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Surveillance video released in murder of Piatak Meats worker

Anyone with information about the murder of Andrew Fugate, whose body was found Nov. 4 at Piatak Meats in Merrillville, is asked to call the Merrillville Police Department’s anonymous tip hotline at (219) 769-3531 ext. 545 or the ATF hotline at (800) 283-4867.

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Updated: February 25, 2014 12:14AM

Merrillville Police released surveillance video and are seeking help in identifying two suspects in last year’s homicide at Piatak Meats.

Robert Wiley, chief of detectives for the Merrillville Police Department, and Don Foley, commander of the Northwest Indiana Major Crimes Task Force, released the images at a news conference on Monday.

They also announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those involved in the Nov. 4 murder of 25-year-old Andrew Fugate at the business. Half will come from the Merrillville Police Department and half from the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Wiley said police have pieced together surveillance video from at least a dozen businesses but haven’t identified the suspects or their vehicle. The clearest clips from five businesses were compiled. Wiley said police hope someone recognizes the vehicle in the surveillance video: a white or light-color General Motors SUV, possibly a Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon or Cadillac Escalade, produced in the late 1990s or early 2000s.

Fugate arrived about 4:30 a.m. at Piatak Meats, 6200 Broadway in Merrillville. There was no forced entry.

Wiley said police think Fugate knew his attackers and let them in through the employee door. The door locks automatically, and it was locked when the next employee arrived at 7:30 a.m.

Fugate was found in the walk-in cooler, shot three times in the head. Several cases were knocked over, but they were on an unstable rack so it is unclear if that is related to the crime, he said.

Wiley said police cannot disclose any possible motive at this time, though “we have some theories.”

There are no suspects, though several persons of interest have captured police attention.

“The tips we have received we are still working on. I can’t say if they are valid or not. Every tip we receive is taken seriously,” Wiley said. “I believe this was a personal crime.”

The surveillance video shows the SUV heading south on Broadway from about 48th Street to 61st Avenue, when it turned west, behind the Crossroads shopping center. A camera across the street from Piatak Meats shows the vehicle backing up to the employee entrance. Two shadowy figures can be seen exiting the vehicle.

Wiley said the motion-activated camera shut off shortly after the vehicle arrived. About 10 minutes later, the camera reactivated and captured two figures entering the vehicle and leaving northbound on Broadway.

Surveillance cameras recorded the vehicle northbound on Broadway, from the 6200 block to the 4800 block. Wiley said the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed toward 47th Street in Gary.

Wiley said police hope the video will jar someone’s memory or encourage someone with suspicions and no emotional ties to come forward.

“This is a horrible crime against an innocent man. . . . Help us solve the case. Help us bring this murderer to justice,” Wiley said.

Fugate’s family attended the news conference.

“It’s been pure hell,” said Diane Cash, Fugate’s maternal grandmother, describing what the family has endured since her grandson’s death. Cash was the lone family member to speak. Others, including his mother and father, Steve and Janet Fugate, attended but did not want to talk.

Cash said her grandson may have known his attackers, but he was a helpful young man who would have opened the door to a stranger in need of help. By all accounts, Fugate had no enemies.

“We just want our questions answered,” Cash said. “Why? Why has this happened?”

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the Merrillville Police Department’s anonymous tip hotline at (219) 769-3531 ext. 545 or the ATF hotline at (800) 283-4867.

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