Acree Murder Trial Could See Trial Date Set at May Hearing

A two-and-a-half-year-old Morgan County murder case is slowly inching closer to trial. 34-year-old Kenneth J. Acree appeared in Morgan County Court for a status hearing yesterday afternoon.

Acree faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of concealment of a homicidal death in the shooting death of 32-year-old Robert Schofield in October 2020.

Seventh Circuit Court Judge Ryan Cadagin granted a request for a 60-day continuance by Acree’s defense attorney W. Scott Hanken yesterday. Hanken told the court he had just received the last of the discovery evidence from the state.

Assistant Morgan County State’s Attorney Chad Turner says they are also still waiting for discovery from the defense. However, he thinks they are getting much closer to setting a trial date.

Today was a pre-trial conference and we have been waiting on outstanding search warrants for material from technology-related sources and those are all in now. From our perspective, we’ve turned over everything we need to.

The defendant has not yet provided any discovery, but that shouldn’t cause much of a delay and I think we’re getting to the point where we can probably pick a realistic trial date for this case.”

Acree will next appear in court on May 19th, at 2:00 pm. Turner says the State’s Attorney’s Office believes they will be able to set a firm jury trial date at that time.

Acree remains held at the Morgan County Jail on a $1.5 million dollar bond. His council has filed a self-defense claim in the case. Acree is also accused of allegedly trying to hide Schofield’s body by burying it in a field in Nortonville.

If convicted of the first-degree murder charge with a firearm, Acree faces 45 years to life in prison.

Also facing charges in connection to the shooting death are Ken Acree’s wife, 36-year-old Laura C. Acree, and the decedent’s wife, 29-year-old Sara M. Schofield.

They have also been charged with concealment of a homicidal death in the case. Laura Acree is next due in court on May, 23rd, while Schofield is next due in court on Wednesday, April 5th.

Perry Woman Arrested on Retail Theft Charges

A Pike County woman was arrested on theft charges stemming from a joint investigation.

According to a release by Pike County Sheriff David Greenwood this morning, a joint investigation was undertaken by his office and the Pittsfield Police Department earlier this month after deputies received a complaint of a retail theft at a business in Griggsville on March 12th.

The Pittsfield Police Department joined the investigation after it received two complaints of retail thefts from a Pittsfield business on March 24th.

Sheriff Greenwood says last Friday, March 24th, 2023, law enforcement officials from the Pike County Sheriff’s Department and Pittsfield Police Department executed a court-authorized search warrant in the 400 block of E. South Street in the Village of Perry.

During the execution of the warrant, property that had been reported stolen from the businesses was recovered. 46-year-old Karrie A. Waid was subsequently arrested and lodged in the Pike County Jail for retail theft.

Waid made a first appearance in Pike County Court on Tuesday where she was appointed a public defender. Bond was originally set at $20,000 with 10% to apply on Monday before it was lowered to $12,000 on Tuesday with 10% to apply.

Waid was ordered to refrain from having any contact with Dollar General in Pike and Ace Hardware in Pittsfield. A plea has not been entered in the case and a date for her next appearance in court has not been set according to court records.

County Clerk Reminds Early Voting Available Including Saturday Ahead of Tuesday Election

The April Consolidated Election is right around the corner with election day looming next Tuesday. Morgan County Clerk Jill Waggener is encouraging everyone to get out and vote as there are a number of contested elections in this locally focused election.

She says out of 982 vote-by-mail ballots her office sent out, nearly 400 have been returned, and 145 people have come into early vote at the courthouse.

Waggener says those are not big numbers, however, she is pleasantly surprised by the turnout. She says even though there are no state or national seats up for election this time around, there are several races to keep a close watch for on Tuesday that will hopefully see strong voter turnout.

I see maybe South Jacksonville having maybe a larger turnout because there is a race for Village President. One of the candidates is a write-in who as I understand has been letting it be known that she is a write-in candidate, and then of course the school board has a number of candidates and just four seats open here in Jacksonville. Then there are a few other races that don’t involve everyone in the entire county but pockets of voters here and there”.

Another contested race is in Jacksonville’s Ward 3 where incumbent Aaron Scott is being challenged by Lori Littleton. Former South Jacksonville Village Trustee Stacy Pinkerton is reportedly challenging Dick Samples for the Village President’s Office.

The County Clerk’s Office will be open for walk-in early voting this Saturday in an effort to give everyone a chance to cast their vote. The consolidated election historically has some of the lowest totals of voter turnout, but Waggener says this point in the election cycle should ideally have some of the highest.

Especially in this race because you are voting for municipalities, you are voting for school boards, you are voting for library trustees. These are the things that affect you on a local level. State and federal of course do but of course, that’s the entire country, but this race is entirely local. So get out, get out and vote, let your voice be known.

Waggener says another reason people should be motivated to vote, is because no matter how many people show up at the polls, their tax dollars are still paying for a full election. “And people don’t realize that whether ten people or 20,000 people, we have 22,000 registered voters in Morgan County, my cost is still the same no matter how many people get out and vote.

And it’s expensive and people don’t realize how much it costs and what goes into every election, so that’s why I always encourage people to take advantage and excessive your right to vote.”

Early voting is currently being held at the Morgan County Clerk’s Office on the first floor of the Morgan County Courthouse from 8:30 to 4:30 Friday and Monday, with special hours for early voting on Saturday from 9:00 am to noon.

Waggener reminds the public that on election day, her office will be closed to all other business that is not election-related.

JAM Exhibit Highlights Dominican Sisters of Spfild’s Origins in Jacksonville in150th Year

A temporary exhibit coming to town tells the history of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield and their connection to Jacksonville, although you might be surprised via which Springfield.

The Jacksonville Area Museum is featuring a new exhibit titled, “Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois: Celebrating 150 years for the Life of the World” which will have a soft opening this Saturday and will be on display through July 31st.

The Dominican Sisters are celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2023 and contacted Museum Manager McKenna Servis last year to say they wanted to hold the celebratory exhibit back where it all started- here in Jacksonville.

In 1873, six Dominican Sisters were sent to Jacksonville from the Covenant of St. Cathrine of Sienna, near Springfield, Kentucky, to assume responsibility for teaching a large population of Irish immigrant children whose fathers were building the railroad.

Servis says the exhibit tells the story of their time in Jacksonville consisting of six exhibit panels and a case of artifacts. “The exhibit tells the story from beginning to now, but all of the artifacts are early and directly connected to Jacksonville artifacts. They have a really cool drawing of the original Mother House with its location on it, so see if you can find it. They made a wonderful video and wonderful panels put up, and it’s really well done, it looks really nice.”

The exhibit also includes historic photographs, publications, medallions, and dolls attired as Dominican Sisters during different periods of their history, and eventual move to Springfield, Illinois.

The exhibit was developed by the Dominican Sisters and installed by the Sisters and the Jacksonville Area Museum.

Jacksonville Area Museum Board Chairman Allan Worrel said in the exhibit announcement, the museum board is proud to host this exhibit that speaks not only to those of the Catholic faith but to anyone who is interested in learning about this important, but often overlooked, aspect of our local and area history.”

The Dominican Sisters exhibit may be viewed during the museum’s regular hours of operation on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. at the museum located in the old post office on East State Street in downtown Jacksonville.

The grand opening of the exhibit will be held Saturday, April 22nd, with several of the sisters present as well as an official proclamation by the Mayor. Also planned that day is a wreath-laying ceremony at Calvary Cemetary on Lincoln Avenue at 1:30 pm, followed by Mass at the Church of Our Saviour at 4:30 pm.

Multiple Departments Respond to Early Morning Structure Fire in Rural Beardstown

Multiple departments responded to an early morning structure fire in rural Beardstown.

According to a release by the Beardstown Fire Department on the department’s Facebook page, at approximately 1:00 am, the Beardstown Fire Department responded to the call and upon arrival found the unattached garage fully involved with fire.

According to the report, Fire Departments from Arenzville and Meredosia were called for mutual aid to haul water due to the distance of the fire from a water source.

The cause of the fire has not been determined and the garage has been deemed a total loss. No injuries were listed in the report.

The Beardstown Fire Department was assisted on scene by Beardstown Police, the Cass County Sheriff’s Office, and Ameren Illinois.

No Injures in Waverly Garage Fire

Volunteer firefighters from Waverly and Franklin responded to a call of a structure fire in a detached garage just before 5:00 pm Tuesday. Crews arrived on scene at 346 West Elm Street in Waverly to a small amount of fire showing from one side of the bottom of the roof.

Assistant Waverly Fire Chief Tyler Defrates says despite some concern for some flammable contents inside, and a natural gas line running to the structure, overall it was a smooth operation.

We made a quick interior attack, got the garage doors open, and put water on the fire. It was under control in probably about fifteen minutes. There was a whole lot of stuff in there. There was some concern about a couple of things in there, but we got the fire knocked out before it reached that area. Ameren got here quick and got power shut off. It actually went pretty smoothly.

No injuries and nobody was inside. Minimal damage to any of the things inside, it was mostly just to the structure itself. It appears to be an electrical fire that started in a wall, and we got that wall pulled back and made sure everything was secured to make sure it didn’t spread any further.”

Defrates says the majority of the damage is located in the roof, however, the structure is salvageable.

He says a big thanks goes out to Franklin for their mutual aid in assisting with the operation, as well as the number of volunteers overall that were able to respond to the scene from both departments. Crews were on scene for a little over an hour.

Recall Issued for Beef Products Shipped to Illinois, Eight Other States

A recall has been issued for beef shipped to several states including Illinois in the last month.

According to a report this morning by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, approximately 3,500 pounds of boneless beef chuck product has been recalled by Elkhorn Valley Packaging based in Harper, Kansas for potential contamination with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O103

The beef was packaged on February 16th and shipped to distributors, federal establishments, retail locations, and wholesale locations, which includes hotels, restaurants, and institutions, in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and six states on the east coast.

USDA officials say people can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism, and most people infected with STEC O103 develop diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe.

The product subject to recall bears the establishment number “EST. M-19549” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Distributors and other customers who have purchased these products for further processing should not use them or further distribute them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

The USDA says there have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to the consumption of these products at this time.

Consumers with food safety questions can call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-MPHotline (888-674-6854) or live chat via Ask USDA from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday.

Dream Center Foundation Final Liquidation Sale This Saturday

An area non-profit organization is liquidating its assets after the sudden death of its president last year.

The Jacksonville Dream Center Foundation is holding a liquidation sale this weekend at the center located on West College Avenue. The remaining board members agreed to close the center after Dream Center Foundation President Steve Cantrell passed away in September. The Dream Center Foundation was established in July of 2013.

Acting President, Cheri Fry says everything including the building will be sold off with the proceeds being then donated to a number of area non-profits.

Fry says the work of the Jacksonville Dream Center Foundation might not have been as well known as some other organizations in Jacksonville, but the effects of the mission were seen and felt throughout the community over the years.

The Dream Center was an education for kids. We were teaching them trades and different services and whatnot. Our most recognizable thing that we ever did was our bench for caps program where everybody collected the plastic bottle caps and we turned them into benches for different places around town. That’s what we’re mostly recognized for but they didn’t know it was us, because it was just kids.”

Fry says another well-recognized effort by the Dream Center and Steve Cantrell, was the fundraising food trailer that was seen at events throughout the area. “Steve always had the food truck up at the square for all of the concerts and whatnot. In later years we were the log cabin wood food truck.

He had it at so many local places, Murrayville, Woodson, here on the square in Jacksonville. Just about anywhere that could have a food truck, Steve had the food truck there.’

Prior to its use as the Dream Center, the converted residence was home to the Jacksonville Theater Guild, and prior to that, Williamson Funeral Home for several decades.

Everything from various tools, and stage pieces to antique bottles, tables, trunks, clothes, and housewares can be found at the sale this weekend. Fry says it has been sad winding down the foundation, however, everything must go.

It is sad, it’s the end of an era but we just had to get rid of some stuff so anything here is for sale. If they come in, they make us an offer we were probably going to accept it because we need to get rid of the stuff because we are going to be selling the building and I’m sure the new owners of the building will not want all of these items still inside of it.”

Fry says once everything including the building has been sold, the board has chosen to donate the foundation’s assets to area non-profit organizations that supported the Dream Center Foundation over the years.

The final proceeds will be divided into four ways for donation to Jacksonville Main Street, Woodlawn Farm, The Prairieland Heritage Museum and Fall Festival, and the Clayville Historic Site.

The final Dream Center Liquidation Sale is this Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm, at the center located at 210 West College Avenue across from the Jacksonville Public Library. More information can be found on the Dream Center’s Facebook page and event.

Sunrise Rotary Collecting for Spirit of Faith Soup Kitchen During Saturday Food-Raiser

The Spirit of Faith Food Kitchen is set to get a boost from a Jacksonville service organization.

The Jacksonville Sunrise Rotary Club will be collecting non-perishable food items at County Market on West Morton Avenue this Saturday.

Club President Linda Meece said in the announcement that they are calling the effort a Food-Raiser instead of a fundraiser.

Instead of raising money for the cause, the club instead is raising stocks of non-perishable food items to help replenish the stock at the Spirit of Faith Food Kitchen.

Mecee says just purchase some extra cans of vegetables, or boxes of oatmeal or pasta when you do your grocery shopping, and on the way to your car, drop those items off at the club’s table in front of County Market between 8 a.m. and noon this Saturday.

She says the club is especially aware that the Easter holiday is quickly approaching, and while many will be celebrating a meal with family, there are some in the community who could use a little help this time of year.

According to the announcement, in previous years the club has received more than 1,000 pounds of non-perishable food items in the four hours of the food-raiser.

The food-raiser will be held this weekend at the Jacksonville County Market on West Morton Avenue from 8 am to noon.

Chamber of Commerce Recognizes Area Businesses During Annual Meeting

A number of area businesses and business-oriented people were recognized during the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting Thursday night.

Each year the chamber recognizes two businesses of the year, a non-profit business of the year, and recognizes a new member in the chamber’s circle of excellence.

Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Musch says it was a very noteworthy annual meeting. “It was a great annual meeting last night with over 150 in attendance. We held the event at new chamber member Cured Catering there in McClellan Dining Hall. It’s great to see that space being utilized and it was just a really great evening.

We had our award presentations with a pair of businesses of the year, and we had a circle of excellence winner again this year and just a great way to recap 2022, which was a good year for the chamber, and looking forward to what’s coming up here in 2023.”

Express Personnel of Jacksonville was recognized as the Small Business of the Year (Less 25 employees) for 2022 by the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday night.

Small Business of the Year with under 25 employees was awarded to Express Employment Professionals of Jacksonville. Cedarhusrt of Jacksonville was the Business of the Year with 25 or more employees, and Not-For-Profit Business of the Year was awarded to Jacksonville Main Street.

Cedarhurst of Jacksonville representatives with the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award (25 or more employees) for 2022.

Musch says recognition of these businesses is truly a process that starts from the members up. “We were really pleased with our business of the year award winners this year. In that process, we receive nominations for each of the category awards and then a committee selects based on those nominations that are received.

So we were really happy to be able to present awards to those businesses in the community. And Jacksonville Main Street, we were thrilled to be able to give them the not-for-profit award. It’s kinda crazy that they hadn’t received it before. But with all the great work that they’ve done in the community and for downtown, we’re thrilled to be able to present that.”

Also recognized Thursday was among many things, a past Vice President of MacMurray College, Keith Lape who was inducted into the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce’s Circle of Excellence.

Keith Lape of Jacksonville was inducted into the Jacksonville Area Chamber’s Circle of Excellence.

Lape was recognized for his many contributions to the community and chamber over many years, including as Chamber Chair during the very tough year of 2020, during which time he pushed on in the role even after suffering an injury that required many surgeries during his tenure.

He and his wife Phyllis will celebrate 65 years of marriage in July, and continue to make their home in Jacksonville while also continuing to be involved in many chamber events each year.