Local News Archives

Two Meijer Robbery Suspects Apprehended

Two of the suspects in the robbery of the Stevensville Meijer store last month have been arrested. The Lincoln Township Police Department tells us it got a strong lead within the first hour of its investigation of the December 19 incident, and that eventually led to the identification of the three adults and one juvenile involved. Investigators weren’t able to immediately apprehend them because the suspects knew they were being sought. However, on Wednesday of this week, two of the suspects — a woman and the man who had been holding the gun during the robbery — turned themselves in at the Berrien County Courthouse. Police say the weapon used in the robbery turned out to be a CO2 air-soft pistol with no safety markings on it. The names of the suspects are being withheld until they’ve been arraigned. Police were called to the Meijer on Red Arrow Highway in the early morning of December 19 after four suspects — three men and one woman — got away with electronics and other items after being spotted stealing. One of them men pulled a gun on an employee. Lincoln Township police say they got help in the investigation from the Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren Sheriff’s K9 Getting Protective Vest

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department is getting a bullet and stab protective vest for one of its K9s thanks to a donation. Vested Interest in K9s, a group that gives police dogs protective vests throughout the country, is helping to provide Kuno with the duds. The vest is sponsored by Jim and Stephanie Balch of Battle Creek, and will be embroidered with the phrase “This gift of protection provided by the Balch Family.” Kuno is expected to get the vest within ten weeks. Vested Interest in K9s has provided more than 3,200 protective vests to police dogs around the nation.. ...Read Full Story

Muhammad Ali’s Berrien Springs Home Sells For $2.5 Million

Sold – for $2.5 million. That’s what Muhammad Ali’s 81-acre estate in Berrien Springs went for last month, six months after his widow Lonnie put the property on the market with an asking price of two-million-895-thousand-37 dollars. The $37 at the end were a reference to the number of wins her late husband had by knockout in his career. New York-based Turken Foundation had offered to tack on the extra 37-bucks, but “Crain’s Chicago Business” reports listing agent Tim Mitchell of Cressy & Everett Real Estate says they all decided on the straight-up $2.5 million. The foundation has not revealed what it plans to do with the property along the St. Joseph River. Ali died at the age of 74 on June 3, 2016 in Scottsdale, Arizona, where he had moved later in life.. ...Read Full Story

New Police Chief For Benton Township

A new year brings a new chief of police for Benton Township. With the retirement of former Chief Vince Fetke, Chief Brian Smit started this week. Smit tells WSJM News he’s excited to move up in the department from the role of detective-lieutenant. He’s been with the Benton Township Police Department since 1996, having previously been an officer in Benton Harbor for two years. He says he wants to engage the community so people know him.. ...Read Full Story

Foreclosure Lawsuit Could Impact MI Counties

A property foreclosure lawsuit headed to the Michigan Supreme Court is being watched closely by county treasurers across the state. That includes Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski, who tells us the results in the Oakland County case could affect Berrien “big time.” The suit is from a Southfield man who lost a property due to an unpaid tax bill of less than $9. Oakland County took the property and then sold it for $24,000. The man says he should get the proceeds that go above the tax bill. Witkowski tells WSJM News he understands, but it’s that extra revenue from foreclosure sales that pay for demolitions of abandoned buildings.. ...Read Full Story

Whitmer Directs State Employees To Report Public Health Threats

From the Associated Press — Governor Gretchen Whitmer is directing state employees to immediately report all “imminent” threats to public health, safety or welfare higher up the chain. The Democrat issued her first executive directive Wednesday, a day after taking office. She was joined by employees of the state Department of Environmental Quality, which came under fire for its role in Flint’s water crisis during former Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration. Whitmer says she wants to ensure that state workers are empowered to speak up
“when they feel our public health is at risk.” Her order tells department and agency directors who receive a report to assess whether there is an imminent threat and to report their decision to Whitmer’s chief compliance officer.. ...Read Full Story

Traverse City Store Helping Coast Guard Members

As many federal government employees go without pay because of the partial government shutdown, a market in northern Michigan is pitching in to help U.S. Coast Guard members. The Bayside Market in Traverse City is allowing the Coast Guard to get groceries for free because people have been donating to an account for them.. ...Read Full Story

Spectrum Health Lakeland Announces First Baby Of 2019

The first baby born at The BirthPlace at Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph waited a little while to make his appearance. The hospital says Isai Balcazar was born at 8:58 p.m. on New Year’s Day to Enrique and Itzel Balcazar of Hartford. He weighed 8 pounds, 5 ounces and is 18 and three-quarter inches long. The Lakeland Auxiliary kept up the tradition of providing the family with a gift basket full of baby items valued at $100. In the last fiscal year, 1,630 babies were born in St. Joseph and Niles in the Spectrum Health Lakeland system.. ...Read Full Story

Family Dog Killed In Geneva Township House Fire

Firefighters with South Haven Area Emergency Services began 2019 the same way they ended 2018, battling a house fire. They were called to a house in Geneva Township around 10:15 last night when the homeowner returned to find smoke near a wood burning stove in the basement. By the time firefighters got there, the flames had spread and were shooting through the roof, and a family dog died in the fire. SHAES Chief Ronald Wise tells us water had to be shuttled in to the scene, which made the battle challenging. None of the home’s occupants were hurt.. ...Read Full Story

Minimum Wage Increase Won’t Take Effect Until Late March

For those hoping for a hike in the state’s minimum wage at the start of the year as some reports had indicated, there is disappointment. Michigan’s minimum wage will increase by 20¢ an hour, but not until late March. At that point, it will go up to $9.45, up from $9.25, with the boost comes amid political wrangling that’s expected to continue into court.. ...Read Full Story

Report On Missed Votes In Lansing

The state lawmakers who represented southwest Michigan in Lansing during the most recent legislative session get gold stars for attendance. According to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s annual report on missed votes by lawmakers, state Senator John Proos and state Representatives Kim LaSata, Dave Pagel, and Beth Griffin missed zero votes in 2018. State Senator Tonya Schuitmaker missed 24 out of more than 1,600 roll calls taken in the Senate. The Mackinac Center’s Jack McHugh tells WSJM News the organization started tracking missed votes in 2003.. ...Read Full Story

Man Injured In Shooting New Year’s Day In Benton Harbor

A 35-year-old Benton Harbor man is being treated at Spectrum Health Lakeland after being shot several times during an argument at a house party in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day. James Parker-Hersey was immediately taken into surgery upon arrival at the hospital, and his condition is not being disclosed. Benton Harbor Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis says the suspect managed to get away from the scene, which was a house party in the 100 block of Apple Street, before officers arrived. He adds the shooting does not appear to be linked to the murder earlier on New Year’s Eve about two miles away in St. Joseph Township. Benton Harbor Public Safety is urging anyone who knows the identity and location of the suspect to call them or Crime Stoppers.. ...Read Full Story

Active Duty Army Sergeant Killed While Home On Leave

St. Joseph Township police are investigating the New Year’s Eve murder of an active duty soldier. 23-year-old Tyrone Hassell the Third was shot several times at a home in the two-thousand block of Colfax Avenue just after 11 p.m. Monday and died after being taken to Spectrum Health Lakeland. According to his Facebook page, Hassell was a sergeant in the U.S. Army and had attended Grand Valley State University prior to entering the military in 2015. Hassell was home on leave from the military when he was killed. Township police received help from Michigan State Police, the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Homicide Task Force, and St. Joseph Public Safety, and no arrests have been made. Anyone with information is urged to speak up by calling St. Joseph Township police or Crime Stoppers.. ...Read Full Story

Legal Windfall Or Theft: Top Court Takes Foreclosure Case

From the Associated Press — In the new year, the Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether counties can continue to hit the jackpot when foreclosing on properties. Counties routinely sell real estate when taxes are long overdue. State law allows them to pocket everything – even if the sales price exceeds the amount of debt. The Supreme Court has agreed to consider whether it’s an illegal government taking under the Michigan and U.S. constitutions. Because of a mistake, Uri Rafaeli owed less than $9 on a rental property in Southfield. The bill grew to $285 with penalties and interest. Oakland County sold the house for $24,500 but refused to give him a dime, although the sale
exceeded the overdue taxes. In defense, Oakland County says it didn’t take property. Rather, it claims Rafaeli forfeited it.. ...Read Full Story

Court Admin Praises Mental Health Reforms

Some new corrections-related mental health reforms signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder on Friday are being praised by State Court Administrator Milton Mack, Jr. He tells us the measure approved by the Michigan Legislature and now signed by the governor are “a monumental step forward,” saying they make “Michigan a national leader in making it easier to ask for outpatient mental health treatment before a crisis.”. ...Read Full Story

Lake Superior State University Releases 2018 Banned Words List

The wordsmiths at Lake Superior State University have again released their list of words and phrases the public has grown tired of. The 44th annual List of Words Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use includes “wheelhouse, as in an area of expertise; in the books, as in finished or concluded,” says LSSU’s John Shibley. The list also has on it “wrap my head around, which I was surprised hadn’t been banned before, platform… and this may be a little controversial, collusion.”. ...Read Full Story

Shore Erosion Causes Concern In New Buffalo

Leaders in the New Buffalo area are hoping to work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop shoreline erosion in the area. This month, Army Corps Major General Mark Toy visited New Buffalo to learn more about the serious need for action. New Buffalo Township Supervisor Michelle Heit spoke with him and tells WSJM News there’s no beach left in her own community and homes are being threatened. She says residents have spent a fortune on revetments to try to protect their properties. ...Read Full Story

Buchanan Event Discontinued

The city of Buchanan has announced it’s discontinuing the winter Thrill on the Hill event. In a statement, the city says due to unpredictable winter weather and the cost to replace and repair equipment needed to put on the event, the “difficult decision” has been made to end it. The annual winter Thrill on the Hill featured sledding down the big hill downtown on snow produced on site. The event was canceled last year due to uncooperative weather. The city says the summer Thrill on the Hill will continue, though. That is slated for the first weekend in August.. ...Read Full Story

Support Affirmed For Pere Marquette Line

As the Michigan Department of Transportation works on a long-term plan for rail service around the state, the Twin Cities Area Transportation Study, or TwinCATS, wants to make sure the Pere Marquette rail line isn’t left in the dust. Southwest Michigan Planning Commission associate planner Ryan Fellows tells WSJM News the TwinCATS committee this month approved a resolution to that end.. ...Read Full Story

Theater Unveiling 2019 Plans

A reveal party for the first season of Benton Harbor’s new GhostLight Theater will be held Sunday. GhostLight Executive Director Martha Hesse told WSJM News Thursday they’ve got big plans for 2019, and all will be announced to donors at Sunday’s shindig.. ...Read Full Story