Local News Archives

Multi-Agency Flood Relief Center Opens

A multi-agency flood relief center is being set up in Niles for the next few days to help distribute flood cleanup supplies. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us agencies including Berrien County Office of Emergency Management, the city of Niles, the Salvation Army of Niles, the United Way of Southwest Michigan, Team Rubicon, and the Red Cross of Southwest Michigan will come together for the effort. Starting this Friday, March 9 and running through Monday, March 12, the agencies will be at the First Presbyterian Church on South Fourth Street in Niles to give out flood cleanup supplies and hand out information. Anyone looking for more information can call the church at 683-7600.. ...Read Full Story

FIRST Robotics Competition Underway In SJ

It’s quite the scene at St. Joseph High School this Friday and Saturday as a FIRST Robotics competition featuring 40 teams takes place. St. Joseph High School Principal Greg Blomgren tells WSJM News the St. Joe team, the Average Joes, is hosting the event where kids design and build robots to manipulate blocks in specific ways.. ...Read Full Story

SMC Job Fair Next Week

Southwestern Michigan College will host more than 60 employers from Michigan and Indiana for a jobs fair this month. Set for next Wednesday, the Internship and Career Fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the student activity center on the Dowagiac campus. SMC tells us the job fair comes as employers nationwide are planning to hire 4% more new graduates from the class of 2018 as compared to last year. The companies on hand for next week’s SMC job fair include banks, manufacturers, social service agencies, healthcare providers, and others. To attend, all you have to do is show up to SMC on Wednesday, March 14. To find out more, look right here.. ...Read Full Story

House: Defendants Must Listen To Victim Impact Statements

From the Associated Press — Defendants in Michigan would be compelled to listen to victim impact statements under legislation that has moved through the House. The House passed the bill 105-2 Thursday in honor of the late Rebekah Bletsch, a 36-year-old who was murdered in 2014 while jogging on a western Michigan road. In December Bletsch’s convicted murderer, Jeffrey Willis, spurred further
outrage for walking out of her family’s victim impact statements while blowing a kiss. The proposed law would amend the state’s William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim’s Rights Act with an amendatory law in Bletsch’s name requiring the defendant’s presence during the sentencing hearing. The bill is now proceeding to the Senate.. ...Read Full Story

First Time Hunters Urged To Enroll In Safety Course

From the Associated Press — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is inviting new hunters to sign up for safety classes. All first-time hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1960, must successfully complete a safety course. Cpl. Dave Painter of the DNR’s Recreational Safety, Education and Enforcement Section says newcomers to the sport shouldn’t wait until the last minute to sign up, especially if they’re considering a springtime hunt. Hunter education courses teach responsibility, ethics, firearm safety, wildlife conservation and identification, game care, survival and first aid. Courses are offered across the state throughout the year, although most are conducted from August through October. The typical course includes two to five sessions, with a total class time of 10-12 hours. They’re usually conducted at outdoor clubs, schools, police stations and camps.. ...Read Full Story

Allegan County Announces School Safety Plan

A new program is being launched in Allegan County to have sheriff’s deputies spend more time in local schools in an effort to improve security. State Representative Mary Whiteford tells WSJM News it was the idea of Sheriff Frank Baker. He pitched it at a meeting last week with superintendents and Whiteford present. She says it will be good for the kids concerned in light of recent events.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Looks To Next Stage Of Flood Response

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is looking at the next stage of flood recovery. It put out word Thursday many families displaced by the flooding are returning to their homes and identifying what kind of help they need to recover. Right now, they’re sorting through belongings and deciding what can be salvaged and what needs to be replaced. The United Way tells us people who want to donate clothing, bedding, and other household items they might want to do so at Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan because Goodwill is providing $100 vouchers to all flood victims. The United Way is also anticipating a need for beds, mattresses, sofas, and appliances. The United Way says it will keep the public informed as it enters phase two of property clean up and gets into the last few homes. You can find the United Way of Southwest Michigan’s disaster relief fund to help those in need right here.. ...Read Full Story

Woman Charged In Fatal Fire

A South Bend, Indiana woman is now facing a charge of murder in a Van Buren County fire that killed a woman last year. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us the body of 31-year-old Jessica Lynn True was found in a Decatur home following a fire in November. Police determined at the time the fire was an arson. Taken into custody this week was 27-year-old Nina Levenhagen. She was arraigned on Wednesday on a charge of felony murder and bond was set at $5 million. Arrested in the case last month was 32-year-old Glenn Russell Tett, Jr. also of South Bend. Police tell us the investigation into the Decatur fire continues.. ...Read Full Story

MI Unemployment Rate Flat In January

From the Associated press — Michigan’s unemployment rate in January was unchanged from the 4.7 percent rate recorded in December.
Figures released Thursday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget show Michigan’s January jobless rate was six-tenths of a percentage point above the national rate of 4.1 percent but three-tenths of a percentage point below the state’s January 2016 rate of 5.0 percent. The agency says total employment declined by 3,000 while the number of unemployed Michiganders rose by 1,000 for a net impact of a minor reduction in the state’s January workforce. Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer says newly revised data from the annual revision process for Michigan show that the state’s jobless rate was unchanged at 4.7 percent from September through January.. ...Read Full Story

Suspected Prowler Presumed Drowned

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team is searching Muskrat Lake for the body of a prowling suspect who is presumed to have drowned. Deputies were called to a home on 2nd Avenue shortly after 10 last night on a report of someone trying to break into a vehicle and a garage and peeking into windows. They followed footprints, but the suspect saw the officers and ran off. He was later seen about 100 yards offshore in a sinking canoe, yelling for help. By the time deputies were able to get into the water, he had gone under and the Dive team wasn’t able to find him due to darkness last night. They’re trying again today.. ...Read Full Story

Record Month For OK2Say Tip Line

February saw more tips sent in to the state’s OK2Say tip line than any month before. Michigan Attorney General’s office spokesperson Andrea Bitely tells us the tip line was created in 2014 for students to have a way to report troubling or dangerous situations in their schools.. ...Read Full Story

State Shuts Down Funeral Home For Unsanitary Conditions

From the Associated Press — The state has shut down a northern Michigan funeral home after an inspection found unsanitary conditions in an embalming room, human cremated remains stored alongside those of animals and other violations. Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs office says Wednesday that the mortuary science establishment license of the Charles G. Parks Funeral Home in
Petoskey has been suspended. The suspension becomes effective Friday. The individual mortuary science license of owner Charles Guy Parks, Jr. also was suspended. The state says embalmed bodies also were found in an unrefrigerated garage and that at least $4,935 for prepaid funeral goods or services was not put into escrow. Parks told The Associated Press Wednesday that he had no comment on the license suspensions or the state investigation. Petoskey is northeast of Traverse City.. ...Read Full Story

BH Trustee Appointed To RESA Board

The newest member of the Berrien RESA Board of Education is Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education Trustee Martha Momany. The RESA Board tells us it appointed her this week to serve a term that runs out in June of next year. Momany replaces RESA Trustee Tom Fanning, who resigned last month due to an injury. The RESA Board cited Martha Momany’s experience on the Benton Harbor School Board that includes having served as the president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary over more than nine years of service.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Brings Smart Thermostat Program To MI

A program that brings smart thermostats to southwest Michigan is now available for all customers of Indiana Michigan power. I&M spokesperson Tracy Warner tells us IM Home allows you to install an app on your phone that lets you control your home heat remotely. The app also watches your energy usage and takes steps to reduce it at times when you won’t notice.. ...Read Full Story

New $700,000 Challenge Grant For Humane Society

A new $700,000 challenge grant has been announced to help the Humane Society of Southwestern Michigan as it prepares to move into its new facility. Humane Society Director Jill Svoboda tells WSJM News the Yeager family, longtime supporters, will match donations, dollar for dollar, to both the organization’s capital fund for the new shelter and its endowment.. ...Read Full Story

Health Department Talks Emergency Preparedness

The Berrien County Health Department says now is the time to make sure you and your family are prepared for a disaster. Spokesperson Gillian Conrad tells WSJM News the recent flooding has been proof of that. First, she recommends everyone have an easily moveable emergency kit in case they have to clear out quickly.. ...Read Full Story

IRS Reminds Taxpayers Of Credit

It’s the tax credit many people don’t know they’re eligible for, and it could mean some big bucks coming back from Uncle Sam. Luis Garcia at the IRS says only 17% of filers in Michigan claimed the earned income tax credit in 2015, but he thinks many more would have qualified.. ...Read Full Story

MSP Trooper Released From Hospital After Crash

A Michigan State Police trooper whose patrol vehicle was rear-ended by a semi on I-94 Wednesday morning has been released from the hospital and is back at work. State police tell us Trooper Russell Bawks is a 20 year veteran of the MSP. The crash happened around 7 a.m. Wednesday near mile marker 31. After hitting the patrol car, the semi jackknifed and hit the patrol car again. Trooper Bawks was taken to Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph to be treated for minor injuries. The driver of the semi, 23-year-old Jordan Howell of Canton, Ohio, was ticketed for reckless driving.. ...Read Full Story

State Trooper Hurt In I-94 Crash

A Michigan State Police trooper is being treated at Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph for minor injuries after his patrol car was rear-ended by a semi near mile marker 31 on eastbound I-94. The crash happened just after 7 a.m. today, and the semi jackknifed and hit the patrol car a second time. The driver of the truck is from Ohio and was not hurt. Michigan State Police tell WSJM News the trooper was driving behind a pair of Department of Transportation plow trucks treating the icy highway at the time of the crash. The accident was one of many on slick roads around southwest Michigan this morning.. ...Read Full Story

New Flood Relief Effort Underway In Berrien County

A veteran-led non-profit has stepped up to help Berrien County residents affected by flooding. Team Rubicon has launched Operation Barren Heart to support residents by conducting damage assessments, muckout operations, and debris removal for free where needed. Team Rubicon was founded by Marine Corps veterans Jake Wood and William McNulty in 2010 following the earthquake in Haiti. Anyone who wants to support TeamRubicon can go to TeamRubiconUSA.org. To find out about getting the group’s assistance, call 211. Additionally, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is reminding all of the flood-affected folks to turn in their damage assessment forms. You can find the page to do so right here.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Signs Bill To Raise 911 Fees

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law an increase in 911 fees to upgrade Michigan’s emergency response system. The law enacted Tuesday will boost the monthly surcharge on phone bills by 6 cents, from 19 cents to 25 cents. The surcharge on prepaid wireless plans will rise to 5 percent per retail transaction. It is currently under 2 percent. The fee hikes will generate $20 million more a year. Supporters say the 911 system is in dire need of upgrades. Technology is being used that hasn’t been updated in nearly 60 years. Backers say first responders will be better equipped to respond to a scene with more information _ pictures, videos, text, GPS _ helping to pinpoint disoriented callers.. ...Read Full Story

Another Delay In Berrien Murder Case

The ongoing murder case against a man accused of beating two people to death in Hagar Township is facing another delay. Alex Perez is charged with two counts of first degree murder in the deaths of the mother of his two daughters and her father. 27-year-old Renee and 67-year-old John Mitchell were found in their home on January 15 of 2016, and Perez was later arrested in Colorado. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic tells us the Perez case has been delayed multiple times by psychiatric examinations, and attorneys for Perez this week sought another adjournment for more testing. It was granted. The date for the proceedings to resume isn’t yet known, but it will likely be in May or June. Sepic tells us the court needs to determine if Perez can be considered criminally responsible. He tells us the criminal responsibility question needs to be answered. Otherwise, there could be an issue with appeals. Perez remains in the Berrien County Jail.. ...Read Full Story