The Real Scoop: 2010 Entries
Last night I covered a vigil at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston. The Sigma Kappa sorority and other students held the vigil to celebrate the life of Andrea Will, an 18-year-old EIU freshman who was murdered in 1998 by her ex-boyfriend, Justin Boulay. He strangled her with a telephone cord. He left prison Tuesday morning after serving 12 years of his 24 year sentence, and he is moving to Hawaii to be with a woman he married while he was in prison. She's an assistant college professor.
When Boulay was sentenced, the law in Illinois was different and it could still apply to an offender like Boulay today. Time behind bars was reduced for good behavior. Now, a violent offender must serve 85% of the sentence.
Today, I tracked down Judge Ashton Waller who gave Boulay the sentence. Waller is now retired. I contacted him by phone, and he was willing to answer my questions. I asked him if he still stands by his decision to hand Boulay a 24 year sentence. He said yes. I asked him why. He said he did what he was supposed to at the time. He said he listened to all of the evidence at the trial and tried his best to follow Illinois law. He also told me the maximum sentence he could have given Boulay was 60 years. I asked him why he didn't give Boulay 60 years. He again pointed to the evidence presented. I asked him whether he knew Boulay would not have to serve most of the sentence at the time, and he said he can't remember. He also suggested that I present the full story, and I believe I have. There's no question that Boulay strangled a young woman to death, that he received what many would consider a light sentence, and that now he's moving from a prison cell to paradise.
Now that the hypnosis report wrapped up, I'm catching up with other reports, and searching for the best deals around town! Do you know of any? If so, please let me know. We would all like to save money, right?
If you live in Decatur, you probably have the Kroger card. Did you know you can load coupons onto it on the Kroger website? Might try that tonight...
This evening, the second and final part of "Hypnosis. Does It Work?" airs. You'll find out whether hypnosis helped our three volunteers deal with their three problems: smoking, weight loss, and stress, and since I appreciate you reading this blog, here's a sneak peak in case you're reading this before our 10pm newscast tonight...
Our volunteer, Chelle, who wants to quit smoking is now smoking again. She smokes less, but she says she's up to half a pack a day.
Our volunteer, Ken, says he lost seven pounds, and he actually may go back for another hypnotism session.
Our volunteer, Stefanie, says she's less stressed out, and she's even recommending hypnosis to her friends.
So, it seems hypnosis can work if you are passionate about reaching that goal. A hypnotist told me, for example, if you want to quit smoking, hypnotism can help, but if your mother-in-law wants you to quit smoking (and you're not passionate about it), forget it. Don't waste your money. A session can cost more than a hundred dollars. If you want to try it, make sure you go to someone recommended.
This evening, our series, "Hypnosis. Does It Work?" kicks off. It's two parts. Tonight, you meet the volunteers who tried hypnosis and the hypnotists. You find out why our volunteers want to try hypnosis: smoking, weight loss, and stress.
For one of our volunteers, Chelle, this may be a life and death situation. When we first met Chelle, she told us she has a number of conditions to deal with. She says she is supposed to use extra oxygen at night, use a nebulizer three times a day for asthma, and is scheduled to get gastric bypass surgery because she is severely overweight. She says her doctor will not give her the surgery until she is nicotine free for two months. For someone who says she had her first cigarette at 9 or 10 years old, started smoking heavily at 12 years old, and smokes a pack and a half a day because she's puffing away while she cooks in the kitchen, uses the bathroom, and more, quitting smoking may not be easy. She says she's tried quitting cold turkey and much, much more, but nothing seems to work. Chelle seems like she truly wants to quit, and the hypnotists we talked with say this is very important with hypnosis. They say you have to want change in order for the hypnosis to help make that happen. Tomorrow night, you will find out if Chelle was able to quit smoking. We catch up with her about a month after her first hypnosis session.
If you follow WAND on Facebook, you probably remember when we announced we were looking for volunteers for this report. The response was overwhelming. We received many emails from viewers willing to try hypnosis. Most viewers who contacted us said they wanted to try it to quit smoking. That's the big one. Some viewers sent emails with very personal stories to show just how much they wanted to be involved. I truly appreciate the response, and I wish we could give everyone a chance. I have an idea for another report though, and it may provide another chance for our viewers to get involved...I'll keep you posted!
Catching up on blogging!
FBI CITIZENS' ACADEMY CONCLUDES: Range Day & Graduation
The most hands-on lesson of all! We learned about the guns FBI agents use, a plan they would use during a traffic stop gone bad, and we saw a sniper shoot a balloon from across a field. I had some trouble with the handgun...you may have seen that during my reports!
We had an official graduation the following week. The Citizens' Academy was a great experience. I learned so much during just a couple of months. If you have the opportunity to participate, I highly recommend it.
FBI CITIZENS' ACADEMY: My Sixth Week
We learned about weapons of mass destruction. The special agent talking to us is a weapons of mass destruction specialist. He told us there are three types: chemical agents, biological agents, and nuclear radiological threats. This presentation was especially visual and interesting, but honestly, it was also frightening.
FBI CITIZENS' ACADEMY: My Fifth Week
During this session, we learned about violent crime and gangs.
Did you know the Springfield division of the FBI investigated 42 bank robberies last year, and solved all of them except one? Investigators usually check in with surrounding states, because these crimes usually involve "serial robbers."
We learned that Illinois is one of the top five states for gang members, and the main gangs here are the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords.
We also learned about the civil rights program at the FBI which involves four sub-programs: hate crimes, color of law (This involves how law enforcement and public officials use their power.), human trafficking, and freedom of access to clinic entrances (FACE and this involves abortion clinics). We were told that most complaints coming in are against police officers. There are 90 Department of Justice attorneys who review civil rights cases, and then determine whether they will be prosecuted.
FBI CITIZENS' ACADEMY: My Fourth Week
Like our last session, this was interactive. We met an Evidence Response Team. Here's what we learned:
Each field office has at least one ERT made up of eight employees. They usually work on crime scenes and document everything. They might collect human remains, analyze bullet holes, lift fingerprints, and more. Basically, these are the team's priorities: recover, package, and preserve.
ERT members get an additional 80 hours of training. Did you know that there is a body farm in Tennessee so students can learn about dead bodies?
Here's where the interactive part comes in...
We had the chance to learn how to collect fingerprints. It was interesting: put material on the print, spread it out, cover it with paper, and lift the print. It definitely requires patience.
We then went on a tour of the building. There's some high tech security there (obviously). The FBI actually does not own the building; it's rented.
Do you have any old prescription drugs that you don't know what to do with? If so, tomorrow is your chance to get rid of them. Through the "Drug Take Back Program," you can drop them off with no questions asked. They will then be disposed of properly. The program is aimed at preventing drug abuse and keeping the public safe. Drugs thrown away or flushed down the toilet can be safety hazards.
You can find out where to drop them off Saturday here:
FBI CITIZENS' ACADEMY: My Third Week
This week's FBI Citizens' Academy session was very interactive.
First, we learned how the FBI hires special agents and other staffers. For 2011, the FBI anticipates hiring approximately 700 special agents, and the hiring process sounds intense (obviously, right?). You must be very open about your past, even if you've used drugs. If you've ever experimented with drugs, it sounds like they want you to be honest about it and that it doesn't rule out your chances of getting hired. You also have to list all of your employers, take a lie detector test, and more. Special agent training is 21 weeks long. Some of the training is done at "Hogan's Alley," located at the FBI Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. It's a model town where trainees can get an experience as close to reality as they can.
As a new special agent, the FBI could also place you at any of its 56 field offices throughout the United States.
Here come the interactive parts of the session...
We learned about the justified use of deadly force through a computer program called FATS, Firearms Training System. Because this session was interactive, a photographer, Chris Baggs, came with me. I was excited for FATS, but when I saw how intense the program looked, I thought that I may have made a mistake bringing the camera! Sure enough, it was my turn to go. Here's how this works: you have a gun (no real bullets, of course) that is hooked into oxygen so you get the full effect of firing a gun. A video plays out in front of you, and you are playing an agent. You are with at least one partner working an investigation, when the situation seems to become life threatening. According to your response, an agent operating FATS at a keyboard can change what happens. The bottom line...should you use deadly force? You can find out what I did in my report about it next week.
We also learned about a polygraph test. The FBI says this lie detector test is about 90% accurate. Well, since our camera was there, I took a polygraph test. I tried to control my breathing to see if I could beat it at all. Let's just say I was unsuccessful. This part will also be in my report next week. Did you know that if you work for the FBI, you are given a polygraph test every 5 years? They want to make sure you're not involved in espionage and terrorism.
I hope you watch my report about this session next week!
I reported live from a fire in Blue Mound last Thursday. A trailer went up in flames, and the residents there said they do not have insurance so they lost everything. Today, Blue Mound Fire Chief John Holmgren, Jr. tells me the fire was caused by an electrical problem. We hear this often about fires, so I wanted to share a link to the United States Fire Administration's webpage about electrical fire safety:
FBI CITIZENS' ACADEMY: My Second Week
We learned about intelligence and counterintelligence, cyber crimes, and crimes against children this week.
Here's some information our instructors told us:
-Every intelligence and counterintelligence case opened is classified meaning it is top secret.
-A good way to understand counterintelligence and how the FBI works an espionage case: watch the film, "The House on 92nd Street."
-If you are the victim of an internet scam or you receive one of the those phony emails, you can report it at www.ic3.gov.
-You may want to check out www.antiphishing.org to help protect yourself on the internet.
-You need to choose STRONG passwords. That means not using dictionary words, and using more than 14 characters.
-Make sure to update your computer whenever you can.
-Always have anti-virus programs on your computer, and you can find them for free on the internet. Make sure you are careful in choosing the programs though, because fake anti-malware programs are on the rise.
-Here are internet safety tips. (They seem obvious, but it can't hurt to be reminded, right?)
-Stay away from dubious websites.
-Only download software from reputable sites.
-Be careful what you put on social networking sites.
-Businesses may want to check out www.infragard-illinois.org to help protect themselves.
When a detective who works on cases involving crimes against children talked with us, he answered some questions I had before I even asked them. Some of his cases involve child pornography, and I sometimes wonder how investigators are affected by that. This detective told us that those images get into your head, and they're there forever. What a terrible feeling. He said while he was working on one case which involved horrific images, he couldn't go home that day to his children, because he felt so disturbed, and that he used to let his children walk to the bus stop alone, and now he doesn't. He also told us that detectives like him have to see a psychologist every couple of years.
Do you know of any great deals around town? I am working on a project about this. We all want to save money, right? If you know of any deals, please email me: email@example.com.
I think it's interesting to check out the comments on the WAND-TV Facebook page. Something that recently caught my attention is which stories viewers comment on. For example, on our posting about the missing snake in Macon County, as of Monday afternoon, there are 133 comments! Wow! Of course for any posts about Blagojevich, you expect a lot of comments, but sometimes I am surprised. On a recent story about a trailer home which neighbors are upset about because it stinks and is an eyesore, our Facebook posting received more comments than I expected. I enjoy hearing from viewers and sometimes these comments lead to story ideas.
You can check out our Facebook page here: http://tiny.cc/fsr6t
FBI CITIZENS' ACADEMY: My First Week
I recently began the FBI Citizens' Academy. Basically, various members of the community are part of a course where we learn about the inside workings of the FBI each week. As a reporter, this is a great opportunity for me to understand the FBI better so I can do a good job of explaining new stories that involve the FBI. For the FBI, it's a community outreach effort. I plan on sharing what I learn with you. This week, the course was about white collar crime, undercover agents, and public corruption.
Some information from the FBI that I found especially interesting...
- Did you know the FBI does not have to answer to local or state officials? For example, governors, mayors, state police, etc., do not have power over the FBI.
- Public Corruption is the NUMBER ONE criminal priority for the FBI, and a division of white collar crime. In Springfield, there are three agents working on public corruption. Public corruption mainly has no DIRECT victim, when you think about it. For example, when someone is murdered, they are the victim. With public corruption though, there are many INDIRECT victims: you and me, the taxpayers. So if you know about public corruption, you probably want to report it. Here is a tip line: 877-884-7633.
-When you think of the FBI, one of the first things you might think of is an undercover agent, right? Well, the FBI was created in 1908, and undercover work didn't start until 1972. 25 agents started working through offices in the northeast to deal with communist groups and organized crime. In 1981, the U.S. Attorney General released guidelines for undercover operations. Undercover work is recognized as one of the most intrusive and infiltrating ways to investigate, and it poses the greatest risk. For one undercover agent, there is a team of at least six people backing the agent up. Obviously, training for undercover agents is intense, and in a class, as many as half of the trainees may not make the cut. Nationally, there are up to 200 undercover operations going on each year. The FBI does not use undercover agents for most cases, because the goal is to use the least intrusive means to investigate.
The questions I asked at this session: Since undercover agents put SO much on the line, do they get paid more? The answer is no. How many times has the Springfield office used undercover agents in the past few years? I was told less than 12.
If you have any questions, pass them along to me in an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to officially thank Greg Trumbold for referring his readers to my blog! It's given "The Real Scoop" a boost. Thanks, Greg! And welcome, new readers!
I am officially back after a visit to New York, so hello again!
There are so many updates on FutureGen. We've reported them already, but I am trying to find out more. I will keep you posted.
Also, I am reaching out to readers of my blog for my "Problem Solvers" project. Please feel free to spread the word. For at least one week, we will run reports which involve our viewers and their concerns. Basically, if you have a problem (you were ripped off, scammed, need help looking into something, etc.), we will try to get to the bottom of it. Just email me at email@example.com or call me at 425-6397, x1144 as soon as possible, so I can get started!
8/11/10 - Update
A Department of Energy spokeswoman just emailed this to me:
Open Letter to Southern Illinois communities from Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy
Dr. James J. Markowsky
Last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that we are awarding more than $1
billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for the FutureGen 2.0 project – one
of the Department's largest grants from the Recovery Act anywhere in the country. We regret
that Coles County has decided to not be a part of this project, but its decision creates an
enormous opportunity for neighboring counties to be at the center of a job-creating regional
carbon sequestration network that will position Southern Illinois as a world leader in carbon
capture and storage technology.
The Department of Energy, the FutureGen Alliance, and all our partners, Ameren Energy
Resources, Babcock & Wilcox, and Air Liquide Process & Costruction, Inc., will continue to
move forward with FutureGen 2.0. We look forward to working with communities interested in
joining this valuable project.
Naturally, local leaders and other stakeholders have questions about this plan and how it
will benefit the region. These are important questions. I want to take this opportunity to clearly
explain our plan for FutureGen 2.0 and the economic potential for the communities that will be
involved in the project.
In recent years, the landscape for clean coal technology has changed. When it was
originally conceived, a Mattoon Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant
was going to be the first project of its kind. However, the prior administration chose not to move
forward with that project and today, there are four Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle
projects going forward in other parts of the country, making the original IGGC plan less cutting
edge and less valuable to the Nation. Senator Durbin restored $1 billion in potential funding
under the Recovery Act.
Unfortunately, as time went on, the price tag for the original IGCC project went way up
while the number of partners and private sector funding went down. Proceeding with the
original plan would have required a government investment in a single coal plant 10-20 times
greater than the investment we are making in the four other IGCC power plants. Under these
circumstances, we simply could not proceed with the original plan. So the alternatives were to
zero out any funding for FutureGen or to develop a viable alternative to achieve FutureGen's
goals and build on the strong foundation that had been established.
A great deal of good work has gone into the FutureGen effort, and for a combination of
geological and technical reasons, the Mt. Simon geological formation that extends under much of
downstate Illinois remains a very attractive location to advance carbon capture and sequestration
technology. Mattoon was to be the host for this site, but many communities downstate have
access to the same geology. For that reason, we developed FutureGen 2.0 – a project which will
become a flagship for new technology called oxy-combustion and an approach to sequestration
that can be a model for the country and the world.
As you may know, FutureGen 2.0 will repower Ameren's 200 megawatt Unit 4 in
Meredosia, Illinois with advanced oxy-combustion technology. In addition, the project will
establish a CO2 pipeline network from Meredosia to a regional storage site that will transport
and store more than 1 million tons of captured CO2 per year.
The community that will serve as the site of the sequestration, research, and training
facilities will be at the center of a program to repower America's coal industry, delivering on
FutureGen's original goals. The Department and our partners are investing $125 million to build
the sequestration, research, and training facilities and another $375 million to build the regional
CO2 pipeline network. On its own, this piece of the FutureGen 2.0 project will create 275
construction jobs and 75 permanent jobs. In total, we believe that a FutureGen 2.0 option could
bring more than 900 jobs to downstate Illinois and another 1,000 to suppliers across the state.
The project sponsors expect to break ground this winter on the visitors' center, research and
training facilities, moving the FutureGen 2.0 project forward with shovels in the ground.
Why retrofit an existing plant rather than build a new one? The answer is simple: the
market need for retrofitting existing plants vastly exceeds the market for building new plants,
since there are already 600 coal plants in the United States and only a handful of new plants
being planned. The technological and engineering challenges involved with a retrofit are much
different than those involved with new construction, so Southern Illinois will be uniquely
positioned as a world leader. Many of the existing facilities would need to close down in the face
of tighter pollution rules, but this technology provides the potential to reach near zero emissions
on harmful air and water pollutants like sulfur and nitrogen oxides, mercury, and particulate
emissions, making communities cleaner at much lower cost than traditional approaches. Some
20 power plants in downstate Illinois and some 115 power plants within pipeline distance of the
chosen storage site would be candidates for this repowering technology, creating thousands of
good jobs repowering power plants for the next decade across the downstate region.
Creating a state-of-the-art carbon capture and storage network holds significant long-term
economic opportunities for the communities involved in the project. As the world moves to limit
carbon pollution, there are hundreds of power plants in the nation and thousands around the
world that could take advantage of this repowering technology and storage network. The
FutureGen 2.0 project will help this community and Southern Illinois lead in the over $300
billion market for coal unit repowering.
We know that countries around the world are aggressively pursuing carbon capture and
storage technology. Instead of spending billions of dollars to import this technology from
overseas, we want to invest those dollars here in Illinois – in Illinois's workers, industries, and
innovations. FutureGen 2.0 will position Illinois as a leader in the carbon capture and storage
technology and the clean energy economy. We look forward to working with the local
communities on this exciting project.
FutureGen in Decatur?
Coles County is saying no to FutureGen. As you may know, the project changed. Instead of building a new plant in Mattoon, we recently discovered that only the carbon sequestration would be set up there. We found out about the new plan this week, and Coles County had to make a decision this week. You can understand the controversy: a plan years in the making that the community was excited about because of jobs, dollars coming in, etc. suddenly changed and the people this directly affects had little time to make a decision.
Check the letter out from "Coles Together:"
August 11, 2010
The Honorable Richard Durbin
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-1304
Dear Senator Durbin,
It is with great disappointment that I must inform you that the citizens, neighbors near the site, business leaders, and community leaders in Coles County are nearly unanimous in the belief that the pursuit of FutureGen 2.0, as proposed, is not in our best interest. We take this position with deep regret, but after thoughtful consideration. Unfortunately, the revised $1.2 billion project does not provide for the highest and best use of a Mattoon site that top scientists, researchers and engineers have determined to be the best location in the nation for a clean coal facility and on-site carbon capture and sequestration research.
While I have nothing but the highest level of regard for the time and effort that you and the FutureGen Alliance expended to make this project viable, our challenges with FutureGen 2.0, as proposed by the Department of Energy, are too big to overcome.
I want to emphasize that the concept of carbon capture and sequestration has nothing whatsoever to do with the reasons we have chosen not to pursue what is known as FutureGen 2.0. As a citizenry, we embraced that technology and believe it to be a safe and practical approach to removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
The simple fact remains that we agreed to host what was presented as the world's first near-zero emissions research and demonstration facility – the latest in power generation technology paired with underground storage for the facility's greenhouse gas emissions. Hosting the original FutureGen was something this community embraced with great pride. Ours would be a distinct and honorable mission in an emerging scientific field. Mattoon was to be a focal point for smart, forward-looking solutions in a carbon constrained world.
Unfortunately, our role in FutureGen 2.0 does not support that effort. If FutureGen 2.0 moves ahead with the revised structure described today, it must be without Coles County. Meanwhile, we will explore opportunities that better serve our citizens and make a bigger contribution to the global effort to develop new technologies and sciences.
Now the Department of Energy has to find a new location for the carbon sequestration, and Decatur city manager Ryan McCrady and Mayor Mike Elroy tell me they are interested. Here's a statement from the city of Decatur just released Wednesday:
The City of Decatur definitely has an interest in housing the FutureGen 2.0 project and plans to reach out to our legislators to talk about that possibility. It's our understanding that the project would bring additional jobs to the city and surrounding area, both at the new facility and for the construction of the pipeline which would be great for residents of our community. The project also fits perfectly with Decatur's continued growth as a green energy hub. The Midwest Geological Sequestration consortium is constructing an $84.3 million carbon sequestration facility at Decatur's Archer Daniels Midland plant which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the company's ethanol plan in porous rock below the earth's surface. The city itself has partnered with the Agricultural Watershed Institute in support of AWI's bioenergy initiative. We're also working on our own sustainability plan which will coordinate efforts to make Decatur more environmentally responsible which is what this project would do. Decatur's emerging position as a "key player in the green energy industry" contributed to U.S News & World Report recently ranking Decatur in the top 10 nationwide in terms of expected growth in property values over the next decade.
Decatur residents, what do you think? I would like to hear from you. Please feel free to shoot me an email.
You may have seen my report about the unsolved murder of Sherry Lewis last week. I mentioned a balloon release that Terry Lewis, her twin sister, was part of with a group called Twinless Twins. When I met with Terry last week for the interview, she expressed to me how important the group, Twinless Twins, is to her. Not only did her twin sister die in 1994, but she was brutally murdered, the killer has never been caught, and Terry believes she knows who the killer is. Plus, shortly after the murder, Terry had her wedding which was already scheduled before the tragedy. So to help her cope with the loss of her twin, Terry joined "Twinless Twins."
You can find the group's website here: http://www.twinlesstwins.org
Tate & Lyle Relocating its Headquarters?
You can check out the headline which started the buzz about Tate & Lyle possibly relocating its headquarters (from Decatur to a Chicago suburb) here:
More News Tips, Please!
Many times, we hear about news from you, our viewers. Sure, press releases keep us informed. We also have scanners constantly running in the newsroom. Regular sources provide information, too. Here's an example, though, of just how much I appreciate when people call in with a tip:
Last Wednesday, we had a very busy news day. We have a list of news items for each day, but besides those expected stories, there was a murder in Tolono, a tornado warning in Vermilion County, and a huge house fire on the edge of Decatur; these are all significant and news worthy events.
So as I was getting ready to leave the newsroom Wednesday evening, I received a call from a viewer which went something like this:
Caller: "Did you guys know that there was a big meth bust in Decatur?"
Me: "No. Are you kidding? Where?"
Caller: "They were near Faries Parkway."
Me: "Okay, I'll definitely look into this..."
I thanked him for calling, probably more than once.
A photographer went to check out the area near Faries Parkway which didn't turn up anything.
So, I called Decatur Police and was told they could give me no information. Not even a location. Very disappointing.
I then called a source who confirmed some information. Thank goodness.
The following day, I interviewed Sheriff Schneider and ran a full report on the meth bust.
Thanks to that one viewer who called, I started digging for information BEFORE the press release came in.
Unsolved Murder: Calvin Barbee
What are the chances that a murder takes place while a video is being shot? Well, it happened in Decatur in 2006. Calvin Barbee was shot and killed in a crowded parking lot outside a night club. Police just happened to be there shooting video (after crowd control issues there before), and suddenly shots were fired. Police showed me the video, and I included it in my report about this unsolved murder. You do not see the actual murder take place, but you see the chaos which follows and you hear the gunshots. Police say the killer is most likely caught on tape, and today, they need more witnesses to speak up.
Maybe the video will prompt someone to come forward with what they know...
You can watch the report here:
If you have any information, call Decatur Police at 217-424-2711 or Crimestoppers at 423-TIPS.
Unsolved Murder: Channing Todd Fisher
Imagine that when a holiday came around each year it had a different meaning for you AND it reminded you of a tragedy? That's how Channing Todd Fisher's family feels around the Fourth of July. Fisher was a local rock star in Decatur murdered in 1993. He was killed execution style while walking home during the early morning hours of July 4th. Sure, family and friends appreciate the meaning of Independence Day, but they also remember how their loved one was murdered, and how the killer was never caught. Our report about this unsolved murder aired last week, but you can still watch it here:
If you have any information about the murder of Channing Todd Fisher, call Decatur Police at 217-424-2711 or Crimestoppers at 423-TIPS.
Another Scam to Add to the List...
We received a phone call from a viewer today who was concerned that someone else might fall for this scam. She said someone called to tell her she would receive a medical card, asked for her checkbook numbers, and wouldn't take no for an answer. She told us she reported this to the police and her bank.
Fugitive Found Dead
At the beginning of the work day Monday, I planned on putting together a report about the Supreme Court's handgun decision. Plans soon changed though...
Our newsroom received a call from Tiheyon Freeman's mother. Police and the U.S. Marshal's Service were searching for him, because they believed he stabbed a man and woman earlier that morning in Decatur. I talked with Tiheyon's mother, Irma Johnson on the phone, and she told me she wanted to do an interview with us. She was hoping he would see her on television asking him to turn himself in. Soon we were headed to Irma's home...
During our interview, Irma talked about the last time she saw Tiheyon, how much she loved him, how she wanted him to surrender to police, and how she believed he was responsible for the stabbing. We interviewed Deputy Chief Todd Walker shortly after at the police station. He said that Freeman was better off turning himself in, and how his mother's interview with us couldn't hurt. We went to the house where the double stabbing took place, talked with a neighbor, shot video, and returned to the newsroom. I then discovered that Tiheyon Freeman has a criminal history, which includes violent offenses, and that he was on the sex offender registry listed as a sexual predator. Tiheyon's mother told me he had been in trouble before, and she said didn't understand why because he wasn't raised that way.
Monday night after our report aired, I wondered whether Tiheyon Freeman would see my report, and whether his mother's interview would prompt him to turn himself in. Then Tuesday morning, I received a call from another reporter here at WAND-TV. Tiheyon Freeman's body was found in the pool at Fairview Park. WAND-TV again reached out to his mother. We at least wanted to give her the opportunity to talk with us again if she wanted to. She declined.
Later Tuesday, we learned from police that no foul play was involved. Now, questions still remain. Was this suicide or was this an accident? One thing I know for sure, his mother tried reaching out to him, and now she must be heartbroken.
We received an email this week about a bank fraud warning. Edgar County Bank & Trust customers are being targeted.
This e-mail was sent by edgarcountybank.com to notify you that we have temporarily prevented access to your account. We have reasons to believe that your account may have been accessed by someone else.
Please click on the link below or copy and paste the URL into your browser:
Remember the magazine scammers we told you about last week? Turns out they knocked on the door of a police officer. It seems there are more than just a couple of these scammers in our area right now though, so it's still important to be careful.
Also, the Eisenhower High School football team in Decatur IS fundraising. It seems some people are confusing the athletes for the scammers. The best way to figure out you aren't being scammed: ask a lot of questions and for identification.
Don't Fall for It!
We've been reporting on a lot of scams in Central Illinois lately. I searched our archives for 2010, and here is a list of some scams hitting our area this year:
January: Tree Trimming. People were knocking on doors posing as city workers trimming trees in Danville. Their goal: to get inside residents' homes and rob them. Their target: the elderly. Danville Police said no city employees were trimming trees.
February: Bad Check. I interviewed a Decatur woman who said she saw an ad in the newspaper for a loan, faxed her information, and received a check for $1500. She told me she knew it was probably a scam, but cashed it anyway at a liquor store. She then was arrested for stealing, because the liquor store never got paid.
March: Jury Duty. An email which stated that it was jury duty notification. If you replied that you didn't have jury duty, the scammer would ask for your social security number and date of birth to cancel an arrest warrant out for you. The Macon County Sheriff told us you would never be contacted by phone in a situation like this.
April: Insurance Cons. Scammers selling "ObamaCare" insurance plans. In some cases, because of a lack of understanding about health care reform, scammers found an opportunity to steal.
May: Text Message. A text message from a number with a 217 area code went around claiming it was from Staley Credit Union and that personal information should be provided. Staley Credit Union did not send any text messages like that one.
June: Magazine Scam. Young men knocking on doors in Decatur claiming they are selling magazine subscriptions to raise money for a soccer trip to Germany, baseball teams, etc.. They are scammers.
Also in June: Prayer Cloth. A Decatur man says he was approached by a man in a parking lot who told him in exchange for $400, the Decatur man would find $50,000 in a prayer cloth. When the Decatur man later opened the folded prayer cloth, he says he found newspaper clippings.
Tonight, I am reporting on two feuds in Decatur. Police say there have been three dangerous incidents over the past 48 hours which left two people shot and one house with fire damage because of a fire bomb.
Now, there are concerns about retaliation. There were shots fired calls today which may be related. Police said they even warned people who may have connections to one of the shootings that they are being hunted.
One of the main problems, police say, is lack of cooperation even from the victims' themselves.
So far, no one has been killed, but now the big concern is that someone will be killed...even someone innocent.
Today, near one of the houses where a shooting took place, a 13 year old boy wanted to be interviewed about the gunshots he heard. His mother wasn't home, and I didn't feel comfortable putting him on camera. He was so polite and seemed genuinely concerned. He looked so disappointed when we didn't interview him though! I honestly hope we run into him again (for a more positive story), so he gets his chance to be on TV. I also hope the violence near his home stops.
You may have seen my reports about five unsolved cases in central Illinois last week.
In case you know anything about any of the cases I reported on, here are phone numbers:
To provide information about the murder of Sherry Lewis in 1994, call the Macon County Sheriff's Office at 217-424-1321 or you can remain anonymous by calling Crimestoppers at 217-423-TIPS. Sherry Lewis' family is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
To provide information about the murder of Kimberly Starr Reed in 1996, call Decatur Police at 217-424-2711 or remain anonymous by calling Crimestoppers.
To provide information about the murder of Earl Bates, Jr. in 1997, call Decatur Police or Crimestoppers.
To provide information about the murder of Becky Robinson in 2000, call the Macon County Sheriff's Office or Crimestoppers.
To provide information about the murders of Ryan Riddell and Mark Prasse in Chrisman, you can call an anonymous tip line at 217-278-5004. A $25,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.
Debate: Medical Marijuana
You can view the bill which would legalize medical marijuana here:
I am putting together a report about medical marijuana. We ran a couple of reports on 4-20, the unofficial marijuana holiday. Next week, we will dig deeper...
If you have ideas or comments you want to share about medical marijuana, please email me.
At an inquest Wednesday, a jury ruled the death of a Sangamon County man in January "undetermined."
Patrick Burns died five days after a bizarre run-in with Sangamon County deputies. An Illinois State Police investigator said four deputies used their tasers 21 times, but it's unclear how many times Burns was hit. The investigator also said Burns was extremely combative, even while officers used their tasers.
Dr. Jessica Bowman and Sangamon County Coroner Susan Boone said Burns died from "excited delirium" caused by cocaine use.
This is the first time I have heard of "excited delirium." I've been researching the term, and it seems that some believe "excited delirium" is a very real threat, while others suggest it is an excuse for taser related deaths like Burns'. What do you think?
There's a new way for Macon County residents to be notified about emergencies. It's called CodeRED. I signed up last week, and received the test phone call today. I also received an email. You can check it out below.
"3/23/2010 9:59:48 AM - This is the Decatur and Macon County Emergency Communications Center with an important message for all residents and businesses in Decatur and Macon County, Illinois. We need your help. If you received this call, that means you are currently in our new CodeRED emergency notification calling system. However we do not currently have telephone numbers for all residents and businesses in our files.
If you know anyone who did not receive this call who lives in Decatur or anywhere in Macon County please encourage them to visit the City of Decatur or Macon County Sheriff's websites at www.decaturil.gov or www.sheriff-macon-il.us and click on the CodeRED Emergency Notification link on the page to add their emergency contact information.
All contact information must be added through the Decatur or Macon County websites. If you do not have internet access please contact a friend or family member to help add your contact information to the emergency database.
Lesson (not) Learned?
I spent time with the Illinois State Police Zone 5 Meth Response Team today. They showed me the gear they use when they bust meth labs, and I interviewed Lieutenant Greg Lindemulder and Special Agent Clayton Woodard (also the mayor of Catlin) about how meth use is on the rise in central Illinois. Lt. Lindemulder gave me two reasons why meth is on the rise: parolees are cooking meth again now that they are out of prison and there's a newer and easier way to cook meth called "shake & bake," which entails using a soda bottle.
Meth seemed to fade away around 2005, but the Meth Response Team says it is back.
We also talked about the bust of a recent alleged meth lab in Decatur. They say it is one of the largest busts. Special Agent Woodard called it a time bomb, because of the potential for the chemicals to cause an explosion. And guess what? As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Department of Corrections says Randy Still, the guy arrested in connection with the alleged meth lab, left prison for a meth crime in 2006.
Camp Lejeune Veteran
Geralyn Shreiner, the wife of a Marine who lived at Camp Lejeune emailed me today. I interviewed Geralyn and her husband John for my series called "The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten." The Mount Zion couple believes John has hairy cell leukemia, because of the toxic water he may have been exposed to at Camp Lejeune.
Geralyn says John is at the VA Hospital in Indianapolis right now, he isn't doing well, and he's been in the ICU twice. She also says she is talking to a law firm about personal injury, and she wants to take action.
Here is part of her email:
"I am going to put flyers out in the community regarding the Camp LeJeune Water Contamination and the tftptf. I made up my mind that this is to serious to be taken lightly. We are at deaths door and that door needs to be remained closed. Thank you for all your help and your news story has gotten at least the communities attention for now. While it is still fresh in everyones minds it's a good time to push forward to bring this awareness and let everyone know there is help out there for these veterans and their families."
(FYI - "tftptf" refers to "The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten." Again, that's the name of my series and the name of a website for Marines who believe they may have been exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune.)
Sounds like you may see some fliers around Central Illinois soon...
Here's a quick rundown of this week...
I've been covering the child abduction in Decatur. Two little boys were abducted in the parking lot of Webster-Cantrell Hall Tuesday afternoon. They were found safe in St. Louis Wednesday morning, and now five adults face kidnapping charges, including their mother, the father to one of the boys, their grandmother, their uncle, and his girlfriend. We have video from when the children were found in St. Louis. I don't think I'll ever forget the image of the four-year-old boy holding a police officer's hand. You can check out our reports under the video section of the website.
The staff at Webster-Cantrell Hall gave us a tour of the child welfare center Wednesday. I asked whether the abduction could have been prevented, whether more security needs to be put in place, and more. The CEO told me they will consider adding more security.
Also, there's an update on the meth lab bust. Randy Still faces at least ten charges now.
You may have seen my report on the lawsuit in Coles County which aired Tuesday. Billy Speagle spent more than eight years in prison after pleading guilty to sex crime. He later withdrew his guilty plea, and a jury found him NOT guilty last year. Now, he's suing the guys who helped put him behind bars. Billy told me there may be more lawsuits to come...
Meth Lab Bust
Police say they busted a meth lab on North 33rd Street in Decatur Thursday night and that this may be the LARGEST METH BUST IN MACON COUNTY EVER. Here's the scoop:
-The Mount Zion Police Chief tells me his officers were investigating a burglary case from September 2009. He says there were two victims and there was about 10 thousand dollars worth of electronics, tools, and more stolen. When they went to the N. 33rd St. home Thursday night looking for a suspect, the Chief says they were allowed inside, and then realized there was a meth lab there. They went outside and called Illinois State Police.
-The ISP Meth Response Team and Decatur Police went to the scene. Police say they found ingredients to cook meth (cold pills, anhydrous ammonia, and more)...basically, a lot of chemicals to cook a lot of meth. They say meth may have been cooked there for months and it looked like there was going to be a lot of meth cooked again very soon there. Police say they removed all of the chemicals and now the house is condemned because it is unsafe inside (chemicals seeped into carpet, walls, etc.).
-You may already know that meth labs are known to have a very strong smell. Police say the chemicals were being ventilated outside. A Lieutenant says neighbors may not have noticed the smell because the meth lab was located near Tate & Lyle and ADM factories.
-Two people were arrested and face charges for making meth: Randy Still and Sarah Spallinger. Still was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2003 for a meth crime, but the Illinois Department of Corrections says he was released early in 2006 for good behavior. A spokeswoman tells me he is not even on parole or probation right now.
-In case you are wondering about that Mt. Zion investigation...The Mount Zion Police Chief says they did recover some of the stolen items at that home.
-Also, in case you are wondering about those laws to prevent meth from being made...There are limits as to how much cold medicine can be purchased, and an ISP Lieutenant tells me there were about 300 cold pills at this house. This is why police believe there are multiple people involved.
The family of Jodi McGrew, a pregnant woman who was murdered by her brother-in-law in 2008, is pushing for tougher criminals laws. Because of Jodi's parents, Mike and Sandy Zogg, Rep. Dan Brady is introducing legislation. The Zoggs say the 50-year-sentence their daughter's killer, Jason Marksteiner, received isn't enough. McGrew was pregnant and her unborn baby died. Marksteiner was also accused of sexually assaulting McGrew.
One of the laws they are pushing for would mean a mandatory life sentence for a killer if a judge or jury decides that the murder is especially brutal.
Are you for or against this change?
Cast your vote above.
The reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction related to the death of BJ Guyse has increased AGAIN to $5000. Guyse's mother, Concetta, sent me an email saying she is grateful to family and friends for helping her fund the reward which started at $2000.
BJ Guyse died from a head injury after an incident at The Wharf in Decatur in December . Guyse's parents say they believe his death is suspicious, but police say they have not found evidence that a crime was committed.
If you have any information, call Decatur Police.
Nursing Home Neglect
Whether it's for you or a loved one, choosing a nursing home can be challenging. Here are some websites which might help.
You can compare nursing homes and find out how they are rated , here:
You can find out about violations and investigations into nursing homes, a list of Illinois nursing homes, and more here:
You can report abuse, contact your ombudsman, and more here:
You can find information about the Nursing Home Task Force in Illinois here:
You can find the report recently released by the Nursing Home Task Force here:
Central Illinois' Connection to Camp Lejeune
I just received a call from a viewer, Linda White, who says her daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer at 30 years old, there's no family history of breast cancer, and her daughter attended school at Camp Lejeune.
Mike Partain is an advocate for many who call themselves "The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten." He plays a major part in the website (www.tftptf.com). He said once our reports air, more families in central Illinois will realize they may have a connection to Camp Lejeune and that toxic water. He was exactly right. Viewers, like Linda, have called to tell me their stories. By the way, Linda says her daughter is doing well today.
Tonight, we are airing an update on "The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten" about how the levels of benzene found in the water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina were first misreported and then not reported at all in the 1990s.
At the end of my report, I included part of a statement from the Marine Corps.. Here is the statement from Captain Brian Block in its entirety:
"Camp Lejeune's drinking water meets, or exceeds all standards for health and safety today. Information on the historic presence of benzene contamination in the water at Camp Lejeune has been publically available in the Camp Lejeune CERCLA Administrative Record since 1992. The Marine Corps has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency and the State of North Carolina to remediate contaminated sites aboar, d Camp Lejeune, to include the Hadnot Point Fuel Farm, and we are committed to continuing thos, e ef, forts.
Information about benzene contamination has also been available to ATSDR since the early 1990s, and was included in their 1997 Public Health Assessment. The Marine Corps has in the past, and will continue, to make information available in support of ongoing scientific efforts to understand the impact of historic water contamination.
We look forward to the conclusion of the ongoing studies in the hope that the results will lessen the uncertainty that many former Marines, residents and civilian employees have experienced regarding past water contamination at Camp Lejeune."
For anyone visiting this blog for more information, I have included helpful websites below. (If you or a loved one lived at Camp Lejeune and may have been exposed to the toxic water there, one of the most important things you can do is REGISTER with the Marines and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.)
Update on BJ Guyse Reward
The reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction related to the death of BJ Guyse has increased to $3000. When I interviewed Guyse's parents on Friday, 2/12, they said they were offering $2000.
Guyse died in December after an incident at The Wharf in Decatur. Police say they have not found evidence that a crime was committed, but Guyse's parents told me they believe his death is suspicious.
If you have any in, formation, call Decatur Police.
Update on Jeremy Welker
Decatur Police Detective Jeremy Welker is not being charged after being arrested for domestic battery. Special Prosecutor Thomas Griffith says Welker will participate in a diversion program, because Welker does not have a criminal history. Police Chief Jim Anderson says a decision has not been made about whether Welker can keep his job.
Top 10 Scams of 2009 in Illinois
Here is a list from Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
# OF COMPLAINTS
1. Consumer Debt (mortgage lending, collections, credit cards)
2. Identity Theft (fraudulent credit cards and utility accounts, bank fraud)
3. Construction Home Improvement (remodelin, g, roofs/gutters)
4. Telecommunications (wireless service, local phone service, cable/satellite)
5 Promotions and Schemes (sweepstakes, pyramid, work-at-home schemes)
6. Motor Vehicles/Used Auto Sales (as-is sales, financing, warranties)
7. Mail Order (Internet purchases, catalog ordering, television/radio)
8. Fraud Against Business (consulting, directories/publications)
, 9. Utilities (nat, ural, gas, electric, water/sewer)
10. Motor Vehicle/Non-Warranty Repair (collision/body, engines, tune ups)
If you know about a scam or have been the victim of one, contact the Attorney General's office.
Springfield Consumer Fraud Hotline: 1-800-243-0618
Spanish Language Hotline: 1-866-310-8398
Identity Theft Hotline: 1-866-999-5630
Homeowner Helpline: 1-866-544-7151
Update on "The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten"
The Associated Press is reporting today that an environmental contractor underreported the level of a cancer-causing chemical found in tap water at Camp LeJeune, North Carolina and then omitted it altogether before a federal health review of the Marine Base.
Earlier this month, we aired a three part report about local Marines who believe they are sick because of the toxic water they may have drank and bathed in at Camp LeJeune in the 1970s and 1980s. After my report, a couple of other central Illinois residents contacted me saying they also believe they're sick because of their connections to Camp LeJeune. We're not talking about a cold here...we're talking about leukemia, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and more.
According to the AP, records show that water sampled in 1984 showed levels of benzene at 380 parts per billion, but the contractor, Baker Corp., reported 38 parts per billion. The AP is also reporting that in a 1994 report released by Baker Corp., there was no mention of benzene.
More on Domestic Violence
As domestic violence numbers are o, n the rise, one program in Macon County for abusers is no longer available.
Through AIM, abusers received treatment so they could work on anger issues and more. According to Macon County Court Services, AIM was cut in June of 2009 because of state budget issues.
Here are the number of domestic violence related cases in Macon County from the Circuit Clerk's office:
Less programs to combat a growing problem...
Domesti, c , Violence
Tonight, I am reporting on domestic violence and how one woman's personal story is now helping abusers. She's spoken at a Victim Impact Panel for Macon County Court Services.
As a reporter, I go through police reports and sworn statements regularly. Many times, the majority of arrests are related to domestic violence.
Here is some information from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
-An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
-85% of domestic violence victims are women.
-Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call the police and The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.
Here is a link to the NCADV: http://www.ncadv.org/
The parents of BJ Guyse, a 26-year-old Decatur man who died in December, are offering a $2000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Right now, there is no suspect though...
Guyse was taken to St. Mary's Hospital on December 23rd from The Wharf in Decatur. Guyse's parents say they were told he died from a head injury and that he may have fallen off of a barstool. They believe the death is suspicious and someone may have caused his death.
Decatur Police say the death is being investigated. Guyse's parents say they believe the investigation isn't being done properly, because The Wharf is owned by the wife of a Decatur Police officer. The owner told me she did not want to comment.
Lt. David Dickerson tells me police have not established that a crime was committed, and information may be available within the next few weeks.
You can call Decatur Police at 424-2711 with any information.
Illinois' budget problems mean that many schools, organizations, and businesses are waiting for their payments. A spokeswoman for the Comptroller's Office told me, by the end of the business day on February 9th, the state's bill backlog was $3.6 billion.
No Snow Day
On February 9th, Decatur Public Schools were open despite six inches of snow and poor roa, , d conditions. Our phones were ringing and our inbox was full, because many Decatur parents were unhappy. They said it was too dangerous for the children to be traveling to and from school on the roads, waiting at bus stops during freezing temperatures, and walking in the streets because of snow covered sidewalks.
I interviewed a few school board members about the decision to keep schools open. School Board President Dan Winter said Decatur Public Schools get state aid for attendance. I asked School Board member Terry Robinson about the last major snow event in Decatur. Schools were open during the inclement weather, but then closed the following day, . He explained how making the decision to keep school open or closed can be tricky.
Now, on February 10th, schools are closed after being open yesterday, and we are still hearing from viewers. We've received more than 70 "Sound Off" submissions. Most of these messages express frustration with District 61's decision making this week
Here are some of the submissions:
From Sheila in Decatur: They need a new policy on making that decision. To say that if the bus drivers can tough it out the kids should be able to is horrible decision making. It's cold and snow is blowing on a bus stop and some kids may have to walk to school. Let's care enough about our kids true safety AND their health as well.
From Joy in Decatur: As a MacArthur student, I believe that the fact we had to go to school was beyond ridiculous. The district fails to realize that some students actually are forced to drive through the hazards, myself included. I just don't believe that a district fails to take into account about the lives of it's own students.
I actually talked to one of my friends that told me about it being so bad that the bus his sister rode in nearly went off the road. Not only that but upon arriving to school the vast majority of classes had no subs, thus many of us had to sit within the library, rendering the day moot. In fact, the school was practically empty as many people stayed home. Refusing to accept the fact that we had to go to school.
I don't want to start ranting but this issue needs to be brought to light. If this does somehow appear anywhere. I beg of you to please think of us.
Some of us genuinely want an education, but we don't want to die trying to obtain it.
From Bo in Decatur: It makes no difference to me. What gets me is...they say there is school but the buses will be delayed, so not only do they want my children standing at the bus stop in weather like this, they want them to stand out there longer than they would with the weather nice. The way I decide if my children will go to school or not is...if something were to happen to my 9 year old diabetic daughter at school, could I get to her quickly...today... that answer was NO.
From Jennifer in Decatur: No I don't agree with the District #61 decision to keep open schools in bad weather conditions. How, ever, the parents are ultimately responsible for the safety of their children. If the district does not make the decision, then it is up to parent(s). As the school district makes the decision of whether or not to keep schools open in weather related situations, parents must also evaluate the situat, ion and make the decision that is best for their child and not to depend on the school system to make decisions related to your child's safety in weather related situations.
Dave in Decatur: It's a tough decision for any school administrator to make. Parents will complain no matter what. If left open, we at least know where they are, and are safe. If closed, some parents can't find sitters at the last minute. Also remember a lot of kids eat at school (hot lunch program), this might be the only hot meal they get for the day.
The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten
Tonight, my series called "The Few, The Proud, The Forgotten" airs. It's about central Illinois veterans who believe they are sick because of toxic water they drank at Camp Lejeune,, North Carolina. Some believe the Department of Defense has not ha, ndled the issue properly.
In the state of Illinois as of December, nearly four thousand have registered for a Camp Lejeune study. This means they provided their information to the Marines, because they lived at Camp Lejeune and may have been exposed to the toxic water.
The Marines say they are reaching out to families that may have been exposed to the water, but some question their commitment to this. There are websites dedicated to spreading the word about the toxic water. If you believe you may have been exposed to the water, you are advised to register with the Marines and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).
Here are websites you may want to check out:
Beason Playground in Memory of Gee/Constant Children
You may have seen my report on how Beason residents are trying to raise money to revamp the town playground in memory of three children murdered in Beason in September. Their goal is to raise $20,000. As of February 4th, organizer Jodie Duncan said they had $175.
In case you want to help:
Duncan says on the evening of Tuesday, March 2nd, part of the proceeds at Culver's (2530 Woodlawn Rd.) in Lincoln will be donated to the park fund. Also, on Friday, March 5th, Duncan says from 11am to 11pm, part of the proceeds at Pizza Hut (1120 Woodlawn Rd.) in Lincoln will go to the park fund.
They are also looking for volunteers to help put the park together in April.
Scams & Rip-Offs
The Better Business Bureau lists the "Top Scams & Rip-Offs of 2009." The BBB says they are in no particular order.
Have you had an experience with any scams & rip-offs on the list? Please shoot me an email to tell me about it.
1. Acai Supplements and Other "Free" Trial Offers – Ads offering trial offers for teeth whiteners, acai anti-aging pills and other miracle supplements blanket the Internet, including trusted Web sites of national news organizations. The marketing campaigns often fa, lsely claim, ed an endorsement by Oprah, Rachel Ray and Doctor Oz. Thousands of consumers complained to BBB that the free trial actually cost them as much as hundreds of dollars, month after month.
2. Stimulus/Government Grant Scams – , Even before Presiden, t Obama announced the stimulus plan in February, scammers had already set up schemes for misleading consumers and small business owners into thinking they could get a piece of the pie. Offers for worthless assistance and advice on how to get government grants bombarded consumers online, over the phone and via mail and e-mail.
3. Robocalls – Owning a cell phone or having their phone number on the do-not-call list did not help thousands of people across the US put a stop to harassing automated telemarketing calls in 2009. The robocalls often claimed that their auto warranty was about to expire—which wasn't true—or offered help in reducing their interest rate on their credit card. The prevalence of robocalls violating federal telemarketing laws prompted the FTC to increase restrictions on the practice in 2009.
4. Lottery/Sweepstakes Scam – The victim receives a letter in the mail pretending to be from Reader's Digest, Publisher's Clearin, g House or a phony foreign lottery claim, ing that he or she has won millions. The letter comes with a check that represents only a portion of the total winnings. In order to get the rest, the victim has to deposit the check and then wire hundreds of dollars back to the scammers supposedly to cover taxes or some other bogus fee. The victim wires the money, but the prize never arrives.
5. Job Hunter Scam, s –Scams targeting job hunters vary and include attempts to gain access to personal information such as bank account or social security numbers and requirements to pay a fee in order to even be considered for the job. Another common scam was reported to BBB by job hunters who were told by a prospective employer that they had to check their credit report before being considered for a job. The job offer is actually a marketing ploy for online credit monitoring that costs the victim every month until they cancel.
6. Google Work from Home Scam – Countless Web sites cropped up in 2009 that claimed you could learn how to make money from home using Google or Twitter and offered a free trial of learning materials. The Web sites often included the Google or Twitter moniker and logo. As a result, many people who complained to BBB thought they were getting a job with Google or Twitter when in, fact, they were being lured into another misleading free-trial offer and were billed every month for the materials and other mystery charges that added up to hundreds of dollars.
7. Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue/Debt Assistance – Many families are struggling in the current economy and hucksters are offering to help them save their house from foreclosure or help them get out of credit card debt. Unfortunately, victims are paying hundreds of dollars up front for the assistance they desperately need but ultimately never receive.
8. Mystery Shopping – Consumers across the country thought that they could make some extra money by becoming a secret shopper and evaluating the customer service of various stores. The victim is asked to evaluate their shopping experience at a few stores as well as a money wiring service such as Western Union or MoneyGram by wiring money back to the scammers. A seemingly real looking check is supposed to cover the costs, but ends up being a fake. The victim is out hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
9. Over-Payment Scams – Over-payment scams typically target small business owners, landlords or individuals with rooms to rent and sellers on classifieds or sites like Craigslist. Typically the scammer pretends to be a customer, possible renter or interested buyer, respectively. The victim receives a check for more than the amount requested. The scammers then ask the victim to deposit the check and wire the extra amount elsewhere, such as to a shipping company. Ultimately though, the check is fake and the victim is really wiring money back to the scammers.
10. Phishing e-mails/H1N1 spam – A perennial problem, phishing e-mails pop up in inboxes and can take various forms such as appearing to be from a business, a government agency or official or even a friend. Whatever the setup, the goal of any phishing e-mail is the same: to trick victims into divulging sensitive financial information or to infect the victim's computer with viruses and malware. In addition to phishing e-mails, spam e-mail selling wares to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus were particularly rampant in 2009.
Update on the Arrest of Jeremy Welker
The case has been turned over to a "Special Prosecutor." Because of a potential conflict, the Macon County State's Attorney's Office has given the case to Decatur attorney, Thomas Griffith.
Griffith says he is reviewing DVDs, police reports, and witness statements. He will decide whether charges will be filed.
Decatur Police Detective Arrested
Decatur Police Detective Jeremy Welker was arrested Monday for domestic battery. According to the police department, Welker is on paid administrative leave and the incident is being investigated.
Jeremy Welker was also in trouble last September. He was on paid administrative leave then, too. No charges were filed though.
If you or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, call police. You can also call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-SAFE.
Plane Crash Report
You may have seen our reports about the plane crash which killed Dr. John White and his passenger, Lisa Marie Mattix, Monday. I interviewed White's brother and son. They talked about his love of flying, finding out about the tragic crash, and the investigation. An FAA report states that White's plane "lost power inflight." White's brother, Joe, said he would like to know how and why something like this could happen.
Here is a link to the FAA report from Thursday, January 21st:
Hope you saw my report Tuesday night about bond amounts and one local man whose bond was $15,000.00. He was arrested for sexual assault. He's out of jail after paying 10 percent of his bond, which is standard.
The alleged victim's aunt is upset. She says his bond was too low. Do you agree or disagree?