State Briefs 6/13/08

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Man flees from cops, then turns self in

BELVIDERE — A man fleeing police dived into the Kishwaukee River on Wednesday and escaped arrest despite a massive manhunt.

But the 23-year-old later turned himself over to McHenry County police, who wanted him for aggravated battery and mob action, authorities say.

Local sheriff’s deputies and police officers assisted McHenry County authorities to execute a warrant to arrest Luis Rodriguez around 11:20 a.m. Wednesday.

Rodriguez, whose charges stemmed from an incident the previous night in Woodstock, was behind the house swimming when police arrived. He took off into the river, said Lt. Phil Beu of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.

Officers paired with K-9s, a boat, and a deputy in a private plane borrowed from someone at the Poplar Grove Airport couldn’t locate Rodriguez after a three-hour search, Beu said.

Rockford Register Star

Police believe one person responsible for multiple overdoses

PEKIN - A Tazewell County coroner's jury ruled Thursday that three Pekin residents died from accidental overdoses of drugs that included Vicodin that came from one man.

During Thursday's inquest, police detectives Rick VonRohr, Chris Bitner and Charles Barth told jury members that an individual they would only describe as "a person of interest" is believed to have given Troy Berardi, 39, Brett Miller, 42, and Lawrence Ghidina, 49, enough Vicodin to cause their deaths in late 2007 through early 2008. All three were from Pekin.

Bitner said that the police suspect the "person of interest" gave the Vicodin to the three after obtaining it legally from his own physicians.

Each man mixed the narcotic with other prescription medications, also obtained legally, and died shortly after ingesting the concoction.

During VonRohr's and Bitner's testimony, the detectives told jury members that both Berardi and Miller met with the "person of interest" just two days before they were found dead in their homes.

According to Barth, according to a toxicology report of tests performed on Ghidina, Vicodin was one of several medications that contributed to his death.

Barth also said that the "person of interest" is a very close personal friend of Ghidina's.

In the end, jury members ruled each man's death an accident but recommended to Tazewell County Coroner Dennis Conover that police continue to investigate.

Pekin Times

Former coach sentenced for sex with underage girl

PEORIA — The former girls baskeball coach at Peoria High School was sentenced Friday morning to three years in prison for having sex with a 15-year-old girl whom he once coached.

Andre Williams, 35, was sentenced by Judge Michael Brandt in Peoria County Circuit Court.

During sentencing, Williams apologized and asked the judge for probation. Brandt, however, noted the seriousness of the offense and the need to deter others in rejecting Williams' probation plea.

Williams pleaded guilty in April to one count of sexual abuse. Indictments indicated Williams used his position of trust as a coach to gain power over two girls and then to have sex with them. The offenses with the girl occurred from September 2005 until December 2006. 

The relationships were consensual, according to prosecutors, and involved sexual activity a few times each month.

Williams was a 13-year faculty member, head coach of the Peoria High School's girls basketball team and assistant coach of its girls track team. He was also the physical education teacher at Columbia Middle School.

Journal Star, Peoria

Longtime insurance firms merge

SPRINGFIELD – Industry demands for greater size and sales volume have brought together more than 200 years of Springfield insurance history.

The merger of Alvin S. Keys & Co. into R.W. Troxell & Co. creates a single firm with 90 employees, 21,000 customers and more than $110 million per year in annual revenues. Troxell, founded in 1887, already is one of the city’s largest independent agencies. Alvin S. Keys, founded in 1916, was one of the smallest with five employees.

Company executives said Thursday the combination reflects an industry where small, independent insurance agencies find it harder to compete in a business increasingly based on size and volume.

Troxell has about 80 employees at its Springfield headquarters. The company also has an office in Washington, just outside of Peoria, and employees in Chicago and St. Louis.

Vice president Todd Sowle said that while Troxell represents more than 40 insurance companies, the firm has had to expand through mergers and acquisitions.

“It’s become harder to remain independent on a small scale,” said Sowle, who called the merger of two local firms a “natural meshing.”

State Journal-Register