A criminal retrial that puts to rest an 11-year-old disappearance, and a civil trial over mammoth school bleachers top the Northwest Herald's list of the 10 most newsworthy local events of 2013.
A jury earlier this year convicted Mario Casciaro of his role in the 2002 disappearance of Johnsburg teen Brian Carrick. And a judge earlier this month ruled that District 155 should have gone through the Crystal Lake zoning process when it erected a bleacher expansion that neighbors allege is too large and an eyesore.
Decisions made by our state lawmakers that affect us locally figure prominently in this list, and unlike previous years is a list of what they accomplished rather than what they did not. Locally, change has come to a taxing body in charge of county mental health funding, and three longtime county officeholders will be calling it quits next year.
Heavy spring rains and flooding and a police shootout in Richmond round out this year's list.
[Casciaro convicted of murder]
A jury on April 2 found Mario Casciaro guilty of first-degree murder for the
presumed 2002 death of 17-year-old Brian Carrick.
Prosecutors argued that Casciaro, 29, used another man, Shane Lamb, as the
"blunt force instrument" to kill Carrick over a drug debt while inside the produce
cooler of Val's Foods, where all three worked. Carrick was last seen alive in the
early evening of Dec. 20, 2002. A judge last month sentenced Casciaro to 26 years
It was Casciaro's second trial – the first ended in a mistrial after jurors failed to
reach a unanimous verdict.
Prosecutors said the case will not be closed until Carrick's remains are found.
[Court fight over bleachers]
Three neighbors of Crystal Lake South High School, including State's Attorney Lou
Bianchi, took District 155 to court over the school's $1.18 million bleacher
The lawsuit was initiated in August when residents with property next to the
bleachers said the district failed to follow the city zoning process and made the
structure too large and too close to their property lines.
Judge Michael Chmiel sided with the residents and the city, ruling earlier this month
that city zoning ordinances and processes apply to school districts.
[County, state flooding]
More than 800 homes in McHenry County were damaged by flooding caused by
heavy April rains that washed out roads and swelled rivers, streams and lakes.
Storms forced residents near water to abandon their homes, and others to work
with local governments and jail inmates to fill sandbags.
The county was declared a federal disaster areas because of the flooding in April
and early May.
[Pension reform passes]
After years of kicking the can down the road, the General Assembly passed a bill to try to rein in the
state's $100 billion unfunded pension liability.
The bill focuses primarily on limiting the annual 3 percent compounded cost-of-living increases that
retired state employees receive. The state's powerful public-sector unions are challenging the bill in court,
arguing that it blatantly violates the Illinois Constitution, which states that such pension benefits cannot be
diminished or impaired.
[Video gambling begins]
Video gambling went live this year in bars and restaurants throughout McHenry County and the rest of
State lawmakers approved a massive expansion of gaming as a revenue source for the state's capital
program. The law allows up to five of the machines in establishments that serve alcohol.
Several local governments that banned video gambling at first under an opt-out clause in the law
reversed themselves this year, including the McHenry County Board, Algonquin and Cary.
[Gay marriage legalized]
Illinois last month became the 15th state to allow same-sex marriage after it passed by one vote in the
The Senate passed the bill in February, but it stalled in the House over fears it did not have the votes to
pass. Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, was the sole McHenry County legislator to vote yes. Same-sex
couples will be able to get married starting June 1.
Same-sex marriage has since become legal in Hawaii and New Mexico.
[Full I-90 interchange]
A full interchange at Interstate 90 and Route 47, long a wish for Huntley village leaders, became a reality in
Officials cut the ribbon on the project, which took 17 months and cost $59 million. The interchange is the
first project finished under a $12 billion, 15-year overhaul plan by the Illinois Tollway.
The new interchange includes six new ramps and a rebuilt Route 47 bridge. The old, eastbound-only
interchange dates back to the early 1970s.
[County government power vacuum]
Two longtime countywide Republican officeholders joined Sheriff Keith Nygren in deciding to step down
after their terms expire next year.
Treasurer Bill LeFew announced in July that he would not seek re-election because of the demands of his
Harvard insurance business. County Clerk Katherine Schultz announced in September that she would not
run for a seventh term.
Nygren and LeFew took office in 1997. Schultz was first elected in 1990, but has worked in the office since
[9. Mental Health Board woes]
Changing political winds put new faces on a McHenry County Mental Health Board that critics have long
said is in need of reform.
Seven of the nine seats appointed by the County Board have changed hands since late 2012, and the
agency has been without a permanent executive director for about the same time.
Critics have alleged that past members grew it into a bureaucracy that spent too
much on overhead and a $4 million building expansion it did not need.
[Attempted bank robbery foiled]
Two men face charges after an attempted bank robbery in Richmond turned into a shootout with FBI agents.
Agents had been trailing the suspects – Roberto Favela, Aaron Russell and Tony Starnes –
when they pulled their two cars May 10 into the parking lot of Associated Bank.
Agents surrounded both cars and shot and killed Starnes, of Chicago, when he rammed them
in an escape attempt. Russell, of Orland Hills, and Favela, of Chicago, were arrested.
Both men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.