By:Freelance Reporter Joan Ross, Posted June 19, 2015 at 1:17 pm US/Central Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
SCHERERVILLE, IND–A receptionist tells Scandal Media that some church members are a little “suspicious” about some of the circumstances surrounding the black female teen found floating facedown in a pool at the home of Family Christian Center’s Mega Pastor Steve Munsey.
Anna Barraza is a receptionist at Family Christian Center, who’s been a member since 2000. She has been married for 35 years with 3 grown children of her own. Barraza says some church members have expressed serious concerns about Pastor Munsey’s personal relationship with the drowning victim that went well beyond pastor and member.
Domonique “Nikki” Smith, an 18-year-old, Valparaiso University student from Lakes of the Four Seasons.,was pronounced dead at 12:53 p.m. Monday at Franciscan St. Margaret Health hospital in Dyer, according to a news release issued early Tuesday by the Lake County coroner’s office.
The drowning took place at 1421 Wilderness Drive in Schererville. at the Munsey’s home in the gated Briar Ridge subdivision. Smith died Monday at the hospital after being on life support for several days, police said.
Schererville police were called to the home at 3:02 p.m. Friday for a report of a possible drowning, Cmdr. Brian Neyhart said in a news release issued Tuesday.
A person identified as the homeowner told police Smith had been baby-sitting children at the home, and one of the children told the homeowner Smith was found face down in the pool, the release stated.
A neighbor helped remove Smith from the pool and she was taken to Franciscan St. Margaret Health in Dyer by Schererville paramedics.
“There is no foul play (suspected) at this time and it appears the drowning was accidental,” Neyhart said.
Roy Dominguez, an attorney and spokesman for the Munsey family and Family Christian Center, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon.
“The entire Munsey family and the members of the Family Christian Center church are saddened by this tragic, accidental drowning and have expressed their condolences and prayers to the family,” he said.
The family is reserving further comment out of respect for the privacy of the Smith family, he said.
Nicole Niemi, spokeswoman for Valparaiso University, confirmed Smith was a commuter student there. A LinkedIn page for Smith said she was a business management student who just completed her freshman year and worked in the university’s food services department.
“My ultimate goal is to open up my own chain of restaurants that cater to all people trying to eat healthy and enjoy tasty foods,” Smith’s LinkedIn profile reads. “I also am planning on going to culinary school to become a chef.”
Friends said Smith was a 2014 graduate of Merrillville High School who went by the first name of “Toni.”
Mike Reinhart, director of Ross Music Theater, worked with Smith in summer theater production and musicals at Merrillville High School over the last four years.
“She had a lot of smaller parts, but she never complained about that,” Reinhart said. “She always had a smile on her face.”
Reinhart said Smith was able to show off her dancing skills in a recent tap dancing number in “Spamalot.”
“Anytime anyone ever felt bad, she was the first to go and try to cheer them up and say, ‘Oh, you look like you need a hug,'” Reinhart said.
Reinhart’s wife, Melinda, had Smith as a music and choral student at Merrillville High School. Mike Reinhart said Smith was “very smart, a straight A or A-B student.”
Mike Reinhart said Smith initially was interested in studying law at VU but changed her major to help her fulfill her dream of opening her own restaurant.
He said Smith recently started attending services at Family Christian Center.
“This investigation is far from over and are looking into some very pertinent leads” said Officer Raul Otano of the Schererville Police Department.