Local News Archives

Prosecutor Wants Law Updated After Conviction Tossed

Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic is calling on state lawmakers to fix a hole in the election code that resulted in the conviction of Benton Township activist Edward Pinkney for election fraud being tossed by the Michigan Supreme Court. In a statement, Sepic notes the justices “did not in any way disturb the finding of the jury that Pinkney changed the signature dates on the recall petitions” in an attempt to recall former Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower. The activist changed the dates on signatures to make it appear they had been collected within the timeframe required to put the recall before voters. Pinkney’s conviction was overturned on the technicality that the statute under which he was found guilty was not a substantive law section, but rather simply a penalty section. Sepic notes the Berrien County judge and the Michigan Court of Appeals both saw it differently than the state Supreme Court.. ...Read Full Story

Paw Paw Student Won’t Be Tried As Adult

The Paw Paw High School student accused of plotting an attack on his school in March will not be tried as an adult. The decision to keep the case in juvenile court in Van Buren County was made yesterday by Judge Jeffrey Dufon, who says plenty of people at the school and in law enforcement failed the boy.. ...Read Full Story

Rollover Crash Kills Hartford Man

A 23-year-old Hartford Township man has died from several injuries he suffered when he rolled his car and was thrown from it in Keeler Township. The crash happened around 7 last night on County Road 362 east of 70th Street, and the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department says no other cars were involved. The man was thrown from his vehicle and was apparently not buckled up. Investigators say they don’t yet know if alcohol or drugs played any role in the crash, but do say it appears speed was partly to blame. The man died at Lakeland Watervliet Hospital after several attempts to revive him at the scene of the crash by fire and medical first responders. Police have not released his name.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Teacher Honored

A South Haven teacher has been honored by the Rotary Club for her work with local students. The Rotary tells us Andrea Jeiger was given the club’s Education and Service Award at a fundraiser this past Saturday. The Rotary says it recognizes an educator who exemplifies the attributes of quality teaching and is an active volunteer in the South Haven community each year. They say Jeiger started out teaching in South Haven’s summer migrant program, and then moved on to teaching elementary students in 2014. She also serves as president of the South Haven Education Association. As part of Jeiger receiving the award, the Rotary made a $250 donation to the South Haven Public School’s Educational Foundation in her name.. ...Read Full Story

RESA Superintendent Gets High Marks

Berrien RESA Superintendent Kevin Ivers has received a positive performance evaluation from the RESA Board of Education. At a retreat this week, RESA Trustees used an evaluation tool from the Michigan Association of School Boards to rate Ivers in five areas. They were governance and board relations, stakeholder relations, employee relations, educational leadership, and operations and finance. Dr. Ivers received a “highly effective” rating in all areas measured. The positive review resulted in an extension of Ivers’ contract by one year, meaning he’s now contracted to be with RESA through at least June of 2021. Berrien RESA Board President Sharon Kalling says the board is very pleased with the district’s superintendent.. ...Read Full Story

Opioid Forum Held In St. Joseph Township

Addiction experts are hoping to better educate the public about the nation’s opioid epidemic to help reduce the number of deaths. At a forum at St. Joseph Township Hall Wednesday, Berrien County Health Department Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Kerri Teachout said opioids represent the “deadliest drug crisis in American history.” She told us a common way someone gets their hands on an opioid is via theft.. ...Read Full Story

State Launches New Soo Locks Website

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley has announced the launch of a new website to draw attention to issues with the Soo Locks. The locks, located between Lake Huron and Lake Superior, allow ships to travel between Lake Superior and the rest of the lower lakes. President Trump recently called for upgrades to the Soo Locks, and Calley says all Michiganders should thank him. There have been calls for a brand new lock for years, with Michigan leaders saying the economy would be greatly harmed if damage were to close the locks. According to Calley’s office, “a 2015 analysis by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found that an unexpected closure of the Soo Locks, especially during peak shipping season, could result in a cascading collapse of the U.S. economy.” The new state website drawing attention to the locks is Michigan.gov/FixTheSooLocks.. ...Read Full Story

Teacher Gets Recognition

A Berrien County substitute teacher is getting some recognition for her entry into a video contest. Lauren Mott teaches grades K through 12 at Bridgman and River Valley Schools. She tells us she came to the area last year from Chicago.. ...Read Full Story

Drug Treatment Court Celebrates 10 Years This Week

May is National Drug Court Month and in celebration, the Van Buren County Drug Treatment Court will have guest speakers this Friday that will address the impact of drug courts in our area. Speakers will include the Assistant Chief Prosecuting Attorney, a Program Defense Attorney, Sheriff Abbott and retired Judge William Buhl, as well as a program graduate. The event will also celebrate the 10th year anniversary of the Van Buren County Drug Treatment Court. The public is invited to attend the event at the Van Buren County Courthouse in Paw Paw this Friday morning at nine.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Aims To Clarify Drug Prices

State Representative Mary Whiteford of Casco Township has introduced legislation intended to benefit patients getting prescriptions filled. She tells WSJM News under current rules, pharmacists are not allowed to tell a patient the true cost of their medication in some circumstances. She learned about the problem from a pharmacist she represents.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Twp Walmart Briefly Evacuated

Everything is back to normal at the Benton Township Walmart after a brief evacuation this morning. The Benton Township Fire Department and Michigan Gas Utilities were called out to the store around 8 a.m. on a report of an odor and found a malfunctioning heater in the back of the building. The gas company’s equipment did not detect elevated natural gas levels, but they did notice the smell. The evacuation was a precaution, and shoppers and employees were back inside before 9:30 a.m.. ...Read Full Story

Infighting Among Democrats In Gubernatorial Race

There is some infighting amongst Democrats running for governor. Gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed is challenging the validity of opponent Shri Thanedar’s ballot petition signatures. El-Sayed filed his complaint Tuesday, hours after Thanedar announced his own complaint saying El-Sayed has not been a registered voter over the four years leading up to this fall’s general election for governor — something required under Michigan’s constitution and election law. El-Sayed lived in New York for several years and while he canceled his Michigan drivers license during that time, he was still registered to vote in this state.. ...Read Full Story

Higher Education Poll Released

A new poll shows Michigan residents want the state to invest in higher education to keep tuition low, and that more than 80% believe their child will receive at least a four-year college degree. The survey was conducted for the Michigan Association of State Universities. President and CEO Dan Hurley says even though parents believe a college degree will help their child earn better money, they want their kids to be happy in their careers first and foremost.. ...Read Full Story

Results Of Statewide Drug Take-Back

A drug take-back event this past Saturday resulted in more than 966 pounds of unneeded prescription medications being collected across the state. Michigan State Police tell us the agency’s 30 posts served as drop-off locations for people to dispose of old drugs. The medications are then turned over to the DEA for safe disposal. The Niles post of Michigan State Police on Saturday collected 53 pounds of drugs alone. The next drug take-back event will be held in the fall. There are several locations around Berrien County where you can drop off unneeded medications every day. You can see a list below.. ...Read Full Story

Broadband Expansion Planned For Van Buren County

A Bloomingdale-based company is planning to invest $12 million in the expansion of broadband internet in Van Buren County over the next few years. Bloomingdale Communications General Manager Steve Shults tells WSJM News the company is rolling out fiber to areas north of Bloomingdale to about Allegan County and south to about M-43. He says the need for broadband in Van Buren is great.. ...Read Full Story

Man Convicted In Fatal Bike Crash

From the Associated Press — A man who was under the influence of drugs has been convicted of second-degree murder in a crash that killed five bicyclists in southwestern Michigan. The verdict against Charles Pickett was returned Tuesday in Kalamazoo County
court. There was no dispute that Pickett had swallowed painkillers and other drugs before driving his pickup truck, although his lawyer argued that murder charges were excessive. Pickett’s truck plowed into a pack of bicyclists on a narrow rural road near Kalamazoo in June 2016. Nine people were hit, including five who died from their injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board said better communication between dispatchers might have alerted police to stop Pickett while he was driving recklessly through different communities before the crash.. ...Read Full Story

Man Killed While Cutting Wood

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is investigating after a 73-year-old man was killed while cutting wood on Tuesday. The department tells us the accident happened around noon in the 58,000 block of White Temple Road in Penn Township while Robert Wright of Vandalia was working. He was struck by two trees. Police say Wright was cutting a tree down when it fell into another tree which uprooted itself. The two trees then struck Wright, causing extreme injuries. Emergency responders extracted Wright from the downed trees and began medical treatment, but he succumbed to his injuries.. ...Read Full Story

Court Scraps Pinkney Conviction

The Michigan Supreme Court has thrown out the conviction of a Benton Harbor activist who was charged with forgery after submitting petitions to recall a mayor. Edward Pinkney was sentenced to at least 30 months in prison in 2014 and has been on parole since last June. The Supreme Court said Tuesday Pinkney’s conviction in Berrien County must be set aside because he wasn’t properly charged under Michigan law. The court says its decision is “unusual” and “not one that we reach lightly.” In a 6-0 decision, the court says Pinkney was charged under a penalty provision of election law. Pinkney was accused of changing dates on recall petitions so signatures would be counted. The recall election against James Hightower was never held.. ...Read Full Story

SJ Opioid Meeting Wednesday

Everyone will have a chance to learn more about the opioid epidemic at a meeting planned for Wednesday in St. Joseph Township. St. Joe Township Police Officer Rick Knapp tells WSJM News the neighborhood watch program is welcoming a guest speaker from Families Against Narcotics and the Berrien County Medical Examiner to come and speak at the township hall next Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Bureau Reviewing Candidate Eligibility

From the Associated Press — Michigan election officials are reviewing a letter that requests an investigation into Democrat Abdul El-Sayed’s eligibility to run for governor. The state Bureau of Elections received a letter from Pamela Nelson last week. The DeWitt resident cited questions over whether El-Sayed will have been a registered and qualified Michigan voter for four years before the election. El-Sayed, one of three Democratic gubernatorial candidates, studied and worked in New York until moving back to Michigan in 2015. Nelson says she filed the complaint so the issue is resolved before August’s primary. The deadline to challenge a candidate’s nominating petitions is Tuesday. Spokesman Fred Woodhams says the elections bureau is reviewing the letter and “will decide what the next steps, if any, are.” vEl-Sayed has called the eligibility issue a “manufactured controversy.”. ...Read Full Story

New Pedestrian Safety Campaign

Heads up,GR! That’s the name of a new summer safety campaign in Grand Rapids for pedestrians and bicyclists. Grand Rapids Traffic Safety Manager Chris Zull told Michigan News Network they have a new law requiring drivers to stop for pedestrians in marked and unmarked crosswalks, a change from yield. Zull says the goal is to have zero pedestrian-involved crashes.. ...Read Full Story

BH Board Making Cuts

The changes keep coming for Benton Harbor Area Schools. At a Monday meeting, the board of education voted to part ways with or re-assign several administrators. It also moved to terminate a contract for a gang prevention study and drop a standby bus service. Other cuts will come. Trustee Martha Momany warned it won’t be pleasant.. ...Read Full Story

Home Heating Help Still Available

While spring has arrived in Michigan, some folks still are trying to catch up on their heating costs from winter. There is still one month available to apply for energy-bill assistance through the State Emergency Relief program. Consumers Energy Customer Assistance Manager Whitney Skeans tells us they have at least 100,000 qualified households among their customer base who have difficulty paying energy bills each year.. ...Read Full Story

Dowagiac Man Killed In Motorcycle Crash

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is investigating after a Dowagiac man was killed in a motorcycle crash on Monday. It happened shortly after 5:30 a.m. on Calvin Hill Street near North Shore Drive in Calvin Township. 29-year-old Jerry West of Dowagiac was eastbound on Calvin Hill when his motorcycle hit a truck that was pulling out of a driveway. Police say West was pronounced dead at the scene, while the driver of the truck, a 52-year-old Cassopolis man, was taken to a hospital for treatment and then released. Police don’t believe alcohol was a factor in the crash, which remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

More Than 81 Pounds Of Prescriptions Collected

A whole heap of pills and other prescription medications are now being handed off to the Drug Enforcement Agency for safe disposal thanks to a drug take-back event held on Saturday in St. Joseph. Michigan State Police Lieutenant Melinda Logan tells WSJM News the number reflects the pills collected at just one site, Lakeland Center for Outpatient Services on Hollywood Avenue.. ...Read Full Story

Detroit Released From State Oversight

From the Associated Press — The city of Detroit has been released from active state oversight just over three years after exiting the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. A nine-member review commission unanimously voted Monday on a waiver that returns financial control to the mayor and City Council after Detroit delivered three consecutive years of audited balanced budgets. A $36 million operating surplus also is expected for fiscal year 2018. The waiver must be approved annually for 10 years before the commission is fully retired.
A state-appointed emergency manager overseeing Detroit’s finances filed for bankruptcy in 2013. Detroit exited bankruptcy in December 2014 after restructuring about $7 billion in debt. The financial review commission was created in 2014 and given oversight for
borrowing and large city-issued contracts as part of the bankruptcy restructuring plan.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Speaker Series Event

“Why Our Political Is Behaving So Oddly” is the topic South Haven Speaker Series guest Phil Power address on Thursday, May 10th at the Lake Michigan College South Haven campus. Speaker Series Board President Mark Odland tells WSJM News Power is the founder of the Center for Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Paw Paw Insurance Agent Accused Of Stealing From Client

A former insurance agent in Paw Paw is facing decades behind bars for allegedly stealing nearly $300,000 from a client with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Attorney General Bill Schuette has charged 57-year-old Brian Lietzau with seven felonies, saying he abused his position when he was given power of attorney for the woman. He is the former owner of Farm Bureau-Lietzau Insurance and obtained power of attorney for the client in 2012. Schuette is accusing him of writing checks to himself from her account along with converting her money to his own. Lietzau is accuse of stealing the money while the woman was hospitalized and after she had died. The Attorney General’s Elder Financial Crimes Unit started investigating the case this year after it was turned over to Schuette’s office by the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services.. ...Read Full Story

Tax Hearing In St. Joseph

A public hearing on the budget and the local tax rate will be held by St. Joseph City Commissioners next month. Mayor Mike Garey tells WSJM News the commission is grappling with multiple considerations as it looks at possible millage increases. That includes the need for street repair money. He credits city staff with being on top of the looming challenges.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Museum Opens

A new Michigan State Police Museum and Learning Center opened on Wednesday in Dimondale with a ribbon cutting. MSP Captain Mike Krumm told Michigan News Network the museum features weapons and vehicles that state police used back when the department began in 1917. He says it’s interactive.. ...Read Full Story

Harrison Seeks County Commission Seat

Former Lake Michigan College President Bob Harrison is now running for the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. He’s filed to run for the Republican nomination in the 7th District, which includes the village of Stevensville and part of Lincoln Township. Harrison tells WSJM News he sees the county commission facing challenges specific to southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Talks Green Energy

Indiana Michigan Power has been saluted for its green energy policies. The company has been named a 2018 Environmental Champion from a Cogent Reports study by Market Strategies International. I&M spokesperson Tracy Warner tells WSJM News the honor is for the company’s renewable energy portfolio. He says I&M gets two thirds of its electricity generation from emission-free sources, with the Cook nuclear power plant in Bridgman being a big part of that. I&M also has solar, hydroelectric, and wind programs.. ...Read Full Story

MI Student Wins National Poster Contest

A Macomb County ten-year-old girl is the winner of a national poster art contest to help find missing children. Michigan State Police Missing Children’s Clearinghouse Manager Jolene Hardesty tells WSJM News more than 2,000 submissions from 17 states came in for the 2018 National Missing Children’s Day Poster Contest. Now that a winner has been picked, her art will appear on posters reminding the public of missing children throughout the year.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Gets Award

An award has been given to state Senator John Proos for his work to promote organ donation in Michigan. This month, the Michigan Secretary of State’s office gave Proos the Shining Star Award. It’s for his role in getting Lauren’s Law approved in the state. Proos tells WSJM News the law requires the Secretary of State to ask people if they want to sign up for the organ donor registry when they renew their licenses.. ...Read Full Story

Pier Life Rings To Be Installed Soon

The north pier in St. Joseph will have life rings installed by Memorial Day weekend. So says St. Joe City Manager John Hodgson, who told city commissioners Monday night the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is on board, and the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department will help with maintenance. Hodgson told WSJM News the north pier model will follow the county’s example with life rings at the south pier.. ...Read Full Story

Plan To Make State Tip Line Permanent

Legislation has been introduced to make the OK2Say school safety tip line a permanent program. State Representative Brandt Iden of Kalamazoo County’s Oshtemo Township tells WSJM News his bill and a couple of others would not only establish that OK2Say is here to stay, but set aside funding for the program each year. The OK2Say tip line was launched by the Michigan Attorney General’s office in 2015 to create a way for students to report potentially dangerous situations in their schools without fear of repercussions.. ...Read Full Story

New Animal Shelter Opens Monday

The Al-Van Humane Society is preparing to open its brand new shelter in South Haven next week. Executive Director Jennifer Nuernberg tells us the new 8,000 square foot building on Blue Star Highway is just around the corner from the current facility, and the animals will be moved this coming weekend. The Humane Society had to raise $500,000 to make the move possible.. ...Read Full Story

Health Officials Warn Young People About Drinking

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, and the Berrien County Health Department is hoping to remind all parents and young people about the dangers of underage drinking. The department’s Lisa Peeples-Hurst tells WSJM News the brain doesn’t stop developing until the age of 25 for some. Introducing alcohol to a young brain can make a variety of already-existing problems even worse.. ...Read Full Story

Rally For Child Abuse Awareness

About 600 silver and blue pinwheels were placed in a park near the state Capitol in Lansing this week as part of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 10th annual Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Day. Spokesperson Bob Wheaton tells WSJM News a rally was held at the Capitol Wednesday to show support for those who fight child abuse and to raise money for the state’s Children’s Trust Fund.. ...Read Full Story

New Features Planned At PGA Event

Everything is falling into place for the 2018 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor. The PGA Championship Director Ryan Ogle tells WSJM News there will be several new features this year for the event slated for May 22 through May 27.. ...Read Full Story

Students Attend Mock Interviews With Whirlpool

37 at-risk students from Benton Harbor, Hartford, Dowagiac, and Cassopolis have had a chance to learn what it’s like to interview for a job at Whirlpool thanks to the Youth Solutions program. Youth Solutions Engagement Director Jan Ennis tells WSJM News the students took part in mock interviews with Whirlpool Wednesday.. ...Read Full Story

Land Bank Ready For Vacant Property Decision

The Berrien County Land Bank is prepared to approve the sale of the former Alreco Metals property in Benton Harbor to a medical marijuana operation, but only as long as the city of Benton Harbor approves it. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the land bank got a letter this week from Mayor Marcus Muhammad expressing support for the sale of the vacant industrial property to the Harvest Foundation, a medical marijuana producer.. ...Read Full Story

New Theater Planned For BH

Benton Harbor is getting a new theater. Planned for May of 2019 is the brand new GhostLight Theatre to be located at 101 Hinkley Street right behind the Citadel Dance and Music Center. GhostLight co-owner Martha Hesse tells WSJM News the place is vacant right now.. ...Read Full Story