend to talk about this very directly," he said.

"It's a tragic event but we believe that Bloomington is a safe community. I'll talk about the programs we have on personal safety and focus on how Bloomington can be a safe place. If they think about it, even if they kept their kids at home, bad things can happen. There are awareness issues and strategies that everyone can practice no matter where they are," Goldsmith said.

IU student Lauren Spierer not involved in altercation night of disappearance
Spierer's parents offering $100K reward for information that leads to her return
By Abby Tonsing
June 9, 2011, last update: 6/10 @ 1:14 am

An altercation at Smallwood apartments involving a friend of Lauren Spierer in the hours before the Indiana University student went missing June 3 did not involve Spierer, police said Thursday.

Bloomington police Lt. Bill Parker released no further details of the incident, except to say: "Lauren was not involved in any altercation."

One of the friends she was last seen with was, however.

Bloomington attorney and former Monroe County prosecutor Carl Salzmann said Thursday he is representing Corey Rossman, who said he was injured in an altercation when he and Spierer returned to her apartment building before she went missing in the early morning hours. Rossman was with Spierer at Kilroy's Sports bar on North Walnut Street, after which the two walked to the downtown Smallwood complex where she lives. Salzmann said his client, Rossman, an IU student, does not recall the altercation.

"All of our information, including video and interviews indicates that Lauren was not involved in any altercation. So, I kind of want to make that clear," Parker said Thursday.

Police do not have suspects in her disappearance at this point, Parker said. There are "persons of interest" in the case, but Parker would not provide names, elaborate on how many people are associated with this case or give the number of polygraph tests police have administered.

Street cameras between the Smallwood and the apartments she visited at 11th and Morton streets did capture additional footage of the 20-year-old student. This footage is "basically just her presence" going through those camera fields," Parker said. She is with someone else in this video "making their way" to the apartment, Parker said.

"Basically, the videos do show her going toward the other apartment, but there's not video directly on that apartment," he said. "So, that's the last video we have."

Spierer is with "somebody else" in this video, he said, and they are making their way to the other apartment building she visited.

Several hard drives, computers and CDs were seized from Smallwood Plaza Tuesday evening. Police have plans to serve other search warrants in their investigation, Parker said.

Police used video surveillance to confirm earlier in the week Spierer, 20, was at Kilroy's Sports bar on North Walnut Street.

Video from Smallwood shows Spierer and an acquaintance went to the complex on North College Avenue about 2:40 a.m. Friday, June 3, but not to her own apartment in a brief, 10-minute visit, police reported.

Police are not releasing any of the security footage they have obtained.

Robert Spierer, Lauren's father, asked private landowners in the area to check their barns, sheds and garages. Bloomington police can be contacted for assistance in these searches of private properties, he said.

Bloomington police have received assistance from the Indiana State Police, Indiana University police, Monroe County Sheriff's Office,

the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children "Team Adam" missing child rapid response team, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals in the weeklong search for Spierer.

Thursday, a dive team from the Monroe County Sheriff's combed the waters of Lake Monroe at Fairfax in the search for Spierer.

The dive team followed a "specific" tip provided anonymously to police, Parker said.

Rewards offered, funds for search compiled

Robert Spierer confirmed the family's offer of a $100,000 reward for information leading to the return of their daughter.

Bloomington attorney Ken Nunn is pledging his own $25,000 "for the apprehension and conviction of the people responsible" in Spierer's disappearance.

Nunn said that he's convinced someone knows what happen to Spierer. "If that person would flip and tell, then that's what this $25,000 is about," he said.

On Wednesday, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay announced he would provide a $10,000 reward for information that solves the case of the missing student.

The owners of Smallwood Plaza, John and Kara Jacobs, established the "Help Find Lauren Fund" at Old National Bank with $10,000 on Thursday. The public can donate to this fund by visiting any Old National Bank branch, according to Ernie Reno, a spokesman for Smallwood. By Thursday afternoon, that fund had grown to an estimated $20,000, Reno said.

Who to call with information

Anyone with information about Spierer's disappearance is encouraged to call the Bloomington Police Department at 812-339-4477. All tips given to this line may be given anonymously.

Anyone with information may also call the "America's Most Wanted" tip line at 800-CRIMETV.

Lunch for Lauren Friday

Volunteer search organizers and members of the IU Hillel Center are asking the public to participate in a "Lunch for Lauren" at noon on Friday.

The general public is asked to take time during their lunch hour and search surrounding work places or personal residences for Lauren Spierer.

"If everybody in the city took 15 minutes, we could cover the whole city in 15 minutes," said volunteer Don Cranfill.

IU student Lauren Spierer search: Checking tips, rumors
By Bob Zaltsberg
June 9, 2011, last update: 6/9 @ 3:02 pm

Monroe County Coroner Nicole Meyer said today no bodies have been found in the Twin Lakes area off Ind. 45 west or anywhere else in Monroe County.

She was asked about that in response to a "tip" received by the newspaper that Lauren Spierer's body was found in that area early this afternoon.

It's one of many rumors the H-T staff has checked on that been unfounded.

Earlier this week a reporter and photographer were dispatched to West 11th Street near Bender Lumber on a rumor that clothing had been found there. That was a false lead.

Also reported Monday was that a body was found in Griffy Lake. Not true.

We checked a tip that a body was found in a car in the parking lot attached to Scotty's. Again, not true.

We're still checking on a report that a homeless man heard a woman scream about 4:35 a.m. Friday at a location just west of where Spierer was last seen. One of our reporters today walked, with the man, along the route he said he took early Friday morning. He also has told police what he heard.

Our plan is to note these "tips" and "rumors" on our site after we have a chance to check them out.

IU student Lauren Spierer case: Bloomington police have no suspects but persons of interest
Spierer's parents offering $100K reward for information that leads to her return
By Abby Tonsing
June 9, 2011, last update: 6/9 @ 3:48 pm

Bloomington police did not release details about an alleged altercation reported to have happened at the Smallwood Plaza apartment complex in the hours before Indiana University student Lauren Spierer went missing early Friday morning.

At a Thursday press briefing, Bloomington police Lt. Bill Parker did confirm, "Lauren was not involved in any altercation."

Street cameras between the Smallwood apartments and the apartments she visited at 11th and Morton streets did capture additional footage of the 20-year-old student, Parker said. This footage is "basically just her presence going through the camera field," Parker said. She is with someone else in this video "making their way" to the apartment, Parker said.

Police are not releasing any of the security footage they have obtained, the names of the "persons of interest" associated with this case or the number of polygraph tests they have already conducted.

Police do not have suspects at this point, Parker said Thursday morning.

They do have plans to serve other search warrants in their investigation, Parker said.

Spierer's father, Robert, confirmed the family's offer of a $100,000 reward for information leading to the return of their daughter. He asked private landowners in the area to check their barns, sheds and garages. Bloomington police can be contacted for assistance in these searches of private properties, he said.

Bloomington attorney Ken Nunn is pledging his own $25,000 toward the "for the apprehension and conviction of the people responsible" in Spierer's disappearance.

Nunn said that he's convinced someone knows what happen to Spierer. "If that person would flip and tell, then that's what this $25,000 is about," he said.

Anyone with information about Spierer's disappearance is encouraged to call the Bloomington Police Department at 339-4477. All tips given to this line may be given anonymously. Callers will be asked to provide their names, and can chose to provide that information.

Anyone with information may also call the "America's Most Wanted" tip line at 800-CRIMETV.

This story will be updated.

Indiana's urban soil may contain lead
By Rod Spaw
June 10, 2011

Even novice gardeners understand that the quality of soil has a lot to do with the quality of the harvest. Good garden soil needs the correct mix of nutrients, and free or inexpensive tests are available to identify what may be lacking in garden plots.

However, gardeners should be mindful of more than the amount of nitrogen or phosphorus their soil contains. In urban areas, they also should be aware of the potential for lead in the soil they are using to grow edible plants.

However, if laboratory tests indicate the presence of lead, that doesn't mean the end of gardening prospects. Raised beds filled with clean dirt often is all that is required to protect edible plants (and gardeners) from contact with suspect soil.

Organic gardening expert Michael Simmons addresses urban contaminants in the "grow organic" classes he teaches each fall through the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department's People's University.

He said most people are aware of lead contamination and its likely sources -- old, flaking lead paint on buildings and busy roadways in the days when gasoline contained lead as an fuel additive.

Shelia Evans, community health education program manager for IU Health Bloomington Hospital and a certified lead inspector, said she doesn't recommend people garden if they live in a home that has been covered with lead paint, which was banned in 1977, especially if there are young children in the home. Children under the age of 6 are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning, which can cause severe health problems, including damage to the brain and central nervous system.

The danger, according to experts, is not as much from the plants themselves, as it is the soil stirred up by gardening activity or dirt that gets on the surface of the plants. For that reason, even growing flowers in lead-contaminated soil can led to unwanted exposure.

"Most lead poisoning occurs from dust," said Evans. "Anything we inhale or ingest eventually ends up in our blood system."

Evans has tested only two garden plots in the seven years she has been doing lead inspections in Bloomington. Neither tested at levels high enough to be of concern.

Gabe Filipelli, of the Indiana University-Purdue University Center for Urban Health, and his research team have tested thousands of central Indiana soil samples for lead.

Filipelli said natural levels of lead in soil measures about 10-30 parts per million, while lead levels in urban soil often are found at 10 to 20 times that amount.

Much of his research involves Indianapolis, where Filipelli said lead levels follow a "bullseye pattern" -- very high concentrations in the city core and lesser concentrations as you move away from the core.

He said areas of high-density, older frame houses near heavily traveled roadways are good candidates for elevated lead levels in soil. According to Filipelli, arge industrial processes don't need to be nearby to find high levels of lead in soil, which can be spread long distances by the wind.

Filipelli and Simmons said there are some simple steps urban gardeners can take to reduce the risk of lead exposure.

"You need to separate plants from the contaminated soil," Filipelli said, who recommends action if tests show lead present at 200 parts per million or higher.

Simmons and Filipelli said a raised garden bed, with a barrier between the old soil and the clean soil, is a good remedy. They also recommend mulching around the base of the bed to prevent any tainted soil from being splashed onto the plants or clean dirt during watering. Filipelli said eight inches of clean soil and manure in a raised bed is sufficient to prevent exposure.

Getting your soil tested

Tests for lead in soil from private laboratories are relatively inexpensive, around $25, according to several sources. Testing for PCBs is more expensive. John Langley, deputy director of the Bloomington City Utilities Department, said a soil test for PCBs to federal EPA standards likely would cost a property owner $100-140.

Here are two Internet sites that provide information about soil testing laboratories:

Purdue University -- http://www.ag.purdue.edu/agry/extension/Pages/soil-testing-labs.aspx

National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service -- https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/soil-lab.html

If you would like a free lead inspection of your home or just want more information, contact community health manager Shelia Evans at 353-5767.

Safe Urban Garden Initiative

Gabriel Filippelli, of the Indiana University-Purdue University Center for Urban Health, will test soil samples from Bloomington for lead as part of his ongoing research.

Here is what you will need to collect soil samples:

Ziploc bags (1 quart or less)

Permanent marker

Trowel or scoop

Take five samples in each of three areas of your property. Here's how:

Identify three areas either where your garden beds are now or where you would like to plant (site 1).

Identify one site in the front yard or near the street (site 2).

Identify one site near your house, preferably below the dripline of your gutter (site 3).

At each site, use the trowel or scoop to scrape up soil down to a depth of approximately five inches.

Put each soil sample in a Ziploc bag and seal it. Don't bother to remove grass, sticks or rocks.

Label each bag with a permanent marker. Start with the street address and zip code. Also label each bag as "street," "dripline" and "garden." Additionally, mark the garden bags in some way that makes sense to you, such as "northwest corner," "green beans" or something similiar.

Put all sealed sample bags inside another bag, such as a 1 gallon Ziploc bag or a plastic grocery bag.

Place the samples in a mailing container and address to: Gabriel Filippelli, Department of Earth Sciences, Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis, 723 W. Michigan St., Indianapolis, IN 46202

Once the samples have been analyzed for lead by Filippelli's research team, the results will be returned to you, along with a recommendation table focused on your garden's soil.

Legacy of Bloomington's PCB past may be hiding in soil
By Rod Spaw
June 10, 2011, last update: 6/9 @ 6:19 pm

Lead is not the only potential soil contaminant that Bloomington gardeners might want to keep in mind.

Given the city's long history with polychlorinated biphenynls, a now-banned substance that is persistent in the environment, experts say it is always best to test before gardening if there is any suspicion that PCBs may be present.

Local officials say the greatest potential for PCB contamination exists along streams near known waste sites or on properties that received sludge from the city's Winston Thomas Waste Water Treatment Plant in the 1960s and 1970s.

Sludge from the plant was distributed to the public as a soil additive before it was discovered that PCBs were reaching the plant from the old Westinghouse Electric Corportation electrical capacitor manufacturing plant. PCB oil was used as a fluid in capacitors. The substance was banned by the federal government in 1979 due to public health concerns.

John Langley, deputy director of the Bloomington Utilities Department, said the city did not keep records of who received sludge or what was done with it, but a list of 140 properties was compiled in the mid-1970s based on information received from the public.

PCB sampling of 28 of those properties from 1988 to 1990 turned up only two sites with levels high enough to warrant cleanup. Langley said anyone who thinks their property may have received sludge from the plant can call him at 349-3656 to see if their address is listed.

Experts say plants generally do not absorb PCBs, but gardeners may be exposed to the chemical by working in contaminated dirt or through contact with dirt on the plant.

Ron Hites, associate professor of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs, said PCBs are not water soluable and tend to cling to the organic material in the soil.

Vegetables that are grown in contact with the soil -- such as cucumbers or pumpkins -- or root crops such as potatoes would create the most chance for exposure.

Local gardening expert Michael Simmons said he would advise people to avoid gardening in areas where tests show the presence of PCBs in the soil.