Court: Peabody liable for retiree benefits

ST. LOUIS — Coal producer Peabody Energy Corp. remains obligated to continue health-care benefits for some 3,100 retirees of one of the company’s former holdings, an appeals court ruled Wednesday in reversing a bankruptcy judge’s absolving Peabody of that tab.

Here’s the link to the story in the Southern Illinoisan.

Four indicted following raid at The Smoke Break in Benton

By Jim Muir

A Franklin County Grand Jury has handed down indictments against four people who are accused of possessing and delivering illegal drugs from their Benton business.

Daniel Schmechel, 46, and Cindy Schmechel, 44, both of Mount Vernon, are owners of The Smoke Break, located at 601 West Main St. are both facing a 13-count indictment charging them with unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver.

Dorothy Williams, 62, of Valier, and Erin Williams, 30, of Mount Vernon are also accused of unlawfully delivering and possessing controlled substances or controlled substance analogs.

The indictments came as a result of a joint investigation between Benton, West City and state police, Southern Illinois Drug Task Force and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.

The alleged offenses took place within 1,000 feet of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, making the charges each a Class 2 felony.

Law enforcement officers from Illinois State Police, Benton Police Department, West City Police Department and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department converged on The Smoke Break last week armed with a search warrant.  The search warrant was obtained based on information conducted by state police and the Benton Police Department.

The Smoke Break has been the scene of police raids in the past.  Last year law enforcement officers searched the business as part of an investigation centered around allegations into the alleged delivery of a controlled substance analog or synthetic drug. Bath salts, spice and incense are oftentimes sold as a synthetic drug, which is illegal in the state of Illinois.

Sales of the drugs are illegal in the state.

The Schmechels each posted $15,000 bond and have a first court appearance set for Sept. 3 at 1:30 p.m. at the Franklin County Courthouse.

Dorothy Williams and Erin Williams each posted a $2,000 cash bond. Dorothy Williams is also set for a first appearance at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 3, and Erin Williams will appear Aug. 27 at 1:30 p.m.

Benton man killed in single-vehicle accident

Franklin County authorities are continuing to investigate a fatal single-vehicle accident Tuesday evening south of Benton.

Franklin County Coroner Marty Leffler identified the victim as 50-year-old Philip Adams, of Benton.  The accident occurred on South Hill City Road, one-fourth mile south of Forest Baptist Church Road.

According to Leffler, a passerby saw a vehicle in a corn field and stopped to investigate and found the body of Adams inside.  A 911 call was placed to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department at 6:01 p.m. and deputes, Illinois State Police and personnel from Abbott’s Ambulance responded to the accident scene.  Leffler was notified at 6:10 p.m. about the fatal accident.

Leffler said no foul play is suspected and said alcohol is “a suspected factor in the fatal accident.”

Leffler said an autopsy is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at Franklin Hospital in Benton.


Benton Police Blotter

On August 19, 2013 Benton Police arrested William Adams Jr., age 19, of Benton for driving while license suspended.  Adams was charged and transported to the Franklin County Jail for further processing.

On August 19, 2013 Benton Police were dispatched to the 900 block of S. First Street in reference to a battery complaint.  Through investigation, police arrested Deanna Pierce, age 42, of Benton for battery.  Pierce was charged and transported to the Franklin County Jail for further processing.

On August 19, 2013 Benton Police were dispatched to the 1400 block of N. Lincoln Drive in reference to a civil standby.  Through investigation, police arrested Phillip Spohn, age 31, of Christopher on an active Franklin County warrant for deceptive practice.  Spohn was transported to the Franklin County Jail for further processing.

Franklin County Farm Bureau News

By J. Larry Miller

Pleasant temperatures, low humidity and showers certainly make for good conditions for humans and livestock. Pastures have been better this summer than I have ever seen. The good condition of the cattle is indicative of the plentiful forages as feeder calf weights coming off of cows should be very good. Prices for feeder cattle will make for very good income on cow-calf operations.

Larry Miller, executive director Franklin County Farm Bureau

Larry Miller, executive director Franklin County Farm Bureau

What makes good livestock conditions does not necessarily translate into good conditions for crops.

With lower temperatures, crops are maturing very slowly and harvest will not occur until at least the middle of September. Farmers are gearing up for drying some of the corn artificially which will slow harvest and increase cost. We hope that Jack Frost will be late this year!

Tuesday August 20 the Franklin County Farm Bureau will be conducting their annual Corn Yield Tour of the county.  We are pretty sure that they will find record numbers in the fields this year.  The tour begins at 9 am and everyone will leave the Farm Bureau at that time to spread out and count the “ears” and the kernels.

U of I farm management specialist Gary Schnitkey says there continues to be a movement away from share-rent leases to cash rental arrangements.

While a number of reasons can be given for this switch, he says one of those should not necessarily be higher returns from cash rental arrangements. Since 2006, during a period of relatively high agricultural returns, share rent landlords received higher returns than the average cash rent as reported by NASS.

Share rent landlords had comparable returns to negotiated average cash rents on professionally managed farmland. Of course, many professionally managed acres have higher than average returns, likely following the desires of the owners of that farmland.

Comparison of share-rent returns to cash rents will be of interest in the next several years.

Schnitkey says lower agricultural returns likely will lead to lower cash rents. How fast cash rents will come down is an open question.

Share rent returns will react to the market; hence, share-rent returns will closely follow changes in market conditions. Just as share-rent returns moved up since 2006 as a reflection of higher agricultural returns, they will move down when agricultural returns are lower. This characteristic of share-rental arrangement may be an advantage, as renegotiations of cash rents do not have to occur during times of changing agricultural returns. It also could cause share-rent returns to be below cash rents in a declining agricultural return environment.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday the United States is at risk of losing its position as the preeminent exporter of corn, soybeans and other commodities unless Congress steps up its investment in the country’s aging infrastructure and moves quickly to pass a farm bill.

“We’re in a global marketplace and whatever advantages we have can disappear pretty quickly because other countries have extraordinary opportunities,” Vilsack said in an interview from Brazil where he is meeting with agricultural officials during a week-long trip. “If our Congress and House of Representatives can’t pass a farm bill, the message that sends to the rest of the world is we can be caught.”

Remember we are farmers working together. If we can help let us know.

Quinn signs law on gun background checks, thefts

Illinois gun owners who fail to report the theft or loss of a weapon will face tougher restrictions under a new law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn.

Here’s the link to the story.

Investigation continuing into fatal car accident

By Jim Muir

An investigation is continuing into a fatal single-vehicle car accident early Saturday morning that claimed the life of a 23-year-old Valier man.

Ronnie Jay Stroud was killed in the accident that took place on Illinois Route 148 north of Sesser and just north of the Franklin-Jefferson county line.  Stroud was the sole occupant of car, according to Illinois State Police.

In piecing together the details of the accident authorities believe the wreck took place at approximately 4 a.m. but was not discovered until 10 a.m. when an alert state trooper saw the skid marks on the highway and investigated and found Stroud’s vehicle down a large embankment.  Authorities believe the vehicle ran off the road at a high rate of speed, went airborne and hit a tree.  State police are investigating the accident and are waiting on toxicology reports.

Funeral services for Stroud have been set for Friday, August 23 at Brayfield-Gilbert Funeral Home in Sesser.  A complete obituary for Stroud can be found at



Faith Matters: As Uncle Sam would say, “Men, Your Country Needs You!”

By Jerry Travelstead

This Sunday, August 18th at 5 p.m. there will be a memorial service for Thomas Lee Williams at Valier 1st Baptist Church. Tom is a part of a dying breed of Godly men in our country. A breed of man who would proudly bear a t-shirt stating “God and Family are Life, the Rest is Just Details.”  I could go on and on about the positive male role model that Tom was to me and many others. From his bone crushing hand shake, which came with his decades of brick and block laying, to his ever so soft heart. Tom was truly a Godly man and an unequivocal male role model for any young (or not so young) man that he came in contact with. He will always be remembered as a pillar of strength, a pillar, standing firmly on the Rock of Salvation.

Psalms 62:2 says, “Truly he is my Rock and my Salvation; he is my Fortress, I will never be shaken.” Like never before, I feel this verse needs to be believed in. Jesus Christ is my Rock. Jesus Christ is my Salvation. Jesus Christ is my Fortress. And I will NEVER be shaken. We live in a culture where we have a mentality, or even an expectation, that everyone is to make mistakes, major mistakes. Don’t get me wrong I have made, and continue to make, mistakes every day of my life. However, as Christian men we have a responsibility. We have a responsibility to God, to our families, and to the young men and women around us. We need to stand up and be different! Our young men and women are inundated with poor examples of men of influence in our country who continue to disappoint.

We need Christian men, young and not so young, to stand up and make a commitment to God. To stand firm just as Thomas Lee Williams did throughout his life. We need to hold strong to Psalms 62:2. We need to remind ourselves daily that we influence those around us and ask God for the strength and wisdom to go about our lives in a way that glorifies Him. We need to go about our lives in a way in which other men look at us and know that we are serious about our Faith in God. We need to set our expectations high, knowing full well we will make mistakes. But, not allowing ourselves to make the kind of mistakes that permanently scar the young men and women around us. Accountability may have been lost a generation or two ago. But as Christian men it is mandatory that we bring in back into our lives.

Men of God, stand firm on the Rock of your Salvation! Do your part in raising the bar for the next generation. Put down your video game controller and pick up your Sword of the Spirit. Be a pillar in your family, in your church, in your community, and in your country. Refuse to be “shaken” as the psalmist stated. Take up your cross and follow Him.

Jerry Travelstead

Jerry Travelstead

Finally I would like to leave you with this well-known verse out of Ephesians.
Ephesians 6:10-19 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

Faith Matters – Perpetuating Freedom

By Kirk Packer

We live within a culture and a nation that places a high value on freedom.  Many cultures outside of our nation look at our freedom with a certain amount of envy.  Many of them long to live in such a place that allows the freedoms of choice that we enjoy.

Kirk Packer, pastor First Christian Church in Sesser

Kirk Packer, pastor First Christian Church in Sesser

However, if we are to perpetuate this freedom beyond our current generation, there are few worthy characteristics of freedom that must be understood.  First of all, our personal freedom is always limited.  What I mean by this is that as relational beings, we must always be willing to sacrifice desires for the sake of relationship with others.  We are created to live and thrive within relationships.  Relationships though, always require the suspension of our desires in order to meet the desires of another.  If we are unwilling to suspend our desires, we will find ourselves without relationship.  This is not a place any of us desires to be.  And so, we sacrifice for the sake of relationship.  Does this make us less free?  No, for we had the choice of which desires we would meet.

Another worthy characteristic of freedom is that you cannot have it without also being willing to submit.  This unfortunately is a word that many in our culture show nothing but disdain for.  However, you should know that it is absolutely essential for freedom to thrive.  So then where is our freedom?  Our freedom is in the blessing that we can choose to a certain extent who we submit too.  For instance, when I choose an employer, I am choosing who I will submit too.  When I choose a spouse, I am choosing who I will submit too.  When I vote for any kind of an official, I am choosing who I will submit too.  And finally, when I engage in worship, I am choosing who I will submit too.

The Packer Family

The Packer Family


If we do not grasp the importance of these two characteristics of freedom, we end up giving our freedom away, rather than perpetuating it for the next generation.  This occurs when the basis of my relationships and who I submit to is all about what I get in the immediate.  Rather than looking at the real heart of people I am in relationship with, I simply look at what I think I can get from them.  Rather than looking at the heart of the people I choose to submit too, I simply look at what they are promising me.  Both of these fallacies eventually lead to the loss of real freedom.

So let us perpetuate freedom by understanding its limits.  For if we do not live within the limits of a blessing such as freedom, we end up losing that freedom.

(Kirk Packer is the pastor of First Christian Church in Sesser, located at 212 W. Callie St. (Phone – 618-625-5092 and email –

New weekly column, “Faith Matters” coming to Franklin County News Online

Staff Report

Franklin County News-Online is pleased to announce a new weekly addition to our growing list of writers and columnists.

Pastors from the Sesser-Valier Ministerial Alliance will be contributing a column each week on a wide and diverse range of topics. The weekly endeavor — called “Faith Matters” – will run each Friday in FCN Online.

Owner/Publisher Jim Muir said he is excited about the new association with local pastors and believes the weekly column will provide commentary that will “inspire, motivate and add food for thought for our many readers.”

“While we were discussing the parameters of the weekly column the one item that was discussed the most was the content of the column,” said Muir. “I made it clear that I wanted to give the pastors a lot of freedom in their writing. I believe we will have columns that will range from what is happening at some local churches to points of view on national, state and local issues. I see this as being a great source of information for our readers, and more importantly I believe it will open a line of discussion on important issues.”

The Rev. Kirk Packer, president of the ministerial alliance and pastor of First Christian Church in Sesser, said he believes the weekly articles will be important in showing how faith is a part of our everyday life.

“One of the tragedies of our current culture is that many of us have bought the lie that our faith does not apply to the daily decisions of life.  This separation of faith and life has led us down a slope of darkness that will end in slavery,” said Packer.  “One of my hopes for this article is that through it we can show how faith impacts every facet of our lives and leads us to real freedom.  This truth flies in the face of the false notion that faith actually leads to oppression.  The history of the founding of our nation, affirms that faith applied to the core of all our decisions is actually the door to real freedom.”

Faith Matters will run each Friday in FCN Online and all the columns will be linked to Facebook.


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