Local News Archives

Veteran Walking Around Lake Michigan Arrives In St. Joseph

A Marine Corps veteran who is walking all the way around Lake Michigan to raise money for fighting suicides among veterans is now in southwest Michigan. Travis Snyder arrived in St. Joseph Thursday. He started his journey about a month ago in Manistee, went around the U.P. and Wisconsin, passed through Illinois and Indiana, and then hiked into Michigan this week. He told WSJM News he’s passionate about helping struggling veterans.. ...Read Full Story

County Administrator Calls For State Review

Berrien County Administrator Bill Wolf is calling for a state investigation into the conduct of local elected officials. Following the Berrien County Board of Commissioners vote Thursday to appoint a special counsel to look into disclosure and conflict of interest questions among commissioners, Wolf spoke out during public comments. He commended the board for retaining the special counsel to examine the matter following the Berrien County Prosecutor’s investigation into Commissioner Teri Freehling. Then…. ...Read Full Story

County Commission Appoints Special Counsel

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has appointed former Judge John Dewane as a special counsel to look into disclosure and conflict of interest issues surrounding commissioners following a recent investigation into Commissioner Teri Freehling. On Wednesday, the Berrien County Prosecutor’s office announced there would be no charges filed out of an investigation regarding Freehling’s late husband renting out equipment to a contractor working on county drain projects. However, on Thursday Board of Commissioners Chair Mac Elliot told WSJM News the former circuit judge will examine the board’s bylaws to see if their disclosure rules should be fortified.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Seeks Work On Drug Prices

Congressman Fred Upton is working with other members of the House to come up with a plan that could lower prescription drug costs. He tells WSJM News House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week issued a plan of her own without seeking input from Republicans.. ...Read Full Story

Warrant Issued For Monday Night Benton Harbor Shooting Suspect

A two-count felony warrant is now active for the suspect in a shooting Monday night in the city of Benton Harbor. Public Safety officials say they’ve as yet been unable to find 23-year-old Uriah Beauford, who is believed to be in Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids, or Kalamazoo. Beauford is accused of shooting a 41-year-old Benton Harbor woman at a home in the 700 block of Vineyard just after 10 p.m. Monday. She was taken to Spectrum Health Lakeland, and the last update from police indicated she was in stable condition.. ...Read Full Story

Paw Paw Wine Distributors Sold To Three Buyers

A long-time southwest Michigan company is changing hands. Paw Paw Wine Distributors is being sold to three buyers after being family-owned since 1943. The first products distributed by the firm were locally made wines from Paw Paw, including St. Julian, and continued to expand to bring in more wines like Kendall Jackson and E&J Gallo along with beer from Heineken and Kalamazoo Brewing Company, which is now Bell’s Brewing. Alliance Beverage of Grand Rapids, Great Lakes Wine and Spirits of Highland Park, and Vintage Wine Company of Roseville are buying the distribution rights to the company’s portfolio of beer and wine. Paw Paw Wine Distributors will continue operating, and says the transition is expected at the end of this year.. ...Read Full Story

One Shot, One Assaulted Overnight In Benton Harbor

A 24-year-old Benton Harbor woman is in stable condition at Spectrum Health Lakeland after being shot at a home in the 800 block of Lavette late Wednesday night around 11:30. Benton Harbor Public Safety detectives say a 27-year-old Benton Harbor man was also assaulted, and he’s been treated and released from the hospital. No information has been released on any suspects in the attack. Detectives are continuing to investigate and they’re asking any witnesses to come forward either by calling the department’s Tipline, Crime Stoppers, or using the Benton Harbor Public Safety app on their phone.. ...Read Full Story

Nessel Pushing For Banking Changes For Marijuana Businesses As House Takes Action

Legal marijuana businesses in the 33 states that allow it, including Michigan, are cash-only. That’s because of the federal prohibition on marijuana, which makes it illegal for those establishments to use banks. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has signed on to an effort with 21 other attorneys general from both parties to call for a change in federal law as more states approve at least medicinal marijuana. Action has been taken in the U.S. House, with a 321-103 vote to approve a bill that would grant legal marijuana businesses access to banking.. ...Read Full Story

Vape Shop Sues To Stop State Ban

From the Associated press — The owner of a northern Michigan vape shop is suing to stop Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s ban on flavored electronic cigarettes, contending the emergency rules are illegal and will force him to close his store. Marc Slis, who operates 906 Vapor in Houghton, filed the lawsuit in Houghton County Circuit Court on Wednesday. It is believed to be the first of what could
be several legal challenges against Whitmer’s ban. Stores are supposed to start complying with the ban on October 2. Slis says the emergency rules are invalid, arbitrary and capricious in part because tobacco products – the most prevalent source of nicotine – are
unaffected by the ban. Whitmer has said the e-cigarette industry is using candy flavors and deceptive advertising to target children.. ...Read Full Story

Unemployment Agency Teams Up With LinkedIn

Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency has announced a new partnership with job searching social network LinkedIn to help clients find new employment. Unemployment Insurance Agency Deputy Director Kimberly Berry tells WSJM News Michigan is part of a three-state pilot being launched by LinkedIn to have special portals for those who are unemployed and receiving benefits.. ...Read Full Story

Manufacturing Day Set For Next Month

Michigan Works is getting ready for the next Manufacturing Day in Berrien and Van Buren counties, and this year, they’re doing it a little bit differently. Michigan Works Sector Relations Coordinator Erin Venno tells WSJM News for the six previous Manufacturing Days, they took local high school students on tours of manufacturing businesses. This year, they’re taking the manufacturers to the students.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeland Official Talks Racial Health Disparities

Spectrum Health Lakeland Director of Population Health Lynn Todman is working to help the community understand some of the factors that go into a person’s health outcomes, and a big focus is on race. Todman tells WSJM News her studies at Lakeland have shown major racial disparities when it comes to health in the region. She says part of her job is making sure doctors understand that things like the neighborhood where someone lives determines how healthy they are.. ...Read Full Story

Court Opens Waiting Room For Children Going Through Protective Proceedings

There is a new waiting room just for children at the Berrien County Courthouse as the family division works to create a more welcoming environment. Berrien County Trial Court Family Division Intake Manager Jean Lawrence tells WSJM News an initiative to have more children directly involved in their own child protective proceedings made the waiting area necessary. She says it’s a best practice to have the kids there when their well-being is discussed.. ...Read Full Story

Man Faces Up To Life Following Meth Conviction

A Mishawaka man is facing up to life in prison after being convicted in Cass County of resisting and obstructing a police officer and possession of methamphetamine. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office says 26-year-old Danzig Weed was stopped by sheriff’s deputies on March 17 after leaving the scene of a vehicle fire in Pokagon Township. Officers held Weed at gunpoint after he moved his hand toward his back pocket and refused to comply with commands to get down on the ground. A search revealed that he had a syringe filled with methamphetamine in his back pocket. His trial this week included the showing of body cam footage from an arresting officer. The jury on Tuesday found Weed guilty on the two charges, but not guilty on a second count of resisting. Weed also has a pending criminal case in Indiana for stealing a vehicle. He faces up to life in prison as a habitual offender with three or more prior felony convictions when he’s sentenced on November 8.. ...Read Full Story

Fest In The Southwest Set For Saturday

Set for this Saturday is an event to raise money for the Cora Lamping Center for Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence in Berrien County. It’s the third annual “Fest in the Southwest” at Watermark Brewing Company in Stevensville. Avenue Family Network board member Ryan Ogle tells WSJM News $20 will get you a beer stein, two drink tokens, and a brat ticket. 95% of the proceeds from the event will go to the safe shelter for survivors of domestic violence. The fundraiser comes as the center is seeking to expand.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven’s Second Lighthouse Keeper To Be Honored This Week

Water Street in South Haven will have an honorary name added to it this week. The city council recently gave the go-ahead to name the street Captain Donahue Drive for Civil War Captain James Donahue. After losing a leg in the war, he was hired as South Haven’s second lighthouse keeper at the age of 32 in 1874. Among the at least 15 lives he’s credited with saving were his two sons, and in some of those rescues, he dove into the water personally to pull someone to safety. The city will hold a ceremony at 3 p.m. tomorrow at the intersection of Water and Kalamazoo streets at the top of the hill to unveil the new signs. Donahue died in 1917 and is buried at South Haven’s Lakeview Cemetery. Friday’s ceremony is open to the public.. ...Read Full Story

Special Counsel To Report Back To Berrien County Board In Three Weeks Regarding Conflicts Of Interest Case

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners will be conducting its own investigation of potential conflicts of interest by Commissioner Teri Sue Freehling. The commission says in a statement released after Prosecutor Michael Sepic announced no charges would be filed against Freehling that it has retained a Special Counsel to “review the facts of this conflict of interest issue and to advise the Board concerning its appropriate course of action.” A report will be given to the Board within the next three weeks.. ...Read Full Story

Niles City Council Sets Special Meeting On Recreational Marijuana

The largest city in Berrien County could soon become the first to opt-in to the new state law allowing for recreational marijuana businesses serving people 21 and older. On October 7, the Niles City Council will vote on both a Zoning Ordinance amendment to add new definitions for those establishments and to opt-in to allowing them to set up shop. The council heard the first reading of the ordinances this week and then scheduled the special meeting for the votes. Most local governments in the state voted to opt-out of allowing recreational marijuana businesses under the new voter-approved law, with most citing the need to wait for state regulators to get the rules in place.. ...Read Full Story

Prosecutor: No Charges Against Berrien County Commissioner Teri Sue Freehling

No criminal charges will be filed against Berrien County Commissioner Teri Sue Freehling related to potential conflicts of interests with county drain commission contracts for which her late husband was renting out the equipment. Prosecutor Michael Sepic says he will not authorize misdemeanor charges in the case, saying that proving beyond a reasonable doubt that she knew the full extent of the money being paid to Patrick Freehling by Hartzler Excavating over a two-year period would be “too great.”. ...Read Full Story

Volunteers Removing Invasive Plants At Warren Dunes Saturday

Volunteers are being sought for another environmental stewardship day this weekend at Warren Dunes State Park in Berrien County. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says volunteers will be removing invasive plants like the Japanese barberry and honeysuckle from the forested dunes to protect native habitat. No experience is needed, and those who attend will be given some training to recognize the targeted species. Those who go are advised to wear closed toe shoes, long sleeves, and long pants. You should also have insect repellent that contains DEET. The volunteers are told to meet at the organizational campground parking area on Floral Lane at 10 a.m. The DNR notes this stewardship day will be taking place on September 28, which happens to be National Public Lands Day.. ...Read Full Story

State Grant Announced For Apartment Development In Benton Harbor

A state grant has been announced for a housing development in Benton Harbor. The Michigan Strategic Fund is awarding $1.5 million to Benton Harbor Flats LCC to renovate a vacant, two-story building in a mixed-use development area of downtown Benton Harbor. When it’s finished, the project at Main and Pipestone is expected to results in 16 market-rate apartments and two office suites. They’re going to do interior renovations along with restoring the original brick facade of the building. State Representative Pauline Wendzel announced the grant this week, saying the project will create 22 jobs and serve as a catalyst for future development in the heart of Benton Harbor.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Recruiting Officers

Anyone interested in becoming a conservation officer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is being told to take a look at the DNR’s website. DNR First Lieutenant Jason Wicklund tells WSJM News the agency it’s planning a conservation officer training academy for next year. It’s seeking candidates from all backgrounds for the academy scheduled for July at the Michigan State Police training facility. DNR conservation officers are certified police officers with the authority to enforce all state laws. Wicklund says they also protect the state’s natural resources, and there’s never a dull moment for them.. ...Read Full Story

Chicago Men Jailed After Police Chase In Buchanan, Galien, Three Oaks, New Buffalo

Two Chicago men are in the Berrien County Jail after leading police on a chase through Buchanan, Galien, Three Oaks, and New Buffalo early this morning. A third managed to slip away when the suspects’ stolen Jeep came to a stop on US-12 near I-94 after stop sticks blew out the tires and they hit a sign post. A K-9 from the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office in Indiana helped track two of the suspects hiding in the weeds. The 2015 Jeep had been reported stolen in Highland Park, Illinois, and deputies found burglary tools hidden under a blanket in the back of the vehicle. Jailed are 25-year-old Chamaine Davis and 20-year-old Calvin Edwards for outstanding felony warrants out of Cook County, Illinois. They are also expected to be charged here with fleeing and eluding police, possession of a stolen vehicle, and driving without a valid license.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Public Safety Looking For Shooting Suspect

Police are looking for 23-year-old man for a shooting in the 700 block of Vineyard in the city of Benton Harbor last night. Public safety officials have identified him as Uriah Beauford and say he is also wanted for unrelated charges and is believed to be in either Benton Harbor, Kalamazoo, or Grand Rapids. A 41-year-old Benton Harbor woman is in stable condition at Spectrum Health Lakeland after being shot just after 10 p.m. Beauford is considered armed and dangerous, and Benton Harbor Public Safety is asking for tips on where he might be, but warning people to stay away from him. Those tips can be sent through the city’s public safety department app, by calling Crime Stoppers at 800-342-STOP, or by calling the Benton Harbor Public Safety Tipline at 269-927-0293.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Dunes Seeing More Visitors With National Park Status

From the Associated Press — The Indiana Dunes National Park saw its highest number of visitors this summer after receiving national park status. The 15,000-acre (6,070-hectare) park along the southern shore of Lake Michigan in northwestern Indiana became Indiana’s first national park in February. The Chicago Tribune reports that the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center has tallied 131,662 visitors in the first eight months of 2019, breaking its all-time annual record. The park drew in over 42,000 July visitors, more than doubling totals from the same period last year. Park officials say the higher visitor numbers indicate the public has responded to the national park designation. The giant sand dunes were formed over 10,000 years ago and reach almost 200 feet (60 meters) tall in  some places.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Monitoring Eastern Equine Encephalitis Cases

The Berrien County Health Department is advising everyone to take common sense steps to avoid mosquito bites as the number of Eastern Equine Encephalitis cases in Michigan has gone up. On Friday, the state health department said a new case was discovered in Calhoun County. Berrien County Health Department spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the Berrien count remains at one, with one more suspected. She says using insect repellent and wearing long pants and sleeves are key ways to protect yourself. This especially applies at night.. ...Read Full Story

Voting Rate Of LMC Students Increases

The voter participation rate among Lake Michigan College students has doubled in the past four years. LMC says a report has found the voting rate among students was 17% for the 2014 midterm elections, and 35% in the 2018 midterms. LMC political science instructor Tiffany Bohm credits the LMC Votes campaign, which sought to increase voter registrations at the college. She spoke with WSJM News.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer OKs Medicaid Reporting Changes, Rips Lack Of Funding

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed changes to Michigan’s reporting requirements for people who will have to meet work-related requirements to qualify for Medicaid coverage. But she’s accusing the Republican-led Legislature of not allocating $10 million she requested to implement the rules, which will take effect in January. Whitmer on Monday signed a law exempting some enrollees in the state’s Medicaid expansion program – Healthy Michigan – from having to meet monthly reporting rules if the state can verify their compliance with work requirements through other data. People would have a month to verify their compliance, instead of 10 days under existing law. The Democratic governor, who opposes the work requirements, says lawmakers
should automatically suspend the rules if data in early 2020 show significant numbers of Michiganders will lose coverage.. ...Read Full Story