A look back at 2012's top Lake County stories
From the weather to crime to the extracurricular activities of local officials, 2012 featured a range of stories that made news in Lake County.
Lingering drought, the Antioch Rescue Squad, big news from the top prosecutor's office, controversy on the business front, the arrival of video gaming and tragedy for a local fan in Florida for a Bears game were among the top stories in Lake County in 2012.
The following list was selected by Daily Herald staffers in the Libertyville office from among scores of possibilities and are presented in no particular order.
State's Attorney Shuffle
Considerable attention was focused on the Lake County State's Attorney's office, which became an issue in the November election not only for who would run it but what it stood for.
Michael Waller ended an unprecedented run as Lake County's top law enforcement officer, opting to retire after more than 22 years in office. His exit set the stage for the first contested Lake County state's attorney's election since 1968.
In recent years, the office was clouded by four high-profile cases overturned because of evidence of wrongful prosecutions and false confessions.
The most notable was that of Juan Rivera, who had been freed after 20 years in prison for the 1992 rape and murder of a 11-year old Holly Staker of Waukegan. DNA testing failed to connect Rivera, who was convicted three times, to the crime.
Waller in a lengthy statement in early January, said he would not appeal the reversal of Rivera's conviction by a state appeals court. In May, rape charges also were dropped against Chicago resident Bennie Starks for the January 1986 attack of a woman in Waukegan.
The cases of Jerry Hobbs and James Edwards also provided fodder for candidates who vowed to reform and improve the reputation of the office.
Republican Mike Nerheim of Gurnee edged Chris Kennedy of Libertyville in November to replace Waller.
On his first day in office, Nerheim announced creation of an independent Case Review Panel to review criminal cases in which there is a question about wrongful conviction, among its duties. A citizens panel was also appointed to bring a "community perspective" to the wrongful conviction issue.
Shortly after, Nerheim announced he would dismiss the remaining aggravated battery charge against Starks.
Rescue Squad trouble
The future of the Antioch Rescue Squad, which provides emergency medical care to Antioch and Antioch Township, is in flux after a series of allegations.
Three female squad members filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in May, and two settled with the organization for $155,000.
A few months later, allegations from the Illinois Department of Public Health included that emergency medical technicians and paramedics had unauthorized access to prescription drugs, arrived for work shortly after drinking alcohol and mistreated patients. IDPH fined the squad $15,000.
In October, Treasurer John Edgell was charged with felony theft on allegations he took more than $10,000. Later that month, Chief Wayne Sobczak announced his retirement. He faces a possible suspension of his paramedic license by the IDPH for failing to address problems at the squad.
A plan of correction has been sent to the state and the squad has implemented measures to correct problems and to provide a higher standard of care.
In November, Antioch trustees extended the contract with the rescue squad for 90 days as it studies a report by Village Administrator James Kiem. Keim recommended combining fire and rescue operations under a unified command.
Dry as a bone
Gardens wilted and residents sizzled during a drought that wouldn't quit.
The stretch of dry weather resulted in parched conditions and concern for communities that led to postponed or rescheduled fireworks shows.
About a half dozen communities decided to change gears.
About a month after dry conditions forced Antioch to postpone its Fourth of July fireworks show, for example, village officials announced the show would continue as planned in September at the 99 Year Street Dance.
The Round Lake Area Park District rescheduled to Sept. 2 but Mundelein officials decided to pass on fireworks, which usually cap the annual Mundelein Community Days event.
And in another sign of the dry times, Island Lake's annual Venetian Night parade of boats was canceled for the first time in its 15-year history because of low water levels.
After 18 years in Libertyville, mobile phone maker Motorola Mobility Inc., announced it would leave town for the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago.
In July, CEO Dennis Woodside confirmed a move that had been rumored for months. The new location was part of a consolidation of company offices, which included a workforce of more than 3,000 at the Libertyville campus on Route 45.
Parent company Google, Inc., which acquired Motorola in August 2011, felt the Merchandise Mart was a good fit to stir creativity and innovation, Woodside told employees in Libertyville.
Motorola Mobility received more than $110 million in state tax incentives and had agreed to keep at least 2,500 workers at its Libertyville. The move is expected to occur in phases and finish by summer 2013.
Some local leaders blasted the move, saying the state was quick to pass an incentive package but didn't bother to inform them of the change in plans. Mundelein Republican state Rep. Ed Sullivan said the move was made in favor of Chicago at the expense of the suburbs.
A controversial plan to rezone vacant land at Route 12 and Old McHenry Road near Hawthorn Woods and North Barrington from residential to commercial use eventually was approved by the Lake County Board.
The complicated plan for the Dimucci property triggered extensive comment during a series of public meetings, as well as between county planners and community leaders.
Ultimately, the proposal was pared from allowing 800,000 square feet of commercial space to 450,000 square feet of retail uses and 200,000 square feet of service uses, such as offices and restaurants, on 53 acres. Fifty acres was designated as open space.
In a series of unanimous votes, the county board approved the rezoning, a conditional use permit and an intergovernmental agreement with Hawthorn Woods and North Barrington.
There is no specific developer and the Dimucci family said it was seeking the change to plan ahead. The zoning will not actually change until a final plan, which will require further review is submitted.
Opponents voiced concerned about traffic, noise, the size of the commercial area and the process by which the application was reviewed.
Financial troubles led the Lake County Family YMCA to announce in late September that it would close its branches in Waukegan and Vernon Hills on Oct. 31.
The nonprofit group said it had insufficient resources to sustain the operations on a long-term basis and said it needed to raise at least $5 million to stay open.
The YMCA said it tried to partner with community or private groups in order to continue but efforts fell short. With debt of $6 million, an annual operating deficit of $800,000 and continued declines in membership and contributions the decision was made to close.
But the deadline came and went. In Vernon Hills, village officials agreed to lend the Vernon Hills Park District just more than $2 million interest free to purchase and operate the facility.
The YMCA board modified its stance and allowed the Waukegan branch to remain open until the end of the year as fundraising efforts continued.
Top cop snagged
Grayslake Police Chief Matthew McCutcheon became a former chief after being stopped in Kenosha County, Wis., and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and operating left of centerline.
Police in Wisconsin said McCutcheon caused a crash with another vehicle at 10:10 p.m. March 30 just over the Illinois state line in Silver Lake. No one was injured. Police said McCutcheon was drunk at the time of the crash and was swaying, had bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol when interviewed. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He was placed on paid administrative leave in Grayslake until his resignation became effective July 1.
The Grayslake village board approved Phillip Perlini, who had been serving as deputy chief in Glenview, as the village's new top cop.
Schmidt not guilty
The long-running saga involving state Sen. Suzi Schmidt and a dispute with a neighbor ended in October when the Lake Villa Township Republican was found not guilty of puncturing a bag of chicken feed.
Schmidt was arrested in June on misdemeanor charges of criminal damage to property and criminal trespass and served with an emergency stalking no contact order after neighbors accused Schmidt of coming onto their property, ripping open a bag of feed and throwing some oars into a nearby swamp.
Lake County Judge George Strickland said prosecutors didn't prove Schmidt was told to stay away from the home, which is required to prove trespassing.
Schmidt in her own defense said her friendship with the neighbors had deteriorated over the past few years after she learned her husband was having an affair with the female neighbor, a charge the neighbor routinely denied.
Though found not guilty, a civil order of protection remains in place against Schmidt.
Neighbors told police Schmidt harassed them between December 2010 and February 2012. She had announced in October 2011 she would not run for re-election. In November, Lake County Board Member Melinda Bush of Grayslake beat Republican Joe Neal of Wadsworth for the seat.
After years of debate and a lengthy regulation process, video gambling finally became a reality.
The Illinois Gaming Board in June approved 18 licenses for several suburban locations including Rosati's of Lakemoor. Lawmakers approved video gambling in 2009 to help pay for a $31 billion construction program but delays kept the machines out of taverns, truck stops, restaurants and other locales.
The first machines went live in October with an announced 278 terminals in 65 locations.
Seventy percent of proceeds are evenly split by the establishment and game operator, with 25 percent going to the state and the remaining 5 percent of net revenue to the host community.
State officials estimated that up to 75,000 machines could be installed throughout Illinois by October 2013.
Bears fan murdered
In October, William Christopher Pettry of Lake Villa Township was fatally stabbed in a Jacksonville, Fla. bar and restaurant while in town to watch a Chicago Bears-Jaguars game.
Pettry, 42, the married father of three children, had been at Fionn MacCool's Irish Pub with a friend the night before the game.
Pettry and his friend were sitting at an outdoor table with an older couple when two women asked to sit in two unoccupied chairs.
Matthew Reid Hinson, 27, of Jacksonville became "jealous" and "enraged" after seeing his wife talking to Pettry and later cut his throat while the two sat on a bench inside the bar, according to authorities.
Hinson was charged with second-degree murder and pleaded not guilty.
Several Chicago Bears players worked as actors at the Realm of Terror Haunted House in Round Lake Beach to raise money for the family. Pettry and his wife, Karen, operated Kharisma Mastiffs from their Lake Villa Township address.
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