Coroner rules woman’s death a homicide, man’s death a suicide
LAPEL — The bodies of an Indianapolis man and woman missing since mid-December were found last week in a field east of Lapel, with the man’s death ruled a suicide and the woman’s a homicide.
The discovery ended weeks of worry, fear and speculation by family, friends and other people — including residents of Lapel, where the couple went to high school — about the couple’s whereabouts.
Those feelings, however, gave way to ones of sadness, according to several Lapel residents.
“I think everybody, of course, hoped for the best — hoped they just ran off,” said Stephanie Brand, who said she’s a longtime friend of René Ruiz, the mother of Heavan Henderson.
Henderson, 21, and Jeremy Danowski, 23, both of Indianapolis, had been missing since Dec. 18.
Autopsies conducted Saturday indicate Henderson was shot three times in the neck from an “intermediate range,” and her death was ruled a homicide, Madison County Coroner Marian Dunnichay said.
Danowski died of a single “contact” gunshot wound to the head, and his death was suicide, Dunnichay said.
Dunnichay said routine toxicology tests are still to be performed but won’t affect the official causes of death.
Sheriff Scott Mellinger said county law enforcement agencies had conducted several searches for the couple after their car was found abandoned in Lapel, but it was an emergency call from a man snowmobiling Thursday, Jan. 18, that led police to the location of the bodies.
“At 4:15 p.m. today 911 dispatch received a phone call from a man who had been snowmobiling south of County Road 200 South between 825 West and 700 West,” according to Mellinger. “The caller indicated he had found what appeared to be a body along the fence row approximately 250 yards south of County Road 200 South.”
Mellinger stated deputies arrived to find two bodies, which later were identified as those of the missing couple.
“From all appearances the couple could have been there since the time they were reported missing,” according to Mellinger. “There is no indication at this point that any other person might have been involved.”
Mellinger stated a handgun was found near the bodies, which were together, face down, partially covered in snow.
“The handgun found near the bodies has been identified as the one purchased by the couple just days prior to them being reported missing,” according to Mellinger. “There were two spent shells also found on the ground near the bodies. Lapel PD and Sheriff’s detectives are continuing the investigation.”
Lapel resident Amy Grant said people in town had been talking about the situation since the couple went missing and that word traveled fast when the bodies were located.
She said when she heard the news, she wasn’t surprised what had happened, because everyone knew there was a gun involved and it had been so long.
Mainly, though, she said she felt “just sad for the family.”
Brand said she and others were frustrated law enforcement hadn’t found the bodies — which were just more than a mile away from the couple’s car — sooner.
Grant, however, said she could see, given the weather conditions and remoteness of the spot they were found, how they went undetected.
“I’m not surprised they didn’t find them right away,” she said.
Lana Crosley, a lifelong Lapel resident, said her daughter, who was in choir with Henderson at Lapel High School, described Henderson as very nice, “a sweet girl.”
Crosley said this type of situation is very rare in town, and that it’s been on the top of people’s minds.
“You hear people talking about it all the time —’There’s still no word’ — talking about how awful it is not knowing where your child is,” she said.