Local News Archives

Annual Holiday Sock Drive Underway

While you’re out and about shopping this holiday season, the St. Joseph lodge of the Masons is asking that you grab a package of socks to be given to those in need. Jerry Sirk says he’s started the group’s fifth annual sock drive. They’re collecting socks for the Salvation Army, the guardianship program at Avenue Family Network, the emergency women’s shelter, and the foster kids program at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Sirk tells WSJM News there’s a surprising need for socks.. ...Read Full Story

Napier Road Diet Moved To Next Year

The road diet being planned by the Berrien County Road Department for Napier Avenue has been delayed. Work on the first phase of the project to reduce the number of travel lanes to make room for a center turn lane, and possibly sidewalks, was supposed to start this fall. However, Berrien County Commissioner Bill Chickering reported at this week’s county board meeting the project has been bumped back to next year. The reason is a strike held this year by road builders trained to operate heavy machinery, which caused several delays for MDOT and other road agencies. Now, Chickering says the plan is to do both phases of the Napier road diet in 2020, rather than spreading them out over two years.. ...Read Full Story

County Commission Seeks Disaster Declaration Over Coastal Erosion

A disaster declaration for the entire Great Lakes shoreline in Michigan — more than 3,000 miles — is being sought by the Berrien County Board of Commissioners from the governor and the Michigan Legislature. At a Thursday meeting, the board approved a resolution from Commissioner Ezra Scott asking the state to consider such a move. Scott tells WSJM News large areas of coast are being lost due to high water levels and wind. He’s been talking to commissioners in the Upper Peninsula about the problem.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks Violence Prevention Legislation

Following the most recent mass shootings around the United States, Congressman Fred Upton has thrown his support behind legislation intended to prevent such incidents, but not through gun control. He tells WSJM News the TAPS Act would help state and local police agencies use behavioral threat assessment and management tools.. ...Read Full Story

New Apartment Development Begets More Development In Downtown South Haven

For the first time in more than a decade, there has been new development in downtown South Haven. The ribbon will be cut Friday afternoon on the new South Haven Center, which includes retail space and 18 market rate apartments. City Manager Brian Dissette says they’ve heard some complaints about the prices for the apartments, which range from $1,400 to $1,850 per month, especially with the area experiencing a shortage of affordable housing.. ...Read Full Story

Detroit Police Chief Releases Name Of Officer Killed In Ambush

Detroit’s police chief says a gunman who fatally shot one officer and wounded another was trying “to bait” them as they searched a home for him. Chief James Craig said the 28-year-old man waited at the bottom of basement stairs, fired two shots from an assault-type rifle and ran past the fallen officers. Other officers shot him in the arm outside the home. He was arrested a block away. Craig said the gunman was “very target specific” and “knew what he planned to do.” Officer Rasheen McClain was shot in the neck and died. Officer Phillippe Batoum-Bisse is being treated for a leg wound. The shooting happened Wednesday evening as officers responded to a report of a man with a gun who was looking for an estranged girlfriend. The suspect is in custody.. ...Read Full Story

Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist Makes Michigan History

History has been made at the state Capitol, as Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist has become the first black lieutenant governor to sign a bill into law in Michigan history. Gilchrist is currently serving as acting governor due to the trade mission in Israel by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. In remarks in the Capitol Rotunda, he said the bill signing “symbolizes the opportunity that exists when we create a space for more participation from a more diverse set of voices and experiences.”. ...Read Full Story

GVSU Brings Back Pledge Of Allegiance At Meetings

From the Associated Press — After a backlash, student government at Grand Valley State University is reinstating the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings. Student Senate President Eric-John Szczepaniak says there were reports that families were reconsidering whether a son or daughter would enroll at the Michigan school. He tells The Grand Rapids Press that people were also threatening to pull donations. Szczepaniak says student leaders “want to regain the trust of all alumni and donors.” He says he’s unilaterally reinstating the pledge. The Senate voted to scratch the pledge last week. Supporters of dropping the pledge said it was an effort to be accepting of all students, especially international students and non-Christians. Republican State Representative Lynn Afendoulis says eliminating the pledge was “disgusting.”. ...Read Full Story

Benton Township home invasion leaves one suspect dead

A home invasion at the Briarwood Apartments in Benton Township late last night has resulted in one fatality. According to the Benton Township police department, just before 11:30 pm, two 2 men wearing masks forced their way into one of the apartments armed with a handgun. The two then ordered the occupants of the living room to get down. Another resident who was in one of the bedrooms overheard what was going on and grabbed a rifle. That’s when gun fire was exchanged. The masked men tried to flee, while still firing. After police arrived they found one of the masked men lying on the pavement with a gunshot wound to the chest. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene, while police were unable to find the 2nd suspect, even bringing a K-9 to try to track him down. Police were able to identify the suspect that died on the pavement, but have not released his identity. They have not ID’d the second suspect. The four adults in the home and 3 children were not harmed. Police are asking anybody with information to contact the Benton Township Police department at 925-1135 or call Crimestoppers at 574-288-STOP.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Man In Court Following Accidental Death Of Granddaughter

A preliminary hearing was held Wednesday for a Niles man charged with negligent homicide in the death of his 18-month-old granddaughter. Salvatore Anello was aboard a cruise ship in Puerto Rico in July when he held Chloe Wiegand up to a wood railing near some windows. He didn’t realize the window was open, and the girl fell eleven stories. According to ABC News, the prosecution told the judge at Wednesday’s preliminary hearing in Puerto Rico they have witnesses as well as discovery to hand off to the defense. The judge agreed to postpone further hearings until that happens. Anello is due back in court on December 16.. ...Read Full Story

Tree Planting Planned Thursday In Buchanan

There will be a ceremony to plant trees in downtown Buchanan Thursday. The Buchanan Tree Friends will plant ten trees, including sugar maples, a London plane tree, a frontier elm, and various oaks at the Buchanan Common. The trees are being planted to honor the memory of some local residents. The Buchanan Tree Friends seeks donations to help purchase trees appropriate for the landscape of the city through its Tribute Tree Program. A supporter for Thursday’s event is Krista Parin, who says her family wanted to help because planting trees is “a simple way to leave a legacy in our community for generations to come.” Thursday’s tree planting will start at noon.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Springs Christmas Celebration Set For December 12

Preparations are underway for the next Kindle Your Christmas Spirit in Downtown Berrien Springs celebration. The village says the party will be Thursday, December 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. The downtown streets will be closed to traffic so everyone can walk around checking out all of the attractions. Those will include live music, ice carving, horse-drawn carriages, a live nativity, the lighting of the town Christmas tree, and Santa and Mrs. Claus at the village hall. The historic 1839 courthouse will also be open for tours. All are welcome to come and celebrate the holiday.. ...Read Full Story

Former Priest From Coloma Guilty In Clergy Sex Abuse Case

A former priest from Coloma will be sentenced in January after pleading guilty in a clergy sex abuse case today in Allegan County. Attorney General Dana Nessel says 57-year-old Brian Stanley faces up to five years in prison when he’s sentenced. Stanley pleaded guilty to one felony county of attempted false imprisonment during a pretrial conference, and will also have to register as a sex offender for 15 years. He was charged in August after being accused of secreting away a teenaged boy and holding him against his will in the janitor’s room of St. Margaret’s Church in 2013. Stanley reportedly immobilized the young man by wrapping him tightly in plastic wrap, then used masking tape as additional binding and to cover his eyes and mouth. Stanley left the victim, bound and alone, in the janitor’s room for an extended period of time before returning and eventually letting him go. His conviction came just hours after the first convicted defendant in Nessel’s clergy abuse investigation was sentenced.. ...Read Full Story

Honor Adoption Day Finds Homes For 32 Animals From Berrien County Animal Control Shelter

The Berrien County Animal Control shelter was able to adopt out 32 dogs and cats on Saturday thanks to a partnership with Honor Credit Union. They co-hosted Honor’s Adoption Day this past weekend, dramatically increasing the number of pets that found new homes from a normal Saturday. Animal Control says on average, fewer than three pets are adopted on a Saturday. The event with Honor brought 150 people to the shelter over a three-hour period. The credit union covered the adoption costs, leaving just things like supplies and dog licenses to be paid for by the people taking home their new pets. Some of the adopted animals had been at the shelter for more than a year.. ...Read Full Story

Man Confesses To 1986 Bangor Cold Case Murder

New DNA evidence in the 1986 cold case murder of Wilda Wilkinson of Bangor is resulting in a murder charge and a confession from one of the initial suspects. Michigan State Police say Robert Waite was linked to the murder in March. When interviewed in a Florida prison by MSP detectives, he gave a full confession and was arraigned today in Van Buren County District Court. Authorities had charged Michael Curry with her murder in March of this year, but the DNA evidence against Waite ruled him out and resulted in those charges being dropped. Wilkinson was found dead in her Bangor home 33 years ago, and investigators say her two daughters and two sons remained in constant contact with them during the investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Alcohol Likely To Blame For Cass County Crash

Two people are being treated at Elkhart General Hospital in Indiana as the result of a crash in Cass County late Tuesday night. The sheriff’s department says alcohol was likely among the reasons for the head-on crash in Mason Township at the intersection of Old M-205 and Cassopolis Road just after 9 p.m. Investigators say 32-year-old Matthew Degraff of Union crossed the center line and hit the vehicle of 65-year-old William Thorley of Cassopolis, knocking Thorley’s car into a third vehicle. Both Degraff and Thorley are hospitalized, though the extent and nature of their injuries hasn’t been disclosed. Thorley’s passenger and the driver of the third vehicle weren’t hurt.. ...Read Full Story

Ex-Lawmakers Sue To Block Michigan’s Legislative Term Limits

Eight former Michigan lawmakers are suing to challenge the state’s legislative term limits, alleging they are unconstitutional and ensure that the Legislature lacks experience. Those filing suit in Grand Rapids federal court Wednesday include three Republicans and five Democrats. They say Michigan’s term limits law has increased the power of lobbyists, unelected “bureaucrats” in the executive branch and political dynasties.. ...Read Full Story

State to Mail Redistricting Panel Applications To 250,000

From the Associated Press — The state of Michigan will mail 250,000 applications encouraging voters to apply to serve on a new commission responsible for drawing congressional and legislative maps. An independent accounting firm, Rehmann, randomly selected the 250,000 registered voters Tuesday. The applications will be mailed before year’s end. The 2018 voter-approved constitutional amendment creating the panel requires that at least 10,000 applications be mailed. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
says she decided to send 250,000 to ensure enough people respond. Registered voters who don’t receive an application in the mail are still free to apply at www.RedistrictingMichigan.org. Applications are due June 1. The 13-member commission will start meeting in the fall of 2020 and will adopt congressional and legislative district lines in 2021. The once-a-decade process was previously controlled by the partisan Legislature.. ...Read Full Story

School Trustees Hear Audit Report

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has heard some good news out of the district’s latest audit. At a Tuesday meeting, trustees heard from CPA firm Hungerford Nichols the general fund, or operating deficit, has been reduced from $4.4 million to $3.7 million since last year. District Chief Financial Officer Scott Johnson spoke with WSJM News about the findings.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Police Bust Theft Suspects After Two-Hour Search

Three people are facing charges after fleeing police in South Haven on Tuesday. The South Haven Police Department says officers were called out to the area of the Ravines mobile home park on a report of three men with arm loads of suspected stolen property. Officers found the vehicle the suspects were in, and two of them took off running into some woods. After a two-hour search, police found the two suspects, partly thanks to the nose of K9 Ryker. The first suspect is a 40-year-old from Holland, who was also a wanted parole absconder. He’s now facing charges of felony retail fraud and resisting and obstructing. The second suspect is a 33-year-old from Benton Harbor, to be charged with felony retail fraud, and the third suspect is a 25-year-old from South Haven, charges of misdemeanor retail fraud and resisting and obstructing. All three were taken to the Van Buren County Jail.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Board Approves Faculty Contract

The new contract for faculty at Southwestern Michigan College is in place. The SMC Board of Trustees approved the deal Monday night, and the union has already voted on it. The contract includes pay increases of 2% in the next academic year, and 3% in each of the following two years. That’s for the faculty who are at or above the minimum salary levels for their educational level and years of service. A new vision care program for all college employees will begin in January, and SMC says healthcare, dental, and retirement benefits remain consistent with those offered to other full-time employees. The contract was reached after a year and a half of negotiations.. ...Read Full Story

Permit For NIMBY Pond Under Review

An attraction in Baroda Township that often hosts events could lose its permission to do so. Baroda Township Planning Commission Chair David Schultz tells WSJM News the special use permit for NIMBY Pond is under its yearly review, and the property’s owner has a few things to work out with the township before it’s given approval. Schultz says the permit could be revoked or amended, depending on developments in the next two months. There have been some complaints about events held at the pond that may not have been allowed under its special use permit. Schultz didn’t want to get into specifics on the particular events, but said the planning commission is working with NIMBY Pond owner Mark Schutze on the issues in question. A hearing of the planning commission is set for January 13 where a decision could be made on whether to continue NIMBY Pond’s permit. Schultz tells us he thinks NIMBY Pond is a “good event for the community,” but the township ordinance must be followed. The final decision would rest with the township board once the planning commission makes its recommendation.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Makes Pipeline Appeal

Congressman Fred Upton testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday in an attempt to save a pipeline safety bill. He said the new Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration re-authorization bill is not bipartisan, pointing to previous bills that sailed through with few problems.. ...Read Full Story

“Baby Box” Installed In Indiana Near Michigan Border

From the Associated Press — A fire station in northeastern Indiana is the latest place for parents to safely drop off a newborn child.
A Safe Haven Baby Box was unveiled Monday in Angola. The fire station is just minutes from the Michigan border, which was a factor in the location. Before leaving office, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder last year vetoed a bill that would have allowed baby boxes. The boxes allow someone to drop off a baby without fear of criminal prosecution. The box has an alarm that immediately alerts a local hospital or emergency responders. The Steuben County Community Foundation helped pay for the box, and others donated their services for the installation. When Snyder vetoed the Michigan bill, he said it was better to hand a baby to a person. That option is available under state law.. ...Read Full Story

Cook Nuclear Plant Unit 2 Refueling Outage Complete

The latest refueling outage for the Cook Nuclear Plant’s Unit 2 is over. Indiana Michigan Power says the unit was reconnected to the grid at 1:51 p.m. today after a 48-day outage. Along with refueling the reactor and performing regular maintenance and testing, other projects included modifying the solid state protection system, replacing items including the reactor vessel hold down spring and the west motor driven auxiliary feed pump room cooling system. Cook plant chief nuclear officer and senior vice president Joel Gebbie said in a statement the work done inside the reactor was an “important milestone,” showing much of the work done during the past several refueling outages “has paid off and that the integrity of our reactor has been, and will remain, reliably sound going forward.” Plant officials brought in around 1,150 contractors to help the regular staff of 1,100 during the outage.. ...Read Full Story

Former Driving Instructor Facing Sexual Assault Charges

A former instructor for Mr. G’s Driving School in Berrien County is free on bond and awaiting a court date on December 26, accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old. Peter Fleck was arraigned on November 14 according to Prosecutor Mike Sepic and is facing five felony counts of third degree criminal sexual conduct. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Sepic says while his office believes there could be other victims because of the opportunity with Fleck’s former job, they have “no particular information leading us to believe there are other victims.” According to his Facebook profile, Fleck started the job as a driving instructor on July 22. The company works with Bridgman, Coloma, Lakeshore, and River Valley high schools.. ...Read Full Story

Kalamazoo Wings Set Guinness Record For Largest Lightsaber Battle

In case you’re in need of something more lighthearted in the news, the Kalamazoo Wings minor league hockey team now has a Guinness World Record. They’ve been certified to have held the largest lightsaber battle ever back on November 2 during the first intermission on Star Wars night. Fans were given a lightsaber when they entered the arena at Wings Event Center, and turned them on at the end of the first period. The team says 3,889 people took part and bashed the plastic swords against each other for three minutes and 45 seconds. As for the action on the ice, the Wings won the game, 7-2, over the Wheeling Nailers.. ...Read Full Story