Police catch suspect in killing at inn

A man's body was found at a vacant Goshen hotel Thursday night.

Posted on Oct. 21, 2011 at 1:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — A homeless man will be charged with murder after Thursday’s discovery of a business owner’s body at the old Goshen Inn.

Kirankumar C. Patel, formerly of the 25000 block of Country Way, the longtime owner of the former Goshen Inn & Conference Center, 1375 Lincolnway East, died at his business from multiple blunt force trauma to the head, according to Elkhart County Coroner John White. White ruled the death a homicide.

The 51-year-old Patel was found dead at 1:05 p.m. Thursday inside the closed-down business.

When police got the call to check on his welfare and went to the hotel they found Patel unresponsive and not breathing, according to Goshen police.

Police arrested John T. Hawley, 54, on preliminary charges of murder and burglary, with the help of Kokomo police. Ed Windbigler, the Elkhart County prosecutor’s chief investigator, said Hawley left Goshen Thursday and went to Kokomo, where Kokomo police found the homeless man and interviewed him. He had been known to travel back and forth between Goshen and Kokomo, Windbigler said.

Hawley had been an employee of Patel’s, according to police.

Harvey Hansen of Goshen worked for Patel at the Goshen Inn from 1997 until about six months ago, when the business closed for renovation.

The hotel “had some age to it” and took extra effort to keep up, but Patel was a good boss, said Hansen, who worked in banquets and meetings and covered managerial duties at the front desk when he was needed.

“He was firm but he was fair,” he said of Patel.

Often, when Patel hired workers to renovate the property, Patel let them stay in rooms and paid them, Hansen said.

“It was somewhat of a trade-off,” Hansen said.

Patel filed for bankruptcy in August. He was working on the hotel property, renovating rooms and tearing out the swimming pool in hopes of adding some sort of water park, according to Goshen City officials.

Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman said Friday afternoon that the local landmark has “gone through some transitions, and none of them have been uphill, though I guess there was some hope that the next one would be better than the last one.”

Another homicide so close to the death of James Miller is startling, but Kauffman said, “We can’t control whether somebody hires somebody from another city and comes in and they kill him and then go back to the other city.”

He said the timing of Patel’s death, 11 days after the slaying of Miller, is frustrating for the community and the police, but said, “I think it’s a very odd blip that happened. The reason it’s drawn so much attention is because things like this don’t happen in Goshen, and we’re still the same Goshen that we were three weeks ago.”

Kauffman, who’s running for re-election, said police have few loose ends to tie up in the investigation of Patel’s murder and they are proceeding with the investigation into Miller’s death.

Details of Patel’s death haven’t been released. Prosecutors filed an affidavit of probable cause and a magistrate found probable cause to hold Hawley for Patel’s murder, but a magistrate sealed the affidavit.

Patel’s funeral is today at noon at Yoder-Culp Funeral Home.

Hansen spoke with Patel a few days ago and had planned to stop by the hotel this week to look at the renovations.

Hansen, who is semi-retired and works in commercial real estate, said he had considered working for Patel again in the future. Now he won’t have the chance.

“I guess we never know, in the life that we’re living, just what’s in store for us,” he said.

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