Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Health. Show all posts

Massive blaze engulfs vacant Bridgeport warehouse

One-third of the Chicago Fire Department's on-duty personnel responded to a 5-11 alarm fire that engulfed a warehouse building, causing parts of it to collapse and endangering nearby buildings in the Bridgeport neighborhood Tuesday night.

A four-story building caught fire after 9 p.m., endangering another building, according to the Chicago Fire Department. Extra alarms, bringing more fire equipment, firefighters and paramedics were called soon after firefighters arrived. The fire in the former Harris Marcus Group building, 3757 S. Ashland Ave., was declared under control, though still burning, as of about 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Firefighters had to contend with frozen hydrants and ice caused by overspray, Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago said. One firefighter suffered a back injury and was taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in serious condition, said Chicago Firefighter Meg Ahlheim, a department spokeswoman.

The fire climbed into the sky and sent ashes down on cars below. The warmth from the blaze could be felt blocks away. A Chicago Fire Department helicopter was called into service to provide an "aerial visual," but after firefighters arrived, they were able to keep the blaze from spreading to nearby businesses, Santiago said.

Still, anyone who looked out an upper-floor window from buildings across the city could see the fire, with many sending photographs out over social media. Ashes fell far from the fire scene.

"You could see the embers from the highway," said Darcy Benedict, a 28-year-old UIC medical school student. "I could see blue flames rising up."

Benedict and her boyfriend saw the fire from Interstate 55 and got off to get a better look. 

A crowd of at least 40 adults and children stood behind police tape, bundled up in the freezing weather, taking videos with cellphones.

Several others at the scene expressed doubt that the fire could be contained, as dozens of hoses could be seen in the distance spraying high and low onto the enormous blaze.

The commander at Tuesday's fire used two 'special alarms' to call for additional equipment beyond what a 5-11 alarm calls for, calling in special equipment needed to fight the massive blaze, Santiago said.

“I’m looking at the south side of the main fire building and there’s a big portion of exterior wall and roof collapse,” said Chicago Firefighter Meg Ahlheim, a Chicago Fire Department spokeswoman.

There was “extreme fire” throughout the buildings. Nobody has been reported injured.

The fire in the second building was mostly extinguished as of about 10:25 p.m. but the first building is "still involved," Ahlheim said.

Special alarms are called beyond the fifth, though they are "extremely rare," according to the fire department.

Commissioner Santiago said it was the first time a 5-11 with two special alarms was called since 2006 - apparently fire a fire that gutted the historic Wirt Dexter Building in the South Loop. That fire broke out before 3 p.m. on a weekday, snarled downtown traffic and forced the CTA to stop service on Loop L tracks.

Santiago said a Fire Department chief was driving past the warehouse when he saw smoke, turned around and called the fire in, bringing the first response, which was quickly elevated to an extra-alarm.

The alarms normally escalate one at a time beyond a normal fire response up to a fifth alarm, though the scene commander skipped a fourth alarm once the fire jumped to another building.

There was also a 5-11 fire in 2012 - in Avondale on the Northwest Side. That burned for hours but didn't required the special alarms called for Tuesday night's fire. About 200 firefighters and paramedics responded to that fire.

Santiago described the warehouse as "old," with lots of timber throughout the building. Firefighters are expected to be at the blaze for several hours, he said. As the water poured on the fire starts to freeze, more portions of the timber-and-brick construction building are likely to collapse under the weight of the ice, he said.

Check back for more information.
Twitter: @ltaford
Twitter: @peternickeas
Twitter: @ellenjeanhirst

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Body of cyanide-poisoned lottery winner is reburied

Mohammed Zaman on the exhumation of his brother-in-law, poisoned lottery winner Urooj Khan. (Posted on: Jan. 21, 2013.)

The body of a West Rogers Park man who died of cyanide poisoning last summer after winning a million-dollar lottery was laid to rest again Monday, three days after his remains were exhumed for an autopsy as part of a homicide investigation.

The scene at Rosehill Cemetery on Monday afternoon was in sharp contrast to Friday morning, when a throng of reporters and TV cameramen had massed outside an entrance gate as numerous Chicago police, Cook County medical examiner officials and cemetery workers surrounded the gravesite while Urooj Khan's remains were unearthed.

About half a dozen people — two in light blue coveralls — wheeled a gurney carrying Khan's body Monday from the back of an unmarked white minivan to under a tent at his gravesite in the Far North Side cemetery. The body was then lowered into the ground while two of Khan's relatives stood at the gravesite in the bitter cold.

Haroon Firdausi, a funeral director and imam, gave a brief prayer during the reburial.

The entire reburial took about 20 minutes.

Shortly before the reburial, one of Khan's relatives, Mohammed Zaman, talked briefly at the cemetery about the family's discomfort with his body being exhumed for the police investigation.

"The sad part is that he wasn't resting in peace," Zaman said of the exhumation. "... Now we have to bury him back again. For any religion, it's hard."

As the Tribune first revealed earlier this month, the medical examiner's office initially ruled that Khan's death in July was from hardening of the arteries, after no signs of trauma were found on the body and a preliminary blood test did not raise any questions. But the investigation was reopened about a week later after a relative raised concerns that Khan may have been poisoned.

Chicago police were notified in September after tests showed cyanide in Khan's blood. By late November, more comprehensive testing showed lethal levels of the toxic chemical, leading the medical examiner's office to declare the death a homicide.

After Khan's body was exhumed Friday, an autopsy was performed for evidence that could aid in the homicide investigation. At the time, Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said it could take several weeks for the tests to be completed. The medical examiner's office hopes samples taken from Khan's organs will show whether he ingested or inhaled the cyanide.

Although a motive has not been determined, police have not ruled out that Khan was killed because of his lottery win a few weeks before his death, a law enforcement source has told the Tribune. At the time of his death, he hadn't collected his winnings — a lump-sum payment of about $425,000 after taxes.

Zaman said he hopes the autopsy sheds more light on his brother-in-law's death.

"It's very hard for the family," Zaman said of the exhumation and reburial. "But it's the only way to find out what happened to him."

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Obama sworn in for second term in White House ceremony

Singers, musicians, vendors and a veteran parade planner tune up on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, for President Obama's Monday inauguration. (Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune)

WASHINGTON -- Four years after making history by becoming the first African-American president, Barack Obama will kick off his second term on Monday with a scaled-back inauguration that reflects the tempered expectations for his next four years in office.

Lingering high unemployment, bitter political battles and a divisive re-election campaign have punctured the mood of optimism and hope that infused Obama's 2009 inauguration after a sweeping election win.

This time, Obama's inauguration will feature smaller crowds and a reduced slate of inaugural balls and parties to match the more subdued tenor of the times.

When Obama raises his right hand to be sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts outside the U.S. Capitol at 11.55 a.m. EST (1655 GMT), it will be his second time taking the oath in 24 hours.

He had a formal private swearing-in on Sunday at the White House because of a constitutional requirement that the president be sworn in on January 20.

Rather than stage the full inauguration on a Sunday, the main public events were put off until Monday.

Obama will take the oath again and deliver his inaugural address from the Capitol's west front overlooking the National Mall, where a crowd of up to 700,000 is expected to watch. That is down significantly from the record 1.8 million people who jammed Washington in 2009 for Obama's first inauguration.

The focal point will be Obama's inauguration address, which he will use to lay out in broad terms his vision for the next four years but will stay away from policy specifics.

David Plouffe, a senior adviser, said Obama would call on both parties to come together to resolve daunting second-term challenges like the budget, the need to raise the nation's borrowing limit and the Democrat's push for tighter gun laws and a legal path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The president views the inauguration speech and the State of the Union speech to Congress on February 12 as "a package," Plouffe said, and would save details of his second-term agenda for the later speech.


"In the inaugural address he is really going to lay out his vision for his second term and where he thinks the country needs to go in the years ahead, the values undergirding that, and then obviously a detailed agenda and blueprint in the State of the Union," Plouffe said on CNN on Sunday.

After a bitter election fight against Republican Mitt Romney, the daunting challenges facing Obama and his political battles with congressional Republicans have split public opinion about the prospects for the next four years.

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll last week found 43 percent of Americans were optimistic about the next four years and 35 percent pessimistic, with 22 percent having a mixed opinion.

Obama's main political opponent in Congress, Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, plans to attend a White House tea before the ceremony, as well as the inaugural speech and a post-event lunch at the Capitol with the president and lawmakers.

Public safety officials and workers closed Washington streets around the ceremony site on Sunday night in preparation for the inauguration, with security barriers going up and thousands of police and National Guard troops being deployed around the city.

The inauguration ceremony will include music - singers James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson will perform patriotic songs and Beyonce will sing the national anthem - and also feature Vice President Joe Biden taking the oath of office again after doing so already on Sunday.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, will join Biden and his wife, Jill, at the capital luncheon before the two couples take part in the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the White House.

Obama could get out of his limousine and walk part of the way to interact with the crowd.

After watching the rest of the parade from a viewing stand in front of the White House, the Obamas will change and head to the two inaugural balls - an official ball and one for military personnel and their spouses.

That is a dramatic reduction in activities from 2009, when there were 10 official inaugural balls.

With the public ceremony falling on the national holiday honoring slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., Obama will be able to draw some historic parallels. While taking the oath, he will place his left hand on two Bibles - one once owned by Abraham Lincoln and the other by King.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Christopher Wilson)

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House collapses on South Side; none hurt

A house in the 6300 block of South Evans Avenue was vacant when it collapsed Saturday night, according to the Chicago Fire Department.

A house in the 6300 block of South Evans Avenue was vacant when it collapsed Saturday night, according to the Chicago Fire Department.
(Adam Sege, Chicago Tribune / January 20, 2013)

No one was injured when a vacant house collapsed Saturday night in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on the South Side, authorities said.

The two-and-a-half story building collapsed shortly about 11 p.m. in the 6300 block of South Evans Avenue, Deputy Fire Cmsr. John McNicholas said.

By interviewing neighbors and using body-sensing technology, firefighters determined the home had been unoccupied when it collapsed, McNicholas said. Firefighters searched the rubble as a precaution and found no one.

The building showed signs of renovations, McNicholas said, but officials are still working to determine what triggered the collapse.

Twitter: @AdamSege

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2 shot to death in separate attacks on South, West sides

Two men were shot to death in separate attacks within about 15 minutes of each other, one in Austin and one in Back of the Yards, authorities said.

About 9:15 p.m., a man was shot to death inside a Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, 5500 W. North Ave.

The man, who witnesses said was about 21 years old, was inside a business when he was shot from outside by someone who fled on foot, said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Amina Greer. He was unresponsive on the scene, she said.

Three workers inside were cleaning up inside as police examined shell casings outside about 10 p.m. Someone fired at least four times from outside the restaurant, piercing a window and striking the man, police said.

An employee who was inside making up an order at the time of the shooting said the gunfire did not sound like shots but instead like someone hitting a table with a hammer.

Just 15 minutes later, a man in his 20s was found shot to death on a sidewalk about 9:30 p.m. in the 5400 block of South Laflin Street, Greer said. He suffered a gunshot wound to the face and was dead on the scene, she said.

Police found him in a gangway next to a house with vacant brick buildings on each side.

About 11:35 p.m., a male was shot in the leg in the 4400 block of South Washtenaw Avenue, Greer said. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in good condition.

Someone shot two teens in the 8400 block of South Constance Avenue about 9:45 p.m., Greer said. A 15-year-old was shot in the chest and taken to Comer Children's Hospital in critical condition and a 16-year-old was grazed in the back and taken to Jackson Park Hospital in good condition.

Earlier, two men were shot in the Englewood neighborhood tonight. The shooting took place about 7:30 p.m. on the 7300 block of South Racine Avenue, and left one man wounded in the back and the other in the foot, police said.

The Chicago Fire Department said the men were taken to hospitals from nearby locations where they were found by emergency personnel.

A 20-year-old man with a wound to the back was taken from 74th and Racine in serious condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, and an 18-year-old man with a wound to the foot was taken from 74th and Aberdeen Street to St. Bernard Hospital, where his condition was stabilized, according to Fire Media reports.

No further details were immediately available.
Twitter: @peternickeas
Twitter: @ltaford

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Quinn to name former prosecutor Fitzgerald to UI board

Gov. Pat Quinn will name former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees, the Tribune has learned.

Fitzgerald will replace first term trustee Lawrence Oliver II, according to a source who was informed of the decision.

The appointment would mark a quick return to the public eye for Fitzgerald, a career prosecutor who left the U.S. attorney's office in Chicago for private law practice in 2012 after a long run that included putting former Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich behind bars.

Oliver told the Tribune he received a call from Quinn's office Wednesday afternoon with the news that he would not be reappointed. Oliver, who was appointed as a political independent and maintains that affiliation, said he suspects he was not reappointed because he voted in a 2010 Democratic primary.

By law, U. of I. can have no more than five members from any political party, and there are already five Democrats on the board.

Both of the other two board members whose terms expire Monday say they were told they were reappointed to another six-year term. James Montgomery, a Democrat and a Chicago attorney, refused the governor's call to resign during the university scandal over politically connected admissions to the school. Dr. Timothy Koritz, an anesthesiologist at Rockford Memorial Hospital, was appointed by Quinn when he revamped the board in 2009. Koritz, a Republican, was told Wednesday that he would serve a second term.

Quinn’s office is expected to announce the appointments prior to U. of I.'s board meeting next week.

Oliver, chief counsel for investigations at the Boeing Co. who served on Quinn's Illinois Reform Commission, said he was disappointed by the governor's decision. He said he voted in the 2010 Democratic primary to support David Hoffman for U.S. Senate.

U. of I.'s  nine-member board has to be politically balanced, according to state statute. The current board has five Democrats, three Republicans and one Independent.

The U. of I. board is scheduled to meet next Thursday, at which time it will take its annual vote on a chairman and other officers of the board.

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Man killed after high school game ends in melee

The Simeon and Morgan Park High School basketball teams ended their game at Chicago State University with a melee between players on the court. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune)

A 20-year-old man was shot and killed outside a Chicago Public Schools high school basketball game at Chicago State University Wednesday night after a melee broke out in a handshake line after the game.

The man was taken in serious condition to Advocate Christ Medical Center, according to the Chicago Fire Department.

The shooting happened about 9:20 p.m. outside the campus gymnasium near 95th Street and King Drive, said police News Affairs Officer Daniel O’Brien. He was pronounced dead at Christ hospital Wednesday night.

Chicago State Police put out a quick message to nearby officers, asking them to watch for a jeep that was pulled over east of the school a short time later, police said, citing early reports. Two people were taken into custody and police found a gun inside the jeep.

The game was between Simeon Career Academy and Morgan Park High School, both schools located on Vincennes Avenue about 30 blocks apart, at 81st and 111th Streets.

An argument in a handshake line after the game preceeded the shooting, police said. The gym was tense and word spread through the gym that someone had been shot.

Police said the argument spilled into the parking lot and someone pulled out a weapon and shot the 20-year-old.

Each team was held for longer than normal in the locker rooms after the game. Nothing outside ordinary bumps and physical contact happened during the game.

Chicago police responded to the scene but are not involved with the investigation, O'Brien said.

Chicago State Police refused to comment about the incident and city police referred inquiries to them and Illinois State Police, who said they were not involved in the investigation.

Check back for details.

Contributor Mike Helfgot and Tribune reporters Peter Nickeas, Rosemary Regina Sobol and Jeremy Gorner contributed to this story.
Twitter: @chicagobreaking

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Japanese airlines ground Boeing 787s after emergency landing

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's two leading airlines grounded their fleets of Boeing 787s on Wednesday after one of the Dreamliner passenger jets made an emergency landing, the latest in a series of incidents to heighten safety concerns over a plane many see as the future of commercial aviation.

All Nippon Airways Co said instruments aboard a domestic flight indicated a battery error, triggering emergency warnings to the pilots. Shigeru Takano, a senior safety official at the Civil Aviation Bureau, said a second warning light indicated smoke.

Wednesday's incident, described by a transport ministry official as "highly serious" - language used in international safety circles as indicating there could have been an accident - is the latest in a line of mishaps - fuel leaks, a battery fire, wiring problem, brake computer glitch and cracked cockpit window - to hit the world's first mainly carbon-composite airliner in recent days.

"I think you're nearing the tipping point where they need to regard this as a serious crisis," said Richard Aboulafia, a senior analyst with the Teal Group in Fairfax, Virginia. "This is going to change people's perception of the aircraft if they don't act quickly."

ANA, which said the battery in the forward cargo hold was the same lithium-ion type as one involved in a fire on another Dreamliner at a U.S. airport last week, grounded all 17 of its 787s, and Japan Airlines Co suspended its 787 flights scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. ANA and JAL said they would decide on Thursday whether to resume Dreamliner flights the following day. ANA and JAL operate around half of the 50 Dreamliners delivered by Boeing to date.


The 787, which has a list price of $207 million, represents a leap in the way planes are designed and built, but the project has been plagued by cost overruns and years of delays. Some have suggested Boeing's rush to get planes built after those delays resulted in the recent problems, a charge the company strenuously denies.

Both the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said they were monitoring the latest incident as part of a comprehensive review of the Dreamliner announced late last week.


ANA flight 692 left Yamaguchi in western Japan shortly after 8 a.m. local time (2300 GMT Tuesday) bound for Haneda Airport near Tokyo, a 65-minute flight. About 18 minutes into the flight, at 30,000 feet, the plane began a descent, cutting its altitude to 20,000 feet in about four minutes. It made an emergency landing 16 minutes later, according to flight-tracking website

A spokesman for Osaka airport authority said the plane landed at Takamatsu at 8:45 a.m. All 129 passengers and eight crew evacuated via the plane's inflatable chutes. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said five people were slightly injured.

At a news conference - where ANA's vice-president Osamu Shinobe bowed deeply in apology - the carrier said a battery in the forward cargo hold triggered emergency warnings to the pilots, who decided on the emergency action. "There was a battery alert in the cockpit and there was an odd smell detected in the cockpit and cabin, and (the pilot) decided to make an emergency landing," Shinobe said.

Passengers leaving the ANA flight told local TV there was an odor like burning plastic on the plane as soon as it took off. "There was a bad smell as soon as we started and before we made the emergency landing there was an announcement and the stewardess' voice was shaking, so I thought this was serious," one passenger told TBS TV.

Another man told a local broadcaster: "There was a strong, burning smell, but the smoke appeared after they opened the emergency doors, after we landed."

Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman, told Reuters: "We've seen the reports, we're aware of the events and are working with our customer."

Robert Stallard, analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said lost revenue at the Japanese airlines could prompt compensation from Boeing. "What started as a series of relatively minor, isolated incidents now threatens to overhang Boeing until it can return confidence, and this looks to be a near-term challenge given the media's draw to all things 787," he said.


In Asia, only the Japanese and Air India have the Dreamliner in service, but other airlines are among those globally to have ordered around 850 of the new aircraft.

Australia's Qantas Airways said its order for 15 Dreamliners remained on track, with its Jetstar subsidiary due to take delivery of the first of the aircraft in the second half of this year.

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City prepared to pay $33 million in two cop misconduct cases

Chicago Tribune reporter David Heinzmann on news that Mayor Rahm Emanuel seeks to settle two notorious cases of alleged police misconduct. (Posted Jan. 14th, 2013)

Nearly seven years after Christina Eilman wandered out of a South Side police station and into a catastrophe, her tragic entanglement with the Chicago Police Department began to come to an end Monday — with a proposed $22.5 million legal settlement that may be the largest the city ever offered to a single victim of police misconduct.

Though the settlement is a staggering sum on its own, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration has placed a second eight-figure police settlement on Tuesday's City Council Finance Committee agenda. A $10.2 million settlement is proposed for one of the victims of notorious former police Cmdr. Jon Burge, bringing to nearly $33 million the amount aldermen could vote to pay victims of police misconduct in a single day.

The latest Burge settlement would be for Alton Logan, who spent 26 years in prison for a murder he did not commit and who alleged in a federal lawsuit that Burge's team of detectives covered up evidence that would have exonerated him — a departure from previous cases that documented torture used by Burge's team to extract false confessions. The Logan case would bring the tab on Burge cases to nearly $60 million when legal fees are counted. Burge is serving 41/2 years in federal prison for lying about the torture and abuse of suspects.

The settlement in the Eilman case would avert a trial detailing the events of May 2006, when the then-21-year-old California woman was arrested at Midway Airport in the midst of a bipolar breakdown. She was held overnight and then released at sundown the next day without assistance several miles away in one of the city's highest-crime neighborhoods.

Alone and bewildered by her surroundings, the former UCLA student was abducted and sexually assaulted before plummeting from a seventh-floor window. She survived but suffered a severe and permanent brain injury, a shattered pelvis, and numerous other broken bones and injuries.

Her lawyer and family declined to comment Monday. The case, which has dragged in the courts for six years, was set to begin trial next week. Pretrial litigation had produced scathing rebukes from federal judges of the city's behavior toward Eilman — both on the street and in court.

The city's argument that it was not responsible for her injuries because she was assaulted by a gang member was blasted in a ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this year. a ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this year. Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook described the Police Department's release of Eilman, who is white, into a high-crime, predominantly African-American neighborhood by saying officers "might as well have released her into the lion's den at the Brookfield Zoo."

While Emanuel's Law Department endured some criticism for delays in the Eilman case since the mayor took office in 2011, he has noted repeatedly that the police misconduct highlighted in these and many other cases are legacies from the Richard M. Daley administration that he — and taxpayers — are stuck with.

The mayor's office referred calls to the city Law Department, but a spokesman there declined to comment.

If approved, the Eilman settlement would surpass the $18 million settlement paid to the family of LaTanya Haggerty, who was mistakenly shot and killed by police in 1999. It is frequently referred to as the city's biggest single-victim settlement.

Ald. Howard Brookins Jr., 21st, said city officials have not taken a hard enough line against police misconduct for years, and now taxpayers are footing the bill.

"We've known this was going to bust our budget, and here we are," Brookins said. "The administration (under Daley) should have made police conduct and behavior a higher priority. They didn't, and now we're seeing these costly settlements over and over, to pay for officers mistreating people."

The Logan case was set to go to trial last month, but on the first day of jury selection, city lawyers decided to settle the case. Logan's attorney Jon Loevy said the settlement includes about $1.5 million in legal fees.

Logan sat in prison for 26 years until a stunning 2008 revelation after another man, convicted murderer Andrew Wilson, died. Wilson had told his attorneys in 1982 that he committed the murder in which Logan was accused, but the lawyers said the attorney-client privilege kept them from going public with the admission until after Wilson's death.

Although relieved the city settled the case instead of battling on, Loevy said his client would gladly give up the $8.7 million to have nearly three decades of his life back.

"I don't know who would take that much money to lose their 20s, 30s and 40s," Loevy said. "From his perspective, no amount of money can make him whole and he'd rather have his life back."

While Logan lost the middle chunk of his life, Eilman dwells in a childlike mental state and feels as though she has lost the rest of her life, her family has told the Tribune.

Hobbled by a brain injury that has permanently impaired her cognitive function, she lives with her parents in suburban Sacramento. She requires constant medical treatment and therapy. Doctors have said she will not get better.

Eilman came to Chicago on May 5, 2006, at a time when her bipolar condition was worsening. When she tried to catch a return flight from Midway to California a couple of days later, she was ranting and screaming and appeared to be out of her mind.

Police officers eventually arrested her and took her to the Chicago Lawn district near Midway. Court records and depositions in the case show that officers were alarmed by Eilman's behavior.

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Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz dies from suicide

Even as an eighth-grader in Winnetka, Aaron Swartz showed signs of the computer wizardry that would lead to his Internet activism and development of software used by websites worldwide.

But the Highland Park native who had attended North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka and as a 13-year-old had created an online public encyclopedia for a school competition got into trouble as an adult.

He faced trial in April on federal charges that he had illegally downloaded millions of journal articles from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the intention of posting them to a file-sharing site.

The prospect of the trial was too much for him, his family said. Swartz, 26, committed suicide inside his New York apartment, authorities said Saturday.

In a statement sent through a spokesman, his family said Swartz hanged himself the day before out of worry that he faced more than 30 years in federal prison.

“Aaron’s insatiable curiosity, creativity, and brilliance; his reflexive empathy and capacity for selfless, boundless love; his refusal to accept injustice as inevitable — these gifts made the world, and our lives, far brighter,” the statement in part read.

Along with developing an early version of rich site summary, or RSS, technology, Swartz is credited with co-founding the popular Reddit website that allows users to vote for their favorite news stories of the day.

Increasingly active in efforts to make information more readily available on the Internet, he also founded Demand Progress, a lobbying group that advocates for civil liberties and government reform.

In that role, Swartz led a successful effort to stymie the Stop Online Piracy Act, a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2011, which sought to restrict access to websites that illegally shared copyrighted property. The bill was eventually withdrawn after widespread protests.

“He refined advocacy for the progressive and open-information movement,” said David Moon, program director for Demand Progress. “He was ultimately pretty brilliant at that.”

On Saturday, Swartz’s death spurred an outpouring of sympathy and tributes throughout social media, many of which hailed his multiple accomplishments at a young age.

Several commenters heaped scorn upon federal prosecutors in Massachusetts for indicting Swartz in 2011. He was accused of downloading millions of academic journal articles and breaking into a university closet to plug into the school’s computer network, which prompted charges of computer fraud, wire fraud and other crimes. Swartz had pleaded not guilty.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts declined to comment, citing the family’s privacy.

Moon, who met Swartz in 2010 and last saw him about a month ago, declined to speak in detail about the circumstances surrounding his death.

“The stresses he was facing was obvious, and those who know him can attest to that,” Moon said.

Tribune wire services contributed.

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14-year-old boy killed on West Side

A police photographer photographs the front porch where a 14-year-old boy was fatally shot Friday night.

A police photographer photographs the front porch where a 14-year-old boy was fatally shot Friday night.
(Adam Sege, Chicago Tribune / January 12, 2013)

A 14-year-old boy was shot and killed outside his home in the Humboldt Park neighborhood Friday night.

Two male shooters opened fire about 11:50 p.m. in the 2400 block of West Augusta Boulevard, striking the boy multiple times as he stood on his porch, Chicago Police News Affairs Officer Amina Greer said.

Immediately following the shooting, a car sped down the street in reverse and took off, a neighbor said.

Paramedics found the boy unresponsive and bleeding from several bullet wounds in his chest, police said. He was pronounced dead on the scene.

Police found blood on the front steps and more than half a dozen shell casings on the sidewalk.

The high school freshman had been talking on a cellphone in front of his home just moments before shots rang out, his stepmother said.

Police sources said the shooting may have been gang-related. Family and friends on the scene, however, said the victim avoided gangs and spent his free time listening to music and riding his bicycle.

The boy would have turned 15 on Tuesday, said his stepmother, whose name - like that of her stepson - the Tribune is withholding pending notification of additional family members.

"Now he's not even going to see his 15th birthday," his tearful stepmother said.

On the sidwalk near the crime scene, the father of one of the boy's friends sobbed as he paced near a group of somber teenagers.

Twitter: @AdamSege

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Cyanide: 'A poison we fear'

If Urooj Khan's remains are exhumed in coming days as expected, authorities will attempt to retrace the devastating course of one molecule through his body.

Cyanide, a toxic combination of carbon and nitrogen, exists throughout nature in trace amounts in certain plants, seeds and soils. It is also produced by some bacteria and fungi.

In its pure solid or gas forms, however, cyanide can be acutely poisonous, earning it an ignoble reputation in human history as an efficient killer — from World War II Nazi death camps to the Jonestown massacre to the Chicago Tylenol murders.

"It is a poison we fear," said Frank Paloucek, a pharmacist and toxicologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "It is a really dangerous poison, and once you get enough of it, there is not much we can do."

That appears to be the case for Khan, a West Rogers Park businessman who died of cyanide poisoning in July just weeks after winning a million-dollar lottery jackpot. The Cook County medical examiner's office initially found that Khan died of natural causes, and he was buried in Rosehill Cemetery. But after a relative voiced concern, extensive toxicological tests showed he died of lethal levels of cyanide. Chicago police and Cook County prosecutors are investigating his death as a homicide.

The murder mystery, first revealed in the Tribune on Monday, has sparked worldwide interest. It comes more than 30 years after the murders of seven Chicago-area residents who ingested cyanide-spiked Tylenol capsules spread fear across the country. The FBI reopened its investigation into the killings four years ago, but no one has ever been charged.

"In the rare event of homicidal poisoning, cyanide is not an uncommon (substance) to use," Dr. Gregory Schmunk, a forensic pathologist and president of the National Association of Medical Examiners, said Thursday.

Indeed, just last year, the wife of a former Communist Party leader in China was accused of killing a British businessman after ordering her butler to spike his drink with cyanide.

It is, however, more commonly seen in suicides, such as in the case of an Arizona businessman who poisoned himself in a courtroom with cyanide last year after he was found guilty of arson, according to experts.

The compound kills quickly.

Once inside the human body, it prevents cells from using oxygen. If enough cells absorb cyanide, a person's body and brain will become so oxygen-deprived that their tissues will begin to die.

As the body fights to provide more oxygen, heart and breathing rates rise. Cramping and headaches can occur, followed by loss of consciousness and eventually death.

Death may come in anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of hours, Paloucek said.

Cyanide is typically detected during a medical examination by a scarlet red discoloration or a "bitter almond" odor emitting from the body, according to experts. But neither is a sure measure — darker pigmentation can mask red skin coloration, and many people can't smell cyanide.

In its powder form, a toxic dose of cyanide may only be about 200 milligrams, roughly the amount of any common pain medication pill, according to Paloucek.

"We are dealing with a poison that has a very fast knockdown rate," said John H. Trestrail III, a clinical and forensic toxicologist who consults with law enforcement agencies on such cases.

For that reason, investigators have been looking closely at the events that happened around the time that Khan died, including the last meal he ate, which his wife acknowledged preparing.

Cyanide can come as a gas or in a solid powder that looks like white sugar. It is commonly used in research laboratories, in mining to extract certain metals and by jewelers. It also used to be widely used in the United States to kill various pests.

"One hundred years ago, you could go into a pharmacy and buy cyanide to kill wasps," Trestrail said. "But you don't do that anymore."

Now cyanide suppliers maintain a "poison register" that would include information like proof of purchase, the name of the buyer and its intended use, according to Trestrail.

Outside the United States, however, cyanide is readily available, according to Paloucek. And even within the U.S., there have been cases of people giving false information to cyanide suppliers to obtain the substance.

"If you're persistent, it is not hard to get your hands on it," Schmunk said.

Local authorities plan to ask a Cook County Circuit Court judge on Friday for permission to exhume Khan's body in the next week or two. The remains would be autopsied by the medical examiner's office, according to its spokeswoman, Mary Paleologos.

Investigators will take samples of Khan's stomach contents to see if and how the cyanide was ingested, Paleologos said. They will also take more fluid and blood samples and look at other organs such as the lungs, to see if it may have been inhaled, she said. Investigators will also try to rule out chronic cyanide poisoning in which long-term exposure to the compound may have contributed to his death.

"A lot depends on if the body is in good or poor condition," Paleologos said. "If it's in good condition, of course (the medical examiner) can get decent samples, but if it's in poor condition, the quality of the samples will be poor as well."

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New General Assembly to face many old issues


— A new Illinois General Assembly was inaugurated Wednesday, but lingering beyond the flowers, family and speeches was a host of unfinished business.

The old Legislature adjourned Tuesday without fixing the state's broken public pension system. Also left unresolved were the divisive issues of same-sex marriage, gun regulation and gambling expansion. It'll be a while before such problems are tackled — the part-time lawmakers are scheduled to go home for a few weeks before returning to the Capitol.

In the House, Speaker Michael Madigan remains in charge, as he has for all but two of the past 30 years. In the Senate, President John Cullerton starts his fifth year running the show. Both Chicago Democrats now wield veto-proof majorities after many voters throughout the state opted against the Republican alternative in November legislative races.

That new Democratic power brings added pressure to perform was not lost on Cullerton, who said his party's 40-19 advantage over the GOP is the largest in the nation and in state history.

"I know a lot of you are thinking, 'This is great. We've got 40 members. I don't have to take any tough votes,'" Cullerton told his Democrats in a decorated Senate chamber as family members were entertained by a rendition of the 1960s tune "Feeling Good."

"But if everybody thought like that, we wouldn't get anything done, would we?" he said.

Madigan, the longest-serving speaker in state history, told House members that key issues remain "terribly contentious, terribly divisive."

"We have to call upon our inner resolves to dedicate ourselves to the solution of these problems, working cooperatively with the other members of the House of Representatives and the Senate," said Madigan, who leads a 71-47 Democratic majority.

Still, Madigan gave a grave assessment of the poorly funded pensions, saying he would "emphasize the absolutely serious nature of the fiscal condition."

In the waning days of the legislative session that concluded Tuesday, Madigan made what he said was a good-faith effort to spur pension talks by lifting a demand that suburban and downstate teacher retirement costs be shifted from the state to local school districts. That's now back on the table for Madigan, who called it a "free lunch."

"Serious, serious problem, and if we're serious about solving the problem, that must be addressed," Madigan said.

The cost-shift provision is adamantly opposed by Republicans and some suburban Democrats who maintain that it will lead to local property tax increases.

After failing to come up with a pension solution before the clock ran out this week, Cullerton said that Senate Bill 1, legislation often symbolizing the top agenda item, would be a pension measure combining aspects of unresolved Senate-passed and House-sponsored plans.

"The finances of our pension system have to be addressed in a fair and constitutional manner. The issue has lingered for generations and threatens to doom future generations if something isn't done," Cullerton said.

"We are on the verge of our state budget being turned into a financial plan that funds pension benefits, not essential services. Our investments in higher, elementary and secondary education and human services are increasingly crowded out — some might say, squeezed — by our pension costs," Cullerton said in a nod to Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, whose grass-roots pension reform movement used a cartoon mascot, Squeezy, the Pension Python.

Though Cullerton cast a vote for Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno of Lemont for Senate president, as she did for him in a symbolic display of bipartisanship, Radogno said "many people in Illinois really don't have a lot of confidence in us and hopefully we can turn that around."

"We have to come to grips with some of the very real problems that we have," she said. "The underlying pillar that will allow us to begin to address them is solving the pension problem."

House Republican leader Tom Cross of Oswego called for "incredibly bold ideas and incredibly bold solutions."

"We're facing challenges in the state that we probably haven't seen as a General Assembly since the Great Depression," Cross said.

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Attorney: Poisoned lottery winner's widow has 'nothing to hide'

The widow of a West Rogers Park man who died of cyanide poisoning weeks after winning a $1 million lottery jackpot was questioned extensively by Chicago police last month after the medical examiner's office reclassified the death as a homicide, her attorney told the Tribune on Tuesday.

Authorities investigating the death of Urooj Khan also executed a search warrant at the home he had shared with his wife, Shabana Ansari, according to Steven Kozicki, her attorney. Ansari later was interviewed by detectives for more than four hours, answering all their questions, the attorney said.

"She's got nothing to hide," Kozicki said.

The mystery surrounding Khan's death — first reported by the Tribune in a front-page story Monday — has sparked international media interest.

Cook County authorities said Tuesday that they plan to go to court in the next few days for approval to exhume Khan's remains at Rosehill Cemetery. In a telephone interview Tuesday, Medical Examiner Stephen J. Cina said he sent a sworn statement to prosecutors laying out why the body must be exhumed.

"I feel that a complete autopsy is needed for the sake of clarity and thoroughness," Cina said.

Sally Daly, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, confirmed that papers seeking the exhumation would be filed soon in the Daley Center courthouse.

Khan, who owned a dry cleaning business on the city's North Side, died unexpectedly in July at 46, just weeks after winning a million-dollar lottery prize at a 7-Eleven store near his home. Finding no trauma to his body and no unusual substances in his blood, the medical examiner's office declared his death to be from natural causes and he was buried without an autopsy.

About a week later, a relative told authorities to take a closer look at Khan's death. By early December, comprehensive toxicology tests showed that Khan had died of a lethal amount of cyanide, leading the medical examiner's office to reclassify the death a homicide and prompting police and prosecutors to investigate.

While a motive has not been determined, police have not ruled out that Khan was killed because of his big lottery win, a law enforcement source has told the Tribune. He died before he could collect the winnings — about $425,000 after taxes and because he decided to take a lump-sum payment.

According to court records obtained by the Tribune, Khan's brother has squabbled with Ansari over the money in probate court. The brother, Imtiaz, raised concern that because Khan left no will, his 17-year-old daughter from a previous marriage would not get "her fair share" of her father's estate. Khan and Ansari did not have children.

Al-Haroon Husain, an attorney for Ansari in the probate case, said the money was all accounted for and the estate was in the process of being divided up by the court. Under Illinois law, the estate typically would be split evenly between the surviving spouse and Khan's only child, he said.

Kozicki, Ansari's criminal defense attorney, said his client adored her husband and had no financial interest in seeing harm come to him.

"Now in addition to grieving her husband, she's struggling to run the business that he essentially ran while he was alive," Kozicki said. "Once people analyze it, they (would) realize she's in a much worse financial position after his death than she was before."

Reached by phone Tuesday evening at the family dry cleaners, Ansari denied reports that she had fed her husband a traditional Indian meal of ground beef curry before he died. She said he wasn't feeling well after awakening in the middle of the night. She said he sat in a chair and soon collapsed. She then called 911.

Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, speaking Tuesday at an unrelated news conference, remarked that he had never seen a case like this in 32 years in law enforcement.

"So I'll never say that I've seen everything," he told reporters.

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Magical run for Irish ends in rout

Notre Dame lost 42-14 on Monday.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — On a flawless South Florida night, Notre Dame players saw a legend emerge in present time. To their bone-deep disbelief, it was not them.

The eruption of streamers and confetti and joy surrounded them, and their shock and desolation filled the spaces in between. A program lost for a quarter-century might not be directionless, but the top looked far away from here.

A moment the Irish believed they were meant to have ended in a quiet walk out of sight and into another year of what might be. Alabama is the national champion, again, the SEC's marauding run extended to a seventh straight year with a 42-14 humiliation of Notre Dame in the BCS title game Monday, the Irish's first loss also their most excruciating.

Most left the field with distant gazes as the Crimson Tide hoisted newspapers with headlines blaring, "BAMA AGAIN." Nose guard Louis Nix limped off slowly. Tailback Theo Riddick pulled a towel over his head to hide his tears, which then burst forth by his locker stall. Across the room, freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell tried to laugh through crying he couldn't stop.

Twenty-four years since that last title in 1988, wandering through losses and death and empty promise. When everyone saw the light at the end of it all, what they saw was that crystal football hoisted skyward. It remained far, far beyond their grasp at Sun Life Stadium and claimed by a different reborn college football dynasty.

"They're back-to-back national champs," Irish coach Brian Kelly said. "So that's what it looks like. Measure yourself against that, and it was pretty clear across the board what we have to do."

It was an oppressive deluge of unprepared and nerve-racked play from the start, the most yards (529) surrendered by Notre Dame (12-1) all year and the most points ever surrendered by Notre Dame in a bowl game. Eddie Lacy rampaged for 140 yards, AJ McCarron threw for 264 and four touchdowns and Alabama (13-1) did, basically, whatever it wanted.

Alabama players called a meeting shortly after their arrival in Florida, and some mused that it reflected a fracture in the focus of the defending champs. But the stoicism they demonstrated all week turned out to be determination to kick the ever-loving tar out of the nation's No. 1 team.

"We knew one team would break," Alabama defensive end Damion Square said, "and it wasn't going to be us."

It required only five plays for Alabama to find the end zone. Lacy was the sledgehammer, and it was 7-0 after the longest touchdown drive and the first first-quarter touchdown allowed by Notre Dame all season.

The curb-stomping didn't end. McCarron threw a touchdown pass, then set up a T.J. Yeldon score with 25- and 28-yard passes, then dumped a short toss to Lacy that the junior hauled into the end zone. It was a 28-0 lead, arrived at brutally, with special indifference to destiny and fortune.

"They did not dominate us," Nix said. "We just didn't play our ballgame, man. We didn't make tackles. Everything we did or had lined up should have worked."

In whatever context or interpretation, Alabama was destroying everything Notre Dame built over a brilliant season, stomping validation into a million little pieces.

"It felt like we were sinking in quicksand," guard Chris Watt said. "We couldn't get out of it."

It was 35-0 before Notre Dame at last responded with an 85-yard drive to an Everett Golson 2-yard option keeper, ending the Tide's 108-minute shutout streak in BCS championship appearances. When McCarron answered with another scoring toss to Amari Cooper, all that was left was getting out alive and figuring where to go from here.

After that last title in 1988, the pall descended. Lou Holtz left, and then it was Bob Davie and George O'Leary's resume and Tyrone Willingham and Charlie Weis' decided schematic advantage. Then Kelly arrived, and there was no definable reason to expect a title run to happen this year, and then it did.

It seemed, regardless of the outcome, Notre Dame might be a fully functional college football leviathan humming along. Then came the mighty Tide and a dent in the validation.

So, yes, the Irish making it this far proved a great deal.

"Nobody had us in this position to start the season," said receiver DaVaris Daniels, a bright spot with 115 receiving yards, "and look how far we've come, so quick."

And yet the Irish absorbing such a bracing setback means they must prove so much more.

"At Notre Dame, you're expected to win national championships," Watt said. "A lot of the things we did this season were just unbelievable. Those were all wonderful things. But it doesn't really mean anything when you don't win a national championship. You can't really win anything else here."

So off they went, dazed and empty-handed. All around them the new college football dynasty celebrated. All around them, Notre Dame saw what it desperately wanted to become.

Off they went, into the tunnels, a brilliant season ending well short of legend. And the Irish would do what everyone before them had done for a quarter-century, and wake up in the morning just waiting to get back.

Twitter @ChiTribHamilton

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Police: Good Samaritans foil North Side robbery

Jose Rodriguez, 30.

Jose Rodriguez, 30.
(Chicago Police Department / January 6, 2013)

A screwdriver-wielding parolee was tackled by two good Samaritans after he stole a woman's purse in the Lincoln Park neighborhood Saturday night, police said.

About 11:45 p.m., Jose Rodriguez, 30, approached a woman from behind in the 800 block of West Diversey Parkway, the Chicago Police Department said in a news release. 

Rodriguez held an arm around the 29-year-old woman's neck, placed a screwdriver against her torso, and demanded money, police said.

Rodgriguez ran off with the woman's purse shortly after, police said.

A 20-year-old witness took off in pursuit, and when Rodriguez approached a 24-year-old man walking in the opposite direction, the 20-year-old yelled for him to stop the robber, police said.

Together, the men tackled Rodriguez and restrained him until police showed up, police said.

Rodriguez was arrested and charged with armed robbery with a dangerous weapon and a parole violation.

Twitter: @AdamSege

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At least 10 people shot Saturday, 2 fatally

An afternoon shooting in the Englewood neighborhood has left a man dead Saturday, a day in which at least 10 people were shot, according to authorities.

At 3:10 p.m. someone shot a male victim multiple times in the abdomen in the 5500 block of South Loomis Boulevard, News Affairs Officer Daniel O’Brien said.

The victim, a man in his 20s, was taken from the scene of the shooting in the Englewood neighborhood to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, where he was pronounced dead at 3:52 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

Police were questioning a possible shooter, News Affairs Officer Amina Greer said.

Saturday night about 8:30 p.m., a 39-year-old man was shot in the West Town neighborhood, police said.

The man was taken from the 1800 block of West Maypole Avenue to Stroger with a gunshot wound to the buttocks.

About 7:10 p.m., two men were injured in a shooting in the 5100 block of West Oakdale Avenue, O'Brien said.

A 25-year-old man was taken in critical condition to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center with a gunshot wound to the back, O'Brien said. A 21-year-old man was taken to the same hospital in good condition with a gunshot wound to the wrist, O'Brien said.

The shooting happened in the Cragin neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

Late Saturday morning, a shooting in the Back of the Yards neighborhood left another victim shot in the abdomen and seriously wounded.

Someone shot the male in the abdomen at 11:48 a.m. in the 4500 block of South Marshfield Avenue, according to Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Michael Sullivan.

He was taken to John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County in serious condition, Sullivan said.

The circumstances surrounding the shooting were not known immediately but Sullivan said no one was arrested.

Earlier Saturday, four people were shot in two separate incidents before the sun rose, and a fifth man was killed in a West Side shooting.

Twitter: @ChicagoBreaking

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Second escaped inmate caught in former neighborhood

Chicago Tribune reporter Jason Meisner on the recent arrest of Kenneth Conley, a convicted bank robber who escaped from federal jail in December. (Posted on: Jan. 4, 2013.)

Kenneth Conley was last seen by authorities making a daring escape down the side of a high-rise federal jail under the cover of night.

Friday afternoon, he was found hobbling down a Palos Hills street with a cane, one part of a flimsy disguise that included a bulky overcoat and a beret pulled low over his face.

An 18-day manhunt for the escaped bank robber ended after a maintenance employee working at a residential building in the southwest suburb called 911 about a suspicious man.

Conley, as it turns out, had not gone very far from places he used to live and homes where friends and family still reside.

But law enforcement sources said Friday that he apparently had no help — the former strip club employee was sleeping in the building's basement.

Conley was scheduled to appear in federal court at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

The spectacular jailbreak — the first at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in almost 30 years — embarrassed federal authorities and seemed to be meticulously planned. Conley and Joseph "Jose" Banks rappelled to freedom using a rope fashioned from bedsheets. But like Banks, who was arrested two days after the escape in the North Side neighborhood where he was raised, Conley had no apparent plan for life on the run and was found holed up in an area where he had known ties.

Palos Hills police said a maintenance worker at a building in the 10200 block of South 86th Terrace called police about 3:30 p.m. to report the "suspicious person" who might be sleeping at the premises. Officers arrived to find a man walking down the street in an overcoat and pretending to use a cane. He appeared to be trying to look older than his actual age, police said.

"Our officers stopped to talk to him and he said he was just visiting," Deputy Chief James Boie told the Tribune. "He gave them a phony name, and while they're trying to run the information, he got wise that they were going to figure it out, and he pushed one of the officers down and took off running."

Boie said two additional officers responding to the scene caught Conley about a block away as he was trying to force his way into the Scenic Tree apartment complex, which is across the street from the police headquarters. He was wrestled down but did not offer any other resistance. Conley and one officer were taken to Palos Community Hospital for observation, he said.

Police found a BB pistol in Conley's pocket. He had no cash or other weapons, Boie said.

Residents in the sprawling, low-rise apartment complex where Conley was apprehended said they had seen a lot of police activity in the area earlier in the day, including K-9 units.

Chris Stevens, who has lived in the complex for a decade, said FBI agents knocked on her door at about 7 a.m., showed her a photo of Conley and asked if she had seen him. The agents told her he had been spotted in the area.

By the afternoon, Stagg High School junior David Griffith, 16, said he was with a friend taking out the garbage at the complex when he heard shouting and saw an officer run past him into a grassy area behind his building.

"We ran back in my house, opened the patio door, looked in the back and just saw a whole bunch of police officers just tackle (Conley)," Griffith said. "It was crazy. Nothing ever happens over here."

According to court records, Conley once lived in an apartment near the scene of his arrest. Boie said Conley was known to Palos Hills police because he'd had multiple resisting and obstructing arrests in 2004. Even still, they were surprised when they realized whom they had just arrested.

"I'm sure they were a little surprised that they had the guy standing in front of them,'' Boie said.

A law enforcement source told the Tribune that U.S. marshals and FBI agents met this week to discuss the hunt for Conley and went to Palos Hills on Friday morning to canvass specific addresses where he had ties. Some of the doors they knocked on were in the same block where Conley was found later in the day, the source said.

Conley, 38, was awaiting sentencing for a single bank holdup when authorities said he and Banks removed a cinder block from their cell wall and scaled down about 15 stories of the sheer wall of the jail early on Dec. 18. The cellmates were last accounted for during a routine bed check, authorities said. About 7 a.m. the next day, jail employees arriving for work saw the bedsheets dangling from a hole in the wall down the south side of the facade.

The FBI said a surveillance camera a few blocks from the jail showed the two wearing light-colored clothing hailing a taxi at Congress Parkway and Michigan Avenue about 2:40 a.m. They also appeared to be wearing backpacks, according to the FBI.

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Firm bringing HQ to Chicago

St. Louis-based construction firm Clayco Inc. is moving its headquarters to Chicago, attracted by ease of air travel, proximity to clients, access to young professionals and the potential to land city business as Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushes ahead with public-private partnerships for infrastructure improvements, its top executive said Thursday.

Clayco Chairman and CEO Robert Clark and Emanuel are expected to formally announce the move Friday.

Two-hundred and eighty of the company's 1,000 employees already work in the Chicago area, including 88 who work full time at the Jewelers Building, 35 E. Wacker Drive, which becomes company headquarters.

The company expects to double its Chicago workforce during the next couple of years, in part by increasing its architectural business and expanding its infrastructure business.

Clark said the company is seeking to acquire a municipal engineering company as part of an effort to develop its infrastructure business during the next few years. Now focused on industrial, office and institutional projects, the company would like to add a fourth specialty area that would go after water, sewer, road, bridge and airport work, Clark said.

"In the long run, public-private partnerships are something I'm very intrigued about and interested in pursuing," he said. "I don't think we'll do it overnight. … It may be three years from now, until we have significant traction in the (infrastructure) market."

"We're interested in national projects, not just local," he said. "But hopefully we'll have work in our own backyard."

Clayco donated $50,000 to Emanuel's mayoral campaign in late 2010, and Clark donated an additional $10,000 in September to The Chicago Committee, the mayor's campaign fund, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections. Clark said his contributions to a variety of politicians stem from personal convictions and have no relation to his business endeavors.

Tom Alexander, a spokesman for Emanuel, said: "Clayco is choosing Chicago because Chicago offers them unique access to world-class talent and a location from which they can easily and effectively do business around the world, period. Any type of private-public building project would undergo the city's very strict, competitive procurement process."

Last spring, Emanuel won City Council approval for the formation of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, which will endeavor to secure private financing for public infrastructure projects.

Clayco's shift into downtown Chicago began in October 2010, when it opened offices in the Jewelers Building. Employees who had been based in Oakbrook Terrace have moved there, as have a handful of executives from St. Louis. Clark relocated to Chicago in September 2010.

The company did not seek or receive any financial incentives for its move, the city said. Clayco will keep its St. Louis office intact, and no layoffs are planned as part of the relocation.

Clark and Emanuel first met when Emanuel worked in the Clinton White House. Clark, who was active with the Young Presidents' Organization, worked with Emanuel on some events at the White House. Their paths have crossed a number of times since then, including during President Barack Obama's campaign in 2008.

A meeting with Emanuel played a role in the decision to relocate company headquarters, Clark said. It occupies the 13th and 27th floors of the Jewelers Building, or 30,000 square feet.

"He asked me to target our national clients and bring them here," Clark recalls. "Quite frankly, I was blown away by that. Most mayors are not that aggressive; they leave that up to their economic development folks."

Clayco has done work for a number of large institutions and corporations, including Dow Chemical,, Caterpillar, and locally, Kraft Foods, Anixter, the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Started 28 years ago by Clark, the privately held company has annual revenue of $820 million. Subsidiaries include architecture and design firm Forum Studios and Concrete Strategies Inc.

Twitter @kathy_bergen

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Chicago man charged in estranged wife's slaying in Munster

A Chicago man with a history of domestic violence arrests has been charged with the murder of his estranged wife in Munster, Ind., early New Year’s Day, authorities said.

Margarito Valdivia, 44, of the 10800 block of South Troy Street, is being held without bail in the slaying of his estranged wife, Erica Valdivia, 33, early on Tuesday, Munster Police said in a news release this afternoon. The attack at a home in the 800 block of Boxwood Drive in Munster also injured Erica Valdivia’s boyfriend, police said.

Erica Valdivia, whom the Lake County coroner’s office said suffered blunt force trauma to the head in an apparent homicide, had been separated from her husband for about four months, according to police.

Margarito Valdivia is believed to have driven to the Boxwood Drive home early Tuesday, gone in and confronted his wife and her boyfriend, police said. He hit the boyfriend in the head “numerous times” as he drove the boyfriend from the home, police said in the release.

Once the boyfriend was outside, Margarito Valdivia went back into the home and began beating his wife, police said.

Police were called to the Boxwood Drive home about 5:45 a.m. Tuesday and found the boyfriend outside with a severe cut to the head. Officers tried to go into the house, but were at first unable to, as Margarito Valdivia had barricaded himself inside. After a SWAT team was called, police sent a remote-controlled robot into the home, and he surrendered.

Police entered the home and found Erica Valdivia lying in a bathroom, with “major trauma” to the head, including her face, police said. She was taken to Community Hospital in Munster, where she was declared dead at 10:04 a.m. Tuesday, according to the coroner’s office.

The Lake County, Ind., prosecutor’s office charged Margarito Valdivia with murder and felony battery today, police said. Court information was not immediately available, but he was being held without bail in Lake County Jail.

Court records show that Margarito Valdivia has Cook County arrests dating back to 1990, when he was arrested on a domestic violence charge and an order of protection was lodged against him. The charges were later dropped. In 1994, he was charged with domestic battery and resisting arrest and was sentenced to a year’s probation after being found guilty of the resisting arrest charge, according to court records.

In 1997, Margarito Valdivia was charged with criminal damage and having a firearm without a gun owner’s permit, and given two years court supervision following a guilty plea. A 2000 domestic battery charge was dropped, but in August 2012 he was found guilty of battery after an attack July 23 in the 9800 block of South Commercial Avenue and sentenced to a year’s conditional discharge, records show.

At the time of the battery arrest, he was still living at the same home in the 10600 block of South Avenue N that the coroner’s office listed as Erica Valdivia’s home address.

Twitter: @ltaford

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