UPDATE: Multiple drivers tell of windows being shattered on I-74

UPDATE: Multiple drivers tell of windows being shattered on I-74

Reach out to Deb Pressey at dpressey@news-gazette.com or 217-351-5239.

URBANA — The main thing Mandie Gaines was thankful for after a rear window of her minivan suddenly shattered on Interstate 74 last month was that her daughter wasn’t in the back seat.

A St. Joseph photographer, Gaines said it happened just before 5 p.m. April 6, halfway between Urbana and St. Joseph. She was eastbound, with her daughter riding up front with her.

As the window shattered, her first thought was that someone had shot at her van, Gaines recalled. Then, she thought, “why would anybody do that?” she said.

In the hours since a 3-year-old Monticello boy was injured on westbound I-74 in a similar incident — the sudden shattering of a passenger-side minivan window — other drivers have relayed very similar episodes that happened to them.

The Monticello child was cut by shards of glass when the minivan window shattered just before 5 p.m. Wednesday between Neil Street and Prospect Avenue.

The Illinois State Police office in Pesotum said Thursday it’s investigating multiple reports of vehicles being damaged on I-74 between Champaign and Ogden dating back to March 30.

“Drivers are reporting their windows are being shattered by an unknown object or objects,” a police statement said.

Police are asking anyone with information about the incidents to call (217) 867-2050.

“We are taking these criminal acts very seriously,” said state police district Commander Louis Kink. “Participating in this type of activity can injure or kill a driver or passenger in a vehicle and possibly cause a major traffic crash.”

Gaines said her own experience was frightening.

She and her daughter had just dropped off two other girls, and before that, the girls were riding in the back seat of the van, she said.

“I can’t imagine what would have happened if they’d been back there,” she said. “I’m thankful for the scenario we had, 'cause it could have been much worse.”

When she got home, Gaines said she searched a bit through the shattered glass in the back to see if she could find a BB pellet but didn’t continue because there was so much broken glass she was afraid she might cut herself.

“I wanted to find a pellet just so I could confirm my crazy thought,” she said.

Two other drivers said they also had driver’s-side rear windows shattered on eastbound I-74 in Urbana, near the Lincoln and Cunningham avenue exits.

Barb and Steve Beckett of rural Urbana said they were driving on eastbound I-74 a bit after 8 p.m. Friday, just having passed the Lincoln Avenue exit, when a driver’s-side window shattered.

Steve Beckett, who was driving, said he initially froze, then pulled to the right and exited at Cunningham. There was about a 3-inch hole in the window, he said, and the rest of the glass quickly shattered.

Beckett said the suit he was wearing was covered with glass, but he was unhurt. Two shards of glass struck his wife’s leg, however, causing some bleeding.

The state trooper who responded after Beckett called police told him there was a pattern to these incidents, and more of them were occurring on Friday evenings and weekends, Beckett said.

Since then, he has had to drive on this stretch of I-74 again, but now, he said, “I’m always looking.”

Holli Alexander of St. Joseph also had a similar experience in mid-March as she was headed home from work on eastbound I-74 and was passing the Cunningham exit. The rear driver’s-side window of her minivan suddenly shattered, she said.

“I heard an explosion in the back of me,” she recalled.

Alexander thought her van might have been struck by debris, because she had just passed what looked like some wire alongside the interstate. She called police when she got home, worried that debris on the road could endanger another driver, she said.

While she was shaken, Alexander said she was very grateful her kids weren’t with her at the time.

A couple of weeks later, she said, a co-worker told her the same kind of thing happened to one of her friends. Then people began posting about similar experiences on social media, and she began to rethink her debris theory.

“Things started adding up,” she said.

Ludlow man offering $500 for tips

A Ludlow man is offering a $500 reward for tips that can lead to an arrest in the window-shattering incidents along Interstate 74.

Corey Anderson said he decided to make the reward money available to state police after seeing pictures of the Monticello child injured by shattered glass in one of the recent incidents.

Anderson said he's setting up the reward with his attorney, and it would be paid through state police. He urged people to call Illinois State Police District 10 with any information they have.

Incidents like these have to stop, Anderson said.

"My daughter and my future son-in-law travel that area almost daily," he said. "It could be them. It could be anybody."

He hopes the reward money will help and that others will step up and add to the reward amount, Anderson said.

"Somebody knows who's doing this," he said. "Sometimes a little bit of money is enough to get somebody to tell on their buddy."

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