St. John woman shot to death at Gary casino had been reported missing earlier
Post-Tribune staff report March 29, 2013 9:18AM
Updated: May 1, 2013 3:17PM
GARY — A 76-year-old St. John woman died of a gunshot wound early Friday at the Majestic Star Casino.
According to a press release from the Lake County Coroner’s office, the coroner was called to the Majestic Star parking garage at 3:20 a.m. where they found Mary Austgen, 76, of the 9100 block of Maple Drive in St. John.
Austgen was shot in the lower left torso area and was pronounced dead at 4:10 a.m., according to the press release.
The death has been ruled a homicide.
Austgen had been reported missing by her son, Thomas, at 4:30 p.m. Thursday from the family-owned business at Austgen Electric, 801 E. Main St., Griffith, police Detective Lt. Matt Argadine said. She was last seen at work.
“As of right now it’s unclear how she got out there,” Argadine said, referring to the casino parking garage where Austgen’s body was found. “We are reviewing evidence right now.”
Griffith police detectives are working with Gary homicide investigators on the case.
Neighbors describe Mary Austgen as a quiet, hard-working woman who kept to herself. They say she was not the type of person they would expect to be at a Gary casino in the early morning hours.
Mark Wopinski said he and Austgen were neighbors since 1997, when his family moved into the Edgewood home. According to property records, Austgen bought her house the year before.
“It wouldn’t be her character to go to the casino,” Wopinski said, though like most of his neighbors he admits he did not really know a great deal about the woman who lived in the raised ranch house across the street.
“She kept to herself. She was a good person as far as I knew,” he said. For a time, Wopinski said, his family would see her at their church, St. John the Evangelist in St. John, but they had not seen her there recently.
Wopinski said he learned of Austgen’s death around 10 a.m. Friday, when he was disturbed by a loud alarm. When he looked outside his home he saw two Lake County Sheriff’s Department vehicles, a St. John squad car and what appeared to be several unmarked vehicle.
It was unclear if the police where responding to the alarm or if they themselves set it off attempting to investigate the crime. Wopinski said he did not know what was going on until his daughter found information about Austgen’s death online.
“It’s tragic,” he said.
Another neighbor, who wished to remain unidentified, said she also did not know the woman who lived a couple doors away other than to say hello and goodbye. She said when she first learned Austgen was found at a casino, though, she was surprised. She said Austgen did not seem to be the type of woman who would go to a casino, or at least one who would be there by herself at 3 a.m.
“We used to see her come home from work; it seemed like she was always working,” she said.