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The Will County Sheriff’s Office arrested two 15-year-old male students of Lincoln-Way East High School after they allegedly created a “hoax” threat of “shooting up and blowing up the school” the evening of Oct. 27, according to the Will County Sheriff’s Office.

According to a news release issued Oct. 28 by the sheriff’s office, the students were picked up at the school around noon and brought to the Sheriff’s Investigation Division for questioning.

Danielle Tabor

Roughly 25 boxes line the outside walls of a garage filled with assorted documents, as Jeff Dencek and Mark Mistretta work in mechanical rhythm, dumping the paper into large trash receptacles.

“This is called a purge,” said Dencek, co-owner of Shark Shredding in Mokena. “We’ll do a bunch of boxes for a purge.”

It was a cold Friday morning Feb. 12, as Dencek and Mistretta were on their first stop of the day at a Frankfort residency on Steeple Chase Drive helping to destroy assorted documents.

Danny Ciamprone

Aaron Toppen grew up dreaming of serving his country.

Though he and family members knew his enlisting would come with an unavoidable degree of risk, they held firm and united — a tight-knit group — in supporting his ambition, keeping close from the time he was a tot to a teen.

Rebecca Susmarski
Press conference scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Mokena native Aaron Toppen, a Lincoln-Way East graduate, was among five American troops killed by friendly fire Monday, June 9, during a security operation in southern Afghanistan, a family friend said.

Toppen was 19.

“It’s very tragic,” said Jennie Swartz, the family friend who spoke to The Mokena Messenger by phone Tuesday, June 10.

Danielle Tabor

The second annual Mokena Festa Italiana will be held on Sunday, July 19, and is expected to draw an even larger crowd than last year’s 1,000-plus attendees.  

The event begins at 11 a.m. at Mokena Intermediate School, 11331 195th St., with a procession ending at the festival grounds at the Front Street Metra Station lot. The festival is based on the traditional Italian Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  

Danny Ciamprone

A 30-year-old Manhattan man who allegedly had sexual relations with a 16-year-old Mokena girl was apprehended by Mokena police Aug. 14 and transported to Will County Jail.

Ryan C. Benck, of 24644 Route 52, in Manhattan, was charged with aggravated criminal sexual abuse and indecent solicitation of a child at his residence after the teen’s parents notified the Mokena Police Department, said Mokena police chief Steven Vaccaro.

Vaccaro said the suspect allegedly met the girl through an “app.” 

Danny Ciamprone

Pam Toppen takes a seat in a Starbucks cafe next to her daughter, Amanda Gralewski, as she smiles and enthusiastically introduces her baby granddaughter, a certain bitter sweetness though as it was roughly a year ago that Toppen found out about her while having to plan to funeral.

A little while later, she shows off her dog tags with her late son’s military photo proudly imprinted – something she never leaves her home without.

Rebecca Susmarski

Feb. 13
• At midnight near the intersection of Interstate 80 and South LaGrange Road, Juan Atenco, 43, of the 14900 block of Robey Avenue, Harvey, was arrested on charges of driving without proper lighting and without a valid license. He was released on bond, pending a March 19 court date.

Feb. 12

Will O'Brien

Farmers markets, outdoor movies, trips to the pool, festivals, parades, cruise nights and fireworks. There is no shortage of activities when it comes to summer in the southwest suburbs. And 22nd Century Media has 101 ideas for readers to get out and enjoy their communities this summer. We provided 50 ideas in print and now have 51 more online. Enjoy!

1. One Fish, Two Fish ... Time to Find All the Fish

Will O'Brien

The call of the wild beats in us all. 

For some, it is a subtle tapping that is satisfied after a hike through the woods. For others, the drumming is constant enough to compel daily outdoor activity. And then there are still others, like Mokena native Jill Castiglia, who cannot ignore the thunderous internal beat. 

That call forces action.

Danny Ciamprone

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