Jacksonville Police Investigating Friday Night Home Invasion, Vehicle Theft

Jacksonville Police are investigating a Friday night home invasion and vehicle theft.

Officers were called to a residence in the 600 block of South West Street just after 7:15 Saturday morning. The resident of the home advised that between 9:30PM Friday and 6:30AM Saturday the home had been burglarized, with a number of items taken by unknown individuals.

The suspects also allegedly took the resident’s truck from the premises. No vehicle description was given in police reports.

The incident remains under investigation. If you have further information, please contact Jacksonville Police Investigations at 217-479-4630 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at 217-243-7300.

North Side Jacksonville Man Arrested for Alleged Arson of North Church Garage

Jacksonville Police arrested a man from Jacksonville’s north side on Sunday after an alleged arson to a North Church Street garage.

According to a press release from the Jacksonville Police Department, just after 6:30AM Sunday, a Jacksonville Police officer smelled something burning outside of the Police Department, located at 200 West Douglas Avenue. Officers then canvassed the area and located a garage in the 600 block of North Church Street fully engulfed in flames.

The Jacksonville Fire Department was immediately deployed to suppress the blaze and the Illinois State Fire Marshall’s Office was called into investigate. Subsequent to investigation, a suspect for alleged arson was identified by the State Fire Marshall’s Office and the Morgan County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The Jacksonville Police Department then arrested the purported suspect, 39 year old Dustin J. Jones of the 300 block of West Lafayette Avenue shortly after 2PM Sunday. He is currently being held on an arson charge at the Morgan County Jail awaiting a pretrial detention hearing.

The Jacksonville Police Department indicates that investigation into this arson incident as well as others within the 5-block radius that have occurred within the last 3 years remains open and ongoing. Anyone with further information is encouraged to contact Jacksonville Police Investigations at 217-479-4630 or leave an anonymous tip with the Morgan-Scott-Cass Crime Stoppers at 217-243-7300.

Village of South Jacksonville Mulling Water Rate Increase; Possible Permanent Move Onto City of Jacksonville Water Utility

The Village of South Jacksonville may be floating a proposal to the City of Jacksonville in the near future to become a permanent customer of their water department.

The Village has been on the City’s water off and on for lengthy amounts of time since November 2021 due to ongoing problems at the village’s water treatment plant at Oxville. The village has sunk thousands of dollars in manpower and equipment costs into the water treatment plant to get it up to specification and working properly over the last two years.

Village President Dick Samples said Thursday night at the Village Board meeting that he’s thankful that the city has allowed the village to remain on their water utility while the work has been getting done: “I will say this right now. We have inherited a monster, and we are doing the best that we can to make this thing work. Thank God for the City of Jacksonville being able to supply us water. We are not making a dime on this water plant, but we are not losing any money currently where we are at.”

Samples says it may be time to bring a proposal to the Board of Trustees to become permanent members of the city’s water utility: “It could potentially could save money if the City would go along. We need to find out from the City what they are going to charge us. We need assurance from the City that they will sell us water over an extended period of time because we are at their mercy right now. I mean, they can shut us off in the morning if they want to. Moving permanently to their water system is something that has been discussed among a few people at Village Hall about the question of whether we want to get back into the water business or if we want to continue with the City. There is lots of unanswered questions right now.”

Samples says regardless of whether the village remains on city water or continues treating their own water, he believes a water rate increase is due on the village’s water customers: “It was suggested 5 years ago that we have a water rate increase for village residents. This would depend upon what the City charges us if they charge us what they want to charge us. We are just barely breaking even right now. In order for us to maintain the water lines, which we would have to do whether we stay with the City or not, we still need this increase. Now, I live here in the village. I still think we are very cheap on water compared to these other little towns and villages that surround the area. It’s something that’s going to be discussed pretty heartily in the next month or so.”

Samples could not provide an exact date on when the village’s water treatment plant would operational again. According to a report given by Brian English, the village’s utility superintendent, as of Thursday, the water treatment plant was still waiting on media for water treatment to be installed before they could begin the cycle of testing required by the Illinois EPA. The estimated time of arrival for the media was not able to be provided.

Over 20-Year Old Village Plat Filed, Cell Phone Tower Project Moves Forward

The Village of South Jacksonville Board of Trustees officially passed the plat for the Coultas addition to the village Thursday night, more than 20 years after the plat was drawn up.

The Coultas Family originally deeded the property where the Village’s Emergency Services building currently sits on Sequoia Drive.

The plat was expected to be filed sometime on Friday at the Morgan County Courthouse.

The plat had only recently come into question when surveyors contracted by AT&T totaled up 4 separate requests for utility easements to a property adjacent to the Ameren-Illinois substation on West Vandalia where the company is attempting to construct a new cellphone tower.

The cellphone tower has been many years in the making in the village due to poor coverage by cell service, despite being located as a covered area on AT&T’s service maps.

Director of External Affairs for AT&T from their Springfield Offices, Chris Warwick was on hand to see the vote through Thursday night by the Village Board.

Warwick says there is still some work to do: “The right of way has been corrected so that takes care of Easement #1 and #2 that we requested. We are now re-evaluating Easement #3 and #4, which is for the utilities.”

At previous meetings, South Jacksonville Village President Dick Samples had requested that AT&T contact Illinois Power for the remaining utility easements, as Samples believes that those easements should be an agreement with Illinois Power and not the village. Warwick says that he’s unsure if Illinois Power has been contacted about the easements, but AT&T has secured the lease to the property.

Warwick says construction to completion is still about a year away or more, depending on the resolution to the final two easements: “We are starting into winter so that would probably make things a little more difficult to dig for the caissons, but typically it’s about a year for construction to completion. The tower as a structure, as I’ve mentioned at other meetings, will go up quickly, but then, we will still have to bring the fiber and the equipment in. Also, there will be a brown hut that will house the equipment for us or if any other carriers join in, they will have their own huts there, as well. Then, it will be integrating it into the network.”

Warwick says the coverage of the tower would likely only cover South Jacksonville proper stretching from approximately Morton Avenue to just north of the Interstate 72 interchange and then to the very west at Lincoln Avenue, and to Nichols Parks to the east: “We have other towers in other parts of the greater Jacksonville community, so you don’t want to bleed into those other towers. You kind of want to bring covers to that edge. It will really expand the coverage area. The big thing is that we wanted to put the tower where the issues are at, and that’s Vandalia, downtown South Jacksonville so to speak, that’s what’s going to cover it.”

The tower will have the capacity to provide space for other cellphone carriers, with likely two to three more service providers estimated to join once the tower is up and functioning. Warwick did not provide an exact time frame on when construction would begin. The South Jacksonville zoning board granted a building permit for the cell tower back in the early Fall.

Little Information On Two Friday Night Crashes

Two major car crashes occurred in the Jacksonville area last night. There are few details about either this morning.

The first crash occurred on Illinois Route 104 just south of Pisgah Road at approximately 4:45 yesterday evening. A truck and an SUV are said to have rolled over near the outgoing curve. Individuals were said to be entrapped and injured at the scene. One driver was 66-year old Sharon A. Cunningham of the 400 block of Delaney Drive of Jacksonville and the other was 74-year old Ethel P. Bachman of Auburn. Fire and Rescue units from Franklin, Waverly, South Jacksonville as well as the Illinois State Police, and LifeStar EMS responded to the scene. The highway was shut down in both directors for approximately 2 ½ hours. Inquiries have been left with the Illinois State Police and the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office last night, but no further information was provided in reports this morning.

The second crash occurred on Old Route 36 at Franks Road about 4 miles west of Jacksonville just after 7PM. According to a Morgan County Sheriff’s Office report, a vehicle driven by 21-year old Ethan M. Hatcher of Winchester rear-ended a parked and occupied vehicle on the side of the highway driven by 85-year old Judith P. Craig of Winchester. No further information nor indication of injuries were given in the report, and no further information is currently available.

Sex Offender Convicted in Federal Court in June Arrested Again Thursday in Pittsfield

A registered sex offender who was sentenced to serve time in Federal prison early this summer was arrested in Pike County this week.

According to a press release from the Pike County Sheriff’s Office, 63 year old Robert Wayne Niffen was located at a residence in the 300 block of Landess Terrace in Pittsfield on Thursday.

In June of 2022, Niffen was arrested by Pike County Sheriff’s Deputies in Barry after he reportedly stopped a pair of underage girls while he was riding a bicycle around Barry and offered them marijuana and the use of a hot tub.

One of the juvenile’s parents alerted authorities of the incident and Niffen was subsequently arrested on a parole warrant out of the state of Texas.

The Texas Department of Corrections warrant listed Niffen’s original charges as aggravated rape and escape from a penal institution. Niffen was convicted of rape in 1981 and spent 20 years in prison and is required to register as a sex offender for life.

The Texas Department of Corrections also listed Niffen as a violent sex offender absconder. Pike County Sheriff David Greenwood said at the time that Niffen has a lengthy criminal history.

Niffen’s original charges were dropped in Pike County and deferred to the federal court, where on June 28th of this year, he was sentenced to serve 20 months in federal prison followed by seven years of mandatory supervised release.

On Thursday of this week, Niffen was arrested in Pittsfield for failure to register as a sex offender, and a State of Texas Department of Corrections parole violation warrant.

Niffen is currently being held at the Pike County Jail.

WLDS News inquired with the Springfield, Illinois office with the U.S. Department of Justice as to the reasons how and why Niffen was currently out of federal custody after his conviction in the Central District Court for Illinois in June. According to DOJ officials, Niffen received credit for time served from his June 2022 arrest and was released on parole within the last few months.

Springfield Police Search For Woman Missing Since Last Friday

UPDATE 7:15pm: We have been notified that Ms. Whitlow has been found. No further details have been released to WLDS News at this time.

Springfield authorities are searching for a missing woman at this hour.

34-year old Margaret Anne Whitlow has been missing since last Friday. She was seen riding a bike last Friday in the 500 block of East North Grand Avenue near Mel-O-Cream Donuts traveling eastbound, and then later seen at the Maribis Dispensary in the 2200 block of North Grand Avenue in Grandview as a passenger in a utility-like truck.

Whitlow is described as a white female standing 5 foot 3 inches tall, weighing approximately 130 pounds, with shoulder-length brown hair and brown eyes. She has a scar on her face from a previous car accident. She also has a large tattoo on her left thigh and another on top of her right foot. She has previous ties to the Beardstown area.

If you have any information about Margaret’s whereabouts, please contact the Springfield Police Department at 217-788-8311.

LLCC Foundation Announces Recipients of 2023-24 Scholarships

The Lincoln Land Community College Foundation has announced the recipients of over 370 scholarships totaling more than $880,000 for the 2023-2024 academic year. The LLCC Foundation awards scholarships every year thanks to the support and generosity of individuals, community businesses and organizations.

For the 2024-2025 academic year, the application period for LLCC Foundation scholarships is open through Feb. 15. For the online application, frequently asked questions, helpful scholarship resources and more, visit


Riddick Workman, Vincent Beggs Scholarship


McKenzie Jokisch, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Wyatt Morgan, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Emma Grace Pezold, Cass-Morgan Farm Bureau Foundation Scholarship

Acacia Smith, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Landon Smith, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Tyler Trissel, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Maelyn Weatherby, Vincent Beggs Scholarship


Luke Boesdorfer, Leona Stanford Vollintine Charitable Trust Scholarship

Madelyne Edmiston, L. Philip & Mary Kathryn Trutter Health Care Scholarship

Katie Elsenheimer, L. Philip & Mary Kathryn Trutter Health Care Scholarship

Kim Hagemann, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln Scholarship

Hailey Ladage, Lyceum Foundation Scholarship

Alexa Maher, LLCC Trustees’ Honors Program Scholarship

Cameron McElwrath, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln Scholarship

Justin Sharp, LLCC Trustees’ Honors Program Scholarship


Jasmine Aguado, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Oceane Azannai, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Alexander Carapia, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Syd Carey, LLCC Trustees’ Honors Program Scholarship

Isabel Chaidez, LLCC Trustees’ Honors Program Scholarship

Aide Guadarrama, L. Philip & Mary Kathryn Trutter Health Care Scholarship

Cesar Huerta, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Plamedi Izuba, LLCC Foundation Scholarship and Ellucian Foundation Path Scholarship

Jason Mann, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Emily Nava, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Jaelyn Simpson, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Isaac Strubbe, Vincent Beggs Scholarship


Gabby Carroll, L. Philip & Mary Kathryn Trutter Health Care Scholarship

Boden Flowers, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Hayden Flowers, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship


Olivia Stock, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln Scholarship and LLCC Foundation Scholarship


Wes Bland, LLCC Trustees’ Honors Program Scholarship and Kreher Farm Perpetual Charitable Trust Scholarship


Matt Crow, Lella M. Schaaf Leadership Scholarship

Alaina Ford, H. Wayne Price Memorial Scholarship

Emily Jones, L. Philip & Mary Kathryn Trutter Health Care Scholarship and Illinois Health Improvement Association (IHIA) Health Care Scholarship


Mollie Allen, L. Philip & Mary Kathryn Trutter Health Care Scholarship

Abigail Browning, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln Scholarship

Eli Glaenzer, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Faith Hadlock, Kiwanis Club of Jacksonville Scholarship

Tyler Headen, Paul & Lucille Findley Scholarship

Andrew Hembrough, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Sage Jackson, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Caty Kelley, Dr. Pradeep & Dr. Manjula Mehta Nursing Scholarship

Payton Lowry, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Alex McLaughlin, David Baker, Ring of Fire Scholarship

Haylee Northrop, Mary Rios-Squibb Scholarship

Caitlin Platt, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Madi Roach, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Korbyn Stevens, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Alexis Stewart, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Allissa Suggs, L. Philip & Mary Kathryn Trutter Nursing Scholarship

Katie White, L. Philip & Mary Kathryn Trutter Nursing Scholarship

Issy Woods, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship


Peri Andras, John A. & Joanne E. Marshall Memorial Scholarship and Kreher Farm Perpetual Charitable Trust Scholarship


Taylor Richey, Kreher Farm Perpetual Charitable Trust Judging Scholarship


Emma Gibbs, Leona Stanford Vollintine Charitable Trust Scholarship


Jordan Sweetin, James Van Eman Memorial Truck Driver Training Scholarship

New Berlin

Jake Cooper, BRANDT Foundation Scholarship

Allie Dzierwa, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln Scholarship and LLCC Foundation Scholarship

Adam Kloppe, Wesley & Marjorie E. Vala Memorial Scholarship, the Vala Family

Daniel Kloppe, Stephen A. Little Memorial Award

Morgan Smith, Lyceum Foundation Scholarship

Abigail Spann, LLCC Annuitants & Retirees Scholarship

Gabe Spann, Justin Taft Jr. & Mardell Taft Memorial Scholarship

Corren Watson, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln Scholarship and LD & Delores Fortner Scholarship


Lakin Boehm, Memorial Health System Scholarship

Maggie Gibbs, Al Bernardi Memorial Scholarship

Peyton Isenhart, Springfield Air Rendezvous Aviation Scholarship

Emilie McKee, Mary Ann Burnett Memorial Scholarship

Pleasant Plains

Jaden Guernsey, Russell L. & Thelma L. Kirchner Scholarship


Zorah Austin, LLCC Trustees’ Honors Program Scholarship

Zoe Hampton, LLCC Trustees’ Honors Program Scholarship

Lindsay Havens, Ellucian Foundation Path Scholarship

Jessica Kahl, Dr. William H. & A. Marie McCain Memorial Scholarship

Natalie Little, Barbara Klespitz Wright Scholarship

Jackson Pierce, LLCC Trustees’ Honors Program Scholarship

Jeremiah Ronan, David Baker, Ring of Fire Scholarship


Bridgette Bell, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Lilly Carson, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Amelia Hays, Vincent Beggs Scholarship

Gabby Young, Vincent Beggs Scholarship


Sydney Cornish, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Carter Farmer, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Erik Keeton, Leona Stanford Vollintine Charitable Trust Scholarship

Maddie Mutch, Sylvia Chaudoin Evans Memorial Scholarship

White Hall

Janden Kuykendall, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship


Vaeda Cox, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Summer Davis, L. Philip & Mary Kathryn Trutter Health Care Scholarship


Delaney Baker, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Taryn Ford, Sarah Mildred Scott Scholarship and Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Bella Llewellyn, Howard & Vera Million Scholarship

Dorsey’s Hardware In Winchester To Close

A fixture on the Winchester Square will be closing its doors permanently by the end of the year.

Dorsey’s Sentry Hardware Store is closing sometime around the first days of 2024. The Scott County Times reports that the store has been in operation since May 1972 by Gary & Barbara Dorsey. A retirement party was held for Gary last Saturday. Barbara retired from working in the store about 5 years ago.

Dorsey’s is currently working to reduce inventory before the permanent closure. The couple told the Scott County Times they will miss all of their customers from Winchester and the surrounding communities, and are especially thankful to their long-time employee Juliann Gauges. Barbara says she hopes to keep the ever-busy Gary occupied with projects at home in their retirement.

Jacksonville Woman Arrested For DUI on IL River Road in Calhoun County

The Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Jacksonville woman in a traffic stop in the middle of November.

According to a press release last night, deputies with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office conducted a traffic stop on a white 2002 Chevy Tahoe on the Illinois River Road near Gallinepper Road, about 7 ½ miles south of Hardin on November 15th.

Subsequent to an investigation, deputies arrested the driver, 43-year old Jennifer M. Geninatti of Jacksonville for driving under the influence of drugs, possession of methamphetamine less than 5 grams, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Geninatti was arrested without incident and transported to the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office. She was later released with a notice to appear in court.

Geninatti has a first appearance set in Calhoun County Circuit Court for December 12th.