Both Brookfield and Riverside were rocked by murder in 2010. In Brookfield’s case, village residents were stunned by two homicides within the span of a month.
Staff, students and parents in Riverside School District 96, meanwhile, lost a longtime friend and colleague in September – allegedly shot by her husband while she slept in her Orland Park home.
Homicide is not unknown in Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside, but it a rare occurrence. Brookfield had last confronted murder back in 2001. In September 2009, a man was gunned down outside his south Brookfield apartment, but the victim survived despite being shot multiple times. Two juveniles, including the man’s stepdaughter, were later charged with attempted murder.
But some time either late on June 13 or early on June 14, according to police, Steven Kellmann and Bonnie Shelesny brutally killed 65-year-old Marilyn Fay inside her Arthur Avenue home. Fay was stabbed, beaten and suffocated by the pair, according to prosecutors.
They reportedly stole her keys, cellphone, credit cards and SUV and wound up at a motel on Chicago’s Southwest Side. Police traced Fay’s cellphone to the Pink Palace Motel on Archer Avenue, where they found Kellmann and Shelesny – along with 40 bags of heroin. Police said Fay was killed to obtain drug money.
Both were arrested that day and Kellmann was charged soon after with first-degree murder. Shelesny was released but re-arrested on Dec. 1 after police completed their investigation of her role in the murder. She has reportedly confessed to an “active” role in Fay’s murder. Both are being held in Cook County Jail.
On July 9, Bashar “Bob” Fakhoury was about to close up Phoenix Liquor at 8812 Ogden Ave. in Brookfield when two men walked into the store. The men robbed the store and one of them pulled out a gun and shot Fakhoury once in the head, killing him. Fakhoury may have tried defending himself; police found a gun at the scene which belonged to Fakhoury. It had not been fired.
Police have no suspects in the case, but Fakhoury’s family has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the two men involved in his murder. Meanwhile, Fakhoury’s brother, Mike, who was not at the store at the time of the robbery, reopened the store on July 22.
“If that’s what it takes to take care of his family, I’ll be here 40 years,” Mike told the Landmark in July. “It’s our family. I have to do it for him. That’s what’s going to keep me going and keep me strong.”
Just before 7 a.m. on Sept. 29, Allan Kustok walked into the emergency room at Palos Community Hospital. He had driven there with the body of his dead wife, Anita “Jeanie” Kustok, wrapped in a green robe and sheets from the master bedroom of their Orland Park home. She had been shot once in the head by a .357-caliber revolver Allan had bought for her as a gift.
Allan Kustok denied shooting his wife, reportedly telling investigators that he awoke when he heard a shot and found his wife lying on the bed with the gun in her right hand. She was shot on the left side of her head. Police charged Allan Kustok with first-degree murder.
Word of Kustok’s death filtered through the halls at Central School in Riverside that day as police began to question staff members. Kustok was a teacher in the district’s gifted program. The next day, grief counselors consoled staff and students; the following day school was closed.
In October, District 96 held a service and dedicated a memorial to Jeanie Kustok outside Central School. Her husband pleaded not guilty to the murder charge in November. He remains jailed on $2 million bond.
The Miracle of Forest Creek
One year ago today the Forest Creek condominiums were enduring another deep freeze. In foreclosure since January 2009, the 18-unit condo development located in the 3600 block of Forest Avenue in Brookfield was a disaster almost from the start.
After being approved by the Brookfield village board in 2006 over neighborhood opposition, builders ran into problems quickly. Construction didn’t begin until 2007 and was halted for a time when the village learned the developers had not gotten necessary permits.
The delays were a killer. By the time the development was ready to be marketed to buyers, the real estate market imploded. To make matters worse, heavy rains in September 2008 flooded the property, prompting one local observer to dub the unfinished development “The Bellagio” for its new water feature.
The Forest Creek condos sat vacant and, at times, unsecured, attracting the homeless and curious teens. Animals and water infiltrated some units, causing damage. Neighbors were pessimistic.
“With the economy the way it is, I didn’t know how long we’d be stuck with a half-built, empty building,” Cathy Curelo, who lives across the street from the development, told the Landmark last summer.
But on Dec. 30, 2009, a pair of Wilmette-based developers bought the property out of foreclosure and by mid-summer had rehabbed it and had units for sale. Priced to move, the condos sold like hotcakes. Ten units were recorded as sold by August and virtually all of them are sold.
Another major flood – shortly after new homeowners began moving in in late July – prompted the reappearance of The Bellagio for a few days. But the Forest Creek condos have gone from tarnished eyesore to contributing, attractive development in the span of one year. It was a remarkable transformation.
Arcade’s guardian angel
While Forest Avenue residents pined for a solution to their condo problem, the entire village of Riverside watched in horror as the Arcade Building, a local historic landmark at 1 Riverside Road, crumbled into decay.
Caught up in an international securities fraud lawsuit, the Arcade Building went into receivership in August 2008 and its future remained in limbo until early 2009, when a federal judge allowed a Minnesota-based bank which held the mortgage to gain control of the property. At the same time Landmarks Illinois, a state preservation agency, placed the Arcade Building on its 10 Most Endangered Historic Places list.
But it wasn’t until April 2010 that a suburban roofing contractor appeared on the scene and promised to not only pull the building back from the brink, but restore it to its 19th century glory.
In August, Giuseppe Zappani closed the deal, buying the Arcade Building for $1.3 million. Soon after, masons began restoring the first-floor façade, stripping it of its ugly stucco sheath and reconstructing it in its original Milwaukee cream and red brick, something unseen for decades.
With the brick work complete, the next phase will be to re-glaze the first floor, replace the roof and determine whether the building’s original central tower can be reconstructed. In January, a fitness studio is expected to occupy one of the first-floor storefronts on East Quincy Street, signaling that the Arcade Building is truly back in business.
Riverside rec board rumble
Most park boards in small villages like Riverside toil in relative anonymity. No one in particular attends their monthly meetings. They give direction to staff and generally stay out of the way, unless it’s pitching in to help organize or pull off a large event, like a Fourth of July parade.
In Riverside for more than 70 years, they also had a bit of power. They could hire and fire the recreation director and controlled policy decisions relating to recreation service delivery.
Lonnie Sacchi, elected as a village trustee in 2009, didn’t like that arrangement one bit. Earlier this year, he and Village President Michael Gorman came up with a plan to eliminate the independent board and replace it with an advisory board with no statutory power.
Sacchi stated that it made no sense for the recreation board to have power that no other commission possessed or that the recreation department functioned differently from any other in the village.
The arrangement had its roots in a 1937 village-wide referendum, which at the time mandated a recreation board to oversee the municipality’s recreation function. That requirement no longer exists, Sacchi said, and it was time to change it.
Sacchi opponents reacted by saying the trustee had a broader agenda – that of eventually phasing out active recreation in Riverside, something Sacchi has strongly denied.
In September, a split board voted to dissolve the recreation board over the objections of many residents and the recreation board itself. In reaction, Trustee Ben Sells and a member of the recreation board, Joe Ballerine, started a petition drive to get an advisory referendum on the November ballot asking residents if they wanted an independent recreation board. The measure was overwhelmingly approved by almost 80 percent of those voting.
However, there’s been no reconsideration of the board’s vote and Ballerine is now running unopposed to be a trustee himself, guaranteeing that the recreation board will continue to be a political issue in Riverside.
Dreaming big, falling hard
It didn’t occur to Brookfield business woman Linda Sokol Francis that anyone would oppose her vision of building a church/community center on one of Brookfield’s Eight Corners.
In 2009 she assembled most of the property, snagging the final piece in 2010 and spending more than $1 million in the process. In September she unveiled a plan for the vacant and underused parcels of land that, she said, would revitalize Eight Corners, provide a positive outlet for youth and draw young families to a Brookfield Methodist congregation that was aging and dwindling.
Despite her most heartfelt pleas and promises, however, the plan was dead on arrival. The village’s building department and Plan Commission both rejected it before the village board drove home the final nail in November.
What’s next for the land? Prolonged vacancy appears to be the answer.
Water over the dam
For more than a decade, plans for the removal of a pair of dams on the Des Plaines River at Riverside sat on a shelf waiting for funding from the federal and state governments. And, given the financial picture generally, it looked like those plans would be sitting there for quite some time.
Then in a flash in late summer, it was all happening. In September, financing came through for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the agencies announced a start date of winter 2010-11.
While it looks like the work on removing the Fairbank Dam won’t begin until sometime in either late winter or early spring, there don’t appear to be any more roadblocks for the project.
Some opposition to the project continues to persist among a handful of Riverside residents, along with dire predictions regarding the long-term effects. But local, state and federal officials say they’re convinced the removal of the dams will improve the waterway.
For decades – seven of them, actually – Brookfield Zoo and the village of Brookfield have co-existed peacefully. The village has been happy to tout itself as the home of the world-famous zoo while the zoo pretty much went its own way, in recent years making itself an entertainment destination as well as an educational one.
At a time the village was licking its own financial wounds, however, the zoo got prickly about extending a water service agreement that had been in place for 20 years, one that paid the village a hefty maintenance surcharge in addition to the cost of water.
That lit the fuse.
Worried it was about to lose $100,000-plus per year, the village pondered other ways to get revenue from the zoo. A couple it came up with were an amusement tax on admissions, parking and memberships and a municipal services contract, whereby the zoo would reimburse the village for services the village provided.
Zoo officials hit the roof. Not only did they threaten a lawsuit over the amusement tax, they said they’d get their water from someone else, too. The zoo lobbied state legislators to bar the village from imposing the amusement tax and announced it would implement staffing and programming cutbacks if Brookfield took such action.
As the year ended, the zoo and village eventually agreed on a 10-year extension to the water service contract. But the village went ahead with a version of the amusement tax, leaving zoo officials wishing very little good cheer to Brookfield government.
The end to this story, however, has not been written.