Illinois Public Media News
Champaign Police are boosting patrols around school zones after getting reports of three more attempted child abductions, bring the total to 8 being investigated this week alone.
White male suspects are sought in each case of these latest reports. One occurred about 6 p.m. Tuesday on the city's north side, at the corner of Bradley Avenue and Bloomington Road. A 13-year old old girld says two men in a red truck if she wanted a ride. On Wednesday afternoon around 2 p.m., a man corner of Hollycrest and William reportedly offered a nine-year-old boy some candy. That suspect is described tall and skinny with long shoulder length hair.
And Friday morning about 8:15 on the Pine Street near Elm, a 10-year-old boy says a male suspect asked he wanted a ride. That man is described as in his 40's with long blond hair and a blonde/brown beard. He was driving an older model red truck with a silver bumper with dents on the passenger side.
The Champaign Police Department is working with the Champaign County Sheriff's Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshals Service, and the Illinois State Police.
A Champaign Police official says they're working to determine if any links exist between a series of attempted child abductions in the last several days.
Deputy Chief Troy Daniels says there doesn't appear to be anything connecting the suspects. His department has contacted the FBI's behavioral unit to analyze the 5 attempted abductions that have occurred since September 20th. Four have taken place in Champaign, and fifth was in the Dobbins Downs neighborhood on the edge of the city.
The most recent report came from northeast Champaign Wednesday, where the mother of an 11-year old said a man in a minivan approached the girl at a bus stop, and left once the parent got his attention. A separate incident on the west side Monday, but reported Wedesday, involved an 11-year old boy who was approached by a male driver who offered him a ride, and the child ran away.
Black males with separate descriptions and vehicles are sought in each of those cases, and white males are being sought for two other incidents this week. Daniels says it's not unheard of to have suspects start such behavior at the same time, and they're completely unrelated.
"So that's a possibility, and it's also possible that as more publicity occurs, we look at each case very carefully and we scrutinize the information that's been being given to us to make sure it's accurate and true," said Daniels. "We do believe that we have cause for concern on these cases and we have a number of people that are working them."
Daniels says anyone who might see suspicious activity that could be related to the recent reports is encouraged to Champaign Police or Crimestoppers.
Authorities have identified the body found north of Champaign Monday morning as a Danville woman.
The Champaign County Sheriff and Coroner's office say 43-year old Angelica Vasquez had been reported missing by her husband. Her body was discovered Tuesday morning along Rising Road, just north of Bradley Avenue.
Authorities used fingerprints to identify the body, and are treating the case as a homicide investigation. Sheriff Dan Walsh says his office is not releasing any details on the cause of death.
The Champaign County Sheriff and Danville Police Department are handling the investigation.
The Illinois Department of Corrections says the planned closure of a central Illinois prison could mean 1,500 inmates would be housed in prison gyms.
The (Springfield) State Journal-Register (http://bit.ly/nPzzfO) reports the department detailed the scenario involving the medium-security Logan Correctional Center near Lincoln in a required report to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. The closure also could mean crowding-related lawsuits.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has called the closure unavoidable given budget cuts by lawmakers. The union representing many of the affected prison workers says the move could endanger corrections workers and inmates.
Meanwhile, the Belleville News-Democrat (http://bit.ly/q62Vqk ) reports plans to close a maximum-security state mental-health center in Chester could require hundreds of thousands of dollars in upgrades at sites elsewhere to accommodate patients.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed lawsuits Tuesday against companies she says are running fraudulent mortgage rescue schemes.
Some Chicago area companies and licensed attorneys allegedly charged consumers as much as $375,000 to help homeowners avoid foreclosure. But Madigan said the companies took the money and never helped the consumers.
She said the 2006 Mortgage Rescue Fraud Act prevents companies from charging upfront fees, but lawyers are able to accept advance payment.
"The new twist on this scam is that these predators are really using lawyers as a front so that they can conceivably get around the law and collect the upfront money," Madigan said.
The Attorney General's office has filed suit against four companies accused of using this scam. The filing asks the court to shut down the businesses and get restitution for at least 76 consumers.
Madigan said homeowners should not have to pay to get help with their mortgage, and that HUD certified counselors are available for free. Homeowners can contact the Attorney General's Homeowner Helpline at (866) 544-7151.
Community leaders and activists have started putting together a list of qualities they want in a new Champaign police chief.
Many of the ideas have already been discussed, but some of the 35 who attended a forum put together by Champaign's Community and Police Partnership (CCAPP) Monday night say they're on the same page. Words like public trust, communication, and integrity were repeated throughout the 1-hour event. City leaders and activists spent most of last night's forum in those small groups answering two questions: What are the top 5 challenges facing Champaign's next police chief, and what four skills should that person possess?
Reverend Jerome Chambers, a former Champaign County NAACP president, says he wants someone who has the people skills to generate a dialogue with the community.
"Be as transparent with them as possible, yet - in leading, have the kind of skill set that says: 'I hear you, because you are important. And how we're going to approach this is not to be stereotypical," said Chambers.
Craig Williams says the next chief shouldn't shy away from changing the ranks within the department.
"If somebody's not doing their job, or if you get so many complaints on an officer, don't be afraid to remove that officer of discipline that officer," he said. "In any organization, discipline is very necessary."
City council member Will Kyles says it's important the city set the new chief up for success, recognizing that the person won't be a savior when he first or she first takes office.
Top challenges for the successor to retiring Chief R.T. Finney were also identified. They include dealing with the increase in youth violence (ages 14-25), further healing in the wake of the 2009 police shooting of teen Kiwane Carrington, and social networking.
The recommendations of the panels will be passed on to a search committee for new chief, as well as the city manager's office. Finney will step down on January 20th.
A federal judge has delayed the sentencing date for ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
A notice posted electronically Monday at the U.S. District Court in Chicago says simply that Blagojevich's Oct. 6 sentencing date has been "stricken until further order by the court.'' It doesn't offer a reason for the delay.
There had been speculation that the impeached governor's sentencing could be pushed back because of a scheduling conflict with another trial.
The trial of a one-time fundraiser for Blagojevich, William Cellini, is set to start on Oct. 3. U.S. District Judge James Zagel is the judge in both cases. A new date wasn't immediately announced.
Blagojevich's attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, says a federal judge is likely to set the convicted former governor's new sentencing date for late October or early November. He says Judge James Zagel did put off the sentencing because it conflicted Cellini's trial.
A veterans health center in Danville has alerted more than 500 veterans of a breach involving their personal information that puts them at risk for identity theft.
The Commercial News in Danville reports an appointment book from the VA Illiana Health Care System has been missing since July 14.
The appointment book included veterans' last names and last four digits of their Social Security numbers.
Illiana director Michael Hamilton says there's no reason to believe the information has been misused or stolen. He says the VA is alerting veterans so they can take precautions against identity theft.
Precautions include requesting a free credit report and placing a "fraud alert'' on credit accounts.
Hamilton says VA staff members are reviewing policies and procedures in hopes of preventing future breaches.
The case of an alleged torture victim under former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge is now in the hands of the Illinois Supreme Court. It's the first time in over a decade that a Burge related torture case is in front of the state's highest court. Since then, the former lieutenant was convicted of lying about torturing suspects and was sentenced to prison.
The state supreme court heard arguments for the Stanley Wrice case Thursday morning--they will now deliberate whether Wrice will receive a hearing on his claim that officers tortured him into confessing to a rape 30 years ago. Wrice has been in prison since the 80s for that crime.
Prosecutors for the state of Illinois argue they could convict Wrice even without the alleged coerced confession. Lead attorney Myles O'Rourke called the torture "harmless error" that doesn't affect the outcome of the case. Justices pressed O'Rourke Thursday on what evidence was available, and he acknowledged there are no fingerprints or DNA.
No matter what the outcome, some advocates, like attorney Locke Bowman, say the case will have an affect on the torture scandal as a whole.
"This is the case that presents the Illinois supreme court with an opportunity to exercise leadership in the Illinois criminal justice system and to take a dramatic step if it chooses to help us put this scandal behind us," Bowman said.
Bowman was an attorney for alleged victims in previous torture cases, and he heads the Roderick MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University. He said justices could use the Wrice case to grant hearings to other alleged torture victims. He said justices could take a few months, if not longer, to decide the outcome of this case.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald says the most important change in fighting terrorism over the past 10 years has been a new cooperation between the intelligence and law-enforcement communities. The cooperation is a result of the Patriot Act.
Prior to 9/11, there was a wall between the law enforcement and intelligence communities, he said. The wall arose largely as an effort to prevent domestic spying on U.S. citizens, but Fitzgerald said it meant there were two teams of people protecting the United States, and those teams weren't helping each other. He said he could get more information from an Al Qaida operative than he could get from some people in his own government.
"It used to be, 'Why should I share something with you? What is your need to know? And if someone finds out I shared it, how am I going to justify myself to my boss that I gave out that information?' That's been reversed. People now think, 'What is my duty to share? And if it's found out that I have information that I didn't share with someone, how am I going to justify to myself that I sat on it?'" he said.
Fitzgerald said now law enforcement regularly meets with the intelligence community, and he says that's been a key tool that wasn't available before 9/11.
He focused his comments in a speech Monday on assessing the war on terror, but Fitzgerald also took questions from the audience of business and civic leaders. One of the questions involved public corruption and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Fitzgerald wouldn't comment on Blagojevich's case, but he says too many people think corruption is a problem just for law enforcement.
"If I could have a dollar for everyone who's ever come up to me after we've convicted someone to say, 'Yes, we knew he or she was doing it all the time and we wondered when someone was going to get around to do something about it,' and I bite my lip, but I want to just smack them up side the head and say, 'Well the person you wanted to do something about it was you,'" Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald has been the U.S. Attorney in Chicago for 10 years. That's an unusually long tenure, but he says Chicago is his home and he loves his job and he has no plans to leave it.
(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
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