ELKHART — The man whose body was found around noon Saturday in a parking lot at 2210 Franklin St. in Elkhart, apparently killed himself, according to Lt. Laura Koch of the Elkhart Police Department.
Questions had swirled around the cause of his death, coming about an hour after the discovery of a dead woman in the parking lot of the former American Countryside Farmers Market some three miles to the south. But Koch said early Saturday night that the man’s death was “an apparent suicide.” He was found dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Koch wouldn’t say if there is a connection between the deaths, but a later report from police said they are investigating information that indicates a possible link between the cases. The report also identified the bodies as 63-year-old Ervin K. Howard and 45-year-old Debbie McDowell of Elkhart.
According to the report, Elkhart police responded to the Franklin Street location after receiving information that a male there might have had information about the death of McDowell.
When asked whether the public should be concerned that a threat to the their safety remains, Koch responded negatively: “I would say no.”
Earlier Saturday afternoon, Lt. Travis Adamson of the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department dubbed the inquiry into the death of the woman, who was found outside the city limits, a “homicide investigation.” He provided few details on the man’s death, since Elkhart police are handling that inquiry, but like Koch, gave no reason for the public to feel threatened.
If there’s a need to send out information to the public about a looming threat, Adamson said when asked, “we will send it out.”
Sheriff’s officials received a call about a body in the old American Countryside parking lot off C.R. 26, just west of S.R. 19, around 10:50 a.m. Saturday morning. A McDowell’s body was found.
The woman’s body was visible from C.R. 26 in the cordoned-off parking lot on the east side of the American Countryside structure and her white shirt appeared to be blood-stained.
Around noon, Elkhart police and sheriff’s department officials swarmed around Poor Tony’s restaurant, now vacant, in the 2100 block of West Franklin Street. The body of Howard was visible in the lot behind the restaurant from the street and officials later covered the body with a yellow sheet.
Though officials sent out no alarm signals, the turn of events drew the attention of the public, particularly those who were in the vicinity of Poor Tony’s when police and sheriff’s officials descended on the scene. The former Poor Tony’s is located in west Elkhart about three miles north on S.R. 19 from the former American Countryside structure, which was bought in 2011 by Elkhart’s Waste-Away Group, a trash-hauling company.
“I saw the activity and was just wondering what the hell was going on,” said Christopher Cooper, who was bicycling past the Poor Tony’s building. “Pretty messed up. It’s pretty shocking.”
Amanda Govaert, who lives north of St. Vincent DePaul Cemetery off S.R. 19, was exiting her home with her boyfriend and his two kids shortly before noon when a sheriff’s department official, running down the street, told her to get back in the house. She lives on Jones Street, several blocks northwest of Poor Tony’s.
“He’s yelling at us as he’s running — ‘Ma’am, you need to get those kids back in the house,’” she said.
They remained inside 15 or 20 minutes, then left when things quieted down, figuring it’d be safer to get out of the area.