NEWS

State Briefs 12/21/07

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Weather disrupts holiday travel

CHICAGO -- Hundreds of flights have been canceled or delayed across the Chicago area as a fog advisory is expected to be extended into Saturday during one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Rain and up to 3 inches of snow is expected to follow the fog, according to the National Weather Service.

Meteorologist Bill Nelson said about a quarter inch of rain is expected Saturday as the temperature stays in the mid-40s.

“Any precipitation that will continue to the evening will turn into rain,” Nelson said. “In the overnight hours of Saturday into Sunday morning, as colder air moves in, any rain will be switching over to snow.”

Cook County and northern counties could see up to 3 inches of snow through Sunday morning, with flurries later in the afternoon, Nelson said. Strong winds will follow the snow, he said.

Karen Pride, a spokeswoman with the Chicago Department of Aviation, said more than 200 flights have been canceled at O’Hare and flights are being delayed at both major Chicago-area airports.

“Right now we’re averaging about a two-hour delay due to fog and other weather and we’ve also got more than 200 cancellations (at O’Hare),” Pride said. “At Midway, we’ve got some minor delays running around 10 minutes.”

Illinois Tollway officials said they will suspend most temporary lane closures for construction projects over the Christmas and New Year holiday weekends to 9 a.m. Dec. 26, and from noon Dec. 28, to 9 a.m. on Jan. 2.

Tollway officials said drivers should be aware of construction zones that will continue to be in place throughout the system.

- Chicago Suburban

Peoria man sentenced for child abuse

PEORIA - A baby-sitter who beat a 3-year-old girl so badly last year that it made the "top five worst" list of a nurse practitioner who has performed more than 1,000 exams was sentenced Thursday to eight years in prison.

"He knew better. This is completely unacceptable and in barbaric fashion," said Chief Peoria County Judge Stuart Borden before he sentenced Montaz L. West, 20, of 2801 W. Starr St. for aggravated battery. His sentence was two years shy of the 10-year maximum.

West told the judge he never meant to hurt the child.

But Borden said the beating wasn't a "one-time incident" and noted testimony from the nurse practitioner who said Thursday that it appeared that several bruises across the back of the toddler's legs and backside were caused by a closed first, an open hand and a looped object such as a cord or a belt.

On May 24, 2006, the girl's mother dropped her off at West's home. The next day, she noticed severe bruising on the girl's buttocks and lower legs. When questioned by police, West first admitted to "whooping" her after she threw her food.

- Journal Star, Peoria

Feds charge man with distributing child pornography

OLNEY – Brentley C. Rubsam of Olney was arrested Wednesday on one count of distribution of child pornography, according to a spokesperson at the FBI office in Springfield.

According to a Gatehouse News Service report, Rubsam was remanded to custody after an appearance in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in Benton.

Rubsam was indicted recently by a federal grand jury on charges of distribution of child pornography. The indictment was sealed until Rubsam’s Dec. 20 court appearance at a detention hearing in Benton. The U.S. Public Defender's office was appointed to represent Rubsam.

Although the government asked that Rubsam be held without bond, Judge Philip Frazier ordered him released upon his own recognizance once certain conditions were met. Those conditions were not listed in court documents.

- Olney Daily Mail

Canton ethanol plant going up for sale

CANTON - The unfinished ethanol plant south of here is officially for sale after representatives overseeing its reconstructuring failed to secure up to $30 million in funding during a trip this week to New York.

"This plant is going to get built. The question is, who's going to build it?" said Barry Barash, the attorney hired to guide Central Illinois Energy Co. through its bankruptcy.

Barash and other CIE officials went to New York this week hoping to secure another $25 to $30 million for completion of the 37 million gallon per year plant. The trip wasn't successful.

"They want the plant sold," Barash said of Credit Suisse, the main lender for the project.

Proposed in 2001 as a $40 million project, CIE's cost grew to $94 million when ground was broken in October 2006. Additions to the project and delays with engineering and financing led to the increase.

To date, around $130 million has been spent on the plant, Barash said. It's nearly finished, but Memphis, Tenn.-based Lurgi PSI, the main contractor for the project, left the job site last month after filing liens for millions in unpaid bills. Subcontractors also left the job when their contracts were cancelled by Lurgi.

More than $30 million in liens have been filed with the Fulton County Clerk's office against CIE. Barash said at least some of those likely will be shed in bankruptcy proceedings. The new buyer may assume some of them.

- Journal Star, Peoria

Police say they find drugs in robbery victim’s home

SPRINGFIELD -- Sometimes it pays to call the police for help. Sometimes it doesn't.

A Springfield man who wanted to report a burglary at his house Thursday afternoon was arrested after officers who went through his home to see what was missing discovered a quarter pound of marijuana sitting on a bedroom dresser.

A later search of the car he was driving turned up more than a half-pound of additional marijuana and a small amount of crack cocaine.

Markies L. Jones, 24, of the 1500 block of East Melrose Street was arrested, but the men who burglarized his home still are being sought. One other man, a bystander who was not involved in the burglary, was arrested on a variety of traffic warrants.

- State Journal-Register

Stabbing victim won’t talk

SPRINGFIELD -- Police on Friday said a woman who reported being stabbed on Thursday was uncooperative with their investigation, so it has stalled.

Police were sent to St. John's Hospital just before 9 a.m., where the woman, who didn't provide her age, was being treated for a stab wound to the left side of her upper torso. The weapon apparently punctured her lung.

The woman told police the attack happened at 16th and Cook streets sometime after 3 a.m. but would provide no other details, including information about the assailant and the weapon. A department spokesman said there is very little police can follow up on, though the case remains under investigation for now.

- State Journal-Register

Rockford-to-Ireland flights on the way

ROCKFORD -- Twice-weekly flights between Rockford and Ireland could start in June, says a Maryland-based tour company.

Kenny Tours is close to finalizing a deal with an airline to charter 198-seat Boeing 757s between six U.S. cities and the western Ireland city of Shannon.

“We’ve got the carrier, now it’s just a matter of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s,” said Bob Nay, Kenny Tours’ director of sales and marketing. The flights to and from Rockford would be on Thursdays and Sundays for a 10-week season starting in June.

Other cities that would get flights to and from Shannon are Belleville; Niagara Falls, N.Y.; Lansing, Mich.; Columbus, Ohio; and Harrisburg, Pa.

- Rockford Register Star

Ex-Teamster pleads guilty to embezzlement

ROCKFORD -- A former Teamster pleaded guilty today to federal charges of embezzling money from a Rockford union, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Kathleen Thompson, 48, of Rockford, admitted that over three years ending in April that she embezzled funds from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 325 by cashing a member’s check without turning it over to the union, then replacing the missing cash with money from the unreported sale of pull tabs. The union office was often used for bingo and other games of chance and Teamsters would regularly cash player’s checks.

Thompson faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison without parole followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. She must pay the $33,770 stolen from the Teamsters local, which represents truckers and other workers in the transportation industry.

Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 9 in U.S. District Court.

- Rockford Register Star

Hawk attacks woman’s dog

DOWNERS GROVE -- After letting her three small dogs out into the back yard Monday morning, Downers Grove resident Janice Flores heard them barking.

When she went out to check on the noise, she found her 2 pound, 5 ounce Chihuahua, Tico, in the talons of a large hawk. She began throwing things at the bird, starting with a bottle of oil, snow and a piece of wood. The bird would not let go of her pet.

Eventually she grabbed a snow shovel and threw it, finally scaring the bird off her pet, though it continued to perch on a fence.

“No one ever thinks that something like that’s going to happen,” Flores said. “He’s tan-colored. I’d imagine that from the sky, he probably resembled a squirrel.”

The other two dogs, a Shih Tzu and a Cairn terrier, are not much bigger than Tico. Flores has served as a foster home for the Aurora-based “In Your Heart” Pekingese and Small Dog Rescue, but she owns all three dogs currently in her care.

Tico was in critical condition at Arboretum View Animal Hospital in Downers Grove. Flores said the hawk punctured the top of his skull and put the dog into shock. Tico may have permanent neurological damage. On Tuesday, Flores took him home, where he has been resting. The dog is unable to move his back legs and his eyes, face and head are very swollen.

Ron Skleney, a naturalist at Willowbrook Wildlife, said he has not heard of similar cases of birds of prey attacking pets. He said it is more likely small dogs would be attacked by coyotes than birds. The most widespread large hawk in the area is the Red-tailed hawk, which ranges between 3 and 4 pounds.

“We recommend that people take the same precautions that you would with a young child,” Skleney said. “You would not allow your young child in your yard unattended, and you shouldn’t do that with your dog.”

- Chicago Suburban