Local News Archives

Police National Night Out Next Week

It’s almost time once again for the annual police National Night Out. Next Tuesday, from 5 to 8 p.m. police departments all over the country will be hosting gatherings at parks in their communities to meet the public and do some demonstrations. In St. Joseph, you’ll be able to find officers at Riverview Park’s Briarwood Pavilion. In Benton Harbor, police will be at Dwight P. Mitchell City Center Park. This will be the 34th year for National Night Out, and in addition to just chatting with folks, police will be providing hot dogs and beverages. In St. Joseph, they’ll have Ronald McDonald on hand. Everyone’s invited to lock their doors, leave on their porch lights, and go to a local park to spend time with neighbors and police.. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Schools Superintendent Retiring

Buchanan Community Schools Superintendent Andrea van der Laan is retiring at the end of August. She’s been with the district for seven years now, and tells WSJM News when she first came to town from Wyoming, Michigan, her first task was to campaign for a $30 million bond. Since then, the district has undergone a physical transformation.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Halts State Aid Payment To Private Schools

From the Associated Press — A judge has extended a freeze on $2.5 million in state aid for Michigan private schools. Judge Cynthia Stephens signed an injunction Tuesday after reviewing the possible impact of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision. The American Civil Liberties Union and public-school groups are challenging the appropriation to private schools for fire drills, inspections and other state requirements. They say it violates the Michigan Constitution’s ban on aid for private schools. The Supreme Court recently said it was illegal for Missouri to deny a grant for
a church preschool playground. Stephens says the Michigan case is a different matter that’s not focused on religion. She notes the state Constitution prohibits public money for any private school. Dan Korobkin of the ACLU of Michigan says, “Our constitution could not be
clearer.”. ...Read Full Story

SWMI Housing Market Remains Hot For Sellers

It continues to be a red-hot sellers market for existing homes in the area. The Southwestern Michigan Association of Realtors reports June sales tied the record set in June 2006 with 388 homes sold, which was up 11% from the same time last year. Inventory was down by 17%, making the jump in the number of homes sold significant. Prices were steady with May, going up just a half-percent for the average selling price compared both to May and June 2016. The average stands at just over $225,000. The association calls the market “robust,” noting there is just a 6.5-month supply of homes on the market. Another record low was set for sales of bank-owned or foreclosed homes as a percentage of all transactions, which has fallen to 5%, breaking May’s record of 6%.. ...Read Full Story

Woman’s E-Mail Sparks Conversation On Workplace Mental Health

A Michigan woman’s story of using her sick days to cope with anxiety recently went viral after an exchange with the company’s chief executive, and one expert is calling it a model for how to talk about mental health in the workplace. Kevin Fischer, with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, tells us the conversation is moving in the right direction, and it could shift the societal understanding of mental illness.. ...Read Full Story

Foxconn Building Plant In Wisconsin

It looks like southwest Michigan won’t be getting a Foxconn plant anytime soon. There had been word the company was considering the region for a new plant to make smartphone displays, with Moody on the Market reporting a Foxconn corporate jet landing at the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport last month. Also, Congressman Fred Upton sent a letter to the Taiwanese company last week extolling the virtues of southwest Michigan and also pointing to tax incentives the state legislature recently approved. Nevertheless, word came Wednesday Foxconn has chosen southeastern Wisconsin to be the site of its new plant. The $10 billion facility is expected to create about 3,000 jobs there. The Trump administration says the plant could eventually lead to thousands of additional jobs in nearby states, including Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Approves “Good Jobs” Plan

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a package of bills that provide incentives to large companies that create more than 250 jobs in the state. The jobs also have to pay at least the regional average wage. Standing at the site of a former landfill in Oakland County Wednesday, the governor said while the legislation is focused on large companies, he doesn’t want to look past small business.. ...Read Full Story

Child Killed At Portage Summer Camp

From the Associated Press — Authorities say a 7-year-old boy who was attending a summer camp run by a school district has died after being struck by a vehicle in southwestern Michigan. Portage police say Nicolaus Moehle of Texas Township died in the collision Tuesday afternoon in the city just south of Kalamazoo. The Portage Public Schools district says the boy was participating in the “Bug Science” camp with about 20 other children in first through third grades. District spokeswoman Michelle Karpinski tells the Kalamazoo Gazette that the children had been on a field trip when the child was struck at or near a crosswalk near 12th Street Elementary School. She says the class was supervised by three adults. Karpinski says school administrators have cancelled this week’s remaining sessions. The collision remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Traverse City Film Festival Underway

It’s a party atmosphere in downtown Traverse City as the Traverse City Film Festival gets underway. They shut down part of the downtown area Tuesday for the opening night gala. Traverse City Film Festival Creative Director Meg Weichman tells us they’re showing 125 feature films over the six day festival.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Changes State Benefit System For Live-In Partners

Legislation is being introduced in the Michigan Senate to change how state benefits are offered to employees now that same sex marriage is legal. The Granholm administration enacted a policy of allowing same sex partners to be covered by a state worker’s benefits. However, state Senator Rick Jones tells WKZO News, now that such couples can marry, the policy should be changed.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum To Hold Presentation On Early Automotive Industry

Coming soon to the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph will be a presentation on the history of the American auto industry with a special guest speaker perfectly suited to discuss the subject. Matt Anderson, the curator at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, will be in St. Joseph on August 10. Heritage Museum Interim Director Tracy Gierada tells WSJM News he’ll talk about the origins of one of Michigan’s most important industries.. ...Read Full Story

Man Pleads Guilty In Cass Co Murder Case

A man charged with murder in a 40-year-old death in Cass County has pleaded guilty. The prosecutor’s office says Raymond Richmond killed his cousin, Robert Stasiak, in 1977. The death was originally ruled a suicide, but in January of this year, a volunteer group called Seeking Justice began looking at the cold case again, leading to the charges. Richmond has pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the Ontwa Township death, which was the result of a shooting. As part of the plea deal, he’ll be sentenced to between 12 and 18 years in prison. A gun charge was dismissed. Sentencing will be September 15.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Vetoes Acceleration Of Auto Sales Tax Break

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder has vetoed bills that would have accelerated sales tax breaks on car trade-ins. Snyder said Tuesday that the legislation conflicts with a compromise made with lawmakers in 2013. He says the bills would “create additional financial
strain” for the state. Under current law, a car owner trading in a vehicle for another pays sales tax on the difference between the two. But there are limits; this year, for example, it’s $3,500. The limit grows each year. The House Fiscal Agency says legislation vetoed by Snyder would have cost the Treasury about $15 million by 2021 if it had become law. The bills’ supporters say Michigan can afford greater tax breaks because the
economy has improved.. ...Read Full Story

Man Charged In Niles Murder

A 52-year-old man is now charged with open murder in the death of a Niles woman last week. James Parker Huffman walked into the Niles Police Department on Monday and confessed to the killing of 52-year-old Angela Cluver. Police found her body in her home in the 900 block of South 14th Street not long after. An autopsy will be performed, but they believe she was strangled. Police say the victim’s body was in an advanced state of decomposition when they found it. Huffman was arraigned on Tuesday in Niles and bond was set at $1 million. He could get life in prison if convicted. Police believe Huffman and Cluver lived together at the home where the murder took place.. ...Read Full Story

Court: Charges Can Be Filed If Found Drunk Driving On Own Driveway

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Supreme Court says a driveway is no refuge for a drunken driver. The court says authorities in suburban Detroit could charge Gino Rea with drunken driving, even if his car never left the driveway. The court says a driveway is “generally accessible to motor vehicles” under state law, even if on private property. Northville police went to Rea’s home three times one day to respond to noise complaints in 2014. At one point, an officer saw him drive out of the garage and pull back in. His blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit. In a dissent Monday, justices Bridget McCormack and David Viviano say the court should be “hesitant to assume” that lawmakers wanted to extend their reach to the private property of homeowners.. ...Read Full Story

Former Veterans Home Employees Facing State Charges

From the Associated Press — Eleven former workers at a state veterans home in Grand Rapids have been charged with keeping false records.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says staff skipped room checks but reported that they performed the requirement. He announced felony charges Monday. Schuette’s office began investigating after a report by Michigan’s auditor general in 2016. The report found the veterans home failed to properly investigate allegations of abuse and neglect, among other problems. James Redford, head of veterans affairs, says the charges filed by Schuette go back to 2015. He says the company that supplied the nursing assistants was replaced. Schuette also released a five-page report with details on injuries or deaths of five people. He says there isn’t enough evidence to pursue charges.. ...Read Full Story

Presentation On History Of Hartford Next Week

Anyone interested in learning about the history of Hartford will have a chance to do so next week at the library. It’s offering a “History of Hartford” presentation on Wednesday starting at 6 p.m. The program is led by local history expert Bob Latus [[LAY-tus]], who tells us the town began around the 1840s, and really saw a development boom in the 1870s with the expansion of railroads. His presentation next week will focus on that, as well as the significant role the Pokagons have had on the area. He’s also asking people who have old photos of Hartford to bring them by so they can be copied and kept at the library. Anyone can show up.. ...Read Full Story

Preparations Underway For Cass County Fair

Preparations are now underway for the 166th Cass County Fair. The Cassopolis event is set for next week, and all kinds of attractions will be offered. The fair board tells us Sunday, the first official day, will feature the opening parade at 5 p.m. followed by the grandstand event at 7 p.m. It’s the Street Legal Pickup Truck and Semi Tractor Pulls. Next Monday will be Veterans Day, meaning free admission for vets, along with the opening of the carnival at 5 p.m. and the talent show at 7. Next Tuesday will be Kids Day with the NTPA Regional National Truck and Tractor Pulls at 7 PM. Wednesday will be Senior Citizens Day with country singer Caroline Kole on the grandstand. Other headlining events the following days will be SJO Motocross and a monster truck show. You can find the schedule at MyCassCountyFair.com.. ...Read Full Story

Police Look For Suspects In Break In To Van Buren Bar

The owners of a bar in Paw Paw are cleaning up after a couple of suspects broke into the place early Monday and did a large amount of damage. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us the two broke into McCarty’s North 40 Bar on M-40 around 2 a.m. They cut the wires to some of the bar’s many security cameras, but police have been able to get a few images. The suspects were wearing bandannas over their faces and matching striped shirts. In addition to the damage, the two stole some money. Anyone with information on the crime is asked to call the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Man Arraigned In SWM Murders

From the Associated Press — A man has been arraigned in the death of his ex-wife’s husband – one of two Michigan slayings in which he’s a suspect. MLive reports that 32-year-old Zachary Patten appeared Monday in St. Joseph County District Court on murder, home invasion and gun charges. Shane Richardson was shot Thursday night in Florence Township, just north of the Indiana state line. Patten also is a suspect in the fatal shooting of 31-year-old Graciela Portillo-Esparza in Kalamazoo about 45 minutes before the 29-year-old Richardson was shot. No charges have been filed in that killing. Patten was arrested Friday after he approached officers in South Bend, Indiana, and told them he “needed to be arrested.” A judge assigned Patten a court-appointed lawyer. An Aug. 15 preliminary examination has been scheduled.. ...Read Full Story

Man Confesses To Killing Woman In Niles

One man is in custody for the murder of a woman in Niles. The Niles Police Department says the suspect walked into the police station on Monday and confessed to the killing. A woman’s body was then found in a home in the 900 block of South 14th Street. Police say the victim appears to have been in her 50s, and they believe she was strangled on Friday. An autopsy is planned. The suspect’s name hasn’t been released, but police says he is in his 50s. He remains locked up in Niles.. ...Read Full Story

Two Busted For Drugs In Dowagiac

An Indiana man and a Dowagiac man are in the Cass County Jail this morning on drug charges after a bust Saturday. Dowagiac officers pulled over a vehicle after recognizing the driver, who had an outstanding warrant. That driver, a 25-year-old former Dowagiac resident who now lives in Elkhart, was arrested on several warrants while his passenger, a 24-year-old man, was busted for a parole violation. Officers found narcotics and evidence of drug dealing while searching the car, and both men are facing several charges as a result. They are expected to be arraigned today.. ...Read Full Story

Tribal Casino Opens Employment Office In South Bend

(South Bend, IN – AP) – A tribal casino set to open its doors in South Bend next year has opened an employment office in the northern Indiana city. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians says the new office was scheduled to open Monday in downtown South Bend’s Union Station. It will be the primary human resources office for the 1,200 workers expected to be hired for the Four Winds Casino South Bend.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Gas Prices Up 5¢ In Past Week

Our state continues to have some of the most volatile gas price swings in the country. According to the latest survey from Triple-A Michigan, the state had the fourth largest change in average price in the past week, going up a nickel to $2.40 a gallon. The most and least expensive cities remains unchanged for the third straight week, with our prices in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph being the state’s lowest at $2.36, up 8¢. Jackson has the highest average at $2.43. GasBuddy puts the prices in South Haven between $2.29 and $2.39 a gallon.. ...Read Full Story

Limo Bus Goes Up In Flames Near South Haven

Everyone is safe, but there were some frightening moments yesterday morning in Geneva Township when a limousine bus caught fire. According to South Haven Area Emergency Services, the vehicle stalled on County Road 384 near 65th Street just before 9 a.m. Two passengers noticed smoke coming from the engine, and everyone was able to get out as the fire spread quickly. Officials say it took 600 gallons of water to put out the fire, and the vehicle is a total loss. No one was hurt.. ...Read Full Story

Breedsville To Celebrate Reopening Of Bridge

The Van Buren County community of Breedsville will hold a ribbon cutting on a newly reconstructed bridge this coming week. On Friday, they’ll celebrate completion of the Pine Street bridge, which leads into town from the south. The bridge collapsed in December of 2015 when they believe a heavy vehicle drove over it. Village Clerk Linda Norton tells us it’s been a hardship to have the bridge out.. ...Read Full Story

Repaving On M-140 Starts Tomorrow

A paving project is about to get started on M-140 in Berrien and Van Buren counties. It will be about ten miles of the road from South Haven to Watervliet. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News traffic will remain open southbound, but there will be changes for northbound.. ...Read Full Story

State Sees Continued Rise In Opioid Deaths

Following news this month that the state of Michigan saw a continued increase in opioid deaths last year, Michigan State Police in southwest Michigan tells us they’ve seen the trend locally. Although she doesn’t have exact numbers, MSP Lieutenant Melinda Logan tells WSJM News opioid abuse leading to death is all too familiar to local cops.. ...Read Full Story

Coalition Holding Summer Activities For Kids In Benton Harbor

A new partnership between Benton Harbor Area Schools, the YMCA, the Boys and Girls Club, and others is enabling children in Benton Harbor to take part in positive, educational activities this summer at two area parks. “Summer Impact” offers the young people a chance to play basketball, take drama and art classes, and get free meals. The YMCA’s Jerry Price tells us lots of kids come out to Broadway and City Center Parks each day for the programs.. ...Read Full Story

AEP Makes Major Donation To Hospital Project

Indiana Michigan Power and its Cook nuclear power plant have announced a landmark donation to the Lakeland Medical Center Pavilion project. Lakeland CEO Loren Hamel tells WSJM News AEP and its foundation are giving $375,000 to the effort. Specifically, it’s going to the pavilion’s Wound Center and hyperbaric chamber.. ...Read Full Story

Ribbon Cutting Planned To Mark Reopening of Breedsville Bridge

The Van Buren County community of Breedsville will hold a ribbon cutting on a newly reconstructed bridge next week. On Friday, they’ll celebrate completion of the Pine Street bridge, which leads into town from the south. The bridge collapsed in December of 2015 when they believe a heavy vehicle drove over it. Village Clerk Linda Norton tells us it’s been a hardship to have the bridge out.. ...Read Full Story

One Hurt In Cass County Rollover Crash

A 19-year-old Edwardsburg man is recovering after a single-vehicle crash in Cass County Saturday afternoon. The sheriff’s department tells WSJM News it happened around 3:50 on Runkle Street near Beebe Road in Milton Township. The driver, Trevor Rutledge, lost control of his vehicle in a curve. The vehicle then rolled and overturned. Rutledge was taken to a hospital by ambulance to be treated for his injuries. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Pesticide Container Recycling Event Next Week

Berrien County is planning a pesticide container recycling event. Next Wednesday, from 9 a.m. to 3 pm. they’ll take empty pesticide containers to be recycled free of charge. They have to be rinsed out, dry, and cut to a smaller size than 2.5 gallons. The drop off locations will be the Berrien County Road Commission office on Napier Avenue in Benton Township and Co-Alliance Propane in Buchanan. For more information, visit BerrienCounty.org/Recycle.. ...Read Full Story

Salsa Competition Today In Kalamazoo

Businesses in downtown Kalamazoo will be vying for the title of the city’s best salsa-maker on Saturday. It’s the third-annual Kalamazoo Salsa Cook-Off. Millennium Restaurant Group’s Brandy Gulley told WKZO News the free event starts at 11 a.m. and kicks off Summer Restaurant Week.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Inviting Public To Offer Input On Master Plan

The city of Bridgman is getting to work on a new master plan, and it’s inviting residents to make their thoughts known. A master plan guides development within a community for years to come, and as Bridgman leaders craft the plan for their town, they’re talking with experts in areas of community resilience and issues related specifically to Bridgman. Each public meeting on the master plan will also include group exercises. Some of the topics will be economic planning and coastal management. The first public meeting will be held on Monday, July 31 at 7 p.m. in the Weko Beach House. Subsequent meetings are set for Thursday, August 17 and Tuesday, September 12 at the same time and place. You can find out more about the process at www.ResilientMichigan.org/Bridgman.. ...Read Full Story

Pokagon Fund Supporting New Downtown New Buffalo Sculpture

The Pokagon Fund has announced the commissioning of a new sculpture that will be displayed in downtown New Buffalo as part of the ongoing redevelopment project there. The fund has kicked in about $1.6 million in the effort to fix infrastructure and beautify downtown New Buffalo. Acting Director John Krsul tells WSJM News the sculpture by Sawyer-based Fritz Olsen represents Pokagon traditions.. ...Read Full Story

Snyder Asks For Disaster Declaration In Flood Stricken Areas

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder is asking President Donald Trump for a disaster declaration after flooding caused damage in four mid-Michigan counties. The request made Friday seeks supplementary federal aid to help people with temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans and other assistance. The flash flooding occurred in Bay, Isabella, Gladwin and Midland counties in June. Snyder’s request will be reviewed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will advise Trump on whether it should be granted. It’s not clear how much damage was caused by the severe weather and flooding, but Snyder calls it a “historic flood” and says “we’re looking at every resource to help them rebuild.”. ...Read Full Story

Murder Suspect Caught In Indiana

A fugitive wanted for a pair of Thursday night murders in southwest Michigan has been found and arrested in South Bend, Indiana. 32-year-old Zachary Patten of Portage was taken into custody Friday. No additional details were given. Police say he shot a 31-year-old woman at the Americana Estates mobile home park on Kalamazoo’s west side, then shot 29-year-old Shane Richardson at a home in Constantine Township before fleeing the state.. ...Read Full Story

Suspected Double Murderer On Loose In Southwest Michigan

Authorities in southwest Michigan are looking for a man they believe killed two people in separate Thursday night homicides. The suspected killer, 32-year-old Zachary Patten, is considered armed and dangerous and remains on the run. Authorities with Kalamazoo Public Safety believe he shot and killed a 31-year-old woman at a mobile home park on the west side of Kalamazoo after 9:30 p.m. St. Joseph County Sheriff’s detectives believe he was also involved in a murder later that night south of Kalamazoo in Constantine. Patten is said to be driving a 2004 silver or gray Chrysler Pacifica with a “skeleton family” sticker on the back and a spare tire mounted on the front.. ...Read Full Story

MI Corrections Department To Aid Transgender Inmates

From the Associated Press — A new policy at the Michigan Department of Corrections is opening the door for more transgender inmates to receive transition-related treatments. The revised policy was put into place June 26. Prior to the change, inmates were only allowed to receive treatment if such care was already scheduled before the person was incarcerated. Now, inmates can receive hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery while still in prison. If an inmate believes they are gender dysphoric, the corrections department’s new Gender Dysphoria Collaborative Review Committee will look at the inmate’s medical history and give a medical and psychological evaluation to potentially approve treatment. Gender dysphoria is defined as a conflict between a person’s assigned gender and the gender they identify with. MDOC says there are currently 50 transgender inmates across 30 Michigan facilities.. ...Read Full Story