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    A woman accused of killing and dismembering the owner of a Chicago boarding house where she lived has pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges in the slaying. Thirty-six-year-old Sandra Kolalou was charged in October in the death of her 69-year-old landlord, Frances Walker, whose partial remains were found in a freezer in the boarding house on Chicago’s northwest side. Prosecutors say Walker had served Kolalou with an eviction notice before she was killed. The Chicago-Sun Times reports Kolalou pleaded not guilty Wednesday to felony charges of first-degree murder and concealing a homicidal death, and a misdemeanor count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

      Democrats who control the Illinois General Assembly have approved followup clarifications to their watershed criminal justice overhaul. The proposal passed Thursday appeases critics by adding numerous offenses to a list of crimes that qualify a defendant to remain jailed while awaiting trial. The House approved it after the Senate on the last day of the fall session and before the Jan. 1 effective date of the so-called SAFE-T Act. The act chiefly eliminates the longstanding practice of requiring cash bail for criminal defendants. Critics say bail penalizes the poor and  the goal is to detain dangerous people awaiting trial while not locking up those who pose no threat but can’t afford bail.

        Austan Goolsbee, who was a top economic adviser to President Barack Obama, has been chosen as the next president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the regional Fed bank announced. Goolsbee, 53, an economics professor at the University of Chicago who is a frequent commentator in opinion columns and television appearances, will succeed Charles Evans on Jan. 9. Evans is retiring after 15 years as head of the Chicago Fed. As head of a regional Fed bank, Goolsbee will have a rotating vote on the committee that determines the central bank’s interest rate moves.

          A coroner says two children were among five people found dead at a suburban Chicago home following what police called a “domestic-related incident." Lake County Coroner Jennifer Banek said Thursday that two children and three adults were found dead Wednesday in the home in the village of Buffalo Grove. Authorities would not discuss who they believe is responsible or the weapon used. Banek says four of the five autopsies determined that sharp force injuries caused those deaths. A fifth autopsy is expected to be complete by end of Thursday. Police say the five bodies were found inside a single-family residence.

            A soldier who suffered catastrophic injuries while serving in Iraq in 2004 has died and been laid to rest in northern Illinois with full military honors. Former U.S. Army Sgt. Joel Gomez died Nov. 22 after developing pneumonia and kidney problems. The 42-year-old Wheaton man, who had been living with quadriplegia since his wartime injury, was buried Tuesday at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood. The Chicago Tribune reports Gomez has become one of more than 4,400 U.S. military members who have died from injuries suffered during the Iraq war. His spine was broken in two places in 2004 during a combat mission.

              Five people have been found dead at a home in suburban Chicago in what police are saying is a likely “domestic-related incident.” The Buffalo Grove Police Department said officers were sent around 11 a.m. Wednesday to a single-family residence following a call for a wellbeing check on an adult female. The officers forced their way inside the home and found five people dead. Police said there was no threat to the public. The department said the names of the dead were being withheld until relatives could be notified and pending the coroner’s examination.

                A historical marker now standing on the grounds of Illinois' Old State Capitol commemorates the date when then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama announced his 2008 presidential bid there. The marker dedicated Wednesday sits on the southeast corner of the grounds in downtown Springfield. It notes the future president’s Feb. 10, 2007, announcement of his candidacy and his Aug. 23, 2008, introduction there of his running mate, Joe Biden. Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, the first Black legislator to hold that position, says Obama “inspired so many people who had never been involved in politics before to get involved.”

                A twister roaring out of the early morning darkness ripped through a small Alabama community, killing two during an outbreak of tornadoes in the South. The deadly storm that struck Flatwood, Alabama, early Wednesday was one of dozens of tornadoes kicked up by a severe storm front that swept from east Texas across several Southern states over two days. Tornadoes destroyed several buildings and toppled trees in Mississippi and Alabama. A 39-year-old woman and her 8-year-old-son were killed in Flatwood when a large tree fell on their mobile home. Tornadoes also damaged homes, destroyed a fire station and ripped the roof off an apartment complex in Mississippi.

                More crimes would be added to a list that could disqualify defendants in court from being released while awaiting trial under follow-up legislation to a contentious criminal justice overhaul. It’s a key component to clarifications Democratic lawmakers are making to the SAFE-T Act, a sweeping update to a variety of issues. They include eliminating cash bail and having judges determine pre-trial detention. The legislation filed Wednesday also clarifies what a prosecutor needs to do to prove that a defendant is a danger to others and should be detained. The law takes effect Jan. 1. Lawmakers say they will take action on it before their fall session adjourns Thursday.

                State wildlife officials suspect that bird flu killed at least 300 waterfowl recently found dead at public hunting sites across southern Illinois. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday the wild birds, mostly snow geese, have been found dead at Baldwin Lake, Pyramid State Recreation Area, Rend Lake and Carlyle Lake. The DNR says the wild birds are believed to have died of avian influenza. The Belleville News-Democrat reports the bird deaths come as a nationwide bird flu outbreak that's hit mostly chickens and turkeys on commercial farms has already prompted the slaughter of more than 52 million birds at farms in 46 states.

                What many Americans hoped would be the first normal holiday season in three years has instead been thrown into crisis by inflation, with Christmas on the horizon. Food banks and charities across the country are reporting higher than expected levels of food insecurity as prices rise and food becomes less accessible to millions of American families.  Although the pandemic has largely faded, months of rising prices have driven working families back to the food bank lines. And that's left charitable organizations struggling to meet the demand.

                Residents in several towns across Louisiana and Mississippi have taken cover amid the blare of tornado sirens amid a severe weather outbreak erupting in the Deep South. There were no immediate reports of damage from the potent storms late Tuesday, but multiple tornado warnings were issued. More than 25 million people are in the path of the vast storm system moving from Texas to Indiana and Georgia. The latest storm outlook says parts of Louisiana and Mississippi are at the highest risk for strong storms. Meanwhile, heavy snow was snarling traffic in parts of the Upper Midwest.

                Business and labor groups have agreed on a plan to erase a $1.8 billion debt in the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Tuesday that a state budget surplus will pay off the debt. That includes $1.36 billion owed to the federal government. That money was borrowed during the COVID-19 pandemic when closed shops sent unemployment to levels not seen in 40 years. Another $450 million will go in the form of an interest-free loan which unemployment taxes on businesses will repay over the next 10 years. As businesses pay that back, money will be deposited into the state’s rainy day fund to help ensure stability during an economic downturn.

                A judge has sentenced a northwestern Indiana man to 70 years in prison for the torture death of his 4-year-old son he was seen on video punching at least 28 times over two days over potty training. A LaPorte County investigator described video footage from inside the family’s home that showed 29-year-old Alan Morgan of Hamlet repeatedly abusing Judah Morgan in the days leading up the discovery of the boy's dead body on Oct. 11, 2021. Forensic pathologist Dr. John Feczko testified Tuesday an autopsy showed the boy weighed just 36 pounds. Morgan pleaded guilty to murder and felony battery.

                Chicago police say two men have been arrested and charged with murder in the fatal March shooting of a girl who was struck in the head by a stray bullet after celebrating her 12th birthday. Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said Tuesday that 22-year-old Malik Parish and 20-year-old Abdul Ali were arrested Sunday. Nyzireya Moore died March 4, three days after she was shot. Police say she was in the passenger seat of a family member’s car when three men fired on another vehicle and a stray bullet struck her in the back of the head. Brown says a third suspect remains at large.


                Need gift ideas to help with the ladies in your life? This list will surely help you make the grade.

                An Ohio judge has ordered two men to spend 500 hours registering voters in low-income neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., following their fraud convictions for targeting Black voters with phony robocalls before the 2020 election. Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman pleaded guilty last month to a telecommunications fraud in the calls to predominantly Black neighborhoods in several states. reports that the judge said they had done “a despicable thing.” Wohl told the court he wanted “to express my absolute regret and shame over all of this.” Burkman said he echoed that sentiment.

                The Federal Trade Commission and a handful of states announced settlements Monday with Google and iHeartMedia over misleading radio advertisements about a cellphone. It stems from complaints that Google paid to have radio personalities endorse and talk about their personal experience using the Pixel 4, even though many of them hadn't used the phone. California Attorney General Rob Bonta says the ads ran more than 23,000 times across 10 media markets. Google will pay $9 million. iHeartMedia, the largest owner of radio stations in the country, will pay $400,000. Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Texas are also involved in the case.

                Police say two pedestrians died after they were struck by an SUV that also crashed Sunday into a suburban Chicago building. Des Plaines police said the SUV crossed oncoming lanes on Northwest Highway and struck two pedestrians just after noon Sunday in the Cook County city northwest of Chicago. Police said the two victims, a 42-year-old woman and an 80-year-old man, both later died. Deputy Chief Matt Matzl of the Des Plaines Fire Department says the SUV’s driver also struck a building and a gas main in the crash. A 71-year-old man who was driving the SUV did not suffer serious injuries and neither did two children who were his passengers.

                A Wisconsin labor relations commission has ruled that the UW Health hospital system will not be required to recognize a nurses union or engage in collective bargaining negotiations. The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission found that UW Health was exempted from collective bargaining laws because the nurses are public employees under Act 10 — a 2011 law passed under former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that both UW Health and the nurse’s group described the ruling as an initial step in the nurse’s effort to regain union recognition.

                The pilot of a small plane has died after it crashed in northern Illinois. The McHenry County sheriff's office says the plane went down about 5:15 p.m. Friday near Galt Airport in Wonder Lake. Wonder Lake is about 60 miles northwest of Chicago. The pilot was the only person on the plane and was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

                Four people have died following three overnight shootings on Chicago’s South Side. WLS-TV reports that a 60-year-old man was fatally wounded about 3:40 a.m. Saturday during an argument with an acquaintance inside a home. A suspect was arrested a short time later. A 34-year-old man and a 36-year-old man suffered gunshot wounds to their heads when someone opened fire around 12:15 a.m. Saturday during a gathering in another neighborhood. Both died at hospitals. The two other shooting victims were listed in good condition at hospitals. A 42-year-old woman also was shot and later died and a 14-year-old boy suffered a gunshot wound to the shoulder in an 8:30 p.m. Friday drive-by shooting.

                A federal jury has awarded a Gary man $25.5 million in his lawsuit alleging that a now-retired police officer violated his civil rights and deprived him of a fair trial in a case involving a 1980 rape and robbery. The jury in Hammond deliberated for about three hours Tuesday before awarding  James Hill Jr. $25 million in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. The Times of Northwest Indiana reports the verdict following a civil trial represents the second time a federal jury has ruled against retired Hammond police Capt. Michael Solan and the city of Hammond.

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