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Local News Archives for 2018-04

Police: Remains Found Not Related to Denita Hedden

Human skeletal remains were found Wednesday afternoon near Lake Lou Yaeger in Litchfield, causing speculation as to whether or not the remains belonged to a missing Royal Lakes woman.

However, during a press conference Thursday afternoon, Law enforcement authorities said there is no apparent relationship between the remains and the woman who went missing in January.

According to State Police Investigator Calvin Brown, the remains were found around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday by a utility worker near a wooded area next to the Lake. The worker then contacted the Litchfield Police, who requested assistance from the State Police. Authorities searched the area Wednesday evening and Thursday morning for additional evidence that may have been related to the remains. All items that were recovered were sent to the State Police Forensic Laboratory for further examination and analysis.

According to Brown, there is no time frame for when the analysis will be complete. Police, however, do not believe the remains are related to Denita Hedden, who went missing in January from Royal Lakes.

Those attending the press conference Thursday were Litchfield Police Chief Lee Jarman, Macoupin County Sheriff Shawn Kahl, Montgomery County Coroner Randy Leetham, Montgomery County State's Attorney Bryant Hitchings, Montgomery County Undersheriff Rick Robbins and State Police District 18 Commander Kenny Guard.

Human Remains Found Near Lake Lou Yaeger

The remains of a person were discovered by Litchfield Police Wednesday near Lake Lou Yaeger.

According to the State Police, the race, sex and age of the skeletal remains are unknown at this time. State Police Zone Six Investigations are handling the matter. Sgt. Elbert Jennings, who is leading the investigation, said that the remains will have to be examined for an identity is confirmed. Despite sepculation, other local law enforcement agencies did not comment on the victim's identity.

WSMI News will have more on this story as it develops.

Blackburn College President Leaving

Dr. John Comerford, president of Blackburn College, will be leaving the college on June 30.

According to Blackburn officials, Comerford, who came to Blackburn in 2013, will take over as president of Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, on July 1.

The Blackburn Board of Trustees is expected to appoint an interim president and will soon launch a nationwide search to replace Comerford.

Litchfield Council Rejects Water, Sewer Rate Increase

On Thursday evening, the Litchfield City Council voted against an ordinance that would have increased water and sewer rates for 2018-19 and 2019-20.

The plan would have increased sewer rates by eight percent for each Fiscal Year. The water rate increase would have been the same amount for the same years. The increases would have covered maintenance and operational costs had they been approved.

Before a vote was taken, budget officer Levi Suhrenbrock told the council that the eight percent increases were included in the budget that they passed at the previous meeting. According to Suhrenbrock, some of the projects that would have been covered by the rate increase are funded through the city's water and sewer reserve fund, and that without the increases, the money in the sewer fund would run out.

The council voted but the motion failed, 5-3. Aldermen Tim Wright, Ray Kellenberger, Dwayne Gerl, and Mark Brown and Alderwoman Marilyn Sisson each voted against the ordinance. Alderwoman Kassidy Paine and Aldermen Woodrow Street and David Hollo each voted in favor.

The next Litchfield City Council meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 3, at 6:30 p.m.

Nokomis to Host Kindergarten Registration

The Nokomis School District will host registration next week for children who will attend kindergarten in the fall.

Children who will be five years old on or before September 1, and will attend North Elementary School or Saint Louis Catholic Kindergarten and do not currently attend Pre-K at either school should register. Students that currently attend Pre-K at either school will have registration materials and forms for health exams sent home with them.

According to state law, all children attending school for the first time are required to have a physical, dental and eye examination. Forms for these exams will be sent home on this day. The examinations should be done before school starts in the fall. Parents attending the screening will need to bring the child's immunization record, social security number and a certified copy of the birth certificate to be placed in the child's permanent record. This is a state requirement.

Registration will be held Thursday, April 26, from 8:45 to 11:30 a.m. Appointments may be made by calling Kay Lee at the North Elementary School Office at 563-8521.

Man Charged with Reckless Homicide for Role in I-55 Crash


The man who was driving the semi that crashed into eight vehicles and killed four people in November has been charged with reckless homicide in connection to the incident.

According to the Madison County State's Attorney's Office, Mohamed Jama was charged with four counts of reckless homicide and eight counts of aggravated reckless driving. If convicted, Jama faces between three and fourteen years in prison for each reckless homicide charge, and between one and three years for each reckless driving charge.

It was determined that Jama was operating his semi in a construction zone faster than he should have been. Charges allege that he failed to reduce his speed appropriately for the conditions of the work zone. Jama turned himself into police on Monday, and he is being held at the Madison County Jail with no bond.

In November, Jama's semi struck eight vehicles on Interstate 55 near Hamel, killing four people and injuring eleven others. Among those killed in the crash were 20-year-old Hailey Bertels and 17-year-old Madison Bertels, both of Staunton, and 20-year-old Tori Carroll of Alhambra.

Man Arrested in Hillsboro for Possession of Stolen Property

A Decatur man was arrested in Hillsboro Friday morning for possession of stolen property.

Javier Rich, 32, was cited for burglary to a motor vehicle, obstructing justice and possession of stolen property. On Thursday morning, Hillsboro Police received complaints of items being stolen from unlocked vehicles. Small items, loose change and credit cards were the most common items that had been reported missing.

Authorities took a person of interest into custody Friday morning at McDonald's, after which the subject provided two false identities before refusing to identify himself at all. He was then taken to the Montgomery County Jail where his finger prints were submitted to the Bureau of Identification. On Sunday evening, Rich began cooperating and identified himself to the officers, after which he was officially cited and held in jail. During the booking process, he made threats and threw items at the correctional staff.

It was determined that Rich was on parole from the Illinois Department of Corrections for several felony charges from Cook and Macon Counties. IDOC issued a parole violation warrant and he has since been returned into their custody.

Hillsboro Approves Credit for Water Fees

On Tuesday evening, the Hillsboro City Council approved a partial reimbursement in the form of a credit for water fees that were charged for a residence at 226 Lakewood Drive.

According to Public Improvements Commissioner Don Downs, a new water meter was installed in 2012 that ended up doubling the property owner's water rate, but the error was not initially caught. In December of 2015, another new meter was installed. Downs said that the individual had been overcharged by $3,300.39 over a period of time. He said the problems most likely dated back beyond 2012, but that he could not accurately determine the amount.

Mayor Brian Sullivan said the best course of action would be to award a credit for the individual's water service, to which Downs agreed. Commissioner Downs said he was a little unsure of the credit, simply because the property owner had experienced water leaks on his side of the meter after the new meter was installed in 2015.

Mayor Sullivan said that he did not believe there were any other meters around town with the same problems. The council voted and the credit was approved, 3-0, with one commissioner absent.

The Motor Fuel Tax appropriations for Fiscal Year 2018 were also approved. City Engineer Scott Hunt told the council that the appropriations for the year totaled $174,238.80. $70,000 will be used for oil and chip on the northeast part of town. $90,000 will be used for spot patching, and just under $6,000 will be used for culvert work.

The council also voted to spend $2,580.50 on dock accessories for the South Marina at Glenn Shoals Lake. The group Friends of Glenn Shoals Lake has volunteered to install new cleats and other dock accessories if the city purchased the materials. The council members thanked the organization for their efforts and approved the purchase of materials from JLS Marine Incorporated.

The next Hillsboro City Council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 24, at 7 p.m.

Crimestopper Seeking Info on Theft South of Coffeen

The Macoupin-Montgomery County Crimestoppers is seeking information regarding theft and criminal damage to property that occurred over the last thirty days on Mount Moriah Avenue four miles south of Coffeen.

The suspect or suspects allegedly forcibly removed two electrical transformers and several hundred feet of copper wire from a work site near Red Ball Trail. A utility truck that was parked at the site was also found damaged.

Anyone who has information that would help solve this crime should visit the Crimestoppers website at, call Crimestoppers at 1-800-352-0136, or call the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office at 217-532-9511. You may also text a tip by entering 722TIP and your message to 274637.

Any information that leads to an arrest is eligible for up to a $5,000 reward. Crimestoppers reminds listeners that they are interested in your information, not your name.

Rep. Bourne Announces Art Contest Winners

State Representative Avery Bourne has announced the winners of her Bi-Centennial themed art contest, with all winners attending school in Macoupin County. According to Representative Bourne, more than 150 students submitted a piece of art for the contest, which was open to all children attending kindergarten thru 8th grade in the 95th Representative District.

First place winner in the Kindergarten-Fourth Grade judging class went to Anna Cloninger of Plainview for her work titled, Beaver Dam. Klaire Cole from North Mac Intermediate School finished second, and Makenna Harding of Carlinville Primary School finished third.

Finishing in first place in the Fifth-Eighth grade judging class was Malerie Eyer-Mayberry, a sixth grader at North Mac Middle School, for her work, Birthday Cake. Mady Landreth of Wolf Ridge School in Bunker Hill finished 2nd, with Ryan Kleckner from Zion Lutheran in Staunton finishing 3rd.

Each first place winner will have the opportunity to attend a regular session day at the statehouse on the day their artwork is presented in the House Chambers. Additionally, all first through third place winners will be invited to Representative Bourne's District Office in Litchfield for pizza.

Six to be Added to Hillsboro Veterans Memorial

Six War Veterans who were or are residents of the Hillsboro School District will have their names added to the Hillsboro Area Veterans Memorial prior to Memorial Day.

According to Veterans Commitee Representative Willie Cobetto, the veterans include World War II vet J.C. Gregory; Vietnam veterans John Gusick, Sr. and Robert Glenn Merriman; Lebanon-Grenada-Panama Conflicts veteran Ben Savage; and Persian Gulf War to current veterans Joseph Francis Gaffney and Tony Richard Zucca, Jr.

Veterans' names are added to the memorial by Montgomery County Recorder Sandy Leitheiser's office after military discharge information is recorded or otherwise documented by the Veterans Memorial Committee. Names should be submitted to the recorder's office on the first floor of the Historic Courthouse in Hillsboro.

Anyone with questions about the Hillsboro Veterans Memorial may contact Willie Cobetto at 217-556-0040.

ISBE Issues Vouchers for School Funding

The State Board of Education began issuing vouchers Thursday to the State Comptroller, paving the way for the new tier funding portion of the Evidence-Based School Funding formula. State Representative Avery Bourne and State Senator Andy Manar, who were each sponsors of the legislation in their respective houses, released separate statements Thursday praising the formula.

"This formula will fundamentally alter the way we fund our schools," said Representive Bourne, "and as a result, improve the lives of millions of schoolchildren throughout Illinois.

In his statement, Senator Manar said that the data we have now reinforces what we already knew, which is that there is astonishing unfairness in how school districts around Illinois are funded. According to Manar, Hillsboro will receive nearly $176,000 in new money under the formula. Litchfield will receive more than $326,000, Nokomis will receive more than $164,000, and the Panhandle School District will receive nearly $28,000.

Manar and Bourne each credited the staff at the state board of education for working with school districts and lawmakers for gathering the necessary data and distributing the amounts in April as promised.

Potential Weather Causes Cancellation of Litchfield Pickers Market

The Litchfield Tourism Office has announced that the April market for the 2018 season has been canceled. The event, which was to be held this Sunday, is being canceled in anticipation of inclement weather that may be headed to the Litchfield area this weekend.

In a statement released Thursday, Tourism Coordinator Sarah Waggoner said, Despite this typically being a rain or shine event, vendor, volunteer and visitor safety is our number one priority. At this point, we cannot guarantee safe conditions during the market, and therefore the event is canceled."

The cancellation means the grand opening of the 2018 Pickers Market season will now be held on Mother's Day, which is Sunday, May 13. The market will be held on that day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in downtown Litchfield.

Interstate 55 at Route 108 Closure

The Illinois Department of Transportation has annnounced that bridge repairs requiring an overnight closure of southbound Interstate 55 at Illinois Rt. 108 east of Carlinville in Montgomery County from Saturday, April 7 at 5:00pm until Sunday, April 8, at 8:00am.

Southbound I-55 traffic will be detoured around the closure at exit 60. A marked detour will be posted for Illinois Rt. 108 traffic to avoid the construction area. Northbound I-55 traffic will be unaffected.

Motorists can expect delays and should allow extra time for trips through this area. Drivers should pay close attention to changed conditions and signs in the work zone.

TASC to Host Autism Awareness Events This Month

In recognition of April being Autism Awareness month, The Autism Support Connection (TASC) will host some special events for families affected by Autism. On Thursday, April 5, TASC will hold their monthly support group meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Free Methodist Church in Hillsboro. Childcare is provided so parents may fully participate in the meeting.

On Saturday, April 7, there will be bounce houses available at Hillsboro Junior High School in the gymnasium from 1 to 3 p.m. On Saturday, April 14, there will be a sensory friendly showing of the film Ferdinand available at 1 p.m. at the Orphem Theatre in Hillsboro and Marvel Theatre in Carlinville. Finally, on Saturday, April 21, TASC will host a bowling and pizza party at the Hillsboro bowling alley from 1 to 3 p.m.

For additional information about TASC or the events that will be held during Autism Awareness month in April, you may email, or call Lynn Sellers at 556-9535 or Kim Draper at 710-3598.

Litchfield Student Named Scholar Award Winner

Last week, an eighth grade student from Litchfield was named a 2018 Scholar Attitude Award Winner by the Illinois Elementary School Association.

Elaan Bader was one of 15 students to receive the honor in the state. To be considered for the award, an eighth grade student from an IESA member school must have a minimum grade point average of 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, must have participated in at least one IESA activity during each year of their two-year junior high career, and demonstrated outstanding citizenship during their junior high tenure. Each student was also required to submit an essay titled The Value of Sportsmanship.

Bader, along with two guests and the Litchfield Middle School Principal will be guests of the IESA and will be honored with a luncheon on Tuesday, May 1, at the Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center in Bloomington. The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. She and the other award winners will receive a plaque, an award medallion, a gift card, and a DVD of the day's events.

According to the IESA, Bader is the first Litchfield student to receive the award. A complete list of prior winners may be found at


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