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Families in Howard County hold protest to push for answers in loved ones' deaths

Lack of answers, arrests frustrating to families
The families of Tanner Barton, Brittny Bell and Karena McClerkin want answers on the death of their loved ones.
Posted at 9:02 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 21:10:21-04

KOKOMO — Families gathered in downtown Kokomo Friday afternoon to bring awareness to the deaths of their loved ones and to urge law enforcement to reopen their cases.

Family members include the mother of Tanner Barton, who was just 19 when he collapsed and died at a friend’s house in Howard County in 2012; the mother of Brittny Bell, who was found dead in Kokomo in 2017; and the grandmother of Karena McClerkin, a Kokomo teenager missing since 2016.

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, a Michigan organization aimed at helping families get justice, also joined the protest.

They started at Foster Park at the corner of Washington and Superior and marched to the courthouse, city hall and other government buildings in the hopes of getting attention from city and county officials.

WRTV Investigates has been tracking Tanner Barton’s case for years, and in 2018, WRTV reported the Howard County Sheriff’s Office closed Tanner’s case with no arrests.

PREVIOUS | Tanner Barton’s case closed citing enlarged heart

Tanner’s mother, Michele, said Tanner’s death is suspicious, citing conflicting statements made by his friends at the house where Tanner died, as well as conflicting information in the autopsy and toxicology reports.

"I just want people held accountable,” said Michele at Friday’s protest. “I have been doing this for nine years. I've been a warrior for my son. I'm ready to relax and memorialize him and not fight."

Donna Bell is also pushing for an arrest in the 2017 death of her daughter, Brittny Bell.

Donna says Brittny’s body was covered in bruises and lacerations at the time of her death.

"I want those held accountable that killed my baby Brittny,” said Donna. “She deserves justice, her babies deserve justice, we deserve justice. So, we can finally start healing. We can't heal without her justice."

The grandmother of Karena McClerkin also marched this afternoon.

The Kokomo teen has been missing since 2016 and her body has never been found.

PREVIOUS | Jail inmate offers clues about missing teen

Howard County Sheriff Jerry Asher told WRTV that Barton’s case is closed, however, anyone with information can call the Howard County Sheriff Detective Division at (765) 456-2031.

Kokomo Police Assistant Chief Teresa Galloway said the Bell case is closed.

“However, the family says they have discovered new information and we will be meeting with them to receive this new information,” said Galloway.

Anyone with information can call Crimestoppers at 317-262-TIPS or the Kokomo Police Department hotline 765-456-7017.