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Martin sentenced to 30 years for sexual assault

MOUNT VERNON — James Martin Sr. was sentenced to 30 years in prison Thursday in Jefferson County Circuit Court for sexually assaulting a child.

In September, Martin, 69, of Du Bois, pleaded guilty to one Class X felony charge of predatory criminal sexual assault of a victim under 13. In exchange for this guilty plea, the other two Class X predatory criminal sexual assault counts he faced were dismissed.

Martin’s plea was open, meaning no sentence was agreed upon and a sentencing hearing was required. That hearing was held Thursday before Judge Jerry Crisel. The sentencing range for Class X felony predatory criminal sexual assault of a child is six to 60 years in prison.

After hearing arguments and evidence from both sides, Judge Crisel sentenced Martin to 30 years in prison. He will be required to serve 85% of his sentence, prosecutors said. Martin was also given credit for 210 days already served, according to Jefferson County court records.

“We would like to thank Captain Vic Koontz of the Mount Vernon Police Department for all his work in bringing Mr. James C. Martin Sr. to justice,” said Jefferson County Assistant State’s Attorney Julie Kozuszek. “But more importantly, I want to acknowledge the pain, strength, and endurance of the victim in this matter. Hopefully, the sentence today brings some closure to this heartache.”

Koontz, detective captain with the MVPD, also remarked Thursday on Martin’s sentence.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re pleased with that sentence,” Koontz said. “Listening to the victim impact statement that was read, I feel like he deserved what he got. The victim has been affected for a long time and it will continue to affect her, I’m sure.”

According to the bill of indictment in this case, Martin was accused of committing sexual acts with a child under 13 between the years of 2011 to 2012.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Department took the initial report in this case on March 11, 2022. The sexual assault allegedly happened in Mount Vernon. Information from the initial report was forwarded to the Mount Vernon Police Department and the MVPD Detective Division investigated the report, police officials said.

Jefferson County Public Defender Matt Vaughn, Martin’s attorney, was unavailable for comment for this story.

Ashley Outlet holds grand opening event

MOUNT VERNON — The new Ashley Outlet furniture store in Mount Vernon hosted its grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony Thursday, drawing a sizable crowd of well-wishers to the event.

Representatives of Ashley Outlet and its parent company, Bruegge & Co., were joined at Thursday’s ceremony by Mount Vernon officials, Jefferson County Development Corporation officials, chamber personnel, and many others. The Greater Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce facilitated the ribbon cutting.

The new Ashley Outlet store is located in the space formerly occupied by JCPenney at the rear of Times Square Mall. Significant renovations were made to the site to prepare it for the new store, which occupies a 35,000-square-foot facility, Sentinel archives state.

“The Mount Vernon community has been amazing to work with,” said Ellen Hook, CEO of Bruegge & Co. “We have been really excited to get this old JCPenney looking brand new again. We put new windows in, we got the dock built out in the back so we can deliver furniture out of the back of this building which is going to be great for our customers to be able to get furniture fast. And it’s the largest selection of Ashley in this general area, 90-mile area. We’re just really happy to have a team of people we’ve been able to hire that has been very hard working and we’re very proud of them.”

Hook said Bruegge & Co. is celebrating its 150th year this year, as the company dates back to 1872. She also said the Mount Vernon Ashley store is the company’s very first standalone Ashley Outlet, its first mall location, its first Ashley store located outside central Illinois, its first store to open this year, and its first store to deliver out of the back of the store.

“We’re proud to be opening a store after COVID,” Hook said. “I know there was a lot of turmoil with supply chain. All of that has settled now, so it’s a great time to be opening a new store. We’re very happy about that.”

Mike Bruegge, the owner of Bruegge & Co., discussed the benefits to customers of having an Ashley Outlet store.

“It’s all about price, selection, and availability, immediate availability,” Bruegge said of the outlet store. “So people see it, they can buy it, they can take it with them.”

Thursday’s grand opening and ribbon cutting was the first part of a four-day celebration to commemorate the opening of the Mount Vernon store. There will also be family friendly activities at the local Ashley Outlet store on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. People can also come into the store during the grand opening activities to enter in for a chance to win a new car.

Mayor John Lewis said he is glad to see Ashley Outlet open in Mount Vernon.

“We’re so excited that Ashley came, chose Mount Vernon to come to and make an investment, especially filling this space here at the mall,” Lewis said. “(It’s a) huge space, and they’re hard to fill in this economic environment.”

Lewis said the Ashley store will draw people to Mount Vernon from all the surrounding counties and will also help the other local furniture stores by “bringing people in to look.”

“And if they don’t find what they want here (at Ashley), they’ll go to some of the other furniture stores,” Lewis said. “So I think it’s a great addition to Mount Vernon.”

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Hughey Funeral Home upgrades while honoring history

MOUNT VERNON — Hughey Funeral Home has recently been undergoing some renovations that strive to update the building while continuing to honor the structure’s history that spans well over a century.

Hughey Funeral Home is in the process of renovating its staircase as President of Hughey Funeral Home Susan R. Hughey spoke on how they have added to the once residence, that her family and herself once resided in. Ron Gomora, owner of Stair Artisan located in Ashley, said that he really enjoys when his company has the opportunity to work on something historic such as the Hughey Funeral Home staircase.

“We do a lot of renovations for banks and things like that where we make 50-year-old, 60-year-old moldings,” Gomora said. “I know those moldings are original from the way they are cut, those were cut on a buck shaper.”

Susan said that the staircase at Hughey Funeral Home is original to the building as Gomora went into further details on what he has observed.

“It is original absolutely, the way the balusters are turned, they are definitely late 1800s because they are dovetailed into the treads and I have only seen that three times in my career and I have worked on a lot of antique stairs,” Gomora said. “As they built each tread, they chiseled a wedge, they spun the balusters and they would put a marrying wedge on the bottom of the baluster. So they tapped those into the tread so they could never be pulled out, they are in a dovetail, so they wedge them that way and put the return on. That creates a lot of strength in itself for the baluster. The old design was pretty incredible and that alone would date it.”

Gomora explained his company’s plans for restoring the staircase.

“We will basically bring the stairs back to its original position using cables and jacks. After we get it reset in its original location we will then affix cables, tie back and we use really good construction adhesive on all the back mortaring and all the wedges will all be solid and glued in. It is critical to seal the back,” Gomora said. “So we will back-seal it, insulate everything for sound and then we are going to have a plasterer come in and put that plaster back to its original shape.”

According to information provided by Hughey Funeral Home, the building that now houses Hughey Funeral Home adds rich historical value to Mount Vernon and Jefferson County. It is nearly a 150-year-old landmark. Zadok Casey, a pioneer and founding father of Mount Vernon, from whom Casey Middle School is named after, deeded the land on May 31, 1862 to his son, Col. Thomas Samuel Casey. In 1867, Thomas built the 15 room home for his family that would eventually become Hughey Funeral Home.

Tradition says that the lumber for the home was purchased in the south during the Civil War and it was shipped by rail to Ashley and then to Mount Vernon by wagon. Thomas Casey was State’s Attorney of Jefferson County for two terms. After returning home from the Civil War, he was state representative and elected circuit judge in 1879 and assigned to the Appellate Court in Mount Vernon. Mrs. Thomas Casey was a devout Catholic and prior to a Catholic church being built in Mount Vernon, the first Catholic masses were held in their home. Mrs. Casey also deeded the property for St. Mary Church, School and Cemetery.

The home changed hands several times and in 1914 the Warren family bought the home. Their daughter, Mildred Warren, librarian at Mount Vernon Township High School for many years, helped influence the lives of many young children who went through the high school. In the early 1930s, J.B. Hawkins, local funeral director and businessman, bought the Appleman and Fly Funeral Business that was located on 10th Street. On Nov. 1, 1934, Mr. Hawkins bought the large home on Main Street, remodeled it, and opened the Hawkins Funeral Home.

Mr. Hawkins operated the funeral home for nine years until his death in 1943, at which time Virgil Pulley and his wife Ruth purchased the business and it was called Hawkins-Pulley Funeral Home. Mr. Pulley operated the business for 16 years until his death in 1959.

In 1969, Mrs. Pulley sold the establishment to the Charles and Susan Hughey family. Since 1969, the home has been restored and renovated extensively. Mr. Charles Hughey passed away on Jan. 1, 2002. Don Collier, Marsha Hughey-Locke and Carmen Hughey-Deichman, along with Susan Hughey, have continued the caring, compassionate service to the Mount Vernon and Jefferson County area that Mr. Charles E. Hughey had dedicated his life to. Hughey Funeral Home has provided a tradition of trust and kindness for 53 years and will provide this service to the community for many years to come, the information states.

“We were married five years before we bought this business. I was six months pregnant with Carmen when we moved here and when she was 11 months I had twin girls,” Susan said. “We have a Christmas picture of Charles and I with the three girls, they were little, underneath that stairway.”

Susan said for the longest time the original stairway was the only stairway in and out of their residence.

“Because when we were busy, if I was out I couldn’t get back in, so we put that metal staircase up so I could come and go even when we were busy,” Susan said. “Twenty-one years we lived upstairs and raised our girls there.”

Susan noted that the building has housed many people/businesses over the years and has touched many lives as she recalled getting a couple of visitors in 1975.

“These two elderly ladies from Springfield rang the doorbell, I was the only one here, we lived upstairs and I came down,” Susan said. “They said this was our grandfather’s house and they identified it by the portholes in the attic and they put those glass windows to light the attic.”

During this encounter, Susan was told about one of the previous occupants testing a diamond on one of the windows.

“We found a window upstairs in one of the bedrooms that was cut,” Susan said. “The story they told me, she got a diamond and they told her if it was a real diamond she could cut glass. She cut her name in it and we saved it, cut it out and put it in a frame. It says “Kate did” and it was 1887. So it was a real diamond I guess.”

Susan said that while she doesn’t have the exact date of when the house was built, she remembered finding a name-tag while cleaning.

“I was cleaning and behind a baseboard flew up this little name-tag and it was Lyndon B. Smith, and in the loop of the L he put 1880,” Susan said. “So I know that it is that old.”

Susan said that her family has been at its current location for 53 years and have continued to expand.

“We have bought 18 pieces of property, we now have the whole block,” Susan said. “It has been one thing after another, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. My husband of course died 20 years ago and I was determined to keep it going. I think he would be proud of it.”

Susan said even now Hughey Funeral Home is continuing to look forward.

“We are putting solar in the office,” Susan said. “We are staying up with the times. I am doing all of this for the next generation.”

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SSM Health Good Sam now offers patient transportation

MOUNT VERNON — SSM Health Good Samaritan Hospital announced this week it is now offering transportation services with South Central Illinois Mass Transit District (SCT) for its patients.

According to an SSM Health news release, the patient transportation service will be used to safely escort patients to and from Good Samaritan Hospital who do not have any other means of transportation. Whether patients are going home after a stay in the hospital or getting to an appointment, this transportation partnership will provide this service, the release states.

“It is the mission of SSM Health to not only provide safe and high-quality care to our patients but also to remove any barriers to access,” said Jeremy Bradford, president of SSM Health Good Samaritan Hospital. “Through our transportation partnership with SCT, patients will be better connected to providers and services, ensuring healthier rural communities in Southern Illinois for years to come.”

SSM Health continues to live by its mission which is to “continue the healing ministry of Jesus Christ by improving and providing regional, cost-effective, quality health services for everyone, with a special concern for the poor and vulnerable,” the news release states. The transportation service is another step closer to this mission.

“We are very excited to expand a much-needed transportation service to Good Samaritan Hospital and honored to support our mission by bridging the transportation gaps in our region to our most vulnerable patients,” said Heather Turner, MSW, LCSW, director of social services at SSM Health.

For more information on the patient transportation service at Good Samaritan Hospital, call the facility at (618) 242-4600 and ask for social services.

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D80 hears audit report

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon City Schools District 80 Board of Education Finance Committee held a special meeting on Wednesday to hear the fiscal year 2022 audit report.

Krehbiel & Associates located in Mount Vernon conducted this year’s audit report. District 80 Superintendent Ryan Swan discussed what the committee learned during the report.

“I am pleased to announce that the audit put us in a good overall standing,” Swan said.

Swan discussed the district’s financial profile summary, which recognizes the district’s financial abilities. The scale is ranked with four being the highest recognition.

“We received a 3.8 out of 4 on our financial rating,” Swan said. “That puts us in the highest recognition category.”

Swan said the district had two minor findings for this year’s report.

“We did have two minor findings dealing with an additional CPA (Certified Public Accountant) requirement checking the auditor’s report and lunch count procedures,” Swan said.

Sentinel archives state that the CPA finding is more procedural as school districts don’t normally staff CPAs and it is just something the auditor has to bring to the district’s attention every year.

Swan explained that the lunch count finding has already been remedied and was just a procedural finding.

“The lunch sheets used for lunch counts had some formatting errors,” Swan said.

Swan said looking forward the district is planning for some potential financial challenges in the future.

“There are several areas we are planning for in the future to include the minimum wage cost increases required by the State of Illinois, TRS (Teacher Retirement System) employee cost increases being tied to CPI (Consumer Price Index) required by the State of Illinois. Transportation costs increase, and rising costs of materials and supplies,” Swan said. “We are projecting three to five years ahead and making plans in order to meet these challenges, provide quality education services and be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

The audit will now be presented to the full board for approval. The board is expected to meet next at 6 p.m. Monday at the District Office.