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DeKalb: Top local stories of 2018

December 29, 2018 GMT

It was another eventful year in DeKalb County. Here’s a somewhat chronological rundown of some of the most important stories that unfolded and continued throughout the area.

Arson at Ridgebrook

The Ridgebrook Apartments building at 808 Ridge Drive in DeKalb was the scene of several fires authorities said were intentionally set in 2018. The first occurred Jan. 9, when police said Chikyta Williams, 24, intentionally set fire to the apartment of a man during a breakup. There was more trouble in June, when someone set a fire on the second floor that sent residents scrambling for safety. More fires would follow, most of them smaller, all of them intentionally set, authorities said. No one has been charged in connection with the June fires. Charges against Williams still are pending.

District-wide lockdown

It was a year of lockdowns at local schools, and on Feb. 23, a post on the social media app Snapchat led to a lockdown at all schools in DeKalb School District 428. After the post, which said “at 2 pm no one is safe here,” began circulating, district officials decided to place schools on lockdown that morning. With the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, fresh in mind, some parents pulled their children out of school that day. A 13-year-old boy later was charged with disorderly conduct in connection with the incident.

New commuity center

The largest piece of a Sycamore Park District plan to enhance its offerings for residents, a new 40,000-square-foot community center, had its grand opening in April. Part of a $7.2 million recreation campus project, the new building at 480 Airport Road features basketball, volleyball and pickleball courts, a running track, a dance and aerobics studio and a 24-hour fitness center. “It’s going to be a monumental part of the town and the community,” Sycamore Mayor Curt Lang said.

County tackles renewable energy

DeKalb County Board members, after placing a moratorium on renewable energy projects in the county, approved regulations for both wind and solar power projects in the county in 2018. An ordinance regulating so-called “solar gardens” went into place April 1, and afterward, proposals to install solar panels on rural land poured in. An ordinance regulating construction of wind turbines had the opposite effect. Approved by the board in November, its provisions for setbacks, noise and shadow flicker led a developer proposing a project for the northwest part of DeKalb County to announce it was abandoning its plan. 

Murder in Malta

After firefighters extinguised fires at multiple buildings May 5 on the Kreda farm at 3555 Gurler Road in Malta, they discovered the bodies of the two longtime owners, Marjory Kreda, 75, and William Kreda, 74. An investigation by DeKalb County Sheriff’s deputies determined that William Kreda shot his wife in the couple’s second-floor bedroom, then set fire to buildings on the property before turning his .45-caliber handgun on himself.

Armored car robbery

In June, a group of thieves made off with sacks full of cash in a daylight robbery of an armored car in Sycamore. Police were called to Charley’s Video Gaming, 1470 S. Peace Road, at 9:41 a.m. on June 28. Video captured by a surveillance camera showed a pair of masked robbers, one straining to carry the loot and another opening the door to a silver Ford Edge SUV. Police did not say how much cash was taken, but one detective said it was the most lucrative heist he had seen in his 11-year career. No one has been arrested in connection with the crime. 

63 years for murder

DeKalb County Judge Robbin Stuckert sentenced Michael Kulpin to 63 years in prison June 12 for the 2016 murder of his girlfriend. Kulpin, 23, was found guilty of stabbing 19-year-old Moorea Des Roches to death the day she was to move into his apartment in the 900 block of Kimberly Drive with their infant child. Prosecutors said Kulpin tried to dispose of evidence and texted Des Roches’ parents, posing as her, before DeKalb police found Des Roches’ body in a closet in the apartment a couple of days later while performing a well-being check. Kulpin was sentenced to 60 years for the murder and three more for trying to hide it. He now is an inmate at the Menard Correctional Center.

New jail opens

After almost two years of construction, inmates moved into the new DeKalb County jail this summer. The project increased the number of beds in the jail to about 140 and almost doubled the space to 80,000 square feet. The new larger building is connected to the old jail by a skywalk; the building also has space for the county to add 60 additional cells in the future. The total cost of the jail expansion was $36 million, financed in large part by a $33 million loan, which will be repaid mostly with revenue from tipping fees charged to waste haulers to dump trash at Waste Management’s landfill south of Cortland.

Cornerstone building opens

A $7.5 million project of Pappas Development, the four-story Cornerstone DeKalb building, opened to new apartment residents in September. Construction of the building near the intersection of First Street and Lincoln Highway was aided by a $3 million contribution of tax-increment financing funds from the city of DeKalb. The building includes 51 luxury apartments, with office and retail space on the ground floor, including Barb City Bagels, DeKalb Nail Spa and a planned tavern-style restaurant.

New NIU president

Lisa Freeman became Northern Illinois University’s 13th president and the first woman to hold the title after the Board of Trustees unanimously approved a four-year contract with her Sept. 20. She will earn a $450,000 base salary in the first year of the contract. Freeman had served in an interim capacity since Doug Baker’s departure in 2017. “I am proud to be the first woman president,” Freeman said, “and I hope that I do serve as a role model for women in academic positions who aspire to leadership positions.”

Richard Jenkins visits

The actor and DeKalb native returned to his hometown Oct. 30 to mark the conclusion of the Egyptian Theatre’s nine-week Richard Jenkins Film Series. The films in the series were selected by Jenkins himself, and the final one was “The Shape of Water,” which earned Jenkins an Academy Award nomination for his performance in the role of Giles. After the screening, Jenkins, a 1965 DeKalb High School graduate, joined theater director Alex Nerad for a question-and-answer session with the audience.

Wellness center opens

A long-planned project came to fruition in November, when Northwestern Medicine opened its 111,000-square-foot Wellness Center at 626 Bethany Road in DeKalb after an open house event in November. The building, on 16.6 acres of land near the intersection of Bethany and Greenwood Acres Drive, includes a fitness area, self-serve cafe, a locker room with sauna and hot tub, warm water therapy and lap pools (shown) and group fitness class studios and more.

New city manager in DeKalb

The DeKalb City Council voted Dec. 18 to approve hiring Bill Nicklas as the next city manager after a year of turnover at the top administrative position. Former City Manager Anne Marie Gaura resigned in March, only months after signing a new contract. Patty Hoppenstedt became the interim manager but left in June because her husband took a job out of the state. Finance Director Molly Talkington was next – she was placed on administrative leave Nov. 9 and returned to her job as finance director. Talkington would later file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging discrimination and retaliation. Raymond Munch will be interim manager until Nicklas takes over Jan. 2. Nicklas, 70, has built a reputation as a skilled administrator in DeKalb County and this will be his second tour as DeKalb’s city manager. He last held the position from 1992-1997.

Unexpected alderman exit

Ward 3 Alderman Michael Marquardt resigned abruptly Dec. 6. Marquardt, who was elected to the council in April 2015, was charged weeks later with forgery and theft in DeKalb County court. DeKalb County prosecutors allege in court records that Marquardt had written seven checks totaling $9,500 from his former employer, Kishwaukee Country Club, to himself. The charges remain pending.