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Friday, April 19
The Indiana Daily Student

Newspaper seeks 911 tapes in sisters’ deaths

2 siblings die in home 6 days apart, 1 death ruled homicide

Dead Sisters

RICHMOND, Ind. – The local newspaper and authorities are in a dispute over whether the tape of a 911 emergency call and other records involving two teenage sisters found dead six days apart in their family’s home should be made available to the public.\nWayne County Prosecutor Mike Shipman said the records were part of the investigation into the deaths of Erin Stanley, 19, and her 18-year-old sister, Kelly, in Centerville. For that reason, he has refused to release the tape and the Centerville police log of calls.\nWayne County Attorney Ron Cross defended Shipman and denied the Palladium-Item’s request to obtain a tape of the 911 call involving Erin Stanley’s death.\n“My opinion is that if the prosecutor wants it he can take it as part of the investigation,” Cross told the newspaper.\nThe newspaper also sought to obtain the tape of the 911 call in Kelly’s death. But Cross said there is no tape because of equipment failure in the dispatch office.\nThe Associated Press left telephone messages for Cross and Shipman at their offices seeking comment. Shipman said in a news release that he would make the 911 recording public after investigators had interviewed the women’s mother, who placed the call, and he determined its release would not compromise the case.\nPalladium-Item Executive Editor Mickey Johnson said the newspaper was not asking for anything extraordinary or trying to jeopardize the investigation.\n“We’re simply asking the prosecutor to comply with public records access laws and provide the citizens of Centerville and Wayne County at least a glimpse into the events of the past two weeks,” Johnson said. “What exists in the absence of this basic information is an environment of speculation and rumor. That’s hardly in the best interest of the community.”\nThe Wayne County coroner’s office ruled the Sept. 1 death of Erin Stanley a homicide, but no other details were released.\nPolice officers found Kelly Stanley’s body Sept. 7 after being called to the home, state police said. Findings of an autopsy were inconclusive, and state police said officials were waiting for toxicology and other test results before determining a cause of death.\nThe newspaper asked the state’s public access counselor Wednesday for an opinion on whether the records should be released. The access counselor helps to mediate disputes but has no enforcement power.\nThe officials violated state law by refusing to release the records, said Stephen Key, general counsel of the newspaper industry trade group Hoosier State Press Association.\n“By definition, an investigative record is a record created in the course of the investigation,” Key told the newspaper. “Our opinion is that the investigation doesn’t begin until the officer gets on the scene.”\nState police 1st Sgt. David Bursten, an agency spokesman, said a 911 call is evidence and not a public record.\n“This is consistent with how we deal with all our cases in all 92 counties,” he said.

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