The four missing teens from Iowa. (ABC News Radio)
By Ryan Denham
Five Things You Should Know for Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012:
This first story reminds me of the plot for Wes Anderson's recent film "Moonrise Kingdom." Four teenagers from Iowa who disappeared from home over the weekend were found Tuesday in an abandoned home in (where else) Eureka in Woodford County, ABC News Radio reports. That's nearly 360 miles and six hours away from their homes in Iowa. Of course, the teens' disappearance caused quite a stir in Iowa, and a lot of anxiety for their parents. Now some of the parents think the kids plotted their runaway escape well in advance, just like in "Moonrise Kingdom." The boys and girls had never met before, meeting through online Xbox gaming. "I don't let him have a Facebook account because I don't want him meeting people online," said Crystal Sunderman, mother to one of the boys. "I didn't realize they could do so much on Xbox."
A judge in Logan County has granted one of the Beason murder suspects' requests for access to medical, school and law enforcement records for one of the slain family members. Christopher Harris and his brother, Jason, are charged with killing five members of the Gee family and injuring a sixth back in September 2009. But Christopher Harris' defense is that one of the slain children, 14-year-old Dillen Constant, was the real killer, and that Harris only killed Constant in self-defense after arriving at the Beason home and seeing the boy in a violent rage. Harris' attorney says he "expects the records to show multiple instances of violence in Constant’s past," as well as evidence of an expulsion from a Lincoln school district due to severe behavior issues, reports Nathan Woodside with the Springfield Journal-Register.
Nine current and former Northern Illinois University employees now face charges in the so-called "coffee fund" scandal. They're accused of arranging to sell scrap materials owned by the university to build a "slush fund" (hitting at least $13,000) for holiday parties, retirement celebrations and other social events. Interestingly, one of the employees who was charged was the university controller, who "had been given responsibility in late August for improving university procedures related to property control in the wake of the coffee fund allegations," Jodi Cohen with the Chicago Tribune reports. "Anytime you have a situation that results in nine people being charged with felonies, it may raise some questions about the integrity of the institution," DeKalb County State's Attorney Clay Campbell told the Trib. "I am aware of the public's concerns about the integrity of governance across the state. We are mindful of that lack of faith in our public institutions."
Politico has a decent roundup of "six takeaways" from Tuesday's debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. It feels like the narrative for this debate was already pre-written by the media, which as we all know loves the up-and-down narrative of a slipping front-runner or the "comeback kid" storyline. Truthfully, anyone who watched the debate would agree Obama had a better performance than he did in the first debate. But the post-debate reaction from Chris Matthews or Gov. Bobby Jindal means nothing. It still comes down to what's shaking out in 11 swing or near-swing states, not any national polling or national favoribility rating. "Tonight, neither man gave much by way of a future vision, but with no clear beat-down on other side, the race is likely to remain close in the closing weeks," Politico's Maggie Haberman writes.
This next story seems relatively minor on the surface, but it opens the door to a pretty interesting issue. Woodford County is getting a one-time payment of about $2.4 million related to a wind farm now under construction near Minonk. It's enough to knock the budget into the black, in a county where recent shortfalls have led to budget cuts and hiring freezes. But the board did OK $200,000 in new expenses Tuesday, including a new county-owned vehicle and funds to beef up the county's juvenile offender probation system. Nick Vlahos with the Peoria Journal-Star opens his story by noting how hard it is to resist spending extra money, like the $2.4 million, when it arrives. Depending on the outcome of the wind energy production tax credit in Washington, more municipalities and counties in Central Illinois could find themselves facing a similar dilemma over how to spend an influx of new wind revenue. They might look to Woodford County.
Ryan Denham can be reached at email@example.com.