Illinois Public Media News
The last of three people convicted in the beating and stabbing deaths of a Champaign couple four years ago faces a 30 year prison sentence for the crimes.
Russell Pitcher will first serve out a prison term in Iowa before coming to Illinois to start serving the sentence for helping murder Jerry and Sue Haigh in the couple's home.
Pitcher pleaded guilty Wednesday morning - he had testified in the trials of his niece and accomplice, Crystal Myrick, that he had helped kill Mr. Haigh as the three broke into the home to rob it.
The third participant, Myrick's ex-boyfriend Kenneth Sean Kelly, had pleaded guilty and was given a 50 year sentence. Myrick was convicted and is serving a natural life sentence. Prosecutors say Pitcher will not be eligible for early release.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is heading to court to answer revised charges that he schemed to sell or trade President Barack Obama's old Senate seat and swap official favors for campaign money.
Marshals have warned they will not tolerate the kind of swirling crowd at Blagojevich's arraignment Wednesday that swallowed the former governor last time he was in court.
Curiosity about Blagojevich is guaranteed to bring out a heavy media contingent, but defense attorney Sheldon Sorosky says the arraignment is likely to be routine - a simple not guilty plea.
While the indictment against Blagojevich has been revised, the allegations of misconduct on his part are no different that the ones in the old version.
The mother of a man who opened fire at a Macomb Farm King store says her son was depressed, but never planned to hurt anyone.
Police identified Wednesday's gunman as 19-year-old Jonathan Labbe (luh-BAY') of Tennessee, Ill., and said he died of a self-inflicted bullet wound. No one else was injured.
Labbe's mother, Kathleen Clauson, said Thursday her son was upset, so she left work early to find him. It led her to the standoff. Clauson said she had to wait in the store's parking lot because police said it was too dangerous to allow her inside.
Clauson told Peoria station WEEK-TV, in her words, "He's just lost and I couldn't reach him enough, fast enough. I drove over there not knowing where he would be and I begged the police to let me in. I begged them.
Police say the suspected gunman at a western Illinois farm supply store is dead and the standoff is over.
Macomb Police Chief Curt Barker says the suspect died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and was found Wednesday evening in the housewares section of the Farm King store in Macomb.
Barker says police don't know a motive but the gunman is not believed to be associated with the store.
Barker says no one else was injured. He would not name the suspect.
Witnesses say the standoff began around 1 p.m. Richard Moulton says he was buying a battery charger at the store when someone in an aisle nearby began arguing and shouting. Seconds later he heard about four or five gunshots and he and other customers ran from the store.
After following hundreds of leads the past two years... Illinois State Police say they still don't have evidence that would make Mark Prasse and Ryan Riddell targets for murder.
But investigators also say they don't believe the shooting deaths of the two friends in Edgar County were a random act. Investigators say through their interviews, Prasse and Riddell were good people with nothing sinister in their past. "One of the first things we looked at was if it was anything job related or friend related or activity related," says ISP Investigations Commander Jill Rizzs. "These two victims, by all accounts, were good guys. The 'why' is the part that we need help on."
Their bodies were found in Prasse's rural Chrisman home two years ago Thursday. Both had been shot multiple times. State Police Master Sergeant Mike Atkinson says a lot of information on the ongoing investigation can't be released, including whether they're seeking one or more suspects. "I don't want people to think that we're looking for one person, and someone might have information thinking, gosh I sure thought it was somebody else, or, that we're looking for multiple folks, and then somebody says, well, they must already know that,' says Atkinson.
Investigators say they're dealing with a short time frame from January 28th, 2008. The few hours included Riddell picking up Prasse from his job in Paris at 4 p.m., stopping by Riddell's Villa Grove home, and stopping for gas in Newman just before 7:30. Edgar County deputies were called when Riddell didn't return home for dinner that night after he was to have dropped Prasse off at his home. Their bodies were found shortly before 11 that evening.
Illinois State Police have established a tip line for this case. It's (217) 278-5004. The FBI phone number for tips is (217) 522-9675. Tips can be anonymous.
Attorneys for Alan Beaman say their federal civil rights suit against McLean County, the Town of Normal, prosecutors and police will hold those public officials accountable for misconduct. The Illinois Supreme court overturned Beaman's murder conviction a year ago in the 1993 death of Jennifer Lockmiller.
Locke Bowman of the MacArthur Justice Center says Normal Police Detective Tim Freesemeyer and Assistant States Attorney Jim Souk conspired against Beaman in knowingly not sharing evidence of another suspect and verification of Beaman's alibi....
"They hid that information from Mr. Beaman and his defense lawyers", says Bowman. "That was intentional, it was deliberate, it was knowing"
Jeff Urdangen of Northwestern University Law School says it has always troubled him that as a prosecutor, Souk used the Beaman case to further his career....
"Laminated copies of news clippings, boasting of his success in convicting Alan Beaman, was a part of his most aggressive campaign to gain a judgeship," says Urdangen.
Souk is a circuit judge in McLean County.
Alan Beaman says he wants to make McLean County a more just place. Beaman says he is still processing things and trying to re-create his life, after serving 13 years of a 50 year prison sentence.
"There's a lot from my previous 13 years that don't apply to life now", says Beaman. "And I have to kind of sort through and figure out again who I am. It's a process I enjoy going through. And I'm looking forward to growing as a person."
Beaman, now 37, lives in Rockford. He says he works part time at a theater, about five odd jobs, and does snow removal.
Town of Normal and McLean County officials have declined comment about the federal suit which seeks unspecified damages. Two other pending cases including a petition for clemency and a ruling of wrongful conviction have a damage cap of 200-thousand dollars. The new case has no such limit.
Police in Urbana say a thief who made off with hundreds of old X-rays from Carle Clinic probably wanted them for the value of their silver content.
Urbana Police Sgt. Dan Morgan says that on Jan. 13, a man who is believed to have done the same thing at other hospitals in Illinois showed up at the clinic's storage facility and picked up 1,300 packets of X-rays intended for recycling.
Carle Clinic spokeswoman Jennifer Hendricks says X-rays were from 2005 and earlier, and she does not believe the information included with them would be sufficient for identity theft.
Morgan says that if the thief is successful at recycling the X-rays for their silver content, he'd probably get a few hundred dollars --- enough to make the crime a felony.
A Champaign County judge has imposed a 26-year prison sentence on a Champaign teenager convicted of raping a young woman 10 months ago.
In sentencing 19-year-old Marlone Pendleton on Wednesday, Circuit Court Judge Tom Difanis said he hoped the stiff penalty would serve as a deterrent.
Pendleton was one of five young men charged with aggravated criminal sexual assault for raping the 16-year-old girl in the garage of his aunt's home.
The other four defendants were acquitted.
Assistant State's Attorney Duke Harris argued for the maximum 30 years for Pendleton, who had prior convictions for domestic battery and obstructing justice.
But Pendleton's attorney, Harvey Welch, noted Pendleton's young age and said his criminal record didn't support a maximum sentence.
Changes made in the wake of the Kiwane Carrington shooting are now part of the Champaign Police Department's Use of Force policy and procedure. The Champaign City Council endorsed the revisions last (Tuesday) night.
The updated policy now spells out the combination of circumstances that must be in place before an officer may use deadly force on a citizen --- involving cases where a person has harmed, or is threatening to harm the officer or another person, or is threatening to use a deadly weapon to escape.
The police department's Taser policy is also clarified. New language makes it clear that Champaign Police do not use Tasers, but may call in other agencies with Tasers when they feel they are needed. Police Chief R-T Finney says even then, Taser use is limited, according to the situation.
"We had a situation where we needed to use a Taser", says Finney. "(The) agency came; the situation changed in terms of the person who was barricaded was utilizing some volatile chemicals in the house. And we opted not to use the Taser at that point. So, you know, we still have that control."
The changes to police policy come after 15 year old Kiwane Carrington was shot to death during a struggle with a Champaign officer last October. The shooting led to renewed charges that Champaign Police do not treat African-Americans fairly --- and pledges from the city council to improve police/community relations.
The changes were not enough for eight people who addressed the city council last night. They included Terry Townsend, who said the changes were only incremental, and failed to address deeper problems with relations between police and the African-American community.
"It is imperative that we do something to take the confrontational nature out of police community relations" Townsend told the city council. "And having these policies that you just can't make major changes because of constitutional or state law ... that you tweak ... that's not going to make the issue go away."
Some council members said they thought more needed to be done as well. District One Councilman Will Kyles says he saw frustration among both police and community members who did not believe that change was possible.
"That's the root of the problem", said Kyles. "That's what I want to work on --- not just having a discussion, but really helping, not only the community but the officers believe that things are going to change. Because right now, I don't think in my heart that people thing that."
Kyles called for more positive engagement between the Champaign Police Department and the community - including with some of the department's harshest critics.
City Manager Steve Carter said the revisions to the Use Of Force Policy may not address all problems, but were a step forward. Police Chief Finney says he doesn't think the policy needs any further tweaking. He says there are other police policies to address other concerns.
Two life sentences await one of the three suspects in a grisly double murder in Champaign three years ago.
A Champaign County judge yesterday sentenced 32 year old Crystal Myrick, who along with her ex boyfriend Sean Kelly beat and stabbed Jeremiah and Sue Haigh in the Haigh family's home in the summer of 2006. Kelly pleaded guilty to Jeremiah Haigh's death last year and is serving a 50 year sentence. Myrick's uncle Russell Pitcher is also charged in the case and is awaiting trial. Testimony showed the couple were killed in the course of a robbery.
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