Local News Archives

Pedestrian Killed In St. Joseph Twp

A deadly hit-and-run accident this morning is under investigation in St. Joseph Township. WSJM News has learned a person was found laying in the road in the area of South Lakeshore Drive near Victoria Path, just north of Kay Manufacturing, shortly before 3 a.m. That victim was pronounced dead from his injuries at Lakeland Hospital. The driver and passenger, both of whom are juveniles, returned to the scene and were questioned by police. The accident report will be sent to the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office for review and possible charges. It’s not clear at this point if either youngster were taken into custody. No names have yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Storms Knock Out Power In Berrien County

Strong thunderstorms are responsible for several thousand Indiana Michigan Power customers being without any electricity this morning. After the first round of storms rolled through, there were 4,655 customers in the dark in Berrien County, with 23 separate outages. Nearly 15-hundred of those were in the Benton Harbor area, with just over 500 south of Coloma. More outages are possible throughout the day as storms continue to push through.. ...Read Full Story

Hundreds Turn Out For Courthouse Memorial Walk, Vigil

Several hundred people have marched to remember two fallen heroes and to express support for law enforcement in southwest Michigan. A memorial walk on the one year anniversary of the Berrien County Courthouse shootings was held Tuesday night. The procession took everyone from the courthouse to the Law Enforcement Memorial along the bluff in St. Joseph to remember Joe Zangaro and Ron Kienzle, two court security officers killed last year when an inmate grabbed a court security officer’s gun. Denise Fisher, with the Fraternal Order of Police, told us the community has really come out in support for police in the last year.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Schools To Hold Town Hall

A town hall is planned for this week in South Haven for everyone to learn more about what the programs offered at the local public school district. South Haven Public Schools spokesperson Amy Nichols tells WSJM News this is a sort of “State of the Schools” event to spread the word about the district.. ...Read Full Story

Coloma Area Double Murder Suspect Going To Trial

The man charged in a 2016 double murder case in Coloma is going to trial. On Tuesday, a Berrien County judge found there is enough evidence for Alex Perez to be tried in the deaths of Renee Mitchell and her father, John Mitchell. The two were found beaten to death in their Coloma area home on January 15 of last year. Perez was later arrested in Colorado. Mitchell relative Stephanie Kopaceski told WSJM News there was a lot on her mind in the courtroom.. ...Read Full Story

Watervliet Man Charged After Tuesday Chase With Police

A 42-year-old Watervliet man is in the Berrien County Jail following a chase with the Berrien County Weighmaster Tuesday. Michigan State Police tell WSJM News the weighmaster pulled over a vehicle on County Line Road for a traffic violation around 12:15 p.m. While talking to the driver, the suspect’s vehicle took off, dragging the weighmaster with it. He managed to get free, and then chased the suspect north on County Line Road before finally crashing and overturning at 70th Street near 48th Avenue. The weighmaster was taken to a hospital for treatment, while the suspect’s vehicle was found abandoned not long after. A Berrien County Sheriff’s Department K9 found the suspect hiding in the woods. The suspect is now charged with fleeing and eluding, drunk driving, and driving on a suspended license.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Athletic Director Steps Down

Benton Harbor Area Schools is now looking for a new athletic director. Fred Smith has submitted his resignation, effective immediately. Benton Harbor Area Schools Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker tells us Smith will be missed, adding, “He has been dedicated to Benton Harbor’s success these past two years.” Smith issued a brief statement saying he has not had the time needed to lead Benton Harbor in the direction it needs to go because of family issues. The position of athletic director will be posted shortly.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Casino Looking To Fill 1,200 Jobs

From the Associated Press — Four job fairs are being planned for positions at the tribal casino that’s under construction in northern Indiana.
The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians expects to have about 1,200 positions at the casino in South Bend when it opens early next year.The job fairs are July 22 and Sept. 9 at Jackson Middle School in South Bend, with the others August 5 at Four Winds Field and Oct. 3 at Century Center. The South Bend Tribune reports Pokagon spokeswoman Paige Risser wouldn’t disclose pay ranges for the jobs, saying only that they’ll be “market competitive.” Risser said she couldn’t yet specify an opening date for the casino. The Pokagon Band currently has Four Winds casinos at three southwestern Michigan locations, with its largest in New Buffalo.. ...Read Full Story

State Expected To Tighten Firewood Rules At Parks

From the Associated Press — Michigan is expected to tighten rules about firewood in state parks and some other public lands starting next year as part of efforts to curb destructive invasive species. Jason Fleming, resource protection and promotion section chief for the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division, tells The Holland Sentinel that an official policy is being developed. He says specifics could be
finalized this fall. Fleming notes that invasive species and disease can travel on firewood, whether the wood is brought from another state or just outside the park. Michigan already has some restrictions in place to prevent the spread of invasive pests and tree diseases. MLive.com reports campers, for example, might have to buy firewood at a park from an approved vendor or bring in wood that’s been certified.. ...Read Full Story

Memorial Walk, Candlelight Vigil Today To Remember Courthouse Victims

Today marks one year since the deadly shootings at the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph that claimed the lives of security director Joseph Zangaro and bailiff Ron Kienzle. The two were killed by an inmate trying to escape after he had stolen the gun of Deputy James Atterberry Jr. Atterberry survived being shot, as did a woman who was in the courthouse, and responding officers killed the inmate. Berrien Strong Community In Action and the Fraternal Order of Police Blossomland Lodge #100 are holding a memorial walk tonight starting at 8:30 from the courthouse to the Law Enforcement Memorial in St. Joseph, where a candlelight vigil will be held. If you plan to walk, you’re urged to arrive at the courthouse no later than 8:15.. ...Read Full Story

Child Drowns In Galien Township

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating after a seven-year-old-girl drowned in a Galien Township pond on Monday. It tells our newsroom deputies were called out to a swimming hole on a rural property along Jeffery Road near Spring Creek Road about 7:15 p.m. Sadie Geigler, of Michigan City, was pulled from the water. Despite efforts by emergency responders to save her, the girl was pronounced dead at Lakeland Hospital in Niles. The sheriff’s department was assisted at the scene by the Three Oaks, Police Department, the Pokagon Tribal Police Department, Three Oaks Ambulance, the Galien Township Fire Department, the Weesaw Township Fire Department, and the Bertrand Township Fire Department.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Commission Approves Whirlpool Tax Break

St. Joseph City Commissioners have taken the biggest step they needed to take in order to help a Whirlpool Tech Center expansion move forward. On Monday, they approved a commercial rehabilitation district certificate for the area of Upton Drive where the tech center work could take place. Rob Cleveland, with Cornerstone Alliance, tells us the next step is to get support from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.. ...Read Full Story

Son Of Van Buren Sheriff Charged In Connection With Shooting

The son of Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbot is facing charges in connection with a Bangor murder case early this year. MLive reports 23-year-old Nikolas Abbot is charged with being an accessory after the fact to a felony, felony firearm, and a false report of a felony connected to the February 3 shooting of Eddie Holland at a park. Prosecutors say Holland was shot by Thurman Fletcher, and that Nikolas Abbot provided the gun. Abbott is also accused of later reporting that handgun stolen and then selling it in Benton Harbor. Police have since recovered it. Fletcher is charged with murder in the shooting, which was related to a drug deal. Abbot is due for a preliminary exam on July 26.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder In Support Of “Good Jobs For Michigan” Plan

You can count Governor Rick Snyder as among the supporters of a plan to give a big tax incentive to companies that create a large number of jobs in Michigan. The Good Jobs for Michigan plan would allow employers to capture a portion of the income taxes their new employees pay if the employer has created at least 250 jobs that pay the regional average. Snyder thinks such an incentive could create a whole lot of opportunities.. ...Read Full Story

Paul Clements Talks New Congressional Campaign

Once again running for Congress in Michigan’s Sixth District is Paul Clements. He’s a professor at Western Michigan University who tells WSJM News President Trump and Republicans, in general, have been motivating more to vote Democratic. He thinks he could beat Congressman Fred Upton this time, despite losing to Upton twice.. ...Read Full Story

Court Nixes Big Drug Bust On SW Michigan Highway

(St. Joseph, MI – AP) – The Michigan appeals court is throwing a flag at the seizure of 15 pounds of marijuana in southwestern Michigan. The court says the marijuana can’t be used to prosecute a Florida man. The court says detaining Kevin Kavanaugh while state police waited for a drug-sniffing dog violated his rights. The appeals court says it’s applying a legal precedent by the U.S. Supreme Court and throwing out Kavanaugh’s conviction. His car was stopped on Interstate 196 in Berrien County in 2014. The appeals court says the traffic stop should have ended when Trooper Michael Daniels said he only would give a warning for Kavanaugh’s driving violations. The trooper called for a police dog when Kavanaugh declined to allow a search of the trunk. The 3-0 decision was released Friday.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Move Up; SWMI Lowest In State

Southwest Michigan has the state’s lowest gas prices to start the week. According to the latest survey from Triple-A Michigan, the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph average is up nearly 15¢ from last week at $2.38. The statewide average rose 13¢ to $2.42, which is the third-largest jump in the country. The state’s most expensive gas is being sold in Jackson at $2.48 a gallon. GasBuddy spotters note Niles has the lowest prices in the state at $2.03, and South Haven’s prices range from $2.29 to $2.32 a gallon.. ...Read Full Story

Part Of Euclid Avenue To Close Next Week

The Berrien County Road Commission will start rebuilding South Euclid Avenue in Benton Township next week. The road will only be open north of Napier to the county animal control facility starting Monday. Crews will raise the road grade in sections by a foot, widen it, and then have a double layer of tar and stone applied. The road commission expects the work to be done by Labor Day, and the project is costing the county $199,000.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Officer Hurt In Crash

A Benton Harbor Public Safety officer is recovering at Lakeland Medical Center after being injured in a Sunday morning crash on East Britain Avenue at Columbus Avenue. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us the officer was responding to a priority call of an assault in progress and had his lights and sirens going. The driver of a Ford Expedition was in front of the officer and started to turn left onto Columbus as the officer was passing him on the left, and the impact sent the patrol SUV rolling several times before coming to rest in a vacant lot. Other Benton Harbor officers had to use the “jaws of life” to extricate the injured officer from his patrol vehicle, and he was alert and conscious when he was taken to the hospital. The driver, an adult passenger, and six kids who were in the Ford were not hurt. The crash is still under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

100th Anniversary Celebration For Jean Klock Park Set For This Month

A celebration is being planned to mark the 100th anniversary of Benton Harbor’s Jean Klock Park this month. The Lake Michigan shoreline attraction was dedicated to the children in 1917 by J.N. Klock and his wife, Carrie, in honor of their deceased daughter. Since then, it’s gone through many ups and downs, and its 100th birthday will be celebrated on July 15. People will gather for a low-key, respectful event from 10 a.m. to 3 pm. They’ve got some games for the kids planned, and anyone who needs help getting down to the party can call Dial-A-Ride.. ...Read Full Story

Search Called Off For Possible South Haven Drowning Victim

Emergency responders have called off the search for a possible drowning victim in South Haven. The search started Friday night after witnesses reported seeing a man walk off the south pier into Lake Michigan and then not resurfacing. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department, South Haven Area Emergency Services, and the U.S. Coast Guard searched the water all day Saturday and found nothing. They say they’ve found no evidence of the man in the water. As of Saturday night, there were no plans to resume the search.. ...Read Full Story

Analyst: 1 In 60 Chance Of Straits Pipeline Spill By 2053

From the Associated Press — Analysts say there’s a small chance but serious risk of an oil spill from a nearly 65-year-old dual pipeline underneath the Straits of Mackinac in northern Michigan. Engineer James Mihell of Dynamic Risk Assessment Inc. says there is a 1 in 60
probability that the section of Enbridge Energy Inc.’s Line 5 pipeline running through waters that connect lakes Huron and Michigan will fail between now and 2053. The state hired the analysts to assess potential energy delivery alternatives in the area. Environmental activists have accused Dynamic Risk of underestimating the potential of a spill. Mihell disputed suggestions the firm was low-balling or sugar-coating the risk.
Analysts didn’t recommend a specific course of action by the state, but described several alternatives to the pipeline section, including construction of a new trench or tunnel crossing at the same location.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Drug And Family Treatment Court Graduates Five

The Van Buren County Drug and Family Treatment Court is celebrating five new graduates. On Friday, Judge Kathleen Brickley presided as the men were saluted for turning their lives around through the program. Treatment Court Case Manager Nehemiah Poffenberger tells WSJM News the court takes criminal offenders whose crimes were related to a substance abuse problem, and gets them help. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Man Hit, Killed By Vehicle

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating after a Buchanan man was hit and killed by a vehicle while walking along US-12 Friday night. Police tell WSJM News 46-year-old Michael Gaertner was found about 10:20 p.m. He’d been walking westbound when he was struck. Gaertner was taken to Lakeland Hospital in Niles where he was pronounced dead. The crash is still under investigation by Berrien County Crash Reconstruction Team.. ...Read Full Story

Search Underway For Possible Drowning Victim In South Haven

Emergency responders in South Haven are searching for a possible drowning victim. South Haven Area Emergency Services tells WSJM News they got a report shortly before 11 p.m. Friday of a person falling off the south pier into Lake Michigan and not resurfacing. Witnesses said the person was about halfway down the pier. Emergency responders searched the water surface with spot lights, a thermal imager, and a portable light tower. The Van Buren County Sheriff Department Dive Team also searched the water along the South Pier for several hours with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard before breaking it off. They resumed the search Saturday morning.. ...Read Full Story

Lane Closures This Month On M-43 In South Haven

Some lanes on part of M-43 in South Haven will be closed for the most of the month. The Michigan Department of Transportation tells our newsroom it’s doing some maintenance work on the road between Alyworth Avenue and LaGrange Street. The lane closures will take effect on Monday at 7 a.m. and be in place through Friday, July 28. If you want to get up to date information on all MDOT projects, go to Michigan.gov/Drive, and get MDOT’s app. It’s called MIDrive.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Library Seeking Input On Renovation Plans

A public meeting has been scheduled for next month for South Haven area residents to offer their thoughts on some upcoming library renovations. In May, voters approved a new millage for the South Haven Memorial Library so it could stay in its current building but do some upgrades. There are no set plans as of yet regarding what the renovations will include, and that’s why the public’s thoughts are being sought. The open forum will be held on Thursday, August 3 at 6 p.m. On hand will be library officials and representatives of Abonmarch. The renovations are set to take place this fall.. ...Read Full Story

Clements To Run For Congress Again

Democrat Paul Clements is running for Congress again in the Sixth District. This will be the third time Clements has sought to unseat Congressman Fred Upton, assuming Upton runs again next year. Clements announced he is giving it another go this week. This time around, he is facing a couple of primary opponents. They are David Benac and Eponine Garrod. Benac is a Western Michigan University professor, just like Clements, while Garrod is a tester at Pfizer. Clements has said Upton has become vulnerable due to ongoing controversies involving congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump.. ...Read Full Story

West Michigan Man Killed By Falling Tree

From the Associated Press — Authorities say a 72-year-old western Michigan man who was killed when a tree fell on his home was in bed at the time. Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke identified the victim of the storm early Friday as 72-year-old Lawrence Thon. Hawke says the tree took off an addition to the house and landed on Thon, who died at the scene. He says Thon’s body wasn’t recovered until non, more than
nine hours after the storm hit Grand Haven, because a private tree company and a technical rescue team had to remove the tree using a crane before stabilizing the home. Hawke said Thon’s wife also was home at the time but in a different part of the house and made it out safely.. ...Read Full Story

Plenty To Do In St. Joseph This Weekend

With the Krasl Art Fair and Smooth Jazz at Sunset happening this weekend in downtown St. Joseph, there should be plenty of opportunities for fun in the rest of the downtown. St. Joseph Today’s Daniele Crevier tells WSJM News the many of the shops and restaurants are planning special sales or other features because of the art fair.. ...Read Full Story

Police Identify Body Found At St. Joseph Marina

Police have identified a body found at a St. Joseph marina last month as that of a missing Benton Harbor man. Willie Brand was reported missing in May. On June 17, a body was found in the water at Pier 33 marina. At the time, police could not establish an identity because they said the body had been in the water for a long time. It took a DNA test at the Michigan State Police Crime Lab in Lansing to confirm that body as that of Brand. Police say drowning appears to have been the cause of death, and they found no signs of foul play.. ...Read Full Story

Lane Closures Planned For This Month On US-31 Near Berrien Springs

Some bridge work will mean lane closures on southbound US-31 near Berrien Springs for the rest of the month. The Michigan Department of Transportation tells us they’re working between Snow Road and Lake Chapin Road starting Monday. The lane closures will remain in effect through July 31 while the bridge is getting maintenance. You can stay up to date on all MDOT projects at Michigan.gov/Drive, or you can get the MIDrive app on both Android and iPhone.. ...Read Full Story

Schuette: Schools With Indian Nicknames Can’t Lose State Aid

Attorney General Bill Schuette says the Michigan school superintendent doesn’t have authority to cut off tax dollars to districts with American Indian mascots or logos. Schuette’s opinion was sought by state Representative Tim Kelly, a Republican from Saginaw County. Critics of schools with Indian mascots say they create a hostile environment and are culturally insensitive. But supporters say they’re signs of respect. In an opinion dated Monday, Schuette says state law lists specific grounds for a superintendent to stop state aid to a school district, but having an Indian mascot isn’t among them. In March, Superintendent Brian Whiston proposed cutting up to 10% of a district’s annual payments if he had authority. In Paw Paw, the school board in February voted to keep the Redskins nickname. Saranac also still uses the Redskins mascot.. ...Read Full Story

Monday Is The Deadline To Register To Vote In August

Time is running out to register to vote for some local elections taking place next month. The elections will be on August 8, and the deadline to register is next Monday. The Michigan Secretary of State’s office is also telling us there will be new voting equipment being used for the first time in 63 communities. Those communities have been receiving new optical scan machines designed to make things easier for both the voters and the election workers. In Berrien County, there will be a few things to decide next month. In the city of St. Joseph, three city commission candidates will be chosen out of a field of seven in a primary. Then, the three winners in the primary will appear again on a ballot in November, with the top two vote getters receiving four year terms and the third place candidate getting a two year term. On the August 8 ballot will be Fran Chickering, Al DiBrito, Kim Jorgensen Gane, Mike Garey, Peggy Getty, Mary Goff, and Laura Goos. There will also be some ballot questions to vote on in Three Oaks Township, Berrien Springs, and the village of Three Oaks.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Drug Treatment Court To Graduate Five Friday

Five men will graduate Friday from the Van Buren County Drug and Family Treatment Court. Judge Kathleen Brickley will preside and share some information about the transformation that’s occurred in each grad’s life. All five of them are recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction, and in some cases, they’ve been able to avoid jail or prison by taking part in the rigorous treatment program the specialty court provides. The Van Buren County Specialty Courts Administrator tells us the programs offer community supervision and treatment to addicts who find themselves in the legal system because of their substance problem. The goal is to reduce the rate of reoffending, cut costs for taxpayers, and preserve families. The graduates will celebrate their completion of the programs at 9 a.m. at the courthouse in Paw Paw.. ...Read Full Story

Man Dies In Niles Area Roll Over Crash

Michigan State Police are investigating a fatal crash which occurred Thursday afternoon on US-31 near Niles. MSP tells us officers arrived on scene to find a single vehicle that had rolled over. The driver was trapped inside, and the Bertrand Township Fire Department had to get him out. The man, 71-year-old James Panos, of Martinsville, Indiana, went into cardiac arrest while being extricated. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. Police are still working to determine what caused the crash.. ...Read Full Story

Kalamazoo County Approves New ID Card Program

From the Associated Press — Kalamazoo County has decided to create an identification card program for residents who lack documents needed to get a state ID. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports the county Board of Commissioners’ 6-5 vote Wednesday was split along party lines, but the Democratic majority approved a resolution creating the program. The resolution authorizes an initial budget of $60,000 to begin the program in
January. It also creates an advisory board that would report to the Board of Commissioners. The program will ensure an estimated 27,000 residents without a state-issued ID still have access to government and commercial services. Residents would be required to prove their residency status with several documents. However, state and federal programs may not recognize the ID.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan AG: Schools With Native American Nicknames Can’t Lose State Aid

From the Associated Press — Attorney General Bill Schuette says the Michigan school superintendent doesn’t have authority to cut off tax dollars to districts with American Indian mascots or logos. Schuette’s opinion was sought by state Rep. Tim Kelly, a Republican from Saginaw County.
Critics of schools with Indian mascots say they create a hostile environment and are culturally insensitive. But supporters say they’re signs of respect. In an opinion dated Monday, Schuette says state law lists specific grounds for a superintendent to stop state aid to a school district, but having an Indian mascot isn’t among them. In March, Superintendent Brian Whiston proposed cutting up to 10 percent of a district’s annual payments if he had authority. In Paw Paw, the school board in February voted to keep the Redskins nickname.. ...Read Full Story

Double Murder Suspect Found Competent

There is some movement in a Berrien County double murder case. The “Herald-Palladium” reports Alex Perez has been found competent for trial after several months of treatment. He is accused of killing Renee Mitchell and her father, John, in their Hagar Township home in January 2016, and trying to flee to California with his two children he had with her. Perez and the children were found in Colorado the next day after a nationwide Amber Alert was issued. He is charged with two counts of premeditated first-degree murder and faces life in prison without parole if convicted. Perez is due in court Tuesday for a preliminary hearing and is being held on five-million-dollars bond in the Berrien County Jail.. ...Read Full Story

Concerns About Possible Water Rule Changes

The public comment period on the Trump administration’s proposal to repeal and replace the Clean Water Rule is expected to begin this week. The move would reverse pollution protections for streams and wetlands that supply one third of the nation’s drinking water. Jan Goldman-Carter, with the National Wildlife Federation, tells us a majority of the nation’s stream miles and wetland acres are at stake.. ...Read Full Story

Group Aims to Create Park Celebrating Italian Culture In Benton Harbor

An effort is underway to spruce up an area of Benton Harbor that used to be known as Little Italy. Al DiBrito, of St. Joseph, tells WSJM News the plan is to turn land near Territorial and 2nd Street into a park celebrating Italian culture. He told city commissioners this week about its history as an Italian neighborhood, and outlined what he has in mind for the park property.. ...Read Full Story