Local News Archives

Another Delay In Berrien Murder Case

The ongoing murder case against a man accused of beating two people to death in Hagar Township is facing another delay. Alex Perez is charged with two counts of first degree murder in the deaths of the mother of his two daughters and her father. 27-year-old Renee and 67-year-old John Mitchell were found in their home on January 15 of 2016, and Perez was later arrested in Colorado. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic tells us the Perez case has been delayed multiple times by psychiatric examinations, and attorneys for Perez this week sought another adjournment for more testing. It was granted. The date for the proceedings to resume isn’t yet known, but it will likely be in May or June. Sepic tells us the court needs to determine if Perez can be considered criminally responsible. He tells us the criminal responsibility question needs to be answered. Otherwise, there could be an issue with appeals. Perez remains in the Berrien County Jail.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Expects School Safety Bill Next Week

The first federal legislation inspired by last month’s school massacre in Parkland, Florida could get a vote in the U.S. House next week. Congressman Fred Upton tells WSJM News he’s been a co-chair of the Working Group on Response to Parkland Shooting which is part of the bi-partisan group calling itself the Problem Solvers. He says next week’s legislation will not include gun control measures.. ...Read Full Story

Democratic Candidate For Governor Speaks In BH

Democratic candidate for governor Abdul El-Sayed has had a chance to speak to voters in southwest Michigan. He led a town hall in Benton Harbor Tuesday, laying out a progressive agenda that includes single payer healthcare, a $15 an hour minimum wage, protecting the LGBTQ community, and shutting down Enbridge’s pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. He told WSJM News it’s time for the power of people to guide state government.. ...Read Full Story

Sluggish MI Population Growth May Be Related To Jobs

The U.S. Census Bureau reported that Michigan’s population grew 0.4 percent from April 2010 to July 2016. That’s a slower rate than other nearby states. Western Michigan University Economics Professor Susan Pozo tells WSJM News a reason could be the mix of jobs in Michigan. She says the population numbers show how mobile the U.S. economy is becoming for recent graduates.. ...Read Full Story

Michiganders Urged To Watch Heart Health

Heart disease is the number one health issue for both men and women, and a doctor who’s been treating people with heart problems for more than three decades says preventive cardiology should be the rule, not the exception. Dr. Harry Cohen, a cardiologist based in Chicago, advises people not to wait until they’re sick to change their habits. Instead, he says you should start taking care of yourself now. Cohen tells us people with heart conditions are living longer, and much of the credit can be given to researchers.. ...Read Full Story

Safety Campaign Focuses On Roofing Industry

From the Associated Press — A worker safety awareness campaign hopes to reduce deaths from falls in Michigan’s roofing industry. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “Stop Falls. Save Lives” effort is continuing into its second year. The agency says the campaign seeks to educate employers and workers about fall hazards. It says falls are preventable with continued training, appropriate
equipment and diligent safety awareness in the workplace or job site. Officials say eight people in Michigan died last year from falls related to roofing activities, compared to four such fatalities in 2016. MIOSHA field staff is expected to closely observe residential and commercial
roofing activities in the coming year. On-the-spot inspections will be initiated if any serious hazards are observed.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General Releases List Of Top Consumer Complaints

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has released his office’s annual list of the top consumer complaints for the past year. Complaints about credit and finance companies led the way in 2017. Schuette says the complaints were about debt collection, credit repair, payday lending, and mortgage brokering. Those finance companies have led the AG’s list of top consumer complaints since 2006. Coming in second for 2017 were personal service providers, with Schuette telling us the jump is directly because of the large number of complaints against west Michigan-based gym chain Family Fitness. Closing out the top five are complaints about telecommunications and cable companies, motor vehicles, and online purchases. The attorney general’s office tells you can make a complaint about a business rip-off at the AG’s website. . ...Read Full Story

Proos Launches School Spirit Tournament

It’s time once again for state Senator John Proos’ Southwest Michigan Spirit Tournament. Proos tells us it’s a way for communities throughout his district to demonstrate their support for the local high school, with last year’s winner being Watervliet. Proos asks schools across the district to send him photos showing how they’re filled with pride.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Leader Thanks Cleanup Volunteers

The city of Niles is thanking everyone who helped to clean up flood damage over the weekend. The city administrator’s office tells us on Friday and Saturday, nearly 150 volunteers between the ages of ten and 70 took part in the first wave of flood related clean-up. The work resulted in the filling of twenty-one thirty-yard dumpsters with debris. Niles City Administrator Ric Huff calls the level of support shown for the community “amazing.” The clean-up volunteers came from all over the region, belonging to groups that include the Salvation Army, the Southeastern Berrien County Landfill, the United Way of Southwest Michigan, Andrews University, Niles New Tech, several local churches, and city staff. The city of Niles reminds everyone the United Way of Southwest Michigan continues to collect donations for its disaster relief fund. You can give at UWSM.org/ReliefFund.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Releases 2018 Construction Map

The Michigan Department of Transportation has released its 2018 construction map. Spokesperson Jeff Cranson tells WSJM News the map can help drivers plan their routes ahead of the busy construction season to avoid being stuck in work zones. He says the fiscal year 2018 capital highway program investment is more than $1.6 billion, which still isn’t enough to address all of Michigan’s road needs.. ...Read Full Story

Pscholka Takes New Job

Former state Representative Al Pscholka has found a new job. He’s working at Kinexus as the Vice President of Public Relations and Government Affairs. That role will have the Stevensville-based Pscholka working with government leaders relating to the mission of Kinexus. Kinexus spokesperson Mary Morphey tells us they’re thrilled to have Pscholka on board.. ...Read Full Story

Opioid Crisis Leads To Increase In Organ Donations

From the Associated Press — Organs from people who died from opioid overdose helped fuel an increase in organ donations in Michigan last year. The Detroit News reports that overdose victims are often younger than typical donors and can have healthy organs despite their addictions. Gift of Life Michigan is the state’s federally designated organ and tissue recovery program. The program says Michigan had 320 donors last year, a 26% increase from the 254 donors in 2014. More than 50 of last year’s donors died by drug overdose, an increase from 20 in 2014. Technology improvements have also allowed for better disease detection, which makes more organs available for transplantation. Improved procedures at transplant centers and organ procurement organizations have ensured more potential donors and their families have the opportunity to contribute.. ...Read Full Story

No Arrests Yet In South Haven-Area Murder

Authorities in Van Buren County are looking for suspects in a murder last Thursday night in Geneva Township. The sheriff’s department says the victim was 47-year-old Shaun Gill, who was a long-time resident of the Ports of Call Mobile Home park. He was found shot to death in his home shortly after 9 p.m. on March 1. Gill’s body was found near the front door, and a woman inside the home called police. Sheriff Daniel Abbott tells WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids they are looking for two suspects, and one showed up at Gill’s door and shot him when he answered. Deputies are treating the case as a robbery attempt that ended in a homicide.. ...Read Full Story

Driver Flees Possible Drunk-Driving Crash

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is looking for the driver of a vehicle that slammed into a tree around 9 p.m. last night in LaGrange Township, injuring one passenger. The injured man has been identified as 34-year-old Jared Green of Dowagiac, who is being treated at Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital. Another passenger wasn’t hurt and unlike Green, was wearing a seat belt. The driver is believed to have been drunk at the time of the crash, and ran off before deputies arrived. The crash happened on Shurte Street east of M-62.. ...Read Full Story

Red Cross Shelter Moved In Berrien Springs

Classes are back in session today in Berrien Springs, meaning the flood shelter set up by the American Red Cross has had to move. The organization had been using Berrien Springs Middle School, but moved displaced residents over the weekend to the Village Seventh Day Adventist Church. The shelter is the last one being operated in the state by the Red Cross to help people forced from their homes by flooding, with others having been closed in Niles, Lansing, Kalamazoo, and suburban Grand Rapids. Red Cross officials say they are continuing to help flood victims all over the state with damage assessment, food, and emergency supplies.. ...Read Full Story

Home Heating Tax Credit Available

Many Michiganders are experiencing a bit of sticker shock as they open their energy bills after a bitter cold few months, but assistance is available to help keep the light and heat on this year. The state is now processing home-heating credit applications for low-income households for the 2017 tax year. Whitney Skeans with Consumers Energy tells us tax season is a good time to apply for the credit, although those who don’t make enough to file a return are still eligible. She says this is one way to help vulnerable residents to be proactive about their finances.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation To Protect Young Athletes Moving Forward

A plan to prevent the sexual abuse of young athletes was introduced in Lansing this week in response to the Larry Nassar scandal, and it’s already headed toward approval. On hand for a press conference Monday to unveil the legislative package were victims of Nassar. State Representative Beth Griffin has a bill in the plan that would add coaches, assistant coaches, and athletic trainers to the list of authority figures required to report evidence of abuse. Griffin, a former teacher, told WSJM News more adults should have to look out for young athletes.. ...Read Full Story

School Officials Work To Reassure Parents On Security

Last week’s mass shooting at a high school in Florida has many parents around the country nervous about sending their kids to class each day, but school leaders in southwest Michigan say they do all they can to ensure a safe environment is always maintained. Covert Public Schools Director of Communications Brittany Millan tells WSJM News visitors to the school will have to answer some questions before being let in.. ...Read Full Story

Report Looks At Berrien Economic Recovery

A new report from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research takes a look at west Michigan’s economy now versus at the start of the Great Recession. Upjohn economist Brian Pittelko tells WSJM News they looked at data from January of 2007 through the end of 2009. What’s striking is how slow the economic recovery was.. ...Read Full Story

MI Democrats Pushing 2018 Agenda

Democrats in the state House are making their agenda for this coming election known. At the top of their list is fixing Michigan roads. State Representative Jeremy Moss of Southfield told Michigan News Network this week the additional funding recently passed by the House and awaiting a Senate vote is not enough.. ...Read Full Story

Orchards Mall Behind On Taxes

The Berrien County Treasurer’s office says the Orchards Mall in Benton Township is once again facing foreclosure. Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News the mall’s owners owe $275,000 in property taxes from 2015, and if it’s not paid by April 3, then the county will foreclose. Witkowski will not allow a payment plan for the mall.. ...Read Full Story

County Gets Bids For Industrial Property In Benton Harbor

Three bids have come into the Berrien County Land Bank for the vacant Alreco Metals property in Benton Harbor. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News two of the three met the county’s requirements for consideration. However, both of those two involved using the vacant industrial property for medical marijuana production. Witkowski says the land bank won’t sell the property to either of them if the city of Benton Harbor has not signed off on the possible use.. ...Read Full Story

Conservation Leaders Talk Invasive Species

Invasive species and you. That’s what the Van Buren Conservation District has been talking about this past week as the spring approaches. The district’s Eleanor Serocki tells WSJM News this is Invasive Species Awareness Week and she hopes people realize they can take simple steps to help slow the spread of non-native plants and bugs.. ...Read Full Story

State Promotes Earned Income Tax Credit

The Michigan Department of Treasury is reminding all state residents of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Spokesperson Ron Leix tells WSJM News the federal earned income tax credit can help families to the tune of thousands of dollars each year. A tax filer can also get a partial state match.. ...Read Full Story

Red Cross Shelter In Berrien Springs To Relocate

The American Red Cross says its shelter in Berrien Springs for residents displaced by flooding will move to a new location on Sunday. In a sign of the community’s continuing recovery, the shelter at Berrien Springs Middle School will shut down Sunday morning, and a new shelter will be opened at Village Seventh Day Adventist Church on St. Joseph Avenue in Berrien Springs.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Doing Several Bridge Projects In Berrien

A whole lot of bridge work is about to get started in Berrien County. Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News MDOT will be doing repairs on the bridges going over I-94 at M-239, Kruger Road, Lakeside Road, Maudlin Road, and Union Pier Road starting this Thursday. There’s a reason why all are being done at the same time.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Talks Flooding

State and federal leaders from southwest Michigan are waiting for Governor Rick Snyder to accept Berrien County’s disaster declaration following this month’s floods. State Senator John Proos tells WSJM News he toured Berrien Springs and Niles this past week and was convinced the Berrien County Board of Commissioners was justified in declaring that disaster.. ...Read Full Story

Humane Society Move Coming Soon

It’s almost moving day for the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan. Director Jill Svoboda tells WSJM News the new shelter in Royalton Township is pretty much ready, and they’re just waiting for a green light from the township to move in, which could come in a few weeks. She tells us the new facility was very much needed.. ...Read Full Story

CMU Shooting Suspect Apprehended

From the Associated Press — A 19-year-old Central Michigan University student suspected of killing his parents at a campus dormitory on Friday has been apprehended. He was found early Saturday following a search that included more than 100 police officers. James Eric Davis Jr. was arrested after someone saw him on a train passing through the north end of campus shortly after midnight, according to a release posted on Central Michigan University’s website. CMU President George E. Ross thanked the campus, community, and police who he said “came together to keep each other safe and apprehend the suspect.” The shooting on Friday sent the university into lockdown for the day.. ...Read Full Story

Man Struck By Vehicle In Lawton

A Lawton man was taken to a hospital in critical condition after being struck by a vehicle on Friday. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells WSJM News sheriff’s deputies were called to M-40 just south of 72nd Avenue around 12:45 p.m. They found a 2011 Chevy Cruze driven by Sarah Romeo was northbound on M-40 when 39-year-old Harley Streeter walked into the road. Romeo’s vehicle struck Streeter. Deputies learned Streeter had just left his workplace to go to lunch when he was hit. He was taken to a hospital in Kalamazoo. Police say Romeo and Streeter are in a dating relationship.. ...Read Full Story

Report: State Didn’t Notify Residents About Unsafe Fish

From the Associated Press — A television station has found that Michigan officials didn’t immediately inform residents about unsafe levels of chemicals in fish. WOOD-TV reports that the state began testing fish from Freska Lake in September after residents raised concerns.
The lake is near a site where Wolverine World Wide buried per- and polyfluoroalkyl sludge for years. Studies suggest that PFAS affect fetal
development, disrupt hormonal functions, damage fertility and immune systems, and boost the risk of cancer. A November email acquired by the TV station through a records request says there were problematic levels of PFAS in the lake’s bluegill and cautions limiting consumption to two meals a month. Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Angela Minicuci says the agency decided to wait to release the results this spring through their Eat Safe Fish guide.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Action On Gun Control Could Happen

It’s possible Congress will approve some gun control measures following the nation’s most recent mass shooting, this time at a high school in Florida on Valentine’s Day. That’s the thought of Congressman Fred Upton, who tells us the bipartisan “Problem Solvers” have talked about the issue this past week. Upton spoke with students from Parkland High School in Florida on Tuesday, and told WSJM News later the talk about gun control is serious.. ...Read Full Story

MI Lawmaker Pleads Guilty In Fake Employee Scheme

From the Associated Press — A Michigan lawmaker charged with putting a no-show employee on the public payroll has pleaded guilty, resigned from office and faces up to a year in prison. Senator Bert Johnson, a Democrat from Highland Park, must repay $23,000 to the
state of Michigan. He will be sentenced on August 7. After pleading guilty Friday to conspiring to steal money, he resigned. He was
accused of putting Glynis Thornton on his payroll in order to repay $14,000 in loans from her. Federal investigators say Thornton did no work but collected $23,000. Thornton cooperated with investigators after getting caught in a separate corruption case involving bribes for a Detroit school principal. U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider says public officials “cannot treat the people’s money as their own.”. ...Read Full Story

Flood Relief Fund Raises More Than $20,000

Southwest Michigan residents are proving to be caring when it comes to their neighbors. The United Way of Southwest Michigan tells WSJM News the disaster relief fund it set up last week to help out folks affected by floods this month has already raised more than $20,000. That’s in just about five days. United Way’s Anna Murphy tells WSJM News the money will be used for a variety of needs.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Auction This Weekend

This weekend will bring an opportunity to snag some sweet deals, thanks to the Lake Michigan College Foundation’s 28th annual Winners Circle Benefit Auction. LMC Foundation Director Mary Clem tells WSJM News the Saturday auction raises money for scholarships at LMC. Organizations and businesses from all over southwest Michigan offer up goodies to be bought.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Launches Book Drive

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is running a children’s book drive all throughout this month. The organization’s Julee Laurent tells WSJM News they’ve got book drive stations in businesses and other locations all over Berrien and Cass counties, hoping to gather 5,000 of books by the start of spring break.. ...Read Full Story

Police Providing Escorts At CMU Following Shooting

From the Associated Press — Police say they’re starting to escort students and staff from buildings at Central Michigan University while they continue to search for a young man accused of killing two people. School President George Ross says Friday is a “tragic day” for Central Michigan. Police are searching for 19-year-old James Eric Davis Jr. of Plainfield, Illinois. Police declined to confirm news reports that the two victims shot at a residence hall were Davis’ parents. Parents who were traveling to the Mount Pleasant, Michigan, campus to pick up students for spring break were told to go to a local hotel instead. A basketball game between Central Michigan and rival Western Michigan was postponed.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Aims To Improve End Of Life Care

New legislation from state Representative Kim LaSata is designed to make it easier for people suffering from a terminal illness to get the pain medications they need. With all kinds of new restrictions in place for opioids, LaSata’s measure would exempt hospice care providers from having to get a Michigan Automated Prescription System report on a patient before giving them a controlled substance. The law requiring doctors to get a MAPS report before filling out those prescriptions was passed last year, but LaSata says that rule was intended to prevent doctor shopping. LaSata says she believes it shouldn’t pertain to hospice providers giving end-of-life care. LaSata tells us the state shouldn’t interfere in the delicate task of providing comfort for the terminally ill. Her bill is now before a state House committee.. ...Read Full Story

LATEST: Two Killed In CMU Shooting

Two people have been killed in a shooting in a dorm on the campus of Central Michigan University. According to campus officials, neither are students. CMU has canceled all classes for today, and the campus is on lockdown as the shooter remains on the loose. He is 19-year-old James Eric Davis Jr., a black male who was last seen wearing mustard-colored pants and a blue hoodie. The shootings happened this morning on the fourth floor of Campbell Hall, and the incident is believed to have started with a “domestic situation” according to the university.. ...Read Full Story

Update: Two Shot On Central Michigan Campus

Michigan State Police are confirming that two people have been shot on the Central Michigan University campus in Mount Pleasant today. The suspect is still at large, and the campus is on lockdown. According to the city of Mt. Pleasant’s Twitter account, the suspect is black, 19-years-old, about 5-feet-9 and wearing yellow jeans and a blue hoodie. Classes have been canceled on what was the last day of school before spring break at CMU. The extent of the injuries to the victims shot at the Campbell Hall dormitory has not been released.. ...Read Full Story

Shots Fired On CMU Campus

The Central Michigan University campus is on lockdown and classes are canceled due to shots being fired on campus. Campus police say shots were reportedly fired inside a residence hall, and CMLife says no arrests have been made as of 10 a.m. A text alert to students says shots were fired near the fourth floor of Campbell Hall. University police were telling students to stay away from the building just after 9 a.m. Students are being told to shelter in place.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Approves Elimination Of Driver Fees

From the Associated Press — Rick Snyder has signed into law a plan to forgive outstanding extra fees owed by drivers for certain traffic infractions and to speed up the elimination of newly assessed fees. Newly assessed fees were supposed to end in October 2019. But now they will go away this coming October under legislation enacted Thursday. The Michigan Department of Treasury will no longer collect outstanding fees after September 30. Hundreds of thousands of motorists face the debt totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Drivers also can have their license reinstated quickly. The reinstatement fee is being eliminated for those who license was suspended due to nonpayment of the driver “responsibility” fees.. ...Read Full Story

Murder Investigation Near South Haven

Few details have been released, but Van Buren County sheriff’s deputies are investigating the shooting death of a man in a mobile home park outside of South Haven. They were dispatched to the scene of the homicide in the Port of Call West Mobile Home Park at about 9 pm Thursday. All that’s been made known about the victim is that he’s a man in his 40s. The suspected gunman left the scene and remains at large.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Community Foundation Launches New Endowments

Three new endowments have been created for the South Haven area to enhance the community culturally well into the future. The South Haven Community Foundation tells us it’s teaming up with the Al-Van Humane Society, the Historical Association of South Haven, and the South Haven Center for the Arts to launch three new endowment funds for each of those organizations so they can continue their missions. Anyone who wants to donate to one of the endowments can go to the South Haven Community Foundation’s website. The South Haven Community Foundation was established in 1996 with the goal of enriching the community in the areas of education, economic development, and the arts. To date, it’s awarded more than $250,000 to local groups.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Separates Manager Position Into Two

As an accounting firm moves in to take over the job of serving as the district’s finance director, the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has voted to break up one job into two. At a Wednesday meeting, School Board President Marletta Seats said the post of chief operating officer and chief financial officer have been combined into one since this past fall. Rehmann-Robson of Grand Rapids will be the new CFO.. ...Read Full Story

Bill Aims To Connect Patients With Mental Health Treatment

The Michigan House this week approved a package of five bills intended to improve mental health treatment in the state, and one of them was from state Representative Mary Whiteford of Casco Township to create a psychiatric bed registry. The system would be used by healthcare professionals to access for real-time information about the availability of in-patient beds. Whiteford says her bill came out of the Michigan House mental health task force which met around the state last year.. ...Read Full Story

Animal Control Taking Care Of Pets From Flood Areas

Berrien County Animal Control has been busy the last couple of weeks due to the flooding. It’s been Animal Control’s job to round up pets in evacuated areas and then hold on to them until their owners can reconnect. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us any pet owners ready to pick up Fido or Bowser can contact animal control. For now, Berrien County Animal Control is providing the displaced flood victims with Starter Pet Packs. For dogs, they include food, dishes, a collar, and a leash. For cats, they include a litterbox, litter, cat food, bowls, a collar, and a carrier if needed. Also, at this time, Berrien County Animal Control needs donations of pet items. They include things like dishes, blankets, paper towels, kitty litter and dish soap. Anything you can give will be appreciated. You can reach Berrien County Animal Control at (269) 927-5648.. ...Read Full Story

Officials Give Flood Recovery Update

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department’s initial estimate for flood damages is about $3.5 million, but the number will go up as some roads in Royalton Township still can’t be accessed. Several agencies responding to floods gave the public an update Thursday. Anthony Meyaard with the Berrien County Equalization Department gave some numbers.. ...Read Full Story

State House Approves Broadband Expansion Bill

The Michigan House has approved a bill from state Representative Beth Griffin intended to expand access to broadband internet in rural areas. The Mattawan Republican tells WSJM News her plan, approved Wednesday, would put a cap on fees that can be charged by road commissions for right-of-way access for broadband companies.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Promotes OK2Say Tip Line

State Senator John Proos is putting the word out to young people in southwest Michigan about the Michigan Attorney General’s OK2Say tip line. Proos tells WSJM News it’s an anonymous way someone can report a potentially-dangerous situation in their school. He notes OK2Say is especially relevant right now given all of the talk about school shootings.. ...Read Full Story