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Sign-moving stirs Van Buren judge race
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
PAW PAW — A political candidate puts a sign in a yard only to see it removed the next day, replaced by their opponent's advertisement.
So goes the nature of politics during a busy election season.
“People change their minds,” admits Rene Rodriguez, a 20-year veteran of election campaigns in Southwest Michigan.
But when Rodriguez, who is leading the campaign of Seventh District Court Judge hopeful Cirilo Martinez, heard his candidate's sign had been taken from a field across the street from Paw Paw High School and later dumped in a corn field, he cried foul, claiming two of the people involved were Van Buren County Prosecutor Mike Bedford and Kelly Page, who serves as legal counsel for the Village of Paw Paw.
“Paw Paw high school is very attractive. Political candidates love to put their signs there,” Rodriguez said, regarding the high school's key location on Red Arrow Highway.
Rodriguez said a complaint has been filed with Michigan State Police, who are now investigating the incident that occurred Sunday afternoon. The investigator assigned to the case, Detective 1st Lt. Chuck Christensen, could not be reached for comment as of Tuesday afternoon.
“We are following protocol, as this is a serious matter,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve reached out to legal counsel and have begun the process of filing complaints with the appropriate election offices in Lansing, the attorney general’s office and civil rights departments.”
The sign-stealing incident unfolded when a Paw Paw resident saw a black truck parked on the side of Red Arrow Highway and a man in an orange shirt removing the Martinez sign at 2:30 p.m., Sunday. The witness called the campaign office whose staff told him to turn around and get a photo, according to Rodriguez.
The witness, who was driving into the Village of Paw Paw, turned around on Red Arrow Highway and saw the same black truck, just down the road from the high school where three men were putting up a campaign sign for U.S. Rep. Fred Upton. The witness took a photo, which shows Bedford, Attorney Kelly Page and the man in the orange shirt, who was later identified as Jordan Page, Kelly Page's son.
Rodriguez said when police investigated the complaint they found the large Martinez sign in a cornfield near the high school.
“To think Prosecutor Bedford and Attorney Kelly Page, along with (Jordan Page) were doing this while putting up signs for U.S. Congressmen Fred Upton?” Rodriguez asked in a news release that the campaign released Monday morning.
Kelly Page on Tuesday said his son had every right to take the Rodriguez sign down because the property owner didn't want it on his land.
Page claimed that Boersen Farms of Zeeland owns a number of properties throughout the Paw Paw area. Page, who is backing Martinez's opponent, Mike McKay, knows a real-estate agent who represents Boersen's properties. Page said when he asked the real estate agent if Boersen would allow McKay signs on his properties, he agreed. But (Dennis) Boersen said he didn't want any other political candidate signs on his land.
When Page was asked why his son took down the sign, rather than the real-estate agent or property owner, he said the agent lived too far away and wasn't willing to do so.
But Rodriguez said there's one problem with the Page's actions. — “Mr. Boersen is not the owner of the property,” he claimed. “He might be the farmer who leases it.”
Rodriguez said his campaign received permission Aug. 4 from the owner — whose name Rodriguez wouldn't release — to put up a 4-foot-by-4-foot Martinez sign across the street from the high school.
“I can't give you the (owner's) name because it's an ongoing investigation,” he said. “The sign was up for 44 days. We never received any emails or phone calls to remove the sign. We spoke to the property owner Sept. 19 (one day after the sign was removed). They in no way had any desire to remove the sign.”
As for Bedford's role in the matter, he stated he was in the black truck when the Martinez sign was taken down but said, “I had no role in taking any Cirilo sign down. I was putting Upton signs up with Kelly Page and Jordan Page. I was in charge of that assignment for sure....Campaign signs on Sunday are not part of my prosecutor duties and do not speak in an official capacity from the prosecutors office on this issue.”
A Paw Paw man took a photo, Sunday afternoon, of attorney Kelly Page (left) Van Buren County Prosecutor Mike Bedford (center) and Jordan Page putting up a Fred Upton campaign sign down the street from a Cirilo Martinez sign that was removed by Kelly Page and Jordan Page.
Political campaign accuses prosecutor, attorney of removing Martinez campaign sign
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
PAW PAW – Marilo Martinez's campaign leaders are not happy about the removal of one of his large signs in front of Paw Paw High School and claim Van Buren County Prosecutor Mike Bedford and a Paw Paw attorney took the sign.
Martinez is running for Seventh District Court Judge in Van Buren County and his campaign leader Rene Rodriguez said a police report has been filed for the incident that occurred Sunday afternoon.
Rodriguez said in a news release issued today that a Paw Paw resident saw a black truck parked on the side of Red Arrow Highway and a man in an orange shirt removing the sign. The witness called the campaign office who told him to turn around and get a photo. The witness, who was driving into the Village of Paw Paw, turned around and then saw the same black truck, just down the road from the high school where three men were putting up an Upton campaign sign. The witness took a photo, which shows Bedford, Attorney Kelly Page and the man in the orange shirt, who was later identified as Jordan Page.
Rodriguez said a police report was filed and that later in the day police found the large Martinez sign in a cornfield across from the high school.
“To think Prosecutor Bedford and Attorney Kelly Page, along with (Jordan Page) were doing this while putting up signs for U.S. Congressmen Fred Upton?” Rodriguez asked in his news release.
Kelly Page could not be reached for comment, however, a clerk in his office stated that the farmer, whose property the Martinez sign was on, gave the Pages permission to take the sign down and to put up an Upton sign. The clerk, who would only identify herself as Linda, said the farmer told Page that he did not give permission for the Martinez campaign sign to be put on his property.
Bedford stated in an email today that he was in the black truck when the Martinez sign was taken down but said, “I had no role in taking any Cirilo sign down. I was putting Upton signs up with Kelly Page and Jordan Page. I was in charge of that assignment for sure....Campaign signs on Sunday are not part of my prosecutor duties and do not speak in an official capacity from the prosecutors office on this issue.”
Photo by Don Campbell of the Herald-Palladium
Brent Bogseth confers with his attorney, Rudolph Marcelletti, Thursday, at his trial before Judge Kathleen Brickley at Van Buren County Circuit Court in Paw Paw. Bogseth was accused of killing his wife Kim Bogseth and burying her body.
Jury finds Grand Junction man guilty of killing his wife
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — A Grand Junction man faces sentencing in November after a jury found him guilty, this past Friday, for murdering his wife.
Brent Bogseth faces life in prison, with no chance of parole, for the death of his wife, Kim. He will be sentenced Nov. 7.
The jury trial in Van Buren Circuit Court lasted two weeks. Jurors returned a guilty verdict shortly after 2 p.m., court officials said.
In the trial, Assistant County Prosecutor Jay Blair said the evidence showed Bogseth killed his wife on Sept. 1, 2015, not long after discovering she was having an affair with a man who lived across the street.
Brent Bogseth told police he last saw his wife, 32, on the morning of Sept. 1, 2015, when he drove her to work in South Haven.
But she never reported to work that day.
Brent Bogseth told police he and his wife were arguing as he drove her to the Admiral Tobacco store in South Haven, and she wanted to get out of the car. He said he dropped her off a couple blocks from the store shortly before 11 a.m.
Kim Bogeth’s naked body was found near the couple’s Columbia Township house in a wooded area on Sept. 9, 2015.
Her body was covered with black plastic bags and some ferns and branches. She sustained head trauma and a skull fracture, possibly from a hammer blow.
The evidence against Bogseth was circumstantial, with no forensic evidence such as blood or DNA linking him to the crime.
But Blair told the jury he believes Bogseth, a maintenance man, used a favorite work hammer to kill his wife. The hammer has never been found.
Bogseth’s employer, Brad Adamson, testified that Bogseth showed up for work on Sept. 1, 2015 at 12:30 p.m.
No one knows where Bogseth was between 11 a.m. at 12:30 p.m. that day, but Blair in his closing arguments said Bogseth had plenty of time to kill his wife during that period.
Last week, police testified that a string of 61 text messages between Brent and Kim Bogseth exchanged the morning of Sept. 1, 2015 had been manually deleted from both their phones before police analyzed the phones.
The missing text messages were exchanged between the couple between 6:36 and 9:24 a.m. that morning. Analysis from the cell phone company confirmed the phone texting activity, police testified.
Police seized both phones on Sept. 7 as part of what was then simply a missing person investigation. Police took Brent Bogseth’s phone as part of the search warrant at the couple’s home, and found Kim Bogseth’s dismantled phone in the back of her husband’s Ford Explorer.
Bogseth had filed for divorce and custody of his son that same week, before Kim Bogseth’s body was found.
Also during the trial, there was testimony from a South Haven coffee house worker that Brent Bogseth asked her to call police and say she was Kim Bogseth, and to say she was OK. She refused and called police, she testified.
Dozens of people march past Paw Paw Middle School Saturday in protest of the Redskins mascot used at the high school. (Photo by Don Campbell)
Protestors refer to Paw Paw Redskins mascot name as the “r-word slur”
By ROD SMITH
For the Tribune
PAW PAW — Chanting "Teach respect not racism" and "People aren't mascots," more than 20 people turned out to protest Paw Paw schools' Redskins mascot Saturday.
On the route from the Paw Paw schools administration building to the amphitheater on the south side of Maple Lake, a small group of women told the culturally-diverse group, "We agree with you." While nearing the amphitheater an elderly man quietly told a police officer, "Kill them" and repeated it. The officer was noncommittal.
Organizer Monica Washington Padula called the Redskins' mascot name, "The r-word slur."
The protest rally took place during the Paw Paw Wine and Harvest Festival. While there were booths set up nearby and people visiting them, most of the festival events and the majority of the crowd were several blocks east.
Julie Dye, another organizer, and a member of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, said the rally came about because of the inaction of the Paw Paw Board of Education to requests to drop the "Redskins" mascot.
"We're frustrated," Dye said. "We haven't been able to accomplish anything with the school board."
Dye grew up in Lawrence and was both an athlete and a member of the marching band. She hated going to Paw Paw games because "everything that went along with it was very hurtful."
The likeness portrayed by the Redskins logo is that of a warlike Hollywood brave, Dye said. "That's not us," she said.
The logo, according to Dye, dates back about 80 years. "We weren't consulted," Dye said. "Nobody gave a damn about what Indians had to say years ago."
Some protest signs read "Redskin means murder." According to Dye, that's because the term originally came from the blood on the bodies of the scalped Native Americans. There were bounty hunters who were paid by the "number of red skins they had," Dye said.
On Aug. 22, the Tribal Council of the Pokagon band, passed a resolution calling the term "offensive, derogatory and demeaning."
"The term 'Redskins' derives from a practice that encouraged genocide against Native Americans," the resolution said.
The resolution encourages eliminating the term for any mascot, name or symbol.
The program in the amphitheater was free-form, with people volunteering to speak. There was apparently only a handful of spectators, some responding to the speakers, many just listening.
Kathy Randall, of Paw Paw, supported the protesters. "People would not like it if they called their team 'The Jews' or any racist name," Randall said.
Adele Walters, also of Paw Paw, brought along a newspaper story about the late Joseph Quigno, a tribal elder. Walters said she went to school with him. "He never felt it was disrespectful," Walters said. She said a recent meeting of graduates voted to support the current mascot with just two or three dissenting.
First responders are shown at the scene of a fatal accident that occurred at 9 a.m. today on Interstate 94 near Paw Paw.
Police identify man killed in crash on Interstate 94
State troopers continue to investigate a fatal crash that occurred Wednesday morning, Sept. 7 on Interstate 94 near Paw Paw.
The crash happened at 9 a.m. on the eastbound lane of the highway near mile marker 62, according to a news release from the Paw Paw Michigan State Police post.
The crash occurred when a westbound van crossed the median and struck a semi head-on in the eastbound lanes.
The driver of the van, Ryan Cramer, 38, of Mattawan, died at the scene while the semi driver, Gregory Jenkins, 32, of Chicago, Ill., was taken to Lakeview Hospital in Paw Paw.
Coloma man faces charges for robbing convenience store
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A Coloma man faces felony charges for allegedly robbing a convenience store in Dowagiac. He is also believed to be responsible for an armed robbery that occurred at a South Haven store the same evening.
Christopher Baptiste Rhodes, 30, was arraigned Friday in Cass County District Court on two counts of armed robbery, larceny in a building, felony firearm and felon-in-possession of a firearm. Charges stem from an armed robbery that occurred at 10:40 p.m., Aug. 29 at a Marathon station in Dowagiac. Police believe Rhodes also robbed the Quick Stop store in South Haven earlier that evening.
He could be facing additional charges for that robbery, however, as of Friday, charges were not brought against him in Seventh District Court in South Haven.
"At this point I can't say it is or it isn't connected," said Sgt. Kyle Griffith of the South Haven Police Department. Surveillance video from both robberies show a man who looks like the same suspect.
“It's the same guy, looks the same,” said Ravi Singh, who owns the Quick Stop convenience store in South Haven.
The robbery at Quick Stop, 651 Phillips St., occurred at 9:25 p.m., Monday, Aug. 29, while the second one happened a little more than an hour later in Dowagiac. Surveillance camera shots from the two incidents show a man wearing a long-sleeve gray shirt, black jeans and gray shoes. His face was hidden behind a ski mask and black cloth covering.
“All you could see was his eyes,” Singh said.
According to a South Haven Police news release, the suspect pointed a gun at and threatened two customers before then pointing the gun at Singh, demanding money.
“I had two customers at the counter and was turned to get something for them. When I turned around he has the gun pointed straight at them,” Singh said. The suspect then noticed Singh's father standing behind the cash register and pointed the gun at him.
“He escalated toward my dad,” Singh said. “I went right to my dad with my hands in the air. If I panicked he (the suspect) may have done something. I wanted to stay calm.”
The suspect then demanded money from the cash register. “I could have pushed our panic button (for a call to police) but I didn't want to cause any panic or extra movement,” Singh said.
Keeping his right hand up in the air Singh took the cash from the drawer and put it into a bag and gave it to the gunman.
“When he (the suspect) left he said 'if you call the police I'll kill you,'” Singh said.
The suspect made off with $556 from the store.
“Money isn't the issue,” Singh said. “My main concern was for our customers and my dad. That was one heck of a night, but I'm glad everyone went home safe.”
In the 12 years that Singh and his parents have owned the Quick Stop it has never been robbed at gunpoint.
“It's a nice town, we have nice customers,” Singh's father said.
The Dowagiac robbery occurred at 10:41 p.m. when a suspect entered the Marathon Store, 801 Spruce St., and stole money from the clerk and a customer's wallet.
PHOTO: An armed gunman is shown at the Quick Stop store pointing a gun at the owner.
Dowagiac police released this security camera image of an armed robber who struck the Marathon station Monday night at 801 Spruce St. In the photo below, from FOX 17, which obtained it from South Haven Police, the robbery suspect is shown at the Quick Stop store in South Haven.
Man who held up South Haven convenience store believed to be linked to Dowagiac store robbery
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A man who robbed a South Haven convenience store Monday evening may be the same person who robbed another one in Dowagiac later that night, according to a report from South Haven Police.
The first robbery occurred at 9:25 p.m. at Quick Stop convenience store, 651 Phillips St., in South Haven.
According to a South Haven Police news release, the suspect pointed a gun at and threatened two customers before then pointing the gun at the store owner, demanding money.
The suspect stole $500, according to the store owner and then fled the scene prior to officers' arrival.
At 10:41 p.m. a suspect entered the Marathon Store, 801 Spruce St., in Dowagiac and stole money from the clerk and a customer's wallet.
He is described as a black man, about 6-foot 1-inches, wearing a long-sleeve gray shirt, black jeans and gray shoes. He was wearing some type of black covering on his face and head as well as black gloves.
The Quick Stop store owner, who today saw a surveillance photo of the suspect involved in the Dowagiac robbery, said “that's the same guy.”
The Quick Stop store owner, who was still visibly shook up over the incident this morning, said in the 12 years he and his family have operated the store they have never dealt with an armed robbery. He said he had no problem giving the armed gunman money, but did not like the fact that he had entered the store threatening people.
“This is a nice town, we have nice customers,” he said.
Anyone with information about the robberies is asked to call the South Haven Police Department at 269-637-5151 or 269-657-3101. Or they can call the Dowagiac Police Department at 782-9743 or the Cass County Tip Line at 800-462-9328.
— The Herald-Palladium contributed to this story
South Haven Police take part in
Back to School picnic for kids
South Haven youngsters were treated to food, fun and free backpacks earlier this week at the 18th annual Back to School Picnic at Elkenburg Park. In the photo, above, South Haven police officers make cotton candy for kids to enjoy. The picnic was organized by Resurrection Life Ministry, led by Pastor Joe Wilkins, along with the South Haven Police Department. The police department, South Haven Emergency Services (SHAES), South Haven Department of Public Works, Van Buren County Sheriffs Department, Berrien County Sheriffs Department, and the Michigan State Police all had representatives and equipment on hand for the attendees to see. (Photo courtesy of City of South Haven)
Shelly Hartman, co-owner of True Blue Farms in Grand Junction, looks at some of the damage caused by a tornado that swept through northern Van Buren County Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Becky Kark)
Tornado rips through Bangor, Grand Junction. leaving a trail of damage
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
GRAND JUNCTION — “It was only 30 seconds but it was the longest 30 seconds of my life.”
That's how Shelly Hartman, co-owner of True Blue Farms, described a tornado that swept through northern Van Buren County Saturday afternoon.
The tornado that swept through Bangor and Grand Junction left a line of damage in its wake, but no injuries to people were reported.
True Blue Farms blueberry packing facilities took the brunt of the storm, suffering an estimated hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.
A mile north of True Blue, the tornado ripped off part of the roof at Columbia Township Hall, caused structural damage to nearly a dozen homes, and damaged many trees whose limbs blocked roadways and ripped down power lines.
The U.S. National Weather Service in Grand Rapids observed the tornado at 1:20 p.m. Saturday, near Bangor and issued an alert warning people in northern Van Buren County and southern Allegan County to take cover.
Bangor residents were the first ones hit by the tornado, which uprooted trees, damaged homes and blew off a large section of the new roof at the Bangor Police Station.
The warning, which many people received on their cell phones, took them by surprise.
“I was sitting outside of the office,” Hartman said, “and wondered what was going on? I looked at the sky and thought everything was OK.”
But then she saw trees and debris swirling around in the air.
“I thought, 'Oh my God, what is that?'” Hartman said. “There were trees, debris, paper flying around, and then there was this indescribable noise and glass breaking.”
The cell phone warning from the National Weather Service also surprised Ellie Rayna.
“When I first got the alert, I thought, 'we always get them,'” said Rayna, who lives at the corner of 51st Street and County Road 388, across the street from Columbia Township hall. “But then I heard something like a train and thought what's going on? she said, describing the tell-tale sound of a tornado.
Although the family has an underground shelter outside of their home there wasn't enough time for Rayna to grab her children and aging parents to take them there.
“My father is disabled,” she said. “We wouldn't get there in time.”
So Rayna resorted to grabbing her children and ushering everyone into a closet to wait out the tornado.
“We were OK,” she said. “We are very blessed.”
Several blocks away, Columbia Fire Chief Dave Johnson was at home, looked toward the sky and observed the tornado for himself.
“I actually saw it coming,” he said. “It went right through our yard on the east side. It sucked the siding off the northeast corner and the east gable end, soffit and facia came off.” The tornado also broke seven windows of Johnson's home, and damaged the roof, windows and door of his barn.
But he wasn't able to tend very long to his personal losses, because he had to help assess damage in the rest of the township.
“After the tornado went over our house, I made sure everyone was OK, looked at my wife and said, 'sorry honey, I gotta go.'"
One of Johnson's first stops was the township hall where part of the roof had blown off.
“We had a meeting here that ended at noon,” said Ada Lepure, township hall secretary. “Luckily they got out and nobody was here when the tornado came.”
The aftermath of the storm not only wrecked the roof, it also ruined the furnishings, computers and walls of the treasurer and supervisor's offices.
“We hope our (computer) server will be OK,” Lepure said. “We have to do something. We have to keep the township running.”
Getting True Blue Farms back to normal is also a priority for Hartman.
Nearly 100 workers and volunteers spent Saturday evening and Sunday cleaning up debris.
“We had people from Monte Packaging, Blue Star Farms and Thayer who came out and volunteer to help,” Hartman said.
Thousands of plastic lugs scattered all over the company's property had to be restacked; fallen trees and limbs cut up and removed; and broken glass cleared away. Trucks that had blown over onto their sides had to be righted. The machinery needed to be assessed and repaired if possible.
“The (fresh-pack) facility and offices were damaged heavily,” Hartman said. “But it (the tornado) didn't affect our processing (facility) at all. We're going to be up and running Monday. Nothing is keeping True Blue down.”
Despite the economic losses, Hartman said she is very grateful no one was hurt from the tornado.
“We had 65 people working here,” she said. “Everyone was trained (to seek shelter). They knew where to go.”
She also was grateful for the employees' willingness to step up and help with the cleanup.
“They said, 'we're not doing this on the clock, we're volunteering to help,” Hartman said.
Police looking for armed robbery suspect
Police are seeking the public's help in locating a man allegedly involved in an armed robbery at a store in Hagar Township.
Michigan State troopers report that a suspect entered Riverside Food Mart at 3468 Coloma Rd., at 5 a.m., Tuesday, and robbed a clerk at gun point. The suspect escaped on foot with an unknown amount of cash and cigarettes.
The suspect is described as a white male in his late 30s or early 40s. He is approximately 5 feet-8 inches tall with a medium build and wears thin wire eye glasses. The suspect was wearing a gray Michigan State University hooded sweatshirt, a dark baseball cap, black pants and “flip flop” sandal type footwear.
If anyone has information pertaining to the robbery they are asked to call Trooper Holly Tetro or Trooper Steffon Mayhue at the Niles State Police post, 269-683-4411.
People line the South Pier in South Haven during the 2015 Salute to Veterans. (file photo by Tom Renner)
A shout out and a wave for the veterans
5th Annual Salute to Veterans planned Saturday
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Fifty disabled combat veterans will get the opportunity to enjoy a relaxing day of fishing on Lake Michigan when they take part in South Haven's Fifth Annual Salute to Veterans, Saturday, Aug. 20.
Hosted by Operation Injured Soldier, the South Haven Steelheaders and Star of the Lake Masonic Lodge, the event will begin bright and early for veterans with a fishing trip on the big lake and will culminate with a welcome home salute when they return to shore followed by a luncheon at the South Haven Moose Lodge. Veterans and the general public are also being invited to see a Michigan Vietnam Memorial wall that will be on display at the American Legion post #49 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. The post is at 129 Michigan Ave.
“The community really gets behind this event,” said Bangor resident Bruce Thatcher, who organizes the Salute to Veterans on behalf of Operation Injured Soldier.
Twenty-five Steelheader boat captains have volunteered to take disabled veterans on the fishing trip. In addition, Chad Bard, owner of the Sun Setter excursion boat, has offered to take 30 more veterans from South Haven and Bangor American Legion posts and Benton Harbor-based Lest We Forget veterans organization on the big lake.
Although the veterans enjoy the chance to hook a big Steelhead or trout, they also look forward to the cheering crowd that awaits them when they return to South Haven's harbor, according to Thatcher.
“When the veterans, especially the Vietnam vets, see people clapping and waving it brings tears to their eyes,” said Thatcher, who served in Vietnam with the 1st Calvary Division of the U.S. Army. “Vietnam vets didn't get a warm welcome when they returned home from serving in the war. So we want to encourage as many people as possible to come and make sure to bring their kids.”
The boats returning to the harbor will be led by members of the Coast Guard along with Vietnam war veterans Jim McCloughan of South Haven and Dan Ambrose of Lest We Forget.
In addition to the Coast Guard and the crowds of people who line North and South piers to welcome the veterans, South Haven Area Emergency Services will hoist a large American flag from atop their ladder truck, and members of the Bangor American Legion color guard will salute as the Hooligan aircraft precision flight team of Battle Creek flies in formation over South Haven's harbor, according to Thatcher.
The salute to veterans began informally approximately 20 years ago when charter boat operators Don and Sis Buckberry took a half-dozen or so disabled veterans from the Veterans Hospital in Battle Creek for a day of fishing on Lake Michigan. Within several years, Don Nicholas of Nichols Charter Boats, began to help provide a day of fishing for an additional 12-15 veterans. Then the South Haven Steelheaders, along with South Haven Vietnam war veteran Glenn Higgs, got involved and began partnering with Operation Injured Soldier four years ago.
Operation Injured Soldier is based in South Lyon and organizes recreational activities for disabled war veterans in Michigan.
State police investigating apparent drowning
Michigan state police troopers are investigating an apparent drowning that occurred Wednesday at Three Legged Lake in Bloomingdale Township.
Troopers received a 911 call at 4 p.m. that a 12-foot fishing boat was anchored in the lake, but unoccupied.
Troopers arrived and found items in the boat and called Van Buren County Sheriff's Department's dive team who found a deceased 75-year-old Glendale man in seven feet of water. The man's name is not yet being released pending notification of his family.
A vehicle, whose driver attempted to flee from a traffic stop, is shown after it struck a tree and caught fire, Monday, evening in Arlington Township. The vehicle is shown below before the fire was extinguished.
Chase ends with car catching fire; Three people arrested
Three people are lucky to be alive after their vehicle caught fire following a high-speed chase with police.
The incident began Monday at 8:13 p.m. when Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies attempted to pull over an unregistered vehicle traveling south on County Road 665 near 38th Avenue in Waverly Township.
The driver, Walker Woods, 22, of Kalamazoo, refused to stop, however, and a pursuit ensued in which deputies were led down rural roads and through a vineyard, at speeds of 60-65 miles per hour and as high as 85 at one point, according to a sheriff's news release.
During the pursuit deputies reported that occupants inside the vehicle were intentionally throwing items at the pursuing patrol car, which was struck and damaged.
After approximately 15 minutes the suspect driver lost control while traveling westbound on 44th Avenue east of 52nd Street, in Arlington Township. His vehicle ran off the road, struck a tree and caught fire.
While the driver fled on foot through a swampy area, deputies were able to apprehend the two passengers, who managed to quickly get out of the car. A deputy ran after the suspect driver, chasing him through a four-foot deep swamp. The suspect was apprehended with the assistance of a sheriff's K-9 unit and arrested.
Meanwhile, the Bangor Fire Department extinguished the vehicle fire. The occupants of the vehicle sustained minor injuries in the crash. All three were treated at Bronson Lakeview Hospital prior to being taken to Van Buren County Jail.
Woods was arrested for three outstanding warrants, fleeing and eluding, resisting and obstructing a police officers, and driving with no insurance. The front seat passenger, Ryan Glen Grady, 30, of Dowagiac, was arrested for five outstanding warrants, resisting and obstructing a police officer, throwing projectiles at a motor vehicle and malicious destruction of police property.
The 24-year-old female passenger from Decatur, whose name is not yet being released pending her arraignment, was arrested for resisting and obstructing a police officer, throwing projectiles at a motor vehicle and malicious destruction of police property.
Marchers - black, white, young and old, march on Kalamazoo Street near Huron Street for the Unity for Our Community march, Saturday, Aug. 6.
100 convene for Unity For Our Community march in South Haven
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Those were the words chanted by South Haven residents as they walked through town during Saturday's first-ever Unity In Our Community march.
Approximately 100 people — black, white, young and old, took to the sidewalks holding signs that read “Our Race is the Human Race” and “Be the Change in Your Community.” The march started at Elkenburg Park and traveled along an hour-long route to downtown and back to the park where participants then gathered for a picnic that included hamburgers, hot dogs with all the fixings, games for children and basketball games where youth played alongside South Haven police officers.
“I want to cry because this is an amazing moment,” said march and picnic organizer Hillary Mahone of South Haven. “To see people of all different nationalities talking with each other, eating with each other, it's just amazing.”
Nancy Nelson of South Haven, who participated in the march, agreed.
“I think this is so needed, it's long overdue,” she said. “It's about coming together for our future.”
Annie Brown of South Haven, who is running for the 66th State House seat, said she did not participate in the walk to promote her campaign, but rather to show her support for the town she lives in.
“I love it when our whole community works together to show we're one big family,” she said. “I think this is a positive way to show other communities this is a great community and we work together.”
Ironically, the idea for the march wasn't originally grounded in harmony, but rather anger at the way police handled a private party that had gathered during the late evening hours of July 3 at Lakeside Entertainment Center.
Police received 911 calls of the crowd getting out of control, that fights had started and there existed a possibility of a person with a gun.
When police arrived they tried to shout at the crowd to leave the building, however, they weren't heard. As a result officers used pepper balls, causing people to panic and rush for the doors.
A relative of the person who booked the party was angered over the incident and called for protest march through downtown during the National Blueberry Festival, but after Mahone met with police and city officials she decided that a unity march would be a better way to go.
“It (the protest march) went from an ugly thing to an amazing event,” Mahone said during an interview several weeks ago. But she still worried people would not support the march.
As it turned out, she worried for nothing.
Meijer, Walmart and Village Market donated food and other supplies for the picnic, the City of South Haven rented bounce houses for youngsters to play in, and police set up tents, chairs and games for the picnic. They also played a friendly game of basketball with the kids. Mahone also gave a lot of credit to her mom, Linda Barton, for donating time and money for the march and picnic.
“She donated a whole lot,” Mahone said.
Marchers who were interviewed, said they felt it was better to have a march to bring the community together rather than separate it.
“I thought (the unity march) was a good idea,” said Ann Habicht of South Haven. “It's a step in a positive direction, rather than a negative.”
Elderly woman dies of apparent drowning in Lake Michigan
Medical condition may have led to drowning
A 93-year-old Ganges Township woman died Thursday after an apparent drowning in Lake Michigan.
Elizabeth Ann Bennett, who regularly swam in Lake Michigan, died at the scene, according to an Allegan County Sheriff's report.
Deputies were called at 4:30 p.m. because witnesses swimming nearby noticed that Bennett had not emerged from the water.
When deputies arrived, Ganges Fire and AMR ambulance first responders were at the scene performing CPR, however their efforts to resuscitate Bennett were unsuccessful.
Witnesses told deputies that Bennett lived at a residence near the site where she drowned and regularly swam in Lake Michigan. They said she was in good shape and swam nearly every day and kept a styrofoam raft nearby.
However, when she didn't return to the beach a search was initiated. She was found and pulled from the water and CPR was started.
“The witnesses stated that nothing appeared out of the ordinary and everything seemed consistent with the victim's normal routine,” Undersheriff Frank Baker said in a news release. “Therefore, a medical condition cannot be ruled out at this time (as to why she drowned).
Brown, Griffin advance in 66th District House race
Republican Beth Griffin will be squaring off with Democrat Annie Brown for the District 66th House seat in the November election.
Griffin fended off GOP challengers Matthew Nilson and Greg Kolich in Tuesday's primary race, while Brown defeated Dylan Kerley.
The winner in November's election will take over the House seat being vacated by Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, who faces term limitations.
Meanwhile in the 80th District race, incumbent Republican Mary Whiteford won easily over her challenger, Abigail Nobel. Whiteford will now face Democrat John Andrysiak of Martin in the November election.
PHOTO: Annie Brown (top) and Beth Griffin
Here are other election results from Tuesday's primary races
Van Buren County Sheriff's race — Daniel Abbott won the Republican primary by defeating three other candidates. Abbott received 3,741 votes; David Walker, 3,146; Phil Oretsky, 796; and James Worthington, 432. Abbott will now face Democrat Robert Overhuel, who received 1,760 votes, in the November election.
7th District Court Judge race — Cirilo Martinez and Michael McKay will advance to the November election after earning the most votes in the Primary. McKay received 5,095 votes; Martinez, 3,614; and Nichole Dunfield Hameed, 627.
Covert Township — Dennis Palgen emerged the winner in the supervisor race, defeating incumbent Barbara Rose, 240-129. Daywi Cook defeated Isaiah Young, 238-106 in the clerk's race; incumbent trustee Kenneth Harrington and newcomer Lonzey Taylor received the most votes in the four-way Democratic race for trustee. Incumbent Republican trustee Gaetano DeRosa was unoppposed. Harrington, Taylor and DeRosa will now head into the November election to determine if the incumbents will retain their seat or be defeated by Taylor who received the most votes in the Democratic Primary with 175. Harrington was second with 163; Dawn Alspaugh third with 139; and Amy Meunchow, fourth, with 70 votes. DeRosa received 27 votes in a township whose voters are primarily Democrat.
Columbia Township — Republicans Kathy Curtis and John Huizenga will compete with Democrat Rosemary Hurley in November for two available trustee seats. Huizenga received 182 votes in the primary; Curtis, 169; and Hurley, 65. Karen Gruss defeated Kristen Bus, 171-77 for the treasurer's seat.
Van Buren County Road Millage renewal — The proposal passed 7,274-2,832
Van Buren County Conservation District millage — The proposal passed 5,568-4,451
Chris Baner of South Haven ties blue ribbons on fences and trees at her home.
South Haven residents show support for local police agencies
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
With an eye toward the recent shooting deaths of police officers in Dallas, New Orleans and closer to home, St. Joseph, a South Haven organization and a local citizen are showing their support for the safety of local law enforcement agencies.
Bruce Thatcher of the Star of the Lake Masonic Lodge in South Haven spent part of this past week distributing posters to local businesses. The posters ask people to support the South Haven Police, Van Buren County Sheriff deputies and Michigan State Police.
“I passed out 50 posters,” Thatcher said. “We're trying to support our police and treat others with brotherly love.”
While Thatcher walked throughout the city's central business district to distribute posters, South Haven resident Chris Baner decided to do something on her own.
She decorated her front porch and front yard trees with blue ribbons to signify her support for local police agencies.
“Somebody has to do something positive,” Baner said.
Others appear to agree with her gesture toward police.
“My neighbor took pictures and put it on Facebook and she said she got a lot of 'likes,'” Baner said.
Meanwhile, plans are still in the works for a Unity In Our Community march Saturday, Aug. 6 in South Haven.
The march came about over the disapproval of the way South Haven Police disbursed a crowd from a late-night private party at Lakeside Entertainment Center, July 4.
Police were called to the building shortly after midnight on reports that there was fighting going on. They tried to get the crowd's attention to exit the building, but ended up using pepper balls to get the crowd to leave.
Some people unhappy with the police decision to use pepper balls, and urged a boycott of downtown businesses. Police and city officials met with local residents several times after the incident occurred and police apologized. From those meetings came the idea to have the Unity In Our Community march.
Organizer Hillary Mahone said all South Haven residents are invited to attend and that the event is about uniting together as a community and demonstrating that by getting to know one another, local residents can help end judgements and stereotypes.
The march will begin at noon at Elkenburg Park. It will conclude back at the park with a basketball game and barbeque at 1:30 p.m.
A woman was seriously injured in an accident this morning after her vehicle collided with a semi-tractor trailer on Interstate 94.
Woman seriously injured in car-semi accident
LAWRENCE — A woman suffered serious injuries this morning after her car collided into a semi-tractor trailer on Interstate 94.
The accident occurred at 7:30 a.m. near the 54-mile marker in Lawrence Township, according to a Michigan State Police news release.
The woman, whose name is not yet being released, was traveling east on the highway in the left lane when she lost control of her vehicle and veered into the right lane and into the path of the semi-tractor trailer. The trailer struck the car and forced it into a guardrail. The car then re-entered the freeway where it was sideswiped by the trailer, which forced the car into a ditch. The driver of the semi then lost control of his vehicle and went into a ditch.
The woman told police she lost control of her vehicle because the morning sun blinded her. She was taken by ambulance to Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo. The male semi driver, whose name is not yet being released, was unharmed. Both vehicles were later towed from the accident scene.
Troopers were assisted by the Lawrence fire department, Van Bure Emergency Medical Services and Michigan Department of Transportation workers who were mowing grass in the area.
The Draken Harald Harfagre, touted as the largest Viking ship to be built in modern times, is now on display at the Michigan Maritime Museum, 260 Dyckman Ave., South Haven. The ship arrived to the museum's dock Sunday and will depart this evening to head to Chicago. (Photo by Becky Kark)
World's largest Viking ship arrives in South Haven
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Michigan Maritime Museum's tall ship, Friends Good Will, commands a lot of attention from visitors, but the ship has been playing second fiddle the past few days to a vessel touted as the world's largest Viking ship.
The Draken Harald Harfagre sailed into the South Haven harbor Sunday for a three-day stop before it heads to Chicago this evening to participate in Pepsi Tall Ships Chicago 2016, set to run Wednesday through Sunday at Navy Pier.
“It's a very interesting boat,” said Ashley Deming, director of education and administration for the museum. “I can see why people are drawn here to see it.”
Kathy Garza was one of the many visitors drawn to South Haven to view the 115-foot long ship, which has a crew of 32. She and her husband traveled all the way from Valparaiso, Ind., dressed in 12th century Norwegian attire that they made themselves.
“I've been following stories about this ship since they began building it,” said Garza, who said her ancestors were among the Norsemen who settled Wales in the 12th century. “We could have seen the ship in Chicago but thought South Haven would be more intimate.”
Nancy Tuma, a Chicago resident who owns a cottage in South Haven, also toured the ship Monday.
“What a treat to have this here,” she said.
The ship, commonly referred to as the Draken, is the largest Viking ship created in modern times. Construction of the vessel began in 2010 in Haugesund, Norway, and it was first launched in 2012. It is equipped with 50 oars and weighs 95 metric tons. The ship can be powered by oars, engines or its sails.
One of the ship's deckhands, Thomas Holsen, first became interested in the ship while taking college courses on maritime studies. He volunteered to be part of the Draken's maintenance crew in 2013 and has continued sailing on it for its latest trip – Expedition America 2016 – in which the crew crossed the Atlantic Ocean and now is sailing the Great Lakes.
“The Great Lakes are amazing,” Holsen said. “You have lakes the size of oceans, it seems. I've never seen freshwater lakes this size before.”
The Draken will remain on display at the museum from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today. The museum is at 260 Dyckman Ave. The Draken will then depart from South Haven's harbor tonight.
There is a separate admission fee to tour the ship.
For a time it looked as though the Draken may not make it as far as Lake Michigan. According to a Star Tribune (Minneapolis) story two weeks ago, the expedition ran into high unexpected costs when it entered waters under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Coast Guard, which requires pilots on non-recreational foreign ships in the Great Lakes (no such regulation is required in Canadian waters for ships under 35 meters). Expedition officials scurried to raise money to pay a pilot, which can cost up to $400 an hour, the Star Tribune reported. The cost could reach upwards of $400,000, the paper reported, if the ship is able to make all of its scheduled stops.
By last Wednesday enough had been raised to ensure the ship's arrival in Chicago, according to a July 21 New York Times article.
Eventually the ship hopes to sail to Duluth, Minn., to take part in that city's tall ships event, before heading back east for several planned stops on the East Coast.
The ship set sail in April from Norway.
Theft of charity money mars benefit golf outing
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
BLOOMINGDALE — A golf outing, Saturday, at Jeptha Lake Golf Course raised more than $2,000 to help pay funeral costs for a Grand Junction woman who died of an aneurism in June, but organizers would have had an additional $475 to contribute if the money hadn't been stolen.
“It was a terrible thing for somebody to do,” said Laura Reed, who owns the golf course, along with her husband, Doug.
The Reeds had organized the benefit golf outing to help raise money for the family of Natalie Grider-Frank.
“She had a husband and an 11-year-old son,” Laura Reed said. “They didn't have any life insurance to pay for the funeral costs.”
Prior to the golf outing, friends and family members of Natalie Grider Frank placed donation jars at various businesses and raised $475 which they dropped off at the golf course Friday night, just prior to Saturday's benefit golf outing.
But when the Reeds arrived to open the golf course Saturday morning, they discovered someone had broken in and had stolen the money.
“They broke the window and unlocked the door and came into the office and took it,” Laura Reed said. “That's all they took. I have a computer, an iPad...a Kindle in there, It was like they were looking for that money. I don't really have suspects, but I think it's somebody who's been here...someone who knew the benefit was on Saturday.”
In spite of the theft, the golf outing went on as scheduled.
“The good that came from it was the people who came here to play in the golf outing,” Laura Reed said. “They cleaned up the glass, Landers Hardware donated new glass and people who came to play donated much more than they probably would have.”
An anonymous donor came forward to pay for a headstone and footings for Grider-Frank's grave. In addition, the golf outing itself raised nearly $2,000 for the family's funeral expenses.
“People were very generous,” Laura Reed said.
The Van Buren County Sheriff's Department doesn't have any suspects at this time, and is seeking the public's help. Anyone with information about the break-in and theft is asked to call the sheriff's department at 269-657-3101.
Mobile phone users and online users can provide anonymous crime tips to the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office by sending a text Tip Soft message by sending a text message to “CRIMES” (274637) with the keyword VBCTIP from a mobile phone.
PHOTO: Natalie Grider-Frank
Man arrested after fleeing from police
A Holland area man found himself behind bars this weekend after attempting to flee from Van Buren County deputies.
The incident began 5:42 p.m. Sunday when deputies tried to stop a Ford van traveling on County Road 388 near 62nd Street in Geneva Township for a registration violation.
But the driver, Eric Overway, 43, didn't stop and instead fled northbound on 62nd Street. He then pulled into a private drive and tried to run into a wooded area. The deputy caught him after a quarter-mile pursuit.
Overway was arrested for possession of marijuana and resisting and obstructing a police officer. He also was arrested on a criminal bench warrant from 7th District Court in South Haven for failing to appear on a drug charge.
Man injured in jet ski accident
19-year-old Grand Rapids man suffered injuries this past Saturday in a jet ski accident on Lake Michigan near Van Buren State Park.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies report that Conner Carruthers was riding on a jet ski operated by a 16-year-old girl from Fort Gratiot, Mich. Deputies said the jet ski was pulling a tube and Carruthers was acting as a spotter when he was thrown from the jet ski and became entangled in the rope that was connected to the tube.
He was then dragged through the water and suffered a possible fractured leg, bruising, and abrasions. Emergency responders from South Haven Area Emergency Services took Carruthers to South Haven Health System.
Covert Police officer subject of criminal investigation
A Covert Police officer has resigned amid allegations that he allegedly sexually assaulted a woman.
Michigan State Police recently completed a two-week investigation into the allegation and have forwarded their report to the Van Buren County Prosecutor's office for possible charges.
The allegation was brought to the attention of Covert Police Chief Jay Allen on July 9.
“I received a citizen complaint and determined a possible crime might have occurred and contacted Michigan State Police,” said Allen, explaining that state police were asked to investigate the complaint because it would be a conflict of interest for anyone from the Covert Police Department to do so.
“Shortly after they (state police) began their investigation the officer resigned,” Allen said.
The officer, whose name Allen did not release, had been with the Covert Police Department for two months.
Allen would not confirm a WWMT-TV report that the officer resigned over allegations that he had sexually assaulted a woman. Detective 1st Lt. Chuck Christensen of the state police Fifth District headquarters in Paw Paw also would not comment on specifics of the investigation.
WWMT reported Tuesday the officer had allegedly taken the woman to a motel after her husband was arrested for drunk driving. The news report went on to indicate the officer returned to the motel and sexually assaulted the woman after taking her husband to jail.
— By Andrew Lersten and Becky Kark
Wellness Center offers relief from the heat
With temperatures approaching the 90-degree mark over the next several days, South Haven Health System's Wellness Center will serve as a “cooling station” for people who want to escape the heat.
The air-conditioned Wellness Center lobby and its public conference rooms will be available now through Sunday, July 24 to anyone who needs a place to relax, cool off and get a drink of cold water, hospital officials say.
The Wellness Center is open today and Thursday from 5 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday from 5 a.m.-9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. For more information, call 269-639-2949 or visit www.sh-hs.org
Police find body of missing South Haven man
Police are investigating the death of a South Haven man who had been reported missing since last week.
The body of Matthew Ahmed Morin, 39, was found in Barry County, July 12, according to a news release from the South Haven Police Department. A person of interest is in custody on unrelated charges, but police are not releasing further information at this time.
Morin was last seen at his Briar Hills apartment in South Haven on July 5. South Haven Police received a report July 9 that Morin was missing and along with the Michigan State Police began an investigation into his whereabouts.
Missing Bangor Township man found in safe condition
A Bangor Township man who had been reporting missing has been found.
John Yore, 73, was located at 3 a.m., this morning in Schaumburg, Ill. And is OK, according to a report from the Van Buren County Sheriff's department. A family member has gone to pick him up and bring him home.
Yore left his residence July 11 in his vehicle and when he could not be reached by family members, they called police the following day to report him missing.
Bangor Township man reported missing
Van Buren County Sheriff's Department is seeking the public's help in locating a Bangor Township man, who has been missing since July 11.
Deputies say John Yore, 73, left his home on July 11 to make a trip to an unknown location in Indianapolis, Ind. He was driving a black 2008 Chevy Avalanche with a Michigan handicap license plate, 0757j7. Family members say he has not been heard from since. Deputies tried to retrieve locations from his cell phone, but were unable to do so. Family members said Yore is in need of daily medications that he did not take with him and may be suffering from the onset of dementia.
Yore is described as a white, 6-foot-tall man, weighing approximately 300 pounds. He has gray hair, one blue eye and one false eye. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, a white t-shirt and a baseball cap with the words “Yore Place” on the cap.
Deputies entered a description of Yore and his vehicle information into a national missing database in an attempt to locate him. Anyone with information regarding his whereabouts is asked to call the Van Buren County Sheriff's office.
Police seek public's help in locating missing man
South Haven Police are seeking the public's help in locating a man who has been missing since July 5.
Matthew Ahmed Morin, 39, was last seen at his apartment in South Haven on July 5, police reported in a news release.
Police say Morin may be depressed and without medication.
He may be driving a 1999 Pontiac Sunfire with a license plate of BES7017. The car is light blue and has red tape on the left tail light. There are also Monster energy drink stickers in the back window.
Anyone with information is asked to call the police department, 269-657-3101.
Members of the Harris family in Grand Junction are shown taking part in the “First Pick” ceremony at their farm this past week. From left are Al Harris, South Haven Mayor Bob Burr, MBG Marketing president and CEO Larry Ensfield, Marcy Harris and Scott Harris.
Blueberry growers look forward to best crop in four years
By TRIBUNE STAFF
The annual blueberry harvest in the South Haven area officially got underway this week with the “First Pick” ceremony in Grand Junction.
This year's event took place at Harris Blueberries and was attended by South Haven Mayor Bob Burr and Larry Ensfield, president and CEO of MBG Marketing, a grower-owned cooperative and a founding partner of Naturipe Farms, which manages t he sales, marketing and distribution of the co-op's blueberries.
“It is always a pleasure to meet our local blueberry growers and have the opportunity to partake in the First Pick,” Burr said. “Harris Blueberries represents an impressive number of generational family growers throughout our community who make such a strong impact both locally and throughout the United States and beyond with their blueberries.”
Scott Harris gave Burr a tour and shared the history of the farm – an operation which once started on two acres in 1978 that now encompasses 250 acres. Harris is a first-generation grower, but he said he couldn’t have done it without the help of his uncle, Al Harris. Scott’s daughters and extended family members are now, too, getting into the family tradition of growing blueberries.
“I want to ensure they understand the value of our work and take pride in the product we produce for consumers,” Scott said.
Like a growing number of farmers, Scott Harris is taking care to minimize environmental impact to the soil when planting and harvesting his crop.
Currently, he is converting all new plantings to trickle irrigation in order to conserve water and wind machines for frost protection.
“I relish the chance to develop a farm into something that is sustainable and can endure for generations to come,” he said.
The blueberry crop this year is shaping up to be one of the best ones in four years, according to Mark Longstroth, a fruit educator for MSU Extension in Van Buren County.
Although the ceremonial “first pick” took place last week, blueberry farmers have actually been harvesting early varieties of their crops for the past several weeks.
“We're expecting a crop in Michigan of 100 million pounds this year,” Longstroth said. “That will be the biggest crop since 2013 when 114 million pounds were harvested.”
Some farmers experienced hail damage to their crops in mid-June when a severe thunderstorm swept through Van Buren County, while other farmers that do not have underground irrigation are keeping an eye on the July and August weather, which is typically hot and dry. Concern has also been expressed regarding whether an ample supply of workers can be found to harvest the berries. But overall, growers that Longstroth said he has talked to are looking forward to a bumper crop.
Michigan is among the largest blueberry producing states in the nation, with farmers harvesting their varieties from the end of June through September. Early season varieties for Naturipe Farms include Bluetta and Duke, which will peak the first half of July. Blue Crop, Draper and Liberty will peak around the last two weeks of July and through mid-August; a strong late-season availability of Elliot and Aurora, among others, will supply the Eastern United States through the month of September.
South Haven celebrates Independence Day
Boaters enjoy watching the Light up the Lake fireworks display in South Haven, on Sunday, July 3. (photo by Kelly Weber)
Donielle Hudson and her son, Hunter, of Grosse Pointe, enjoy watching South Haven's Fourth of July parade, Monday, July 4.
Spectators line Huron Street to wait for the start of South Haven's Fourth of July parade. The parade route was switched this year, somewhat. Instead of traveling on Phoenix Street, downtown, parade participants used Huron Street, which runs parallel to Phoenix. (parade photos by Becky Kark)
Members of the Niles Shrine Club entertain spectators during the South Haven Fourth of July parade.
Police close North Beach prior to Fireworks display due to unruly crowds; Bottles thrown at police, citizens
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
South Haven's popular Light up the Lake fireworks display went off without a hitch Sunday evening, but not before police cleared North Beach due to a group of unruly people who began throwing liquor bottles at officers and other citizens.
Approximately 80-90 police officers from South Haven and surrounding areas removed approximately 4,000 people from the beach at approximately 9:30 p.m., about an hour prior to the start of the fireworks display. It took approximately 45 minutes to clear the beach.
A news release issued by South Haven Police Department stated, “The decision to close the North Beach was unfortunate but necessary...The size and violent nature of the crowd made it unsafe for officers and citizens after subjects in the crowd began throwing bottles at officers and citizens.”
The news release went on to say that a large group of individuals became violent necessitating an emergency request for police assistance from the Michigan State Police, Van Buren County Sheriff's Department and the Pokagon Tribal Police Department.
Bottles thrown at police ranged from pint bottles to half-gallon jugs, according to Sgt. Kyle Griffith of the South Haven Police Department. Both officers and citizens were hit. Several citizens required medical treatment for lacerations, he went on to say.
Police made a number of arrests following the bottle-throwing incident, but Griffith did not have an exact number.
Patrols on the beach were stepped up throughout the day on Sunday. Police set up three access points at the beach in an effort to prevent people from bringing alcoholic beverages to the public beach.
“Many” arrests were made during the day and leading up to the fighting incident, according to Griffith. People were arrested on a variety of charges, including felony drug possession, possession of alcohol on a public beach, fighting in public and inciting a riot.
Gas prices fall as 4th of July holiday approaches
At a time of year when motorists expect gas prices to rise, prices have actually been falling, just in time for the Fourth of July when many will be hitting the road. GasBuddy predicts this Independence Day to be the cheapest since 2005.
This year the United States experienced the lowest June gasoline prices in over 10 years. GasBuddy predicts the national average will be $2.27 per gallon on the Fourth, down considerably compared to just two years ago when the national average hit $3.66 per gallon for the holiday.
Closer to home in South Haven, prices at the pump range from $2.21 to $2.39, with the state average at $2.42.
The decline as motorists approach July 4 is not a rarity. Over the past 10 years, the average price of gas through the Fourth of July holiday has declined more often than not.
“The U.S. average price of gas was lower on July 5th than it was the previous week seven out of 10 occasions dating back to 2006,” said Gregg Laskoski, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy. “This defies the general consensus on Main Street that prices rise ahead of a major travel holiday.”
The good news doesn’t end here. Looking forward to the rest of 2016, GasBuddy projects the return of a sub-$2 per gallon national average as soon as early November. Seasonal trends, such as lower gasoline demand and cheaper winter gasoline, return to the picture. Gas prices in the South are most likely to spend the most time under $2 this autumn, while the West Coast may be left behind. By Thanksgiving, GasBuddy sees the national average back at $1.99 or less. It should be noted, however, that any unforeseeable major impact to the supply chain, such as hurricanes, could disrupt gasoline prices and lead to a departure from this forecast.
Fireworks light up the skies in South Haven during the 2015 Light up the Lake fireworks display. (Photo by Sheryl Kaptur)
Ready to Ignite
South Haven gets ready for busy 4th of July weekend
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
One of Southwest Michigan most popular fireworks displays, an art fair with 120 booths, and an hour-long parade are all lined up for this year's Fourth of July weekend celebration in South Haven.
The 57th Annual South Haven Art Fair will kick off the weekend activities, Saturday-Sunday, July 2-3 at Stanley Johnston Park. The fun continues Sunday evening, July 3, when the sky over the town's iconic lighthouse and harbor ignites with fireworks, and the parade will conclude the holiday events at 11 a.m., Monday, July 4.
This year's fireworks display will feature $34,000 worth of colorful pyrotechnics and is expected to last until 11:05 p.m.
“That's $20 a second,” quipped South Haven Mayor Bob Burr, who has been leading fundraising efforts for the past six years.
Fireworks will be shot off at 10:35 p.m. off the North Pier. Best viewing spots include North and South beaches, Riverfront Park, portions of Stanley Johnston Park, Kids Corner on Monroe Avenue and the bluff along Monroe Avenue.
Melrose Pyrotechnics, of Kingsbury, Ind., has been hired again to shoot off the fireworks display, which will be synchronized to patriotic music by Paul Layendecker of COSY-FM Superhits.
“It's quite a process to synchronize the music to the fireworks,” Burr said. “Paul sent a CD of music to Melrose in February. They then program the fireworks to the music.”
But even though the company plans well in advance, technical problems can still occur the evening of the show.
“The COSY sound technician plays the music from a remote location and Melrose uses a computer to pick it up and then they fire the rockets. I don't think people understand how complicated it can be,” Burr said.
Once the fireworks display ends, the Dyckman Avenue drawbridge will remain down until 11:35 p.m. It then will be raised for boaters.
Dowagiac man dies in roll-over accident in Lawrence Township
LAWRENCE — A 24-year-old man from Dowagiac died in a single-car accident, Sunday morning, that also injured a 25-year-old passenger from Dowagiac.
Van Buren County Sheriff's deputies received a 911 call at 7:55 a.m. and arrived at the crash scene on
County Road 681, near 71st Avenue in Lawrence Township and found the 24-year-old driver deceased. The passenger was conscious and had to be extricated from the vehicle. He was then taken to Bronson Hospital for his injuries.
Deputies say seatbelts were worn, and alcohol use is unknown at this time. The cause of the crash is still under investigation. The name of the crash victim will be released once immediate family members have been notified.
A portion of a wooden footbridge in Stanley Johnston Park was damaged after a large limb fell on it during a late night storm, Wednesday. The storm, which began in earnest shortly after midnight, brought down hail, larger than a quarter in some cases, as the photo, below, shows. (Photos by Becky Kark and Kelly Weber)
Clean up begins after last night's storm
Last night's storm, with its multiple lightning streaks, was pretty to look at, but its aftermath was another story.
A number of residents in South Haven woke up this morning to find downed tree limbs that damaged fences, at least one vehicle and dwellings.
South Haven Department of Public Works employees were out early this morning assessing damage and removing limbs that had fallen in city right-of-ways.
The worst damage appeared to be in the vicinity of Dyckman Avenue, west of the drawbridge, and along Park Street and North Shore Drive, according to City Manager Brian Dissette.
The storm began building shortly after 11 p.m., illuminating the sky with lightning. Shortly after midnight it brought hail, wind and rain.
A homeowner who lives at the corner of Park and Wells Street said she didn't even realize a large limb had fallen in her yard and on her fence until she woke up this morning and looked out her window.
Despite the lightning, hail and wind, very few people lost electricity in South Haven. Dissette estimated approximately 200 electric customers on the north side lost power. Further east, about 500 Consumers Energy customers in Arlington Township, east of Bangor, were without electricity this morning.
Although the storm is over, the National Weather Service is reminding people not to swim in Lake Michigan due to high waves. Temperatures today are predicted to reach a high of 63, for a somewhat chilly start to the four-day Harborfest that begins this evening at Riverfront Park in South Haven. Warm weather will resume Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, however, when temperatures will climb to the low 80s.
Barricaded gunman ends standoff with police
A 15-hour standoff between police and a barricaded gunman from Geneva Township ended early this morning after the suspect agreed to surrender to police.
Shortly before 1:45 a.m. 41-year-old Jason Kohlhoff, emerged from his home ending the standoff which earlier in the evening involved an exchange of gunfire between the suspect and police.
He faces a felonious assault charge for shooting at police and a misdemeanor charge for reckless use of firearms.
The suspect's standoff with police began at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, when a Michigan State Police detective from the Wayland post attempted to talk with the man in the driveway of his residence near County Road 388 and 60th Street. The suspect became upset, walked into the residence and then emerged carrying a long gun. He fired off one round in the general direction of the detective before going back into the residence, according to the news release.
The detective pulled out of the man's driveway and called for back-up. A perimeter was set up around the residence, nearby residents were evacuated and vehicle traffic was re-routed to other streets.
Negotiators tried to talk with the suspect by telephone several times but he would not emerge from the residence.. While the state police Emergency Support team was on the suspect's property, he fired many rounds of ammunition several times in the direction of police. Emergency Support team members returned shots, but no one was injured.
The man finally made verbal contact with police shortly before 1 a.m. this morning and said he would give up if he could speak with a Van Buren County deputy that he personally knew. The deputy was brought to the scene and at 1:42 a.m. the suspect surrendered to officers outside of his home.
The interior of the United Pentecostal Church of South Haven is decorated for the "Under the Sea" Vacation Bible School that began today.
Volunteers go the extra mile to decorate church for summer
Vacation Bible School
Area children are invited to attend the Vacation Bible School being offered this week at United Pentecostal Church of South Haven, 617 Kalamazoo St. The theme for this year's Bible School is “Under the Sea.” The Bible School will take place Monday-Wednesday, June 13-15. Registration starts each day at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. A parents night and awards ceremony is scheduled at 7 p.m., Wednesday. A bus can provide transportation for those who need it. To make arrangements, call Wendy Holt at 767-3131.
LMC hosts discussion on plight of refugees
The plight of refugees, such as ones who have fled war-torn Syria, will be the focus of a panel discussion at Lake Michigan College in South Haven.
As part of World Refugee Day, the South Haven Refugee Task Force in collaboration with the South Haven Diversity Coalition, Bethany Christian Services of Michigan, and Lake Michigan College South Haven Campus will host the panel discussion describing the current plight of refugees. The event is scheduled from 7-8:30 p.m., Monday, June 20 at the campus, 125 Veterans Blvd. A reception will take place at 6:30 p.m. with desserts provided by Café Julia.
World Refugee Day was established in 2000 by the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees forced to flee their homes under the threat of persecution, conflict and violence.
Guests will hear stories of former refugees and meet refugee foster care families. Attendees will also learn about various ways to assist refugees locally.
The South Haven Refugee Task Force, a recently formed group united by their common interest, is in the planning stages for developing various ways community members can contribute and offer refugee support.
Guest speaker Ramea Almubarack, a graduate student at Western Michigan University, will be speaking about her family's experience fleeing Syria and their current status.
Balla Hounakey, caseworker for Bethany Christian Services, will speak about her personal experience coming the United States and being in the Refugee Foster Care program.
Julie Ludwig, South Haven Refugee Task Force member, will discuss the mission and scope of the local group which provides opportunities for community involvement for refugee relief.
“The refugee crisis in Europe is horrifying and so distant it is difficult to imagine people in Michigan can do anything to offer assistance,” Ludwig said. “Yet, we have heard there are specific opportunities to help.”
Joel Bell and Alisa Otto, Bethany Christian Services staff, will provide information on how Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit organization, brings families together and keeps families to together. Bethany has responded to the need of families forced to flee their homes due to war, natural disasters, or persecution through their Refugee and Immigrant Foster Care program along with other refugee services in Kalamazoo.
Contact (269) 993-2728 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about the panel discussion.
Deputies release names of men who died in double fatality
ARLINGTON TWP. — Deputies have identified the two victims of a double-fatality that occurred two days ago on M-43 Highway, near Glendale.
Two men from Mid-Michigan lost their lives in the head-on collision that occurred Sunday morning on M-43 near 46th Street.
When Van Buren County deputies arrived at 5:20 a.m. they found two vehicles on fire and the occupants trapped inside. Deputies say a 1999 Chevy S-10 pickup driven by 27-year-old Casey Aaron-Donald Snyder of Clare, was traveling west on M-43 when it crossed the centerline and struck a 2001 Pontiac Aztek driven by 20-year-old Quinten Reed Greiner of Midland, who was headed east. Both drivers died from injuries sustained in the accident, according to a news release issued today from the Van Buren County Sheriff's office.
Police are waiting for toxicology results to determine whether alcohol or drugs may have played a role in the accident. The accident remains under investigation.
Representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality spent Friday evening, June 3, monitoring cleanup efforts of a wooded area in Geneva Township where diesel fuel leaked after a farmer accidentally hit an underground pipeline while excavating. (Photo by Tom Shields)
Diesel fuel pipeline leak contained in Geneva Township; Cleanup efforts continue
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
GENEVA TWP. — Crews continue to clean up several thousand gallons of diesel fuel on a Geneva Township farm after a farmer accidentally hit a pipeline while excavating.
The incident, which occurred Friday in a wooded area near County Road 380 and 62nd Street, led to a release of approximately 8,400 gallons from an eight-inch line owned by Wolverine Pipe Line Co., in Portage.
“The area of impact is about a quarter of an acre,” said Mark DuCharme, incident management specialist for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Cleanup efforts began shortly after the incident occurred at noon, Friday, according to Tom Shields, a spokesperson for Wolverine Pipe Line Co.
“A farmer was excavating on his farm when he traveled over the pipeline and his equipment track hit the line,” Shields stated in a news release. “The diesel fuel...is contained in an area of the farm field There are no reported injuries from the incident and no reports of any wildlife impacts.”
Wolverine shut the pipe down immediately and began clean up efforts Friday, in coordination with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the MDEQ.
Three vacuum trucks and storage tanks were brought on site to remove the spilled product, according to Shields. As of Saturday, approximately 5,400 gallons of diesel fuel and 3,000 gallons of water containing fuel were recovered.
The ground where the spill occurred consists mainly of clay, according to DuCharme, which may help mitigate contamination of the soil. Workers were worried Friday evening that rain would cause the fuel to leach further into the ground. So they took several precautionary measures, including the plugging of a culvert, so that fuel wouldn't migrate to a nearby drainage ditch.
“I think we were successful in containing the contamination,” DuCharme said.
Although there are no homes around the area where the spill occurred, the EPA and Wolverine are taking air samples on a regular basis.
Cleanup efforts, so far, are going well, according to DuCharme.
“At this point we're pleased with the progress,” he said. “They (Wolverine) moved very quickly.”
As of Monday, the pipeline had been repaired and was expected to be operational by today.
However, it is not yet known when the cleanup efforts will be completed. In the meantime, Wolverine is encouraging the general public to stay away from the site.
“Wolverine's priority is for the safety of the community, the environment and our employees,” Shields said. “Wolverine is cooperating and coordinating with local, state and federal authorities in our response to minimize any impacts the incident may have on our neighbors, the environment and surrounding community.”
2 men die in fiery crash
Police continue to investigate a head-on collision that claimed the lives of two men, Sunday morning. The crash occurred on M-43 Highway, just west of 46th Street, near Glendale. When Van Buren County deputies arrived at 5:20 a.m. they found two vehicles on fire and the occupants trapped inside. Deputies say a 1999 Chevy S-10 pickup was traveling west on M-43 when it crossed the centerline and struck a 2001 Pontiac Aztek that was headed east. Both drivers died at the scene of the accident and have not yet been positively identified.
Police investigate home invasions in Grand Junction
Police are seeking the public's help in locating two suspects involved in at least two home invasions this past weekend in the Grand Junction area.
The break-ins occurred between noon and 3 p.m., Saturday. The first report came from an elderly woman who called 911 to say she had caught someone breaking into her residence. She yelled at the suspect who then fled the scene in a silver-colored 4-door hatchback vehicle, possibly a Ford Escort or Focus. The woman described the suspect as 5'10”, 155 pounds, and dressed in black clothing, A second suspect was waiting inside the vehicle.
Shortly afterward, a second breaking and entering complaint was received from a residence a short distance away. The caller told deputies he had returned home to find his door had been forced open and items had been taken from the home.
Deputies also are investigating a third home invasion in the area to determine if it is related to the other two break-ins.
Anyone with information about the home invasions or who observed a silver colored small-size sedan-style vehicle in the area of Grand Junction on Saturday, June 4 can call the sheriff's office at 269-657-3101. Callers may also contact Silent Observer to remain anonymous or submit a tip via text message to “CRIMES” (274637) with the keyword VBCTIP.
Oil pipeline spill occurs in wooded area in Geneva Township
South Haven Area Emergency Services responded this afternoon to an oil pipeline spill that occurred in Geneva Township.
SHAES was dispatched at 1:08 p.m. to a wooded area near County Road 380 and 62nd Street where the spill occurred.
The pipeline is owned by Wolverine Pipe Line Co., in Portage, according to a news release from SHAES. Officials told SHAES the line was ruptured by an earth excavator working on adjacent land. No fire nor injuries were associated with the spill.
Wolverine shut down the pipeline and a repair crew is in the process of repairing it. It is not yet known how much oil was spilled.
'American Pickers' plans to film in Michigan; Seeks antique collections from South Haven area
Producers of a popular television documentary show plans to film in Michigan this month and hopes to find South Haven area residents who have antiques and unusual collections in their homes, storage areas and barns.
The History Channel's “American Pickers” follows hosts Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz who hunt for valuable antiques throughout America. Area residents who have large private antique collections can send their name, phone number, location, description of their collection and photos to email@example.com or call 1-855-OLD-RUST.
Firefighters from South Haven Area Emergency Services extinguish a car fire that occurred on 102nd Avenue after a vehicle left the roadway and struck several trees. (Photo courtesy of South Haven Area Emergency Services)
Three injured in car fire in Casco Township
A Pullman woman and her two passengers suffered injuries, Wednesday, after their car left the roadway, struck several trees and caught fire.
The accident occurred at 3:45 p.m., on 102nd Avenue near 62nd Street, according to the Allegan County Sheriff's department. Caroline Norman, 70, was heading west on 102nd Avenue when her car left the roadway for an undetermined reason.
Several good samaritans pulled Norman, her adopted son Terrence Norman, 44, and a minor female child of Norman's, from the burning vehicle, according to Captain Chris Kuhn of the sheriff's department.
The youngster was airlifted from the accident scene to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo, while the other two accident victims were taken by ambulance to South Haven Health System. Norman, who suffered life-threatening injuries, was later airlifted from South Haven hospital to Bronson Hospital where she was still in the trauma unit as of Friday. Her young daughter was in the pediatric intensive care unit at Bronson, and her son was listed in good condition at South Haven hospital.
The accident remains under investigation.
Malfunctioning hydraulics on a 50-foot wide disc and harrower sheared off the roof of a vehicle driven by a 79-year-old Bloomingdale woman, causing her to suffer serious injuries.
Woman suffers serious injuries when tractor's hydraulics fail
A 79-year-old Bloomingdale woman suffered serious injuries after equipment on a large farm tractor malfunctioned and sheared off the roof of the vehicle she was driving.
Shirley Noble was headed east on 6th Avenue near County Road 665 shortly before 3 p.m., Monday, when the accident occurred, according to a report from the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department.
Aaron Moll had finished plowing a field with a 50-foot-wide disc and Harrower and was driving the tractor west on 6th Avenue near County Road 665 when the disc on the driver's side lost its hydraulics, according to a Van Buren County Sheriff's report.
Loss of the hydraulics on the 2016 John Deere tractor occurred right when Noble was attempting to pass the tractor. As she did so, the disc's hydraulics lowered the driver's side wing of the disc, taking off the pickup truck roof.
Noble had to be extricated by the Bloomingdale Fire Department and was taken to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo.
The tractor and disc also crashed into mailboxes along 6th Avenue. The tractor and disc are owned and used by Boersen Farms in Zeeland. The incident remains under investigation and upon completion an incident report will be turned over to the Van Buren County Prosecutors Office for review.
Lest we forget
The South Haven American Legion firing squad takes part in a 21-gun salute as part of the Memorial Day services, Monday, May 30, at Lakeview Cemetery. The service followed a parade that featured Grand Marshall Jed Fall, a Korean War veteran and member of the American Legion and VFW; South Haven High School Band; Baseline Middle School Band; parade marshall and keynote speaker Jim McCloughan, a Vietnam War veteran who has led the parade for 46 years; Mr. and Miss South Haven and their court; South Haven Mayor Bob Burr; the South Haven Fire Department Color Guard; members of the American Legion and VFW; Little Miss Blueberry; and local Boy and Girl Scout troops. (Photo by Becky Kark)
Fire destroys attic of Casco Township home
A Casco Township home suffered heavy damage after a fire broke out in the attic Sunday evening.
The home's occupants, who were able to escape unharmed, noticed fire coming through the kitchen ceiling lights shortly before 10 p.m. and called 911.
Firefighters arrived four minutes later and found heavy fire and heat in the attic area, according to Ron Wise, director of South Haven Area Emergency Services. The fire was quickly put out, however firefighters had to spend several hours removing all of the blown insulation from the home, due to the fire spreading to the insulation.
The cause of the fire is being investigated. The home is owned by Jerry and Annete Koller.
Troopers warn motorists to use seat belts
Buckle up or risk getting a ticket.
That's the warning to motorists by Michigan state police troopers who are conducting their annual Memorial Day seat belt enforcement campaign.
The Click It Or Ticket campaign begins today in Van Buren and Kalamazoo counties and continues until June 5.
“Seat belts are the single best defense in the event of a crash and the easiest safety feature in your vehicle to use,” said Lt. Dale Hinz of the state police Paw Paw post. “Buckling up can reduce the risk of serious injury or death by 45 percent.
Michigan law requires all drivers, front seat passengers, and passengers 15 years old and younger in any seating position to be buckled.
South Haven Police search for man involved in gun-related incidents
South Haven Police are seeking the public's help in locating a man allegedly involved in several handgun-related incidents in the past several weeks.
Police first became aware of Tevin Jermal Hunter, 22, when responding to a complaint of a gun being fired in the 300 block of Fruit Street on Mother's Day, May 8. Hunter is believed to be involved in the incident, according to South Haven Detective Adam DeBoer. However, it is not yet known whether he was intentionally pointing the gun at someone or not. Since that time police say they have received several reports of Hunter brandishing a handgun in front of other people, and he has several outstanding bench warrants.
Police also are worried that Hunter may end up being involved in a shooting.
“We're searching for him because we're trying to head off a problem before it begins.” DeBoer said.
Hunter could be in the South Haven area; Kalamazoo area, where he has friends; or Grand Rapids, where he has family members.
Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call 269-639-3403 or 269-637-5151.
Lucky to be alive
The northbound lane of Interstate 196, just north of Phoenix Road, was closed for for nearly two hours this past Friday afternoon after a van flipped over. The van was traveling south on I-196 when a front wheel came off of it, forcing the van to go into the median where it then flipped over onto the northbound lane. No one was injured in the accident. Northbound traffic was rerouted around the accident while crews removed scattered debris, including thousands of spilled roofing nails on the highway. (Photo courtesy of South Haven Area Emergency Services)
Police looking for missing 14-year-old Geneva Twp. girl
UPDATE: Kiera Kaleese Shepherd has been found and is safe with her parents, according to a news release issued at 11 a.m. today from the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department. The case will be forwarded to the prosecutor's office for review.
Police are requesting the public's help in locating a missing 14-year-old Geneva Township girl.
Kiera Kaleese Shepherd was last seen Wednesday at 11 a.m. at her home in the 64000 block of 16th Avenue with a friend, Raven Pendergrass and her cousin Alex Shepherd, and has not been seen since, according to a report from the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department.
Pendergrass, who is a friend of Kiera's, was located Thursday and told deputies he did not know her whereabouts. Police believe Kiera might be with her cousin, Alex Shepherd, however his whereabouts were still unknown as of early this morning.
Anyone with information about Kiera Shepherd or Alex Shepherd or their whereabouts is asked to call the sheriff's department, 269-657-3101.
Fire damages cottage
A fire on Saturday caused damage to a roof and kitchen at a cottage in Casco Township. Neighbors called 911 at 4:30 p.m. about the fire in the cottage, which was unoccupied at the time. The dwelling is located at 74th Street and 101st Avenue. South Haven Area Emergency Services firefighters were assisted by Ganges and Bangor fire departments. The cause of the fire is under investigation. (Photo courtesy of South Haven Area Emergency Services)
South Haven man involved in ramming incident arraigned on lesser charges
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
A South Haven man who allegedly rammed a stranger's truck in Geneva Township on purpose was arraigned on criminal charges today.
Gregory Schener, 54, County Road 384, was found in his crashed vehicle in a ditch after the incident Thursday on CR 384, authorities said.
The crash was reported by another South Haven man, 21, who called 911 to report that Schener had intentionally rammed his pickup truck several times while driving on County Road 384 and had then crashed.
The victim said he did not know the suspect, nor why he his truck was being rammed, police said. The victim's truck had an estimated $3,000-$5,000 in damage, according to a Van Buren County Sheriff's news release.
Police arrested the suspect on charges of second-offense drunk driving and felonious assault of a non-family member with a motor vehicle.
However, neither charge was authorized by Assistant Prosecutor Eric Jenkins.
Jenkins instead authorized charges of reckless driving and malicious destruction of personal property under $200.
Jenkins decline to discuss why he authorized those specific charges in the case, but he did say the case is still under investigation.
Schener was arraigned in Seventh District Court in South Haven Friday. Both charges are misdemeanors carrying a maximum penalty of 93 days in jail upon conviction.
Magistrate Jim Becker entered a not guilty plea on Schener's behalf and set his bond at $25,000. "You are a public safety concern," Becker told Schener. Becker noted that Schener was arrested for drunk driving in 2007 and careless driving in 2013.
South Haven man arrested for
allegedly ramming his vehicle
into back of pickup truck
A South Haven man faces criminal charges for intentionally ramming his vehicle into the rear-end of a pick-up truck and then crashing his vehicle into a ditch.
The incident began at 8:15 p.m. this past Thursday in Geneva Township when the victim called 911 to say the 54-year-old suspect was intentionally running into the back of his truck, which was traveling at 55 miles per hour, according to a news release from the Van Buren County Sheriff's office.
The 21-year-old victim from South Haven said the first ramming incident happened at the intersection of county roads 384 and 681, while the second happened at the intersections of county roads 384 and 687. The victim then saw that the suspect's vehicle crashed into a ditch on County Road 384 near 68th Street.
He told 911 he did not know the suspect and did not know why he was running into the rear of his vehicle. The victim said he was afraid to stop and help the suspect because he was concerned an altercation might take place.
When deputies arrived to the accident scene they attempted to ask the suspect why he was allegedly ramming the vehicle, however, the suspect would not say why. Deputies noticed the suspect was intoxicated and arrested him for drunk driving second offense. They also arrested him for felonious assault with a motor vehicle after noticing that fragments from his vehicle were embedded into the rear-end of the pickup truck. Damage to the truck is estimated between $3,000-$5,000.
Bangor celebrates 11th annual Amtrak Train Day, Saturday
BANGOR — Bangor train depot will be the place to be Saturday morning, May 7, when local residents gather to celebrate the 11th annual Amtrak Train Day.
The celebration will include family activities, giveaways, entertainment and cake for people to enjoy. The event is sponsored by Beacon Specialized Living Services, whose corporate offices are located in the upper story of the historic depot, and the Railroad Café, which is on the first floor of the depot on Railroad Street.
The events get underway at 7 a.m. when people can line up for the arrival of the Amtrak Train at 7:38 a.m. At that time, several local and state government leaders, including State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, will be invited to speak, along with Ken Ratzlaff, president of Beacon Specialized Living Services Inc.
At 10 a.m., Chrisopher Blue, a musician from Bangor, will perform and cake will be served. Train Day activities will conclude at noon.
Time to vote
Recall election on Covert ballot; Road millage, council election on Bangor ballot
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
COVERT — Voters in Covert schools and the city of Bangor will go to the polls, Tuesday, to vote in special elections.
Covert schools' voters will decide whether school board President Diana Parrigin should stay on the board.
She faces a recall attempt in the special election, and voters will be able to either vote to retain her or instead elect Val Bury, the recall election organizer.
Bury, a former Covert school board member, submitted 168 valid petitions to force the election.
The recall effort stems from Parrigin's arrest for marijuana possession in March 2015, and subsequent refusal to step down as president. Parrigin pleaded no contest to the charge.
The Covert school board in April 2015 could not get enough votes to pass a resolution asking Parrigin to resign as president. Parrigin has been president since January 2015.
In Bangor, voters will be asked to consider a five-year, 1.5-mill road levy that would generate an estimated $39,837 annually for road projects.
City Manager Regina Hoover explained that the $150,000 to $170,000 the city receives every year in state and federal road money doesn't go far enough to address the city's needed road work.
"This will help us do better," she said said.
She noted the city fire levy has been reduced from
3.25 mills to 2.25 mills this year, so between the fire and new road millage voters would only see a half-mill tax hike this year.
Bangor voters will also elect city officials, who are running without opposition.
Seeking new terms are incumbent Nick Householder, who is seeking a second three-year term as mayor, and incumbents Lynne Farmer and Jim Tanner, who are each seeking three-year terms as city council members.
Paw Paw man dies in 2-car collision
An 18-year-old Paw Paw area man died from injuries he suffered in a two-vehicle collision, Thursday, in Almena Township.
The accident was reported at 5:40 p.m. at the intersection of County Road 652 and 44th Street, according to a news release from the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department.
At this point, investigators are not sure how the collision occurred. They say alcohol/drug use is not believed to be a factor.
The victim, Riley Manning, had to be extricated from his vehicle, which was pinned against a tree. He died during the collision.
The driver of the other vehicle, a 44-year-old woman from Decatur, suffered back and minor neck injuries and was taken to Bronson Lakeview Hospital in Paw Paw. Three juvenile passengers in her vehicle were not injured.
The accident remains under investigation.
Woman dies in traffic crash on I-94
UPDATE: The woman who died has been identified as Esmeralda Bermudez, 32, of Traverse City.
A woman died this morning in a traffic accident on Interstate 94 near the Decatur exit.
Troopers from the Michigan State Police are investigating the crash that occurred at 10:15 a.m. near mile marker 57, according to a news release.
The crash occurred when the woman's Jeep Grand Cherokee struck a Ford Edge in the rear left corner while passing. The Jeep then lost control and ran off the freeway to the north prior to striking a tree. Both vehicles were westbound prior to the crash. The victim died at the scene of the accident. The driver and passenger of the Ford were not injured. The crash remains under investigation and the identity of the deceased is not being released until family has been notified.
South Haven Health Care pursues partnership with Bronson Healthcare
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
South Haven Health System may soon be a part of Bronson Healthcare System.
The hospital's Board of Trustees, Monday, voted to pursue a partnership with the Kalamazoo-based healthcare system to provide more comprehensive care for patients and to ensure long-term financial stability for the locally based hospital.
The board made its decision after interviewing several potential regional partners, according to Dennis Palgen, chair of South Haven Health System's board of trustees.
“Our hometown healthcare will be stronger and better with this affiliation, and it will provide additional access to Bronson’s advanced diagnostics, specialty care and resources to better serve our patients,” Palgen said.
The hospital board of trustees has discussed the possibility of affiliating or merging with a larger, regional healthcare system for the past two years.
“So many influences are challenging our existence as an independent hospital,” Palgen said when the board first announced plans to seek a regional partner. “There have been many unprecedented changes from the Affordable Care Act. It has put a strain on hospitals. There are lower reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid and people now have higher deductibles to pay. They're not seeking medical care, As a result our volumes have diminished but expenses continue.”
In January, the South Haven Health System's Board of Trustees announced plans to find a strategic healthcare partner. Potential partners were identified in February through a request for proposal process and interviews were conducted earlier this month.
Bronson is a likely choice for a partnership, according to Joanne Schroeder, president and CEO of South Haven Health System.
“South Haven Health System and Bronson have a 30-plus year history of working together cooperatively to improve access to healthcare services for the residents of South Haven and the surrounding communities,” Schroeder said. “As healthcare continues to evolve, our organization will be better positioned to adapt to change as part of a regional system that will help us continue to provide coordinated, quality care in this community.”
Currently, Bronson provides several physicians for inpatient services at South Haven Health System. It also has a contract to provide pathology services not offered by the local hospital and has helped with implementation of a software system that has allowed South Haven Health System to digitize all patient records and clinical data.
Over the coming months, South Haven Health System and Bronson Healthcare will begin to work out details of the proposed partnership through a series of processes that include developing a letter of intent and conducting due diligence, according to Schroeder.
Once terms for an agreement are reached, the transaction will then be subject to regulatory approvals and will also require a public vote to remove South Haven Health Care from the hospital authority.
Currently, taxpayers in the hospital's authority area are assessed a millage that provides approximately $500,000, annually, to help support the hospital, according to Schroeder. The authority includes the City of South Haven, City of Bangor and townships of South Haven, Bangor, Arlington, Casco, Columbia, Covert and Geneva.
If the ballot request is approved by voters, citizens in the communities that make up the authority will no longer have to pay taxes to support the hospital.
It is too early to tell if enough details will be completed in time for the ballot request to go before voters in the Nov. 8 election. The election may have to wait until sometime in 2017.
“(We) will keep the community informed as work toward formalizing the partnership progresses and a timeline is established,” Schroeder said.
South Haven Health System isn't alone in considering an affiliation with a larger institution.
“Over the last 5 years there has been a 70 percent increase in merger and affiliation activities nationwide amongst hospitals,” Schroeder said in an earlier interview.
Several of those mergers have occurred right here in southwest Michigan.
In 2007, Lakeview Hospital in Paw Paw merged with Bronson Healthcare in Kalamazoo and is now called Bronson Lakeview. In 2010, Spectrum Health acquired Zeeland Community Hospital, while Watervliet Community Hospital was acquired by St. Joseph-based Lakeland HealthCare that same year. Two years ago, Holland Hospital developed a formal collaborative agreement with Spectrum.
Schroeder anticipates that if the partnership with Bronson is formed, it will be similar to the partnership that occurred with Lakeview Hospital merged with Bronson.
“Bronson Lakeview Hospital was an authority hospital also,” Schroeder said, regarding taxpayer money being used to help support the hospital. “Both organizations are in Van Buren County and while our footprint of services is not exact, it is very similar.”
Firefighters from South Haven Area Emergency Services and Covert Township Fire Department battle a fire, Monday evening, at Lakeshore Appliance in South Haven Township. (Photo courtesy of South Haven Area Emergency Services)
Fire destroys South Haven business; high winds blow plane off runway at South Haven regional airport
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Monday night's thunderstorm, accompanied by high winds, caused a fire that destroyed a South Haven Township business, and created havoc for an airplane pilot trying to make an emergency landing at South Haven Regional Airport.
Both incidents happened within minutes of one another, keeping South Haven area firefighters busy.
Firefighters from South Haven Area Emergency Services (SHAES) were first called to the airport at 9:38 p.m. when a plane, piloted by Patrick Jarman of Mt. Pleasant, attempted to make an emergency landing, but ended up going off the runway.
Jarman was on his way from Kansas to Mt. Pleasant when the storm blew in, according to Dave Johnson, manager of South Haven Regional Airport.
Both South Haven Police and SHAES responded to the report of the emergency landing.
“He (Jarman) was in contact with the Chicago tower,” said Tony Marsala, deputy fire chief for SHAES. “Chicago told him he had this little window to land at South Haven and that hopefully they could get him in there. No sooner had he hit the ground when he got hit with wind gusts. When he touched down the winds coming from behind hm were so strong he couldn't get the plane to stop.”
Jarman was not injured, however, his 1998 Rockwell Commander suffered damage to the propeller and wheels.
While first responders were dealing with the plane incident, they received another call at 9:42 p.m. regarding a structure fire at Lakeshore Appliance, at the corner of County Road 380 and Blue Star Highway.
Firefighters arrived to find the building's attic totally engulfed in flames. No one suffered injuries, however the single-story building and much of its contents were destroyed.
“The entire roof was burned off and there was substantial damage,” Marsala said of the business, owned by Mike and Donna Springer of South Haven.
The fire occurred when a tree fell on electrical wires leading to the building, near the attic.
“When we arrived flames were coming out of both gable ends (of the roof) and through the vents,” Marsala said. “His (Springer's) nephew heard a tree crash and then saw arcing going on (where the triplex wires feed electrical power to the building). The wires shorted out.”
For Springer, the loss of his business and building was devastating.
“It's a total loss,” he said.
“We've been in the appliance business for 30 years,” Springer went on to say. “My parents originally owned it. My dad and I built this building. I took the business over when my mom passed away three years ago.”
Springer said he got to the scene of the fire several minutes after it started.
“It went extremely fast,” he said, regarding the blaze. “Our pump house sits close by, maybe 100-200 feet from the building. I grabbed a hose. But it didn't have enough pressure (to fight the fire).”
Springer could not say for sure if his family will rebuild the business. The building and its contents were not insured.
“We couldn't afford it,” Springer said. “People say insurance is cheap but it's not cheap for a business.”
News of the Springer's loss touched Lindy DeVries, a friend of the family, who started a Go Fund Me site, “Help the Spring Family Rebuild.”
“This business is the livelihood of the Springer family, whom have given back so much to our community, DeVries wrote on the Go Fund Me site. “They are great people who always look out for others and help when they can.”
Over the years, Mike and Donna Springer and their family, have volunteered for many school and community-related activities. They are familiar faces at South Haven High School football games, where family members help Donna sell tickets and pass out programs. Mike has also volunteered time to help the high school's drama department for the past two decades.
In addition to making donations to the Go Fund Me site, people can drop off donations at Little Oscars Custom Apparel, 452 Blue Star Hwy., South Haven.
Unwanted prescription drug drop-off day planned
South Haven area residents will have the opportunity to drop off unwanted prescription drugs during Drug Take Back day, Saturday, April 30.
Unwanted, unneeded or expired prescription drugs can be dropped off from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at South Haven Wellness Center, 950 S. Bailey Ave. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.
Many people are not aware that medicines remaining in home cabinets can be highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse, according to Van Buren County Sheriff Dale Gribler.
Rates of prescription drug abuse in the United States are at alarmingly high rates, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, many people do not know how to properly dispose of their unused medicine: often flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash — both pose potential safety and health hazards.
Last September, Americans turned in 350 tons (over 702,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at more than 5,000 sites operated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and more than 3,800 of its state and local law enforcement partners. Overall, in its 10 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 5.5 million pounds — more than 2,750 tons — of pills.
Throughout the year, unwanted prescription drugs can be dropped off at Red Med boxes throughout the South Haven area. Red Med boxes are located at Hometown Bangor Pharmacy, 3 W. Monroe St., Bangor; Value Drugs, 08337 M-140 Hwy., in South Haven; and the South Haven Police Department, 90 Blue Star Hwy.
For more information, go to www.vanburencountysheriff.com
• Controlled, non-controlled, and over the counter substances.
• May dispose of medication in it original container or by removing the medication from the container and disposing of it directly into the disposal box.
• If an original container is submitted, we encourage you to remove any identifying information from the prescription label.
• All solid dosage pharmaceutical products and liquids in consumer containers. Please make certain that the caps are tightly sealed.
WIIL NOT COLLECT:
• Intra-venous solutions, injectibles, and syringes will not be accepted due to potential hazard posed by blood-borne pathogens.
Suspects arrested for armed robbery, killing two dogs in Allegan County
CLYDE TWP. — Two suspects face multiple criminal charges for allegedly breaking into a woman's home, stealing items from it and killing her two dogs.
Michael Mills and Jamie McDonald were arraigned Monday in 58th District Court in Allegan, according to a news release from Allegan County Sheriff's office. Bond for both men were set at $100,000, each.
Mills was arraigned for armed robbery, assault with intent to rob, first-degree home invasion and two counts of killing an animal.
McDonald was arraigned for armed robbery, assault with intent to rob and home invasion.
The criminal charges against the two men stem from the report of the robbery, April 4, at a residence in the 4800 block of 118th Avenue in Clyde Township.
The female victim told Allegan County sheriff's deputies that she was home alone when the two suspects, armed with knives, allegedly forced their way into her home. One of the suspects held the victim down while the other ransacked the home.
The woman did not suffer injuries in the incident, but her two dogs — a German Shepard and Black Lab — attempted to protect her and were stabbed by one of the suspects, according to Undersheriff Frank Baker.
One of the dogs died at the scene. The other one was taken to a veterinarian for treatment, but died a short time later.
Detectives are still investigating to determine whether or not there are any other suspects. It is believed the home invasion and robbery was not random and that the suspects had prior knowledge of the existence and location of items stolen from the home, according to sheriff's department Captain Mike Larsen.
Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, speaks to advocates and family members during the annual Michigan Crime Victims Vigil Wednesday evening.
Senate OK's Schuitmaker bill to create Michigan Crime Victims' Rights Week
State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker was joined by dozens of elected officials, law enforcement officers, advocates, and friends and family members of victims Wednesday evening at the state Capitol to celebrate the 28th annual Michigan Crime Victims Vigil.
The event is hosted by the Crime Victim Foundation and takes place at the Capitol every April as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
“For the past 11 years, I have attended this event as a member of the Crime Victims Caucus,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Participating in the vigil has always been an honor and is a very moving experience for all who attend. Crime has long-lasting effects, and those who participate in this vigil have had their lives changed forever.
“Meeting with families and friends who have lost loved ones to senseless crime and hearing their stories gives me a much greater understanding of the pain that they feel. I am grateful they are willing to share their experiences.”
Schuitmaker on Wednesday also introduced Senate Resolution 161, which designates the week of April 10 – 16 as Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Michigan. SR 161 had a host of bipartisan co-sponsors and was unanimously adopted by the Senate.
“National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is being commemorated across the country and Michigan is no exception,” Schuitmaker said. “I am proud of the work our state has done to protect victims and their families and I was once again humbled to be able to participate in this event.”
Bloomingdale woman, two children injured in accident
State troopers are investigating the cause of an accident that injured a woman from Bloomingdale and two young children who were in the vehicle she was driving.
Brandy Chandler, 26 was traveling on County Road 665 in Bloomingdale Township, at 9:45 p.m., Tuesday evening, when she apparently lost control of her vehicle, which ran off the roadway and overturned.
Chandler was seriously injured in the accident and taken by Life EMS to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, according to a news release from the Michigan State Police in Paw Paw. The 3-year-old boy suffered serious injuries after being ejected from the vehicle and was airflighted to Bronson where he remains in critical condition. The 5-year-old girl suffered minor injuries and was taken by ambulance to Bronson. Neither child was in a child-safety seat, according to the news release.
Police say at this point alcohol does not appear to be a factor in the accident.
Troopers were assisted at the scene by Van Buren Sheriff's deputies, Bloomingdale Fire Department, Life EMS and Pride Care EMS.
MDOT plans to repair Business Loop 196 in South Haven
Just when it looked like the Michigan Department of Transportation would only have one project to undertake this year in the South Haven area, it is adding a second one.
MDOT plans to repair concrete sections of the 1.7-mile section of Business Loop 196, starting April 25, according to Nick Schirripa, communications representative for MDOT. The news comes on the heels of plans in September to replace the Black River bridge on Blue Star Highway.
The stretch of the business loop that will be repaved extends from Blue Star Highway to Aylworth Avenue and includes Phoenix Street, Broadway and LaGrange Avenue. One lane of traffic will be open in each direction during the repaving project. More details of the $700,000 project will be announced next week.
LMC suspends president
Spielvogel just started her 4th month in post
By RALPH HEIBUTZKI
BENTON TOWNSHIP — Only three months after she started, Lake Michigan College President Jennifer Spielvogel has been taken off the job for reasons that haven’t been stated publicly. The LMC Board suspended Spielvogel immediately after a special meeting Friday, according to an LMC statement released that afternoon. “LMC has a strong and dedicated team, and phenomenal community support. We are confident in our ability to continue growing, innovating and serving our students without compromise,” LMC Board Chairwoman Mary Jo Tomasini said. The college’s statement didn’t specify what factors led to Spielvogel’s suspension, or whether she has been – or will be – fired from the job she started on Jan. 1. “As an ongoing personnel matter pending a final resolution, specific contributing factors leading up to the decision are confidential,” the college’s statement said. “The Board of Trustees is working closely with college and community stakeholders to determine the best steps moving forward.” The announcement of Spielvogel’s suspension followed a meeting notice that Friday’s session had been called “to discuss a written legal opinion from the college’s attorney related to an employment matter,” but gave no other details. The board sounded a similar note in a letter from Tomasini that went out Friday to faculty, staff and students, which WSJM’s Pat Moody – a former LMC trustee – posted in his “Moody on the Market” column. The letter emphasized that specific reasons for the board’s decision had to stay confidential, but that “please know that board – after long and careful deliberation – acted with the utmost consideration for the best interest of the college, or employees, students and the communities we serve,” it stated. Employees with any work-related concerns arising from Spielvogel’s suspension are being asked to check with their department’s vice president.
Beyond that issue, the board will “continue to communicate updates as soon as information is available,” Tomasini said, in the letter.
The board voted in December 2015 to hire Spielvogel to replace president Bob Harrison, who’d led LMC since 2009, and retired after a 16-year career with the institution.
Before coming to LMC, Spielvogel served as vice president of evidence and inquiry since 2007 at Cuyahoga Community College in Ohio.
Two dogs die trying to protect owner from alleged armed robbery
CLYDE TWP. — Two dogs are dead after helping to save their owner from an alleged armed robbery that occurred Monday morning at a residence in Clyde Township.
Allegan County Sheriff's Department received a report of the robbery at 8:52 a.m. at the home in the 4800 block of 118th Avenue, east of Pearl.
The female victim said she was home alone when two suspects allegedly forced their way into the residence. The woman told police the suspects were armed with knives and were not identifiable because they were wearing dark clothing and dark hoodies, as well as face masks and gloves.
One of the suspects held the victim down while the other ransacked the home.
The woman did not suffer injuries in the incident, but her two dogs — a German Shepard and Black Lab — attempted to protect her and were stabbed by one of the suspects, according to Undersheriff Frank Baker.
One of the dogs died at the scene. The other one was taken to a veterinarian for treatment, but died a short time later.
Deputies are still looking for the suspects and are not releasing information about what may have been stolen from the home. They were told by the woman that the suspects fled in a silver-colored small passenger car. One of the suspects may also have injuries consistent with being scratched and bitten by a dog.
Nesbitt hosts office hours in South Haven, Bangor
State Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton plans to host office hours this week in South Haven and Bangor.
Nesbitt will be at Cafe Julia at 9 a.m., Thursday. The cafe is at 561 Huron St., in South Haven.
He then will meet with Bangor residents at 11 a.m., Thursday, at the Railroad Cafe, 555 Railroad St.
Bangor marching band travels to Disney World to perform
While area students enjoy spring break this week, members of the Bangor High School Marching Band traveled to Orlando, Fla., this past weekend, to perform at Disney World. The band members are shown in the photo, above, prior to embarking on their trip. The band not only performed in a parade at Disney, they also took part in music workshops, ate at Hard Rock Cafe and saw The Blue Men perform in concert. The band is expected to return from their trip later this week. (Photo by Kelly Weber)
Dyckman drawbridge repairs scheduled this week
Motorists who want to access Dyckman Avenue drawbridge Wednesday and Thursday may want to find an alternative route.
On both those days, contractors will be repairing navigation lights on the bridge, resulting in intermittent closures for vehicles and pedestrians. The channel will also be closed to boats during the intermittent closures.
Motorists are asked to detour along Dunkley Avenue, Wells Street, Blue Star Highway, Baseline Road and North Shore Drive.
The City will make every effort to minimize traffic disruptions Wednesday and Thursday, however,
For additional information, contact Larry Halberstadt, city engineer, 637-0770.
Vandals damage historic gravestone markers in Lacota Cemetery
LACOTA — Vandals damaged more than 30 historic cemetery headstones in one of Van Buren County's cemeteries this past week.
Cemetery sexton Peter Sorenson discovered the damage at Lacota Cemetery, Tuesday, and notified the Van Buren County Sheriff's department.
“This is a shame, why would people look to destroy the history of our ancestors?” asked Nancy Whaley, township supervisor.
Thirty-three headstones were either tipped over or damaged, according to a news release from Van Buren County Sheriff's department.
Deputies believe the vandalism occurred sometime Saturday evening, March 19, but have few leads as to who committed the crime. The vandals were most likely driving in a pickup truck or SUV.
Lacota Cemetery is located on Baseline Road near 61st Street. Approximately 350 people are buried in the cemetery. Grave markers date back to the late 1800s.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department, 269-657-3101.
Man arrested after attacking Ganges Twp. woman
GANGES TWP. — A 54-year-old Ganges Township woman was taken to the hospital this morning after being attacked by her boyfriend.
The attack occurred at 2:30 a.m. at the woman's home, in the 1300 block of 66th Street, according to a report from the Allegan County Sheriff's Department.
Deputies went to the location after the woman ran to a neighbor's residence for help.
According to the sheriff's news release, the woman came home at 2:30 a.m. and was tackled to the ground by the 53-year-old suspect. He then poured what deputies believe was acid on her face and chest. The suspect made “several unusual statements” to her and then fled the scene in the woman's vehicle, according to Undersheriff Frank Baker.
Prior to the woman's arrival home, the suspect caused a considerable amount of damage to the residence and to items in the home.
Later this morning, law enforcement agencies from Berrien County Sheriff’s Office and Watervliet and Coloma police departments found the victim’s vehicle in Berrien County and located the suspect, who was arrested on the following charges: torture; home invasion; domestic violence - third offense; and for being a habitual offender.
Baker anticipates the suspect will be arraigned Thursday in 57th District Court in Allegan.
This story will be updated when more information is received from the sheriff's department.
Funeral services set for former South Haven man who died in car accident
Funeral services will take place Tuesday for a former South Haven man who died in a car accident this past Friday, March 11.
The funeral service for Corey Aaron Crawford, 26, will be at 1 p.m. at Filbrandt Family Funeral Home, 1076 S. Bailey Ave., South Haven. Visitation is scheduled today from 6-8 p.m. at the funeral home.
Crawford died in a single-car accident when his vehicle hit a large utility pole and flipped onto its side, according to an article in the Herald-Palladium.
The accident occurred shortly after noon on Red Arrow Highway in Bridgman.
Police are still investigating why his vehicle veered into the pole. Crawford's 6-year-old daughter was in the vehicle, as well, and sustained several injuries. She was taken to the hospital but will not require surgery.
Crawford and his wife have been living in Troy, Ala., where he worked for Spurlock Iron and Scrap. He enjoyed playing guitar and spending time with his daughter.
Corey is survived by his wife – Desiree Crawford of Troy, Ala.; daughter – Lillian Crawford; parents – Tim and Nellie Crawford of South Haven; siblings – Tara Monter of Sharon, Pa., Nicole (Phil) Quandt of South Haven, Derrick (Ashley) Crawford of South Haven and Mellissa (Albert) Gaines of Coloma. Sever aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews also survive.
Contributions may be made in Corey’s memory to the Crawford Family, 1076 S. Bailey Avenue, South Haven, Michigan 49090. Kindly share your thoughts and memories on the family’s online guestbook at www.FilbrandtFFH.com.
Armani May of South Haven chosen as Mr. Blossomtime
South Haven High School senior Armani May (third from left) has been crowned Mr. Blossomtime for 2016. May earned the title at the Mr. Blossomtime competition, Sunday, at Lake Michigan College's Mendel Center in Benton Harbor. Armani is shown with the Mr. Blossomtime Court. From left are Nice Guy George Smallbone of Eau Claire/Sodus; second runner-up Romeo Thompson of Berrien Springs and first runner-up Eric Eagle of St. Joseph. (Photo by K West Photography)
Middle school student faces criminal charges after writing threat on bathroom wall
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
A Baseline Middle School student is facing several criminal charges after writing a threatening statement on a bathroom wall earlier this week.
The female student was taken to a juvenile detention center, Tuesday, following a police investigation of the incident, according to South Haven Interim Police Chief Natalie Thompson. The girl has since been released to the custody of her parents and will face a felony charge for making a false report of a terroristic threat as well as malicious destruction of property. The charges are being filed through Van Buren County Juvenile Court.
The incident involving the student began at 11 a.m. when a statement about a possible shooting was found written on a bathroom wall at the middle school, according to a statement issued by South Haven Public Schools Superintendent Robert Herrera. The school's resource officer and several law enforcement officers immediately responded, secured the building and began investigating. At 12:30 p.m., they apprehended the girl who wrote the statement. Although students remained at school during the investigation, police continued to stay at the school until late afternoon to ensure safety.
Thompson would not comment on the exact wording of the message, but said, “it was threatening enough that we were called.”
The incident on Tuesday marked the second time in less than a month that a threat to the school was found written on a bahtroom wall at Baseline Middle School.
The other threat occurred Feb. 22 when staff found a bomb threat faintly written in a bathroom stall. Police, along with several teachers secured the building and checked various areas of the school, according to a news release from Principal William Stitt.
“Nothing was found in the search, but we take these threats seriously,” Stitt noted.
Herrera reiterated Stitt's comments.
“Our students' safety is the District's first priority, and we will take every precaution necessary to ensure their safety,” he said in his news release.
Police, too, have to take the threats seriously, even though the threats have so far turned out to be hoaxes, according to Thompson.
“The one time you don't respond, something very serious could happen,” she said. “Twenty years ago we didn't have to deal with this,” Thompson went on to say regarding the escalation of mass shootings that have occurred in the past two decades at schools and colleges throughout the United States. “Now, this is what we deal with.”
Due to mechanical problems with the Tribune delivery truck a number of South Haven Tribune customers will not receive their Tribune until Monday. We apologize for the inconvenience.
Karen Tolen of South Haven shovels the end of her driveway after 3-4 inches of snow fell today. An additional 3-4 inches are expected to fall this evening.
Latest winter storm forces closure of schools, creates hazardous driving conditions in SW Michigan
March weather roared in like a lion today forcing southwestern Michigan residents to deal with another winter storm.
Today's wintery blast started Monday evening when snow began to fall leading to 3-4 inches of accumulation by this morning. The heavy snowfall led to hazardous road conditions and the closure of area schools, including ones in South Haven, Bangor and Bloomingdale.
A winter storm warning issued Monday for southwestern Michigan will remain into effect until 1 a.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Another 3-4 inches of snow is predicted to fall in South Haven this evening, while 4-6 inches is predicted for the rest of Van Buren County, Allegan County and Kalamazoo County. Wind gusts of 25 miles an hour or more are expected this afternoon and evening, as well as freezing rain at times.
Snow is expected to taper off by Wednesday morning, but could still linger along the lakeshore.
Daytime temperatures are expected to hover into the mid-20s Wednesday with a 40 percent chance of snow. Temperatures will rise slightly during the day, Thursday, with a 50 percent chance of snow.
Chances of snow are expected to end Sunday, when the National Weather Service predicts it will be partly sunny with a high near 40.
Firefighters put out a fire that occurred Tuesday evening in a pole barn in Casco Township. (Photo courtesy of South Haven Area Emergency Services)
Fire destroys pole barn in Casco Township
CASCO TWP. — A fire destroyed a large pole barn and caused minor damage to a residence Tuesday evening on 68th Street.
South Haven Area Emergency Services responded to a 911 call at 7:30 p.m. at the residence at 1012 68th St.
When they arrived, flames were coming through the roof.
“The homeowner was home and by the time the fire was noticed, it was well involved inside the barn,” said Ron Wise, fire chief for South Haven Area Emergency Services.
Even though the home was only eight fee away from the 100-by-32-foot pole barn, firefighters were able to save the dwelling.
“The home did suffer some fire damage to the outside and minor damage to the inside ceiling,” Wise said. “Rapid response from SHAES and Ganges Fire Department saved the home from being destroyed. Damage to the home was minor enough to allow the homeowner to live in the home after the fire.”
Firefighters are still investigating the cause of the blaze.
Bangor Community Fire Department and Lee Township Fire Department also provided assistance in putting out the fire.
Police arrest suspect in shooting incident in Allegan County
ALLEGAN — Police have arrested a suspect they believe wsa involved in a shooting incident that occurred Monday at a park in Allegan County.
Allegan County Undersheriff Frank Baker reported that the suspect was arrested Monday afternoon. The suspect is alleged to have shot a 37-year-old Kalamazoo area man shortly before 1:30 a.m., Monday, at Little John Lake county park on 113th Avenue, southwest of the City of Allegan.
The victim, who suffered non-life threatening injuries, went to Allegan General Hospital which then notified 911. The victim then was taken to Bronson Hospital in Kalamazoo for further treatment.
The shooting resulted from a disagreement between the victim and the suspect over the recent sale of a weapon, according to Baker.
NRC sides with Entergy in federal agency's ruling involving supervisors' wrongful termination
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
COVERT — In November the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration ruled that two Palisades nuclear power plant security supervisors were wrongfully terminated in 2013.
But the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission also investigated the allegations and has reached a different conclusion.
The NRC recently sent Palisades' owner Entergy a letter stating that it could not substantiate the men were discriminated against and in turn wrongfully terminated.
The newest information is consistent with the NRC's original investigation from 2013. The NRC reopened the investigation last year after receiving additional information requiring follow-up, the NRC stated.
Entergy is appealing the OSHA ruling.
Meanwhile, NRC officials told Entergy they are concerned the OSHA ruling may affect the willingness of plant employees to raise safety and security issues.
The NRC is asking Entergy to submit plans, within 30 days, detailing how it will address the possible adverse impact of the OSHA ruling, in the next 30 days.
OSHA ruled that Chris Mikusko and Roland Ruby are due back wages with interest, and ordered Palisades' owner Entergy to reinstate their jobs.
In addition, the ruling ordered Entergy to pay the men $5,000 each in compensatory damages, and to pay their attorney fees.
Regarding the men's termination, they alleged they were fired after raising concerns about a fellow security supervisor who was allegedly working without proper firearms qualifications. OSHA agreed there was evidence to support their claim.
Palisades is along Lake Michigan in Covert Township.2.8.16
Family escapes fire at apartment complex
Smoke detectors played a key role in helping a family escape from a fire that started in their home, this past Friday, at Park Meadows Apartments, in South Haven Township.
The fire began at approximately 2 p.m. in an upstairs bedroom, according to a news release from South Haven Area Emergency Services. Smoke detectors alerted the family of three adults and three children and they escaped from the home.
Firefighters arrived within three minutes os being dispatched to find the fire mostly contained by the apartment complex's fire-sprinkler system.
The sprinkler system prevented the fire from extending into the attic space above the bedroom and from spreading to the rest of the building's seven apartments.
“We are still working on the exact cause, but it has been ruled accidental,” said Ron Wise, fire chief for South Haven Area Emergency Services. “(We) cannot stress enough the importance of having working smoke detectors on all floors of a home and the presence of a fire sprinkler system to help contain a fire in the home.”
The American Red Cross is helping the family, which did not have renters insurance.
South Haven Area Emergency Services was assisted at the scene by South Haven Police Department and South Haven Public Works department.
Principal faces criminal sexual conduct charges involving teacher, para-pro
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
ALLEGAN — A Decatur man, who is the principal of a behavioral learning center in Allegan, faces a number of charges for alleged criminal sexual conduct involving a teacher and a para-professional.
Jonathan Garcia, 34, was arraigned, Wednesday, in 57th District Court in Allegan, on 11 counts of criminal sexual conduct, according to a court clerk.
The first female victim said her allegations stemmed from an incident that occurred Sept. 1, 2014. Charges Garcia face from that incident include three counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and three counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
The second female victim's allegations stemmed from an incident that occurred Sept. 1, 2015. Charges Garcia faces from that incident are five counts of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.
Garcia's bond was set for $25,000 for each victim. He remains in jail and his next court date is Feb. 11.
Detectives arrested Garcia, Monday, Feb. 1, after the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency superintendent's office heard the allegations of sexual contact between him and the two female staff members.
Garcia has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation that will be conducted by the Educational Service Agency, as well as the criminal charges he faces.
News of the allegations against Garcia surprised Education Service Agency Superintendent Mark Dobias.
“It's absolutely shocking,” he said. “Certainly we would not tolerate any behavior along these lines.”
Garcia has served as principal of Hillside Learning and Behavior Center in Allegan since July of 2013.
According to Dobias, he has been an “administrator in good standing.”
Bloomingdale woman becomes first female hunter chosen as a winner in the Pure Michigan Hunt drawing
A woman from Bloomingdale won a pocket full of licenses and more than $4,000 worth of hunting gear from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources as part of its 2016 Pure Michigan Hunt contest.
Makayla Fleetwood's name was chosen, along with two other hunters, in the 7th annual drawing.
“I was shocked at first,” said Fleetwood, who became the first female hunter chosen in the history of the drawing. “I didn’t think this would ever happen to me. I am very grateful for this opportunity.” The other two winners were Jeff Kresnak of Caledonia and Mike Scherzer of Freeland.
Each winner in the drawing will receive elk, bear, spring and fall turkey, and antlerless deer licenses for 2016. They – along with a companion hunter — also will get first pick opening morning of the waterfowl season at any of Michigan's premier managed waterfowl hunt areas, according to Jordyn Richardson of the DNR. Other prizes they will receive include a camouflage pop-up blind, a crossbow, 12-gauge camouflage shotgun, outdoor camera, waterfowl mount, bolt-action rifle, Carhartt jackets and bib overalls, shotgun case, $400 worth of gift cards, turkey hunting gear, hunting hats, traps and hunting calls, and a two-day, two-night guided hunt. The prizes were donated by businesses and organizations throughout Michigan.
The three winners will be awarded their prizes at the next Natural Resources Commission meeting Feb. 11 in Detroit.
A total of 13,055 people purchased Pure Michigan Hunt applications, for 2016, which generated more than $176,000 for wildlife habitat restoration and improvements in Michigan, according to The 2016 drawing had a total of 35,336 applications purchased by 13,055 individuals, which generated more than $176,000 to help wildlife habitat restoration and improvements in Michigan.
Applications for the next Pure Michigan Hunt drawing will be available starting March 1. For more information, visit www.mi.gov/pmh.
Actors are shown in a scene from the movie "The Finest Hours" after being rescued by a 36-foot Coast Guard boat. The actual Coast Guard boat used in the film will be on display at the Michigan Maritime Museum, starting June 11.
Maritime museum lands boat used in Disney film, 'The Finest Hours'
By BECKY KARK
Editor and general manager
Michigan Maritime Museum takes pride in its collection of historic Coast Guard vessels, but the newest one to be displayed in June holds special meaning.
It is a restored motor life boat featured in the new Disney film, “The Finest Hours,” that opens Friday in theaters nationwide.
“For us to get this boat the same year the movie comes out is wonderful,” said Patti Montgomery, executive director of the museum.
“The Finest Hours” tells the true story of a daring Coast Guard rescue in February of 1952 off the coast of Cape Cod. Based on the 2009 international bestseller by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, the movie recounts the fate of two oil tankers, the Pendleton and the Fort Mercer, that found themselves engulfed in a terrible storm in February. Not prepared to withstand the nor'easter, both tankers ended up splitting in two, leaving 84 men trapped at sea.
Thanks to the heroic efforts of crew from motor life boat CG -6500 and the crew of a surfboat from the Coast Guard Yukutat, nearly all of the tankers' crewmen were heroically rescued.
The CG-36500 still exists but could not be used for the movie, so Disney turned its attention to Jeff Shook, a well-known restorer of Coast Guard vessels. Shook, who live in Fenton, owned a seaworthy identical boat, CG-36460, which caught Disney's eye.
“The historically registered original CG-36500 boat couldn’t be used, leaving my boat Disney’s only option,” Shook said. “Basically without my boat, they told me the movie cannot be made.”
Shook's decision to let Disney borrow his boat for the filming turned out to be good news for the movie studio, but bad news for the museum.
“Several years ago he was going to allow the museum to exhibit his boat on a long-term basis, but when Disney told him the movie was based on a true story about a Coast Guard rescue, it was an offer he felt he had to take,” Montgomery said.
“These Coast Guard guys on the CG-36500 performed an amazing feat that night as well as other Coast Guard ships, planes, stations, etc. who were all involved,” Shook said. “That night 70 out of 84 people were rescued from these two ships with 32 alone on the small Coast Guard 36500 Motor Life Boat.”
Now that the movie has been released, Shook is making good on his original offer and plans to bring the boat to the museum in June so that people can learn more about the famous Coast Guard rescue and the boat itself.
The boat will actually be in the water, ready for tours, as part of the museum's summertime exhibit about the CG-36460.
The exhibit will debut June 11 and will include a variety of displays and activities.
“We will have Coast Guard auxiliary members that will give onboard tours,” Montgomery said. “We are in the process of getting the boat licensed and have volunteer captains coming forth to give rides. We also will have a 42-foot Coast Guard boat coming from Grand Haven.”
Winter storm causes area schools to close
Many students in Allegan and Van Buren counties got to enjoy a snow day today — the first one of the year — thanks to a winter storm that dropped several inches of snow on Southwest Michigan, Monday evening. And more snow is on the way today as the storm continues.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning through 7 p.m. tonight, estimating 4 to 6 more inches will fall. Coupled with 30 mile-per-hour wind gusts, and wind chills of 0 degrees, driving will continue to be dangerous for motorists. North-south roads will be prone to drifting and near-whiteout conditions are predicted at times.
Snow will continue Wednesday, with an accumulation of two more inches.
Some relief will be in sight, Thursday, when temperatures rise to the mid 30s. Rain will enter the picture Thursday evening and Friday when temperatures could hit 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. However, the precipitation will likely turn to freezing rain Friday evening, and a chance of snow showers could occur on Saturday.
Lighthouse restoration continues
Workers from Mihm Enterprises got a favorable break in the weather this week to complete sandblasting of the second- and third-story levels of the South Haven lighthouse. The workers planned to beginning painting the interior levels today. (Photo by Tom Renner)
Teen dies after sled collides into a tree
A teenager died this past weekend following a sledding accident in Allegan County.
Mason Dykstra, 15, was sledding with his 19-year-old brother in their yard in the 5300 block of 133rd Avenue in Manlius Township when the accident occurred shortly before noon, Saturday.
Family members called 911 about the accident. When Allegan County Sheriff's deputies arrived they were told that the 19-year-old brother was driving a sport utility vehicle with a sled attached to the rear of the vehicle, via a rope. While Mason was being pulled on the sled he collided with a tree in the yard.
Mason was conscious after the incident and complained of some pain, according to the sheriff's department news release. He was treated by emergency medical responders and taken by helicopter to a hospital in Grand Rapids. However, during the flight his condition suddenly worsened and he died upon arrival at the hospital.
Alcohol does not appear to be a factor in the accident. The incident remains under investigation and the case will be submitted to the prosecutor’s office for review.
The photo above shows an architectural rendering of what the proposed Dole processing facility would look like. It is one of three new businesses proposed for South Haven's industrial and business park on 2nd Avenue.
Plans progress for cold storage, fruit processing facilities in South Haven
By ANDREW LERSTEN
For the Tribune
Plans are moving ahead for a long-anticipated fruit processing and cold storage facility that could bring up to 200 jobs to South Haven.
MBG Marketing in 2012 bought 42 acres on the north side of 2nd Avenue from the city.
City officials said MBG plans to sell the eastern 25 acres of the 2nd Avenue site to Hanson Logistics, which in turn would lease space to Dole. MBG, which does business as Naturipe, would also have a processing facility.
City Manager Brian Dissette said MBG's property sale to Hanson Logistics may have recently occurred, but he could not immediately verify that.
Earlier this year, MBG Marketing secured a utility incentive deal from the city Local Development Finance Authority worth up to $150,000 in utility hookup and related fees.
The original incentive deal was set to expire this month. So in November, due to delays in the process, the company asked for a six-month extension of the utility incentive package and the LDFA approved it. The $150,000 deal would not cover all of the utility hookup fees, officials said earlier.
No formal plans have yet been submitted to the city, but at an LDFA meeting in June project developers said initial plans call for 150,000 square feet of processing space for both MBG and Dole. Future phases call for a cold storage facility.
The city has specifically targeted the agricultural industry in its economic development recruitment efforts.
"The city is thrilled about the potential of bolstering resources for the agricultural community," said City Manager Brian Dissette said earlier.
In anticipation of such a development, the city has been investing heavily in its electric system. An additional transformer was installed at the 2nd Avenue substation, Dissette said.
MBG officials earlier said South Haven was chosen primarily due to its location along Interstate 196, and proximity to the association headquarters in Grand Junction.
The 2nd Avenue site is part of the city's I-196 Business Park and is zoned light industrial.
Suspect takes $2,000 worth of items from home
A man dressed in black made off with approximately $2,000 worth of items from a home in Columbia Township, according to a report from the Van Buren County Sheriff's Department.
A homeowner who lives in the 12000 block of 56th Street called deputies shortly after noon on Tuesday to report that his home had been broken into and that many items had been taken from it. The homeowner told deputies he had left his house for a short time and when he returned he found it had been broken into.
Witnesses in the area told deputies that a man dressed in black was seen running from the area of the victim's residence and fled the area in a tan SUV. The suspect was described between 5'6” - 5'11,” and of average weight.
Anyone with information about the incident can call the Van Buren County Sheriff's Office at 269-657-3101, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-342-7867, or Silent Observer at (269) 343-2100.
The South Haven Tribune is a total market coverage newspaper in southwestern Michigan, delivered weekly to 13,500 homes and businesses in northwestern Van Buren County and southwestern Allegan County. The Tribune is owned by Paxton Media Group and is affiliated with The Herald-Palladium.