Local News Archives

Legislation Encourages More Lawmaker Transparency

Michigan House members have introduced a public records proposal they say will increase transparency. The package of bills would subject the governor and lawmakers to public records requests. This will be the second attempt to get the bills passed in the Senate after overwhelming approval from the House last year. Kalamazoo County Republican Representative Brandt Iden is among the sponsors.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Settles Lawsuit Over False Unemployment Fraud Accusations

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency has settled a lawsuit in which it was sued for using an automated computer system that falsely accused thousands of people of fraud. The suit was dismissed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland under an agreement between the state and the plaintiffs. The state says the deal codifies practices put in place after it ceased what’s known as “auto-adjudications” in 2015. The United Auto Workers union, Sugar Law Center and individuals accused of fraud didn’t seek financial damages.
Lawyer David Blanchard says Michigan will implement safeguards to ensure claimants are notified of accusations and can respond. He says the state for too long denied the problem, but his clients are “heartened” by new leadership acknowledging the problem. Another lawsuit seeking financial damages is ongoing in state courts.. ...Read Full Story

Auto Sales Fall In January

From the Associated Press — U.S. auto sales are expected to have fallen in January after ending last year at a record high. General Motors’ sales fell 3.8 percent from last January, while Ford’s sales were down 1 percent. Nissan’s sales rose 6 percent thanks to strong truck and SUV sales. Other automakers report sales later Wednesday. ALG, an automotive forecasting firm, predicts overall sales will be down 1.5
percent from last January to 1.1 million. January is typically the weakest month of the year for U.S. auto sales, as winter weather and holiday debts keep buyers away from car dealerships. This year, the hangover could be even more acute, since a strong December capped off
a record year for the industry. U.S. auto sales totaled 17.55 million last year.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Juvenile Lifer Eligible For Parole After 38 Years

From the Associated Press — A Kalamazoo man originally sentenced to life in prison as a juvenile is now eligible for parole after serving 38 years for a 1979 slaying. MLive reports that in a resentencing Tuesday, a circuit court judge sentenced 55-year-old Anthony Jones to 30 to 60 years and gave him credit for more than 38 years served. Jones was sentenced by the judge in February 2012 to life in prison with the possibility of parole, but changes in state Legislature relating to sentencing juveniles convicted of homicides allowed Jones to have the opportunity to be resentenced.
Jones both planned and participated in the robbery of a Kalamazoo store January 4, 1979, where he struck the store owner but fled the scene before another teenager fatally shot the man. Jones was originally sentenced to life without parole for felony murder.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Snyder To Address Business Recognition Breakfast

Governor Snyder will deliver the keynote address next week at the Business Recognition Breakfast of Cornerstone Alliance and Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce. He is expected to talk about the benefits of doing business in Michigan during his speech. In a statement, Cornerstone Alliance President Rob Cleveland says Michigan has become a top state for attracting and expanding businesses thanks to Snyder, and adds they welcome him to the area “as we celebrate the innovation, growth, and success of Berrien County businesses who produce world-class products and services.. ...Read Full Story

Fatal Crash In Cass County

A 29-year-old Niles man is dead after a two-car crash in Cass County’s Howard Township. Michigan State Police say Chad Pond was driving at a high speed on Barron Lake Road around 7 last night when he tried to pass another car. The vehicles made contact, sending Pond’s car out of control and off the road, where it overturned. He was pronounced dead at the scene, and was wearing a seat belt. Troopers say at this point, they don’t know if alcohol or drugs were factors and the crash is still under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Open Internet Advocates Concerned About Possible FCC Moves

With a new presidential administration comes the possibility that internet service providers will no longer have to provide the same level of service to all the websites that people visit. Net neutrality has only been an FCC policy for two years, and President Donald Trump’s new FCC chair, Ajit Pai, is an opponent. Marty Newell, with the Rural Broadband Policy Group, tells us the nation’s history in treating telephone service as a utility illustrates the importance of regulating common carriers.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Leaders Work To Reassure The Community

The Michigan School Reform Office will be visiting Benton Harbor Area Schools next week to review three district buildings for possible closure. At a Wednesday town hall, Superintendent Dr. Shelly Walker told a crowd of about 50 she’s aiming to convince the SRO changes made since she came on board will turn those buildings around. She tells WSJM News if the district loses the 1,200 students affected, mostly elementary kids, then it won’t be able to function.. ...Read Full Story

Two Arrested In Niles Meth Bust

Two people have been arrested in a Niles meth bust. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us it raided a home in the 600 block of Woodruff on Tuesday night. Inside, officers found items for making meth, hazardous substances, and meth. 27-year-old Jasmine Lee Mitchell and 30-year-old Justin Lee Bennett were arrested on charges of making meth and having a meth lab. Both are now in the Berrien County Jail.. ...Read Full Story

Misdemeanor Abuse Charge Filed For Incident At Vets Home

From the Associated Press — A woman has been charged with misdemeanor abuse at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans. Video aired by TV station WZZM shows an employee rolling an 83-year-old man and his wheelchair into a desk last March. Laurie Botbyl was fired. She’s now charged with fourth-degree vulnerable adult abuse for that incident. Documents obtained by WZZM show the man had possible bruises and a skin tear. Botbyl tells the TV station that she knows she was wrong. James Redford, head of the state Veterans Affairs Agency, says he has “zero tolerance” for careless actions that put veterans at risk.. ...Read Full Story

Man Convicted Of Putting Credit Card Skimmers On Gas Pumps

A Texas man has been convicted of ripping people off by installing credit card skimmers on gas pumps throughout west Michigan. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Grand Rapids tells us 44-year-old Antonio Perez-Martinez, of Austin, was found guilty Monday of credit account fraud, and aggravated identity theft after a four-day jury trial. The office says he was the leader of a conspiracy that at times involved more than a dozen suspects who allegedly got compromised credit-account data online, encoded it on to cards, and then used the cloned cars to buy gift cards in bulk. During the summer of 2015, Perez-Martinez then moved on to the gas pump skimmers. He’s one of seven people now convicted in the case, and he could get up to 30 years in prison.. ...Read Full Story

Teens Arrested For Allegedly Stealing SUV In Dowagiac

Two teenagers are facing charges for allegedly stealing an SUV in Dowagiac. Police were called to the 600 block of North Front Street around 7 last night after a man went inside a business and left his 2010 Jeep Wrangler running outside. The SUV was spotted by Pokagon Band Tribal Police a short time later at the intersection of M-51 and M-152. The owner of the truck got it back, while a 17-year-old Mishawaka girl and an 18-year-old Kalamazoo man were arrested. The girl was also found to have a loaded and concealed handgun, and will face charges for that along with possession of a stolen vehicle. No names have yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Praises Gorsuch Nomination To Supreme Court

The selection of Judge Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court by President Trump is being praised by Congressman Fred Upton. He released a statement early this morning saying he’s “vastly impressed” with the credentials of the youngest nominee for the nation’s highest court in a quarter-century. Gorsuch is 49 and worked in the U.S. Department of Justice under former President George W. Bush before being appointed as a federal judge. He has been compared to the man he would succeed on the bench, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Upton called on the Senate to unanimously confirm Gorsuch as they previously did for a federal judgeship.. ...Read Full Story

Trump Opponents Protest In St. Joseph

The local protests about President Donald Trump continue. On Tuesday, a crowd of about 70 gathered outside of the St. Joseph office of Congressman Fred Upton. Berrien County Democratic Party Chair Eric Lester told WSJM News they were there opposing the president’s immigration executive order.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Professor Gets $8 Million Grant For Malaria Research

From the Associated Press — A Michigan State University professor will be able to spend at least seven more years researching malaria thanks to an $8.4 million grant. The Lansing State Journal reports the grant from the National Institute of Health will allow Terrie Taylor to find ways to improve health care for malaria-infected patients. Taylor has spent six months every year for the past three decades helping children with malaria in the east African country of Malawi. Taylor says she plans to focus her next clinical trial on treatment for brain swelling that occurs in children suffering from malaria. According to Taylor, the mortality rate for malaria-infected people is about 37 percent. She’s hoping the newly funded project will cut mortality down to 17%.. ...Read Full Story

EPA Sued Over Flint Water Crisis

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is being sued by more than 1,700 Flint-area residents and property owners seeking over $700 million dollars in damages over the Flint water crisis. Michael Kitt, attorney for the plaintiffs, told Michigan News Network the agency had ample information at hand to prevent the crisis from taking place.. ...Read Full Story

Attempted Murder In Benton Harbor

A Benton Harbor woman is recovering at Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph after a man allegedly tried to kill her early Monday morning. Public safety says they were called to the home in the 900 block of Lavette Street around 3:30 a.m. on a report of shots fired. A man was arrested for assault with intent to murder, possession of cocaine and marijuana, and several weapons charges. It’s not clear if the woman was shot or how she received her injuries. Michigan State Police and the FBI are assisting Benton Harbor Public Safety in the investigation. No names have been released.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Man Arrested For Stealing Truck

A chase through a field, along railroad tracks, and then on foot by the St. Joseph River ended with the arrest of an Indiana man for stealing a pickup truck in Three Oaks. It happened yesterday afternoon, with the truck reported stolen while Michigan State Police were trying to pull the suspect over for speeding on US 12 in Buchanan. He ultimately ditched the truck behind a house and tried to get away on foot, only to be caught by police waiting for him at a perimeter point set up along the river. His name is being withheld until his arraignment, but he is 26-years-old and from Angola.. ...Read Full Story

Anti-Trump Demonstration Planned Today In St. Joseph

Look for signs of “Stop Trump’s #SwampCabinet” and more in downtown St. Joseph today, as MoveOn.org launches rallies and protests at the offices of members of Congress across the country from both parties. They will demonstrate from noon to 12:30 outside the district office of Congressman Fred Upton at 720 Main Street, across from the Berrien County Administration Building. The rallies are part of what they call the growing #ResistTrumpTuesdays movement which brought out 15,000 demonstrators last week. Protesters want to get out their message that President Trump’s Cabinet picks are “not what America wants or needs.” There will also be demonstrations across the country at city halls and mayor’s offices to demand cities and towns defend immigrants.. ...Read Full Story

State Launches Hotline For People Accused Of Unemployment Fraud

New measures are being taken to help those who were wrongly accused by the state of Michigan of stealing from the unemployment system. Michigan Talent Agency Director Wanda Stokes tells WSJM News between 2013 and 2015, around 19,000 people were identified by a state computer system of defrauding the Unemployment Insurance Agency. Now they can call a hotline to possibly get reimbursed for whatever they had to pay back.. ...Read Full Story

MI Immigrants On Edge Following Trump Executive Order

A weekend of chaos has given way to a new week of confusion following President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees. Experts say it will have an impact on virtually every Michigan community. Christine Sauve, with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, tells us while Trump has said the order is necessary to ensure those entering the country do not pose a threat, Sauve argues that it only serves to tear at the fabric of the nation and put all immigrants on edge.. ...Read Full Story

54 Deer Sterilized In Ann Arbor To Help Decrease Population

From the Associated Press — Dozens of female deer have been sterilized in Ann Arbor as part of the nonlethal phase of the city’s winter 2017 deer management plan. The Ann Arbor News reports that veterinarians performed surgeries on 54 does
over the last week at a makeshift operating room at the Huron Hills Golf Course. Veterinarian and lead surgeon Dr. Steve Timm says the effort is expected to decrease the local deer population about 20% a year. The city-funded deer management plan is expected to move into the lethal phase on Monday. Sharpshooters plan to go to city parks and nature areas, as well as some University of Michigan properties. The city council voted in November to team up with a Connecticut nonprofit to
carry out the management plan.. ...Read Full Story

Man Sentenced To Life In Prison For Death Of 8-Month-Old Boy

Life in prison with no parole. That’s the sentence handed down Monday to Brandon Beshires, a Benton Harbor man convicted of first degree premeditated murder in the death of an 8-month-old boy from Hartford early last year. Berrien County Judge Arthur Cotter told Beshires during Monday’s sentencing that after 30 years in criminal justice, the autopsy photo of little Carter Donovan would always haunt him. Prosecutors say Donovan died as a result of trauma to the head while he was in the care of Beshires, who pleaded guilty last month. Donovan’s mother, Autumn Atchley is also charged in the case for being an accessory after the fact. That’s after police say she initially lied about the death. She was scheduled for sentencing Monday, but it’s now been delayed.. ...Read Full Story

Upton: Trump Should Scale Back Executive Order On Immigration

Congressman Fred Upton has weighed in on President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel into the United States for citizens from seven Muslim majority countries. The St. Joseph Republican says the Trump administration should scale back the order. In a statement, Upton adds he’s “heard from a number of local folks with valid concerns for themselves or loved ones, as well from global companies that have legitimate worries relating to the international travel of their employees.” He says the executive order has created confusion for travelers and businesses, and that the Trump administration should work with Congress on finding ways to strengthen the border. In 2015, Upton rejected calls for a travel ban based on religion.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Down Slightly

From the Associated Press — AAA Michigan says gas prices statewide have fallen by about 9 cents per gallon in the past week.
The Dearborn-based auto club says Monday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.19 per gallon. That’s about 50 cents more than it was at the same point last year. It’s the third consecutive week the statewide average price has declined. AAA says the lowest average price was about $2.05 per gallon in the Flint area, while the highest average was about $2.48 in the Marquette area. It was the fourth week in a row Flint had the lowest average and the third consecutive
week that Marquette had the highest.AAA Michigan surveys daily fuel prices at 2,800 gas stations across the state.. ...Read Full Story

Supreme Court Justice To Speak At University Of Michigan

From the Associated Press — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and a judge from Germany’s highest court will speak at the University of Michigan on diversity, higher education and the role of history in their work. Sotomayor’s appearance Monday in Ann Arbor with Justice Susanne Baer of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany comes as President Donald Trump is about to announce his Supreme Court nominee. He has said he intends to name the pick on Thursday to fill the lifetime seat held by the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. Sotomayor and Baer will speak at morning and evening events as part of the university’s commemoration of its bicentennial. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic to serve on the Supreme Court. Baer is the first openly gay woman to serve on Germany’s high court.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Parks To Offer Refuge From July 4 Fireworks Racket

From the Associated Press — Tired of all the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air around the Fourth of July? You’re not alone. Eleven of Michigan’s state parks and recreation areas are offering fireworks-free camping from July 1-4. Participating campgrounds are located a good distance away from traditional community fireworks displays. DNR Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson says the quiet alternatives were designed especially with veterans and pet owners in mind. Fireworks and other loud, unexpected noises can trigger intense discomfort for former military personnel dealing with post-traumatic stress. They can cause misery for sensitive animals as well. Camping reservations for the no-fireworks period can be made up to six months in advance by calling 1-800-447-2757.. ...Read Full Story

Edwardsburg Woman Killed In Crash

A 30-year-old Edwardsburg woman is dead after crashing her car while trying to outrun a Cass County Sheriff’s deputy. Michigan State Police are investigating the Saturday night crash in Mason Township. Police say Amanda Bowers drove off as a deputy was called to a single-vehicle accident and found her stopped with her lights off in the road at Old M-205 and Redfield Street. After a roughly three-mile chase, she crashed, rolling her car. Bowers was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene, and the crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

BH High School Students To Talk Safe Driving

Benton Harbor and South Haven High Schools are on the list of schools to be selected for this year’s Strive for a Safer Drive program. The program is a partnership between Ford Motor Company and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, and office spokesperson Kristin Allen tells WSJM News the students at each building decide how to preach safe driving to their classmates.. ...Read Full Story

Executive Order On Refugees Met With Silence From Upton, Huizenga

Silence is the reaction from a pair of members of Congress from West Michigan over the weekend to the controversy brewing after the President issued the order late Friday afternoon. Our newsroom tried unsuccessfully several times to get comment from Congressman Fred Upton of St. Joseph, while Congressman Bill Huizenga of Zeeland also issued no statement. When WSJM News called Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad on Sunday, he simply said quote, “I have no comment.” The order bans citizens of seven countries – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan – from entering the U.S. for 90 days, but does allow for reviewing things on a case-by-case basis. South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg joined protests of the order in Houston on Saturday, where he was lobbying to become the next leader of the Democratic National Committee. ...Read Full Story

SWM Gravel Roads Hit Hard By Recent Rains

Gravel roads around southwest Michigan are in bad shape right now because of the recent warm weather. Van Buren County Road Commission Superintendent Brian Cornish tells WSJM News the weather has thawed some of the underground frost, leading to a muddy mess up above. There’s not much crews can do to help right now.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Sheriff’s Department Offering Defense Classes To Women

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is once again signing women up for its Rape Aggression Defense class. The classes are designed to teach women of any strength or age how to defend themselves in an assault situation, and they’re offered each year by the sheriff’s department. This year’s RAD classes come in three four hour sessions that take place between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. There are sessions planned for Harbert, Coloma, Lincoln Township, and Berrien Springs from March through May. To find out about signing up just call the Berrien County Sheriff’s DepartmentDeputy Kelly Laesch at 269-983-7141, extension 7221.. ...Read Full Story

Federal Numbers: Union Membership Declined In 2016

From the Associated Press — Federal figures say union membership in Michigan declined in 2016. The Detroit News reports the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said the number of union members in Michigan dropped from 621,000 in 2015 to 606,000 last year, going from 15.2 percent to 14.4%. The Michigan decrease was part of a 0.4% drop in national union membership that saw the number of labor-affiliated workers in the U.S. drop from more than 14.8 million in 2015 to 14.6 million in 2016. The Labor Department said this week that there were 7.1 million public-sector employees that belonged to a union in 2016, compared with 7.4 million unionized workers in the private sector. The agency said the union membership rate for public-sector workers last year was 34.4 percent.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Power Outage

The power is out for a little more than 1,000 Indiana Michigan Power customers in Benton Township and Benton Harbor. The utility company is estimating the power will be restored by around 8:30 Sunday morning. An equipment failure is blamed. The outage includes areas around the intersection of M-139 and Pipestone, extending along Pipestone to nearly Main Street. The power is out on M-139 from just south of Main Street to Fairplain Drive.. ...Read Full Story

Home Damaged In Benton Township Fire

A kerosene heater and a can of gasoline are to blame for a house fire in Benton Township Saturday evening. The fire department tells WSJM News the call about a home in the 1,200 block of Rose Avenue came in about 5:30 p.m. The family had been using the heater in their garage, too close to the can of gas. When the fire broke out, they managed to escape unharmed. Firefighters from BentonTownship kept the  flames from spreading to the rest of the house, but the garage is a total loss. So is a Chevy Trailblazer. The rest of the home suffered smoke damage, while a neighbor’s house suffered some minor damage. Firefighters cleared the scene by 8 p.m. and Indiana Michigan Power was called in due to some lines being burned.. ...Read Full Story

MI Treasury Warns Of New E-Mail Tax Scam

A new scam targeting tax preparers has been noticed by the Michigan Department of Treasury. Spokesperson Ron Leix tells WSJM News, in this one, a tax preparer will get an e-mail from someone seeking their services. From there, they may be taken to a website where their system can get compromised.. ...Read Full Story

Four SJ Schools Recognized As Reward Schools

Four St. Joseph schools have been named Reward Schools by the Michigan Department of Education. E.P. Clarke Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Upton Middle School, and St. Joseph High School got the designation. St. Joseph Public Schools Curriculum Director Kelly Gaideski tells WSJM News it’s all based on the student test scores.. ...Read Full Story

Study Says Grass Carp Have Invaded The Great Lakes

From the Associated Press — Scientists say grass carp have invaded three of the Great Lakes and pose a significant environmental risk. However, they add there’s still time to prevent them from becoming established. Grass carp are among four Asian carp species threatening to reach the lakes, where they could upend ecological systems and compete with native fish for food. A U.S. and Canadian assessment released Friday says grass carp have been found in Lakes Erie, Michigan, and Ontario. At least some are reproducing, although most are believed to be sterile. It’s uncertain how many are in the lakes or how far they’ve spread. Grass carp eat huge amounts of aquatic plants that provide habitat and spawning grounds for other fish. Study leaders say both nations should quickly develop strategies for halting the invasion.. ...Read Full Story

GM Planning Jobs Cuts At Canadian Plant

Canadian auto workers are shocked at a General Motors decision to cut 600 jobs at a plant near London, Ontario. GM recently invested $600 million to retool the plant to build the new Chevy equinox. However, at the same time, it’s moving production of the GMC Terrain to Mexico. Jerry Dias, President of the Canadian auto workers union, told Michigan News Network he blames NAFTA.. ...Read Full Story

Groups Call For Expansion Of State Earned Income Tax Credit

Nearly 500,000 Michigan residents are ineligible for a tax credit that is meant to help keep people out of poverty. Friday was National EITC Awareness Day, and some groups are hopeful congressional leaders will expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to include workers who aren’t raising children. Kyle DuBuc, with the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, tells us the EITC helps families in need keep more of their earnings to pay for necessities, like food, housing, and transportation.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Signs Pagel Parole Hearing Legislation

Legislation from state Representative Dave Pagel designed to make Michigan’s parole system more fair has been signed by the governor. Pagel tells WSJM News under the current system, when someone sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole is up for a parole hearing, the original judge who sentenced them has the power to veto the hearing. However, so does any judge who succeeded that original sentencing judge, even if said second judge isn’t familiar with the case.. ...Read Full Story

MI World War II Veteran Honored On Holocaust Remembrance Day

On the 72nd anniversary of Auschwitz Liberation Day Friday, a Michigan World War Two veteran was honored for his role in helping defeat the Nazis. Dr. Guy Stern grew up in Germany, but his parents sent him to the United States  as a teen to avoid Jewish persecution. A few years later, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and led a special unit that perfected interrogation techniques. Friday, the 95-year old received the French Knight of the Legion of Honor Medal at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills. He told Michigan News Network he does research there.. ...Read Full Story