Metro-East News

Here are your most read local stories over the past year

Collinsville man restores van from 1979 movie

Before leaving on the "Wild Cherry Van Run" to Los Angeles, Chris Carter describes how he restored the 1975 Chevy van in this video from September of 2018.
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Before leaving on the "Wild Cherry Van Run" to Los Angeles, Chris Carter describes how he restored the 1975 Chevy van in this video from September of 2018.

From a lottery winner to a wild van ride, BND readers devoured an eclectic mix of local stories in 2018.

Here are the 10 most read local stories of the past year, as measured on

No. 1: Public pay database

Want to know how much your mayor is paid every year? What about your kid’s teacher?

You can see how your tax dollars are being spent on salaries for metro-east government and school employees by checking out the BND’s online public pay database.

The database was updated multiple times throughout the year as we obtained records via Freedom of Information Act requests.

No. 2: Fentanyl smuggler

A Belleville man grabbed readers’ attention in March when he was sentenced for smuggling enough fentanyl to kill “up to 5.8 million people.”

That was how a federal authorities described the nearly 12 kilograms of fentanyl Jeffrey Layne Parker was accused of hauling across the U.S./Mexico border.

“The fentanyl found in Parker’s car could have caused the deaths of up to 5.8 million people — more than the populations of Dallas, San Antonio and Houston combined,” a news release stated.

Fetanyl is “a powerful synthetic drug that is similar to morphine and heroin but is 50 to 100 times more potent,” according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of deaths attributed to the pain killer has sharply risen in recent years.

Parker, 58, is serving his 14-year sentence in a low-security federal prison in Bastrop, Texas.

No. 3: The ‘Wild Cherry’ van

Chris Carter of Collinsville drew nationwide attention from van enthusiasts for rehabbing a van dubbed “Wild Cherry.” The 1975 Chevrolet van briefly appeared in the 1979 movie “Van Nuys Blvd.”

Carter hauled the van off land co-owned by Laura Godin near Los Angeles and then refurbished it.

But Godin filed a report in June saying the van was stolen from her property.

The 'Wild Cherry' van from the 1979 movie 'Van Nuys Blvd.' has been on a wild ride since appearing in the film.

And in October, Carter was arrested on charges of two felony counts of driving or taking a vehicle without consent and one misdemeanor count of trespass by driving on private property.

The van was found on Oct. 23 in California. It was stripped and painted black.

Carter’s attorney has said Carter has “a bonafide claim of ownership of the van.” Godin has said that she and her husband, Steven, had dreamed of restoring. Steven Godin had bought the van in 1980.

No. 4: Frank Scott Parkway crash

A 34-year-old Fairview Heights man died in a two-vehicle crash that shut down Frank Scott Parkway in Swansea for about five hours on Sept. 24.

The crash that killed Andrew Duncan remains under investigation as the Swansea Police Department is awaiting a crash reconstruction report being compiled by the Illinois State Police.

No. 5: Free things to do in the summer

Ready to take your kids somewhere but you don’t have a lot of money?

This handy guide gives parents tons of tips of ways to keep your children occupied during the summer.

The list included places to see free movies and where to find splash pads.

No. 6: Lottery winner

After 44 years of playing the Illinois lottery, Christine Reibold of Troy won $650,000 in July from a Lucky Day Lotto winner.

Reibold had been playing the Illinois lottery since its inaugural draw in 1974, according to an Illinois Lottery news release. She planned on using her winnings to invest and donate to her favorite charities.

She bought the winning ticket at a Shop ’n Save on Carlyle Avenue in Belleville.

No. 7: Cardinals pitcher named in lawsuit

A lawsuit filed in January 2018 alleges Cardinals pitcher Carlos Martinez punched a man outside a metro-east strip club on July 4, 2014.

In his answer to the lawsuit, Martinez denied punching Andrew D’Angelo.

The lawsuit was originally filed in St. Clair County court but later transferred to federal court. A trial date has been set for May 6 in the federal courthouse in Benton.

No. 8: Madison County offices raided

Police raided two Madison County offices in January and temporarily sealed them with police tape.

Eight search warrants were served in January in the public relations and administration offices. Also, additional search warrants were issued in May on the county’s Information Technology Department.

In September, a special prosecutor was assigned to handle the investigation.

Details of the investigation have not been released.

No. 9: Man found shot to death on Illinois 3

On Nov. 23, the body of Christopher Moses, 34, of Fenton, Mo., was found in a pickup, which was well off the road on Illinois 3 in Sauget.

Troopers were called to the area by a motorist about a truck that had apparently gone off the road. When troopers went to check on the occupants, they found Moses, who was shot to death.

No. 10: Balancing state budget with legal pot

If recreational use of marijuana is legalized in Illinois, Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker said in November up to $1 billion a year in new state revenue could be raised to help balance the state’s budget.

“There are revenue opportunities for the state like legalizing marijuana and that has the opportunity to bring $350 million to $700 million in revenue maybe as much as $1 billion, not to mention the jobs that will be created with dispensaries and production facilities,” Pritzker said in an interview.

Prizker, who defeated Gov. Bruce Rauner in November, said on the campaign trail he favors recreational marijuana.

The state previously legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.