Illinois | WGLT


Headlines from around the state, curated by the WGLT newsroom. If you want more state news, listen to Illinois Public Radio's The 21st on Mondays-Thursdays at 11 a.m., and Statewide at 11 a.m. Fridays.

A special prosecutor in southwestern Illinois will review a levee district's repeated use of an auto body shop owned by its president. Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons is seeking the independent review of the business relationship between the Metro East Sanitary District and Andy's Auto Body & Towing, a Madison company owned by district president Andy Economy. The district's executive director crashed his government-owned SUV five times in the past three years.

Champaign Police Get Stun Guns

Nov 4, 2015
junglecat / via Wikimedia

The Champaign City Council has approved the use of stun guns for its police department. Champaign had the only major police department in central Illinois without the stun guns. The vote was 6-3. This isn't the first time the city has considered a stun-gun proposal. Police rescinded a similar request in 2004 after there was pushback from the community. The stun guns will cost about $93,000 for a five-year contract. Public comment before the vote focused on dangers of the stun guns and their high price tag.

Illinois' economy continues to grow, but at a slower rate than it was a few months ago, according to a monthly economic report from the University of Illinois. The U of I Flash Index fell to 105.8 in October from 106 in September. Though any number over 100 indicates growth in the state's economy, this is the third month of decline for the index.

Insurance Companies Sue State Treasurer

Nov 3, 2015

Three insurers have sued Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs over an attempt to seek records on life insurance policies. Frerichs said Monday an audit was sought to find unpaid death benefits because returning unclaimed property is part of his office's mission. Frerichs says beneficiaries might be unaware policies exist. The information received would be checked against a federal death database. The lawsuit filed last week in Sangamon County argues the treasurer doesn't have such authority; benefits are paid if there's a claim and proof of death. The insurers are Chicago-based Kemper Corp.

Police Use Of Force: Myths And Misconceptions

Nov 2, 2015
Tony Webster / Wikimedia Commons

On January first, a new state law will go into effect that addresses police use of force. The law prohibits the use of chokeholds which have led to the deaths of suspects in some cases. GLT's Judy Valente talked with Illinois State University criminal justice professor Jason Ingram who speaks this week on police use of force.

A Cook County judge says he will rule Nov. 6 in a custody battle involving a central Illinois woman who's fighting a state agency's decision to take away her three children. Illinois child-welfare workers took Amanda Ware's three children last year after learning that in 2003 three of her other children drowned. Those children _ ages 6, 3, 2 _ died when the car they were in rolled into a central Illinois lake. Ware, then known as Amanda Hamm, served five years in prison for child endangerment. Her then-boyfriend Maurice LaGrone was convicted of their murders and is serving a life sentence.

A judge has found a central Illinois man fit to go to trial on charges he left his 6-month-old baby daughter to die by abandoning her in a bean field. Champaign County Judge Tom Difanis entered the finding Tuesday for Thomas Boitnott. It means he is now able to understand the charges against him and work with his attorney on his defense. The 24-year-old St. Joseph man was charged in June with attempted murder, child abduction and possession of a stolen vehicle. Authorities say he snatched the baby girl from her mother's St. Joseph apartment. She reported the baby missing.

Amtrak Chi-Indy Run Grows

Oct 27, 2015
Russel Sekeet / Wikipedia

The Chicago company that now runs the Amtrak line between Indianapolis and Chicago has big plans for the route.

Lexington 'Castle' Historic Building

Oct 26, 2015
tlindenbaum / via FLIKR

A fixture off Old Route 66 at Lexington is now a national landmark. Lexington's historic Castle is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It's home to Chuck and Mary Wright, who have spent 3 decades restoring it. The Queen Anne home was built in 1898 by prominent stock horse breeder and farmer David Hyatt Van Dolah. The Castle's ornate limestone and brickwork, gables, and decorative arts, including hand-painted murals and a floating white oak staircase, are just a few of the features of the home that make it remarkable.

More Arrests In Peoria Murder Of Teen

Oct 23, 2015

Peoria police have arrested two more suspects in the slaying of a 14-year-old Peoria boy who was shot to death during a home invasion this month. 18-year-old Kiangelo G. Marshall and a 17-year-old whose identity was not released because of his age were arrested Thursday in Fulton County by the United States Marshals Fugitive Task Force. Both were charged with murder and home invasion - the same charged facing four other suspects who had previously been arrested. The other suspects have appeared in court and their bonds were each set at $2 million. Tommie T.

A 50-year old man arrested for soliciting an underage boy for sex in Decatur is a recent applicant to be McLean County Coroner. Police reports indicate Vincent C. Peters was arrested after allegedly posting an ad on Craiglist seeking a young male for sex. Peters was arrested after an on line conversation with a Decatur Police Detective posing as a fifteen year old boy led to a physical meeting.

Officers say Peters acknowledged he intended to meet the boy for sex. His current residence is in Clinton but he listed a Bloomington residence last year on his application to be Coroner.

By a roughly 7 to 1 margin, United Auto Worker members have ratified a new contract agreement with Mitsubishi Motors North America. The final vote talley was 697 "Yes" to 103 "No."

Bloomington Clare House Food Pantry Closing

Oct 9, 2015

The Bloomington food pantry that's helped area citizens since 1978  is closing. The final food distribution from Clare House will be just before Thanksgiving.

Armed Robbery Suspect Caught

Oct 5, 2015
Bloomington Police Dept.

A suspect in an armed robbery has been arrested. Bloomington Police say a man with a gun held up the CITGO gas station at 807 South Main Street at around 9:30 Saturday night. Police also responded to a near simultaneous fight in the 700 block of South Madison Street. The suspect ran from the scene, but an officer chased him. 18 year old Terrell Hibbler of Normal is being charged with armed robbery, unlawful use of weapons, possession of a firearm with no FOID, and several drug charges in addition to resisting an officer. He was taken to the McLean County Jail.

A federal appellate panel has upheld a lower court ruling that the NCAA needs to provide full scholarships for student athletes, including meals and cellphone expenses.  But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel struck down another ruling requiring schools to pay athletes up to $5-thousand annually for the use of their name, likeness, or image.

University of Illinois Labor and Employment Relations Professor Michael LeRoy calls this part of the decision a ‘significant victory’ for the NCAA.

Amanda Vinicky

Two historic Illinois tracks will hold NO horse races next year ... a decision that could lead to their permanent closing. IPR's Amanda Vinicky reports. 

An American kestrel that the University of Illinois used as an educational bird of prey has been found after escaping last week. The bird, named Thistle, has one eye and can't survive in the wild. She escaped Sept. 23 from a handler at the University of Illinois Wildlife Clinic.

The clinic said Tuesday that Thistle was found in west Champaign and entered her travel crate ``to eat a meal hungrily.'' The Wildlife Medical Clinic and the College of Veterinary Medicine posted online that staff are ``rejoicing'' in Thistle's return and are grateful for the community's help finding her.

Construction at a major Interstate 74 junction has given Tazewell County a windfall: $1.2 million over three years. County Administrator Wendy Ferrill says the revenue from 4,600 tickets for speeding and using cellphones in a work zone softens the blow of the state budget standoff. Tickets for speeding went from eight per month in 2012 to 74 per month in 2013, and 129 per month last year. This year, motorists are getting fewer citations: the monthly average is nearly 100 speeding tickets. Ferrill says some of the money could go toward a new squad car for the sheriff's department.

Bird Missing Right Eye

A University of Illinois clinic is looking for a bird of prey that escaped from its handler. The University of Illinois Wildlife Clinic says the American kestrel named Thistle has one eye and can't survive in the wild. The bird escaped Wednesday morning, and was last seen flying west from the veterinary complex in Urbana. Thistle came to the clinic in May 2012 with an eye injury, and College of Veterinary Medicine spokeswoman Chris Beuoy says they have a state permit to keep her as an educational bird.

Hundreds Of Federal Inmates Headed To Thomson Prison

Sep 22, 2015
Courtesty Peoria Public Radio

A once-abandoned Illinois prison in Thomson, in northwestern Illinois, is on track to house hundreds of federal inmates. IPR's Amanda Vinicky has details.

Illinois spent millions to build a then state-of-the-art correctional center in 2001; but budget cuts meant it never actually opened. More than a decade later, the federal government bought it. Some 90 minimum security inmates arrived this summer; more are expected.

Police in Normal say they have arrested a Bloomington man for selling cocaine. 50 year old Troy Randle Senior was taken into custody. Detectives say they also seized more than $2,700 in cash, 46 grams of crack cocaine, three grams of powder cocaine, and a Lexus four door vehicle.

Deadly Deer Disease Spreading

Sep 22, 2015
Il Dept. Nat. Resources

A deadly disease in deer continues to spread in Illinois. IPR's Jenna Dooley has more: Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal neurological disease threatening white-tailed deer. It was first documented in Illinois in 2002 near Roscoe. There have been more than 500 cases since then. CWD has become established in areas near the Fox and Illinois rivers… and more recently in Stephenson and Ogle counties in northern Illinois. Doug Dufford is the state’s Wildlife Disease Program Manager.

Lawmakers have quietly made it tougher for smokers to find a public place to light up.  A committee of lawmakers has tweaked a definition in the Smoke Free Illinois Act to ban smoking in any public place with a floor and ceiling, whether or not the walls are retractable or permeable.

Jared Pohl, Flicker

In what may be the only case of its kind in the country, the Catholic diocese of Peoria returned a Bloomington priest to ministry who served time on felony drug charges. Neither the diocese nor the priest formally publicly disclosed his background to the people who attend the two parishes he serves. The handling of the case raises familiar questions about transparency in the Catholic Church and about balancing an individual's right to privacy with a congregation's right to know.

A resolution asking the Public Building Commission to proceed with McLean County jail renovation and expansion served as a skirmishing point for the mental health service debate. Board member Chuck Erickson voted for measure, but expressed reservations, saying mental illness is not a legitimate reason to expand the jail, protecting the public is.

Erickson, who is also the chair of the County Republican Party, says he fears some are trying to hijack the initiative into more than it really ought to be.

The proposed new budget for McLean County government is 4% higher than last year. County Administrator Bill Wasson says the increase of 3.7 million dollars will go to several areas including the jail renovation and expansion, the Towanda Barnes road widening effort, new phones for the ETSB, and courtroom audio system replacement.

The budget includes a 1.5% pay increase. Four jobs will be cut including one sheriff's deputy, and staff in the state's attorneys and child protection service offices because of state grant cuts.

State Worker Health Payments Halted

Sep 15, 2015

Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration has stopped paying health care claims for at least 146,000 state workers because of the budget mess. The Department of Central Management Services has halted funding for claims covered by the state's self-insurance plans. But payments will continue to private companies operating managed-care plans for another 158,000 workers.  

It's unprecedented for the state to stop paying claims. It's unclear whether health care providers will demand upfront, out-of-pocket payments.  

Damage Mounts To Child Services

Sep 15, 2015

A leading child advocacy group says even if state lawmakers and Gov. Bruce Rauner end the budget impasse, the damage is already done to numerous services, like afterschool programs and efforts to prevent infant deaths. Voices for Illinois Children has released a report outlining more than 60 programs and services being affected. Advocates say it represents at least $3.5 billion.  

The Democratic-controlled Legislature and the first-term Republican governor remain deadlocked on a spending plan for the July 1 fiscal year.  

There's an effort to broaden a program designed to help take the sting out of court cases involving custody and divorce. WGLT's Willis Kern has more with two officials who oversee a team of specially-trained mediators.  

The 11th judicial circuit includes Ford, Livingston, Logan and Woodford counties in addition to McLean. The family court mediation program is in its second year.

Human Service agencies in Central Illinois are calling on the state leaders to put aside their differences and put a budget in place. IPR's Tanya Koonce reports.

15 nonprofit groups united in Peoria to say the vulnerable people they serve are at risk, and so are their employees. Matt George is the CEO of the Children’s Home. Speaking for the group he says they need a budget, and they need it now.

“People are in pain!”

George says the group is speaking for people those whose voices are not being heard.