Local News Archives

Amtrak Sued Over 2014 Stabbing Attack In Niles

One of the people stabbed on an Amtrak train as it was pulling into the Niles depot in December 2014 is suing Amtrak. The lawsuit from Gayle VanVorst of Colon and her husband is the second against the rail service. She was stabbed in the chest by Michael Williams, who also stabbed three other people. In a lawsuit filed in St. Joseph, she argues Amtrak should have kicked Williams off the train at any stop between Chicago and Niles instead of just moving him to a new car when he started acting unruly. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity in October 2015.... [Read Full Story]

Bill Introduced To Keep Ibrahim Parlak In U.S.

Legislation to prevent Ibrahim Parlak from getting deported has once again been introduced in the U.S. House. The private bill submitted by Congressman Fred Upton aims to provide the Harbert restaurant owner with permanent legal residency status so he doesn’t get sent back to his native Turkey. The bill is intended as a preventive measure to stop Parlak’s deportation until his case is re-examined by an immigration judge. Upton has introduced the same bill in every Congress since 2005. Parlak was granted political asylum in the U.S. in the 1990s, but things changed when the U.S. State Department declared a group he was affiliated with in Turkey, the PKK, to be a terrorist organization. He’s been fighting to stay in the U.S. ever since.... [Read Full Story]

SWM Schools Do Well In Mackinac Center Rankings

A new report card from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has been released, ranking 639 high schools in Michigan. Education Policy Director Ben Degrow tells WSJM News the Mackinac Center rankings are based on 11th grade test scores and are adjusted to account for the poverty level in the area each school serves.... [Read Full Story]

St. Joseph Schools To Take Part In The Great Kindness Challenge

St. Joseph Public Schools is gearing up to celebrate kindness this month. The district has announced all five of its schools will take part in the Great Kindness Challenge the week of January 23. The challenge calls on students and staff alike to commit to doing something kind for someone else each day of the week. The acts could include complimenting someone or leaving them a thank you note. Kids for Peace created the Great Kindness Challenge in 2012 to encourage more positive learning environments. In 2016, more than 5 million kids took part, resulting in 250 million acts of kindness.... [Read Full Story]

Suspect Arraigned In Fatal Cass County Stabbing

An Elkhart man arrested this week in the stabbing death of a coworker in Cass County has been arraigned on a charge of open murder. The Cass County Prosecutor’s office says 23-year-old William Henderson was denied bond at Thursday’s hearing in district court. Police arrested Henderson early Wednesday after he allegedly stabbed a co-worker in the neck during a fight at the Ameri-Kart factory in Mason Township. The victim has been identified as 23-year-old Jan Mendez, of Elkhart. Henderson could get life in prison if convicted.... [Read Full Story]

New Lawmaker From South Haven Gets To Work

State Representative Mary Whiteford of South Haven is now in her first full term in the House after winning a special election to replace the expelled Representative Cindy Gamrat. Whiteford talked on the first day of session Wednesday about what she wants to be sure gets done over the next two years.... [Read Full Story]

Michigan Economy, Tax Revenues Projected To Grow Modestly

Continued economic growth will ease the ability of Governor Rick Snyder and lawmakers to enact a new state spending plan.
The administration and legislative experts agreed Thursday that tax revenues in Michigan’s two biggest accounts will grow by about 2.8 percent this fiscal year and 2.5 percent the next budget year. That is about $144 million more combined than projected at the last revenue-estimating meeting eight months ago. The figures are being welcomed as positive news. But officials also are cautioning that job gains – which have occurred for seven straight years – will slow and there is uncertainty over what policy changes could be coming under President-elect Donald Trump. The consensus figures will be used by Snyder to propose his next budget in February.... [Read Full Story]

Audit: State Not Doing Enough To Collect Unemployment Taxes

(Lansing, MI – AP) – Michigan’s auditor is again finding fault with the state Unemployment Insurance Agency, finding that it has only partially complied with a past audit that criticized efforts to collect delinquent taxes employers pay into the system. The audit released Wednesday is a follow-up to an audit done five years ago. It also comes after the state last week reassigned the agency’s director due to thousands of jobless people being wrongfully accused of fraud by a computer-based unemployment benefits system.... [Read Full Story]

West Michigan Woman Becomes Hand Transplant Donor

A Norton Shores woman who died in September has become the first hand transplant donor for Michigan’s federally designated organ and tissue donation program. The Detroit News reports that 21-year-old Shayna Sturtevant died after
developing a brain abscess stemming from an ear infection. She was a registered eye, organ and tissue donor. MLive reports that Sturtevant’s parents granted special permission necessary for the hand transplant to go forward. Sturtevant’s kidneys, lungs, pancreas and liver were also donated for transplants. Officials from Gift of Life say the transplant was successful, but that the organization doesn’t release details about recipients. According to United Network for Organ Sharing, 30 people have received hand transplants, including 18 single-hand transplants and 12 double-hand transplants, in the United States since 1999.... [Read Full Story]

Kalamazoo Beer Week Starts This Weekend

It’s time once again for Kalamazoo Beer Week. The fun kicks off officially Saturday, but many local breweries will be holding special events Friday. Brian Steele, with Boatyard Brewing, tells us there will be all sorts of special events to celebrate west Michigan’s strong beer culture, including a cornhole tournament.... [Read Full Story]

Two MSP Troopers From Paw Paw Honored

Two Michigan State Police troopers who serve out of the Paw Paw post have been honored with an award in Lansing. Troopers Steve Shiel and Paul Plangger have been given the Corporal Samuel A. Mapes Criminal Patrol and Investigation Award for their work on southwest Michigan highways and in communities. The MSP gives out that award each year to troopers who “look past the traffic stop” to get proactive in stopping crimes. Troopers Shiel and Plangger now get to wear a special ribbon on their uniforms, and they’ll be given first crack at driving a couple of commemorative cruisers coming to the post as part of the state police 100th anniversary.... [Read Full Story]

Legislature Begins New Term

Michigan lawmakers have commenced a new two-year term. A veteran Republican senator on Wednesday planned to quickly propose eliminating the state income tax – a proposal that’s unlikely to be embraced by Governor Rick Snyder but which could prompt discussions about a cut in the tax. New leaders take the helm of the House, where representatives are taking the oath of office and picking seats. Republicans will again control the agenda in both chambers. It’s a day of pomp, swearings-in and proud moments for new House members and their families. Lawmakers will meet next week to hear the Republican governor’s State of the State address. His budget proposal is expected in February and will be based on numbers to be set Thursday at a revenue-estimating meeting.... [Read Full Story]

Benton Harbor Natives Killed In Atlanta Crash

Police in Atlanta, Georgia say three people from Benton Harbor are dead following a crash over the weekend. It happened Sunday when the car they were in hit a utility police and then burst into flames. Killed were 36-year old Joi Whaley Barnes, along with a man identified as her boyfriend, and another woman who has not yet been identified. Whaley was the sister of former NBA star Robert Whaley. Staff at Harbor Shores, where Whaley’s mother works, have launched a GoFundMe to help the family.... [Read Full Story]

Arrest Made In Theft Of Toys For Tots Jar

An arrest has been made in the theft of a Toys for Tots donation jar in Cass County last month. On December 12, Dowagiac police were called to a Shell Mart station after a man made off with the jar. Police posted surveillance photos of the suspect to social media, leading to a whole lot of tips from the public. That eventually led them to 30-year-old Michael Ted Doane, of Laporte, Indiana. He’s now charged with felony larceny in a building, which could get him up to four years in prison. Police thank everyone who offered them tips to catch the Grinch.... [Read Full Story]

Chicken Coop Fire Started In Exhaust System

A cleanup effort will be getting underway at the Chicken Coop in St. Joseph following this week’s fire. The St. Joseph Township Fire Department tells us the building suffered plenty of smoke damage in Tuesday’s blaze, but it’s not a total loss and repairs can be made. The fire was contained to the building’s exhaust and duct system, where it all started. Firefighters think the cause of the fire could have been an exhaust fan. They had to knock a hole in the chimney to put out the flames, and cleared the scene within about an hour.... [Read Full Story]

State Investigating Legionnaires’ Cases In Flint

State health officials say they’re following up on 17 cases of Legionnaires’ disease last year in Genesee County after winning a legal dispute over access to records. The Department of Health and Human Services sent a letter Wednesday to Flint-area health officials and McLaren Hospital. The department wants to know more about what the hospital is doing to strengthen its water system. A phone message and email seeking comment were left with the hospital. At least two Legionnaires’ cases from 2016 have been linked to McLaren. The patients survived. Michigan’s chief medical executive, Dr. Eden Wells, says she has no evidence that the hospital is risky for patients. The Michigan appeals court recently threw out orders that prohibited McLaren
and local health officials from talking to the state about Legionnaires’ disease and water issues in Flint.... [Read Full Story]

Man Killed In Cass County Factory Stabbing

An Elkhart man is jailed in Cass County following what police say was a homicide at a Mason Township factory. The Cass County Sheriff’s Department tells us deputies were called out to Ameri-Kart on Grange Street around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday over a fight between two employees. When deputies got there, they learned one of the men had stabbed the other in the neck. 24-year-old Jan Carlos Velazques Mendez, from Elkhart, was later pronounced dead. The suspect is a 23-year-old who is now in the county jail. His name hasn’t been released yet. Police say other employees managed to hold him until deputies arrived.... [Read Full Story]

New BH School Trustees Take Their Seats

Marletta Seats and Elnora Gavin have been sworn in as Benton Harbor School Trustees. At Tuesday’s work session, they took their seats for the first time. Seats was picked by the board to fill a vacancy created when James Turner stepped down, while Gavin was elected in November. Also Tuesday, the board picked its officers. Once again, Joseph Taylor is the board president. Also, Stephen Mitchell is the vice president, Lisa Gulley’s the secretary, and Angelika Macgowan is the treasurer.... [Read Full Story]

Bill Would Take Midwest Wolves Off Endangered Species List

Some members of Congress are making another run at taking gray wolves in the upper Midwest and Wyoming off the endangered list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had tried to take wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Wyoming off the list, saying those populations had recovered sufficiently to allow resumed hunting under state management plans.
But courts in 2014 re-imposed federal protections for the wolves. A bill introduced Tuesday by U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin and Liz Cheney of Wyoming would block the courts from intervening.Similar proposals failed to advance last year, partly due to White House  opposition, but farmers and ranchers who say they have no way to protect their livestock from problem wolves are hoping that changes under the Trump administration.... [Read Full Story]