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1HomePageMap small mw 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin

A large part of a Madisonville, KY, body shop business went up in flames late the night of March 25, 2014. Madisonville fire crews responded just before 10:00 p.m. to reports of a large fire at Hawkins Auto Body Shop at 77 Bassett Avenue, which was showing flames from outside the structure. According to the fire department's report, a 360 survey was performed by an officer who determined that the heaviest fire was located within the structure near the entry door and was moving into the attic area. A fire crew was directed to force entry through the door. Another crew entered the structure and found fire in the restroom area located just inside the entry door. As fire extended into the attic and vented the roof, all interior crews were evacuated. Fire crews were able to re-enter the structure with hand lines to extinguish hot spots located in the attic area. An extensive overhaul of the fire area was performed to prevent a rekindle. Fire units determined that the origin of the fire was in the restroom area. Property owner, Dale Hawkins, reported that a trash can was located in the area were Madisonville Fire Department determined the fire had possibly started. The fire remains under investigation.

Jerry Schoenecker and his wife Mary started Jerry’s Auto Body in Oak Park Heights, MN, in April 1974. The calendar from the first month of business still hangs on the wall. Although Jerry Sr. passed away, the shop has remained family-owned, and brothers Jerry, Joe, and John still work there, as well as Jerry Jr.’s stepson Mike DeCorse. The shop has about 10 full-time employees, and Jerry Jr. says half have been with the shop 30 years or more. “We’re fixing people’s grandkids’ cars now,” Jerry Jr. said. Jerry said the shop keeps customers because staff focuses on service. “We always try to do a little extra,” he said. “Service, service, service is our deal.”

A federal grand jury has indicted four Indianapolis, IN, men for allegedly operating a heroin distribution ring out of an inner-city auto body shop, prosecutors said April 10, 2014.

The indictment contained charges of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance against Francisco Javier Perez-Garcia, 36; Mario Vasquez, 26; Agustin Martinez-Acosta, 46; and Jeronimo Lagunes, 27. Perez-Garcia and Vasquez also were charged with conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, prosecutors said.

The ring sold heroin from Perez-Garcia’s body shop in the Brightwood neighborhood on the near northeast side of Indianapolis, prosecutors said. Customers would phone the body shop to order heroin and Perez-Garcia, Vasquez, and Martinez-Acosta would sell it to them, they said. Prosecutors said they believe the heroin originated in Mexico, California, and Houston, TX.

During a traffic stop of Lagunes’ car March 23, 2014, on Interstate 70 west of Indianapolis, Brownsburg police found more than a kilogram of heroin in a Gucci purse in the rear of the vehicle, prosecutors said. The heroin with a street value of about $100,000 had been destined for the ring to distribute on the east side of Indianapolis.

“Heroin has become the scourge of our community in the past several years,” U.S. attorney Joe Hogsett said. “Few substances are more lethal right now. Heroin has no socio-economic or racial boundary and impacts every corner of our state.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration increased heroin seizures more than threefold between 2008 and 2013, said Dennis Wichern, assistant special agent in charge for Indiana.

The defendants face mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years to life if convicted, prosecutors said. All four men are in federal custody.

A message seeking comment was left for an attorney for Lagunes. Court records did not list attorneys for the other three men.

Large hailstones were reported in many locales on the eastern side of the metro area of Blue Springs, Harrisonville, and Raytown, MO. One weigh station operator said there were so many hailstones on Interstate 49, it looked as if Harrisonville was covered in snow. Home and auto body repair specialists were busy during the afternoon and evening hours assessing damage left by this storm, which packed hailstones as big as golf balls.

Raytown homeowner Sarah Boyd was caught in the storm, while hailstorms 1.5 inches in diameter fell on her cars and home. “It sounded pretty horrifying,” Boyd said. “It was hitting the glass while we were driving. It felt like it could break in at any time.”

“There’s kids getting off the bus and they were all running around,” Boyd said. Boyd said she was struck by one of the hailstones, and it left her with a big bruise on her ribs. One auto body repairman in Raytown said he was working late night after getting a half-dozen damaged cars into his garage, and dozens of calls from people needing help.

Garrell D. Johnson, 54, of Decatur, IL, passed away March 20, 2014, in Decatur Memorial Hospital. Garrell was born December 9, 1959, in Decatur, the son of D.E. “Ace” Johnson and Susanne Lane. He was employed in auto body repair and loved to work on show cars. He enjoyed music and going to concerts. Garrell was known for his sense of humor and loved to make people laugh. He leaves behind his son Shane Johnson, brother Darrell Johnson, and step-brother Jerry Baker. He was preceded in death by his parents and son Shannon Johnson. Memorial services to celebrate Garrell’s life were on Saturday, March 29, 2014, at Oak Grove Church of the Nazarene in Decatur. Memorial contributions may be made to the wishes of the family in c/o Shane Johnson. The family of Garrell D. Johnson was served by the Graceland/Fairlawn Funeral Home in Decatur, IL.

View the online obituary, send condolences, and share memories. Obituary written by family members.

Since discovering she had breast cancer just a few months ago, a Forreston, IL, woman who works in a body shop has had to go through a lot, but on April 10, 2014, she and her family got a big surprise—a newly renovated home! Kelli and Jeremy Kappes and their three daughters were pleasantly shocked when walking into their newly-renovated home after returning from an “all expenses paid” vacation. Kelli was diagnosed with cancer in February 2014, and has since had surgery to remove a tumor. Her employer, Gates Auto Body in Freeport, IL, and Jeremy’s employer, Fairway Ford Lincoln in Freeport, worked together to send the family to the Wisconsin Dells and help pay for the materials for the makeover. The family also held a benefit April 26, 2014, at Christy’s Bar in Freeport. All of the proceeds will go towards the family’s unexpected medical expenses.