The former director of a Chicago-area cemetery where hundreds of graves were dug up and resold has pleaded guilty to several charges involving the desecration of human remains.
Carolyn Towns, 51, who ran the Burr Oak Cemetery when the allegations surfaced in 2009, was sentenced to 12 years in prison Friday after she pleaded guilty to all charges against her, including dismembering a human body and theft from a place of worship, according to state prosecutors in Cook County.
Three grave diggers faced similar charges.
As part of the scheme, prosecutors said, the grave diggers would exhume bodies, crushing vaults and caskets before dumping human remains at cemetery's trash site. At the time, the workers would "double stack" graves, meaning they would bury existing remains deeper into the ground before placing new remains in the same location, authorities said.FULL STORY
A Chicago woman has become the first person to adopt her own children under a recent Illinois law that she inspired.
The law, passed in 2009, allows for parents who have lost custody of their children to rehabilitate themselves and regain it, in the event that the adoptive parent is a blood relative and passes away. Lawmakers said they were unaware of similar laws elsewhere.
Two weeks ago Yolanda Miller, 49, adopted four of her 11 biological children, who range in age from their late teens to mid-20s.
Miller had ten children while she was addicted to crack cocaine. Her mother adopted the children when they were born, and Miller lived next door to the rest of her family. One day in 1997, Miller just stopped using crack for good. She had been heading out the door to get high, when she said she was suddenly immobile.
“I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak,” she said. “I knew it was God stopping me in my tracks. I said, ‘If you give me another chance, I’ll never smoke another rock again.’ ”
A jury in the corruption case against Rod Blagojevich found the former governor of Illinois guilty of 17 of the 20 counts against him.
The 54-year-old former politician was found guilty on 10 charges related to wire fraud, and other charges of extortion, extortion conspiracy, solicitation of a bribe, and conspiracy to solicit a bribe.
Thirteen of the charges each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The charges against Blagojevich included trying to peddle the U.S. Senate seat held by Barack Obama before he resigned to become president. Blagojevich has denied any intention of bribery.Read the complete story on CNN.com
Eliot Ness would probably be a little annoyed to see his nemesis's revolver drawing six-figure bids.
The Prohibition agent of "Untouchables" fame spent about two years trying to nail Al Capone and his murderous cabal, only to see the Chicago gangster dodge charges of smuggling, bootlegging, prostitution or, if we're pointing fingers in the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre (we aren't), much worse.
Capone eventually went down on tax evasion charges stemming from a separate investigation. The seven years and change that the mobster spent in prison ultimately were his undoing; he died about seven years after his 1939 release.
Now, more than six decades following Capone's death, one of his belongings is drawing the cult fascination that so often accompanies the appurtenances of gangsters, psychos and other monumental miscreants.
Christie's, the world-famous auction house, is selling Capone's .38 special, a "police-positive" Colt nickel-plated, six-shot double-action revolver. It also has a handsome checkered walnut grip.
Christie's expects the winning bidder to cough up between $80,600 and $112,840. Hardly an offer you can't refuse. A similar firearm sans the Scarface pedigree would run you a few hundred dollars.
The Chicago rapper is reportedly appearing on an episode of "The O'Reilly Factor" to discuss his assertion that President Barack Obama is "the biggest terrorist." Fiasco was widely panned for making the remark during a CBS interview and Fox News' Bill O'Reilly joined the choir of critics this week.
He called the rapper a "pinhead" for the Obama remark and for denouncing the "foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists." O'Reilly further claimed that Fiasco could not defend the remark and that he had refused an invitation to appear on the show. Fiasco quickly set the record straight via Twitter: "Whoa! I got invited to the O'reilly factor and turned it down??? Thats news to me ... would NEVER turn down the opp to push billys buttons!"
Now come reports from BET and others that the rapper will appear on "The O'Reilly Factor" next week. Should be a fascinating chat.
The Peoria Chiefs, a Class A minor-league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, will give every fan attending Thursday night's game a replica of LeBron James' NBA championship ring. That means as each fan passes through the turnstiles of O'Brien Field, he or she will be handed ... nothing.
James' Miami Heat team fell to the Dallas Mavericks four games to two in the NBA finals, which ended Sunday night. James, who promised Heat fans multiple championships when he bolted Cleveland for South Beach last summer, has now gone eight seasons without being able to wear a championship ring.
James' performance in the NBA Finals was widely panned. A two-time regular season Most Valuable Player, James scored only 21 points in the fourth quarters of all six finals games combined.
Which gave the Chiefs a chance to pile on the promotions Thursday, when they take on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
"The Chiefs are looking into whether or not the game can skip the fourth inning to honor King James who took off the fourth quarter of every finals game," the team said in a press release.
No word on whether the umpires will allow that, but these two promotions are beyond the league's control:
"One lucky fan will win a replica of James' 2011 Finals MVP Award which he earned with his clutch fourth quarter play. Fans will also have the opportunity to learn how to perform the Heimlich to prevent themselves or their colleagues from choking in a big situation," the Chiefs press release said.
But before they pile on James, the Chiefs may want to take a look at the Midwest League standings. The team is fifth place in the league's West Division.
Looks like the James replica rings are perfect for the Chiefs, too.
Scholars have completed a dictionary after 90 years of work. Considering the language they were working on is 4,500 years old, they made pretty good time.
The University of Chicago's Oriental Institute this week announced completion of the Chicago Assyrian Dictionary, a work begun by institute founder James Henry Breasted in 1921.
The 21-volume, 9,700-page opus identifies, explains and provides citations for the words written in cuneiform on clay tablets and carved in stone by Babylonians, Assyrians and others in Mesopotamia between 2500 B.C. and A.D. 100. The first 20 volumes were published as they were completed, but now the work is complete.
"I feel proud and privileged to have brought this project home," said Martha Roth, editor-in-charge of the dictionary, which has about 30,000 entries. She's a late arrival to the project, having only worked on it for 32 years.
"It is a language that is no longer alive, this is absolutely true, but it is a language that records a society and culture that impacts the Western world in a way that is not always clear to us," said Roth, who is dean of humanities at the University of Chicago.
Other than glimpses provided by Hebrew and Greek writings, the modern world knew little about ancient Mesopotamian cultures until 19th-century scholars started to decipher cuneiform inscriptions, Roth said.
"We began to see entire civilizations that had been thriving, flourishing for 3,000 years and more," she said. "This was 3,000 years of history that we've discovered."
Compiling and defining every word of the ancient language allows us to glimpse everyday life in that place and that time and draw connections to our own place and time, Roth said.
The writings gave us "the histories that went into forming who we are," Roth said. They told a creation story older than the Hebrew creation story, told a flood story that preceded the Noah story, and described a code of laws that predated Moses, she said.
Robert Biggs, professor emeritus at the Oriental Institute, worked on the dictionary and also as an archaeologist on digs where he recovered tablets.
"You'd brush away the dirt, and then there would emerge a letter from someone who might be talking about a new child in the family, or another tablet that might be about a loan until harvest time," he said. "You'd realize that this was a culture not just of kings and queens, but also of real people, much like ourselves, with similar concerns for safety, food and shelter for themselves and their families.
"They wrote these tablets thousands of years ago, never meaning for them to be read so much later, but they speak to us in a way that makes their experiences come alive," Biggs said.
Federal jurors at the retrial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will begin deliberations Friday in the corruption case against him.
Charges against Blagojevich include trying to peddle the U.S. Senate seat that belonged to Barack Obama before he resigned to become president.
Blagojevich has denied any intention of bribery.
The jury will weigh the ex-governor's guilt or innocence on 20 public-corruption-related counts.FULL STORY
Three things you need to know today.
Dietary guidelines: First lady Michelle Obama and several other officials will unveil a new food icon Thursday to replace the food pyramid, the symbol that showed us what a healthy diet looks like.
The new symbol "will serve as a reminder to help consumers make healthier food choices," the White House said.
Obama will be joined by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin during the event at the auditorium in the Department of Agriculture.
A statement released by the Department of Agriculture said the new icon will be "an easy-to-understand visual cue to help consumers adopt healthy eating habits." An individual familiar with the new guidelines told CNN last week the new icon will be a plate.
The move is part of Obama's push to fight childhood obesity.
Garrido sentencing: Two decades after kidnapping Jaycee Dugard in front of her California home, Phillip and Nancy Garrido will be sentenced to life in prison Thursday.
The married couple pleaded guilty in late April in El Dorado Superior Court to the kidnapping and sexual assault of Dugard, whom they held captive from age 11 through age 29.
They abducted Dugard when she was 11, and held her in a hidden compound on their home's grounds in Antioch, California.
Dugard was snatched from the street in front of her home in South Lake Tahoe, California, in 1991. Authorities found her in 2009.
Phillip Garrido, a registered sex offender on parole at the time of his arrest, is accused of fathering two daughters with Dugard during her captivity.
Illinois civil unions: Thirty couples will participate in civil union ceremonies Thursday in Chicago's Wrigley Square at Millennium Park as the city celebrates the first day such unions are allowed in Illinois.
The Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Unions Act, allowing same-sex unions in the state, became law on Wednesday, allowing couples to obtain their licenses from a county clerk's office. Under Illinois law, couples must wait a day after obtaining their civil union licenses before the ceremonies may be performed.
More storms in Midwest – Many people across the midsection of the country are going to spend Memorial Day cleaning up, after severe storms hit Michigan, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois overnight. More than 100,000 people in those states are without power. "It sounded like a freight train." That's the refrain of this past week. Missourians described the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, on May 22 that way, and now someone is using the same description in Michigan. Winds of more than 80 mph hit Battle Creek, Michigan. Hundreds of flights were canceled in Chicago.
Twin suicide bombings in Afghanistan – Suicide bombers targeted security forces and foreign civil affairs workers in separate blasts Monday in the western Afghanistan city of Herat, killing at least five people and wounding 33, a police official told CNN. The attacks occurred within minutes of each other just blocks apart in Herat, an area where U.S. military officials have hinted American troops would be withdrawn by July because it has been largely free of violence.
The second bomber blew himself up outside the main gate of a compound that is home to a Provincial Reconstruction Team, an attack that allowed gunmen to rush inside. Afghan and NATO-led forces fought the gunmen, Afghan government official Harif Taib told CNN. A police commander later said the situation was under police control and the gunfight had ended.
Endeavour heads home – The space shuttle undocked from the international space station and is scheduled to land early Wednesday morning. There is one last shuttle mission after Endeavour's journey: Atlantis is scheduled to launch in July.
The brood is back, and it's gonna be noisy.
Trees, posts, walls and other vertical surfaces throughout the American South are being covered this spring with billions of periodical cicadas: red-eyed insects that emerge, like Chicago Cubs fans' pennant hopes, for a few weeks just once every 13 years.
The bugs are perfectly harmless to humans, unless you count annoyance caused by the remarkable amount of noise the love-starved little critters make. The male cicada's mating call has been compared to a circular saw, only more shrill - and that's just the way the lady cicadas like it. FULL POST
As the slow-moving wall of floodwater makes its way down the Mississippi River, residents in areas that have already been affected by the deluge are beginning to take stock of the damage.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened a spillway Monday north of New Orleans in an effort to stem flooding from the rising Mississippi River, which has already affected thousands of people in eight Midwestern and Southern states.
The procedure is not a cure-all. Last week, the Corps intentionally breached a levee in Missouri to reduce pressure on other levees, flooding 130,000 acres of agricultural land, over the objection of state officials and some farmers. People in those areas are still struggling in the aftermath of the breach.
They levy was blown up to save the small town of Cairo, Illinois, from rising floodwaters. Now, farm families in nearby Charleston, Missouri, are awash in misery.
Marilyn Nally, a 73-year-old widow, looked at her flooded farmhouse a quarter mile in the distance.
"I’m very sad. At my age, I just don’t know how much I can fix up,” she said.
Many Charleston residents felt that the Corps should have waited longer before blowing the levy that flooded their fields. Farmers Roy and Ray Dennison looked out across the muddy water and could not see the tops of their wheat crop. The brothers estimate they lost $350,000 in the wheat crop alone.
Vickie Caldwell, hair white with experience and heartache, ignored an evacuation order and stayed in Cairo, which is between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. Caldwell was born and raised in the town and raised a daughter and a son here.
Some people joked that Cairo, with a decayed downtown and fewer than 2,500 residents, was not worth saving. Caldwell bristled at such comments.
“I hear it a lot. It makes me feel sad you know. They don’t live here; they don’t know the people here. We’ve got good people here."
Flooding in Midwest, South – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it intends to continue a controversial plan to breach a levee on the Mississippi River to help stop catastrophic floods in several states. The group wants to open the final crevasse in the Birds Point-New Madrid levee, moving ahead with a plan to blast holes in it to ease unprecedented flood pressure. The Corps started the blasting Monday.
Some who live where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers meet said it has helped. The Ohio River level at Cairo, Illinois, has dropped nearly 2 feet since Monday afternoon. Officials said they believe the levels would be up to 3 feet higher now if the levee had not been detonated.
Despite the plan, many areas were inundated as the Mississippi River spilled out across huge swaths of farmland, creating massive flooding from Minnesota to Louisiana. Part of westbound Interstate 40 was shut down in eastern Arkansas on Thursday due to flooding, state police said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will blow up a levee at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers due to record high-water levels in both rivers, with work beginning Monday night, said Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh, president of the Mississippi River Commission.
At 4 p.m. Monday, water levels outside Cairo, Illinois, were 61.4 feet - well above the flood stage of 40 feet - according to the National Weather Service. Walsh ordered the intentional breach to alleviate pressure in the river system and to protect Cairo, even though it may lead to the flooding of 130,000 acres of mostly farmland in Missouri.
Missouri officials have been fighting the proposed levee breach.
The man behind the memorable radio and TV jingle "5-8-8, 2-300, Empire!" has passed away.
Elmer Lynn Hauldren died Tuesday at his Evanston, Illinois, home, according to his family, the Chicago Tribune reports.
He was 89.
On Wednesday, the flooring company acknowledged the impact of his nearly 40-year career.
“Lynn was truly passionate about the Empire brand," Steve Silvers, Empire Today's CEO, said in a statement. "He has made an indelible mark on advertising history with his creativity and warmth."
Hauldren started working for Empire in the early 1970s after the company's owner requested him for TV spots, the company said. Soon, Hauldren would provide the voice of the "Empire Man" and become synonymous with the brand. He wrote and performed the jingle with the a capella group the Fabulous 40s.
Hauldren did more than voice-over work. He was also a member of the singing quartet Chordiac Arrest.
Hauldren was humble about his notoriety. According to the Tribune, he downplayed his fame: "People are good-natured," he said, "but once in a while they'll grab at you and say, 'Here's that carpet dude!' or 'Hey! Aren't you somebody?' I always hope folks understand I'm not a celebrity. I'm just a TV pitchman, a glorified salesman."
The budget battle doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon in Washington. Watch CNN.com Live for continuing coverage on this developing story.
Today's programming highlights...
10:00 am ET - House to vote on budget deal - A spending plan for the rest of this fiscal year was reached late last week, but the House is expected to vote on said plan today following final debate.
They say defense wins championships, but beginning Friday night, a handful of NBA stars can champion Japan by breaking down defenses.
For every point they score in select games this weekend, the players will donate a cool grand to Japan's relief efforts. Putting up points shouldn't be a tall order for the Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose, the Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol, the Portland Trailblazers' LaMarcus Aldridge, the Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook or the Atlanta Hawks' Al Horford. Each has been averaging between 16 and 25 points all season.
JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards and Pau's little brother, Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, will also lend their marksmanship to the cause, and 13 other players will donate set amounts.
I caught up with Horford, from my hometown Hawks, after Friday's practice. Let this be a warning, New Jersey Nets: Horford says he's going "to try to be a little more aggressive" in Saturday night's game - and I'm sure you remember he dropped 24 on you when you visited the A-Town in December.
The NCAA Tournament lived up to its “March Madness” moniker Thursday, particularly in the Mile High City.
Three double-digit seeds pulled off stunning upsets in Denver alone, highlighted by No. 13 Morehead State’s shocking 62-61 victory over Louisville, the biggest victory in the program’s history. Twelfth-seeded Richmond held off No. 5 Vanderbilt in the closing seconds and Gonzaga, a No. 11 seed, rocked sixth-seeded St. John’s.
As if that weren’t enough action, both Temple and Butler pulled off buzzer-beating victories to snag vintage March Madness wins on Day 1 of the tournament. No. 4 Kentucky avoided maybe the biggest upset of the day with a late pressure-packed bucket of its own to slip past Princeton.
Madness, I tell you.