Mom, son identified as victims of house explosion

RAPATEE, Ill. (AP) — Authorities say a 77-year-old woman and her 51-year-old son died in an explosion that destroyed a house in western Illinois.

The cause of the Sunday blast still is under investigation but foul play is not suspected. The Knox County sheriff's department says eight additional structures in the area were damaged, including one with "significant damage."

The explosion occurred in Rapatee, an unincorporated community 30 miles west of Peoria.

The sheriff's department says the victims were Wanda Swain and David Swain Jr. The Register-Mail says one victim was thrown from the house by the explosion.

Illinois governor signs abortion protections into law

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a bill to expand abortion protections in Illinois, a move that comes while some Republican-led states try to restrict the procedure.

The law establishes abortion as a "fundamental right" for women. Pritzker, a Democrat, signed the bill Wednesday, surrounded by advocates. He says Illinois is taking a "giant step forward" while other states are taking a "giant step backwards."

The measure rescinds decades-old regulations on abortion that had been suspended by judges. It also requires insurance coverage for abortions, contraception and related medical care.

Supporters say the legislation would put existing practice into law. Republicans strongly objected.

At least six states have adopted steep restrictions or bans on abortion.

Illinois State exceeds $150M fundraising goal, 1 year early

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — Illinois State University has exceeded a $150 million fundraising goal.

The university announced Tuesday it's received more than $155 million in donations, hitting the goal for the Redbirds Rising campaign 13 months ahead of schedule.

President Larry Dietz says it's "a remarkable achievement" made possible by alumni and friends who believe in the ISU experience.

The campaign started in 2013 and was launched publicly in 2017. It's aimed at providing more money for scholarships, as well as non-traditional learning opportunities and technology.

The university says the more than 51,000 donors include 23,000 who are giving to ISU for the first time and 25 gifts and commitments of $1 million or more.

The campaign will continue through June 30, 2020.

City crackdown on grave decorations angers relatives

CEDAR FALLS (AP) — The removal of decorations and other commemorative items from graves at Cedar Falls' three cemeteries has angered some relatives and other loved ones.

Several who went to visit the graves recently found that most of the missing items were placed along fence lines at the Fairview, Greenwood and Hillside cemeteries.

Mark Ripplinger is director of Cedar Falls' municipal operations, and he says the city has had an ordinance for several years that prohibits decorations left on graves more than three days after Memorial Day. He says the items make it difficult to mow the properties.

Ripplinger says the city's been lax about enforcing the ordinance, and staffers over the years would move the items and then put them back after mowing. But he says that practice is taking too much time away from the main job of mowing.

He acknowledged that the city could have done a better job of informing relatives about the ordinance and the city's intentions.

Woman accused of binding kids' hands and feet gets probation

DES MOINES (AP) — A Des Moines woman accused of binding her children's hands and feet to keep them under control has been sentenced to two years of probation.

Court records show that 38-year-old Jessica Henderson also was fined $625 during her sentencing last week. She had entered Alford pleas to three counts of child endangerment. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a likely conviction had the case gone to trial.

School officials contacted police in August about a photograph taken in March 2018 that showed the children tied up on a floor. Henderson has said a friend bound the children when she was in another room. Authorities haven't said who took the photograph.

Police say the children, ages 9, 5 and 4, were taken to a hospital but hadn't suffered significant injuries.