Cleve Heidelberg case assigned to Circuit Judge

Cleve Heidelberg has been in prison for 45 years, always maintaining his innocence in the murder of Peoria County Sheriff’s Sgt. Raymond Espinoza. His case will now be reviewed by an associate judge in the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court.

A petition seeking a special prosecutor for Heidelberg has been assigned to Judge Kirk Schoenbein.

Six days after receiving the petition on April 21 from attorneys Andy Hale and Don Jackson asking for a special prosecutor to review the Heidelberg murder conviction, Chief Judge Stephen Kouri assigned the case to Schoenbein.

Hale and Jackson are the first attorneys to study this case and become convinced of Heidelberg’s innocence.

Now 73 and in declining health, Heidelberg has been in prison since his conviction in 1970 for the Espinoza murder. Heidelberg has steadfastly maintained his innocence but has failed to convince a legal ally until Hale agreed to look at the case a year ago.

Hale said he began his review with skepticism but was shocked by problems with the investigation and prosecution. He reconstructed the crime with the assistance of private investigator Marcella Teplitz, and the two have concluded police arrested the wrong man.

Reached Monday evening, Hale indicated by email that Judge Kouri decided to assign the case to another judge rather than hear the case himself. It does not mean Kouri made any initial assessment of the merits of the petition.

Hale had sent a letter to Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady in December asking him to reopen the case. Brady declined, saying he did not find any compelling new evidence to convince him Heidelberg was innocent.







Petition filed to reopen Cleve Heidelberg murder conviction



Attorneys Don Jackson, left, and Andy Hale speak at a press conference Thursday announcing a court petition they filed seeking a special prosecutor to re-examine the murder conviction of  Cleve Heidelberg who has been in prison since 1970.


What could prove to be one of Peoria’s most egregious criminal prosecutions was dissected, analyzed and challenged in a 98-page petition filed Thursday morning in Peoria County Court.

The trial was 46 years ago, and the defendant has been in prison since then.

Attorneys Andy Hale and Don Jackson are seeking a special prosecutor to review all records and additional new evidence they have unearthed regarding the conviction of Cleve Heidelberg for the murder of Peoria County Sheriff’s Sgt. Raymond Espinoza in 1970. Heidelberg, now 73, has been in prison since he was 33.

The petition begins:

“In the early morning hours of May 26, 1970, a lynching took place in Peoria, Illinois. There was no rope or tree and the man did not lose his physical life. But make no mistake; Cleve Heidelberg’s life was taken from him through the unspeakable abuse of State power as surely as if his body had been left hanging from a tree.”

During a press conference held after filing the petition Hale said that after spending more than a year reviewing court documents, examining evidence and conducting interviews, he is convinced of Heidelberg’s innocence.

“No doubt in my mind,” he said.

Jackson, who is president of the Peoria NAACP, said there are many troubling aspects to the case, including items taken from the scene of the accident that were flown to an FBI lab in Washington, D.C. Yet the FBI report was never submitted to the court, most likely because it was labeled “negative” meaning no fingerprints from Heidelberg were found on the gun used in the crime.

Evidence was withheld, witnesses were coached, one witness was paid and normal police investigative protocol was ignored in this case, the two attorneys said.

More surprisingly, another person confessed to the murder before Heidelberg was convicted. That person was James Clark who died shortly after Hale started investigating the case a year ago.

The 1970s was an era when racial tension was sweeping the country and Black Panthers were in the news. This case involved the murder of a white police officer by a black man.

Jackson said during the press conference that it was especially troubling to look back through the records and see how many African American men testified Heidelberg was not in the car, not part of the discussion leading up to the crime and not involved in the crime.

Hale said he sent letters to all names of people involved in the case in 1970 asking to meet and discuss the case. He would like to hear from anyone who has evidence of Heidelberg’s guilt because he has not found any, he said at the press conference.

Before filing a petition with the court, Hale had asked Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady to examine the case, but Brady refused to do so saying the evidence does not support reopening the case.

At the press conference, Hale said Brady has a conflict of interest because even though he was not state’s attorney at the time, he was being asked to investigate his own office.

Hale also said Brady was obligated under a new rule that went into effect Jan. 1, 2016, to reopen a case when clear and convincing evidence is submitted that a defendant did not commit a crime.

“Jerry Brady did not follow the rules of professional conduct,” Hale said.

Brady responded that he reviewed all the information Hale submitted and other material before deciding not to reopen the case.

He said he’s very aware of the new rule that went into effect Jan. 1 and there was no violation on his part.

“We don’t try these things in the press,” he said, noting that Hale could file for post conviction relief in which he would set out the basis of seeking a new trial, and he has not done that.

Chief Judge Stephen Kouri met briefly with Hale and Jackson when the petition was filed and indicated he would review the documents and be in touch with the two attorneys within a week.

The press conference was held in the offices of private investigator Marcella Teplitz who is working with Hale and Jackson on the case.

Read past coverage of the case in Community Word at:

Dr. Tyrone Hayes talk on atrazine, frogs and corporate spin: 7 p.m. April 20, Knox College

Knox College’s spring EquiKnox Lecture will feature a discussion on the herbicide atrazine and its impact on the environment, especially how it adversely affects frogs. Biologist Tyrone Hayes, a professor at University of California-Berkeley who is known for his research on the subject, will present the lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, in Kresge Recital Hall, Ford Center for the Fine Arts.

The event is free and open to the public.

Hayes will speak about his work and his conflict with Syngenta, an agribusiness company that manufactures atrazine.

He was invited to the Knox campus by Knox Advocates for Recycling and Environmental Sustainability, a campus environmental group also known as KARES. According to KARES, Hayes began researching atrazine in 1997, and when his research revealed unexpected toxicities, he was refused funding for future research.

The EquiKnox Lecture is one of several activities planned at Knox as part of Earth Month. Other events include a 5K run/walk and an Earth Day festival.

Join Hundreds to Rally in Springfield for CleanEnergy


PEORIA RESIDENTS To Join Hundreds to Rally in Springfield for Clean Energy and Climate Action for Earth Day

Citizens from Across Illinois Will Voice Support for Illinois Clean Jobs Bill (HB 2607/SB1485)

WHAT: Caravan of Peoria residents heading to Springfield to demand clean jobs and climate action; support Illinois Clean Jobs Bill

WHEN: Thursday, April 21, 2015 at 8 AM CT


Unitarian Universalist Church, 3000 W Richwoods Blvd, Peoria, IL 61604



  • Gene Mialkowski (tentative), Artist and Local Small Business Owner

  • Robin Garlish, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance

  • Other speakers TBA


BACKGROUND: On Thursday, April 21, a caravan of Peoria residents driving hybrid vehicles will join citizens from across the state of Illinois will rally for clean energy and climate action at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. The citizens will be in Springfield to voice support for the bipartisan Illinois Clean Jobs Bill (HB 2607/SB1485), and many of the bill’s legislative co-sponsors will rally with citizens outside the Capitol.


Energy policy is among the key issues that’ve been debated in the Illinois legislature in the past year. In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Clean Power Plan, giving states the opportunity to create plans to cut carbon pollution and grow clean energy jobs.


Illinois, once a clear leader in clean energy jobs in the Midwest, is losing jobs due to broken renewable energy policies. Moreover, if the state’s budget impasse is not resolved by May 31, it would mean a loss of $76 million for energy efficiency projects across Illinois. Schools, libraries and fire stations will receive these funds for energy efficiency upgrades, but will miss out on the funding if no budget is passed.


The Illinois Clean Jobs Bill will strengthen policies to ramp up renewable energy like wind and solar to 35 percent by 2030 and cut energy use through efficiency by 20 percent by 2025. These efforts will save consumers money while bringing clean energy investment to new communities to strengthen local tax bases and create family-sustaining jobs. The bill will also create an estimated 32,000 new jobs annually once fully implemented.


The crowd in Springfield will include faith leaders, students, clean energy businesses, health advocates and many more.



The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition is made up of Illinois businesses and organizations representing the state’s environmental, business and faith communities. Currently more than 160 businesses and 60 organizations have formally joined the coalition to promote steps to improve the Illinois environment, help consumers, improve public health, and create tens of thousands of new jobs across the state.

League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria Announces Final Redistricting Events

The League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria is sponsoring two final redistricting events on Wednesday, April 20 from 11 am to 1 pm.

Both will take place at the two Thirty-thirty Coffee locations, at 5901 N Prospect Rd #7 in Junction City and 734 Main St. in downtown Peoria.

Registered voters can sign the redistricting reform petitions, get their finished petitions notarized, and turn in completed sheets.

This good government effort would change the way district lines are drawn for the Illinois House and Senate, from politicians drawing the district lines to an independent commission drawing the district lines. This would stop gerrymandering and hopefully lead to more competitive districts and more candidates running.



Peace for Peoria will host a Q&A at the Peoria Civic Center Theater on Monday, May 16 from 7:00-8:30 p.m. A panel of local civic, business, and religious leaders will answer questions from attendees about Islam and Muslims in an effort to promote peace and understanding through education.

Opening remarks will be delivered by Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, OSF President Michael Cruz, Unity Point President Debbie Simon, and Bradley University President Gary Roberts, with a panel Q&A session to follow. Mayor Jim Ardis will provide closing remarks.

Peace for Peoria is accepting questions ahead of the event to determine which questions are asked most and ensure those are addressed. To submit your question, email To RSVP for the event, go to

Peace for Peoria is an interfaith alliance dedicated to fighting fear by opening doors and hearts, bringing people of diverse faiths together in opposition to irrational fear of Islam and Muslims, building loving relationships rooted in the traditions of each faith without denying their differences, and fellowshipping with the entire city of Peoria.

This event follows Peace for Peoria’s March 7 kickoff, “Know Islam. Know Peace.” Over 700 people attended the standing-room-only interfaith unity event at the Islamic Foundation of Peoria.












Peoria ACLU Celebrates 55th Anniversary at Annual Meeting April 28

The Peoria ACLU Chapter’s annual meeting on Thursday, April 28, 2016 will feature Colleen Connell, Executive Director of the Illinois ACLU. She will speak on Religious Refusals and the Threat to Religious Liberty and Healthcare.

The event takes place at the IVY Club, 1502 N. Galena Road, Peoria Heights, and begins with a social hour at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6:30 p.m. with the program, presentation of awards and election of officers to follow.

Guest speaker Connell has argued before courts in both the state and federal justice systems, including the Supreme Court of the United States, on important matters involving the rights of women to control their own reproductive health.  Ms. Connell has directed the organization’s litigation efforts involving constitutional rights of privacy and the rights of Illinois citizens to make decisions concerning reproductive matters without undue governmental restriction.

The Sam Belfer Award will be presented to the Peoria Housing Authority and its security officer Jerry McKean. The PHA board revised trespass list policies to provide due process to those placed on the list, namely a way to challenge the listing and have the name removed.  Officer Jerry McKean has gone above and beyond in his efforts to monitor the list as well as remove inappropriate and/or outdated names. The David Citron Award for an ACLU member goes to Jean Sanger for her leadership and service on the ACLU board as well as several other important civic boards of directors in Peoria in recent years.

Two special awards for civic activities also will be presented.  They go to the Collaboration that developed the Peoria School District 150 Comprehensive Sexuality Education Program that is comprehensive and accurate, and to Kamil Mufti, resident scholar and imam at the Islamic Foundation of Peoria, for strengthening understanding of freedom of religion and distinguishing between free speech and hate speech.

Reservations for the dinner must be made by April 22. Contact Elaine Hopkins, 309-231-5758 for more information or the chapter website, The dinner costs $45. The public is invited, and welcome to attend the program free of charge.

Attorney to petition court to reopen Heidelberg case


Attorney Andrew Hale is completing a comprehensive petition he expects to file within the next two weeks with the 10th Judicial Circuit Court in Peoria asking the court to reopen the 1970 murder conviction of Cleve Heidelberg.

Hale said his petition includes new and compelling evidence that Heidelberg is innocent in the murder of Peoria County Sheriff’s Sgt. Raymond Espinoza. The petition includes sworn affidavits from people willing to testify in court under oath about critical information that supports Heidelberg’s claim of innocence, Hale said.

In one sworn affidavit signed March 25, Matthew Clark recounts his brother’s confession to the Espinoza murder.

During the 1970 trial, none of the people cited in this new petition testified, Hale said.

Heidelberg was sentenced to life in prison and has spent 45 years behind bars.

The Heidelberg case came to the attention of Hale, a Chicago attorney, who has been investigating the murder for the past year and is convinced of Heidelberg’s innocence.

“100 percent convinced,” Hale said in a recent interview.

He flew to California to meet with Matthew Clark, brother of the man who confessed to the murder.

Clark, 75 and now living in Pasadena, states in a sworn affidavit that his brother James and another friend had borrowed Heidelberg’s car.

It was in the early morning hours of May 26, 1970, that James Clark drove the car to the old Bellevue Drive-in movie theater on Harmon Highway where he shot and killed Espinoza and fled the scene, crashing the car into a parked vehicle after turning onto Blaine and Butler streets and then fleeing north on foot.

In the affidavit, Clark said he was pressured by the state’s attorney’s office in 1970 to implicate Heidelberg, but he refused.

Clark states in the affidavit he was one of 16 brothers and sisters growing up in Peoria. One younger brother Mark Clark was shot and killed by Chicago police during a raid on the Black Panthers headquarters. Panther leader Fred Hampton was also shot and killed in that raid.

In the months following that shooting, Clark said his older brother James became increasingly upset with police. It was during his attempted armed robbery of the Bellevue Drive-in theater that James Clark said he saw a sheriff’s patrol car approaching and fired through the windshield. He said at the time “It was kill or be killed.”

In the affidavit, Matthew Clark stated that his brother James was arrested in Rock Island in July, and FBI agents came to question him about finding his fingerprints on evidence relating to the shooting of Espinoza months earlier in Peoria.

FBI reports from that interview have not been located by either Hale or Marcella Teplitz, a private investigator in Peoria working with Hale on the case.

Hale documented his research in a report submitted in December to Peoria County State’s Attorney Jerry Brady asking that the case be reopened. Brady declined.

“Based on what I reviewed, I did not find a basis to reopen the case,” Brady said recently, declining further comment.

Matthew Clark’s signed affidavit clearly indicates there was reasonable doubt about Heidelberg’s innocence from the beginning, Hale said, yet police, FBI, the prosecutor and the judge proceeded with a case to convict Heidelberg.

Hale said, “The police built a case against Cleve Heidelberg the very night of the shooting and they got all the witnesses on board. The police and prosecutor did not want to come off that version and look at other explanations.”

Neither Hale nor Teplitz have been able to locate the FBI report of the Rock Island interview with James Clark.

“The police manufactured this case. Every police officer who touched this case was involved. It was the job of the prosecutor to put a stop to it, and they all bear responsibility for what happened,” Hale said.

In his petition, Hale is asking the court to appoint a special prosecutor to reopen and investigate the case.

He cited new rules that went into effect in Illinois on Jan. 1 compelling prosecutors to make reasonable efforts to investigate new and credible evidence and seek remedy in previous cases that may have resulted in wrongful convictions.

“The Peoria County State’s Attorney has failed to do that,” Hale said, citing a recent DeKalb case in which the state’s attorney issued a comprehensive report documenting facts leading him to overturn a previous conviction.

“I’m not asking for the release of Cleve Heidelberg,” Hale said. “I’m asking to reopen and review the case. If there is no second look at a case when another guy confessed, when is a second look justified?”

James Clark who confessed to the murder of Sgt. Espinoza died in 2015.

West Bluff Grand Tour of Homes: May 15

The Grand Tour

                                                                  West Bluff Homes of Peoria, Illinois

Kathleen Greenberg, Chairperson-1212 N. Parkside Dr. Peoria IL. 61606

LaDonna Bobbitt, Treas.-1006 W. Moss Ave., Peoria IL 61606

The Grand Tour of Homes is proud to present some of Peoria’s fine historical and architectural heritage on the 2013 Grand Tour. On Sunday, May 15th 2016 from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. the general public is invited to tour five West Bluff homes and the Main Street corridor’s shops and artists. For thirty years the Grand Tour has had the privilege of highlighting these treasures and sharing them with the community.

The West Bluff began in the mid-1800, when stately mansions were built by Peoria’s most prominent citizens and lined High-Wine Street, Moss Avenue and Randolph Ave. Today the area includes Bradley Park, Bradley University and ten neighborhoods: Armstrong-Ellis, Arbor District, Columbia Terrace North, Cottage District, Orchard District, High-Wine, Uplands, Moss-Bradley, Randolph-Roanoke and University East.

Funds raised from the tour are used to beautify the West Bluff, Ticket donations are $12 in advance and $15 the day of the Tour, and tickets can be purchased from the following participating businesses: Sterling Flower Shoppe 3017 N. Sterling Ave. Peoria, Broken Tree Cafe, Excel, Moon Dancer, and Urban Artifacts, Main St. and Sheridan Peoria. Vintage Romance 608 W. Main St. Peoria, Relics 1219 W. Glen Ave. Peoria, Olde Hair Shoppe 2128 W. Rohmann Ave. West Peoria, Random Apparel Junction City, Pink Sugar Junction City, Fred’s Shoe Repair 3033 N. University Peoria, Rhythm Kitchen 305 SW. Water St. Peoria; Gregg Florist, 1015 E. War Memorial Dr., Peoria Heights

And Marilyn’s Bow K 3711 Granville Ave. Bartonville, Il

Tickets also available from committee members, for more information please call Kathleen (above), LaDonna Bobbitt (309)672-1831, or committee member Connie Wright (309)674-2330

The Grand Tour, an Illinois nonprofit corporation







Laura Evancho, Executive Director Heartland Festival Orchestra, recognized by Illinois Council of Orchestras

Illinois Council of Orchestras Announces Annual Awards

The Illinois Council of Orchestras is pleased to announce the 2016 recipients of its annual awards for excellence in the field of music performance and for support of musical organizations. An awards panel of judges drawn from the Illinois Council of Orchestras Board of Directors and independent professional musicians reviewed nominations representing orchestras, youth orchestras, and chamber ensembles from throughout Illinois.

 The 2016 ICO Awards:

Professional Orchestra of the Year                                                                Elgin Symphony Orchestra

Andrew Grams, Music Director

Community Orchestra of the Year                                                  Lakeview Orchestra

Gregory Hughes, Artistic Director

Youth Orchestra of the Year                                                                             Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra

Allen Tinkham, Music Director

 Conductor of the Year (professional orchestra category)                           Steven Larsen, Music Director

Rockford Symphony Orchestra

 Conductor of the Year (community orchestra category)                             Gregory Hughes, Artistic Director

Lakeview Orchestra

 Executive Director or General Manager of the Year                    Laura Evancho, Executive Director

Heartland Festival Orchestra

 Guild of the Year                                                                                 Friends of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra

Volunteer of the Year                                                                                         Taylor Scott

Lakeview Orchestra



The Illinois Council of Orchestras was founded in 1974 with a mission:

  • to encourage, promote, and assist orchestras throughout the State of Illinois
  • to promote an exchange of information among members, including providing consultants and speakers
  • to hold educational conferences for member organizations, including musicians, staff, boards, volunteers, and audiences.