Susan Stephens

WNIJ News Reporter/Producer

Susan’s parents should have known she’d end up in radio: her favorite toys were tape recorders, cameras, notepads, and books. Many years later, she’s an award-winning reporter at her favorite radio station. Formerly WNIJ’s News Director, she asked to return to the role of full-time reporter/anchor/utility player in 2010 (less paperwork, more reporting!). Her #1 goal is to tell the most compelling stories in the fewest words possible…all the better if a little humor can be thrown into the mix.  It should come as no surprise, then, that she can whip up a haiku for any occasion. She also enjoys the Detroit Tigers, learning pioneer skills (Gardening, canning, and the like. Just in case.), traveling with friends, and pretending she’s going to get around to playing her theremin.

Illinois Department of Corrections / illinois.gov/IDOC

Update: The Illinois Prisoner Review Board again denied parole for Chester Weger at its hearing this morning. The vote was 9 to 4.

The man serving life in prison for the notorious “Starved Rock Murders” half a century ago had his annual date with the Illinois Prisoner Review Board.

Life in prison meant something different back in 1961: freedom was possible someday, if the state’s Prisoner Review Board decided you were no longer a threat to others.

Rockford Public Schools / RPS205.com

Plans to build two new elementary schools in Rockford are back on track.

The Rockford School Board voted last night to proceed with its ten-year facilities plan -- particularly the construction of the two schools that will replace five outdated buildings on the city’s southeast side, at a cost of $42 million.

The board had delayed a vote so members could determine if the district really could afford the schools on top of major renovations and everyday expenses.

Dial-A-Carol / Dial A Carol website

In a world where you can pick up your mobile device and hear just about any song, any time, a group of University of Illinois students is carrying on a tradition that’s definitely old-school. 

In 1960, a secretary at the U of I had a big idea, and the students living in Snyder Hall took her up on it. Anyone, anywhere, anytime, could pick up a phone and students would deliver some holiday cheer. Dial-A-Carol was born.

Today, Dial-A-Carol is still going strong. In fact, it’s bigger than ever. They’ve already blown past last year’s record-breaking 6,800-plus calls.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

It may not look like a “winter wonderland” in northern Illinois right now, but it will SOUND like one this weekend in downtown Rockford. That’s because J.R. Sullivan’s 20th production of his “Hometown Holiday” variety show hits the stage at the Nordlof Center. 

One of the themes this time around is an unhappy Santa: he's tired of night-flying in his sleigh, he's sick of gluten-free cookies, and he's just not feeling the magic any more. Not so for Hometown Holiday founder J.R. Sullivan, who is still feeling the spirit more than two decades after he put together the first show. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A massive project at the Chicago-Rockford International Airport is back on track, thanks to a collaboration by five local banks. 

unknown Navy photographer / U.S. Archives

The bombing of Pearl Harbor took place 74 years ago and thousands of miles away, but it’s the focus for one LaSalle County city this weekend. Peru holds its annual Pearl Harbor Day parade tomorrow.

It’s one of the shortest parades in Illinois, but one of the most powerful. This will be the 36th year veterans will gather at the Peru Rescue Station along the Illinois River, march several blocks to the South Shore Boat Club, and hold a ceremony honoring those who died at Pearl Harbor and those who survived.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Want to buy a trophy? Bridget Edgar hopes so. She’s the winner of the U.S. Marshals Service auction of hundreds of Rita Crundwell’s trophies, plaques, and statues. 

Crundwell is the former comptroller of Dixon who stole nearly $54 million from her hometown. Much of it was used to support her award-winning horse-breeding operations. She is now serving a nearly two-decade prison sentence. Her horses, homes and other possessions have been auctioned off by the federal government to help pay the cost of her prosecution and repay the city of Dixon.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A nasty bacteria is prompting a reminder from the Winnebago County Health Department: “wash your hands!”

There have been 34 cases of shigella reported over the past month in the county, mostly among young children. Health department spokesman Todd Kisner says parents and caregivers are being asked to be extra-vigilant when it comes to getting kids and hygiene:

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Former Rockford Police Chief Chet Epperson doesn’t miss the phone calls and emails that piled up every day during his decade as his hometown’s top cop. But he already misses the constant crises that make up the life of a police chief.

Epperson retired at the age of 53 on November 13th. He’s devoting more time to his family and his new job as an expert on police use of force on the federal monitoring team for the New Orleans police department.

Epperson sat down with WNIJ’s Susan Stephens last week to talk about his 33 year police career. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The Rockford area has a long history of women’s baseball, from the Rockford Peaches in the '40s and '50s to today’s Starfires. Now it’s trying to capitalize on that history by wooing the International Women’s Baseball Center to build a museum there.

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