Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Man slain on way to dialysis treatment: police

South Side shooting

Police at the scene of a fatal shooting early Saturday at Homicide at Eberhart and 95th Streets.
(Peter Nickeas / Chicago Tribune / March 2, 2013)

A 72-year-old man was shot and killed in his gangway on the Far South Side early Saturday morning as he left a home for dialysis treatment.

The man's grandson was inside and heard the shots that killed his grandfather, who was identified by family as William Strickland, of the 400 block of East 95th Street.

The man was shot about 3:30 a.m. and pronounced dead about 4 a.m., according to authorities.

The motive appears to be robbery, police said, but detectives are still investigating.

Detectives remained at the scene, across from Chicago State University, into the morning.

Police taped off the northeast corner of 95th Street and Eberhart Avenue, surrounding the two houses between which the man was killed.

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Twitter: @peternickeas

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Chicago State trustees meet in midst of leadership turmoil

Chicago State University's board of trustees is meeting this morning to settle the question of who is president at the South Side campus, capping a tumultuous week.

On Monday, the board announced that Wayne Watson, president since 2009, would take a yearlong sabbatical and then was expected to retire. It also said that provost Sandra Westbrooks would be the acting president.

But Watson stayed in his office this week and has maintained that he is still the president. Watson’s attorney said he viewed the sabbatical as equivalent to a vacation, not an end to his presidency. Watson’s contract goes until 2014.

The sabbatical arrangement, which Watson requested, was intended to allow him to exit without drama after the trustees decided they wanted new leadership. He was to be paid his $250,000 salary during the sabbatical, during which time he said he planned to care for his elderly father and conduct research on effective leadership at minority-serving institutions.

The board called the meeting to order shortly after 8 a.m. this morning and then recessed into a closed executive session to discuss what was described on the published agenda as employment matters, legal matters and approval of legal and consultant services. It is then expected to reconvene in an open session.

Before the meeting began, Chicago leaders well known in the African-American community crowded into the library waiting area, including former Sen. Emil Jones and Jonathan Jackson from Rainbow Push Coalition.

Jones, who walked the room with Watson, said: “He should be president, no question about that, because of his interest in the education of the students who go here.”

The mood among the crowd was pleasant despite the differences in opinion on how the university should be lead.

"We're on the good side," said Victor P. Henderson, Watson's attorney.

Watson said: "I'm standing for the right thing."

Board Chairman Gary Rozier told the Tribune earlier this week that trustees had decided it was “time to look for new leadership.” They were disappointed with the decline in enrollment and the faculty’s no-confidence vote on Watson.

Henderson has defended Watson’s tenure.

“I have not seen one iota of information which would justify changing the president’s status at the university,” Henderson said earlier this week.

Earlier this week, Watson sent a letter to trustees alleging that some board members are retaliating against him because he won’t accede to their pressures to hire and reward their friends.

In a four-page letter dated Feb. 26 and obtained by the Tribune, Watson told trustees that the “real motivation” behind the board’s efforts to replace him was his refusal “to capitulate to the incessant requests” from Rozier and Vice Chairman Z. Scott to “either hire, promote or give salary increases to their friends and associates.”

Langdon Neal, the board’s attorney, replied: “We are going to rise above this and deal with the matters that affect the students of the university and the university itself. We are not going to comment on the personal accusations.”

In the letter to trustees, Watson also wrote that there are now no financial improprieties at an institution that was plagued by fiscal mismanagement for years.

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Low-key departure as Pope Benedict steps down

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict slips quietly from the world stage on Thursday after a private last goodbye to his cardinals and a short flight to a country palace to enter the final phase of his life "hidden from the world".

In keeping with his shy and modest ways, there will be no public ceremony to mark the first papal resignation in six centuries and no solemn declaration ending his nearly eight-year reign at the head of the world's largest church.

His last public appearance will be a short greeting to residents and well-wishers at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence south of Rome, in the late afternoon after his 15-minute helicopter hop from the Vatican.

When the resignation becomes official at 8 p.m. Rome time (02.00 p.m. EST), Benedict will be relaxing inside the 17th century palace. Swiss Guards on duty at the main gate to indicate the pope's presence within will simply quit their posts and return to Rome to await their next pontiff.

Avoiding any special ceremony, Benedict used his weekly general audience on Wednesday to bid an emotional farewell to more than 150,000 people who packed St Peter's Square to cheer for him and wave signs of support.

With a slight smile, his often stern-looking face seemed content and relaxed as he acknowledged the loud applause from the crowd.

"Thank you, I am very moved," he said in Italian. His unusually personal remarks included an admission that "there were moments ... when the seas were rough and the wind blew against us and it seemed that the Lord was sleeping".


Once the chair of St Peter is vacant, cardinals who have assembled from around the world for Benedict's farewell will begin planning the closed-door conclave that will elect his successor.

One of the first questions facing these "princes of the Church" is when the 115 cardinal electors should enter the Sistine Chapel for the voting. They will hold a first meeting on Friday but a decision may not come until next week.

The Vatican seems to be aiming for an election by mid-March so the new pope can be installed in office before Palm Sunday on March 24 and lead the Holy Week services that culminate in Easter on the following Sunday.

In the meantime, the cardinals will hold daily consultations at the Vatican at which they discuss issues facing the Church, get to know each other better and size up potential candidates for the 2,000-year-old post of pope.

There are no official candidates, no open campaigning and no clear front runner for the job. Cardinals tipped as favorites by Vatican watchers include Brazil's Odilo Scherer, Canadian Marc Ouellet, Ghanaian Peter Turkson, Italy's Angelo Scola and Timothy Dolan of the United States.


Benedict, a bookish man who did not seek the papacy and did not enjoy the global glare it brought, proved to be an energetic teacher of Catholic doctrine but a poor manager of the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy that became mired in scandal during his reign.

He leaves his successor a top secret report on rivalries and scandals within the Curia, prompted by leaks of internal files last year that documented the problems hidden behind the Vatican's thick walls and the Church's traditional secrecy.

After about two months at Castel Gandolfo, Benedict plans to move into a refurbished convent in the Vatican Gardens, where he will live out his life in prayer and study, "hidden to the world", as he put it.

Having both a retired and a serving pope at the same time proved such a novelty that the Vatican took nearly two weeks to decide his title and form of clerical dress.

He will be known as the "pope emeritus," wear a simple white cassock rather than his white papal clothes and retire his famous red "shoes of the fisherman," a symbol of the blood of the early Christian martyrs, for more pedestrian brown ones.

(Reporting By Tom Heneghan; editing by Philip Pullella and Giles Elgood)

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Illinois House committee advances gay marriage bill

The proposal, approved on a 6-5 vote in the House Executive Committee shortly before 10 p.m., is coming under increasingly heavy fire from church organizations who say same-sex marriage violates moral and religious principles. But advocates have ratcheted up calls for swift action.

Sponsoring Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, said the bill is needed “because we need to treat all Illinois families equally under the law” but the status of people in civil unions is often misunderstood.

Under the measure, marriage in Illinois would be allowed between two people rather than only a man and a woman. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has vowed to sign the legislation, a move that would make Illinois the 10th state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage. The Senate passed the legislation with only one Republican vote on Valentine’s Day.

Advocates said the proposal would allow ministers to refuse to perform same-sex marriages if it’s against their beliefs and would not require church officials to make their buildings or parish halls available if they don’t wish it. But opponents have questioned if the protections are strong enough.

The House has held close votes on same-sex issues over the years. The latest movement to support gay marriage in Illinois has evolved quickly. It’s been less than two years since the first civil union certificates were issued for gay and straight couples.

But with the Democrats increasing their majorities in both the House and the Senate during last fall’s elections, the gay marriage issue gained traction. Advocates tried to pass the measure in the brief, lame-duck legislative session in January, but they called off the bid and refocused on passing the bill in the newly seated General Assembly.

The late-night committee hearing was held following an hours-long debate on concealed carry gun legislation in the full House. Witnesses who came to Springfield just to weigh in on the marriage bill quickly presented their testimony before the committee voted shortly before 10:30 p.m.

Kellie Fiedorek, an official with the Alliance Defending Freedom, argued against the bill. She said it failed to protect the religious freedoms of all Illinoisans because it "advances religious intolerance and discrimination towards Illinois citizens with sincerely held religious beliefs."

Backing for the proposal came from the Rev. Otis Moss III, senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, the former church of President Barack Obama.

Moss told the committee that all people come from different backgrounds of faith, traditions and ethnicities, but he called on lawmakers to remember they all belong to the "cathedral of democracy."

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Porch collapses on 2 firefighters battling extra-alarm blaze

Two firefighters were hurt in an extra-alarm fire on the South Side early this morning

Two firefighters were hurt when a porch collapsed at an extra-alarm fire in Gresham on the South Side this morning, sending them through the floor into the basement, officials said.

The collapse trapped both firefighters and officials called a mayday as firefighters scrambled to free them. They were finally able to reach the two by breaking through a side window, and the injured firefighters were taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital.

The firefighters, both veterans of the department, suffered relatively minor injuries but the situation "could have been a lot worse," said Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas.

"Had we had fire in that basement, things could have been a different story here," he said.

The firefighters were brought to safety within minutes, according to Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

"Whenever you've got a mayday, you've got a tense situation," he said. “They went in right away and got them."

By 8:15 a.m., one firefighter had been released from the hospital. The other was expected to be released shortly, according to Langford.

The 2-11 alarm fire broke out about 3:40 a.m. in vacant home in the 8800 block of South Parnell Avenue, spreading to a house next door.   A family of five was living in the second home but escaped uninjured.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Tribune photographer John J. Kim contributed.

Twitter: @AdamSege

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Boy, 16, charged with Bucktown home invasion, assault

Chicago Tribune reporter Adam Sege with Sunday's Chicago overnight crime report, including details on a sexual assault in Bucktown.

A 16-year-old boy is accused of breaking into a Bucktown home, sexually assaulting a woman at gunpoint, then forcing her into her own car and driving off, authorities said.

Marcos Cervantes eventually dropped off the 43-year-old woman and was later arrested when police traced a cell phone he had stolen from the victim, authorities said.

Cervantes has been charged as an adult with aggravated criminal sexual assault, and was expected to appear in bond court today, prosecutors said.

The woman was treated at a hospital.

The attack occurred shortly after noon Sunday in the 2100 block of West Moffat Street, Police News Affairs Officer Ron Gaines said.

The boy was arrested about 2:30 p.m. at West Roosevelt Road and South Western Avenue in the Douglas Park neighborhood.

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Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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28 fans hurt in fiery Daytona pile-up

A pile-up at the Daytona speedway on Saturday injured at least 28 fans after a 10-car crash sent car debris, including a tire, flying into the crowd in the final lap of the Nationwide NASCAR race.

Race officials said 14 fans were sent to nearby hospitals and another 14 were treated at the Florida track, which will host the prestigious Daytona 500 race on Sunday.

"Stuff was flying everywhere," spectator Terry Huckaby, whose brother was sent to the hospital with a leg injury, told the ESPN sports network. "Tires were flying by and smoke and everything else."

Among the injured were a 14-year-old boy in critical but stable condition, and a man who was in surgery for a life-threatening head injury, according to

Joie Chitwood, president of the Daytona International Speedway, said Sunday's main race would go ahead despite the incident as crews were repairing the track and the grandstand.

"First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with our race fans," Chitwood said. "Following the incident, we responded appropriately according to our safety protocols and had emergency medical personnel at the incident immediately."

Tony Stewart won the race at Saturday's event, which is the curtain-raiser for American stock car racing's biggest event on Sunday which will feature Danica Patrick as the first woman to start on pole position.


Saturday's wreck happened after driver Regan Smith, who was leading the race, attempted to block another driver as they were nearing the checkered flag and hit the other car, a report on said.

"My fault," Smith, who finished 14th, told "I threw a block. I'll take the blame for it. But when you see the checkered flag at Daytona, you're going to block, and you're going to do everything you can to be the first car back to the stripe. It just didn't work out today. Just hoping everything is okay, everyone who was in the wreck and all the fans."

The crash sent driver Kyle Larson's car airborne and ripped out its engine, although he climbed out of the wreckage afterward unhurt.

"I was getting pushed from behind, it felt like," Larson told ESPN after the crash.

"By the time my spotter said, 'Lift,' or to go low, I believe, it was too late and I was in the wreck. Then I felt like it was slowing down, and it looked like I could see the ground, and had some flames in the cockpit. Luckily, I was all right and could get out of the car quick," he added.

The injured were carried away on stretchers from the chaotic scene in the stands. They were taken to Halifax Health Medical Center and Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center in Daytona Beach.

NASCAR's vice president of race operations, Steve O'Donnell, said that the fencing, which was ripped through by the flying debris, was being replaced and the incident would be reviewed.

"We're very confident that we'll be ready for tomorrow's event with the 55th running of the Daytona, but as with any of these incidents, we'll conduct a thorough review, we'll work closely with the tracks as we do for all our events, learn what we can and see what we can apply in the future," he said.

It is rare that spectators get hurt in American racing, but it has happened before. In 2009, Carl Edwards's car slammed into the catch fencing at Talladega and injured nine fans. Three were killed in Charlotte, North Carolina, a decade earlier in the IndyCar Series, and three others were killed in 1998 in Michigan during CART's U.S. 500.

Driver Michael Annett of the Richard Petty Motorsports team was treated at the Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach for bruises to his chest and sternum received in a crash on the 116th lap of the 120-lap race. He was given a CT scan and was being kept in for observation, the team said in a statement.

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Charges filed in slaying of Clemente High School student

Authorities filed charges against a 34-year-old man in connection with the shooting death of an 18-year-old Clemente High School student killed on the West Side last week.

Larry Luellen Jr., 34, was charged with first degree murder in the death of Frances Colon. Luellen is due in court today.

Luellen lives in the 3900 block of West Division Street in West Humboldt Park, around the corner from where Colon was shot. Police don't believe she was the target.

Colon is the third student at Roberto Clemente to be killed this school year, according to the school's principal Marcey Sorensen.

Rey Dorantes, 14, of the 2400 block of West Augusta Boulevard, was shot and killed on Jan. 11. His death came about a month after another Clemente student, 16-year-old Jeffrey Stewart, of the 5200 block of West Race Avenue, was shot and killed on Dec. 9.

Colon was a senior who was preparing to attend college. Hours before the shooting, she had watched President Barack Obama speak at Hyde Park Academy on the South Side about gun violence, according to her father.

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Twitter: @peternickeas

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Storm loses punch, but still socks morning commute

A winter storm that buried the Great Plains in more than a foot of snow lost some of its punch as it blew through Chicago overnight, but it still managed to slow the morning commute with slick roads and dozens of spinouts on expressways.

Snow began tapering off around 5:30 a.m., but the National Weather Service was warning of freezing drizzle through the morning and light snow in the afternoon. A winter weather advisory remains in effect until 6 p.m.

At 6 a.m., 2.7 inches had fallen at O'Hare International Airport, tying the highest total recorded there this winter, according to the National Weather Service. Accumulation ranged from 2 to 5 inches throughout the area, according to the Chicago Weather Center.

About 5 inches were reported in Woodstock, 4 inches in Crown Point, Ind., 3.8 inches in Huntley, 3.8 in Milwaukee, 3.5 inches in Lake Villa, 3.4 inches at Wrigley Field, 3.2 inches in Plainfield, 3.1 inches at Midway Airport, 3 inches in Oak Park, 2.7 inches in Mokena, 2.5 inches in Schaumburg, 2.4 inches in Orland Hills, 2.4 inches in Batavia, 2.4 inches in Joliet, and 2 inches in Chesterton, Ind.

At the height of the storm shortly after midnight, state police described road conditions as "horrible." But conditions had improved by the time the morning rush hour began. Still, state police said they had responded to 22 accidents as of 7 a.m. but there were many other spinouts that didn't require their assistance.

The city of Chicago sent 284 plows to work clearing main thoroughfares, according to the Streets and Sanitation Department.

Dozens of schools closed because of the storm, or delayed start times.

The storm, which is moving toward the Northeast, has forced the cancellation of nearly 400 flights at O'Hare and delays for 80 more.

Flurries could linger into the weekend, with a chance for light snow on Saturday.  High temperatures both days should be around 30, with lows in the low 20s and high teens both mornings.

Kansas bore the brunt of the storm, with up to 15 inches of snow in some parts of the state, according to the National Weather Service. A 200-mile stretch of Interstate 70 in central Kansas was closed and strewn with cars stuck in snow.

National Guard troops riding in Humvees were dispatched to look for stranded motorists along the interstate and other highways, said Sharon Watson, a spokeswoman for Kansas emergency management services.

The fierce storm triggered severe thunderstorms from eastern Texas to Georgia. Thunder accompanied snow in Kansas City, hit by 2 to 3 inches of snow per hour on Thursday morning.

"When there is thunder and lightning, it's a pretty screaming clue that you are going to have massive snowfall," said Andy Bailey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Pleasant Hill, Missouri.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback declared states of emergency because of hazardous travel and possible power outages. Brownback ordered state offices closed because of the storm.

Kansas City International Airport was closed on Thursday while crews cleared runways. It was unclear when the airport would reopen, spokesman Joe McBride said.

At the Denver International Airport, some 55 commuter flights were canceled overnight, spokeswoman Laura Coale said. More than 320 flights in and out of Lambert-St. Louis International Airport were scrapped and nearly 50 flights in and out of Omaha's Eppley Airfield were listed as canceled by midday.

In Nebraska, a 19-year-old woman was killed in a two-car accident on Wednesday on Interstate 80 near Giltner. The Nebraska State Patrol said weather was a factor.

An 18-year-old man died in Oklahoma when his vehicle slid into a semi-truck on a slushy state highway, the state's highway patrol said.

The storm is expected to reach the East Coast this weekend, delivering heavy snow to parts of New England for a third straight weekend, from northern Connecticut to southern Maine.

Reuters contributed

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Man charged with 9 robberies after chase, shooting in Bucktown

A man shot by police in the Bucktown neighborhood during a chase has been charged with a string of armed robberies he was wanted for, according to authorities.

Jesus Rosas, 23, is charged with nine counts of armed robbery, two counts of attempted armed robbery, four counts of aggravated assault to police and four counts of attempted murder, according to police.

Rosas was wounded by police Tuesday night after officers followed his SUV from near a downtown robbery, authorities said. Police said the driver tried to run over officers after backing into a squad car on Milwaukee Avenue just north of North Avenue.

Police shot him in the busy six-corner intersection and he was taken to Stroger Hospital with a gunshot wound to the arm. Rosas lives in the 10300 block of South Muskegon Avenue in the South Deering neighborhood.

During Rosas’ last heist, he took $200 from the Subway near Chicago Avenue and State Streets while dressed in all black clothing, according to a police report. He pointed a small black handgun at a female staffer and demanded in Spanish that she give him all the money and that he needed it for his kids and family, the report said.

After she complied, he said he was sorry and fled southbound on State, the report said.

He was spotted by officers working an armed robbery mission who were given his description. Rosas was shot once in the arm by a police sergeant when he drove the SUV in the sergeant’s direction, the report said. 

Robberies linked to him usually occurred between 11:30 p.m. and 2:15 a.m. They included hold-ups within two hours of each other at 2200 N. Lincoln Avenue and 300 W. Chicago Avenue early in the morning of Feb. 6.
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Jesse Jackson Jr., Sandi Jackson expected to plead guilty today

Jesse Jr. and Sandi Jackson have arrived to court in Washington where they are expected to plead guilty to federal charges

WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., and his wife, former Chicago Ald. Sandi Jackson, arrived at federal court in Washington, D.C. this morning, where they are expected to plead guilty to federal charges connected to the spending of more than $750,000 in campaign cash to buy luxury items, memorabilia and other goods.

Neither responded to shouted questions from reporters as the two stepped out of a black SUV and entered the U.S. District Court building. Sandi Jackson walked ahead of her husband, carrying a satchel. Jackson Jr. looked up with reporters yelled questions but said nothing and looked down as he went into the building.

Minutes later, his father the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and other family members walked through the front entrance of the courthouse, their arms linked together.

Attorneys familiar with public corruption investigations said the amount of campaign cash allegedly converted to personal use in this case is the largest of any that they can remember.

Jackson Jr., who has been largely out of the public eye for eight months, is to appear in court at 9:30 a.m. Chicago time. His wife is to appear at 1:30 p.m. Chicago time. Both Jacksons will stand before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins.

Sentencing is not expected for several weeks. Jackson Jr. faces up to five years in prison, while she faces up to three years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.

Jackson Jr., 47, was in the House of Representatives for 17 years until he resigned last November. Sandi Jackson, 49, was a Chicago alderman from 2007 until she stepped down in January.

He is charged with conspiracy in a case involving a $43,350 men’s Rolex watch, nearly $9,600 in children’s furniture and $5,150 in cashmere clothing and furs, court papers show. She is charged with filing false tax returns for six years, most recently calendar year 2011.

When separate felony charges were filed against them Friday, their attorneys said the two would plead guilty.

Prosecutors also are seeking a $750,000 judgment against Jackson Jr. and the forfeiture of thousands of dollars of goods he purchased, including cashmere clothing, furs and an array of memorabilia from celebrities including Michael Jackson, Bruce Lee and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Jackson Jr. began a mysterious medical leave of absence last June for what was eventually described as bipolar disorder. Though he did not campaign for re-election, he won another term last Nov. 6 while being treated at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He left office two weeks later, saying he was cooperating with federal investigators.

Married for more than 20 years, the Jacksons have a 12-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son. The family has homes in Washington and on Chicago’s South Side.

Washington defense attorney Stan Brand, the former general counsel of the House of Representatives, said Tuesday that Jackson Jr.’s case involved the largest sum of money he’s seen in a case involving personal use of campaign money. “Historically, there have been members of Congress who either inadvertently or maybe purposefully, but not to this magnitude, used campaign funds inappropriately,” he said.

Brand said that when the dollar figure involved is low, a lawmaker may be fined and ordered to reimburse the money. “This is so large, the Department of Justice decided to make his case criminal,” he said.

Other attorneys said they could not remember a bigger case of its kind. Washington attorney Ken Gross, a former lawyer for the Federal Election Commission, said: “Directly dipping into your campaign coffers, and spending money on personal items, I can’t recall a case where it involved this much money.”

Brand once represented another disgraced Illinois Democratic congressman, Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, who in 1996 pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud. Rostenkowski was later represented by attorney Dan Webb, who is Sandi Jackson’s counsel.

Rostenkowski, who died in 2010, entered his pleas and received his punishment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia — the same venue on the Jacksons’ calendars on Wednesday.

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2 teens die in Antioch crash: 'I just saw headlights spin'

Two teenagers were killed when their SUV crashed into a tree in Antioch in heavy rain, authorities said.

The 16-year-old boy and 17-year-old girl were traveling west when their Chevrolet Trailblazer left the road in the 27000 block of Wilmot Road around 7 p.m. Monday, according to the Lake County sheriff's office. The SUV went through a yard before hitting the tree, the office said.

Both teens died on the scene. The boy, who was driving, was from Antioch and the girl was from Lindenhurst. The Lake County coroner's office was expected to release further details after notifying family members.

Authorities said they believe weather contributed to the crash. A man who lives where the crash occurred said it was raining hard when the accident occurred.

"It was pouring," said Tim Staples.

Staples said he was home when "I just saw the headlights spin ... We ran out and you could see the car was in the tree, the tree was on the car ... a mangled car I couldn't recognize."

"We checked the scene," he said. "We had flashlights and we looked inside. It didn't look promising, it looked really bad."

He said firefighters reached the scene in 7 or 8 minutes. "It took them an hour to get them out. They had to take the top of the car off."

Staples said the car hit a tree he had planted on his property 30 years ago.

The boy attended Antioch High School, officials said.

"We have counselors who are available," said Principal John Whitehurst. "Someone is following the young man’s schedule. If there were kids close to him, we are identifying who they are."

Whitehurst noted an earlier tragedy last November, when freshman Nicole Parfitt, 14, and her father were killed in a plane crash. "I know this is going to bring back some really unfortunate memories with kids intimately familiar with the incident," he said.

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Country singer Mindy McCready dead in apparent suicide: officials

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas -- Troubled country music star Mindy McCready, whose platinum singing career was shadowed by substance abuse and suicide attempts, was found dead on Sunday of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, an Arkansas sheriff said. She was 37.

McCready's body was found on the porch of a house in Heber Springs, Arkansas, on Sunday afternoon. She was pronounced dead at the scene "from what appears to be a single self-inflicted gunshot wound," the Cleburne County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

Deputies had been dispatched to the area following reports of "shots fired," the sheriff's office said.

McCready, whose albums include "Ten Thousand Angels" and "If I Don't Stay the Night," had a complicated personal life, marked by a history of substance abuse, suicide attempts, family disputes and tragedy

In January, the singer’s boyfriend, David Wilson, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. But questions surrounding the circumstances of the shooting led authorities to keep his death under investigation.  

In an interview with "Dateline" in late January, McCready denied any involvement in her live-in boyfriend's death after Canning asked her whether she had shot him.

"Oh my God, no. Oh my God, no," she responded. "He was my life. We were each other's life. There's no way to tell where one of us began and the other ended. We slept together every night holding hands."

Some fellow musicians paid tribute to McCready on Twitter as news of her death spread.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to Mindy McCready and her family today," country singer Tracy Lawrence tweeted.

Country star Carrie Underwood wrote, "I grew up listening to Mindy McCready... so sad for her family tonight. Many prayers are going out to them."

Born in Fort Myers, Florida, McCready learned to sing as a child at her local Pentecostal church. She moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to break into the country music business at the age of 18, according to

She achieved early success with her 1996 debut album, "Ten Thousands Angels," which sold 2 million copies. Four other studio albums followed.

While successful in her career, McCready's personal life had begun to unravel in recent years.

In 2004 she was convicted of prescription drug fraud and placed on parole. Three years later she spent time in jail for violating her parole terms.

She had two young sons. Her first, Zander, was born in 2006. As her personal problems deepened, she became embroiled in a legal dispute over custody.

In November 2011, she left Florida with Zander and fled to Arkansas. McCready's mother, who had custody of the child, filed a missing person report against her daughter, and regained custody.

Her son with Wilson, Zayne, was born last year.

McCready appeared on the television show "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew."

According to the biography posted on VH1's website as part of her appearance on the show, McCready said that she believed her only true addiction was to violent relationships.

In 2011 McCready appeared on HBO's show "Celebrity Close Calls" about life and death situations. That same year she also appeared on the network's "Celebrity Ghost Stories."

Her fifth album, "I'm Still Here," was released to acclaim in 2010.

The sheriff's office said McCready's body would be taken to the Arkansas State Crime Lab for an autopsy, adding that "the matter will be fully investigated."

Reuters and the Los Angeles Times contributed
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Woman shot, killed hours after sibling attends Obama speech

Hours after Destini Warren, 14, attended President Barack Obama’s speech against gun violence Friday, her family learned of a terrible irony.

Destini’s sister, Janay McFarlane, 18, was the victim of the very thing that the President was condemning at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago.

McFarlane, of the 8900 block of South Lowe Avenue, was visiting friends and family in North Chicago when she was shot on her way to a store in the northern suburb, her family said.

She was pronounced dead at 11:30 p.m., shortly after sustaining a single gunshot wound to her head, according to the Lake County Coroner’s office.

North Chicago Police officials did not return calls for comment Saturday.

Angela Blakely, the mother of both girls, said that the family had been anticipating the President's visit to the school where Destini is a freshman.

Leading up to the visit, McFarlane frequently mentioned the recent death of Hadiya Pendleton, 15, whose own shooting death a mile from the Obama's home spurred the President's visit.

“It's terrible, it's terrible the only thing I can remember is my daughter telling me, 'Mommy, it's so sad about Hadiya. That makes no sense,'“ Blakely said. “She always asked me a lot of questions about death.”

Blakely said that McFarlane was still trying to make sense of the violence that claimed Pendleton’s life. She kept questioning why someone so innocent could die from violence.

McFarlane, who attended Hyde Park Academy before she became pregnant with her son Jayden — 3-months-old — and dropped out, was excited that her younger sister was able to attend Obama’s speech.

Destini said that during the days before the President arrived to Chicago, her sister would come by and talk to her about the visit. Destini said she last spoke to her sister on Thursday night before the younger girl went to sleep.

“She was like 'Just tell me how it's going to be.' She was excited for me,” said Destini. “ (The violence) was really wracking her because she was talking to my momma about Hadiya.”

Destini said she was sitting on a bench about two rows behind the President on stage listening as he spoke about gun violence.

“I could relate to it because that's been happening to a lot of people,” said Destini.

The speech resonated even more when her family got the call from McFarlane's father in North Chicago, who told Destini that her sister was dead, she said.

“It was like real painful,” said Destini, her voice choking back tears.

Since President Obama's speech on Friday, two people have been killed and six injured by guns in Chicago.

Freelance reporter Ruth Fuller contributed

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Off-duty Chicago police officer dies in SUV rollover on Skyway


(Tribune illustration)

A 31-year-old off-duty Chicago police officer died when the SUV she was driving rolled over on the Chicago Skyway late Friday, according to authorities.

The officer's older sister works in the section of the Chicago Police Department that investigates fatal accidents and answered the phone when officers on the Skyway called to notify them of the wreck, police said.

Shaunda Bond, 31, was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m. at the Cook County medical examiner's office. She lived in the 4100 block of South Michigan Avenue in the Bronzeville neighborhood.

The crash happened about 10:40 p.m. near 81st Street on the Skyway when the 2003 Land Rover SUV Bond was driving flipped over.

Bond was the lone occupant in the SUV, which was the only vehicle involved in the crash.

Bond joined the police department in December 2009 and was assigned to the South Chicago District, which covers the area from 75th Street south to 138th, between roughly Woodlawn Avenue and the state line.

According to a witness interviewed by police, her SUV was seen traveling at a high rate of speed before it hit a concrete barrier and rolled.
Twitter: @peternickeas

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Hundreds hurt when 10-ton meteorite explodes over Russia

CHELYABINSK, Russia -- More than 500 people were injured when a meteorite shot across the sky and exploded over central Russia on Friday, sending fireballs crashing to Earth, shattering windows and damaging buildings.

People heading to work in Chelyabinsk heard what sounded like an explosion, saw a bright light and then felt a shockwave according to a Reuters correspondent in the industrial city 950 miles east of Moscow.

A fireball blazed across the horizon, leaving a long white trail in its wake which could be seen as far as 125 miles away in Yekaterinburg. Car alarms went off, windows shattered and mobile phone networks were interrupted.

"I was driving to work, it was quite dark, but it suddenly became as bright as if it was day," said Viktor Prokofiev, 36, a resident of Yekaterinburg in the Urals Mountains.

"I felt like I was blinded by headlights," he said.

No fatalities were reported but President Vladimir Putin, who was due to host Finance Ministry officials from the Group of 20 nations in Moscow, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were informed.

A local ministry official said such incidents were extremely rare and Friday's events might have been linked to an asteroid the size of an Olympic swimming pool due to pass Earth at a distance of 17,100 miles but this was not confirmed.

Russia's space agency Roscosmos said the meteorite was travelling at a speed of 19 miles per second and that such events were hard to predict. The Interior Ministry said the meteorite explosion had caused a sonic boom.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry said 514 people had sought medical help, mainly for light injuries caused by flying glass, and that 112 of those were kept in hospital. Search groups were set up to look for the remains of the meteorite.

"There have never been any cases of meteorites breaking up at such a low level over Russia before," said Yuri Burenko, head of the Chelyabinsk branch of the Emergencies Ministry.


Windows were shattered on Chelyabinsk's central Lenin Street and some of the frames of shop fronts buckled.

A loud noise, resembling an explosion, rang out at around 12:20 a.m. ET. The shockwave could be felt in apartment buildings in the industrial city's center.

"I was standing at a bus stop, seeing off my girlfriend," said Andrei, a local resident who did not give his second name. "Then there was a flash and I saw a trail of smoke across the sky and felt a shockwave that smashed windows."

A wall was damaged at the Chelyabinsk Zinc Plant but a spokeswoman said there was no environmental threat.

Although such events are rare, a meteorite is thought to have devastated an area of more than 1,250 miles in Siberia in 1908, smashing windows as far as 125 miles from the point of impact.

The Emergencies Ministry described Friday's events as a "meteor shower in the form of fireballs" and said background radiation levels were normal. It urged residents not to panic.

Chelyabinsk city authorities urged people to stay indoors unless they needed to pick up their children from schools and kindergartens. They said what sounded like a blast had been heard at an altitude of 32,800 feet.

The U.S. space agency NASA has said an asteroid known as 2012 DA14, about 46 meters in diameter, would have an encounter with Earth closer than any asteroid since scientists began routinely monitoring them about 15 years ago.

Television, weather and communications satellites fly about 500 miles higher. The moon is 14 times farther away.


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'Blade Runner' Olympian Oscar Pistorius charged with murder

Double-amputee Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was arrested on Thursday, after a woman was shot dead in his home in Pretoria, South Africa. (Feb. 14)

JOHANNESBURG -- South African "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee who became one of the biggest names in world athletics, was charged on Thursday with shooting dead his girlfriend at his home in Pretoria.

Police said they had opened a murder case after a 30-year-old woman was found dead at the track star's house after an incident in the upmarket Silverlakes gated complex on the outskirts of the capital.

"At this stage he is on his way to a district surgeon for medical examination," police brigadier Denise Beukes told reporters outside the heavily guarded residential complex.

Pistorius and his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, had been the only people in the house at the time of the shooting, Beukes, said, and witnesses had been interviewed about the incident, which happened in the early hours of the morning.

"We are talking about neighbors and people that heard things earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place," she said. Earlier, police said a 9mm pistol had been found at the scene.

"When a person has been accused of a crime like murder they look at things like testing under the figure nails, taking a blood alcohol sample and all kinds of other test that are done. They are standard medical tests," Beukes said.

Pistorius is due to appear in a Pretoria court after 1200 GMT.

Before the murder charge was announced, Johannesburg's Talk Radio 702 said the 26-year-old may have mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar.

South Africa has some of the world's highest rates of violent crime, and many home owners have weapons to defend themselves against intruders, although Pistorius' complex is surrounded by a three meter high wall and electric fence.

In 2004, Springbok rugby player Rudi Visagie shot dead his 19-year-old daughter after he mistakenly thought she was a robber trying to steal his car in the middle of the night.


Steenkamp, a model and regular on the South African party circuit, was reported to have been dating Pistorius for a year, and there had been little to suggest their relationship was in trouble.

In the social pages of last weekend's Sunday Independent she described him as having "impeccable" taste.

"His gifts are always thoughtful," she was quoted as saying.

Some of her last Twitter postings indicated she was looking forward to celebrating Valentine's Day on Thursday with him.

"What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow???" she posted.

However, Beukes said the police were aware of previous incidents at the house of a "domestic nature", and recent media interviews with Pistorius revealed he kept an assortment of weapons in his home.

"Cricket and baseball bats lay behind the door, a pistol by his bed and a machine gun by a window," Britain's Daily Mail wrote in a profile published last year.

He was arrested in 2009 for assault after slamming a door on a woman and spent a night in police custody. Family and friends said it was just an accident and the charges were later dropped.

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Obama challenges GOP to do more than just cut deficit

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to try to push past the fiscal battles that plagued his first term - and still threaten his second - as he laid out an agenda he hopes will shape his legacy.

Obama's overarching message was that other things matter beside the Republicans' seemingly all-consuming drive for deficit cutting, embodied in a looming showdown just three weeks away over automatic across-the-board spending cuts.

Those other things, he told Congress, include some traditionally liberal causes, like raising the federal minimum wage and pursuing climate initiatives, and some that have gained bipartisan support, such as immigration reform and curbing gun violence.

"Most of us agree that a plan to reduce the deficit must be part of our agenda," Obama said. "But let's be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan."

But with Washington so deeply divided, Obama's speech appeared unlikely to go far in helping the Democratic president and his Republican opponents find common ground to ease the ideological gridlock. He offered no tangible new concessions of his own.

Still, Obama's sense of urgency and frustration was almost palpable. He alternately scolded and cajoled lawmakers while expanding on his vision for a more activist government so loathed by conservatives, the same theme he struck in his second inauguration address on January 21.

"The American people don't expect government to solve every problem. They don't expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue. But they do expect us to put the nation's interests before party," he said, pressing Republicans to resolve budget and fiscal differences without drama.

Obama - whose first-term promise to become a transformational, post-partisan president failed to materialize in part because of struggles over the deficit - knows the clock is ticking.

The consensus among Washington insiders is that he has a limited window, possibly as little as a year and a half, to take advantage of the Republicans' post-election disarray and push through his congressional priorities before being reduced to lame-duck status.


Just three weeks after staking out a decidedly liberal philosophy at his inauguration, Obama used his State of the Union address to start fleshing out and prioritizing his goals for the rest of his presidency.

He made clear that job creation and bolstering the middle class would top the list, but he also gave due attention to immigration reform and gun control, which have moved to the forefront at the start of his second term.

Obama's renewed emphasis on pocketbook issues that dominated the 2012 campaign appears to reflect the view that advancing other legacy-shaping initiatives could hinge on how he fares with unfinished economic business from his first four years.

Many of the economic plans he presented in his State of the Union address were familiar to listeners as proposals that Republicans have blocked before, including new investment in modernizing infrastructure, boosting manufacturing, creating construction jobs and helping to ease homeowners' mortgage woes.

There is ample reason to doubt that these ideas - even in repackaged form - will gain much traction in a still-divided Congress where Republicans control the House of Representatives and will oppose almost any new spending Obama proposes.

But the biggest red flags for Republicans may be Obama's call for a hike in the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, a traditional liberal idea, and his demand that Congress pursue a "market-based solution" to climate change - with a warning that if lawmakers do not act soon, "I will."

Obama's call for a nationwide program to expand pre-school education for the low-income families - another progressive cause - is also expected to run into Republican opposition.

There is little doubt the president is aware that many of these proposals, especially those with spending attached, may be dead-on-arrival in Congress.

But he may be counting on being able to accuse Republicans of obstructionism in the 2014 midterm elections - as he did with some success in the 2012 campaign - as his Democrats seek to win back the House.

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Woman dead after falling from SUV; driver arrested after chase

Police are investigating the death of a woman who fell from an SUV that kept on traveling down the Bishop Ford Expressway this morning, eluding officers for five miles until it crashed on an exit ramp at 127th Street in Alsip, authorities said.

The driver was taken into custody, and police said they were investigating whether Jennifer Mitchell, 27, was pushed from the SUV around 154th Street in Dolton shortly before 1 a.m., officials said.

Mitchell was struck by a semi as she lay on the road, according to Master Sgt. Jason LoCoco said. The truck driver stopped and was not taken into custody. A second vehicle may have also struck the woman, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Minutes later, a state trooper spotted the SUV on the Tri-State Tollway near159th Street, Master Sgt. Greg Minx said. The trooper signaled for the driver to pull over but he refused, according to police.  The trooper followed the SUV until it crashed on an exit ramp by 127th Street, some five miles away.

The driver, a 28-year-old man, was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn but his injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, LaCoco said.

The driver was taken into police custody but has not been charged. Police he has not been cooperative.

Authorities shut all southbound lanes of the Bishop Ford from 147th Street to 159th Street for several hours as they investigated the incident. The lanes have since been reopened.

Twitter: @AdamSege

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Pope Benedict to resign at month's end, cites deteriorating 'strength'

VATICAN CITY -- Pope Benedict shocked the world on Monday by saying he no longer had the mental and physical strength to cope with his ministry, in an announcement that left his aides "incredulous" and will make him the first pontiff to step down since the Middle Ages.

The German-born Pope, 85, admired as a hero by conservative Roman Catholics and viewed with suspicion by liberals, told cardinals in Latin that his strength had deteriorated recently. He will step down on Feb. 28 and the Vatican expects a new Pope to be chosen by the end of March.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the Pope had not decided to resign because of "difficulties in the papacy" and the move had been a surprise, indicating that even his inner circle was unaware that he was about to quit.

The Pope does not fear schism in the Church after his resignation, the spokesman said.

Cardinal Francis George returned to Chicago from a committee meeting in Rome Sunday, spokeswoman Colleen Dolan said. She said he was just as surprised as she was and would release a statement later today.

The Pope's leadership of 1.2 billion Catholics has been beset by child sexual abuse crises that tarnished the Church, one address in which he upset Muslims and a scandal over the leaking of his private papers by his personal butler.

The pope told the cardinals that in order to govern "...both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.

"For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter."

He also referred to "today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith."

The last Pope to resign willingly was Celestine V in 1294 after reigning for only five months, his resignation was known as "the great refusal" and was condemned by the poet Dante in the "Divine Comedy". Gregory XII reluctantly abdicated in 1415 to end a dispute with a rival claimant to the papacy.


Before he was elected Pope, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was known by such critical epithets as "God's rottweiler" because of his stern stand on theological issues.

But after several years into his new job Benedict showed that he not only did not bite but barely even barked.

In recent months, the pope has looked increasingly frail in public, sometimes being helped to walk by those around him.

Lombardi ruled out depression or uncertainty as being behind the resignation, saying the move was not due to any specific illness, just advancing age.

The Pope had shown "great courage, determination" aware of the "great problems the church faces today", he said, adding the timing may have reflected the Pope's desire to avoid the exhausting rush of Easter engagements.

There was no outside pressure and Benedict took his "personal decision" in the last few months, he added.

Israel's Chief Rabbi praised Benedict's inter-faith outreach and wished him good health. The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church, said he had learned of the Pope's decision with a heavy heart but complete understanding.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Pope's decision must be respected if he feels he is too weak to carry out his duties. British Prime Minister David Cameron said: "He will be missed as a spiritual leader to millions."

The pontiff would step down from 1900 GMT on Feb. 28, leaving the office vacant until a successor was chosen to Benedict who succeeded John Paul, one of history's most popular pontiffs, the spokesman said.

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