STEUBEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – A death investigation quickly turned into a homicide investigation on Lake James Wednesday.
Just after 12:30 p.m., deputies with the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department were sent to a home at 395 Lake James Lane 200E on the lower basin of Lake James to conduct a death investigation after reports of an unresponsive female inside the home were called in.
According to a neighbor, friends went looking for Wilma Ball, 82, of Angola after she did not show up to a planned get-together.
Max Robison was one of Ball’s neighbors and knew her and her late husband Ron Ball for years. He said on Wednesday two women showed up on his doorstep looking for Ball because she missed her scheduled golf date with them.
“They were wondering if we saw Wilma that morning, I said ‘No, we did not’,” Robison said. “I said, ‘I think she is playing golf’, and they responded saying ‘she was supposed to have been playing golf with us and she didn’t show up.’ That concerned them. They were looking for someone with a key. We do have a key, so I took the key over there and opened the door for them and asked them to go in. I didn’t go in. They went in and found her and I called 9-1-1.”
When deputies arrived, they discovered that the woman was dead of a stab wound. The sheriff’s department told WANE 15 “circumstances around the body and the way it was positioned” led investigators to believe it was a suspicious death.
Ball is a former home economics teacher, a mother with two children and two stepchildren. Neighbors described her as loving, caring, active and athletic.
One neighbor who knew Ball well told WANE 15’s Briana Brownlee that she has been noticing that the press refers to Ball as “elderly”. The neighbor did not want to give her name, but said “elderly” is not the best way to describe Ball, because “she was 82 going on 60.”
According to neighbors, despite being over the age of 80, Ball still enjoyed bike riding, jogging, playing golf, bridge, and pickle ball.
Neighbors also stressed that the area is very isolated and pretty safe and they are extremely shocked at this “unusual” horrific act.
“We are just wondering who did it and why. Wilma didn’t have any enemy in the world. It’s just not possible she had anybody that disliked her. That’s why it’s a shock to all of us.” Robison said.
“Everybody loved Wilma. She’s going to be missed,” said Ball’s neighbor Sheryl Ahlersmeyer. “I hope they find whoever did this. It’s scary to me for it to happen this close.”
Like many neighbors, Ahlersmeyer said the last time she saw Ball alive was Sunday when the neighborhood had a fish fry.
Just after 12:30 p.m., on Wednesday, deputies with the Steuben County Sheriff’s Department were sent to a home at 395 Lake James Lane 200E on the lower basin of Lake James to conduct a death investigation after reports of an unresponsive female inside the home was called in.
Indiana State Police were then called to assist.
An autopsy was performed on Ball at the Northeast Indiana Forensic Center in Fort Wayne. Her death has been ruled a homicide by the Steuben County Coroner’s Office.
Chief Deputy Sheriff Mike Meeks said that Steuben County does not see very many homicides, the most recent one he could think of being in 2016. However, signs at the scene indicated to investigators that the death was suspicious.
“When you go to a call of a unresponsive person, the first thing initially and most often is a medical issue,” Meeks said. “But when they got there they noticed some things that were odd, based on that. The circumstances of the scene, the position of the body and I believe there was some blood evidence that just warranted further scrutiny.”
At this time, the investigation is still in the preliminary stages and ongoing. Investigators have not said whether the woman was targeted, and no suspect information was released.
“Fortunately, we don’t get very many [homicides],” Meeks said. “I usually like to tell people that while we’re not immune to violent crime in this county, it does happen. it’s just not, fortunately, frequent. So when something like this does happen in our area, it causes people to be concerned and rightfully so. But it’s just something that we, unfortunately, deal with like every other area in Indiana and in the country.”
That same neighbor said that at least one law enforcement vehicle has been on the scene since her body was found. The Angola Fire Department was also on scene on Thursday assisting in searches of the beach and nearby water.
The Steuben County EMS, the Steuben County Coroner’s Office and the Steuben County Prosecutor’s Office also assisted.