Broken Heart: The Elkhart Police Saga Part 3
ELKHART, Ind. - ABC57’s exclusive series Broken Heart: The Elkhart Police Saga continues.
View Parts 1 and 2 here.
Recall, Elkhart Police Lt. Carl Conway came under the microscope in our first two installments after accusations he lied multiple times to get a murder confession that resulted in the exoneration of a man who spent 16 years behind bars. We then uncovered Conway's disciplinary record.
Now, we have new information on two more officers accused of misconduct.
Back in July those two officers, husband and wife Nathan and Taryn Lanzen, were recommended for termination.
They’re two of five firing recommendations Elkhart Police Chief Kris Seymore has made since he took over as chief of police in the last year.
We obtained each of the Lanzens’ personnel files through public records requests.
Taryn and Nathan Lanzen were hired in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
Both rose through the ranks, but in June 2020, a complaint triggered an unusual set of circumstances that ultimately led to the pair of officers facing termination.
According to their personnel files, Taryn Lanzen responded to a complaint from then 58-year-old Elkhart resident Thad Werno.
The Lanzens offered to help Werno with home repairs because they owned Eagle Eye Home Solutions, LLC., a company they used to flip homes. But Werno became infatuated with Taryn Lanzen, that's according to text messages uncovered in the course of Elkhart Police's internal investigation. Werno expressed interest in marrying her, despite her current marriage to her husband.
Over the course of the next few months, Taryn Lanzen exchanged thousands of text messages with Werno and visited him up to five times a week, sometimes while on-duty for up to an hour. A Professional Standards interview found Lanzen did not turn on her department issued body camera for these visits, nor did she notify dispatch she was on a break.
During this time, the Lanzens told Werno the three of them could live together and all retire to Tennessee.
But things quickly took a turn.
A couple months later in August 2020, Taryn Lanzen gained complete financial control of Werno’s accounts. Here’s a list of some of what that entailed:
- Taryn Lanzen became Werno’s power of attorney over his medical decisions and his banking accounts.
- She became the executor of his estate and was written into his will.
- She obtained large sums of Werno’s money for a car and business investments.
- The Lanzens also had the deed for werno’s home transferred to them.
After learning about this, Elkhart Police Chief Kris Seymore recommended both Lanzens be fired, but the city’s Police Merit Commission didn’t and instead a deal was approved.
The Lanzens agreed to suspensions. Taryn Lanzen was given a 60-day suspension without pay and 180 days probation. Nathan Nanzen got handed a 30-day suspension and was demoted from Sergeant to Corporal.
Both Lanzens have now served their suspensions and are back on the force.
We reached out to Elkhart's City Council and the Elkhart Board of Public Safety for an explanation on why the Lanzens weren't fired. We were directed to the City's Legal Department, which sent us the following statement:
The administration fully supported Chief Seymore’s decision to bring charges against Taryn and Nathan Lanzen and seek their termination from the Elkhart Police Department. However, neither the Chief, nor the Mayor, nor any member of the administration has the unilateral authority to fire a police officer for misconduct. Only the Police Merit Commission possesses that authority. The Police Merit Commission is comprised of citizen-volunteers from the community. Although the Commission found at the disciplinary hearing that the charges and allegations of misconduct were true, the Commission determined that the appropriate measure of discipline was something less than termination from the police department. Although we were disappointed by the Commission’s decision, their decision does not lessen our gratitude for their willingness to accept the responsibility for difficult task placed before them. And while we may disagree with the Commission’s decision, we respect their willingness to step forward and make it.
We also reached out to the Elkhart County Prosecutor's Office for an explanation on why it didn't bring criminal charges. In a statement we received from Elkhart County Prosecutor Viciki Becker, she says, "The Lanzen case did not have sufficient evidence to demonstrate a crime, but rather a civil cause of action, which is already being pursued."
Taryn Lanzen’s file also showed she was issued a three-day suspension in 2017 for "immoral conduct."
We asked Elkhart Police for more information about that incident, but we have yet to hear back.
On our next installment of Broken Heart: The Elkhart Police Saga, we have new information about another Elkhart Police officer, but this time, he's under criminal investigation. Tune in Monday, October 4 to see the newly obtained documents we have with what he is accused of.