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2019 Year in Review

(WEEK) -- As the new year approaches, WEEK takes a look back at the top stories of 2019, in terms of coverage and community impact.

Rivian Automotive expanding

The electric-vehicle manufacturer had several large announcements in 2019, including millions of dollars in funding and a contract to supply Amazon with an electric fleet of vans.

The latest round of funding, led by T. Rowe Price, totaled $1.3 billion in December. This followed two other large investments of $700 and $500 million. Rivian purchased the former Mitsubishi Plant in 2017. By 2020 when production begins, Rivian leadership said it expects to employ 1,000.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen beatification planned, then postponed

After a three-year long litigious bout between the Archdiocese of New York and the Peoria Diocese, Archbishop Fulton Sheen's remains were returned to Peoria at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception.

Following the return of Sheen's remains, the Vatican then called for Sheen's beatification to be held in December of 2019. However, the ceremony was postponed due to a few members of the Bishop's Conference asking for further consideration.

Peoria County loses three leaders in same week

The week of June 10, 2019 saw the deaths of three leaders of Peoria County.

Peoria County State's Attorney Jerry Brady, County Clerk Steve Sonnemaker and County Board Member Dr. Greg Adamson all died in the same week, with memorial services having hundreds attend to pay respects.

Peoria's deadliest year in two decades

The city of Peoria recorded 25 homicides in 2019, making it the deadliest year in two decades.

One of the homicide victims, 4-year-old Jeremiah Ward, was shot to death in May, causing an outcry from community leaders about reducing violence in the city.

However, the killings continued after Ward's death, including one of a 14 year old, Zaveon Marks, was found guilty by a jury in the shooting death of 16-year-old Zarious Fair.

Heavy rains delay planting season for Illinois farmers

Aside from the Illinois River being at flood warning stage for nearly six months, area farmers were also impacted by the heavy spring rains.

Planting season was about a month behind, pushing back the harvest. In late September, the Peoria County Farm Bureau reported only 5 percent of crops had been harvested.

Jesus statue vandalized in Peoria's south side

A statue of Jesus Christ with the hopes of bringing a community together was vandalized in July in Peoria’s south side, leaving a hole where the face should be and the hands removed.

The community then rallied to help raise funds for a new statue to be placed at Serenity Memorial Park. Initial costs were estimated at $15,000 to replace the statue.

The new one was placed at the park in December, with a formal unveiling to take place in the spring of 2020.

Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy Troy Chisum killed in the line of duty

Sheriff's Deputy Troy Chisum was responding to a disturbance and battery call June 25 in rural Avon, when the alleged shooter opened fire and Chisum was killed.

The four and a half year veteran of the Fulton County Sheriff's Office was honored by hundreds at his funeral. Over 400 first-responder vehicles could be seen outside of Cuba High School, where his funeral was held.

9-year-old boy charged with murder in Goodfield fire that left 5 dead

Five people were killed in a trailer fire in Goodfield in April.

First responders arrived at the fire at 14 Cypress Court in the Timberline trailer court around 11:15 p.m. The trailer was fully engulfed when first responders arrived.

A 9-year-old boy, who escaped the fire, has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder in connection to the blaze. The child also faces one charge of aggravated arson and two counts of arson.

Four coal-fired power plants set to close in central Illinois

In August, Vistra Energy announced it was shuttering four coal-fired power plants in Illinois -- the Duck Creek Power Plant in Canton, Havana Power Plant, Hennepin Power Plant and the Coffeen Power Plant.

The energy company cites the need to meet requirements of the Multi-Pollutant Standard rule imposed by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.

Local civil rights activist Merlin Kennedy dies

Courtesy: McLean County Museum of History

Merlin Kennedy, a former president of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP Chapter, was known for his civil rights efforts in central Illinois, and his work related to the fair housing act in the twin cities.

In the 1960s, Kennedy made efforts for a black Santa Claus to be a part of the Twin Cities Christmas Parade. Even with the threat of arrest, Kennedy walked the entire parade route in 1966.

He passed away in October at the age of 92.

Charges against Aaron Schock dropped

In March 2019, federal prosecutors and Aaron Schock's legal team made a deal to have the corruption charges against him dropped, almost four years after he resigned from Congress.

The former U.S. Rep of Illinois' 18th District was facing an indictment and over 20 felony charges, but as long as he agreed to pay back the money to the IRS and his campaign fund, the charges would be gone.

Instead, his campaign committee pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour charge for failing to properly report expenses as part of the deal.

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