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bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Sign of the season

A farmer works a field along Truax Traer Road north of De Soto on Tuesday afternoon. Area farmers have been working to finish their spring planting.

Carbondale's 710 Bookstore relocating to South Wall Street

CARBONDALE — After the recent closure of Bookworm, the appearance of the “For Lease” sign on 710 Bookstore at 819 S. Illinois Ave. was likely a worrying sight for local book-lovers.

But the longstanding college bookstore isn’t shutting its doors — just relocating.

Randy Johnson, who co-owns the business with Dwayne and Kim Summers, said the store is moving to 1051 S. Wall St. in the old Carbondale water treatment plant, which is being redeveloped and remodeled. (The third floor has already been redeveloped as apartments.)

710 Bookstore, which sells Southern Illinois University textbooks and apparel, will be located on the second floor and is slated to reopen there July 1.

Johnson said the new location offers more space and will allow 710 to provide more on-site events. The business has taken on more custom work recently, and is looking for new ways to reach people, such as partnerships with other businesses and activities that draw in customers.

"The days of people just walking in the front door is just not realistic, so we want to be able to have activities and stuff going on, especially in the fall,” he said.

He said that 710 Bookstore staff members are excited about the new location.

“It’s just a neat old building. … Obviously, originally it was designed as a water treatment plant, so it had big tanks and stuff in it, and all these water device mechanisms. It’ll look a little more industrial on the inside, and we’re going to leave the brick walls bare,” Johnson said.

710 Bookstore moved into its current spot in Saluki Plaza in April 2014 from its original location at 710 S. Illinois Ave. to make room for the Evolve apartment complex.

Johnson said he’s not worried about being farther from the SIU Carbondale campus.

“We kind of like the location, because there’s an awful lot of student housing behind us. With the trend right now and the way things are going, we think it actually puts us in a little better situation in terms of that," he said. 

Johnson said the bookstore will host a special event at the new location on July 10 to celebrate the store’s namesake, but details are still being hammered out.

Gaza hospitals struggle with high casualty toll

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Patients with gunshot wounds filled wards and hallways in Gaza's under-equipped and overwhelmed main hospital Tuesday, with dozens still waiting in line for surgery a day after Israeli soldiers shot and killed 59 Palestinians and wounded hundreds in mass protests on the Gaza border.

The high casualty toll triggered a diplomatic backlash against Israel and new charges of excessive use of force against unarmed protesters. The U.N. Security Council began its session Tuesday with a moment of silence for the dead, and the U.N.'s special Mideast envoy said there was "no justification for the killing."

Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador, and several European countries called for an international investigation.

Israel said it has the right to protect its border and nearby communities, accusing Gaza's ruling militant group Hamas of carrying out several attacks under the guise of the protests. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, came to Israel's defense, saying no member "would act with more restraint than Israel has."

Monday's border confrontation was the culmination of a weeks-long protest campaign to break a border blockade that Israel and Egypt imposed after a Hamas took over Gaza by force in 2007. The protests were led by Hamas, but fueled by the growing despair among Gaza's 2 million people who face worsening poverty, unemployment, 22-hour-a-day power cuts and sweeping bans on travel and trade.

The protests were also driven by anger over the relocation Monday of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem. Palestinians seek Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as a future capital.

Even before the latest round of bloodshed, Gaza's health system of 13 public hospitals and 14 clinics run by NGOs had buckled under persistent blockade-linked shortages of medicines and surgical supplies. At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the main health facility in the strip, these woes were magnified this week.

Anticipating a major influx of casualties ahead of Monday's mass march, Shifa had set up an outdoor triage station under a green and blue tarp in the hospital courtyard, setting up 30 beds and stretchers there.

Throughout the day Monday, Shifa received about 500 injured people, more than 90 percent with gunshot wounds, said hospital director Ayman Sahbani. Of those, 192 needed surgery, including 120 who needed orthopedic surgery, he said.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, overwhelmed surgeons working in 12 operating theaters had only performed 40 orthopedic operations, with 80 others still waiting their turn.

In the orthopedics department, nerves were frayed Tuesday as relatives worried about wounded family members amid fears their conditions might deteriorate.

Nickolay Mladenov, the special U.N. envoy to the region, told the Security Council on Tuesday that hospitals in Gaza were "reporting an unfolding crisis of essential medical supplies, drugs and equipment needed to treat the injured."

He said a U.N. official who visited Gaza, "witnessed first-hand patients being brought in on stretchers and left in the hospital's courtyard, which was being used as a triage area."

"There is no justification for the killing, there is no excuse," Mladenov said, adding that Israel had a responsibility to calibrate its use of force. At the same time, he said, "messages by Hamas indicate the intention to use mass protests to infiltrate into Israel and attack Israelis."

On Monday, Israeli forces shot and killed 59 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,300, making it the deadliest single day in Gaza since a 2014 cross-border war between Israel and Hamas. Two more Palestinians were shot dead in scattered border protests Tuesday, bring the total since late March to more than 100, the Health Ministry said.

Israel's military said 14 of those killed Monday were involved in planting explosives or firing on Israeli soldiers.

The diplomatic backlash against Israel was swift following the dramatic scenes from the Gaza border of frantic protesters carrying the wounded to ambulances in clouds of putrid black smoke from burning tires and flag-waving women in robes and headscarves defiantly facing Israeli soldiers in the distance.

Turkey expelled Israel's ambassador, and Israel retaliated in kind. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Turkey's president of hypocrisy, saying that a "man whose hands are drenched in the blood of countless Kurdish civilians in Turkey and Syria is the last one who can preach to us about military ethics."

Ireland and Belgium summoned the Israeli ambassadors to their foreign ministries for questioning about the Gaza violence, and the two nations, along with Germany, called for an investigation. China called on Israel to show restraint.

In Brussels, Prime Minister Charles Michel called the Israeli actions "unacceptable violence" and said there was a "clear lack of proportionality." Michel said the violence and killings would be moved onto the calendar of the European Union summit in Sofia on Wednesday and Thursday.

German spokesman Steffen Seibert said the violence "concerns us greatly," but also accused Hamas of cynically escalating the unrest.

South African Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu said he was "deeply distressed and broken-hearted by the massacre perpetrated" by Israel.

Also Tuesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered his envoy to Washington to return to the West Bank in a show of protest against the U.S. Embassy move to contested Jerusalem.

Union County
Testimony begins in retrial of Curtis Carr child sexual assault case in Union County


JONESBORO — Testimony on Tuesday during the opening day of Curtis Carr’s child sexual assault retrial presented conflicting details, but the state attempted to establish a timeline of escalating abuse of a female minor in 2013.

Carr is charged in Union County with two counts of predatory sexual assault of a child, and this week’s proceedings are a retrial following a 2013 hung jury — one juror would not vote to convict.

In his opening statement, state’s attorney Tyler Edmonds noted that Carr “was looking to take what he wanted” when he met the 12-year-old alleged victim. He said Carr, who at the time was in his early 30s, courted the girl and her family throughout the month of July 2013, which culminated in his allegedly penetrating an unidentified female who was younger than the age of 13 at the time of the incident.

Edmonds told the jurors that Carr saw an opportunity — the girl didn’t have much to do in Franklin County, not far from Carr's home in Mulkeytown. In her testimony, the alleged victim’s mother admitted that the family didn’t have the money for her children, two girls and a boy, to do much that summer — the funds weren’t available for summer camp or the movies, she said.

So, when family friend Carr offered to take the kids on trips and even arrange for them to learn horseback riding, the girls were excited to tag along and the victim's parents didn’t see the harm, according to testimony given Tuesday.

The children’s parents and grandmother all told roughly the same story with slight variations in the details. Carr came into their lives in the summer of 2013 when, as the victim's father explained, he was having marital problems.

Over the July 4 holiday, it was explained that Carr offered to take the girls on an overnight trip to Kansas City, Missouri, in his semitrailer — he was an over-the-road truck driver. He said it would be an opportunity for them to see some fireworks.

The family agreed, according to testimony, so long as there were a set of rules: There would be no stops other than Carr’s business destination and the rest area for sleeping. As for sleeping arrangements, accounts differ as to whether Carr was to sleep in the driver’s seat or in the sleeper cab.

According to testimony from the alleged victim’s sister, who was a minor at the time of the events, Carr’s abuse began then. She said she awoke in the night to see him sleeping in the sleeper bunk of the truck and could not see her sister — she assumed they were in bed together. She said she didn’t think anything of what she saw and went back to sleep.

The alleged victim's stepfather also testified that his stepdaughter eventually explained to him that Carr had put his hand down her pants on that trip.

Soon after the three got back, more plans were made for Carr and the girls. Family members testified that they gave permission for Carr to take the girls to see his friend in Jonesboro to learn to ride horses.

There was at least one overnight trip to see the friend and again there were rules: The girls were not to be separated and were to sleep in the same bed while Carr was to sleep either in another room in the house or in the sleeper of his semi that he drove the three in that day.

Both of these rules were broken, according to testimony given by the alleged victim’s sister and parents.

Her sister said she woke up that morning in mid-July and her sister was nowhere to be found. She then got a text from her stepdad asking how things were going. She said she was not with her sister, so the stepfather immediately called Carr and asked if his stepdaughter was with him — she was.

The stepfather said Carr told him that she had wanted to ride with him to Scott City, Missouri, instead of riding horses that morning.

When the girls came home from that trip, the alleged victim's mother said her youngest daughter went straight to the couch and covered up. From that point on, the joyful, fun-loving, outgoing child she knew was gone, she said.

Her mother, stepfather, grandmother and sister all said they asked what was wrong — she wasn’t eating, she was quiet and would break into tears, they said. She would brush off the questions.

Eventually, the stepfather said the alleged victim’s older sister mentioned that she had asked her for a journal she got for Christmas to write in — she had never done this before. He told the state that he asked her to go find it.

On the stand, he was presented with a hardbound journal with a playful red, geometric pattern lining its front and back covers. He said this was the journal he found. The inside first pages shown to the court had smiley faces drawn in multicolored marker.

“My sis” with an arrow pointing to a young woman’s name was next to the doodles.

The entry on the next page, which was shown in court, detailed sexual activity between the minor and Carr. She wrote Curtis Carr was the best (boyfriend) she had had.

The stepfather said he immediately called the girl’s mother and said she needed to come home.

According to testimony, when the family gathered, it was thought best if the grandmother talked with the alleged victim. The family went on the back porch.

According to testimony, the grandmother asked the alleged victim if anyone had touched her, and the alleged victim responded that Carr had touched her.

The alleged victim's mother said when she heard, she “screamed, ‘Why?’” She said her daughter clammed up right away.

“I just made it worse by snapping,” she admitted.

The stepfather said his daughter explained to him that she “woke up with Curt standing over top of her naked” one night as she slept in the sleeper of his semitrailer while at horseback riding lessons. He said she told him Carr threw himself on her and attempted to have sex with her.

The mother added that her daughter has not been the same after, even experiencing regular nightmares even four years later.

Jeremy Lloyd, Carr’s appointed defense attorney in the case, told jurors in his opening statement that the abuses alleged by the state simply did not happen. He said that there was no scientific evidence to back up the claims. All there was to prove he touched the girl was her word, he said.

After the initial hung jury, Carr was then bonded out after bond was reduced to $50,000, over the state’s objection, on Dec. 24, 2013.

He was arrested again in 2016 after details provided by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office indicated he was in bond violation.

In Franklin County, Carr is charged with three counts of child pornography. It is alleged that in 2016 Carr was in possession of an illicit image of two girls, over 13 years old but not more than 17 years old. Counts 2 and 3 were similar, with the images depicting prepubescent girls. He is also accused of using a cellphone or computer to solicit an underage person. Carr is also accused of sending photographs of his genitals to an underage person.

Testimony in Carr’s Union County trial will continue Wednesday and is expected to go into next week.