Local News Archives

Prosecutor Files Sentencing Motions In Ten Juvenile Murder Cases

Sentences of life in prison without parole are being sought for a second time by the Berrien County Prosecutor’s office in ten cases that go as far back as 1967. The prosecutor’s office on Thursday announced it has filed motions seeking that sentence in response to a couple of Supreme Court rulings striking down mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders. Since the 2012 ruling, judges have the option of handing down life without parole to a juvenile, but they can also impose a lesser sentence. The ruling in 2016 was made retroactive. The prosecutor’s office says in all ten local cases affected by the rulings, it’s asking once again for just that sentence. The prosecutor had until the end of this week to file motions with the request. All ten cases involve murder.. ...Read Full Story

Kalamazoo Spill Settlement Renews Calls To Shut Down Line 5

The settlement reached in the Kalamazoo River oil spill is intensifying calls from citizen and environmental groups to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac. A $177 million federal oil spill settlement with Enbridge Energy Partners was announced Wednesday for the 2010 pipeline rupture. Deb Hansen, with Concerned Citizens of Cheboygan and Emmet County, contends the settlement is inadequate, and says it shows the risk the state is taking for continuing to allow Enbridge pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.. ...Read Full Story

Straight Party Ticket Ban Struck Down By Judge

A federal judge has blocked Michigan’s new ban on straight-party voting, a law that was passed by Republicans but criticized by Democrats as a
way to discourage turnout among minorities. Judge Gershwin Drain signed an injunction Thursday, a week after hearing arguments. He says the law would place a “disproportionate burden” on the rights of black citizens to vote in the fall election. Lawyers say more than 70 percent of ballots in Detroit and Flint have been cast as straight-party — votes that go for all candidates of one party with just a single mark. The state attorney general’s office, which is defending the law in court, says Michigan joined 40 other states in banning straight-party voting. The judge says that’s irrelevant.. ...Read Full Story

Cotter: Prevailing Wage Repeal Off Table

It was a priority for Michigan Republicans when this legislative session began, but not anymore. Speaker Kevin Cotter says an attempt to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law is off the table for the remaining 20 legislative days in this session. Cotter told Michigan’s Big Show that the Governor opposes the bill because it is contrary to his efforts to promote and encourage skilled trades in Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Report: Courthouse Shooter Was School Volunteer

New information coming from our reporting partners at WKZO radio in Kalamazoo that Larry Gordon, the man who shot and killed two bailiffs at the Berrien County Courthouse, was also a volunteer at his daughter’s elementary school. Watervliet Public Schools superintendent Kevin Schooley confirms they only do security screens using fingerprints for employees, and did not know of Gordon’s extensive criminal history.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Conference Seeks To Help Combat Human Trafficking

Efforts to raise awareness about human trafficking and combat the problem will be the focus of a fall conference in Ann Arbor. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Michigan Human Trafficking Commission on Thursday announced the September 29 event. The commission, the State Court Administrative Office and the Department of Health and Human Services are involved. The conference is open to law enforcement, legal professionals, victim service providers, protective services workers, judiciary staff and other human trafficking-related groups. Details are posted online. Michigan has stepped up efforts in recent years to shield minor victims from prosecution and crack down criminals involved in human trafficking. Notices are being posted at rest stops, airports and bus stations to educate the public and
offer help for victims.. ...Read Full Story

South Haven Welcomes Two New City Officials

Some new city officials are in place in South Haven. This month, the city welcomed Travis Sullivan to serve as the new clerk. He comes to South Haven from Kalamazoo, where he worked in several positions in city government, as city records coordinator most recently. Sullivan has a Bachelor of Science degree in History and a Masters of Public Administration in public management from Grand Valley State University. Also welcomed this month was William Hunter, the new department of public works director. He comes from Grand Haven, where he also headed up DPW. He’d previously supervised the water plant there... ...Read Full Story

National Police Night Out Next Month

The annual police National Night Out is coming up next month. The event is held each year in communities all over the country to help the public get better acquainted with their law enforcement agencies. Locally, the Night Out will be in St. Joseph Township at Riverview Park on August 2. St. Joe Township Police officer Rick Knapp says, in light of recent events, it would be a good thing if there’s a strong showing from the community.. ...Read Full Story

Rock Collectors Flock To Van Buren State Park

Rock collectors have been flocking to a state park in Covert that has seen broad expanses of stone because of high water levels. MLive reports that Van Buren State Park is typically known for its massive dunes and sandy beaches, but now visitors are coming out in force this summer
searching for everything from beach glass to fossils. Albion College geology student Jennifer Nelson, who working at the park this summer, says whether beaches are sandy or rocky is determined by how much sand the lake’s tide consumes. Nelson says fossils, granite and shiny, colorful stones have been particularly popular among young collectors. Adult collectors often look for Petoskey stones, which are somewhat rare but possible to find. She says visitors are allowed to collect 25 pounds of rocks per year from state land.. ...Read Full Story

Judge Blocks Restraining Order In Juvenile Lifer Case

An appeals court has blocked an order that stopped Michigan prosecutors from seeking new no-parole sentences for potentially hundreds of
prisoners. No one has been sentenced yet. But county prosecutors plan to disclose by Friday whether they’ll again pursue the same tough punishment for 350 so-called juvenile lifers, prisoners who were teens when a murder occurred. The appeals court said Wednesday that federal Judge John Corbett O’Meara abused his authority with a restraining order. The court says O’Meara already plans to hold a July 28 hearing on an injunction request. The court also notes that prosecutors actually have until Aug. 24 to signal their resentencing plans, under state law. The U.S. Supreme Court says teens convicted of murder must be treated differently than adults. No-parole sentences require a thorough hearing.. ...Read Full Story

Enbridge To Pay $61 Million For 2010 Spill

Enbridge Energy Partners will pay a $61 million penalty for the costliest inland oil spill in U.S. history under an agreement with federal officials.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice announced the settlement Wednesday over a 2010 pipeline rupture near Marshall, Michigan, that released an estimated 843,000 gallons of crude oil. A nearly 40-mile stretch of the Kalamazoo River was polluted as shoreline residents fled their homes. The deal requires measures to prevent future spills, detect leaks and prepare for emergencies across Enbridge’s Lakehead network, a web of 14 pipelines extending more than 2,000 miles across seven states. Company vice president Brad Shamla says Enbridge has been humbled and will meet the terms.. ...Read Full Story

Former Covert Twp Officer Accused Of Sexual Assault

Michigan State Police are investigating a former Covert Township police officer for an alleged sexual assault. Police Chief Jay Allen tells WWMT-TV the officer resigned yesterday after the case was turned over to the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s office. The former officer, whose name has not been released, is accused of raping a woman in a hotel a week and a half ago after arresting her boyfriend for drunk driving. He allegedly went to the hotel after his shift was over, and the incident happened while he was off-duty.. ...Read Full Story

MI Delegates Recall Anti-Trump Effort At Convention

Michigan’s delegates at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland have already witnessed plenty this week. Monday brought an ill-fated attempt by anti-Donald Trump elements to open up the convention so he could be denied the presidential nomination. Michigan state Senator Patrick Colbeck, a Ted Cruz delegate, says most Republicans are united around the issues Trump is promoting, but at issue is how he goes about it.. ...Read Full Story

LMC Expanding Search For Next President

Lake Michigan College is starting from scratch in its search for a new president. The board of trustees on Tuesday opted to expand its search, hiring the Pauly Group, out of Illinois, to help. Board President Mary Jo Tomasini says they’re going to make an aggressive recruitment push. She says LMC can continue to function with Dr. Bob Harrison serving as president on an interim basis until they find the right permanent candidate.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Rivalry Run Next Month

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is now taking registrations for its 3rd annual Rivalry Run. The runs raise money for the organization, which supports a variety of causes in Berrien and Cass Counties. This year’s run will be August 12, and you can sign up at Rivalry-Run.com. Everyone who takes part is urged to wear the colors of their favorite team and dress as a player, cheerleader, or fan. Participants are also encouraged to show their true colors by painting their faces. This year’s event will take off from the MTEC building on Klock Road in Benton Harbor, and a tailgate party will be held afterward. Registration is $20 for adults.. ...Read Full Story

West MI Lawyer Apologizes For Remarks About Judge

A lawyer running for judge in western Michigan is apologizing after describing a black judge as an 800-pound “silverback” gorilla. Eric Grimm, who is white, says the email about Muskegon County Judge Gregory Pittman was a “lapse of judgment.” He says he plans to perform 100 hours of community service to make up for it. Grimm is one of five candidates running for probate judge in the August 2 primary election. The two top finishers will advance to the fall election.Grimm described Pittman as an 800-pound “silverback alpha male.” He says he was trying to talk about problems in the courthouse. Pittman, who doesn’t face re-election this year, says he won’t comment on what he calls “bigoted remarks.”. ...Read Full Story

Detroit Razes 10,000th Vacant Home Under Duggan Blight plan

A two-story, wood-frame house on Detroit’s northwest side became the 10,000th vacant structure torn down as part of Mayor Mike Duggan’s massive plan to eliminate blight. An excavator was used to quickly tear down the house Tuesday on Marlowe Street. It was another win in a years-long battle to improve Detroit neighborhoods. Duggan’s blight program started 21/2 years ago. He said Tuesday that Detroit’s demolition program is “moving much more efficiently” than others around the country. About 10,000 houses were also demolished during the administration of Dave Bing, the previous mayor. Detroit has received about $258 million from the federal Hardest Hit Fund for demolitions and other blight removal efforts. A blight task force survey in 2014 revealed more than 40,000 structures needed demolition with another 38,000 tipping toward blight.. ...Read Full Story

Anti-Nuclear Group Questioning Palisades Security Suspensions

An anti-nuclear group is asking questions about allegations that security guards at the Palisades nuclear plant were allegedly either skipping or not adequately performing fire inspections at the plant. As a result, 20 members of the security force have been put on leave, with one telling a Kalamazoo news outlet they were never trained on how to do the fire inspections. Kevin Kamps with Beyond Nuclear says fire risk is one of the biggest risks a nuclear plant faces. He thinks the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should take firmer action against the Palisades’ parent company, Entergy.. ...Read Full Story

21 Youths Graduate From MSP Leadership Academy

Benton Harbor City Commissioners have saluted 21 young men who graduated from the Michigan State Police Youth Leadership Academy this year. At Monday’s meeting, they were introduced to the latest graduates. MSP trooper Maurice Burton says the kids who join are sent to a five-day camp where they do physical training and also take part in sessions to learn a variety of skills.. ...Read Full Story

Lawrence Third Grader Wins Contest To Paint A Plow

Some Van Buren County school children have helped out with painting one of the road commission’s plows. Van Buren County Road Commission Engineer-Manager Larry Hummel says the agency held a contest, asking kids from all over the county how a plow should be decorated. With 93 submissions, the winner was Lawrence Elementary’s Hailey Camp, a third grader. They painted the plow to her specifications.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Youth Fair Underway

It’s time once again for the Van Buren Youth Fair. The event is now underway at the fairgrounds in Hartford, with activities scheduled through Saturday. The Youth Fair Board’s Paul Garrod says, in addition to the 4H displays, food, and rides, there will be a variety of entertainment all week.. ...Read Full Story

Service Held For Ron Kienzle

Two Berrien County Courthouse security officers killed last week in the line of duty have been laid to rest. On Monday, the service for Ronald Kienzle was held at Lake Michigan College’s Mendel Center with a thousands in attendance. They included hundreds of police officers from all over Michigan. Kienzle’s graveside service also took place Monday afternoon at Crystal Springs Cemetery, with nearby roads closed as the procession went by. Kienzle was shot and killed last Monday by a Berrien County Jail inmate who also killed courthouse security chief Joseph Zangaro. Zangaro’s service was last Friday.. ...Read Full Story

State Board Approves Detroit Schools Bailout

A state board has approved a $150 million emergency loan and other facets of a plan to address massive operating debt in the Detroit school district and to return control to locally elected officials. The three-member Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board OK’d the proposal Monday. It voted to transfer assets of the Detroit Public Schools to a new district and to authorize the elimination or restructuring of debt by borrowing $235 million through the sale of bonds. The votes effectively begin implementing a $617 million state bailout that was enacted into law in June. Current school board members and others urged the board to reject the plan and to implement their proposed alternative. They say the laws, which allow the new district to hire noncertified teachers, are unconstitutional.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan To Get Facility For Autonomous Vehicle Testing

Plans to convert the site of a former General Motors plant that once pumped out World War II-era bombers into an autonomous car testing facility are moving forward. The Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust on Monday announced a $1.2 million purchase agreement for the acquisition of 311 acres at Willow Run in Washtenaw County’s Ypsilanti Township. The project was highlighted by Governor Rick Snyder during his state of the state address in January, when he said he was working with Michigan’s congressional representatives to help make it happen. The nonprofit American Center for Mobility was formed to develop the project. The RACER Trust took over sites around the country left behind in Detroit-based GM’s 2009 bankruptcy reorganization.. ...Read Full Story

[VIDEO] Unity March Draws Hundreds

A call for unity and love is being heeded in Berrien County. Cafe Mosiac’s Andrew Collins and several others got together to call for a march from the Benton Harbor business to the Berrien County Courthouse in St. Joseph yesterday following weeks of violence across the country, capped off by the shooting deaths of two court officers at the courthouse last Monday.. ...Read Full Story

Gas Prices Up 9¢

AAA Michigan says gas prices statewide have risen by about 9 cents per gallon in the past week. The Dearborn-based auto club says the average price for self-serve regular u nleaded gasoline was about $2.36 per gallon on Sunday. That’s about 39 cents less than it was at the same point last year. This is the first time in five weeks that the statewide price of gas has increased. The lowest average price was about $2.29 per gallon in the Traverse City area, while the highest average was about $2.42 per gallon in the Ann Arbor area. In Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, we have the second-lowest average price at $2.30.. ...Read Full Story

Funeral Today For Ron Kienzle

Southwest Michigan says goodbye to Berrien County Courthouse bailiff Ron Kienzle today. His funeral is set for 1 p.m. at the Mendel Center on the campus of Lake Michigan College. Kienzle was shot and killed along with courthouse security director Joe Zangaro last Monday by an inmate who was trying to escape after a court appearance. There will be road closures starting at 9 a.m. when Yore Avenue is shut down between Empire and Napier. Crystal Avenue will be closed from Empire to Napier from 2 until 4 p.m., and the outside westbound lane of Napier Avenue will be closed from Yore Avenue to Pipestone Road from 1:30 to around 4 p.m. Police will also close the exit ramps from I-94 to Napier in both directions from 1:30 to around 4 p.m.. ...Read Full Story

Hundreds March For Unity, Love

Love and unity – those were the themes of a march Sunday afternoon from Cafe Mosiac in Benton Harbor to the Berrien County Courthouse. Organized after the shooting deaths of two court officers, the march also stemmed from recent violence nationwide with police shooting and killing two black men in Minnesota and Louisiana and the ambush that killed five Dallas police officers. Cafe Mosiac’s Andrew Collins, a former Benton Township police officer, says there’s too much negativity in the world, “lot of people who want to scream and holler about what the problems are.” He tells WSJM News “we felt it was necessary to bring some talk about the solution, and we believe that through Christ the only solution is love. We’re touting the L-O-V-E and we have an acronym with that. The L is learn about the community that you work in, or that you live in, or that you serve in. The O is have an open heart and open mind to those who may not look or sound or think like you. The V is to volunteer in those communities which you may not be a part of, and the E is to empower other people to do the same.”. ...Read Full Story

AAA Report Finds Most Drivers Get Road Rage

A new AAA report reveals road rage continues to be a major concern. The agency conducted a survey of 2,700 drivers around the country, finding nearly 80% of them experienced aggression or anger while behind the wheel in the past year. AAA’s Gary Bubar says some people will create dangers on the road because of anger.. ...Read Full Story

Local Candidate Forum Set For Next Week

A forum with local political candidates is planned for next week. It’s being organized by the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, and will be held at the Super 8 Conference Center on Red Arrow Highway in Stevensville on Friday. On hand will be several candidates for local office, including county commission and drain commissioner. The forum will be at noon. Organizers say everyone’s welcome to come out and bring some questions for those running.. ...Read Full Story

Man Picked Up On Warrant While Playing Pokemon GO

A man with a warrant for his arrest was taken into custody after showing up at a Detroit-area police station while playing the Pokemon GO game. The Detroit News reports Milford police say the 26-year-old, who was wearing pajama pants, rode a bike to the Milford station Thursday.
Police Chief Tom Lindberg says officers recognized him because they’ve had contact with him in previous years. He was booked on a warrant for missing a court date and released. The newspaper says he was originally charged with breaking and entering. The location-aware smartphone game gives digital incentives like “Pokeballs” as rewards for visiting real places. The locations are known as “Pokestops” and “Gyms.” According to Milford police, the station is the site of a “Gym” as part of the game.. ...Read Full Story

Historic Southwest Michigan Bridge To Be Moved

A historic bridge that’s the last of its kind in Michigan is going to be replaced by a new span that’ll be the first of its kind in the state. The Elkhart Truth reports that the Michigan Department of Transportation plans to begin removing the M-86 bridge over the Prairie River near Centreville
on July 18. It’ll be relocated to Cass County. In its place, the department will build a new 104-foot bridge that’ll be the first in the state to include carbon fiber composite strand reinforcement. It’ll be the second span in the state to include concrete T-beams. The department says pairing the bulb T-beams and the carbon fiber strands will reduce concrete cracking, deterioration and corrosion common in traditional steel-reinforced bridges. The $4.9 million project is scheduled for completion in November 2017.. ...Read Full Story

MDOT Begins US-12 Project Monday

The Michigan Department of Transportation is advising drivers about a construction project set to begin in Berrien County on Monday. It says there will be shoulder paving on US-12 between M-139 and M-60 in Niles. The work will mean single lane closures at various times. It starts Monday and will run through Wednesday, August 10. You can keep yourself up to date on all of MDOT’s summer projects by installing the agency’s MIDrive app. It’s available free for both iPhone and Android.. ...Read Full Story

AAA: Stop Playing Pokemon GO While Driving

AAA of Michigan is warning drivers to put down their Pokemon GO games while behind the wheel. Spokesperson Gary Bubar says there have already been reports of crashes caused by players, with one man in New York hitting a tree because he was trying to catch ’em all while driving. Bubar says playing with a phone app behind the wheel is a recipe for disaster.. ...Read Full Story

Suspect Faces Additional Charges In West MI Shooting

A 21-year-old western Michigan man faces additional charges in connection with the shooting of three people outside a high school basketball game in February. The Muskegon Chronicle reports that Clarence McCaleb was arraigned Friday on six charges, including three for assault with intent to commit murder. He previously was charged with pointing a gun at a sheriff’s deputy and other crimes. Two females and one male were shot February 9 outside Muskegon Heights Public School Academy, northwest of Grand Rapids. Two of the wounded were students. Authorities say McCaleb was shot and wounded by a deputy after refusing to drop a pistol. Defense attorney Scott Pederson didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. McCaleb is jailed on a $1 million bond. His preliminary examination is scheduled for August 1.. ...Read Full Story

Lakeview Avenue Work Set For Saturday

Work to resurface part of Lakeview Avenue in St. Joseph will cause some traffic disruptions this weekend. The city says contractors will be installing storm sewer crossings at Colonial Avenue and Lakeview Avenue Saturday. The work was scheduled for the weekend so as to minimize problems for the Area Agency on Aging. Residents within the construction area on Lakeview will be able to enter and exit to the north, and they’re asked to use caution and allow for extra time. The road’s surface will be restored by the end of the day. The city says storm sewer construction will be done next week, which may mean water shut offs to individual homes to move piping.. ...Read Full Story