BC-IL--Illinois News Digest, IL

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Associated Press

Posted on March 28, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 28 at 1:00 PM

The supervisor is Caryn Rousseau, followed by Herbert G. McCann.

If you have stories of regional or statewide interest, please email them to chifax(at)ap.org or fax them to the Chicago bureau at 312-781-1989. If you have photos of regional or statewide interest, please transmit them to AP's Chicago photo desk. If you have questions about the Illinois AP news report, please call the Chicago bureau supervisor at 800-572-2585 or 312-920-3626. For questions about the photo report, please call the Chicago photo editor at 888-276-3804. If you're having problems with your AP equipment, please call AP Customer Support at 877-836-9477.

STATE CONTRACTOR-FRAUD

SPRINGFIELD — The former head of a Peoria-area construction firm, which received nearly $60 million in state contracts for building projects at two Illinois universities, was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution after pleading guilty to fraud in connection with the deals. Thomas J. Williams entered his guilty plea to two counts of mail fraud late Wednesday afternoon in Sangamon County Circuit Court in a case that had been sealed up to that point, according to Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office, which shared details of the case with the AP in advance of general release early Thursday. By John O'Connor.

CHICAGO VIOLENCE

CHICAGO — Two men have pleaded not guilty in the shooting death of a 15-year-old Chicago girl who performed at President Barack Obama's inaugural festivities about a week before she died. Eighteen-year-old Michael Ward and 20-year-old Kenneth Williams pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges including first-degree murder and attempted murder in the killing of Hadiya Pendleton. The teen was shot Jan. 29 in a park about a mile from Obama's home on Chicago's South Side. The killing brought national attention to Chicago's gun violence, much of it fueled by gang activity.

AP PhotoCX101.

MEGA VERTICAL FARM

BEDFORD PARK — Farming in abandoned warehouses has become a hot trend in the Midwest — with varying degrees of success — as more entrepreneurs worldwide experiment with indoor growing systems in attempts to grow more food locally. Now one facility, FarmedHere LLC in suburban Chicago, is attempting to take indoor warehouse farming to the "mega farm" level, in a region of the country known more for its massive hog, corn and soybean farms than for crops of boutique greens. By AP National Writer Martha Irvine.

AP Photos NY921-928, 930.

AP Video.

FIELD MUSEUM-OVERHAUL

CHICAGO — Chicago's renowned Field Museum, long a major center of global scientific research, is offering early retirement to more than half of its curators as part of a wide-ranging effort to reduce debt and refocus the mission of one of the city's top cultural attractions. The natural history museum has offered the incentive — immediate retirement or a phased-in retirement over two to three years — to 16 of its 27 curators, spokeswoman Nancy O'Shea says.

BODY FOUND-STORE

PORT HURON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A body found this month behind a Michigan thrift store has been identified as that of an 89-year-old woman from Oregon, and another woman is expected to face charges next week, authorities say. Mary Gertrude Grenia, of Salem, Ore., was identified using X-ray comparison from medical records. A 49-year-old woman from Salem, Ore., who the department has said is believed to have dumped the body, is in custody in Illinois after being found in Belleville, Ill. She's expected to be taken to Michigan to face charges. Her name hasn't been released.

BUSINESS:

PLANTING ESTIMATE

DES MOINES, Iowa — Farmers intend to plant 97.3 million acres of corn this year, the most since 1936, the USDA's spring planting survey says. The survey says the 2013 corn planting forecast is up slightly from last year's 97.2 million acres. Corn remains profitable, as prices are holding strong at around $7 per bushel after last year's severe drought left the grain in short supply. In a separate report, the USDA says corn stocks fell 10 percent from a year ago to 5.40 billion bushels. Record corn acreage is expected in Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, and Oregon.

WITH:

—PLANTING ESTIMATE-ILLINOIS, from ST. LOUIS: The USDA says Illinois farmers expect to plant 5 percent fewer acres of corn than last year.

BOEING CEO

WASHINGTON — Boeing CEO Jim McNerney says his company is "very close" to getting its troubled 787 Dreamliner jet back flying again. Two incidents involving batteries on 787s led the Federal Aviation Administration and regulators in other countries to ground the planes in January. Boeing is testing a redesign of the battery system. "We have a high degree of confidence in the technical solution we are testing right now with the FAA," McNerney says at an aviation conference. "I think it will be sooner than later." By AP Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz.

UNITED AIRLINES CEO

WASHINGTON — United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek thinks the airline business is transforming into a profitable industry, thanks to fewer flights and higher fares. Mergers have helped bring rationality to the market, Smisek tells an aviation conference. For far too long, he says, too many airlines were chasing too few passengers. "I've been in the industry for 18 years and this is the first time that I have hope for this business," he says. By AP Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz.

ALSO MOVING:

—ILLINOIS METRO UNEMPLOYMENT, from CHICAGO: State officials say unemployment in most of Illinois' metro areas followed the statewide jobless rate and increased in February.

—MOBILE HOME FIRE-DEATHS, from SHERRARD: Authorities are identifying the five people killed in a western Illinois mobile home as a 38-year-old woman, her 8-year-old daughter and three other girls.

—CHICAGO-CARTELS, from CHICAGO: A federal judge in Chicago has indicated he'll try an admitted lieutenant in Mexico's Sinaloa cartel, Vicente Zambada, separately from two co-defendants in the drug-trafficking case.

—BODY FOUND-ILLINOIS ACQUITTAL, from BELLEVILLE: A southwestern Illinois jury has acquitted one of four people who had been accused in the 2011 stabbing death of a Georgia man.

—CANDIDATE-EMBARRASSING PHOTOS, from CHICAGO: A candidate for mayor of a western Chicago suburb is apologizing to his wife and supporters after photos of him appeared on an Internet sex site.

—HOMICIDE SUSPECT SEARCH, from SPRINGFIELD, Mo.: Police in the southwest Missouri are asking residents to be on the lookout for a suspect in an Illinois homicide.

—GREAT LAKES CONFERENCE-MICHIGAN, from DETROIT: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder says a meeting of Great Lakes governors and premiers planned for later this year is "way overdue."

—HOSPITAL STABBING, from SPRINGFIELD: A Springfield man who stabbed and wounded an emergency room doctor has been sentenced to 28 years in prison.

—EAST ST LOUIS POLICE-COMPLAINT, from EAST ST. LOUIS: An East St. Louis police officer has been put on paid leave in response to claims by a family that he was drunk and used profane language while responding to a reported burglary.

—INMATE-ABUSE ALLEGATIONS, from PEKIN: A Peoria man who says he was mistreated at the Tazewell County Jail will receive $95,000 under an out-of-court settlement.

—LAKE ZURICH-RESCUE, from LAKE ZURICH: Firefighters have rescued two northern Illinois teenagers who fell through the ice on Lake Zurich.

—LINDENHURST-HOSPITAL PROJECT, from BLOOMINGTON: A state health planning board rejected a plan to build a $131 million hospital in the northern Illinois village of Lindenhurst.

—MEDICAL TRAINING GRANT, from CHICAGO: State officials have announced a $750,000 grant to help health care workers get job training.

—ILLINOIS-MOTORCYCLE SAFETY, from CHICAGO: Illinois transportation officials are starting a motorcycle safety campaign.

SPORTS:

HKN--KINGS-BLUES

ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Blues face the Los Angeles Kings, who eliminated them in the second round of the playoffs last spring en route to a Stanley Cup. 7 p.m. CDT start.

BBO--MARINERS-CUBS

MESA, Ariz. — Carlos Villanueva starts for Chicago while Hisashi Iwakuma pitches for Seattle as the Cubs and Mariners meet in an exhibition game. 2:05 p.m. CDT start.

BBO--MARLINS-CARDINALS

JUPITER, Fla. — Lance Lynn gets his final spring start for the St. Louis Cardinals who play the Miami Marlins and Justin Nicolino in the Cardinals final spring home game. 1 p.m. EDT start.

WITH:

BBN--CARDINALS-WAINWRIGHT

JUPITER, Fla. — Adam Wainwright fought to hold back his emotions. Wainwright will be staying with the Cardinals for a while after agreeing Thursday to $97.5 million, five-year contract covering 2014-18. The deal, the largest for a pitcher in team history, raises his guaranteed income to $109.5 million over the next six seasons. By Chuck King.

FBN--BEARS-ALLEN

LAKE FOREST — The Chicago Bears say running back Armando Allen has signed his exclusive rights tender. The 5-foot-8 Allen has played in 17 games for the Bears and has 172 yards rushing on 42 carries and one touchdown. He has also has two receptions for 16 yards and seven special teams tackles. The team announced the move on Thursday.

ILLINOIS SPOTLIGHT: FARMINGTON FIREFIGHTER

FARMINGTON — Makenzie Balagna is the first female firefighter on the Farmington Fire Department. Her doting dad isn't particularly worried. After all, it was his idea. Like many a small-town girl before her, Balagna figured she'd finish school and skip off on her own. It wasn't the greatest economy in the world when she graduated from Monmouth College in 2009, but she got a job as a chemist for Monsanto in Muscatine, Iowa. "I thought I was ready to move away," the 24-year-old said. "I missed everybody. I missed being home." By Terry Bibo. (Peoria) Journal Star.

AP Photo ILPEO501.

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