Local News Archives

Michigan OKs $1.3M Compensation For Man Exonerated Of Murder


From the Associated Press — Michigan’s attorney general has approved $1.3 million in compensation for a 61-year-old man who spent nearly three decades in prison before being exonerated in the arson-related deaths of his wife and two young daughters. Dana Nessel’s office says the award was approved Thursday following a review of David Gavitt’s claim under the state’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act. Compensation is calculated based on $50,000 for each year a person is in prison. Gavitt, of Ionia, was sentenced in 1986 to life without parole and spent 26 years in prison before an Ionia County prosecutor agreed the arson evidence behind his conviction no longer was credible. The case helped inspire the compensation act. 32 states and the District of Columbia provide money to people rebuilding their lives after being wrongly convicted.. ...Read Full Story

County Board Sets Objectives


The Berrien County Board of Commissioners has approved its operational objectives for 2019 and 2020. The document was approved unanimously at a Thursday meeting. It comes out of strategic planning sessions held in the early part of this year. They involved commissioner visits to county facilities, meetings with department heads, and discussions on the issues faced by Berrien County. Among the objectives listed for the coming year and a half or so are maintaining a safe and resilient county for employees and the public and the use of asset management planning. Also, focusing on the support of county infrastructure, improving the private sector job market and tax base, and making Berrien County the “employer of choice” by improving personnel policies, salaries, and benefits. Additionally, the county commission makes it a goal to establish Berrien County’s fiscal position in the top 25% of Michigan counties through budgeting, oversight, and long-range planning. Finally, the county aims to increase efficiency and use social media to keep the public informed.. ...Read Full Story

School Board Authorizes Equipment Purchases


Some big purchases have been authorized by the Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education as it prepares the district for a new school year. At a meeting on Tuesday, the board approved more than $900,000 of equipment purchases. It authorized spending $75,000 on new computer servers for the district, as the COO noted the current ones crash every day. The money will come from the sinking fund. Up next was the purchase of a new fire alarm system for Fairplain East at a cost of $385,000. The money will come from a grant and the sinking fund. Finally, the board approved upgrades to the food service area of the high school. It was noted the district had a fund set up to cover those kitchen improvements as all food prep is now being done at the high school.. ...Read Full Story

BBB Issues Advisory About Wine Event


The Better Business Bureau in west Michigan is warning everyone about buying tickets for an upcoming R&B wine tasting event being advertised for August 23 in Paw Paw. The BBB says the event is one of many organized by a group that was the subject of a recent warning from the Better Business Bureau in St. Louis, Missouri. It says the event listing claims proceeds will go to charity, but BBB investigators in St. Louis couldn’t find any evidence the alleged charity, Screaming Hearts Foundation, is recognized as a charity by the IRS. The event listing by a company called Erotic Wine Tastings says tickets cost $25, all sales are final, and the location of the event will not be revealed until five days before the scheduled date. However, the BBB says one of those events recently scheduled in Indianapolis was cancelled at the last minute and customers had trouble getting refunds. The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan suggests all donors do their research before giving to a charity, and use caution when considering paying for tickets to an event that provides limited information.. ...Read Full Story

Police Asking For Help Finding Missing Niles Woman


Police are asking for help finding a 49-year-old Niles woman who hasn’t been seen since late May. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says Rebecca Percy is white, about five-feet tall, 140 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair. She has been known to stay in both the Benton Harbor and Niles areas, but the last contact she had with family was around May 20. The last known sighting of her was that same day in Niles. Police are asking if anyone knows where she is, to call the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Detective Bureau at 269-983-7141 extension 7224.. ...Read Full Story

Opening Of Benton Township Arby’s Set For August 26


If you’re among those in the Benton Harbor and St. Joseph area really missing Arby’s, mark Monday, August 26 on your calendar. That’s the opening day for the fast food chain’s return to the Twin Cities after more than 10 years. Construction on the new restaurant is getting close to wrapping up at Napier and M-139, almost directly across the street on Napier from the last Arby’s that was torn down a few years ago after sitting vacant and rotting for at least a decade. The Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber of Commerce says a ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 9 a.m. on the 26th, with the restaurant opening to the public an hour later. The location will employ 30 people and be open 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.. ...Read Full Story

Murals At Van Buren Courthouse To Be Covered Up


The Van Buren County Board of Commissioners is poised to approve a request from the local county judges to cover up a couple of murals at the courthouse that depict topless women. The committee of the whole on Tuesday signed off on the request from Van Buren County Chief Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Brickley to hide the murals, which have been there for many decades.. ...Read Full Story

DNR Launches Map Documenting Invasive Species Projects


A new online map showing the progress made in fighting invasive species around the state has been launched by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The DNR’s Joanne Foreman tells WSJM News the map gives you a chance to see what’s been done all over the state regarding invasive plants, animals, and diseases since the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program was created in 2014.. ...Read Full Story

Allegan Men Charged With Ripping Off Elderly Homeowner


Two Allegan County men are looking at 20 years in prison for a scheme that ripped off an elderly Holland man of nearly $300,000. The U.S. Attorney in Grand Rapids says 55-year-old James Black and 24-year-old Tyler Harris are charged together in a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, while Harris also faces a charge of welfare fraud. Authorities say the elderly Holland homeowner hired Harris to do roof repairs, which then ballooned up to $298,000 in costs due to false problems including dangerous working conditions, employee injuries, lawsuits, and tax issues. Harris has been taken into custody and appeared Wednesday before a federal magistrate, while Black’s whereabouts remain unknown. Anyone with information on his location is asked to contact authorities. Anyone who believes they were defrauded by the pair can call the U.S. Attorney’s office in Grand Rapids.. ...Read Full Story

Veterans Workforce Development Conference Underway In Detroit


The second annual National Veteran Workforce Development Conference is taking place today through Friday at the Crown Plaza in Detroit. The conference represents all different aspects of veteran services with experts in the field to provide educational and employment assistance. Dave Dunkel is a strategy specialist with the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency and says the number of veterans entering the workforce is significant.. ...Read Full Story

Apparent Drowning Of Indiana Teen In Porter Township Under Investigation


Authorities are investigating the apparent drowning death of an Indiana teenager in Cass County. The sheriff’s department was called to Long Lake in Porter Township at 7:30 Tuesday night when 19-year-old Janelle Miller of Shipshewana took a break from wake boarding with friends and left their boat for a swim. The group called 911 when they couldn’t find her in the water, and then dove in to search. Deputies also were unable to locate her, and neither was West Michigan Air Care as the helicopter scanned the lake. It wasn’t until just before 11 p.m. when the Van Buren County Dive Team and Cass County Marine Division were able to find Miller’s body. She was not wearing a life jacket, but police say alcohol was not a factor in her death.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Agriculture Officials Planning Trade Mission To China


From the Associated Press — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development is planning another trade mission to China. The fourth annual trip is scheduled for November 8-12 and the agency says representatives of Michigan food and agriculture companies will travel to Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Shanghai. It’s part of an effort to better understand the Chinese market and meet with Chinese buyers interested in Michigan products. Michigan officials say China is the state’s fifth-largest export market for food and agriculture products. The Food Export Association of the Midwest will also conduct a trade mission to South Korea on November 6-7, giving Michigan companies another chance to explore trade prospects.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Board To Meet With State Officials Friday


The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education will meet with state officials this week to talk about what’s next for the district. At a session on Tuesday night, board President Stephen Mitchell said the meeting will be at Benton Harbor High School at 5 p.m. Friday. Board Vice President Joseph Taylor told us later that representatives from the governor’s office, the Michigan Department of Education, and the Michigan Department of Treasury will be at the meeting. State Superintendent Michael Rice is also expected. Taylor is optimistic.. ...Read Full Story

Governor Declares Child Support Month


The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is bringing attention to the state’s child support system now that Governor Gretchen Whitmer has declared this to be Child Support Month. Department spokesperson Bob Wheaton tells us nearly $1.2 billion in child support went out to Michigan families in 2018. 71.4% of those payments were made on time, usually via paycheck withholdings.. ...Read Full Story

Online Map Shows Proposed Injection Wells In Michigan


A new online map helps people find out if any waste injection wells are being permitted near them. The map pinpoints all the sites in Michigan where companies have applied to dump toxic waste from oil and gas exploration. Peggy Case, who heads the group Michigan Citizens For Water Conservation, says even though the waste is injected 4,000 feet underground, Michigan is riddled with old well bores that could allow it to seep elsewhere.. ...Read Full Story

Enrollment Open For Bridge Academy


Fall enrollment for the Bridge Academy in Benton Harbor is now open. Interim director Allie Knapp says enrollment will be open through October 2 as they serve non-traditional students between the ages of 16 and 19, and adults over the age of 20, with the first day of class set for Tuesday, September 3.. ...Read Full Story

Ferris State Scholarship Established To Honor Late South Haven Couple


The memory of the late Norris and Irene Johnson of South Haven is being honored by their adopted daughter and her husband with a $350,000 scholarship endowment at Ferris State University for foster children aging out of the system and wanting to attend the school. That daughter is Patsy Eisler, the wife of Ferris State University President Dr. David Eisler, and she tells our newsroom it was her husband’s idea after recently receiving a bonus from the university.. ...Read Full Story

WMU Secures Grant To Fight Opioid Epidemic


Western Michigan University students will be getting hands-on experience fighting the opioid epidemic hitting the state thanks to a $1.35 million federal grant. The funding is from the Health Resources and Services Administration and will support WMU’s Michigan Youth Prevention and Recovery from Opioid Youth Disorders program, known as MY-PROUD for short.. ...Read Full Story

South Bend International Adds Sarasota, Florida Nonstop Flights On Allegiant


There will be six nonstop destinations from South Bend on Allegiant in the coming months. The carrier is adding nonstop flights twice a week between South Bend International Airport and Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, with those flights going on sale for an introductory price of $69 one-way starting tomorrow. That price will be good on select flights until May 12 of next year. It will be a seasonal route out of South Bend, and the introductory price does not include baggage fees and other additional charges.. ...Read Full Story

Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over Campaign Starts This Week


Michigan State Police are planning another Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign for Labor Day, and it starts this week. Beginning on Wednesday, extra police patrols will be out on the roads watching out for drunk drivers. The three week Labor Day enforcement period will run through September 2. While the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08, Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning spokesperson Kari Arend told WSJM News this summer the state has a zero-tolerance drugged driving law.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joseph Today: Bluff Stairs Mural A Hit


It’s a hit. That’s the feeling regarding the butterfly mural painted on the steps leading up the bluff to downtown St. Joseph this summer. The work was commissioned by St. Joseph Today with the city’s approval, and executive director Amy Zapal explained the thought process behind the mural to the city commission on Monday.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Parks Department Taking Comments On Five Year Plan


The Berrien County Parks Department is planning its next meeting to hear from the public on its five year parks plan. The department says the plan covers the developments planned at all county parks from 2020 through 2024. The included parks are Rocky Gap, Silver Beach, Love Creek, Madeline Bertrand, Paw Paw River, Historic Courthouse Square, and Galien River, as well as the Red Arrow Linear Trail. The plan is needed for the county to qualify for state recreation grants. An open house will be held prior to the Berrien County Parks Commission Meeting at the New Buffalo Township Hall on August 21. The open house will be from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Everyone is also invited to submit comments directly to the Berrien County Parks Department. You can send an email to Parks@BerrienCounty.org.. ...Read Full Story

Meth Busts In Benton Township


The Southwest Enforcement Team says it made several meth-related arrests with a couple of busts in Berrien County last week. The first one was on Thursday when police arrested 27-year-old Shaquille Burton at the Quick Way Party Store on South Fair Street in Benton Township. The arrest came after a month-long investigation into the distribution of meth in Bangor, Kalamazoo, and Benton Harbor, and detectives seized about five ounces of meth. Then on Friday came another series of arrests. SWET says 47-year-old James Snow was arrested following a three-month investigation into the distribution of meth at his home in Benton Township. During a search, police say they found two ounces of crystal meth, eighteen guns, and other drug-related items. Snow is charged with possession with intent to deliver crystal meth, possession of a firearm, maintaining a drug house, and a bond violation. Four others were arrested in the home on various charges.. ...Read Full Story

Police Looking For Two Suspects Following Chase In Benton Harbor


Two suspects remain on the loose following a chase with police in Benton Harbor on Sunday night. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says the chase started around 11 p.m. when officers tried to pull over a Jeep Cherokee for a traffic violation on Main Street near Seeley. The Jeep took off, running several stop signs as it sped down Highland, McCord, and Britain. The sheriff’s department gave up the chase, but the vehicle crashed into another vehicle at Britain and Pipestone. The driver and a passenger took off running, leaving a 19-year-old Benton Harbor woman in the vehicle. She suffered non-life-threatening injuries, as did the 17-year-old driver of the car the suspects hit. Police say the suspect’s vehicle was stolen out of Madison, Wisconsin. They continue to look for the driver and his passenger. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Gas Station Hit By Armed Robbers


Niles police are looking for two men accused of robbing the Admiral Gas Station at 640 Chicago Road at gunpoint late Sunday night. The men had their faces hidden and wore gloves while each had a semi-automatic gun. They took off on foot after emptying out the cash register. No one was hurt, but the clerk told police the men fired their weapons both inside and outside the store. The robbery happened just a few minutes before midnight on Sunday. Police have not released descriptions of the suspects, and are asking for tips to be called in to the Niles Police Detective Bureau at 269-683-0404 or submitted anonymously online at tipsoft.com.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer: No State Gov’t Shutdown On My Watch


The last time Michigan had divided government, there were two state government shutdowns in 2007 and 2009, both under former Governor Jennifer Granholm. Not this year, says Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who was in the state Senate during both of the previous shutdowns. She says it won’t happen on her watch, and the Republican leaders of the House and Senate are in her corner.. ...Read Full Story

Niles Woman Killed When Hit By Car


A 49-year-old Niles woman has died after being hit by a car just after noon on Sunday on North 5th Street in Niles Township. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department says Candace Barna was in the road trying to pick up a piece of clothing lost while she was a passenger on the back of a motorcycle, and 75-year-old Helen Jo Carpenter told deputies she was unable to avoid the crash. Barna was pronounced dead at the scene. The crash is still under investigation, but investigators don’t believe speed or alcohol were factors in what happened. Carpenter told deputies she saw Barna walk into the road, but couldn’t stop in time.. ...Read Full Story

Cass County K-9 Finds Missing Man


The Cass County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Nellie is the hero of a 70-year-old Cassopolis man. Michael Cox got lost Sunday night in a wooded area near his home, and his caretaker called police when he went for a walk around 7:45 pm and hadn’t come back by 9. The sheriff’s department says Nellie led handler Deputy Graves to Cox, who was found laying behind some thick bush shortly before midnight. He was cleared by medics with Life Care Ambulance and went home. His caretaker had called police due to concerns over the man’s medical issues. The discovery by Nellie followed several hours of searching by friends and deputies.. ...Read Full Story

New Report Has Dire Warning If Asian Carp Reach Lake Michigan


(Traverse City, MI – AP) – A newly released study says if Asian carp reach Lake Michigan, they probably would find enough food to spread farther. The invasive fish have infested the Mississippi River and dozens of tributaries. Authorities are debating how to keep them out of the Great Lakes, where fishing is a $7 billion industry. Some experts have questioned whether there’s enough plankton in Lake Michigan to sustain the invasive carp away from shoreline areas. The lake has seen a drop-off in plankton caused by exotic mussels. But a report released Monday by University of Michigan scientists says the voracious carp could feed on mussel excrement and other organic material when venturing into deeper waters. Officials say that illustrates the need to prevent the carp from getting into the lake.. ...Read Full Story

Car Crashes Into South Haven Bar


A man is being treated for serious injuries at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo after crashing his car into Maple Grove Bar & Grill in South Haven Township Sunday night. South Haven Police say the man hit the traffic island in the roundabout at M-43 and 12th Avenue, which launched the car airborne. He crashed into the side of the restaurant and had to be extricated by first responders from South Haven Area Emergency Services. While the business was closed, there were still employees inside at the time. The owner was in a nearby kitchen washing dishes and was hit by debris, but wasn’t hurt. The crash remains under investigation.. ...Read Full Story

Man Arrested For Two Bridgman Home Invasions


A 43-year-old man is in the Berrien County Jail awaiting possible home invasion charges for allegedly breaking in to two homes in Bridgman during a three-hour span Thursday night and early Friday morning. The homeowners in the first incident found the man in a bedroom in their home in the 42-hundred block of Orchard Street, and he ran off after being confronted. Bridgman police say the Lincoln Township police K-9 Echo caught the man after the second break-in, laying in the yard behind a nearby shed. That happened in the 97-hundred block of Baldwin Road. The suspect’s name has not been released, and police say he has addresses in both Berrien Springs and Bridgman. Nothing appeared to have been stolen in either case, and no damage was done.. ...Read Full Story

University Of Michigan Installing Locks For Security Push


The University of Michigan will install locks on all classroom and lab doors inside a building where reports of an active shooter triggered campus-wide panic last spring. The active shooter alert occurred in March when a sorority held an event featuring balloon popping at the same time as a vigil nearby for victims of the deadly New Zealand mosque shootings.. ...Read Full Story

Two Injured In Highway Crash


The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a Friday crash on I-94 that involved six vehicles. It says deputies were sent to the scene at eastbound I-94 near the Van Buren County line in Watervliet Township around 6:30 p.m. They learned there had been a chain reaction crash where traffic had been backed up due to construction near Hartford.. ...Read Full Story

Muskegon Police Officer On Leave After Apparent KKK Document Seen At Home


(Muskegon, MI – AP) – A white police officer in western Michigan is on paid administrative leave after an apparent Ku Klux Klan document was seen framed on a wall of his home. The Muskegon Police Department opened an internal investigation after Robert Mathis, who is black, posted on Facebook that he saw the document while touring the officer’s Holton-area home, which was for sale. He said he also saw Confederate flags at the house, and said he prayed about what to do for several hours before posting photos he took inside the house.. ...Read Full Story

U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers Readies Decision On Underwater Oil Pipeline Supports


(Associated Press) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it’s preparing to decide whether to let Canadian oil transport company Enbridge install supports for its underwater oil pipeline in Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac. Enbridge disclosed Wednesday that erosion had opened a gap beneath one of two Line 5 pipelines in the channel linking Lakes Huron and Michigan. The gap is about 6 feet wider than allowed under a state easement.. ...Read Full Story

BBB: Unlicensed Dowagiac Roofer Sentenced, Business Shut Down


A Dowagiac man will be on probation for three years and his unlicensed roofing business has been shut down after he pleaded guilty to one count of false pretenses between $1,000 and $20,000. The Better Business Bureau Serving Western Michigan’s Phil Catlett says they had been expressing concerns for “some time” about All Tech Repair and Roof Sealants. Company owner Jeffrey Burks was sentenced Friday and a condition of his probation is he’s not allowed to reopen the business. The case against him came from accusations he was collecting money from customers, but not following through with any work. The BBB says All Tech has an F rating due, in part, to the complaints that went unanswered.. ...Read Full Story

Illinois GOP Urges Trump Not To Set Blagojevich Free


The Illinois Republican Party’s chairman is urging President Trump not to follow through on the idea he broached this week of freeing imprisoned former Governor Rod Blagojevich. Tim Schneider said in a written statement Friday that officials found guilty should serve their full sentences, especially in a state where he says “corrupt, machine-style politics is still all too common.”. ...Read Full Story

Suspect In Benton Harbor Triple Shooting Caught


The suspect in the July 31 murder of 29-year-old Arsenio Jordan in Benton Harbor is now jailed. 21-year-old Eric Holbrook was arrested Friday by Benton Harbor Public Safety officers, Berrien County Sheriff’s officers and Michigan State Police troopers at the River Terrace apartment complex. Police also arrested his 24-year-old brother, Dennis Holbrook, for his alleged involvement in the triple shooting along with an unidentified 43-year-old woman. Eric and Dennis Holbrook are expected to be arraigned next week, and are being held without bond in the Berrien County Jail. Authorities are still trying to find one other man, Dondrell Blackamore, Jr., who they want to talk to as a person of interest in the case.. ...Read Full Story

United Flight Attendant Accused Of Being Drunk On Flight To South Bend


A Wisconsin woman is due back in court in South Bend August 29 to face public intoxication charges. Julianne March is a flight attendant with United, and was caught on video by a passenger on an August 2nd flight between Chicago and South Bend appearing drunk on the job. Police say her blood alcohol level was .20, five-times what’s allowed for flight crew members. A passenger also tweeted United Airlines about the incident, saying March appeared “quite drunk” on the brief morning flight. March answered “Chicago” when asked where she was upon being arrested in South Bend.. ...Read Full Story

Charges Filed In July 30 Bridgman Home Invasion, Shooting


A 33-year-old Bridgman is facing a first-degree home invasion charge for a July 30 incident in which police say he forced his way into a home in the 97-hundred block of Evergreen Drive and got into a fight with a 34-year-old acquaintance. The suspect is Christopher Betts, and he is free on bond after being arraigned on Thursday on the charge, which followed his release from the hospital.. ...Read Full Story