Rockford wins Home Town award
ROCKFORD - Rockford in Bloom, a citywide beautification project, will be among 40 winners of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's Home Town Awards announced in Springfield, the governor's office said.
Endowed by Dan and Ruth Nicholas as a part of the Rockford Park District Foundation, the City of Gardens started by hanging flower baskets from downtown lampposts, something that had not been done here before. That effort, started in 1999, has grown to hanging 250 lush, overflowing baskets from North Main to South Winnebago streets.
In 2005, the City of Gardens introduced Rockford to America in Bloom, a national organization that encourages cities of all sizes to recognize the economic and emotional benefits of beautification in eight areas, including tidiness, heritage, flower displays, turf management, urban forestry and citizen participation.
Attorney again seeks to postpone murder trial
PEKIN – The attorney of a Morton mother accused of suffocating her autistic daughter is again asking for a trial postponement, despite being denied one earlier this month.
Karen McCarron, who is scheduled for a jury trial on Dec. 3 in Tazewell County Circuit Court, has had five trial postponements since the case was opened in May 2006.
Defense attorney Marc Wolfe filed a motion on Monday asking Judge Stephen Kouri to move the trial date to Jan. 28 because his medical expert won't be able to testify until then.
"There is no just reason not to allow this request for a continuance, and to do so would be a grave miscarriage of justice and a denial of (McCarron's) constitutional rights," Wolfe wrote.
Kouri denied the same request by the defense and prosecution earlier this month, citing what he called stall tactics by the defense and the five previous postponements.
He could make a decision on the request on Thursday.
Also on Monday, The Tazewell County State's Attorney's Office dropped one of two counts of obstructing justice against McCarron.
Assistant State's Attorney Kevin Johnson said the count was dropped because it was similar to a count of concealment of a homicidal death that has been filed against her.
In a videotaped interview, McCarron told police she took her daughter Katherine to her mother's house and let her play before suffocating her with a bag. She told police the child died within about two minutes.
McCarron, a former pathologist, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, one count of obstructing justice and one count of concealment of a homicidal death and is free on $1 million bond.
$2.5 million gifted to Reagan program
EUREKA – A New Jersey woman with no ties to Eureka College has endowed the university $2.5 million, the largest gift in the college's history, allowing for expansion of the Ronald W. Reagan Leadership Program.
Ruth Mason McGowan named the endowment in her estate plans in 1985 in memory of her husband, Harold Vincent McGowan, although the estate provided for the McGowans' daughter until her recent death.
"This is someone, she and her husband, who believed in the same ideals as President Reagan," Brian Sajko, director of the college's Reagan Leadership Program, said of the couple who never attended the school but learned of the educational program at its inception in the early 1980s, not long after Reagan took office. "The college represents Reagan's foundation, that living legacy."
The endowment will be used to expand the number of fellowships offered each year from five to six.
The Reagan Leadership program, organized in 1982 in honor of Reagan and his ties to Eureka College, has provided 116 students with free tuition, but more importantly, school officials say, the opportunity to travel and enter in mentorship programs for real-world studies.
It also provides students with a chance to learn in a similar educational setting as Reagan, who graduated from Eureka in 1932.
The scholarship program celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
The college will celebrate the program's expansion on Feb. 25, coinciding with Reagan's 97th birthday and the college's first "Reagan Day," planned to become an annual event to commemorate the former president and his continued impact. Douglas Brinkley, author of "The Reagan Diaries," is expected to speak this February.
Peoria man, 48, beaten while confronting bike thief
PEORIA - A Peoria man was beaten Sunday night when he tried to get his bicycle back from the thief who stole it from an East Bluff gas station.
The 48-year-old victim told police he rode his bicycle to Circle K gas station, 2312 N. Knoxville Ave., and left the yellow Huffy outside about 11:30 p.m. while he went inside to make a purchase.
After being in the store several minutes, the victim returned outside only to discover his bike missing.
The victim walked around the business in search of his bicycle and found an unknown man riding it away on Arcadia Avenue, police said.
The victim confronted the man, who got off the bike and repeatedly struck the victim. The thief then rode away again on the bicycle, worth $150.
The victim called police from his residence. He suffered a small bruise under his right eye and declined medical attention.
Tainted candy not blamed for child’s death
ST. DAVID — The death of a Fulton County toddler hours after trick-or-treating with her family on Halloween was not a result of tainted candy, though officials now are questioning whether undiagnosed pneumonia was the cause.
Toxicology tests for Taylor Hamm, 2, of St. David showed no poisons or foreign substances in her system, Fulton County Coroner Steve Hines said Monday.
But further investigation is needed to determine whether severe undiagnosed pneumonia — the cause of death initially released — was behind the death, or just contributed to it.
“We are continuing our investigation into other avenues,” Hines said, adding that an allergic reaction to candy may have occurred in conjunction with complications from the pneumonia. Foul play is not suspected.
The family suffered another loss on Thanksgiving Day when the girl’s mother, Jennifer Hamm, 26, died early that morning. She was pronounced dead at 1:20 a.m. in Graham Hospital’s emergency room.
Hines declined to discuss details of the mother’s death. The official cause of her death is undetermined, pending results of toxicology tests that could take up to four weeks to complete.
Bloomington man faces charges
BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington man faces several felony charges for allegedly breaking into a man’s home over the weekend, pouring bleach into his mouth, tying him up and hitting him with an axe in an attempt to rob him.
David Koeppen, 22, was charged Sunday with home invasion, residential burglary and three counts of aggravated battery.
McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery said Koeppen entered a Bloomington home early Saturday morning while the resident slept and poured bleach into his mouth. Koeppen then allegedly bound his victim and demanded information on financial accounts. Koeppen struck the victim in the back of the head with an axe when he freed himself, and tied him up again.
Koeppen then cleaned up the head injury and drove the man to a bank to withdraw money. There, the victim informed bank staff of the situation when Koeppen stepped outside to make a phone call. Bank staff locked the doors and called the police, who apprehended Koeppen outside a nearby gas station, where he had made a withdrawal from an ATM using the victim’s bank card.
The victim was treated and released from a local hospital. If convicted, Koeppen faces six to 30 years in prison for the home invasion charge.
Lights go out at busy intersection
SPRINGFIELD – It's lights out for the lighted markers that have guided drivers through left turns at one of Springfield's busiest intersections for the past four years.
An Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman said Monday the small white lights embedded in the pavement are simply too costly to replace.
"The issue we're running into now is that the warranty period is over, and we can't get them at no cost. A significant number of them have failed," said IDOT spokesman Brian Williamsen.
None of the lights were working over the weekend, including Friday, when the city's southwest side was flooded with early morning Black Friday shoppers.
IDOT installed the markers at Veterans Parkway and Wabash Avenue in 2003 as an "experimental feature" during reconstruction of the intersection, which has four sets of double turn lanes. The lights were designed to help motorists stay in their own lanes.
The lights remained off when the left-turn traffic signal was red, but they lit up when the light turned green.
When the project was unveiled, IDOT officials touted the tiny lights' use in turn lanes as a first nationwide.
Embedded pavement lights previously had been used in such places as pedestrian crosswalks, tunnels and airport taxiways. Veterans Parkway and Wabash Avenue is one of the most accident-prone intersections
in the city, and installation of the lights didn't result in a major reduction in accidents.
Night bus advocates say "Hallelujah"
SPRINGFIELD – After more than three years of campaigning and planning, evening busservice is set to begin in Springfield on Monday.
"Hallelujah. ... We knew it would come," said Jane Ford, a member of the citizens
group that advocates running Springfield Mass Transit District buses at night. "It
was just a matter of getting all the ducks in a row, so to speak."
SMTD announced Monday that temporary evening bus service will begin Dec. 3. The
three routes that were chosen based on anticipated need will run from 6:45 p.m. to
about 12:30 a.m.
"It's a great thing for the city," said the mass transit district's board chairman,
Frank Squires. "It should hopefully help businesses and people who need the bus
service in the evening."
SMTD has received a $321,000 grant to fund the pilot project, which officials say is
enough to run the three routes for seven to nine months. An assessment based on ridership will determine the financial feasibility of continuing the service. The primary focus of the chosen routes was accommodating people who work later shifts.
State Briefs: 11/28/07
Rockford wins Home Town award