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Afternoon Edition: Sept. 11, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

Hallena Johnson, the mother of Kiara Windom, poses for a portrait in the hallway of her mother’s home in Homewood last week.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be cloudy and rainy again, with a high near 67 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 62 degrees. Tomorrow, expect more rain and a high near 70 degrees before a sunny Sunday with a high near 76 degrees.

Top story

Long delays for justice in Cook County: ‘I’m not at peace,’ mother of murder victim says

Hallena Johnson replays the last time she saw her daughter over and over in her head.

It was August 2009, and Johnson had a pizza delivered to her home in Harvey for herself and her 18-year-old daughter Kiara Windom. “I told her, ‘When the pizza comes, save some,’” said Johnson, who wasn’t feeling well and dozed off.

When she woke up, she found the pizza uneaten and her daughter gone. She never saw her alive again.

Sonny Pierce has been charged with murder in Windom’s strangulation death and that of 18-year-old Kimika Coleman. Pierce used phone chat lines to lure the young women to his ramshackle Blue Island apartment, and DNA evidence links him to their killings, according to prosecutors.

A third teenager, 17-year-old Mariah Edwards, went missing in July 2010, and police have said they recovered a recording of Pierce with her “lifeless body.” They said he admitted he sexually assaulted Edwards and beat her to death. Her body was never found.

In 2010, then-Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said the young women’s lives were cut short in “yet another example of heinous crimes of violence against women.”

Saying he didn’t kill anyone, Pierce told reporters, “The only thing I am guilty of is having consensual sex with too many women.”

A decade later, Pierce remains at the Cook County Jail, still awaiting trial, at the extreme end of the growing number of murder suspects whose criminal cases have dragged on for years in Cook County. Nearly 500 people have been detained continuously in the Cook County Jail for at least three years, according to our analysis. Most are awaiting trial for murder.

More than 130 people have been jailed even longer — at least five years, records show. Six have been there for nine years. Pierce is one of two who have been in the jail for a decade.

Johnson said the delays in prosecuting Pierce have robbed her of justice: “It’s been a long time,” said the 52-year-old. “I wanted him to be convicted of what he did. I wanted to get justice. I wanted to be at peace. I’m not at peace.”

She said prosecutors regularly update her when Pierce is called into court for a hearing. But she can’t bear to go to because nothing ever happens.

Johnson thinks of her daughter often. “On her birthday, we will watch a clip of her,” she says. “I will talk to her. Pray. I know she is in a better place than I am. I know one day we will meet up. Until then, I want justice for her. I want him to suffer just like she suffered.”

Read Frank Main’s full story for a deep dive into the issue of long jail stays and delayed felony prosecutions in Cook County.

More news you need

  1. Two sitting Cook County circuit judges and three retired judges are partners in an investment club with indicted Ald. Edward M. Burke, records show. The longtime friends said they regularly met for breakfast and decided to pool their money so they’d have something to talk about. Injustice Watch has the story.
  2. The former chief of staff to Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson pleaded guilty today to lying to the FBI, three weeks after his tenure at the school system suddenly ended. . Pedro Soto also admitted to providing inside information during the bidding process for a $1 billion cleaning contract with the school system.
  3. Five days after an 8-year-old girl was murdered on the South Side, a local anti-violence group announced a $10,000 reward for anyone with information that could lead to the arrest of the shooter. Dajore Wilson was in an SUV with family members when someone in another car opened fire.
  4. Carolyn Capizzi and her husband Jerry Capizzi, who was one of the world’s best-known collectors of Ford automobiles, have died within three days of each other of complications from the coronavirus. Relatives announced that the Capizzis died in Park Ridge, where they’d lived since the 1970s.

A bright one

Chicago native Danny Gardner aims to change the game for Black crime fiction writers

Danny Gardner knows what it’s like to be a Black author who has to go through gatekeepers in literary spaces often dominated by white publishers to explain Black life.

“There’s a little code-switching, but, when you from Chicago and you want a job one day, you got to talk like you want someone to understand you, right?” Gardner said.

Now, his newest book, “Ace Boon Coon: The Tales of Elliot Caprice,” will be launching via the publishing company he founded. With Bronzeville Books, Gardner said he aims to publish the work of Black creatives and people from other underrepresented groups who specialize in mystery, crime, suspense, romance and adventure.

Author and Washington Heights native Danny Gardner.

The protagonist of “Ace Boon Coon,” scheduled for a Sept. 15 release, is a disgraced Black Chicago police officer caught between two worlds — black and white, Black and Jewish organized crime — in the 1950s. Throughout the book, Gardner, a Washington Heights native, name-drops local institutions and notable Chicagoans, including the old Michael Reese Hospital, legendary Black newspaper the Chicago Defender, the late Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad and late Sun-Times columnist Vernon Jarrett.

Gardner said he thinks crime fiction can ease readers into understanding complex issues, including those driving civil unrest today.

Read Evan F. Moore’s full story for more from his interview with Gardner.

From the press box

The Bears will play what promises to be an unusual season opener Sunday in Detroit (noon, Fox-32). After the disappointment of 2019, this year could decide the futures of general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy.

Our Bears writers make their Week 1 predictions and go in more depth on the Halas Intrigue podcast, while columnist Rick Morrissey asks why Bears fans remain loyal to the team.

Cubs president Theo Epstein says his team’s struggling offense still has time to correct itself, Russell Dorsey writes. They’ll have an opportunity in a three-game series against the Brewers this weekend in Milwaukee (all games are on Marquee Sports Network).

Also this weekend, the White Sox begin the final two weeks of the season with a three-game series at home against the Tigers (all games are on NBC Sports Chicago).

The Red Stars play Washington at 11 a.m. tomorrow (on Twitch).

And the Fire face the Columbus Crew tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. (Univision).

Your daily question ☕

How do you think the world has changed since the September 11 terrorist attacks?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: How has the pandemic affected you financially? Here’s what some of you said…

“I’m a barber, and we’re barely hanging in there. Might have to close after 57 years,” — Candace Sanchez

“We actually have more money in our pockets because we aren’t going out as much. We feel fortunate and blessed to be essential workers and have good jobs.” — Erika Hoffman

“I got furloughed in June and unemployment will only cover about half my bills.” — Tami Terry

“I got a significant pay cut and lost my 401k match.” — Karen Webber

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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