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Two years after son's death, family searches for closure

Zachary Mingee should have been opening birthday presents Saturday. He should have been asking his folks where to go to register to vote. He should have been mailing off college applications, getting ready to go to the homecoming dance.

But the Buckley youth was killed two years ago, a few weeks shy of his 16th birthday, by a drunken driver who is believed to be hiding in Mexico.


Champaign police chief says he's OK with citizen review board

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney said Friday he could live with a proposed citizen review committee that would give him input on complaints filed against city police.

A subcommittee of the 22-member Champaign Police Community Relations Committee has said its "preferred model" of citizen oversight of complaints against police would be creation of a citizen review committee. The recommendation was contained in an 18-page report issued last month.


Citizen review panel proposed for complaints against police

CHAMPAIGN – A city advisory panel has endorsed the creation of a citizen committee to review complaints against police officers.

The proposal would, if implemented, add an element of citizen oversight to the resolution of complaints against Champaign police, but is less encompassing than the citizens police review board that has been proposed in Urbana.


Man convicted of armed robbery

URBANA – A Champaign man convicted in a brutal armed robbery of two employees at a Champaign store last summer faces six to 30 years in prison.

A Champaign County jury Thursday deliberated about 80 minutes before finding Lenard Lawrence, 38, whose last known address was in the 1300 block of North Champaign Street, guilty of robbing Grant Luttrell and Candace Williams at gunpoint as they worked at the Dollar General, 817 W. Bloomington Road, C, on July 20.


Authorities believe rural fires may be connected

LONGVIEW – Champaign County sheriff's deputies believe that the same person or persons have been responsible for setting four fires in southeastern Champaign County over the last nine months and as many as seven different fires in the last three years.

"We aren't 100 percent sure whether the fires are all tied together, but we have a reason to believe all four might have a single source," said Lt. Ed Ogle of the Champaign County sheriff's office on Monday.


Guilty pleas entered in two fatal traffic cases

URBANA – Traffic crashes that result in death do not always rise to the level of a serious felony for the people who are involved, Champaign County's chief prosecutor said Monday.

State's Attorney Julia Rietz commented in the wake of guilty pleas entered in two separate traffic cases that resulted in death.


Great Emancipator returning to courthouse

URBANA – In 1854, Abraham Lincoln's political career seemed to have fizzled out, and he was back to practicing law on a circuit that included Urbana and Danville.

He was at the Champaign County Courthouse in May that year when he heard the news that Congress had passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, making it possible for slavery to be extended into that large swath of land.


Pirok pleads guilty to driving under influence

CHAMPAIGN – Champaign City Council member Ken Pirok pleaded guilty Friday to driving under the influence, but had other traffic charges against him, including failure to report an accident and improper backing, dismissed.

Pirok was sentenced to 12 months of court supervision, fined $700 and must do 150 hours of community service work, according to the negotiated plea agreement that was approved Friday by Associate Judge Richard Klaus in Champaign County Circuit Court.


Boy who admitted to racist remark given probation

URBANA – A rural Champaign youth who admitted making a racist remark to a woman at the Hillel Foundation on campus last spring was sentenced Friday to 18 months of probation.

"We have enough conflict between religions, races and cultures in this world. We don't need any more," Champaign County Judge Harry Clem told the 16-year-old.


Boy died of smoke inhalation

CHAMPAIGN – An autopsy done on a toddler who died in a house fire in Champaign Monday showed he died of smoke inhalation.

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said a pathologist Wednesday found soot in the lungs of Demetrius Lenard, 3, of 1313 Hedge Road.