State Roundup

Watersmeet Twp.
Body of missing woman found in Upper Peninsula

WATERSMEET TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Authorities in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula say they’ve found the body of a 79-year-old woman who had been missing since earlier this month.
WLUC-TV and the Daily Globe of Ironwood report the body of Ethel Grzena-Peters was found Monday in Gogebic County’s Watersmeet Township.
The sheriff’s department says foul play hasn’t been ruled out. She was reported missing after she was last seen in Bessemer on the evening of Aug. 3.
Information about the cause of death was pending. The sheriff’s department and Michigan State Police are leading the investigation into her death.

Grand Rapids
$80K settlement reached over dropped casket

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — An $80,000 settlement has been reached with a West Michigan funeral home following a claim that a woman’s casket was dropped, sending her body tumbling onto the ground.
WOOD-TV reports the settlement with Ivy K. Gillespie funeral home in Grand Rapids was entered in court Monday.
Family members say funeral home staff was removing the casket carrying 67-year-old Ellnora James’ body from a hearse outside Neland Avenue Christian Reformed Church in November 2010 just before her funeral service was to begin.
James’ son, Dean Libbett, says there was “no dignity” and “no remorse.” He says the family learned something was wrong when staff asked for new clothing for James.
Funeral home representative Crystal Whittington says she was remorseful about the situation and the staff apologized to the family.

Royal Oak
Girl mauled by raccoon readies for surgery

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) — A West Michigan girl whose face was mauled by a pet raccoon a decade ago is at a Detroit-area hospital readying for a series of reconstructive surgeries.
The first procedure for 10-year-old Charlotte Ponce was set for Wednesday at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
Doctors are using skin from her wrist to help reconstruct her nose. Future procedures will focus on the Spring Lake girl’s lips and ear.
On Wednesday morning, Charlotte sat in her hospital bed surrounded by stuffed bears and stickers.
She says she’s “excited” for the surgery and looks forward to “walking around eating Popsicles.”
The raccoon attacked Charlotte when she was 3 months old.
She and her brother were adopted by their great-aunt and great-uncle in 2005 after Michigan terminated the biological parents’ rights.

Grand Rapids
Woman sentenced in road rage shooting death

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A 25-year-old West Michigan woman who was convicted in the road rage shooting death of a Grand Rapids man says she didn’t intend to hurt anyone.
The Grand Rapids Press reports Jeannette Davis on Tuesday told a Kent County Circuit Court judge that she’s “not a cold-hearted person” and was apologetic about the February slaying of 42-year-old Lance Byers. Judge Paul Sullivan sentenced Davis to at least 22 years in prison.
Davis was convicted in July of second-degree murder. The jury found her 21-year-old brother, Jountay Davis, not guilty of being an accessory after the fact.
Authorities say Byers was arguing with Jountay Davis following a minor fender bender. Jeannette Davis claimed she was trying to stop them from fighting when she fired the gun.

Records: Fraud case shut down amid investigation

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A state police detective was still investigating allegations of possible election fraud surrounding a West Michigan state House lawmaker’s switch to the Republican party when the probe was shut down by a prosecutor, according to newly released records.
Details of the investigation related to state Rep. Roy Schmidt’s move were reported by the Detroit Free Press, citing records released Tuesday under the Freedom of Information Act.
On Tuesday, Republican Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said Tuesday the investigation was closed as “a mutual decision” between him and the state police because it became clear no criminal laws had been broken. A state police spokeswoman backed Forsyth’s account.
“What happened in this investigation is not uncommon,” Shanon Banner said. “We were investigating and providing the prosecutor with information until he had enough facts to make a determination on whether a crime had occurred. When he indicated he did, we stopped investigating.”
Forsyth released a report July 17 saying no charges would be filed after Schmidt and Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger worked to have the Democratic lawmaker switch to the GOP primary minutes before the filing deadline and entice an acquaintance to file as his token Democratic opponent.
Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said Forsyth shut down the investigation prematurely.
The office of Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is in the midst of a separate investigation into possible violations of campaign finance law.
Detective Sgt. Robert Davis had obtained search warrants for Bolger’s cellphone records and Schmidt’s email and cellphone records when he was told by Forsyth on July 16 “that no charges would be authorized as no clear criminal statute had been violated,” according to records of the case.
Davis then canceled the three search warrants, stored some evidence and destroyed other evidence, officially closing the case July 18.
Schmidt survived a write-in challenge in the Republican primary this month for the 76th District seat. He’s expected to face a Democratic opponent on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Grand Rapids
Former teacher in sex case to get state pension

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A 59-year-old former Michigan teacher who authorities say had a sexual relationship with a then-16-year-old student in 2010 is expected to keep getting his pension from the state.
WOOD-TV reports that the state Department of Education says Krag Sanford’s annual pension payment is about $21,000.
The ex-Saranac High School teacher was sentenced Tuesday to six months behind bars in Kent County. The jail time will run at the same time as a nine month sentence in Ionia County.
Plea agreements resolved the cases.
The man from Kent County’s Byron Township was arrested after authorities said he had a sexual relationship with the teen. A letter presented earlier in court says he impregnated her this year.
The Grand Rapids Press reports she’s now 18 and the pair plan to get married.

Watervliet Twp.
Dad, 24, charged with murdering child, 10 months

WATERVLIET TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Authorities in southwestern Michigan say a 24-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 10-month-old child.
The Berrien County sheriff’s department says the child died after being taken by ambulance from Cobblestone Village Apartments in Watervliet Township on Monday and flown by helicopter to a Kalamazoo hospital. Authorities had responded following a report that the child wasn’t breathing.
The department hasn’t released the name or the sex of the child. It says an autopsy Tuesday is expected to reveal what killed the child.
The sheriff’s department says Casey K. Ladd was arraigned Tuesday on charges of first-degree felony murder. He’s pleading not guilty and is jailed on a $1 million bond pending a return to court for a preliminary examination Aug. 23.


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