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Morning headlines: Thursday, May 5, 2011

Two years ago today, Sheri Coleman and her two sons were killed in their Columbia, Ill home. Today, jurors deliberate in the trial of her husband Christopher Coleman, who stands accused in their deaths.
Two years ago today, Sheri Coleman and her two sons were killed in their Columbia, Ill home. Today, jurors deliberate in the trial of her husband Christopher Coleman, who stands accused in their deaths.

On Second Anniversary of Murders, Coleman Jury Deliberates

The jurors in the Christopher Coleman triple murder trial will begin a second day of deliberations. Coleman, a former Marine, is accused of strangling his wife and two sons in order to advance a love affair and protect his job working for Joyce Meyer Ministries.

Jurors began deliberating Wednesday, Day 8 of the trial. The defense opened their case Wednesday morning and called two witnesses: a handwriting expert and a forensic linguist.

Beth Hundsdorfer is covering the trial for the Belleville News Democrat. She says the judge told jurors to get ready to spend some time deliberating.

 "The judge told them to be prepared to make themselves comfortable, that he wasn't going to make them stay overnight, but to bring something to make deliberations for comfortable." .

Prosecutors contend Coleman used a ligature to strangle his 31-year-old wife, Sheri Coleman, and their 11 and 9-year-old sons at their home in Columbia exactly two years ago on May 5, 2009. The defense maintains an intruder killed Coleman’s family.

Beth Hundsdorfer says a civil suit was filed Wednesday against Coleman on behalf of the estate of Sheri and their two sons.

Corps Plans Final Levee Blast Today

The Army Corps of Engineersis planning a final blast of the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri for 1 p.m. today.

The Corps intentionally breached the levee along the Mississippi River Monday night to relieve pressure on the floodwall at Cairo, Ill., and elsewhere nearby on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. That initial blast allowed water into 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland. About 100 homes were evacuated. Two subsequent explosions are necessary on the southern part of the levee to allow the water to flow back out. The blast today is the last of the three.

Chicago and St. Louis Get $186 million for High Speed Rail

The high speed rail effort between Chicago and St. Louis is getting a $186 million boost from the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funding was announced Wednesday by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk and Gov. Pat Quinn.

It comes from a $400 million reappropriation of money that was rejected by the governor of Florida. The money is to be used to pay for track and other improvements between Dwight and Joliet. Officials say it will create nearly 6,000 jobs.

In the last year Illinois has been awarded more than $1.4 billion in high speed rail funding. Illinois in December received $42.3 million in high speed rail money rejected by the governors of Ohio and Wisconsin.

Missouri House Approves Change to Presidential Primary Date

The Missouri House has approved legislation to change the state's presidential primary date and require presidential candidates to produce copies of their birth certificate. The bill moves the presidential primary from February to March.

An earlier Senate version of the legislation had put Missouri's primary date one week after the New Hampshire primaries. The measure would also require presidential candidates to submit birth certificates to the Missouri Secretary of State to prove that they're natural-born U.S. citizens.

House Republican Lyle Rowland, of Cedar Creek, said Missouri must verify that presidential candidates comply with the U.S. Constitution.

The legislation now returns to the Senate for consideration of the changes made by the House.

Missouri House and Senate Reach Agreement on Budget

Missouri House and Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on the state's roughly $23 billion operating budget.

Budget negotiations wrapped Wednesday night during a relatively brief public session. Lawmakers had struggled to make progress on the budget this week. They face a Friday deadline to give final approval to the 2012 budget that will take effect July 1.

Among the biggest sticking points had been funding for colleges and universities, aid for public school busing, in-home care services for low-income disabled residents and prescription drug coverage. Lawmakers agreed to lessen a proposed cut to higher education and plug more money into the busing aid. Negotiators also agreed to keep funding for the Missouri Rx drug program and not cut reimbursement rates for the in-home care providers.


Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.