Local News


More details released in Salem shooting case as bond is set at $1-million for 19-year-old who allegedly fired the shot

Judge Joel Powless has set bond at $1-million for a 19-year-old Salem man charged with shooting another Salem man as he stood on the front porch of his home.

Nathanial Fink of South Lincoln was formally charged in Marion County Court on Friday with a Class X felony of aggravated battery as well as the aggravated discharge of a firearm in connection with the Thursday night shooting of 20-year-old Alexander Russell at his home in the 1100 block of West Elm Street.

Russell was initially taken to Salem Township Hospital and then airlifted to a St. Louis area hospital where he underwent surgery.  A family member indicated early Friday Russell was in stable condition and expected to survive.

State’s Attorney Bill Milner, in his probable cause statement to the court on Friday, said Russell identified the person who shot him the abdomen as Fink.   A Marion County Sheriff’s Deputy assisting Salem Police in looking for Fink located him near his home on South Lincoln where deputies and Salem Police took him into custody without incident.

Milner said Russell told police several people tried to jump him earlier near DJ’s Party Supply at Main and Illinois.  He had gone home and was standing on the porch of his home when Fink reportedly drove up and shot him.   A female on the porch with Russell was not injured.

Milner also told the judge the gun believed to be involved in the shooting was found in brush near the area of Fink’s apartment and ammunition for the gun was found in his car.

Milner had asked for the $1-million bond while Public Defender Craig Griffin appointed for the bond hearing had asked for just a $10,000 bond based on Fink’s lack of a criminal record.

Fink said his intent was to hire private counsel.   A preliminary hearing in the case is set for August 7th.

19--orrell, steve h ft 07-17-19

Bond set at $100,000 for Salem man charged with unlawful restraint and domestic battery   

Bond has been set at $100,000 for a 52-year-old Salem man who was formally charged in Marion County Court on Friday with unlawful restraint and domestic battery.

Steven Orrell of East Main is accused of nailing shut the two exits from his home to keep his girlfriend from being able to leave following a disturbance where he is also accused of grabbing her by the neck and forcing her into a closet.

State’s Attorney Bill Milner noted during Orrell’s court appearance that he was already out on bond following an earlier domestic battery arrest involving the same women.  Milner told the court the alleged victim sent a Facebook message to an assistant state’s attorney handling that case asking for help.   The prosecutor called Salem Police.

Upon arrival, police found the victim had got a door open after Orrell reportedly fell asleep and was outside.   Milner said marks on the alleged victim’s neck matched her story.

Due to the prior pending case, Milner asked and received the $100,000 bond from Judge Joel Powless.

howell cook mugshots

Two charged with burglary in Marion County Court 

Two Central City men were charged with burglary in Marion County Court Friday in connection with the break into a garage in the Patoka area where a boat was stolen.

Bond for 49-year-old Howard Howell and 49-year-old Charles Cook of North Broadway was set at $7,500 apiece.    The two were arrested after video from a camera at the garage allegedly showed the two men involved in the theft.  They were recognized by Marion County Sheriff’s Deputies who made the arrest.  The theft reportedly happened between July 6th and 15th.

Cook was released after posting bond following his Friday court appearance, while Howell remained in custody on Saturday.

The public defender was appointed to represent both men.

Jeanne Ives

Former governor candidate Jeanne Ives running for Congress

WHEATON, Ill. (AP) — Former state lawmaker and candidate for Illinois governor Jeanne Ives is seeking the Republican nomination for a suburban Chicago congressional district.

The conservative from Wheaton has filed paperwork for a 2020 bid in a district west and northwest of Chicago.

The seat was held by a Republican for decades before Democrat Sean Casten defeated GOP Rep. Peter Roskam last year.

Ives is a conservative who ran against GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner in the 2018 Republican primary.

She’s now challenging Rauner’s running mate, former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Sanguinetti, for the GOP nomination in Illinois’ 6th district. Sanguinetti joined the race earlier this year.


Baby’s family mad about hospital bills in cut-from-womb case

CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago-area hospital says it regrets sending bills to the family of a baby boy who died about seven weeks after attackers cut him from his mother’s womb.

Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn sent bills for Yovanny Lopez’s care that totaled about $300,000, said the family’s lawyer, Frank Avila. Some bills even referred to Yovanny as “Figueroa, boy” — the last name of Clarisa Figueroa, who is accused of orchestrating the attack on the baby’s mother so that she could claim him as her own.

“My client is getting bills for hundreds of thousands of dollars from the hospital that has the Figueroa name on it and that’s atrocious,” Avila said. “It needs to stop.”

Yovanny died June 14 at the hospital, where he had been on life support since being brought there on April 23 by Figueroa, who told staff he was hers. Prosecutors later charged Figueroa, 46, and her adult daughter with the killing of the boy’s mother, 19-year-old Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, saying Figueroa lured the teen to her home with the promise of baby clothes.

The hospital issued a statement apologizing for the billing issue.

“Our hearts and prayers continue to be with the Ochoa-Lopez family during this difficult time. We have had discussions with the family regarding inadvertent billing and we regret this error. We take our obligation to patient privacy seriously, and therefore are unable to comment further regarding care, services or billing,” the hospital wrote. A spokeswoman, Johnna Kelly, declined to comment further about the issue Friday.

The hospital has faced questions over its handling of the case. Despite Figueroa showing “no signs consistent with a woman who had just delivered a baby,” according to prosecutors, a mandated hospital reporter didn’t notify the Department of Children and Family Services about the newborn or the suspicious claim until May 9, the agency said. When she first showed up at the hospital, Figueroa had blood on her arms, hands, and face that authorities later determined was from Ochoa-Lopez, prosecutors said.

According to police, Ochoa-Lopez drove from her high school to Figueroa’s home in response to an offer of free clothes that Figueroa had posted on Facebook. When she arrived, police said, Figueroa and her adult daughter strangled Ochoa-Lopez and then cut the baby from her body. Figueroa dumped the teen’s body in a garbage can behind her home before calling 911 and heading to the hospital, investigators said.

Police did not connect the Ochoa-Lopez’s disappearance and the 911 call about the baby until May 7, when friends of the teen directed detectives to her social media account, which showed she had communicated with Figueroa in a Facebook group for expectant mothers.

The federal Department of Health and Human Services determined last month the hospital was in compliance with Medicare requirements for its handling of the baby’s case.

The bills to Yovanny’s family are for treatment that dates back to April 23 and includes care of “high complexity.” He was listed as “Figueroa, boy” for multiple line items dating until at least May 7.

“Thank you for choosing Advocate Health Care,” said a statement dated June 3. “Your balance is past due. Please pay the entire amount … to avoid being referred to an external collection agency.”

Avila said hospital officials promised at a meeting to waive the bills, but the family continues to receive demands for payment.

“I would hope the hospital would not be so cruel” in enlisting a bill collector, he said.

Brendt Christensen mug shot

Slim chance of ever finding Chinese scholar’s body

By MICHAEL TARM AP Legal Affairs Writer

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — Authorities in Illinois have suggested that the remains of a slain 26-year-old scholar from China may never be found despite a vow from prosecutors after her killer was sentenced to life in prison this week that the search will continue.

Brendt Christensen, a former doctoral student in physics at the University of Illinois, abducted Yingying Zhang in 2017 from a bus stop. Prosecutors say he beat her to death at his off-campus apartment, decapitated her and carried her away in a large duffel bag.

In filings before the trial began in June, prosecutors acknowledged they considered a plea deal with Christensen after his arrest in late 2017 in which they would abandon plans to seek the death penalty if he divulged what he did with the remains and where they could be found.

But prosecutors eventually rejected the idea, their filing explains, after concluding it’d be impossible to verify any details that Christensen would provide on the remains and he probably destroyed them.

State and federal officials conducted widespread searches for Zhang’s remains for months to no avail, according to an FBI agent who testified at the trial. They combed the Murdock coal mine and looked in parks and trash bins around Champaign, the university town 140 miles (225 kilometers) southwest of Chicago.

Zhang’s parents have repeatedly appealed to Christensen to tell them what he did with their daughter’s body, describing how important a proper burial is viewed in Chinese culture to provide peace to the dead.

Zhang’s father, Ronggao Zhang , begged for that information again Thursday after jurors couldn’t agree on imposing the death penalty. “If you have any humanity left in your soul, please end our torment,” he said through a translator outside court.

Christensen had an opportunity to divulge where the remains were during his sentencing Thursday, with nothing to lose, after he received a mandatory prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

But when the U.S. District Judge James Shadid asked Christensen if he wanted to make a statement, he responded, “No, thank you.”

Minutes later, Shadid sharply admonished Christensen for his “total lack of remorse” and empathy for Zhang’s family, also saying her parents “may never know where their daughter’s remains rest.”

In secret recordings of Christensen made by his girlfriend for the FBI, he sounded confident he successfully disposed of Zhang’s body, saying without offering details: “She’s never going to be found. … She’s gone forever.”

With his background in science, he would have been more capable than most of destroying remains.

Evidence at his trial included a scientific article Christensen downloaded before the killing called “Beyond the Grave — Understanding Human Decomposition.” It provides detailed explanations of how bacteria, moisture and other factors can speed up decomposition.

A lack of a body didn’t pose a major obstacle for prosecutors at the trial because they had blood and DNA evidence from Christensen’s apartment corroborating Zhang was killed in his apartment.

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