Local News Archives

Wife Of Murdered Army Sergeant Makes Court Appearance

The wife of murdered Army Sergeant Tyrone Hassel III is due back in court in Berrien County next week following a pre-exam hearing yesterday. Kemia Hassel is facing a murder charge for allegedly plotting her husband’s killing on New Year’s Eve in St. Joseph Township. His father, Tyrone Hassel Jr., spoke with our partners at WNDU NewsCenter 16 outside the courtroom and says he still can’t even look at his daughter-in-law.. ...Read Full Story

Police Warn Of Online Property Scam

Michigan State Police are warning everyone about a rental property scam. Troopers out of the Paw Paw post say they’ve learned of a case where someone found information online about a property supposedly for rent and requested more information. They contacted a real-estate agent and learned the actual homeowners were not renting the place. Meanwhile, the person posing as the property owner provided a tenant application and requested a security deposit. Michigan State Police say everyone must be cautious when reviewing property listings online. They say you should never respond to an offer you don’t thoroughly understand, never give out personal financial information to entities you don’t know, and never respond to letters asking you for financial information. You can get more information at fbi.gov/scams-safety.. ...Read Full Story

St. Joe Today Taking Photo Submissions For March Mannequins

As St. Joseph Today prepares to hold the first March Mannequins event downtown, it’s asking residents to submit photos that could be displayed in storefronts that day. St. Joe Today tells us the theme for this year’s March Mannequins will be Awkward Family Photos. If you’ve got any, they can be submitted at the Welcome Center on State Street in downtown St. Joe or emailed to Info@StJoeToday.com. The top three entries will win a $25 St. Joseph Today gift certificate. The deadline is February 1. The March 2 March Mannequins event replaces the old Live Mannequins event that used to be held as part of Light Up the Bluff each winter. It was moved to draw more people downtown during a normally slow month.. ...Read Full Story

City Working To Implement Income Tax

The city of Benton Harbor’s income tax is now being implemented. City Manager Darwin Watson tells us businesses located within the city have been withholding the tax for affected workers, while those who will need to submit forms themselves to pay the tax will have to do so this spring.. ...Read Full Story

Conservation Officers Conducting Snowmobile Patrols In Northern Michigan

From the Associated Press — Conservation officers are conducting snowmobile patrols in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to promote safety and enforce state laws. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says weekend patrols started January 11 along the state-managed trail system in Houghton County and on Jan. 12 in Ontonagon County. The patrols continue as the DNR says police agencies in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula investigated the deaths Friday of two snowmobilers in Gogebic County and one each in Luce, Alger and Kalkaska counties. This winter, the DNR says six snowmobilers have died in the Upper Peninsula and three in the Lower Peninsula. The patrols allow officers to remind snowmobilers about safety messages, enforce violations and remove operators who are drinking and driving from trails. Safety and enforcement patrols will continue throughout the winter.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Talks PFAS Legislation

Legislation designed to ensure the clean-up of PFAS is being pushed by Congressman Fred Upton. Upton has introduced the plan to require the EPA to report releases into the environment and clean up tainted PFAS sites with fellow Michigan Representatives Debbie Dingell and Dan Kildee. He tells us it’s become clear that more action needs to be taken on the chemical since it was discovered in the water supplies of multiple Michigan communities this year.. ...Read Full Story

Town Hall To Address Water Issues

A town hall meeting will be held in Benton Harbor this Thursday for residents to hear more about the ongoing effort to eliminate lead in the water. In October, the city announced lead levels exceeding the federal action level had been detected in some homes. City Manager Darwin Watson tells us everyone is welcome to this week’s meeting to find out what’s happened since.. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Calls Into Question New Ballot Drive Law

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s new secretary of state is calling into question the constitutionality of a Republican-enacted law that makes it harder to initiate ballot drives. Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, sought a formal opinion Tuesday from Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel. Such opinions, while not the same as legal rulings, are considered to bind state agencies unless reversed by a court. The law, which was enacted in December’s lame-duck session, imposes a geographical-based requirement on signature collection. No more than 15 percent of signatures can come from a single congressional district. Benson says she is concerned the law violates people’s constitutional rights by “adding new burdens and restrictions on the process” of circulating initiative, referendum and constitutional amendment petitions. Nessel could limit the law’s effect, though a court fight could be likely.. ...Read Full Story

Study: Michigan Ranks Last In School Funding Growth

Despite claims from some that under former Governor Rick Snyder the state was putting more money than ever into education, a newly-released study finds no other state tightened its education spending more than Michigan did over a 20-year period. Michigan State University said Wednesday that the state ranked dead last in total education revenue growth between 1995 and 2015.. ...Read Full Story

One Killed In Head-On Cass County Crash

One person is dead and two others are hospitalized in South Bend after a head-on crash County’s Milton Township. According to the sheriff’s department, 52-year-old Joseph Johnson of Niles died at the scene. He was a passenger in a car driven by 31-year-old Ryon Koth of Niles that crossed over into oncoming traffic on US 12 just before 6 pm Tuesday. His car hit two other vehicles. Koth and one of the other drivers, 26-year-old Victoria Mallard of South Bend, were rushed by ambulance to South Bend Memorial Hospital. The cause of the crash is still under investigation, but it did happen after freezing rain began causing plenty of problems on the roads throughout southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Cornerstone Chamber Plans Breakfast With Elected Officials

Set for next week is a breakfast intended to acquaint members of the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce with their representatives in Lansing and Washington. The “Meet Your Elected Officials” breakfast will be Monday at The Hilton Garden Inn in Benton Harbor. On hand will be state Senator Kim LaSata, 79th District state Representative Pauline Wendzel, 78th District state Representative Brad Paquette, and Mike Ryan, the district director for Congressman Fred Upton. Cornerstone Chamber’s Chris Heugel tells us the forum is a chance for members to interact with their officials, especially with so many of them being freshman in Lansing this year. He says they may hold more such events moving forward. The breakfast will allow each official a time for an introduction, followed by a Q and A session. It’s nearly all booked up. It will be free for members of the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce.. ...Read Full Story

City Receives Clean Audit

The city of Benton Harbor has received a clean, unmodified audit for the most recent fiscal year. At Tuesday’s meeting, city commissioners were told the latest audit carries the highest possible rating and that no deficiencies or weaknesses were found. The city’s fund balance has gone up by more than $800,000, largely because of the new income tax. Mayor Marcus Muhammad said the strong audit, plus income tax money coming in, could enable even bigger infrastructure projects to come.. ...Read Full Story

Addiction Center Now Open

A new treatment center for people struggling with an addition is open in southwest Michigan. Carol’s Hope is a non-profit operated by the Community Healing Center. It’s a free resource for those in need to get access to treatment. Recovery coach Melinda tells WSJM News the idea is to help overcome confusion and fear that comes with seeking treatment.. ...Read Full Story

Community Action Agency Advisory To Those Receiving Food Aid

As the partial federal government shutdown continues, there’s concern among the 1.2 million Michigan residents who get food assistance about what’s going to happen next month. The state started loading Bridge cards on Saturday for early payments to cover February. Yvonne Vidt of the Southwest Michigan Community Action Agency warns those who get food aid not to spend their money for February now.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Hopes For End To Shutdown

Congressman Fred Upton is back in Washington as the U.S. House tries to organize for its new session. He tells WSJM News the ongoing partial government shutdown negotiations have somewhat thrown a wrench into normal business. However, Upton sees some hope in President Trump’s compromise offer from the weekend.. ...Read Full Story

Andrews University Aviation Program Taking Off

The Federal Aviation Administration has authorized Andrews University’s aviation program to reduce the number of training hours required of students seeking an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate. The Berrien Springs university tells us it got word late last year its department of aviation it can require 1,000 hours of flight time before awarding the certification, instead of the previous 1,500 hours. Andrews says according to a mandate by Congress, students pursuing a basic airline pilot license must complete 1,500 hours of flight time to be eligible to take the airline pilot exam. At the request of airlines, however, a few exemptions to the mandate were developed, including an exemption stating that students completing a four-year university bachelor’s program would only be required to complete 1,000 flight hours if the university’s aviation program if approved. Andrews says it has now been approved.. ...Read Full Story

Names Released In Fatal Van Buren County Crash

A Benton Harbor man is facing charges following a two-vehicle head-on crash in Van Buren County on January 12 that killed a 6-year-old girl and a 73-year-old woman. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us the crash happened on Red Arrow Highway in Hartford Township when the vehicle driven by 23-year-old Jose Humberto Canedo crossed the center line. Killed were 73-year-old Mary Ann Fender of Paw Paw and 6-year-old Skylinn Salinas. Fender was the driver of the other vehicle, while Salinas was a passenger in Canedo’s vehicle. Canedo was arrested this week on a warrant for failing to appear in court for a show cause hearing on a original charge of operating while intoxicated. Two other people hurt in the crash are in stable condition.. ...Read Full Story

Effort To Make Lake MI Park In Indiana A National PArk

From the Associated Press — A new effort is being made in Congress to designate the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan as a national park. A bill for the designation has been filed by Indiana Sens. Todd Young and Mike Braun and Rep. Pete Visclosky. The same proposal was approved by the House in 2017 but failed to get through the last Congress. The Senate didn’t take a vote. Visclosky says designating Indiana Dunes as a national park would recognize what he calls the lakeshore’s environmental wonder and enhance the region’s economy. The national lakeshore was established in 1966 and now includes about 15,000 acres at the southern end of Lake Michigan. There’s also an Indiana state park in the area.. ...Read Full Story

GVSU Picks New President

The fifth president of Grand Valley State University has been named. The board of trustees unanimously voted for its first female president, Philomena Mantella. She now serves as the senior vice president and chief executive officer of the Lifelong Learning Network at Northeastern University, a private research university in Boston.. ...Read Full Story

Police Urge Caution On Icy Roads

Michigan State Police are warning drivers to use extra caution today. There have been a variety of crashes and slide-offs on the highways around southwest Michigan due to icy conditions. State police say drivers should plan alternate routes home that avoid the highway and give themselves ample time for travel. The Michigan Department of Transportation has been reporting crashes along I-94 in several locations throughout Berrien and Van Buren counties. You can get real-time information on the latest highway crashes at Michigan.gov/Drive.. ...Read Full Story

Former South Haven Finance Director To Face Charges

South Haven’s former finance director will be facing criminal and civil charges after a forensic audit turned up a variety of issues. City Manager Brian Dissette says there were at least three years of fraudulent charges on city credit cards belonging to former employees, and says the city council approved the audit report at this week’s meeting.. ...Read Full Story

Dowagiac Police Looking For Shooting, Robbery Suspects

A 21-year-old Hartford man is being treated at South Bend Memorial Hospital for multiple gunshot wounds in a robbery and a shooting in the parking lot of the hotel where he works in Dowagiac last night. Police say the man was approached by one of five men who were following him as he arrived at the Ameriwood around 10 pm, and then the other four suspects got out of the SUV to rob him. The victim was shot several times while trying to run away, and the suspects left with his car. Dowagiac police say they are looking for five black men between 18 and 20 years old, and the shooter was wearing dirty blue jeans and a dark colored hooded sweatshirt. The victim’s injuries are not life threatening.. ...Read Full Story

MI Schools Involved In Teen Safe Driving Program

From the Associated Press — Students at 62 Michigan high schools are participating in a program that’s designed to make teenagers safer drivers. They were selected to participate in the peer-led Strive For a Safer Drive program that seeks to reduce traffic crashes involving teens. The program is a partnership between Ford Driving Skills for Life and the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning. You can find out more right here. Schools get $1,000 for students to create a traffic safety campaign to educate their classmates about distracted driving, seat belt use, speeding, underage drinking, impaired driving or winter driving. The top five get a cash prize ranging from $500 to $1,500. Schools also can send students to a free driving clinic with professional instructors. Among the schools taking part this year is Benton Harbor High School.. ...Read Full Story

Report Examines Detroit Water Issues

New research is intensifying calls to stop water shutoffs in Detroit and for the city to adopt a sensible water affordability plan. A 100 page report released by faith leaders and academics suggests the aging water and sewer infrastructure, increasing bills, shutoffs and service interruptions experienced in Detroit could possibly play out in other Michigan communities. Jennifer Fassbender [[ foss-bender ]] with Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation says it’s immoral for people to live without water.. ...Read Full Story

One Dead, One Critical After Being Found In Stuck Vehicle

A Florida man is dead and another in critical condition after sheriff’s deputies found them in a vehicle stuck in a field in Van Buren County on Monday. The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department tells us deputies found the vehicle in the 8,000 block of County Road 215 in Grand Junction around 11:30 a.m. The 22 year-old driver was dead, and his 22-year-old passenger was unresponsive but breathing. Both were from Wimauma, Florida. The passenger was taken by Bronson Air Care to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, where he was listed in critical condition. Police believe the two men were in the area visiting friends and drove into the field where their vehicle got stuck. There were signs the two had tried to get the vehicle unstuck, but weren’t successful. Deputies say they aren’t sure why the two men didn’t walk for help, but it’s believed alcohol was involved. While police wait for the medical report, they believe the extreme cold played a role in the death of the driver.. ...Read Full Story

OutCenter, 100 Women Strong Receive MLK Diversity Award

100 Women Strong and the OutCenter are this year’s recipients of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Diversity Award from Lake Michigan College. Each year, LMC gives the Diversity Award to a person or an entity that has made a positive difference in southwest Michigan. Speaking at Monday’s MLK breakfast, 100 Woman Strong’s Lynne Christiano quoted Dr. King.. ...Read Full Story

Police Investigate Weekend Fatal Crash In Chikaming Twp

Police are investigating a fatal crash in Chikaming Township on Saturday. The Chikaming Township Police Department says it happened around 10 p.m. on the south side of of Browntown Road just east of South Hildebrandt Road. A vehicle driven by a 44-year-old man had been eastbound on Browntown when the driver lost control. The vehicle left the road and hit a tree. The driver, who was the only occupant of the vehicle, was unresponsive when police arrived. Lifesaving measures were not successful, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. The Chikaming Township Police Department is getting help in the investigation from the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department. The name of the driver has not been released.. ...Read Full Story

Contractor Offers Tips To Prevent Frozen Pipes

Subzero and single-digit temperatures can cause big problems inside your house by freezing your pipes. While the forecast is calling for a warm-up over the next few days, frigid overnight lows are still in the forecast for the end of the week. Todd Faxy is the founder of Zolman Restoration in suburban Detroit and suggests keeping the doors of your kitchen cabinet open under the sink to allow warm air in to the pipes.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Calls For Ouster Of Iowa Congressman Steve King

The country needs to do better on race relations. That’s the message from Congressman Fred Upton on Martin Luther King Jr. Day during a speech at Lake Michigan College. He called for the removal of Iowa Congressman Steve King from office over long-standing allegations that he is a white supremacist who questioned when the term became offensive last week.. ...Read Full Story

ATF Offering Reward In Niles Gun Shop Burglary

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have joined the investigation into the smash-and-grab robbery of a Niles gun store. Along with the National Shooting Sports Foundation, they have put up a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the suspects. Police say the suspects crashed their way into The Firing Pin Gun Shop on 5th Street early last Tuesday. Investigators say they used a stolen vehicle and crashed through a wall. Security video shows four people were involved and the got away with more than ten guns. They believe the group may be responsible for other burglaries in the area.. ...Read Full Story

Treasurer To Meet With Property Owners Behind On Taxes

A series of three meetings is planned over the next couple of months for Berrien County property owners who are behind on their taxes to get signed up on a payment plan. Berrien County Treasurer Bret Witkowski tells WSJM News letters have gone out to the folks who still owe for 2016 and 2017. He says he’s bringing staff to meetings around the county to talk with those who are behind.. ...Read Full Story

Road Priorities For Niles, Buchanan

The Niles-Buchanan-Cass Cities Area Transportation Study has compiled a list of road projects that should be a priority in the next four years around southern Berrien County and Cass County. Southwest Michigan Planning Commission Associate Planner Brandon Kovnat tells WSJM News the list of recommendations comes out of a December 18 meeting of several municipalities and road departments.. ...Read Full Story

School Board To Work More With District CEO

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has begun a new year with a clearer idea of its role in the district. On Tuesday of this past week, the board met with district CEO Robert Herrera and agreed to hold its regular meetings each month on the Thursday before Herrera’s CEO meeting the following Tuesday. This way, the board can advise the CEO on any action he might take. New board President Steven Mitchell told WSJM News having more input will be a benefit.. ...Read Full Story

Ambulance Crash Leads To Highway Closure

Westbound I-94 in Watervliet Township had to be shut down for about an hour on Saturday due to an ambulance crash. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department tells us the crash happened just before 4:50 p.m. at mile 39. A Pride Care ambulance was transporting a patient to Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph when the driver lost control in slush and snow on the shoulder. The ambulance then rolled over. Medic Andrew Sack, a 22-year-old Battle Creek resident, sustained lacerations to his head during the crash. The patient was a 69-year-old Watervliet woman. Police have not said if she was injured in the crash. The ambulance driver, 21-year-old Kyle Robertson of Bangor, reported being shaken up, but did not sustain any apparent injuries. A second Pride Care Ambulance was dispatched to the scene and transported the patient and the two medics to Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph. Police say all injuries in the crash are believed to be non-life-threatening.. ...Read Full Story

BH School Board Prepares To Work With CEO

The Benton Harbor Area Schools Board of Education has begun a new year with a clearer idea of its role in the district. On Tuesdayof this past week, the board met with district CEO Robert Herrera and agreed to hold its regular meetings each month on the Thursday before Herrera’s CEO meeting the following Tuesday. This way, the board can advise the CEO on any action he might take. New board President Steven Mitchell told WSJM News having more input will be a benefit.. ...Read Full Story

Applications Being Taken For Marine Deputies

The deadline to apply to be a deputy in the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Marine Division has been extended to February 15. Each boating season, the sheriff’s department has its marine deputies enforce the Marine Safety Act on Lake Michigan and inland lakes and rivers around Berrien County. The new deputies will begin training on the weekends in April, while patrols will begin with Memorial Day weekend and end with Labor Day. To be a marine deputy, one must be at least 18 years old, have a clean record, and pass a swim test. Boating knowledge and a mechanical aptitude also help. The applications for the Marine Division are on the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department website. You can find the applications right here.. ...Read Full Story

Women’s Marches Planned For Saturday

Women’s marches will take place in ten Michigan cities Saturday. The third annual event began as a protest against administration policies on the day after President Donald Trump took office two years ago. The events in Adrian, Ann Arbor, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Douglas, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Marquette, and Traverse City are sister marches to a large event in the nation’s capital. Randy Block, with the Michigan Unitarian Universalist Social Justice Network, says he hopes Michigan will turn a corner now that Democratic women have been elected to the three top positions in the state executive branch.. ...Read Full Story

Van Buren County Courts Conduct User Survey

The Van Buren County Courts have received high marks from users in their latest survey. Using a survey that was administered in courts statewide, the court tells us it asked users questions about whether the system in Van Buren County was accessible, timely, and fair, and if customers were treated with courtesy and respect by judges and court staff in 2018. The survey found 95% of court users said they were treated with courtesy and respect by staff, 85% of users said the way the judge or magistrate handled their case was fair, and 89% of users were able to get their business done in a reasonable amount of time. Chief Judge Kathleen M. Brickley says she’s “very proud of the hard work put in by our team at Van Buren County Courts.” Developed with input from judges and court administrators statewide and tabulated by the State Court Administrative Office, the survey enables courts to identify strengths, provide feedback to employees, and target areas for improvement. The survey was completed by a range of court users, including parties to cases, attorneys, jurors, and others.. ...Read Full Story

United Way Planning Martin Luther King Day Of Service

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is planning to be out in the community volunteering for Martin Luther King Day on Monday. The United Way’s Julee Laurent told WSJM News on Friday they’re working with a variety of local non-profits, faith-based organizations, schools, and businesses to serve southwest Michigan in the spirit of the civil rights legend. Some planned projects include a food drive for area pantries.. ...Read Full Story

Governors Seek Guidance On Unemployment For Federal Workers

From the Associated Press — The governors of Michigan, New York and Washington are asking the Trump administration for guidance on whether states can provide unemployment benefits to federal employees who are working without pay during the shutdown. Govs. Gretchen Whitmer, Andrew Cuomo and Jay Inslee – all Democrats – issued a joint statement Friday. They say their states are providing unemployment benefits to furloughed federal workers, but federal regulations prevent them from giving the same assistance to those who continue to work without pay. They are calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to provide “clear, unambiguous guidance” on whether the rules can be waived. They say there is no “rational justification” to deny workers the same short-term relief that furloughed employees can receive. The shutdown, the longest ever, entered its 28th day Friday.. ...Read Full Story

Parks Department taking Input On Master Plan

The first meetings for the public to offer its thoughts on plans for Berrien County’s parks over the next five years have been held. Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey tells WSJM News two sessions were held on Wednesday in St. Joseph. They’re part of the process to draft a new five year parks master plan, and more meetings are coming.. ...Read Full Story

Berrien Court Conducts Satisfaction Survey

A survey conducted by the Berrien County Trial Court has found users overall satisfied with its services. The court tells us it used a survey administered in courts statewide, asking people questions about whether the court was accessible, timely, and fair, and if they were treated with courtesy and respect by judges and court staff. Created by the State Court Administrative Office to ensure accuracy, the survey is designed to help courts identify strengths, weaknesses, and to give feedback to employees. The Berrien County Trail Court says it found 93% of court users said they were treated with courtesy and respect by staff, 80% of court users said the way the judge or magistrate handled their case was fair, and 82% of were able to get their business done in a reasonable amount of time. Court Administrator Carrie Smietanka-Haney says the goal is to “make each member of the public’s court experience as positive as it can be.”. ...Read Full Story

Federal Employees Plan Protest

Federal employees fed up with the government shutdown are planning to brave the cold and rally in front of the Federal Building in Detroit Friday. About 2,000 Michiganders work for federal agencies, and a little more than half are working without pay. The rest are locked out of their jobs until the shutdown is resolved. Mark Coryell, president of the union that represents local employees of the EPA, tells us the families are really starting to feel the pinch.. ...Read Full Story

Free Naloxone Training Next Week

A free training session in the use of anti-overdose drug naloxone will be held next week in St. Joseph. Michigan State Police tell us the Southwest Michigan Families Against Narcotics chapter, the Community Healing Center, and the Voice Change Hope Alliance will hold the event at Carol’s Hope on M-139 next Thursday. Those who attend will learn how to administer the nasal spray that gets someone breathing again when they’re having an opioid overdose. Those who complete 90 minute the training will receive a free naloxone kit. It’s recommended you make a reservation for next Thursday’s training by calling Families Against Narcotics. The number is 269-580-8290.. ...Read Full Story

Rash Of Thefts In Cass County

Residents of Cass County are being warned about a rash of recent home and car break-ins. Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke says from December 25 through January 15, there have been 20 burglaries and 23 larcenies reported to his office. There’s been a particular spike in activity this week, and police believe there are still some cases that haven’t been reported. Many of the crimes have been around Cassopolis and to the southeast. The sheriff’s department says the suspects are usually breaking into unlocked cars and garages to get property from vehicles and buildings. They’re also breaking into unoccupied homes. Police remind everyone to lock their vehicles and homes. They also say you should let your neighbors know if you’re going to be out of town. Anyone with information on the crimes is asked to contact the Cass County Sheriff’s Department.. ...Read Full Story