MOUNT CARROLL, Ill. (AP) — A man charged with murder in the death of an Illinois child welfare worker entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors and was sentenced Wednesday to 21 years in prison.
Andrew Sucher, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound weightlifter, was accused of attacking Department of Children and Family Services worker Pamala Knight, 59, when she tried to take a child into protective custody in September 2017. Knight, who worked out of the agency's Sterling office, learned the child was with Sucher, who was accused of abusing a 6-year-old and was under court orders to stay away from the 2-year-old.
Knight went to the toddler's paternal grandparent's home in Milledgeville without police protection because no officer was available. After she got out of her automobile, Sucher, then 25, pushed the woman to the ground and allegedly kicked her in the head, fracturing her skull and causing brain damage. Knight died about 5 months later.
Under the deal entered into by his public defenders and the Carroll County state's attorney's office, Sucher will serve 100 percent of his sentence.
Don Knight, the victim's husband, told Sauk Valley Media that prosecutors entered into the plea deal because the medical examiner won't be able to testify with certainty that Sucher's kicks, not a fall before she was kicked, caused her death. There was concern Sucher might be convicted of involuntary manslaughter and serve only two to five years in prison, he said.
"Justice wasn't served here for her today," Knight said. "This terrible tragedy will be with us for the rest of our lives. My family's loss is permanent."
As a result of Pamala Knight's death, a law was passed in 2018 by the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner requiring law enforcement agencies "to make all reasonable efforts to assist" DCFS investigators when requested. It also allows officers to cross jurisdictions to provide that protection.
Iowa Supreme Court takes appeal in judge selection law case
DES MOINES (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal of a lawsuit challenging a new state law that changed the way some judges are selected in Iowa.
A state court judge last month dismissed the lawsuit filed in May by a group of lawyers and Democratic lawmakers against Gov. Kim Reynolds, saying they didn't have legal standing to challenge the law.
The new law gave the governor an additional appointment to the 17-member state judicial nominating commission, meaning the governor will appoint the majority of members.
The lawsuit alleged the vote of the commission's lawyer members was diluted and that the law is an unconstitutional overreach by the legislative branch into the judicial branch.
The commission nominates justices for the Iowa Supreme Court and the Iowa Court of Appeals.
Supreme Court Justice Bruce Zager signed an order Tuesday denying a request to halt enforcement of the new law until the case could be considered on appeal. However, Zager says the court will hear the appeal.
City to add nonskid coating to new splash pad's surface
WAUKEE (AP) — Officials say they'll have a nonskid coating applied to help avert falls and injuries at the new splash pad in the Des Moines suburb of Waukee.
The city shut down the pad at Fox Creek Park last week for a safety review. Several slips and falls had been reported since its grand opening on June 25, and one person required an ambulance ride to medical care.
Waukee officials say the pad's concrete surface meets or exceeds splash pad standards, but the coating will be added anyway.
The pad will be closed through July so the rubberized coating can be applied and cured. The goal: reopen Aug. 1 and operate through September, weather permitting.
Driver fired after 6-year-old left on bus at bus yard
WATERLOO (AP) — Authorities say one bus driver was fired and another placed on administrative leave after incidents involving students in Waterloo.
The fired driver for Durham School Services failed to check the bus Tuesday and left a 6-year-old boy alone for nearly two hours inside the vehicle at the bus yard as the summer temperatures rose outside. The boy had misunderstood instructions and had gotten onto the bus at the Boys and Girls Club so he could be taken home. A company employee found the boy sleeping on the bus after frantic calls from his mother.
In the other incident, a 9-year-old girl with autism was taken from a school program to her home Monday instead being taken to a YWCA for day care. The girl then crossed two busy streets as she walked to a store, where she was found in an aisle, playing with toys.
The Waterloo school district says it is working with Durham School Services to prevent any similar incidents in the future.
Judge dismisses lawsuit who says police violated his rights
DES MOINES (AP) — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a man who says his rights were violated by police while he was taking video of cars parked illegally at the Des Moines police station.
Daniel Robbins said in his September lawsuit that three officers violated his constitutional right to be free from retaliation and false arrest. Robbins said the officers accused him of suspicious behavior, patted him down and took his cellphone and camera to search them. He was not charged and was eventually let go.
The Des Moines Register reports that U.S. District Judge Charles Wolle said in his ruling that Robbins' actions taking video of cars outside the station "created reasonable suspicion among the officers that he was engaging in criminal activity," adding that Robbins was given "ample opportunity to allay the officers' suspicion."
Wolle says that because Robbins' rights were not violated, the police under the law are immune from such a lawsuit.
Database error delays Illinois unemployment checks
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — State officials say thousands of Illinoisans will have delayed unemployment checks this week due to computer problems.
Illinois Department of Employment Security spokesman Sam Salustro says about 29,000 people were supposed to be paid Wednesday. He says the agency anticipates the system being operational Friday and those affected being paid by Friday. The department says its employees will "continue to work all hours until the issue is fully fixed."
The agency blamed the computer problems on a database error. It's affecting transactions via the department's website and from mobile devices. Officials say anyone needing to file unemployment claims or certify their unemployment status before the problem is fixed should visit an IDES office or call 800-244-5631.
The department issues benefits to about 86,000 people.
Carjacking suspect hits police cruiser, killing police dog
LARWILL, Ind. (AP) — State police say a northern Indiana police dog died after an officer's cruiser was involved in a fiery collision with a car driven by a carjacking suspect.
Indiana State Police say a Whitley County sheriff's deputy was sitting in his cruiser after setting up stop sticks along an U.S. 30 intersection Wednesday afternoon when the suspect's car collided broadside with his cruiser while trying to avoid the sticks.
The impact caused the cruiser to burst into flames. The deputy escaped unharmed, but officers were unable to get the police dog out of the cruiser and the canine died at the scene near the town of Larwill, about 20 miles west of Fort Wayne.
The carjacking suspect received minor injuries and was treated at a local hospital.