State Roundup


Few clues in '06 killing of Ariz. couple in Mich.

OVID TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- Detectives still have not settled on a motive in the 2006 killing of an Arizona couple in Clinton County and leads are coming in at a slower place, police say.

Investigators still do not know why the house that sits at the edge of a farm field in Ovid Township was targeted. The couple was staying at the house while their daughter and her family were out of town.

"It's what we refer to as a real whodunit," County Undersheriff Jack Phillips told the Lansing State Journal.

The unsolved homicides of Thomas and Viola Hefton remain one of the mid-Michigan county's biggest mysteries, the State Journal reported Monday.

Son-in-law Larry Spitler, his wife and two sons live with that mystery.

"I think about it every single day, at some point in the day," Spitler said. "It's not something you forget."

The Heftons, both in their mid-70s, were visiting from Tucson, Ariz., and were killed the night of July 2, 2006.

Early the next morning, Spitler and his family returned home from a cabin in the Upper Peninsula and found the bodies.

Thomas Hefton was found near the front door. His wife's body was in another room.

The only item missing, investigators say, was Hefton's wallet, which might have contained about $200. Whoever is responsible left computers and televisions in the house and cars in the driveway.

The last substantial lead was about three to four months ago, but it didn't go anywhere, Phillips said


Village residents worry about junkyard horse

MATTAWAN, Mich. (AP) -- People call the Van Buren County sheriff's office a half-dozen times a week to air their concerns about the well-being of Sugar, the 34-year-old junkyard horse of Mattawan.

Sugar, a chocolate brown mare whose pen is filled with old farm equipment and other items from the salvage yard, is an institution in the village 50 miles south of Grand Rapids, and her fame is growing thanks to a Facebook page that counts 3,500-plus people who "like" it.

Recently, Sugar fans concerned about the horse's health have called the sheriff's department to express their concern about her ribs sticking out and a new growth on her face caused by an infected tooth.

The horse's owner, Don Austin, and sheriff's Sgt. David Walker say not to worry.

Austin, 80, said a veterinarian will be coming out to examine the growth, but Sugar is otherwise healthy given her age. Typically, the life expectancy for a horse is 20 to 30 years.

"She's just an old horse," Austin told the Kalamazoo Gazette for a story published Tuesday.

Walker agreed Sugar is in good condition.

On a recent visit, the sergeant said the horse was well-taken care of and had shelter in the back of the salvage yard, a trough full of water and plenty of food.

"It was eating like crazy," said Walker, who vowed animal control will continue to monitor Sugar.

"Of course, we're concerned about the horse's status. We're not going to turn a blind eye to this stuff," he said.

Sand Lake

Carnival worker dies taking down ride in SW Mich.

SAND LAKE, Mich. (AP) -- Authorities say a 41-year-old carnival worker has died while taking down a 60-foot-high ride in southwestern Michigan following an Independence Day weekend festival.

WOOD-TV and The Grand Rapids Press report the man died early Tuesday and police believe he was shocked by a power line while dismantling the ride in Sand Lake. Police say Steven McCann fell about 36 feet after coming into contact with the line.

The roller coaster-style ride, called the Fireball, sends passengers upside down on a circular track.

McDonagh Amusements owner Tom McDonagh says the man, who was from Jackson, was one of about 30 employees at the event.

The death was under investigation by police and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Sand Lake is located about 25 miles northeast of Grand Rapids.


Man dies after rollover during street race

HILLMAN, Mich. (AP) -- Authorities say a 55-year-old man has died following a rollover crash at an annual street drag racing event in the northern Lower Peninsula.

The Montmorency County sheriff's department says in a statement that the man from the Oscoda County community of Mio died of injuries following the Sunday afternoon crash at the Hillman Street Drags. He was driving a 1981 Chevrolet during the race in Hillman.

The Alpena News reports that a power pole also was sheared during the crash. The man's name wasn't being released Tuesday morning.


Korean War medic gets Purple Heart after 6 decades

NORTHVILLE, Mich. (AP) -- A Michigan combat medic wounded in the Korean War received the Purple Heart on Monday, six decades after he was wounded in a Chinese army attack.

Conrad Dowel, 79, of Northville, was awarded the medal before the start of the Detroit suburb's Fourth of July parade, The Detroit News reported.

Dowel said he was loading wounded soldiers onto a Jeep when Chinese artillery opened fire.

"A round caught us," he told the Detroit Free Press. "I woke up and someone was looking down at me."

Dowel said he resisted being evacuated but was strapped to a stretcher and airlifted to safety, and his back was repaired with rods and screws.

Someone who has experienced war in the way that he did never forgets, "especially when you have to put your hands into someone's stomach or comfort a man while he's dying," Dowel said.

Before the ceremony, Dowel said he was glad to be getting the medal after all these years. But he said he was nothing special.

"I was a plain GI," Dowel said.

Port Huron

Invasive bug found at Michigan border crossings

PORT HURON, Mich. (AP) -- An invasive bug with a taste for grains such as wheat, barley, corn and rice and the potential to severely harm Michigan's agriculture industry has been discovered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at crossings in Detroit and Port Huron.

Two Khapra beetles were found in a shipment of chickpeas from India this spring at the Fort Street Cargo Facility, and two Khapra larvae and a live beetle were found in a family's luggage last month at the Blue Water Bridge.

The bug may only be as big as a nickel is thick, but "if not interdicted, (it) could wipe out soybean, wheat and corn crops," Kenneth Hammond, chief of cargo operations at the Fort Street center, told The Detroit News for a story Monday.

The beetle originated in India and prefers warm, dry conditions. The American Southwest would be at greatest risk, but the beetle is resilient in unfavorable conditions, said Jim Zablotny, an insect identifier with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"They typically are very tough insects," Zablotny said. "The pest, if it gets loose in the U.S., will be a major problem."

In 1953, the discovery of Khapra beetles in California led to a massive control and eradication effort that went on for 13 years and cost millions. Before the beetles were eliminated, they spread to warehouses, storage bins and mills in Arizona.

In the light of devastation wreaked by the emerald ash borer and other invasive species, agriculture border agents are seen as one of the last lines of defense.

"The officers here in Detroit employ several methods to keep it and other pests from entering the country," Hammond said. "From simply fumigating containers to quarantining shipments until treatment, the methods are many."

Each day, an average of 5,500 trucks pass through the Fort Street facility, making it one of the busiest inspection ports in the U.S.

In the Port Huron case, border agents targeted for inspection 10 suitcases belonging to a Michigan family returning from a trip to India via Toronto. The agents did so because the family was in an area where Khapra beetles are found, officials told the Times Herald.

Published: Wed, Jul 6, 2011


  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »