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It’s not every day that a small hamlet in the Missouri Ozarks is in the middle of everything. But that was the case for tiny Wright County, Missouri, on Wednesday as dignitaries from the nation’s capital unveiled a marker designating a spot in the county as the center of population in the U.S. Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau debuted the red granite marker in Hartville, Missouri. Hartville is the county seat and it's located 14.6 miles from the actual spot. The nation’s population center is calculated every 10 years after the once-a-decade census.

Lottery officials say two people who wish to remain anonymous have claimed a $1.337 billion Mega Millions jackpot after a single ticket was sold in a Chicago suburb for a late July drawing, opting to take a lump sum payment of $780.5 million. The Illinois Lottery said Wednesday the prize for the July 29 drawing was claimed by two individuals who agreed to split the prize if they won. The lottery says it is unable to share any information about the winners except to say that they must be “over the moon” with their win. The jackpot-winning ticket was bought at a Speedway gas station and convenience store in Des Plaines. The jackpot was the nation’s third-largest lottery prize.

Venezuelans have surpassed Guatemalans and Hondurans to become the second-largest nationality stopped at the U.S. border in August after Mexicans. The trend of more Venezuelans is reflected in daily headlines. About 50 migrants that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis flew to the upscale Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard last week were Venezuelan, as were five of six men whom U.S. authorities found drowned in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas, in early September. An estimated 6.8 million Venezuelans have fled their country, mostly to Latin America and Caribbean countries but the U.S. has become a more attractive destination.

A report by a state inspector general says an Illinois prison system administrator improperly designated a family member for a Department of Corrections post that was never authorized. The Office of the Executive Inspector General for the Agencies of the Illinois Governor issued the report Tuesday. It determined that Larry Sims ordered the family member be hired as an intelligence officer even though that person had not applied and someone else had already been chosen. Sims was investigations commander for the state's southern region and was suspended for 30 days. The review found that Corrections has for years manipulated hiring by naming employees to the post of intelligence officer.

A jury has awarded $363 million to a woman who alleged that a now-shuttered suburban Chicago plant that sterilized medical equipment exposed residents to a toxic industrial gas and gave her breast cancer. After a five-week trial, the Cook County jury on Monday awarded 70-year-old Sue Kamuda $38 million in compensatory damages and $325 million in punitive damages. Kamuda's attorneys say she developed breast cancer in 2007 despite having no predisposition to it. She is the first of more than 700 people seeking damages from Oak Brook-based Sterigenics to go to trial over health claims over the plant’s releases of ethylene oxide gas. Lawyers for the companies argued that Kamuda’s attorneys offered no proof that her breast cancer was caused by exposure to ethylene oxide.

Officials say eight people were rushed to hospitals after being injured when an explosion Tuesday tore through the top floor of a Chicago apartment building. The explosion at the four-story, 36-unit apartment building occurred at about 9 a.m., officials said. The department conducted a search of the building and found no other victims underneath the debris. No cause of the explosion had been determined. The department said that the Chicago police bomb squad and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also responded.

Republican governors have been sending more migrants released at the U.S. border with Mexico to Democratic strongholds, raising questions about their legal status, how they are lured on board buses and planes, and the cost to taxpayers. The immigrants are at least temporarily allowed to be in the U.S. to pursue asylum or while on humanitarian parole. The Florida Legislature allocated $12 million for its program. Texas has committed billions of dollars to the governor's unprecedented move into border security that includes the bus trips. The city of El Paso last week contracted a private bus company at a cost of up to $2 million. It plans to seek reimbursement from the federal government.

St. Louis-area prosecutors say a convicted murderer serving a life sentence for killing a man in 1995 has confessed to strangling four women five years earlier. Prosecutors from Lincoln, St. Charles and St. Louis counties, which was where the victims’ bodies were found, said Monday that Gary Muehlberg, a 73-year-old inmate at the Potosi Correctional Center in southeastern Missouri, confessed to the 1990 killings. They say he did so after O’Fallon police Detective Jodi Weber reopened one of the cases and linked the woman's death to Muehlberg through DNA testing. Muehlberg was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for the killing of Kenneth Atchison. Prosecutors say Muehlberg agreed to cooperate in exchange for them not pursuing the death penalty.

The family of a U.S. veteran and civilian contractor Mark Frerichs, held more than two years in Afghanistan by Taliban, says he has been freed by the Taliban. Frerichs’ release appears to have been part of a swap and came as an imprisoned Taliban drug lord also said in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Monday that he had been freed from American custody. Frerichs’ sister said in a statement that her family had prayed every day for his release. Frerichs, a Navy veteran and civilian contractor, was kidnapped in Afghanistan on Jan. 31, 2020. Frerichs’ family, from Lombard, Illinois, did not immediately have more details.

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For art teacher Theresa Hopkins, encouraging students to find their passion has been the mantra of her teaching career that has spanned 25 years. She started with St. Louis Public Schools, and after eight years, moved to Washington Elementary in Normandy. 

Thank you to all the readers that nominated and voted for their favorites in our inaugural year for the STL Headliner awards. It has been an honor to play a small part in bringing recognition to the local businesses and professionals that go above and beyond the expectations of their customers.

The Hartford All-Star Awards recognize the businesses who received the most community support and most votes from each of the main groups – from Apparel to Retail and everything in between.

On Wednesday, August 31, 2022, the 2022 STL Headliner winners and favorites were invited to a one-of-a-kind event at the Ritz-Carlton. Local businesses walked the Together Credit Union red carpet, received their awards, celebrated with Vin Fraiche wine and Ketel One cocktails while enjoying …

Two Chicago police officers face felony charges for allegedly shooting and seriously wounding an unarmed man during a July shootout on the city’s southwest side that also wounded a second man. Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said Friday that Sgt. Christopher Liakopoulos and Officer Ruben Reynoso have been charged with one count each of aggravated battery with a firearm, aggravated discharge of a firearm and official misconduct. Foxx says the officers were relieved of their police powers Thursday. They appeared at a bond hearing Friday. Foxx says both officers “are being charged with having fired their shots” that wounded an unarmed man on July 22. The man, Miguel Medina, is suing Liakopoulos and the city.

Democratic Missouri U.S. Senate candidate Trudy Busch Valentine called for compassion for immigrants, criticized the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade and pressed the need to address climate change during a candidate forum before a gathering of journalists on Friday. The gathering was notable for the absence of Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt, the race’s clear frontrunner. Schmitt is the first major party candidate for U.S. Senate or governor to decline to participate in the press association’s candidate forums in two decades. Schmitt says he agreed to a statewide televised debate in October, one that Valentine has not committed to.

A former Kansas City, Kansas, police detective who has long been accused of sexually preying on Black women has been indicted on federal charges accusing him of using his position to sexually abuse two women. Sixty-nine-year-old Roger Golubski was arrested Thursday morning at his home in Edwardsville, Kansas, on six counts of civil rights violations. He is accused of sexually assaulting two women between 1998 and 2002. The indictment doesn't state the women's race. Lamont McIntyre, who spent 23 years in prison for a double murder he didn't commit, sued Golubski and other officers this year. He and his mother alleged that Golubski framed McIntyre after his mother refused Golubski's sexual demands. The lawsuit was settled for $12.5 million.

Republican governors are escalating their practice of sending migrants without advance warning to Democratic strongholds, including a wealthy summer enclave in Massachusetts and the Washington, D.C., home of Vice President Kamala Harris. They are taunting leaders of immigrant-friendly “sanctuary” cities and highlighting their opposition to Biden administration border policies. The governors of Texas and Arizona have sent thousands of migrants on buses to New York, Chicago and Washington in recent months. But the latest surprise moves — which included two flights to Martha’s Vineyard Wednesday paid for by Florida’s governor — were derided by critics as inhumane political theater.

Oil titan BP has agreed to pay $2.75 million to settle a lawsuit over air pollution from its largest refinery. Environmentalists had sued over emissions from the Whiting facility on the Lake Michigan shoreline between Hammond, Indiana, and Chicago. It's the second deal reached between advocacy groups and the company in the past year over releases of “particulate matter” from the refinery. The sooty materials are linked to asthma and cardiovascular illnesses. The facility processes crude oil for fuels and asphalt. Under the deal, the payments will be divided between a government fund for clean air enforcement and environmental projects in the area.

A federal jury in Chicago convicted R. Kelly on Wednesday of producing child pornography and enticing girls for sex after a monthlong trial in his hometown. It's another legal blow to a singer who was once one of the world’s biggest R&B stars. Prosecutors won convictions on six of the 13 counts against him, with many of the convictions carrying long mandatory sentences. But the government lost the marquee count —  that Kelly and his then-business manager successfully rigged his state child pornography trial in 2008. Both of Kelly's co-defendants, including longtime business manager Derrel McDavid, were acquitted of all charges.

Civil rights advocates in St. Louis are demanding an investigation into the conditions at the city jail, where six detainees have died since April. A coalition made up of the ArchCity Defenders law firm, Action St. Louis, Freedom Community Center, Metropolitan Congregational United, Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center and the St. Louis public defenders office said Wednesday that it is seeking more information on the deaths at the City Justice Center. It also called for the release of all detainees accused of lower-level crimes and those with serious medical conditions. Two riots broke out early last year at the jail, where detainees have long complained about the conditions and lengthy pretrial detentions.

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