BREAKING: Single-story home ablaze on Townsend Street in Sycamore

SYCAMORE – Fire crews are battling an active blaze coming from a single-story home in the 1000 block of Townsend Street.

Crews from the Sycamore Fire Department are on the scene of a structure fire reported shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday.

Flames could be seen coming from the home, as scanner reports said the fire seemed to be coming from the south side of the home, visible from the front door.

Crews from the DeKalb Fire amd Police Department, as well as the Genoa-Kingston Fire Protection District were also called to assist.

This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.

Transit Service Adjustments

Transit has several route adjustments for NIU Move In, Cornfest, and Route 16

String of burglaries plagues Shabbona, DeKalb County

A string of burglaries targeting DeKalb County residents with unlocked cars, garages and yard items has been plaguing parts of DeKalb County, including Shabbona, over the past few days, police said.

DeKalb County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan said police responded to reports of multiple burglaries in the 300 to 500 block of Cherokee Street in Shabbona early Wednesday.

“Last night in the overnight hours there was a string of burglaries in the Shabbona area to unlocked vehicles and an unlocked shed,” Sullivan said, adding that multiple items were stolen. “There was no forced entry, and we’re still working with residents there.”

According to a Facebook post from the Waterman Police Department, many residents around DeKalb County were also targeted in the past few days.

Police say that no one has been arrested, and it’s not clear whether a single person or a group burglarized the area, but unlocked cars, unsecured garage doors, and yard items not bolted down are the targets of the incidents, the post reads.

“Please take the time to lock up your cars, houses and garages,” the post reads. “Don’t forget to secure valuables, bring them inside and out of view. Don’t give them an easy target.”

Sullivan said police are asking any people who might have information on the burglaries to call the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office at 815-895-7260.

Anyone who might have information also can call CrimeStoppers at 815-895-3272 or email crimestoppers@dekalbcounty.org.

'Neighbors helping neighbors'

DeKALB – A day of rainy weather couldn’t keep the DeKalb County Pride Benefit Concert from happening Wednesday at the Hopkins Park band shell, nor did it keep the visitors away. As bands readied their instruments and waited for their chance to perform, one local group said all the organizer had to do was ask them to perform.

DeKalb native and Northern Illinois University student Noah Brooks said he loves to give back to his community.

“Anything to give back to DeKalb,” he said. “I’ve lived here my whole life.”

He said the trio, which also includes DeKalb natives Devonte Merrick and Nolan Bunger, performs modern jazz and jazz standards.

The DeKalb County Pride Benefit concert was the idea of Michael Embrey, and benefited DeKalb County Community Gardens.

He said that the morning after the July 27 fire at the St. Alban’s Green apartments in Sycamore, he saw the community garden’s Grow Mobile mobile food pantry on site to help displaced residents at 6:30 a.m.

“I was very impressed,” he said. “People cared enough to get up at 6:30 in the morning.”

Coupled with the fires at 808 Ridge Drive and 930 Greenbriar Road in early July, Embrey said he felt the need for the two cities to come together.

“It’s not a DeKalb event, it’s not a Sycamore event,” he said. “This is a community event.”

DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith and Sycamore Mayor Curt Lang both were in attendance at the event.

Local musical acts Reilly Farrell, The Noah Brooks Coalition, The Elderly Brothers Band, Johnny & the Boomers and Luxury Pork Band performed, with fireworks planned for after.

“The goal is to make this a family thing,” Embrey said.

Dan Kenney, founder of DeKalb County Community Gardens, said he was grateful for the donations. This summer’s fires have been the first major event the organization has had with the Grow Mobile, and it set up pop-up pantries for displaced residents of the apartment buildings to get food that they need.

“We tried to be as responsive as we could,” he said.

Donations from the event will go to offset some of the cost of the additional pop-up days, Kenney said, as well as help residents get established in their new location. Displaced people can stock their pantries with staples such as salt and pepper and flour.

“It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” Kenney said.

Organizers prepare to welcome thousands to 42nd annual DeKalb Corn Fest

DeKALB – Downtown construction isn’t going to put a wrench in the works for this year’s DeKalb Corn Fest, and festival organizers are full steam ahead as they prepare to welcome thousands of visitors downtown to kick off the 42nd annual weekend of free music, corn boils and family fun.

Lisa Angel, chairperson of the Corn Fest Committee, said festival organizers shuffled around some locations due to downtown construction at the Egyptian Theatre and Plaza DeKalb, but said otherwise it’s business as usual. With the Palmer Court construction, the VIP area for sponsors will be moved and the VIP viewing deck will be in the beer garden. The craft fair, usually held in the Nehring building parking lot, will be on Locust Street for improved visibility.

“This year we have a new vendor layout,” Angel said. “Vendors will be down the center of Lincoln Highway so you can see all the new shops.”

The festival began in 1977 when Del Monte began hosting a free corn boil for area residents in downtown DeKalb. Over the years, the event has expanded rapidly, adding carnival rides, local merchants booths, sidewalk sales and musicians from all around to play packed shows for three days, all for little-to-no money.

More than 95 vendors, most of them DeKalb County businesses, will set up shop along Lincoln Highway during the three-day festival, which is one of the last free admission festivals in the state, Angel said.

“You can pay $5 and go into the beer garden and hear John Waite,” Angel said. “Or if you don’t want to pay $5 and you’re not a drinker, you can stand on Locust Street and watch them for free.”

Each year, the Corn Fest Committee donates a portion of the proceeds to local nonprofits, and this year the beneficiary is Safe Passage. Angel said over the years, Corn Fest proceeds have donated more than $100,000 to local charities. A 50/50 raffle already is underway for those wishing to donate and also get their name in for a chance to win a minimum of $1,000. Tickets can be found at local businesses downtown.

“We were really thrilled when we found out,” Safe Passage Executive Director Mary Ellen said. “It’s always good to get funds but it’s also nice to be worthy of funds.”

Schaid said the funds could be used for many Safe Passage programs, but a priority this year is collecting money to the emergency fund they have for clients, which helps clients with unexpected costs such as car repairs, day care payments, child support and more, and is limited to $300 a client.

In addition to are food vendors, Boy Scout Troop 33 will be on hand with their own food booth over the weekend, and also volunteer cleanup services, said Chad McNett, troop liaison on the Corn Fest committee booth, which the Scouts have done since 1987, includes cheeseburgers, bratwursts, funnel cakes and Oreos deep fried in funnel cake batter.

“It’s a fundraiser for the boys because we do sell a lot of food and then the boys raise money to go on trips like summer camps,” McNett said. “And the flip side of that is community service, because scouting is all about service.”

McNett said the Boy Scouts also help clean up the beer garden each night of the festival, and collect discarded aluminum cans to scrap for extra funds.

Saturday’s Chuck Siebrasse Corn Boil is a popular feature, Angel said, which 42 years later still is sponsored by Del Monte, and is expected to serve about 15,000 ears of corn from an old-fashioned steam engine.

“It’s the freshest earn of corn you’ll ever have,” Angel said.

The three-day festival also would not be possible without the 300 volunteers who work tirelessly throughout the season and during the weekend to ensure the music family fun goes smoothly.

“The volunteers are so important to us,” Angel said. “We’ve had residents whose kids started out [volunteering] at a young age and now they are young adults and they’re helping. It becomes a tradition because they know we all need to do this together to keep going.”

Cleveland testifies in request to withdraw guilty plea in forgery case

SYCAMORE – The former Kingston Township assessor who pleaded guilty to forgery and official misconduct in March will have to wait a while to find out if a judge will allow her to rescind her plea.

Jennifer Cleveland, 50, asked the court to withdraw her guilty plea because she says she didn't understand what she was agreeing to. At a hearing Wednesday, she said she was rushed into making a decision when she pleaded guilty on March 19.

"I believed I had no other option," Cleveland said.

During the hearing, Cleveland said she was told by her attorney at the time, Riley Oncken, that after a conference between Oncken, prosecutors and a judge, that the offer of pleading guilty and serving 15 days in jail would be the best she could get. She also said she was unaware at the time that a trial date had been set.

"I was nervous doing it that way," she said Wednesday. "I didn't have time to think straight."

Cleveland is now represented by attorney Liam Dixon.

Cleveland was charged with forgery, official misconduct and failure of a local assessment officer to perform duties in November of 2017.

If convicted of forgery, she could face two to five years in prison. She also would be ineligible to hold office under Illinois law. She already resigned her position as Kingston Township Assessor.

Illinois State Police alleged in court records that on Aug. 25, 2017, Cleveland filed a request to reduce the assessed value of her son’s newly bought property in the 8700 block of South Rood Road in Kingston, and also filed two requests to reduce the assessed value of the property because of destruction to the property.

Police said Cleveland signed the former property owner’s name on the documents, which were filed Sept. 21., 2017, and Oct. 23., 2017, according to the records.

Following her March 18 guilty plea, Cleveland said Wednesday that she discussed her case with other attorneys, and that was when she decided to vacate her plea.

Assistant State's Attorney Brooks Locke asked if Cleveland was aware of previous offers from prosecutors before the March 18 conference, and if she knew that the 15 days was significantly less than the previous offers. Cleveland said yes.

Locke also noted that Cleveland had understood resigning her position as Kingston Township Assessor was a precondition of any agreement.

Judge Phillip Montgomery presided over the hearing.

Cleveland is next due in court at 9 a.m. Sept. 20.

String of burglaries plagues Shabbona, other parts of DeKalb County

A string of burglaries targeting DeKalb County residents with unlocked cars, garages, and yard items has been plaguing parts of DeKalb County, including Shabbona, over the past few days, said police.

DeKalb County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan said police responded to reports of multiple burglaries in the 300 to 500 block of Cherokee Street in Shabbona early Wednesday.

"Last night in the overnight hours there was a string of burglaries in the Shabbona area to unlocked vehicles and an unlocked shed," Sullivan said, adding multiple items were stolen. "There was no forced entry, and we're still working with residents there."

According to a Facebook post from the Waterman Police Department, many residents around DeKalb County were also targeted in the last few days.

Police say that no one has been arrested, and it's not clear whether a single person or a group burglarized the area, but unlocked cars, unsecured garage doors, and yard items not bolted down are the targets of the incidents, the post reads.

"Please take the time to lock up your cars, houses and garages," the post reads. "Don't forget to secure valuable, bring them inside and out of view. Don't give them an easy target."

Sullivan said police are asking any people who might have information on the burglaries to contact the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office at 815-895-7260. You can also call Crimestoppers at 815-895-3272 or e-mail us at crimestoppers@dekalbcounty.org.

Chicago man accused of passing bad checks

SYCAMORE – A Chicago man charged with passing a series of bad checks in April and May across the county was granted a signature bond in DeKalb County court on Wednesday, but he was still in jail because he is wanted in two other counties.

Jeremy N. Boltz, 43, of the 500 block of south Clark Street, Chicago, was charged with forgery after he was arrested for passing four bad checks at banks in DeKalb, Sycamore and Malta in April and May of this year, according to court documents. He also is wanted for arrest in Winnebago County on a forgery charge and in Ogle County in connection with a civil matter.

If convicted, he could face up to 5 years in prison.

Police said Boltz cashed four fraudulent checks between April 27 and May 6, totalling more than $7,500 dollars, according to court documents. At First National Bank in DeKalb, bank investigators were able to provide police with photos from surveillance cameras, the check and a thumb print of the suspect, according to court documents.

The thumb print was a match for Boltz, police said in court documents.

Two of the checks appeared to be from Hinckley-Big Rock School District 429 and two were from Country Homes Group, according to court documents.

When asked his current address in court on Wednesday, Boltz at first gave a Chicago address with a Waterman ZIP code. On another attempt, he gave a non-existent ZIP code. When he tried a third time, Judge Phillip Montgomery interrupted him.

"Quit while you're ahead," Montgomery said.

Montgomery ordered Boltz released on his signature, subject to pre-trial supervision and electronic home monitoring, although he said he was hesitant to do so because of Boltz's criminal history.

'Progressive' Fantasies About Guns

The idea that Americans have a constitutional right to own and possess firearms appalls today’s progressives. They believe that if they could just rid the nation of guns, then armed robberies, gang violence, mass shootings, rape, violent crime and maybe even suicide would vanish and we could all live peacefully ever after.

Police: Chicago man caught with 2 ounces of cocaine

SYCAMORE – A Chicago man appeared in DeKalb County court Tuesday after a traffic stop in which Illinois State Police said they found about two ounces – almost 59 grams – of cocaine in his vehicle.

Samuel G. Rojas, 21, of the 2400 block of South Troy Street, Chicago, was charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance after a state trooper pulled him over for allegedly going 84 mph in a 70 mph zone on Interstate 88 Monday. The stop occurred near mile marker 101 on Interstate 88, just west of the County Line Road overpass, according to court documents.

During a search of the vehicle, Rojas admitted to having cocaine in the center console, according to court documents.

Rojas could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of cocaine possession. The possible penalty is longer because of the amount of cocaine police say they found.

Police reported they smelled marijuana inside the 2002 Buick after Rojas presented a state identification when asked for a driver’s license, according to court documents. After checking his license, police said they learned it was invalid.

Police said in court records that they found Rojas also had about 3 grams of marijuana on his person, but he does not face any marijuana charges.

Judge Phillip Montgomery on Tuesday ordered Rojas released on his signature. Family members present in the courtroom said they planned to hire a private attorney to represent him. Rojas has no previous criminal history.

His next court date is at 9 a.m. Oct. 18.