Transit service will halt for boss

PEORIA – In just the second time in two decades, Peoria's mass transit bus system will halt operations.

The deep grumble of more than 20 CityLink buses will quiet for four hours Monday, allowing employees to attend the funeral of General Manager Jerome Lilly, who died Saturday, after nearly 20 years at the mass transit district where he began as a part-time bus driver.

"I'm hoping it doesn't impact anybody, we're trying to notify people ahead of time," said Ron Cox, president of Amalgamated Transit Workers Union, who represents some 166 employees and retirees. "We wanted to give all the operators the chance to pay their respect. A lot of us have been with Jerome a long time."

Family members of Lilly said they felt honored by the news.

"I think it's a great show of support for Jerome," his younger sister, Bonita Lilly, said from her parents' Central Peoria home. "To open that opportunity to all employees, that's saying a lot about what they thought of him."

Riders learned Thursday morning that CityLink buses will cease operations from 10:15 a.m. until 2:15 p.m. Monday. Fliers have been put up in the buses, and drivers are telling their passengers of the temporary stop, said Tom Lucek, interim general manager.

Lilly, 53, a Peoria native and Richwoods High School graduate, started out as a part-time bus driver in 1988, working his way to full-time status and then supervisor. In 2000, he was named CityLink's new assistant general manager and on Sept. 7 appointed to head CityLink's day-to-day operations, which the board made official in October.

This is only the second time in 20 years that CityLink has stopped bus service. The snowstorm of Dec. 1, 2006, was the last.

Judge sentences killer to 72 years in prison

PEORIA – A judge sentenced a former police recruit to 72 years in prison for shooting a woman during a drug deal.

Clarice Hawkins, 43, maintained her innocence, and went on a 10-minute tirade against her attorney, her husband and society in general for the troubles in her life. Hawkins also blasted her attorney, saying she did a shoddy job at trial.

She was so angry she said she "wanted to come out and hit her with her handcuffs," but chose not to do so because that wasn't in her character. The words, however, prompted Chief Peoria County Circuit Judge Stuart Borden to put a guard between Bailey and Hawkins.

Jurors in October found Hawkins guilty of first-degree murder.

Semeeka Cotton, 31, a mother of six, was found dead in a furnished, unattached garage she shared with her boyfriend. At trial, prosecutors argued Hawkins was upset with the amount of crack cocaine she got and felt ripped off by Cotton.

In a long and rambling missive in which Hawkins told Borden twice that she wasn't finished talking when the judge asked her to stop, Hawkins denied being a crack addict as alleged by prosecutors. Rather, she said, she would hang out with crack users because they would listen to her "as long as she had money."

The judge called the shooting "animalistic," "premeditated" and "cold-blooded," noting that Hawkins appeared to have shot Cotton, waited and then shot again to finish her off.

In 1997, Hawkins, then a police recruit, accidentally shot a Joliet police trainee while cleaning a loaded weapon. No charges were filed, and she later was dismissed from the Peoria Park District police.

Nebraska administrator takes ISU position

NORMAL — A Nebraska university administrator has been named the next vice president for academic affairs and provost at Illinois State University.

Sheri Noren Everts, interim senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, will start work at ISU on July 1.

Jan Murphy, associate provost, will serve as acting provost until then.

ISU Vice President and Provost John Presley is leaving his administrative post to join the faculty on Jan. 1.

Noren Everts received her bachelor’s degree in English and secondary education, master’s degree in literacy education and English and Ph.D. in administration, curriculum and instruction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She began her tenure at Nebraska-Omaha in 1994 as a faculty member in the department of teacher education. She was promoted to full professor in 2004.

In 2000, she was named assistant to the vice chancellor for academic affairs. She was promoted to assistant vice chancellor for academic and student affairs in 2003 and to associate vice chancellor in 2004.

In 2006, Noren Everts was appointed acting vice chancellor for academic and student affairs before being named the division’s interim senior vice chancellor in June 2007.

Mayors join with Peoria to back prayer
MORTON - Four area mayors united Thursday morning to announce that they will back Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis' call for 40 days of prayer.

After the mayors took turns speaking to the press at the Grace Evangelical Church, they called the Rev. William Preston of the City on a Hill Church to explain the focus of the prayer.

"Mayor Ardis did call the pastors of Peoria area together a few weeks ago," Preston said. "And his concern that he expressed to the pastors in the City of Peoria, was simply a unification of those who believe in God, who happen to believe in the power of God to unite as the body of Christ to pray for the crime and the violence."

In November Ardis called for a 40-day prayer session against crime.

Beginning Dec. 31, Preston said, pastors and other members of the Peoria area, as well as people of various faiths will meet nightly at 6 p.m. in front of the Gateway Building to pray. The prayer services will meet nightly until Feb. 8.

Contributing: Peoria Journal Star, Pekin Daily Times