Local News Archives

Former SMC Professor Charged With Criminal Sexual Conduct

A former professor for Southwestern Michigan College is facing several charges of criminal sexual conduct. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office tells us George Field was arraigned on Wednesday. He’s facing charges of criminal sexual conduct in the first, second, and fourth degrees, along with practicing psychology without a license. The prosecutor says the matter came to light after Southwestern Michigan College was told about an incident at the Family Center in Dowagiac and encouraged the victim to contact police. In addition to practicing at the Family Center, Field was an SMC professor at the time of the incident. Bond for Field has been set at $200,000, and his next court date is October 5. If convicted of the most serious charge, he could get up to life in prison.. ...Read Full Story

State Police Director Apologizes For NFL Protest Post

From the Associated Press — The director of the Michigan State Police has apologized for sharing a post on her Facebook page that called NFL players protesting during the national anthem “degenerates.” The message shared Sunday by Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue calls the
players “millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our armed forces and veterans.” The posting signed “we the people” also calls the protesters “rich, entitled, ungrateful.” The post prompted calls from activists and others for her firing.A statement from Etue late Tuesday said it was a mistake to share the post and she’ll “continue my focus on unity.” The taking of a knee during the national anthem was started last year by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to draw attention to social inequality and police treatment of blacks.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Approves New Tax Incentive For Amazon

From the Associated Press — Michigan is giving online retailer Amazon $4.5 million to ensure it opens another facility in the state.
The Michigan Strategic Fund approved the incentive Tuesday for the e-commerce powerhouse to open a fulfillment center in Macomb County’s Shelby Township. Seattle-based Amazon plans to create 1,025 full-time jobs at the $40 million facility. It is the third time in nine months that the state has authorized a grant to open an Amazon fulfillment center, which is a giant warehouse where items are stored, packaged and shipped. The other centers will also be based in the Detroit area – in Romulus and Livonia. Economic development officials say Amazon chose the Shelby Township site over competing sites in other Midwestern states and Canada.. ...Read Full Story

Vice President To Visit Michigan Wednesday

From the Associated Press — Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Michigan this week to push a plan to cut taxes and simplify the country’s tax code. Pence will arrive Wednesday evening for a Republican dinner in the Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills. On Thursday, he will discuss the tax overhaul proposal at American Axle Manufacturing in Auburn Hills. Governor Rick Snyder also will participate in the business event with Pence. The Trump administration is expected to release details on the tax overhaul proposal Wednesday. Cabinet members and other top administration officials also are expected to fan out Thursday to talk about the benefits of overhauling the tax system.. ...Read Full Story

Constantine Man Wins $100,000 In Powerball

A southwest Michigan man is $100,000 richer this week. Stephen Strickland, of Constantine, matched four of the white balls in the latest Powerball drawing to win that prize. It’s usually a $50,000 win, but with a two times Powerplay, his prize was multiplied by two. Strickland bought his ticket at Jit Food and Gas in Constantine . He says he knew something was off when he scanned his ticket after the drawing and the machine told him to speak to a retailer. He checked online, and learned he was a big $100,000 winner. Strickland picked up his ceremonial check on Monday. It was handed to him by Michigan Lottery Commissioner Aric Nesbitt. The odds of matching four white balls in the Powerball — one in 913,000.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Springs Among Top MI Districts For Schools Of Choice

A new MLive report takes a look at the state’s Schools of Choice program, ranking one Berrien County district near the top of the list of districts that benefit. Berrien Springs Public Schools, according to MLive, is second in the state for Schools of Choice participation. Berrien Springs enrolled 151% more public school students than lived in the district in the 2016-17 school year. One reason could be the online learning program offered there. Other Berrien county school districts to rank in the top 50 are Eau Claire at 22, Watervliet at 25, and Bridgman at 39. The top Michigan school district when it comes to attracting Schools of Choice students is Carrollton Public Schools in Saginaw County. You can find the MLive report right here.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Taking Time On Senate Decision

Congressman Fred Upton doesn’t have a timetable for announcing whether he’ll run for the U.S. Senate next year. There’s been a lot of talk about the possibility, especially following last week’s Republican Leadership Conference, but Upton tells WSJM News he’s not making any decision just yet. He’s got plenty of time.. ...Read Full Story

One Arrested For Stealing Copper Wire From AEP Property

One man is facing charges following the theft of some copper wire from an American Electric Power facility in Berrien County. The sheriff’s department tells us the thefts occurred over the past several months, resulting in multiple reports to police. The sheriff’s department says it set up a surveillance detail outside the Lake Township AEP property this week. In the early morning hours of Monday, deputies they busted a 46-year-old Dowagiac man stealing copper wire from the site. He’s now charged with resisting arrest, larceny, possession of burglary tools, breaking and entering, possession of stolen property, and larceny from yards.. ...Read Full Story

House Speaker Introduces New Auto Insurance Plan

From the Associated Press — Michigan drivers would no longer be required to buy unlimited medical insurance benefits to cover their injuries in case they were seriously injured in a crash under legislation aimed at lowering the state’s high auto premiums by between 20% and 50%. The plan unveiled Tuesday would let motorists stick with unlimited coverage or instead buy either $250,000 or $500,000 of coverage. Auto insurers would be required to cut rates for people selecting $250,000 in coverage. The bill is backed by Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and others trying to reduce premiums that are highest in the country. The measure would subject auto insurers to a fee schedule for health services, similarly to how health insurers’ reimbursements to providers are lower for Medicare patients.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Township Murder Trial Set For January

The Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office says the two intruders who were blamed by a Niles Township man for the death of his wife were made up. They presented their evidence against John Lewis at a preliminary examination yesterday, and Lewis was bound over for trial on murder and drug charges in January. A friend of the suspect, Justin Perry, spoke to our partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 and said Lewis is not a violent person, and wasn’t aware of any marital issues.. ...Read Full Story

This Is Michigan Trails Week

Michigan has more than 12,500 miles of hiking and biking trails. Michigan Department of Natural Resources trail coordinator Paul Yauk wants you to get out and enjoy them during this Michigan Trails Week. He spoke with Michigan News Network about the week.. ...Read Full Story

AARP Helping Cities Be More Senior-Friendly

The AARP of Michigan is planning some meetings in Grand Rapids for this month to hear what seniors think of their community. The organization’s Jennifer Munoz tells us Grand Rapids is striving to be more senior friendly. Munoz says there are small changes any community can make to better address the needs of residents of all ages. For example, they could plant more trees.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joe Commissioners Hear Ideas For Parks Master Plan

St. Joseph city leaders are looking at the future of three local parks. At a Monday meeting, city commissioners heard from Robert Ford, a consultant who’s been brought on to draft a master plan for Dickinson, Whirlpool Centennial, and Riverview Parks. He told us Dickinson could be looking at restrooms, a pavilion, a playground, and some sidewalks. There’s a question about fences not yet resolved. As for Riverview, he said an obvious improvement would be new traffic patterns.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Woman Injured In Crash

A Niles woman is recovering after a single-vehicle crash on Monday morning. The city police department tells us it happened about 8:20 a.m. on West Chicago Road between Meadow Drive and Colony Court. 35-year-old Jennifer Flewellen had been heading west when she crossed the center line and wound up hitting a utility pole on the opposite side of the road. Responding police found her unresponsive, and she was taken to Lakeland Hospital by ambulance. Police say they do not know her current condition. The crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

DACA Workshop Planned For This Weekend In Kalamazoo

With the Trump administration promising to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a workshop is coming up this weekend in Kalamazoo for affected immigrants to renew their DACA status. Anyone whose DACA expires between September and March have to renew by October 5. Justice For Our Neighbors Attorney Katrina Pradelski told WKZO News that renewal should shield “Dreamers” for another two years.. ...Read Full Story

Schuette Endorsed By Engler, Miller

From the Associated Press — Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette has won the endorsements of former Governor John Engler and former congresswoman and Secretary of State Candice Miller. In comments released by Schuette’s campaign Monday, Engler told Gongwer News Service that the Michigan attorney general is “in some ways the most experienced and most varied in background of anybody who’s run in a very long time.” When Engler was governor, he chose the “very talented” Schuette to lead the agriculture department. Miller, Macomb County’s public works commissioner, also has endorsed Schuette. She calls him “our strongest candidate.” Schuette, who’s visiting Upper Peninsula businesses, is vying to succeed term-limited Governor Rick Snyder. Other Republicans running are state Sen. Patrick Colbeck and Dr. Jim Hines. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is considering a run.. ...Read Full Story

This Is Rail Safety Week

Everyone’s being reminded to be cautious around railroad crossings as part of U.S. Rail Safety Week this week. Michigan Operation Lifesaver Coordinator Sam Crowl tells WSJM News too many drivers and pedestrians seem to forget what to do when they’re near railroad tracks.. ...Read Full Story

Chris Heugel Resigns From St. Joseph City Commission

Chris Heugel has resigned from the St. Joseph City Commission. In a letter addressed to Mayor Mike Garey, Heugel says it’s with a heavy heart that he’s stepping down. Heugel goes on to say he’s closed on his home in the city and is moving to the township. Therefore, he can no longer serve on the city commission. Heugel adds in his letter that it’s been “a true privilege and an honor” to serve. He was first elected to the city commission in 2013, taking office that November. Heugel’s term ends in November of 2019, and it’s now the city commission’s job to pick a replacement to serve out the remainder. In the past 20 years, there have been two occasions on which a city commissioner resigned. They were Charles LaSata in 1998, and Chad Mandarino in 2007.. ...Read Full Story

GOP US Senate Field Could Expand Soon

Congressman Fred Upton spent his weekend edging closer to a run for the U.S. Senate. At the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, Upton took informal steps toward entering the race to challenge long-time Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow. The St. Joseph Republican cautions he’s still a ways off from making any announcement, but several top GOP members are expecting him to make the move. Declared Republican candidates so far are former Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bob Young and businessman and Iraq War veteran John James. Grosse Pointe businessman Sandy Penser is also expected to run and spend a lot of his own money in the race.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Gas Prices Fall Again

With Hurricane Harvey’s destruction behind us, our gas prices are continuing to slide lower. In Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Triple-A Michigan says our average price is down 13¢ from last week to $2.43 a gallon. The state average has dropped 12¢ to the 10th lowest in the country at $2.42. The state’s lowest prices can be found for the second straight week in the Saginaw/Bay City/Midland region of those AAA surveys, where it’s $2.32. The auto club says the most expensive gas is in Marquette at $2.54. South Haven is not included in AAA’s survey, which is why the average there of $2.26 isn’t included among the state’s lowest gas prices. AAA says Michigan’s drop of 12¢ is the second-largest drop this week in the country.. ...Read Full Story

Illinois Man Dies In Lake Michigan Tubing Accident

An Illinois man has died following a tubing accident on Lake Michigan despite what the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department describes as “gallant efforts” to save him. 66-year-old Robert Amenitsch of Niles, Illinois was on a tube being towed at a slow speed by his son, Michael, of Stevensville. Police say the man rolled on his back and then into the water about two miles north of the piers in St. Joseph. His son turned the boat around immediately, and found his father unresponsive. He was taken to the beach with the help of good Samaritans for CPR and then to the U.S. Coast Guard station by the USCG vessel, where he was pronounced dead. The incident happened in a “no wake” zone of the lake north of Rocky Gap County Park just after 3:30 Sunday afternoon. Police are still investigating.. ...Read Full Story

West Nile Detected In West Michigan

From the Associated Press — Health officials say four adults in western Michigan’s Kent County have tested positive for the West Nile virus and another is suspected of having the mosquito-borne disease. The county’s Health Department says it’s not know where they may have
contracted the virus, but County Health Officer Adam London says “mosquitoes are still quite active” and people should take precautions against bites. The virus was identified in three Michigan birds in May, the earliest such detection of the virus spreading through the state in a decade. Symptoms of the disease include fever, confusion, muscles weakness and severe headache. More serious complications include neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis. Last year, the state says there were 43 serious illnesses and three deaths
related to West Nile virus in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven PD Looking For Robbery Suspect

An armed robbery suspect remains on the loose in west Michigan. South Haven police say they arrested one suspect around 1 p.m. Sunday near the 400 block of Huron Street, where they’d been called for an armed robbery. The second suspect has been identified as 21-year-old Michael James Gray II, who is believed to now be either in the Grand Rapids or South Haven areas. Gray is originally from North Carolina, and may still be armed with a black semi-automatic handgun.. ...Read Full Story

LMC College Night Tomorrow

Lake Michigan College is gearing up for its next annual College Night. LMC Director of Admissions Jeremy Schaeffer tells WSJM News it’s a chance for one and all to come out and meet representatives of colleges from all over the country as students consider which institutions they want to attend.. ...Read Full Story

Missing Person in Gobles

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is looking for a missing woman. They say 44-year-old Patricia Ann Thorpe left her sisters residence at 302 North State Street in Gobles sometime between 12:30 AM and 8:00 AM on Sunday, September 24th.  She did not leave a note and did not bring her phone with her. Thorpe is developmentally disabled and suffers from a speech impediment.  She was last seen wearing black pajama pants with animal print on them, a white T-shirt and black shoes. She should also be wearing glasses.  She should be in possession of an over the shoulder purse as well. She is described as five foot tall and weighs 105 pounds. It is unknown on where she is headed.  There is concern for her safety due to her developmental disorder as well as the extreme heat in the area. . ...Read Full Story

State Police Angels Program Now Up And Running

The Michigan State Police Angels Program is now up and running. Launched Monday, Angels offers individuals seeking help with an addiction to come to a state police post and ask for treatment with no fear of being arrested. MSP Lieutenant Dale Hinz at the Paw Paw post tells WSJM News the key now is to get the word out.. ...Read Full Story

Southwest Michigan Dreamers Hoping For DACA Replacement

The clock is ticking on Congress to approve a replacement for DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It’s enabled nearly 800,000 illegal immigrants brought into this country as children to work and avoid the fear of deportation to countries that, in some cases, they don’t even know. DACA has affected immigrants right here in Berrien County, including “Estela” and Luz. Each is from Mexico and each is 20 years old. WSJM News spoke with them and learned Estela has applied for DACA and is waiting to be approved. She’s been in the United States since she was six years old, and tells us she doesn’t know what would happen if she were sent back to Mexico.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Judge LaSata To Give Presentation On Specialty Court

Set for next month is a presentation in Berrien Springs by Berrien County Judge Charles LaSata. The topic — Berrien County’s Specialty Courts. Judge LaSata will speak to the League of Women Voters of Berrien and Cass Counties at the RESA building. Berrien County has four specialty courts. They are the Drug Treatment Court, the Drug Court, the Domestic Violence Court, and “Swift and Sure.” Judge LaSata presides over all four, and at the October 5 presentation, he’ll talk about how each one works and what the goals are. The League of Women Voters tells us Judge LaSata’s presentation, “Specialty Courts in Berrien County-Healing Victims and Offenders,” will be at Berrien RESA in Berrien Springs on Thursday, October 5 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.. ...Read Full Story

Stolen Motorcycle Found-Three In Custody

Three people are in custody after a stolen motorcycle was found in Dowagiac. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells our newsroom that around 3:30 Saturday afternoon, Deputies were investigating a stolen motorcycle complaint in Cassopolis. A short time later a Deputy on patrol in the Dowagiac area located the stolen motorcycle at the Marathon gas station at M-51 and M-152 intersection where an adult male was taken into custody. Also at that time a vehicle that was also involved in stealing the motorcycle was located at the gas station which was reported stolen out of Kansas. An adult female and juvenile female were taken into custody as well.  The adult female and adult male were taken to the Cass County Jail and the juvenile female was turned over to Probate Court.  The incident is still under investigation and they report additional charges may be pending. . ...Read Full Story

Berrien Community Foundation Announces $500,000 Scholarship Endowment

A new scholarship for low-income students has been announced by the Berrien Community Foundation. President Lisa Cripps-Downey closed out Wednesday’s annual meeting by unveiling the Trefz Family Scholarship, based on a $500,000 endowment. Cripps-Downey told WSJM News it’s all thanks to a trust a woman named Josephine Trefz created when she sold some land which is now part of Lincoln Township Park.. ...Read Full Story

Lake Michigan College Aims To Acquire WMU Building

Lake Michigan College is seeking the lease for the Western Michigan University building on its Napier Avenue campus. The board of trustees Wednesday voted to move forward on a request to transfer a long-term lease agreement with the state of Michigan to LMC at a cost of $2.7 million. LMC President Dr. Trevor Kubatzke tells WSJM News WMU will still hold the same programs there, but this gives LMC a place to expand some of its own programs.. ...Read Full Story

BH Commissioners Put Public Safety Camera System On Hold

Benton Harbor City Commissioners have shot down, at least for now, a request for the purchase of some public safety cameras. At Monday’s meeting, the commission tabled a plan to spend $67,000 on five HD, 360 degree cameras that would assist with crime prevention in key areas of the city. Mayor Marcus Muhammad had privacy concerns, and felt commissioners should be more involved in the placement of the cameras.. ...Read Full Story

U.S. Air Force Band Coming To Andrews University

Coming soon to Andrews University will be a performance by the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America. The university tells us the 45 piece ensemble plays music from symphonic band masterworks to traditional marches to modern compositions to pops and jazz. It will perform at the Howard Performing Arts Center on October 12 at 7 p.m. The program will include standard concert band and popular music from each decade since 1947, ending with a patriotic salute those who have served the nation. The concert band has performed for such dignitaries as Pope John Paul II, Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, as well as the Queen of the Netherlands. Admission to the Andrews University show will be free, but you do need to get a ticket. You can get tickets right here.. ...Read Full Story

Empty The Shelter Pet Adoption Event Today In Hartford

Taking place this Saturday is yet another Bissell Pet Foundation “Empty the Shelters” event. Bissell’s Holly Kroeze tells us the Grand Rapids-based Bissell foundation will pay the adoption fees for animals adopted in nearly 20 shelters around the country. That includes the Van Buren County Animal Control Shelter in Hartford. The event comes in response to the hurricanes down south. Bissell has been bringing critters from shelters in Florida and Texas to Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Sheriff’s Department Planning Citizens Police Academy

Van Buren County residents are being invited to sign up for the sheriff’s department’s next Citizens Police Academy. It’s a chance for anyone in the public to learn all about what a police officer does. The program starts on January 17 of next year, and runs for eleven weeks. Those who take part will learn about an officer’s duties, how the officer carries them out, and what the results can be. Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbot tells us he believes the academy is a valuable experience for those who join. The sessions will be held on Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Van Buren County sheriff’s Department in Paw Paw. You have to be a county resident and at least 18 years old. To find out more, go to VBCSheriff.com.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Animal Shelter Holding Adoption Event Tomorrow

If you’re looking for a new animal friend, then the Van Buren County Animal Control Shelter is the place for you tomorrow afternoon. They’re holding a special adoption event thanks to the Bissell Pet Foundation. Animal Control’s Kasey Murphy tells WSJM News the shelter now has a large number of dogs flown up from Florida following Hurricane Irma.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph County, MI Fair Continues Through Tomorrow

Continuing through this Saturday is the St. Joseph County Grange Fair in Centreville. It’s one of the latest in the season county fairs to be held in Michigan, and a big focus is agriculture. With that in mind, MSU Extension has been featuring a special commodities carnival as part of the fair. It’s an exhibit that delves into the financial aspect of maintaining livestock, says MSU Extension’s Betty Jo Krosnicki. She spoke with WSJM News about the Commodity Carnival.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Cass County Crash

One person is dead following a crash in Cass County on Friday. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells us it happened shortly before 4 p.m. on Robinson Road south of Buffalo Lane in Jefferson Township. A vehicle driven by 52-year-old Daniel Albert Dolan of Cassopolis lost control going around a curve on Robinson and crossed the center line. Dolan’s vehicle was then struck broadside by a large grain hauling truck. Dolan was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the truck was not injured. Police say the crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Fall Festival This Weekend In St. Joseph

The spirit of the fall is being celebrated this weekend in St. Joseph. It’s time for the annual Fall Festival downtown on Friday and Saturday. St. Joe Today’s Amy Zapal tells WSJM News there will be family fun all day Saturday, followed by the wine festival at 4 p.m. That includes the public art auction.. ...Read Full Story

MPSC Holds Hearing On Palisades Closure

The Michigan Public Service Commission has met to consider a request from Consumers Energy to pay $184 million for a plan to get out of its contract to buy power from the Palisades nuclear power plant. At a Friday hearing, the MPSC concluded Consumers could pay $142 million, less than its request. The MPSC’s Nick Assendelft spoke with WSJM News about the decision.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien RESA Festival Of Families Tomorrow

Set for Saturday is the Berrien RESA Festival of Families. RESA spokesperson Karen Heath tells WSJM News the fifth annual event will feature information on all of the services offered to kids around Berrien County. On hand will be groups like the Boys and Girls Club, the Red Cross, and the Berrien County Health department. There’s also some fun.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Recycling Event Set For Tomorrow

Berrien County is planning a household chemical and electronics recycling event for this weekend. On Saturday, you can stop by Silver Beach County Park between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. to drop off items sitting around in your house that might need to be properly disposed. Those items include household and garage chemicals, liquids and cleaners, pills, sharps, and other home medical waste, batteries of all sizes, and electronics. Most items are free to drop off, although there will be a $20 fee for televisions and a $10 fee for computer monitors. Anyone looking for more information can go to BerrienCounty.org/Recycle.. ...Read Full Story

Man Sentenced In Cass County Cold Case Murder

An Indiana man who pleaded guilty to killing his cousin in 1977 in southwest Michigan has been sentenced to 12 to 18 years in prison. Cass Circuit Judge Mark Herman sentenced 58-year-old Raymond Richmond on Friday after accepting the agreement in which the South Bend man pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. The shooting death of 25-year-old Robert Stasiak in Edwardsburg initially was deemed a suicide, but the investigation was reopened in 2015 and Stasiak’s body exhumed for an autopsy. Richmond, who was 18 at the time of Stasiak’s death, was charged last year. Authorities have said they believe Richmond fatally shot Stasiak for flushing the defendant’s marijuana down a toilet. Richmond apologized in court for his actions. Stasiak’s widow, Kathy Hamburger, says her daughter blamed her for the suspected suicide.. ...Read Full Story

Speculation Heating Up Around Area Republicans For 2018

With the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference underway on Mackinac Island, speculation is ramping up about the future for several southwest Michigan members of the GOP. There are now multiple reports that Congressman Fred Upton is seriously weighing a run for the U.S. Senate next year, fueled by a new logo on invitations to a reception on the island with “Upton 2018” over the outline of the state of Michigan and new online ads with the line “let’s win Michigan in 2018!” On Twitter, Jonathan Oosting of “The Detroit News” reports Senator John Proos is eyeing Upton’s 6th District seat if the incumbent goes for the Senate. Proos tells WSJM News he doesn’t yet have anything on the record to say on that speculation. Chad Livengood of “Crain’s Detroit Business” also reports there are Republicans who will be trying to talk former state Representative and current Michigan Lottery Commissioner Aric Nesbitt into running for Upton’s seat as well.. ...Read Full Story