Regional briefs from the state of Illinois:

Textron closing distribution center, firefigher indicted, I-74 bridge reopens, ex-cop seeks to have stalking charges dropped, ... and more.


Textron closing center
ROCKFORD – Greenlee Textron officials announced today they're closing their 20-plus-year-old distribution center, leaving 100 local jobs up in the air.

The company is looking to open a new distribution center, but officials haven't said
whether they're looking in the Rockford area or elsewhere.

"The current CDC building is not feasible for expansion. As a result, Greenlee
representatives are currently evaluating possible relocation options," according to
a company press release. "A final site decision for the new CDC is expected to be
made shortly and will be based on a total benefit and cost solution that includes
inbound/outbound transportation, property, operating and labor costs."

Belvidere familiy sues school district over alleged abuse of autistic son
BELVIDERE - A Belvidere family is suing the city's school district, claiming their
autistic son was abused by his teacher.

Roy and Sally Abramat say their 11-year-old son was physically, psychologically and
verbally abused by his teacher but district officials failed to intervene, according
to the suit.

An amended complaint, filed Monday at the Boone County Courthouse, claims the
Belvidere School District and Boone County Special Education Cooperative failed to
prevent their son's abuse. It also alleges that former district teacher Heidi
MacPherson intentionally inflicted emotional distress and battered the then
9-year-old boy.

The suit seeks compensation for therapy, doctor's visits and medication as well as
more than $50,000 in damages.

Firefighter indicted on counts of arson
PEORIA - A volunteer firefighter and two of his friends were indicted recently by a Peoria County grand jury for allegedly setting fires.

Donald C. Magner, 18, of 3303 W. Fremont St., Darrell W. O'Neal, 17, of 3204 W. Fremont St., and Matthew A. Wilson, 19, of 3134 W. Fremont St. all face two counts of arson and one count of criminal damage to property.

Magner allegedly paid the other two to set fires. Authorities got suspicious because of Magner's "quick response" to the fire scenes.

Authorities say within a week, an abandoned home at 3135 W. Fremont was intentionally set on fire as well as a pickup truck a block away and a large wood pile in a nearby field.

If convicted, all three face up to seven years in prison.

I-74 bridge reopens to traffic
DOWNS — Traffic is moving again on a westbound Interstate 74 bridge damaged by a gasoline tanker fire in July.

One lane of the Kickapoo Creek bridge near Downs reopened over the weekend as repairs near completion. One lane is also open on the eastbound side of 74.

Illinois Department of Transportation IDOT spokesman Brian Williamsen said all four lanes should be open by the end of the week.

“There is just some minor cleanup left to do. They replaced the steel beams, put in a new bridge deck, made some abutment repairs and some pavement resurfacing,” Williamsen said.

The westbound bridge had been closed since the July 7 crash that killed truck driver Lowell Kolbus, 71, of Mattoon.  A temporary westbound lane was constructed over the eastbound bridge while repairs proceeded.

The westbound bridge replacement project was awarded to Halverson Construction Co. Inc. of Springfield for $982,165.80. That is in addition to the $854,000 in repair work performed by IDOT workers after the crash, Williamsen said.

Williamsen said the state is trying to recover a portion of the cost associated with repairs through the insurance company which covered Kolbus’s truck.

Ex-cop seeks to have stalking charge dropped
BLOOMINGTON — The defense attorney for former police Sgt. Jeff Pelo, charged with raping four women and stalking another, has asked for dismissal of stalking charges and appointment of a special prosecutor to handle the case.

The requests were among several pretrial motions defense attorney Michael Rosenblat filed last week. Rosenblat is also asking that a jury not be allowed to hear evidence related to a photo-lineup police showed to the victims.

Rosenblat argues a special prosecutor is needed to avoid a conflict of interest because of Pelo’s 18 years of service with the Bloomington Police Department and his working relationship with McLean County state’s attorneys.

Pelo, 43, resigned from the department last week. He had been on paid administrative leave for more than a year, collecting his $81,000 salary while behind bars on $1 million bond.

Pelo was charged in June 2006 with stalking and attempted residential burglary after he was stopped by a Bloomington police officer outside a woman’s home. He was charged in July 2006 with sexually assaulting four women between December 2002 and January 2005.

Rosenblat said in the motion the jury that indicted Pelo on stalking and burglary charges was misled by false testimony from Bloomington Detective Larry Shepherd.

Prosecutors intend to file a response to Rosenblat’s motions. A judge will hear pretrial motions Nov. 19 and 20. Pelo’s trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 14.

'Bird whisperer' may have to divulge secrets
SPRINGFIELD – The bird whisperer may have to whisper some of his secrets to the
Springfield City Council if he wants to keep his $164,000 contract to rid downtown
of starlings and pigeons.

Ward 8 Ald. Kris Theilen asked Mayor Tim Davlin Tuesday night to draft a letter
asking James Soules, the 84-year-old head of Decatur-based Soules Bird Repellent, to
answer questions about how he has reduced downtown's bird population.
Soules maintains he has a secret, non-lethal, non-harmful method for getting rid of
the birds.

Theilen, who works downtown, said he has heard complaints about the company's
employees picking up dead birds and worries that Soules is killing them, contrary to
his description of his methods.

The State Journal-Register reported last month that Soules has a license from the
state to use Avitrol, a pesticide. State inspectors found it at his facility as
recently as 2004. And state inspectors looked into whether Soules or his employees
shot birds in 1995 and 1998.

Soules said Tuesday he has not used Avitrol in 35 years. He also said he does not
poison or shoot the birds.

Police sergeant resigns in face of drinking charges
JACKSONVILLE – A police sergeant facing possible firing for allegedly twice being
found to have been drinking alcohol while on duty has resigned.

Kelly Surratt, a 16-year veteran of the force, submitted his letter of resignation
effective Friday, according to Eddie Carpenter, attorney for the Jacksonville Police
and Fire Commission. Carpenter said he could not reveal what was in Surratt's

Surratt was placed on paid suspension Aug. 17, after Police Chief Don Cook said he
had twice been found to have been drinking while on duty. Last month, the suspension
became unpaid.

According to the charges, Surratt agreed to a urine test Dec. 18, 2006, and was
found to have a blood alcohol concentration of .08, exceeding the .02 limit set by
the police department's collective bargaining agreement. Surratt voluntarily sought
assistance with alcohol-related problems and agreed to treatment and to submit to
random testing for one year.

He was tested again at a level of .08 on Aug. 17, the charges allege.

Surratt joined the Jacksonville Police Department in 1991 and was promoted to
sergeant in 1996.

Contributing:  Rockford Register Star, Peoria Journal Star and Springfield State Journal-Register