Talk Of The Town

WeiserMelissa Weiser    It's been 10 years this Memorial Day weekend when news rocked Clinton County of a fatal accident that killed four and left several others severely injured.
    Melissa Weiser, 37, is currently in the Decatur Correctional Center with a projected parole date of August 2026.
    She is serving a 20 year prison sentence after pleading guilty in April 2010 to 32 counts of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs after she caused a two-vehicle crash May 24, 2009, at the intersection of Emerald Road and Keyesport Road in Keyesport.
    The crash caused the deaths of Weiser's friend, Chaz Sargent, 28, of East Carondelet; Derek Garrison, 21, of Germantown; Justin Haar, 21, of Beckemeyer and Blake Thole, 21, of Aviston.
    In addition, the crash injured four others— Crystal Fuehne, then 21, of rural New Baden; John Lampen, then 21, of Breese; Casey Athmer, then 21, of Damiansville and Elisha Engelmann, then 20, of Albers.  All four survived the accident.
    On Sunday, May 24, 2009 at approximately 12:07 a.m., Weiser, driving a 1996 Pontiac Grand Am, along with passenger Chaz Sargent, was northbound on Emerald Road when she failed to stop at the intersection of Emerald and Keyesport roads and collided with a 2004 Cadillac Escalade, which was westbound on Keyesport Road.
    Garrison, Haar, Thole, Lampen, Athmer and Engelmann were passengers in the Escalade along with driver Fuehne.
    Prior to the crash, Weiser allegedly consumed alcohol and smoked cannabis while camping with Sargent and other friends at Carlyle Lake. It was reported that several people at the campsite said Weiser was too drunk to drive and Sargent had offered to drive.
    At the time of her sentencing hearing, Judge Dennis Middendorff said that if a horrible outcome such as the fatal crash wasn't enough to deter others from drinking and driving, then a stiff sentence was needed to deter others from making the same mistake and imposed the 20-year sentence on Weiser. 

MaryJeanLeft: Longtime employee Mary Jean Benhoff in front of one of the Breese Journal’s first Apple computers; right: Mary Jean enjoying her retirement.    Earlier this month, the Breese Journal wished a happy retirement to Mary Jean Benhoff of Breese after 45 years of service. Benhoff was hired in June 1974 as a page designer, a position that became her lifelong career.
    “I was working at the Breese pool,” said Benhoff. “I came home from work one day and my dad saw an ad for the paper and told me to apply. I walked on up there and got hired a week later.”
    Benhoff’s position was very different in 1974. At the time, computers were not yet used for typesetting. Paginators would, quite literally, cut and paste copy, sometimes line by line, onto pages marked with grids.
    “When we first started, we had Compugraphics. It was a huge machine for our copy,” she said. “If you typed a big long story and you ran it through the processor and the chemicals were weak, you had to do it over again. There was no saving. Our first Apple computers were only little bitty square boxes.”
    Benhoff recalled other antiquated printing methods: headlines printed letter for letter from a spinning disk; borders added manually via tape rolls; woodblock prints for obituaries. She remembered the production room floor covered in scraps from the paper cutter; anxious readers waiting outside the office in their cars for a fresh paper on release night; Mike Schuette of Schuette’s Market hand-delivering ad corrections.
    But while the job changed over the years, said Benhoff, she always enjoyed the work —and the people she worked with.
    “I really loved working with the owners, Irwin and Evelyn. We called them Grandma and Grandpa Mahlandt,” she said. “Everybody got along. We were all good friends. When somebody left or died, it was very, very sad. I would also like to thank all the people I worked with for school news. Everyone was so friendly and helpful.”
    Now retired after nearly 50 years of employment with the Breese Journal, Benhoff said her future is loose. This summer she plans to vacation at her cabin and spend time with her family — husband Mel, daughter Melissa and husband Kelvin Winkeler of Breese, daughter Kristine and husband Karl Beer of Germantown, daughter Katelyn Benhoff and  husband Anthony Lawson of Vancouver, Washington, and grandchildren Londyn, Karsyn and Maryn Winkeler and Emma and Jack Beer.
    Benhoff said she’d also like to volunteer with her church and get more involved in the community.
    And if Benhoff needs any help finding things to do around Clinton County, the Breese Journal has her covered.
    “I hope it keeps going,” she said. “If I went searching for activities on the internet, where would I even begin? The Journal has it all.”

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