The 21st Show

The Tragedy At Clinton Lake Revisited; Beardstown Braces For The Census

Edith Brady-Lunny with the cover of her book, The Unforgiven

Courtesy of Edith Brady-Lunny

Almost 16 years ago, three young children died after they were trapped in a car that went into Clinton Lake. Edith Brady-Lunny has been covering the story since that first night. We’ll speak with her about her new book, The Unforgiven. Also, local communities play a big part in the census. But this time, there’s a lot of fear about being counted. Today, we’ll focus on what this looks like in the central Illinois community of Beardstown.

It was early evening on September 2, 2003, when Amanda Hamm, her boyfriend Maurice Lagronne and Amanda’s three children headed down to Clinton Lake in central Illinois to spend some time by the water. 

Six year old Christopher, three year old Austin and 23 month old Kyleigh were in the back seat when the car, parked just inches from the water on the boat ramp, suddenly lurched into the lake. Although both Lagronne and Hamm were able to escape the vehicle and call for help, the three children did not escape, and over the next 24 hours, all three would be pronounced dead. 

Bloomington Pantagraph reporter Edith Brady-Lunny was at the hospital that night when first responders brought in Amanda Hamm’s children back in 2003. For almost 16 years, she’s been covering the twists and turns the case has taken since that first night. 

This summer, Edith and co-author Steve Vogel released a book on the saga — it’s called The Unforgiven: The Untold Story of One Woman’s Search for Love and Justice.


As we get closer to the 2020 Census, local officials here in Illinois are ramping up their efforts to ensure that their communities get counted. Every ten years, smaller towns and cities play a big part in the overall count. 

But it can be hard to make sure everyone participates. According to the Census Bureau, immigrants, those living in rural towns and young children are some of the most difficult to count populations. One place that has all three? Beardstown, a rural community on the Illinois River about an hour northwest of Springfield. 

Local officials in Beardstown say their town is growing, and they want their census numbers to reflect that. But in light of a few recent changes and challenges, many in the city are worried that some people won’t be counted.

Daisy Contreras and Mary Hansen have been reporting in Beardstown for NPR Illinois.

Anita Banerji is the director of the Democracy Initiative at Forefront, a statewide association of nonprofits. 

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