Suspect arrested, charged in crash that killed woman leaving bible study

Alan Tarchala (Photo date: January 2019)

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.—A suspect in the January 26 crash that killed a woman who had just left bible study with her daughter was arrested in Portage on May 2, according to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor's Office. 

Alan Tarchala, 33, is facing charges including causing death when operating a motor vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance in the blood, causing serious bodily injury when operating a vehicle with a schedule I or II substance in the body, possession of methamphetamine, and causing death when operating a motor vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance in the blood.

Tarchala being held at the Porter County Jail until he can be transported to the St. Joseph County Jail.

On January 26, around 10:17 a.m., officers responded to a crash in the area of Bremen Highway and Petro Drive. At the scene, police found a Jeep and a Chevy Spark on the east side of Bremen Hwy. in the northbound lane with crash damage, according to the probable cause affidavit.

An officer spoke with two females in the Spark. The driver, Mary Amiel, told police that she was traveling northbound when the Jeep, that was traveling southbound, lost control, entered her lane and  hit her head on, court documents said.

Mary Amiel and her passenger and mother, Sherry Amiel, 60, were taken to Memorial Hospital where Sherry was pronounced deceased.

Mary said she and her mother had just left bible study and were on their way to the gym at the time of the crash.

Read more: South Bend woman talks about car crash that killed her mother

Mary suffered serious injuries and required surgery.

According to the probable cause affidavit, the Jeep had three occupants. A female had indicated she was driving the Jeep but based on the positions of the seats, investigators believed the female to be the front seat passenger.

A male passenger in the Jeep told police that “AJ” was the driver. “AJ” was later identified as Alan Tarchala, according to court documents.

A witness reported to police that he watched a white male in a light gray hoodie throw something into a ditch near the crash, which was later discovered to be a box with what officers believed to be a meth pipe and a bag with a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine, court documents said.

The description of the man who threw the items matched Tarchala’s description, according to police.

The female passenger and Tarchala were both transported to the hospital.

Tarchala gave the name “Travis Ryan Hout” to police at the scene and a hospital worker, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Court documents said that the female passenger said “AJ” was the driver and that he was her boyfriend who had a suspended license and warrant.

Tarchala told police that he was driving the Jeep south on 331, lost control and the Jeep started sliding. He also told police he had used methamphetamine during the prior afternoon and admitted he had lied about his name, according to the probable cause affidavit.

Tarchala refused a chemical test. A warrant was obtained and a blood draw was performed. Tests indicated the presence of amphetamine, methamphetamine, morphine, fentanyl, norfentanyl and acetyl fentanyl in Tarchala’s blood, according to court documents.

Police at the scene found in their investigation that the crash occurred when the Jeep driven by Tarchala crossed the center line and struck the Spark driven by Amiel.

According to court documents, Tarchala has previous convictions for driving while suspended, attempted residential entry, operating while intoxicated, receiving stolen property, resisting law enforcement and public intoxication. 

Tarchala was previously arrested and charged with a misdemeanor but was released from St. Joseph County Jail on February 12.  

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