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The Versailles Republican

October 9, 2014 • Headlines

Lucas Sizemore is wearing his new helmet, as he takes off on his bike. He received the helmet at the recent Versailles Safe Routes to School training and safety workshop.
Michelle Werning of Weber Sports of Aurora presents bike safety training as part of the Versailles Safe Route To Schools bike training event. See more pictures in today’s The Versailles Republican, section B.
Pictured are Crossroads Community Wesleyan Church members at the groundbreaking: Sarge Richey, Ernie Lipperd, Johnny Blair, Paul Hughes, Fred Mayhan and Walt Richey.
Tom Tepe Autocenter
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Friendship State BankKing's Daughters' HealthWhitewater Motor Company Inc.
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Shooting victim forgives
‘The love of God has let me forgive him.
I know what he did was wrong. But...that wasn’t Robert.’

Mary Mattingly

Niki Davis’ “perfect life” turned upside down on July 20. That’s when the man she describes as her soul mate, the man her 10-year-old son called dad, turned a gun on her and her 16-year-old niece, who was living with them, and then on himself. She is still in shock over what happened, and over her loss. “I loved him. He was the love of my life,” she said her blue eyes welling with tears.

Rev. Bob McCreary
Pictured left Rev. Bob McCreary sits in the van to be auctioned at the Niki Davis benefit on Oct. 18. Davis is recovering at her parents Holton home after the shooting tragedy.

Niki is not angry or bitter, revengeful or pitiful. She is sad. She misses him. She also misses Carlin, her niece. And she misses her life as she knew it. Niki, 33, is from Holton, one of five children of Cindy and Wayne Vansodol. She attended South Ripley schools in the late ‘90s. She met Robert Harmon through work. He became her boyfriend, and she and her children lived with him for over five years.

The petite mother has come home after this tragedy to be loved and cared for by her family, her church, the Holton Christian Church, and her community. With scars from ear-to-ear, a swollen jaw, and a mouth she can barely open, she is determined to go forward. Those are the physical challenges, but the emotional scars will take much longer to heal. She is adamant, “I do not want this shooting to define me or my two kids. I want to be happy, and I want my kids to be happy.”

The Holton Christian Church is putting love into action, embracing the little girl the 60 or so members watched grow up, to help her once again be self-sufficient and independent. They have organized a benefit on Oct. 18 to show Niki her hometown support. (See related story in today"s The Versailles Republican. Pick up a copy at your local newsstand.)

Her story

Robert Harmon, 48, never raised a hand to her, never called her a name. Yet Niki doesn’t know why he used two guns and shot her four times, three in the head, nor does she understand why he shot Carlin, her niece she had guardianship over and who had lived with them for over a year and was just four days from getting her driver’s permit. “That’s why I don’t feel it was really Robert. He never showed any violence to me,” Niki said. She realizes it’s a miracle she is alive.

The murder-suicide happened in Trimble County, Ky., just over the bridge in Madison and not far from her hometown of Holton. It stunned the community where Robert Harmon grew up. He was a prominent businessman, a vice president of a North Vernon industry. The two lived in his well-kept, brick, two-story home with her two children, Kaylee Hill, 14 and Andrew Harmon-Dobbs, 10, and Carlin. He treated her children as his own, she said. Andrew called him dad. “We were close. Carlin completed our family…I lived a wonderful life. I had a great man. I had great kids. I had the perfect life.” She acknowledges they had some relationship issues: He could be insecure and controlling but nothing of recent that would trigger this type of reaction, Niki said. Her own family loved and respected him, she said. They were there the night before the criminal act, making plans for the family reunion. Niki acknowledged he had over 100 guns, but was always respectful of their power.

That night
Niki was asleep on the couch and Carlin on the recliner, after watching a movie together. She saw and heard him shoot himself, but didn’t know she was shot. “I stood up. I felt something was wrong. I remember looking at Robert. He wasn’t dead. I layed beside him. I was so shocked. I remember seeing his face…and watching him suffer.” She adds, “Some people said he must have snapped; that he lost it. I don’t know.”

Unable to talk because of her facial injuries, she pounded on the kitchen wall and her teenage daughter came downstairs. She immediately went into action, grabbed a sheet to make a tourniquet around her neck, and called 911. Niki is amazed at her daughter’s focus. Kaylee told her later she knew what to do by watching “Grey’s Anatomy. “ The ambulance came 20 minutes later, and that was when Robert took his last breath. She did not know then that Carlin was fatally shot.

Niki was conscious, despite suffering a stroke in between gunshots. She knew the paramedic, Will McCoy. “He and Kaylee saved my life. I told him I was going to die in front of my daughter and he promised me I wouldn’t. He kept me conscious. He didn’t leave my side. He was my guardian angel,” she said. There was something more powerful in that ambulance than fancy equipment and trained professionals. She cries at the memory, “ I had lost so much faith in God when my sister (Kathleen Davis) died 10 years ago (of cancer), but I had never felt the power of God’s love in my life. I did then. Somehow I knew I was going to be okay. I had this sigh of relief. I knew I was going to go back to my kids.“

A tracheotomy was performed so she could breathe. She was put in a medically induced coma for several days. Surgeons worked long to replace her jaw with titanium. She can’t open her mouth large enough to see her teeth, Niki believes it’s a miracle she is alive, that one bullet just missed her spine. The doctors were wonderful, she says, and said one doctor cried when she returned for a follow up visit because she didn’t think she would live. “They saved me. God had their hands.”


Family is everything. That’s one thing she is reminded over and over. Her sister Linda Vansodol never left her side at the hospital, and she has been there to remove her bandages, puree her food, drive her wherever she needed to be for the past 2½ months. Linda had the paperwork for Medicaid the day after she was admitted. Niki is beyond grateful and cries just thinking of her love. “I never knew I was so loved. From the people in Bedford to Holton. Of course you expect your parents to love you, but to give up things just for me and my kids. And, my sister. I can’t say enough.”

The kids are enrolled at Jac-Cen-Del, and doing better than she expected despite the trauma. Kaylee doesn’t like to talk about it, but Andrew does. He slept through the act. “He couldn’t grasp it was Robert. He said ‘mom it wasn’t Robert. That wasn’t my dad.”

They have yet to retrieve their personal belongings, and they left that early morning without shoes on their feet. It may be sometime before they can get items due to legal issues. Meanwhile, Niki has forgiven Robert. “I felt I had so much love and the love of God has let me forgive him. I know what he did was wrong, but like Andrew said, that wasn’t Robert. There’s no way.” The physical healing is underway, but the emotional part will take longer. She wishes she could take away her kids’ loss of Carlin, who Niki describes as “remarkable” and loved by so many people in Kentucky, Cincinnati and Holton. Everyday she looks in the mirror the scars remind her of another life.

She is grateful to her church and members for their warm welcome back. “The elders just hugged me and opened their arms to me,” she said. Rev. Bob McCreary said he is impressed with Niki when she returned to church, not looking like the person they remembered. “We were blown away by the courage of Niki to do that.” One of the good things that has resulted from the tragedy is she knows now that God never left her side and that her kids are feeling the love of God and church. Her kids willingly come to church, open up their Bibles and sing church songs. The church wants to help her, hence the benefit. And, whether they raise $1,000 or $100,000, McCreary knows it will take more than things to heal the young woman and her family. “This is a marathon. This is not something that will be fixed tomorrow. Keeping God at the center of your life will be the key to finding peace.”

It took a tragedy for Niki to understand that, but with the support of her family and church, and God’s love, she and her family begin the long road to healing.

Group aids families of drug abusers

Sandy Day Howard

“With the understanding that addiction is a disease and the realization that we are powerless over it, as well as over other people’s lives, we are ready to do something useful and constructive with our own.”

A group designed to ‘heal through community’ is forming in Southeastern Indiana for those affected by a friend or loved one’s addiction issues. Nar-Anon Family Groups are a worldwide fellowship that offers help by sharing experience, strength, and hope to those whose lives are affected by drug dependence. Regular meetings are being held every Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Lawrenceburg Community Center located at 423 Walnut Street in Lawrenceburg. Nar-Anon is primarily for those who know or have known a feeling of desperation concerning the addiction problem of someone near to them. This organization’s program is designed to help relatives and friends of addicts recover from the effects of living with someone who has a drug, alcohol, or other dependency. The successful outcome would be for those who are troubled by someone else’s addiction to find ways to cope and find a better way to live.

The program promotes a spiritual way of life, although not a religious one, and is based on the ‘Twelve Steps’ to healing. The working of these steps will bring the solution to practically any problem according to its founders. Nar-Anon’s “Twelve Steps” are as helpful as the Narcotics Anonymous program is to the addict. Through meeting with others whose loved ones are battling addiction, people learn to stop trying to change the addict. The thought process is that following these ‘12 steps’ provides the assurance that no situation is too difficult and no unhappiness is too great to be overcome. A member’s individual religious beliefs are a personal matter, and they make it a point to avoid discussions regarding any specific faiths.

Who is using?

Ripley County is far from immune to drug problems.  Amy Phillips, coordinator of the Ripley County Drug Awareness Coalition, said, “There were at least 39 substance abuse arrests in the month of September in Ripley County.” Who is using narcotics and who is it that may be battling someone ELSE’S addiction? In general, men abuse prescription medications more than women. The exception to this is among people age 12 to 17. In this group, females abuse prescription medications more than males. An estimated 20% of high school students admit to taking a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription. Prescription drug abuse rates are highest during the teens and 20s, although rates are increasing among those in their 50s. Pain killers called opioids are by far the most commonly abused prescription medications. Medications in this class include hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Vicodin), oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet), oxycodone (OxyContin), fentanyl (Duragesic), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), morphine (Avinza, Kadian), and codeine. Opioid misuse/abuse is responsible for about 75% of overdose-related deaths.

What is the ‘hot drug’ in Ripley County? Ask any law enforcement officer who comes in contact with drug abuse victims and you’ll hear the same thing…heroin has become the drug of choice for some, often times over marijuana, opiates, and prescription pain pills because it’s cheaper, easier to access (often through inner city sources), and more readily available. In years past, heroin was a drug that was almost unheard of in rural areas. There have been several reported fatal heroin overdoses, usually among young people.

Phillips adds though, “It is important for people to know that any substance, including alcohol, is illegal for youth. Unfortunately, many people see drinking, and even smoking marijuana as ‘not as serious’ as heroin or other drugs. It isn’t only those who are using who are affected by the prevalence of these drugs. It incorporates nearly all of us, in every community. Phillips, who is also the coordinator of the YES group home commented, “The entire community is impacted when drugs are present, whether it is the safety factor for our youth to be at the park or riding their bike in their neighborhood or school, or for work safety and performance. We know that many child abuse and neglect cases are a direct result of substance abuse.” There are husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, parents, and friends of users who are watching lives wasting away to an addiction that the user is unable to control. Those who are helpless to stop the pain these drugs are causing are equally in need of a way to heal.

Nar-Anon’s mission statement says “As a 12-step program, we offer our help by sharing our experience, strength, and hope.” The program assures confidentiality and anonymity for those who attend meetings and/or become members. At Nar-Anon meetings, only one person speaks at a time. Anyone may express an opinion during their sharing while others do not comment, correct, or judge what is being shared. Those who come to the meetings may choose not to speak, but to just listen.

Phillips adds, “It is crucial for parents to educate themselves and their children about the dangers of substance use, including alcohol.” She recommended a website that helps parents talk to their kids about drugs, Home Partnership for Drug Free Kids at *While this article focused on help for families of users, Narcotics Anonymous is another group but for the substance abuser. Meetings are at 7 p.m. on Fridays at Milan’s St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Pick up a copy of today's The Versailles Republican and test yourself for the impact of another's addiction (page 9).

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Newspapers play a critical role in communities, by Keith Anderson (page 4)
• Navy Bean Fall Festival weekend (page 7)
• Versailles Pumpkin Show Agricultural Contest winners (page 8)
• Show off your pumpkin in Dearborn County Hospital contest (page 3, section B)

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