Local News Archives

Indiana Man Convicted In Carjacking, Shooting Case In Cass County

A 20-year-old Indiana man is facing up to life in prison in Michigan after being found guilty today of 10 felonies from a shooting, carjacking, robbery, and police chase in January. Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz says Eric Houston of South Bend was involved in the crime with several others from Indiana. The 21-year-old victim was shot four times, and survived. Houston and other suspects led police on a high-speed chase as well in a pair of stolen vehicles. No sentencing date has been announced.. ...Read Full Story

Silver Beach E Coli Levels Return To Acceptable

Silver Beach has been given the all clear by the Berrien County Health Department. After the beach was closed to swimming due to elevated E coli levels on Tuesday, the health department collected more samples Thursday morning. The results are in, and the water is testing for acceptable E Coli levels, meaning it’s clear for swimming for the long Labor Day weekend. However, visitors still need to check the flags posted at the beach to make sure they’re not red. Red flags mean no swimming due to dangerous lake conditions. In fact, the choppy conditions are what prevented the health department from being able to test the water for E coli on Wednesday. As of Friday morning, however, there is no longer an elevated E coli risk.. ...Read Full Story

SWMI Gets USDA Disaster Declaration

Farmers in three southwest Michigan counties will be eligible for help now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued a secretarial disaster designation. Congressman Fred Upton called the announcement for Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph counties “welcome news,” adding farmers have made it clear to him they have been suffering due to weather issues this year. Record rainfall prevented some crops from even going into the ground, and the prolonged wet conditions decimated the corn crop in the region. Extreme temperatures both hot and cold this year haven’t helped either, with the polar vortex in late January and early February nearly completely wiping out the peach crop. Upton says he will continue to push the USDA for a disaster designation for the rest of his district and all of Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Michigan Power, Consumers Energy Sending Crews To Florida

Indiana Michigan Power and Consumers Energy are sending crews to Florida to help with the recover from Hurricane Dorian. I&M says over 350 employees and contractors along with equipment will leave for the Sunshine State by Saturday afternoon to be ready to respond to power outages. Consumers is sending over 60 employees south with 15 three-person lineworker crews, three electric workers, several field leaders and equipment. The utilities are responding to the request for mutual assistance from Florida Power & Light, and the crews could be in Florida for as long as three weeks.. ...Read Full Story

Heritage Museum Holding Program On Salem Witch Trials

The Heritage Museum and Cultural Center in St. Joseph will be taking a look at the Salem Witch Trials this September. It says Magistrate John Hathorne will recount the hysteria, paranoia, and resulting trials that took place during the mid-17th century in Salem, Massachusetts with “Hysteria in Salem” on September 11 at the museum. The Salem Witch Trials began in February of 1692, with more than 200 people accused of practicing witchcraft. Eventually, 14 women and 5 men were hanged. The Heritage Museum says actor and historian Terry Lynch specializes in historical portrayal and storytelling with a first person perspective on events. His presentation at the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center on September 11 will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Attendance will be free, but they do suggest a $5 donation for the museum.. ...Read Full Story

Memorial Dedication For Fallen State Police Trooper Held In Bridgman

A Michigan State Police trooper who died in 1981 as a result of a train derailment in Berrien County has been honored with a new memorial. Michigan State Police First Lieutenant Mike Dawson with the Niles post tells WSJM News a dedication was held Thursday morning at the Lake Street railroad crossing in Bridgman for Trooper Allan Peterson. He was one of the officers assigned to the site of the derailment on August 7, 1981. Dawson says Peterson was exposed to toxic fumes there.. ...Read Full Story

Deadline Approaching For Home Heating Tax Credit

As the days start to cool in Michigan, some people might be able to offset the cost of summer utility bills with the Michigan Home Heating Credit. Eligible households that paid for heat last winter have until September 30 to apply for the 2018 Home Heating Credit. Ross Yednock with the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan says both homeowners and renters can apply.. ...Read Full Story

State Parks Offer Dog-Friendly Vacation Spots

The holiday weekend is almost upon us and if you’re going away, what will you do with your dog? If you’re going to one of Michigan’s many state parks, you may be able to take Fido with you camping or to the beach. However, be considerate of other campers, says DNR parks and recreation spokeswoman Maia Turek.. ...Read Full Story

Attorney General Slams Do-It-Yourself Kit For Sex Assault Victims

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s attorney general is objecting to a product pitched as a do-it-yourself kit for sexual assault victims. The MeToo Kit website says the product empowers people to collect evidence “in a setting and timing of their choice.” A price isn’t listed. Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office says kits are free in Michigan when assault victims seek medical help within five days. The state says it’s critical that evidence collection adheres to a strict procedure that can stand up in court if charges are filed. The state says a medical exam also includes a check for injuries and disease. Nessel says the home kit offers “absolutely no benefit.” An email seeking comment from the Brooklyn, New York, company wasn’t immediately answered Thursday. Michigan is demanding that the product not be sold in the state.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Public Library To Close For Renovations

The Bridgman Public Library is letting all patrons know it will be closed starting on Friday, September 20 through Monday, October 7. The reason is renovations. The library is receiving new carpeting, a fresh coat of paint, and new furniture. It says during the closing, everyone can still use its online resources. It also notes that inter-library loans will be put on hold from September 16 through October 7, the date of its reopening. Anyone with questions can contact the Bridgman Public Library.. ...Read Full Story

Life In Prison For Woman Who Conspired To Kill Husband

It’s life in prison for a woman who was found guilty of conspiring to have her husband killed while he was home on leave from the U.S. Army in Benton Harbor late last year. 22-year-old Kemia Hassel was sentenced on Thursday to life without parole. A jury found her guilty of first-degree premeditated murder last month in the death of Tyrone Hassel III. Prosecutors say Kemia Hassel was having an affair with Jeremy Cuellar, and the two planned to kill Tyrone Hassel for insurance money. He was shot and killed on New Year’s Eve of 2018 in St. Joseph Township. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic tells us Kemia Hassel was also sentenced to life in prison on a conspiracy to commit murder charge. Meanwhile, Jeremy Cuellar will be sentenced on September 23 to a minimum of 65 years after he pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the case. All three were soldiers stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Investigating Six Breathing Illnesses, Vaping Use

From the Associated Press — Michigan health officials say they’re investigating six cases of breathing illnesses that may be linked to e-cigarettes or other vaping products. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday each of the cases was diagnosed in the last 60 days and most of the individuals have been hospitalized for severe respiratory illness. The patients range in age from 19 to 39. It says that as of Aug. 23, more than 200 possible cases of severe respiratory disease associated with e-cigarette use have been reported in 23 states. Illinois last week reported one death. The Michigan agency says e-cigarette and/or vaping users should immediately seek medical attention if they develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, fever and/or nausea and vomiting.. ...Read Full Story

Former Lawmaker Pleads No Contest Following Scandal

From the Associated Press — A former Michigan lawmaker has pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor stemming from charges filed over his role in trying to keep his extramarital affair with another legislator from being exposed. The state attorney general’s office says Todd Courser entered his plea in a Lapeer courtroom Wednesday. A no-contest plea isn’t an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing. Courser could serve up to a year in jail on a willful neglect of duty charge. Sentencing is September 16. A perjury charge will be dismissed. Courser resigned in 2015 while another lawmaker, Cindy Gamrat, was expelled. Courser had asked an aide to send a bogus email to fellow Republicans as a trick so his affair with Gamrat wouldn’t be believed if it was revealed by an extortionist.. ...Read Full Story

McCloughan Addresses American Legion National Convention

South Haven’s Jim McCloughan [[ mc-kloo-an ]] stepped into the national spotlight this week when he addressed the American Legion’s 101st National Convention in Indianapolis. McCloughan is a Vietnam veteran who has received the Medal of Honor for his efforts to save fellow soldiers stuck in a firefight in North Vietnam in 1969. McCloughan carried four men out of an intense battle, becoming injured himself. Speaking to the convention Tuesday, McCloughan said, “We did not lose the war in Vietnam,” adding the fall of Saigon didn’t happen until two years after Americans left Vietnam. He thanked those who served with him in the war, and also thanked the American Legion for its commitment to him.. ...Read Full Story

Ground Breaking Next Week For $1 Billion Development

A ceremony will be held next week to mark the start of a more than $1 billion energy development in Niles. The Indeck Niles Energy Center at 2200 Progressive Drive will be a natural gas power plant. It’s expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue each year for the city of Niles, and create more than 20 permanent jobs. On hand for next Wednesday’s groundbreaking will be Congressman Fred Upton, Niles Mayor Nick Shelton, and former state Senator John Proos, among others. The new plant could be up and running in 2021. Indeck is a power equipment company based in Illinois.. ...Read Full Story

FBI Searches Home Of UAW President

From the Associated Press — Federal agents are searching the suburban Detroit home of the president of the United Auto Workers, apparently another step in an investigation of union corruption. FBI spokeswoman Mara Schneider confirmed the search of a home in Canton Township on Wednesday but declined further comment. TV stations posted photos and video of agents outside Gary Jones’ home. In response, the UAW says there’s “absolutely no need” for the search. The union says it has been cooperating with investigators. Agents also searched the Corona, California, home of former UAW President Dennis Williams and the union’s northern Michigan retreat. Eight people have pleaded guilty in an investigation of union officials and Fiat Chrysler executives enriching themselves with money from a job training center in Detroit. The probe appeared to widen recently when a former union official was charged with accepting kickbacks from union vendors.. ...Read Full Story

Labor Dispute Slows Road Project

Drivers traveling north on I-196 from Benton Harbor to just past the Hagar Shore Road exit haven’t seen much paving work done in weeks. This is due to a labor dispute at Reith-Riley, the main contractor for highway work. WSJM News spoke with MDOT’s Nick Schirripa about the delay in getting the work done.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Community Schools Brings In The Dogs

Niles Community Schools has launched a canine drug detection program. The first day for drug searches was this Wednesday, and the district says it will have surprise drug dog searches at its various buildings throughout the school year. Niles Community Schools administration says the program is designed to reinforce the district’s commitment to safety and to being a drug-free zone.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Parks Have Looked Into Changing Silver Beach Parking System

Tourism, it seems for some, is a bit of a double-edged sword. It helps fuel the local economy and keep people employed, but also causes locals to avoid popular tourist areas like downtown St. Joseph and beaches like Silver Beach County Park. At this week’s St. Joseph City Commission meeting, several residents expressed their frustration with traffic, especially at Silver Beach. They don’t think the city’s changing of traffic patterns and the county taking debit and credit cards for payment to go to the park has done enough. Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey’s thought is that being a tourist attraction isn’t the worst problem for a community to have.. ...Read Full Story

EPA Wants Public Comment On Cleaning Up Alreco Metals Site In Benton Harbor

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking public comment on a $585,000 settlement for cleaning up an old aluminum smelting site in the area. The EPA says the Alreco Metals site in Benton Harbor, near the Paw Paw River, was in operation for 43 years before the owner filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Waste was exposed when equipment and buildings were dismantled at the 28-acre site. The government says it has reached a settlement over past response costs with Service Aluminum Corporation, Toyota Motor Engineering and Louis Padnos Iron and Metal. The public will have until September 26 to offer an opinion.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Whitmer Urging Lawmakers To Pass Budget Bills

Bring me solutions to fixing the roads. That’s the message from Governor Gretchen Whitmer to state lawmakers, delivered during a press conference this morning, as the end of the current fiscal year is just 33 days away on September 30. She proposed a budget 176 days ago, and says the House and Senate should not have taken a summer recess without sending budget bills to her. Whitmer this morning said if Republicans have another idea instead of her 45¢ per gallon gas tax hike to come up with enough revenue to spend $2.5 billion on roads without taking money away from education, pensions, and other places, she remains open.. ...Read Full Story