Local News Archives

Cornerstone, Chamber Planning Annual Awards Breakfast

The Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce and Cornerstone Alliance have announced the keynote speaker for their 2020 Combined Business Recognition Breakfast and award ceremony. The gathering will be Thursday, February 13 at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center Grand Upton Hall. The keynote address will be given by Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio. He is charged with coordinating and streamlining the state’s workforce and economic development programs to meet business and labor needs. Before being appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Donofrio served as the director of workforce development in the city of Detroit. Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce President Arthur Havlicek says he looks forward to the address and to “celebrating phenomenal member organizations and individuals for their contributions to our community and our economy here in Michigan’s Great Southwest.” Tickets to the Business Recognition Breakfast are available through February 5.. ...Read Full Story

Counties Seeking Coastal Erosion Help

The Van Buren County Board of Commissioners has approved a resolution asking the Michigan Legislature and the governor to declare the Great Lakes shoreline a disaster area. Van Buren County Administrator John Faul tells WSJM News the action taken by the board this month mirrors what the Berrien County Commission did last year.. ...Read Full Story

New International Crossing Designed With Neighborhood Focus

The Michigan Department of Transportation unveiled five pedestrian bridges being built as part of the new Gordie Howe International Bridge to Canada in Detroit this month. Speaking on the MDOT podcast, Talking Transportation, the governor’s point man on the crossing, Andy Doctoroff, said the pedestrian bridges being built over the Gordie Howe’s interchange with I-75 show the design of this project is taking into account the needs of the community.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Road Commission Hires New Managing Director

Lawton Village Manager Daniel Bishop will be the next managing director of the Van Buren County Road Commission. The Board of County Road Commissioners of Van Buren County announced his hiring this week. Bishop has more than 30 years of local government experience, including 28 years as a manager. Road Commission Chair Greg Kinney says the board is pleased Bishop is taking the helm at the road commission, adding his experience will be an asset. Bishop starts on February 3. He replaces Larry Hummel, who left last April.. ...Read Full Story

Southwest Michigan Wineries Recognized At Recent Competitions

Several southwest Michigan wineries have gained some recognition on the national wine circuit as winners in recent contests. Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail Director Kathy Sturm tells WSJM News local wines were included in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the Harvest Challenge Competition in Santa Rosa, California. Taking honors were wineries including Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery in Mattawan, Lemon Creek Winery in Oronoko Township, and Karma Vista in Coloma. Sturm says the region’s wineries are making a name for themselves.. ...Read Full Story

I&M Rate Increase Begins Next Month

Your electric rate is about to go up. Indiana Michigan Power says it’s reached a settlement with the Michigan Public Service Commission regarding the utility’s request to raise rates by 19% to earn it another $58.5 million per year. I&M spokesperson Tracy Warner tells WSJM News the MPSC has instead told the company it can increase rates to earn another $36.4 million, a 37% cut to what the utility had been seeking.. ...Read Full Story

County Signals Support For MDOT Empire Avenue Plan

As the Michigan Department of Transportation prepares to start work on the extension of US-31 to I-94, the Berrien County Board of Commissioners has signaled its support for part of the plan that will affect Empire Avenue. MDOT’s Nick Schirripa tells WSJM News when US-31 is extended to Empire, Empire will become a cul-de-sac.. ...Read Full Story

Three Possible Coronavirus Cases Being Monitored In Michigan

State health officials are monitoring three possible cases of coronavirus. All are on the east side of the state, with two people in Washtenaw County and one in Macomb County presenting with mild symptoms. Specimens from the three have been sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing to determine if it’s coronavirus, which has killed several dozen people to date in China. The Michigan patients are “self-isolating” according to the state and the Washtenaw and Macomb county health departments are closely monitoring anyone who’s been in close contact with the three.. ...Read Full Story

Democrats Pick Gov. Whitmer To Deliver Response To President Trump’s State Of The Union

How important is Michigan to the 2020 presidential election? Very by the looks of it, as Governor Gretchen Whitmer has been tapped to deliver the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address on February 4. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says Whitmer’s “decades of hard work on behalf of the people should serve as a model for our nation.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer praised the governor’s “vision for the future” as “exactly what this country needs, and I’m thrilled she is giving the Democratic response.” Interestingly enough, Republicans in Michigan will not be giving a response next Wednesday night to her State of the State speech, instead opting for a press conference the next day. Trump won in Michigan in 2016, becoming the first Republican candidate to do so since Vice President George H.W. Bush in 1988.. ...Read Full Story

Ballot Initiative Seeks To Reign In Lobbying

From the Associated Press — A group has launched a ballot drive that would target lobbying in Michigan’s Capitol by banning free food and drink for state elected officials, requiring former lawmakers to wait two years to become lobbyists and creating a new system to track lobbying activities. The Coalition to Close Lansing Loopholes filed language for the proposed constitutional amendment with
the state elections board on Thursday. The effort is being spearheaded by Progress Michigan, a liberal advocacy organization. The ballot committee will have until early July to submit 425,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November ballot.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Police To Be Featured On National Television Program

A sergeant with the Bridgman Police Department will be featured on an episode of “In Pursuit with John Walsh.” The show on the Investigation Discovery television network is focused on tracking down wanted criminals. Bridgman Sergeant Tom LaVanway tells WSJM News the January 29 episode will be about William Troy Stanson. LaVanway was called in November of 2014 to investigate a complaint regarding a Halloween party where Stanson had been inappropriate with teen girls.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Health Department Official Named To State Advisory Council

A leader at the Berrien County Health Department has been selected to sit on an advisory panel created by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Health Officer Nichole Britten is the only southwest Michigan representative on the new Environmental Justice Advisory Council. Its purpose is to focus on protecting the Great Lakes, cleaning up the state’s drinking water, and combating the effects of climate change, among other things. The 21 member council is expected to hold meetings around the state in response to environmental health threats. Britten, who was previously an epidemiologist for the Berrien County Health Department is a member of the Be Healthy Berrien Steering Committee and Michigan’s Great Southwest Strategic Leadership Council Health Subcommittee.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, St. Joseph Township Moving Toward Harbor Authority Creation

The elected leaders of St. Joseph, St. Joseph Charter Township, and Benton Harbor have all agreed to form a joint work group to set in motion the creation of an authority for the Twin Cities Harbor. At a joint meeting Wednesday, the two city commissions and one township board each unanimously approved a resolution to get started with the work group. St. Joseph Township Manager Denise Cook told WSJM News it was positive to see all in agreement.. ...Read Full Story

Recreational Marijuana Sales Begin In Niles

Recreational marijuana is now available in Berrien County for the first time legally. ReLeaf Center in Niles began selling to adults 21 and over at 10 this morning. The facility is the first in the county to expand from medical to recreational marijuana. Another is on the way in Buchanan, and Eau Claire is starting to consider allowing recreational marijuana businesses. Those that have already opened in the state say supply is very tight, as there is more demand than product. In fact, one of two businesses slated to open last week in Muskegon had to delay their grand opening because they didn’t have enough available for both their medical patients and the public.. ...Read Full Story

Online Sports Betting In Michigan Will Wait Until 2021

From the Associated Press — Sports bettors may be able to place wagers in person at Detroit casinos this spring but will wait until 2021 to do so online. Mary Kay Bean, spokeswoman for the Michigan Gaming Control Board, gave an update Wednesday, about a month after Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed laws legalizing online gambling and sports betting. Bean estimates it will take a year to write and finalize rules so commercial casinos in Detroit and tribal casinos can obtain online licenses. She says regulators’ goal is to authorize onsite sports wagers this spring.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, St. Joseph Township Agree To Explore Joint Harbor Authority

The elected leaders of St. Joseph, St. Joseph Charter Township, and Benton Harbor have all agreed to form a joint work group to set in motion the creation of an authority for the Twin Cities Harbor. At a joint meeting Wednesday, the two city commissions and one township board each unanimously approved a resolution to get started with the work group. St. Joseph Township Manager Denise Cook told WSJM News it was positive to see all in agreement.. ...Read Full Story

BH Gets Positive Audit Report

It’s another clean and unmodified audit for the city of Benton Harbor. City commissioners on Tuesday heard from Paul Matz of the auditing firm Rehman Robson, who presented the annual audit for the fiscal year ending last June. Matz said clean and unmodified is the best kind of audit. He did note there were some concerns about income tax payments being taken directly through the treasurer’s window at city hall.. ...Read Full Story

Legislation Would Require Women To Be Notified Of Abortion Pill Reversal

State Representative Beth Griffin of Mattawan has introduced legislation that would require women to be notified of a way to reverse the effects of what is commonly known as the abortion pill when they have taken one. Griffin says abortion pill reversal, or APR, uses progesterone to reverse the effects of the abortion pill, but patients are never informed of the option.. ...Read Full Story

State Labor Department Director To Speak At Business Recognition Breakfast

The Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce and Cornerstone Alliance have announced the keynote speaker for their 2020 Combined Business Recognition Breakfast and award ceremony. The gathering will be Thursday, February 13 at the Lake Michigan College Mendel Center Grand Upton Hall. The keynote address will be given by Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio. He is charged with coordinating and streamlining the state’s workforce and economic development programs to meet business and labor needs. Before being appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Donofrio served as the director of workforce development in the city of Detroit. Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce President Arthur Havlicek says he looks forward to the address and to “celebrating phenomenal member organizations and individuals for their contributions to our community and our economy here in Michigan’s Great Southwest.” Tickets to the Business Recognition Breakfast are available through February 5.. ...Read Full Story

Grand Haven To Repair Lighthouses With Help Of Fundraising

From the Associated Press — Officials are raising money for repairs and renovations on Grand Haven’s two iconic lighthouses. According to Wood-TV, the goal is to open both lighthouses to the public as museums and interpret them for educational purposes. President of the Grand Haven Lighthouse Conservancy says they will need to raise about a million dollars in the next couple of years. The fundraiser is expected to take place during Winter Fest in Grand Haven where live and silent auctions will be held. The Lighthouse Conservancy plans to open the lighthouses in 2021.. ...Read Full Story

Willie Nelson To Perform At Four Winds New Buffalo

Country music icon Willie Nelson is coming to southwest Michigan this spring. He will perform at the Silver Creek Event Center at the Four Winds New Buffalo Casino on Sunday, April 26. Tickets will go on sale starting Friday at fourwindscasino.com and range from $99 to $179 each. Nelson has continued to be a relevant singer and songwriter over the course of his six decade career, and released a new album called “Ride Me Back Home” last year. He’s won “every conceivable award as a musician” according to the casino. Since 1962, he’s released 94 studio albums, 13 live albums, and 51 compilation records with sales of more than 40 million albums in the U.S. alone.. ...Read Full Story

Prosecutor: No Criminal Charges In Benton Harbor Trash Payment Controversy

There will not be any criminal charges filed in the dispute over the ownership of Wecycle Industrial Sanitation in Benton Harbor and who is authorized to be paid for their service by the city of Benton Harbor. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic says even though Virginia Huddleston, Robert Edwards, and Jewell Allen all signed a document in October 2017 establishing that all three are “members and/or managers or Wecycle,” the three “failed to organize their company effectively.” Edwards typically picked up the monthly check from the city for the trash services and ran the business, but Huddleston took the payment on October 31 2019 and opened an account at Chemical Bank in the name of Wecycle Industrial Sanitation LLC.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Presents Honor To Niles Veteran

Congressman Fred Upton was in St. Joseph on Tuesday to honor a veteran for his service. Upton presented Steven Gordon, a Vietnam War veteran who now lives in Niles, with the Combat Infantryman Badge. Upton tells WSJM News his office often works with veterans who have not received the honors they earned.. ...Read Full Story

City Commission Approves Tax Abatement For Events Center

The Benton Harbor City Commission has tentatively signed off on creating a Commercial Rehabilitation District at 825 Riverview Drive as a Chicago-based developer looks to open an events center. This is the former site of All Phase electric that was purchased by Chicago Industrial Real Estate, LLC last year. Owner Matt Rogatz told city commissioners Monday night about his plans for the what could be held at the center.. ...Read Full Story

Dial A Ride Launches New Fixed Service Line

The Twin Cities Transportation Authority, most commonly known as Dial A Ride, has launched a new fixed service bus route. It says the Yellow Line will serve residents of Benton Harbor and Benton Township. It will start at the TCATA headquarters in downtown Benton Harbor, making stops at Benton Manor, KPEP, Blossom Acres, Buss Housing, the Boys and Girls Club, and Intercare. The buses will then go back along the same route, stopping at each site every half hour. Transfers can be made to Dial A Ride’s Blue Route at Intercare and TCATA headquarters and to the Red Route. The buses will run Mondays through Fridays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The new Yellow Line will be free to ride for the first six weeks. Dial A Ride Director Paul Gillespie says the line is taking riders to popular destinations, and he hopes people will try it out.. ...Read Full Story

MSU Adds Fall Break, Which Includes Election Day

From the Associated Press — Michigan State University is planning to implement a fall break next school year, which will give students Election Day off. But some think the schedule change could undercut efforts to encourage student voting on campus. Classes would be canceled on Monday, November 2, and Tuesday, November 3, which is Election Day. Associated Students of Michigan State University, the university’s student government organization, had advocated for the break to give students time to go back home to cast their votes, President Samuel Stanley said during the MSU Board of Trustees December meeting.. ...Read Full Story

Stabenow, Senate Democrats Criticize Impeachment Rules

The impeachment trial of President Trump is underway in the U.S. Senate. Prior to Tuesday’s session, Democrats spoke out to criticize the planned impeachment rules from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which would give each side 24 hours to present their arguments over the course of three days and not allow any witnesses to be called. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow was among those blasting the GOP ideas.. ...Read Full Story

Fire Damages Bangor Township Home

No one is hurt, but a Bangor Township home has been badly damaged in a fire. Several Van Buren County fire departments were called to the house on 66th Street near 32nd Avenue just before 10 Tuesday morning. It’s believed the fire started in the kitchen, but no cause has been pinpointed as yet. Along with the Bangor Community Fire Department, help came from Columbia, Covert, Hartford, and South Haven Area Emergency Services.. ...Read Full Story

Red Cross: Urgent Need For Type O Blood Donations

With influenza spreading across the country and preventing some donors from giving and winter weather threatening to cancel blood drives, the American Red Cross now has a critical shortage of type O blood. Red Cross spokesman Todd Kulman is calling for donors to help, and explains why having an adequate blood supply is important.. ...Read Full Story

Niles River Santa In Need Of Repairs

Money is being raised to make repairs to the iconic Niles River Santa, which has been damaged by recent storms. The reindeer have been swept away, and Santa himself has been knocked over. Mike Peters talked to our partners at WSBT-TV about the decoration on the St. Joseph River that his father put out initially in 1962 so that kids in the hospital in Niles could see Santa in the river outside their rooms.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Spends $4.6 Million To Swap Parolee Ankle Bracelets

From the Associated Press — A technology change is forcing Michigan’s corrections department to spend about $4.6 million to fit more than 4,000 parolees and others under state supervision with new ankle monitors. Michigan Department of Corrections Public Information Officer Chris Gautz says the change is necessary because the 3G-enabled monitors won’t work because Verizon is upgrading its network from 3G to 4G. He says the process of swapping out devices for those wearing the ankle bracelets is expected to take about 45 days. The bracelets that track the movements of parolees and others under state supervision are worn by people convicted of sex offenses, domestic violence and other crimes.. ...Read Full Story

Indiana Mulls Law Aiming To Limit Lake Michigan Beach Access

From the Associated Press — Indiana lawmakers are considering a bill that would undo a landmark Indiana Supreme Court ruling that affirmed that the shoreline of Lake Michigan is owned by the state and held in trust for use by all residents. Representative Doug Miller sponsored legislation that would give up the state’s ownership of large swaths of Indiana’s lake shoreline to adjacent private property owners if their deeds indicate the land extends to Lake Michigan. The Indiana House Committee on Judiciary heard testimony Monday from residents, interest groups and legislators on the proposal. The committee will discuss it again January 27.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Parks Department Celebrates Dark Sky Designation For T.K. Lawless County Park

Officials at the Cass County Parks and Recreation Department are over the moon now that the county’s Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park has been designated an International Dark-Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association. Parks Director Scott Wyman tells WSJM News the park about nine miles east of Cassopolis has long been a great place for star gazing.. ...Read Full Story

County Seeking New Administrator

The position of Berrien County Administrator is now posted as the Berrien County Board of Commissioners looks for a new county leader. Current Administrator Bill Wolf’s last day will be June 12, and the county board is taking applications from those interested in being his replacement through February 21. The county administrator oversees county departments and manages the county’s roughly $188 million annual budget. The administrator reports directly to the county board. Commissioners are seeking someone who has a Bachelors’ degree in public administration, business management, finance, law, or a related field. They also want someone who has ten years of experience in public administration. The job posting and an application are now available at BerrienCounty.org.. ...Read Full Story

Man Loses Leg In Snowmobile Crash

A Three Oaks man has lost a leg as a result of a snowmobile crash on Sunday night. Three Oaks village police tell our reporting partners at WSBT it happened when two snowmobiles crashed into each other on Stickles Road. Police believe the drivers missed their trailhead. One sled drove over the other, cutting off its driver’s right leg just above the knee. Village police used a tourniquet to stop the man’s bleeding. He was taken to South Bend Memorial Hospital in stable condition, as was the other driver, who suffered a back injury.. ...Read Full Story

Sister Of 1993 Murder Victim Fears Killer Will Be Set Free

The sister of a Niles teenager who was killed by her boyfriend in 1993 is speaking out against the decision by a Cass County judge to toss out the mandatory life sentence against the killer. That’s due to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared mandatory life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders unconstitutional. Robert Leamon was 16 when he killed Rebecca Stowe and hid her body on a Cass County farm. Cindy Slates is Stowe’s sister and spoke to our partners at WSBT-TV.. ...Read Full Story

No Injuries In Six-Vehicle Crash On I-196

Michigan State Police are investigating a six-vehicle accident that shut down southbound I-196 at Coloma Road for about an hour on Sunday. Troopers say a truck pulling a large trailer with a bulldozer jack-knifed and blocked the southbound lanes. Six separate collisions resulted. Nobody was hurt, and the highway opened back up shortly after 4 p.m. according to the Michigan Department of Transportation. Troopers say the crashes are a reminder to slow down and adjust your speed based on the weather and road conditions.. ...Read Full Story

LMC MLK Program Begins Monday

Set for this coming Monday is the 25th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast Celebration at Lake Michigan College. LMC President Trevor Kubatzke tells WSJM News they’re expecting more than 600 people, one of the biggest groups they’ve had yet.. ...Read Full Story

Recreation Passport Price To Go Up

The cost of a Michigan state parks Recreation Passport is about to go up. Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Chief Ron Olson tells WSJM News the price will go up by $1 in March, bring the passports to $12 per year. You can sign up for a Recreation Passport when renewing your vehicle registration. With it, you can get into any of the 103 state recreation areas for one year. Olson says the program has been popular since launching in 2011.. ...Read Full Story

Dune Walk To Receive Improvements Thanks To Grant

The city of New Buffalo has been approved for a $220,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Land and Water Conservation Fund to improve its dune walk. The city says its dune walk is an iconic part of the community that has been the site of many senior class photos and wedding proposals. With the local match for the grant, the total improvement project for the walk will be $440,000. The city plans to renovate and improve the existing dune walk, and also add a second ADA accessible walkway into the dunes. The dune walk is currently nearing the end of its functional lifecycle, and this new project will enable New Buffalo to extend its life. Mayor Lou O’Donnell IV says the timing on this grant was perfect. The design and construction of the dune walk project is expected to start around mid-year.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Seeks Federal Response To Coastal Erosion

Congressman Fred Upton has met with representatives of FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to discuss shoreline erosion and high water levels in the Great Lakes. He tells WSJM News he and two other Michigan reps asked for tactical assistance in finding ways to mitigate the threat to shoreline property owners and communities during a meeting this month.. ...Read Full Story

Agriculture Conference Next Month

Southwest Michigan farmers will gather at Lake Michigan College next month for the annual Southwest Michigan Horticultural Days conference. MSU Extension pest management educator Mike Reinke tells WSJM News the event is a trade show for those in the ag industry. It’s held in partnership with the Michigan Grape Society.. ...Read Full Story

Applications Available For Heart Of Cook Grants

The Berrien Community Foundation says applications are now available for the next round of Heart of Cook grants. The Heart of Cook program is funded by Indiana Michigan Power’s Cook nuclear power plant and administered by the Berrien Community Foundation. Educational projects, human services programs that support families, and environmental protection and preservation projects are the focus areas for the Heart of Cook, and grant recipients are picked by Cook staff each year. Last year, the Heart of Cook provided more than $65,000 to 38 non-profit programs around southwest Michigan. The Heart of Cook grant applications are now online at the Berrien Community Foundation’s website. They’re due by February 10, and the grant recipients will be announced in May.. ...Read Full Story

Bridgman Polar Party Next Month

The Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence and the Greater Bridgman Chamber of Commerce are planning the community’s first ever Polar Party for next month. The event will be held Saturday, February 8 near Bridgman City Hall. The party is set to begin at 3 p.m. and run through 9 p.m. They’ll have a Frozen-themed celebration with a chance for the kids to meet Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff from 3 to 6, food and drinks, and a performance by the Marks Ficks Band starting at 6. The funds raised through ticket sales will go to the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence, which supports students at Bridgman Public Schools. Tickets are available at the Bridgman Foundation for Educational Excellence website, Harding’s in Bridgman, and at the administration building for Bridgman Public Schools. Those who go are advised to look for the giant igloo and tents in the parking lot adjacent to city hall.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Works Offering Help To Healthy Michigan Enrollees

Michigan Works is offering help to those who are members of the Healthy Michigan plan continue getting benefits now that new work requirements are in place. The Director of operations Quin Braylock tells WSJMM News a new state law requires Healthy Michigan recipients to work at least 80 hours per week or be in training. It happens that Michigan Works can help people with both of those things.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer Holding Payment Plan Meetings

Three meetings will be held next month by Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski to get property owners signed up for tax payment plans. Witkowski tells WSJM News this is for those property owners who are behind, especially for 2017 or previous years. Those who haven’t yet paid for 2017 face foreclosure on March 31. He says he’s holding the meetings in multiple locations around the county at varying times for those who can’t make it to his office. He notes the county has made much progress in recent years with helping people avoid foreclosure.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Audit Meeting Next Week

A meeting of the Benton Harbor City Commission will be held on Tuesday for commissioners to hear the city’s latest audit report. The audit is a snapshot of the financial health of the city and also outlines how Community Development Block Grant and city income tax dollars are being handled. Tuesday’s meeting will be at 7 p.m. at Benton Harbor City Hall. In addition, the city commission has a meeting scheduled for January 29 to interview Interim City Manager Ellis Mitchell for the city manager job long-term. Mitchell is the only candidate now in the running after the commission’s other candidate passed on the job. The interview with Mitchell will be at 7 p.m. at city hall.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County Park Gets Dark Sky Designation

The Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park in Cass County has been designated as an International Dark-Sky Park by the International Dark-Sky Association, making it one of only two areas in the state with that distinction. The Cass County Parks and Recreation Department says the title comes after more than 2 years of preparation, education, and modification. The Dark Sky Designation goes to areas “possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment.” Cass County parks officials say Lawless County Park, nine miles east of Cassopolis, had to be open a certain number of nights for star viewing and provide special night programming events to qualify. The county is planning a dark sky celebration for the designation in April.. ...Read Full Story

Life Sentence Set Aside In Cass County Murder Case

From the Associated Press — A judge has set aside a life sentence for a man who was convicted of killing his pregnant girlfriend when they were teenagers and burying her body in southwestern Michigan. The decision Monday by a Cass County judge means 43-year-old Robert Leamon will get a new sentence and a chance for parole. Rebecca Stowe was strangled, and her body was buried in a rural area. Leamon was 16-years-old at the time of the death. Leamon’s case is being reopened because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that minors can’t automatically get no-parole life sentences like adults.. ...Read Full Story