On the run: What started out as a stolen vehicle from a gas station in Cedar Springs ended in a high-speed chase and arrest 1,500 miles away. A 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix was stolen from the Admiral Gas Station at 194 S. Main in Cedar Springs, about 8:45 p.m. January 2. The driver left it running and went inside to pay for gas, and a short, stocky person wearing a hooded sweatshirt and baggy clothing got into the car and drove it away. Police say it appeared to be a smaller size female.
Two days later, on January 4, the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Department in Montana arrested Nathaniel James Purdy, 28, of Cedar Springs, after a high-speed chase topping 100 mph. He pled guilty to one count of felony Criminal Endangerment, one count of felony Assault on a Peace Officer and one misdemeanor count of fleeing and eluding. He was sentenced in September to two years in prison. Under the plea agreement, the Stillwater County Attorney’s office recommended that Purdy be sentenced to five years with three years suspended. He has not been prosecuted for possession of a stolen vehicle.
Fire truck: The Sand Lake Fire Department finally got it’s brand new engine with the help of Kent County. All the fire departments in the county are on a rotation system, and each fire department gets a new engine every 17 years, with the departments and the county each paying a portion. According to Sand Lake Fire Chief Ed Holtzlander, the new fire truck costed $325,000. “It’s the first engine in the county with a clean burn diesel emission system,” he said.
What season is it?: Mary Gardner, of Algoma Township, sent us this photo of something you’d rarely see in January—primroses blooming!
“I was filling my birdfeeder today and a bee buzzed by me,” she said. “I wondered how many other things were fooled by our spring-like weather, so I checked my flower garden. Sure enough, I have primroses budding and blooming on January 10th! This is utterly amazing to me.” She also had strawberry plants leafing out.
Ethnic intimidation: A Solon Township man was arrested in February for a December incident in which he pulled a knife on a man and used a racial slur during the confrontation at Huck’s Corners, at the corner of 17 Mile and Algoma. Eric Scott Pierson, 50, was charged with ethnic intimidation and pleaded no contest to charges of assault with a dangerous weapon (felony assault), ethnic intimidation, and being a habitual offender-3rd offense. Pierson was sentenced May 15 to nine months in jail with one day credit, 60 months probation, and court costs and fines.
Crane collapse: A crane collapse, on February 10, at the Kent County jail caused damage to water and electrical lines, causing it to lose heat. This prompted the transfer of 150 inmates to other jails in the West Michigan area for staff and inmate safety and crowding purposes. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration deemed it as operator error. The company subcontracted on the job was G2 Inc., a company in Cedar Springs.
Skinner Field: Discussions began between the school and city on what to do with Skinner Field after Cedar Springs native Charlie Towns began asking questions about who was responsible for the upkeep. The school no longer uses the field since Red Hawk Stadium was built, but other community groups still use the field. The fate of the field has not yet been decided.
Come on in: Ryan Lee Nagle, 21, one of the two men charged in an armed robbery at Cedar Springs Mobile Estates, pled guilty and was sentenced in March on a charge of assault with intent to rob while armed. Joshua Steven Monroe, then 19, and Ryan Lee Nagle, then 20, reportedly went into the mobile home of a 42-year-old man and 41-year-old woman with a shotgun and demanded money and prescription medication in December 2011. The victims knew one of the suspects, and let them in. Nagle was sentenced to a minimum of 5 years in prison, and a maximum of 20. Monroe also pled guilty to the same charge, and was sentenced in June to a minimum of 4 years and a maximum of 15.
Rolling meth lab: A man charged with a rolling meth lab agreed to turn himself in then went on the run. Officer Chad Potts made a traffic stop in February on Michael Adam Woroniecki, 29, of Sand Lake. The passenger, Joshua David Kuhn, 23, of Cedar Springs, was arrested on outstanding warrants, including three-count warrant for violation of controlled substances: possession of methamphetamine/ecstasy, controlled substance-operating-maintaining a laboratory, and third degree retail fraud. Officer Potts also noticed an unusual smell in the car, asked permission to search, and found various components used to make methamphetamine. Woroniecki was charged with violation of a controlled substance-operating a laboratory involving methamphetamine, and as a habitual offender 4th offense. He agreed to turn himself in, but missed the date. He was later arrested by the Kent County Sheriff Department on another traffic stop. He was with another Cedar Springs man, Jacob Ringler, 22. Police found outstanding warrants on the pair, along with evidence of a rolling meth lab.
All three men were ultimately sentenced. Woroniecki pled guilty and was sentenced on three charges. He received a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 20 years on charges of delivery and manufacturing methamphetamine, and operating and maintaining a meth lab; and 2 to 14 years for uttering and publishing.
Joshua David Kuhn pled guilty to operating and maintaining a lab and possession of meth and received 3-1/2 years probation in October. However, his status shows he currently is a parole absconder as of November.
Jacob Allen Ringler pled guilty to one count of possession of marijuana and one count of possession of meth, and was sentenced in September to 1-1/2 years probation. He, too, is a parole absconder as of October.
To pay or not to pay: The Red Flannel Festival sent a proposal to the City of Cedar Springs that they pay to license the use of the Red Flannel logo. The proposal is tendered after the city orders license plates, on behalf of the library fundraising committee, with the Red Flannel logo. The license plates were pulled immediately, and talks began between the RFF and City RF adhoc committee. The ad hoc committee told the Festival to write up a proposal for them to license the logo for $4,000, but the proposal came in at twice that amount, which led to a months-long battle between the two entities on whether the city should pay to use the logo they had used for decades.
Unspeakable: A Nelson Township man was arrested by federal investigators after he traveled to Ohio to allegedly have sex with two pre-teen girls. Herman H. Kamphuis, 43, began talking to an undercover officer, in a “parenting” Internet chatroom, who was posing as the father of two girls, ages 6 and 11. The suspect told the detective he was looking to make a 25-year fantasy come true by having sex with the girls, and he traveled to Ohio on March 9 for a rendezvous with the “dad” and daughters, and was arrested. He brought along a computer with over 100 files of child pornography. He pled guilty in May to a charge of coercion or enticement of a female over the Internet. He was sentenced in August to 145 months in prison minus time served, and placed in the sex offender treatment program.
New fire chief: The City of Cedar Springs hired Deputy Fire Chief Marty Fraser as the new fire chief. Fraser is a 35-year veteran of the department and has served in various roles. He has been a first responder since 1990.
Drowning: A fishing trip ended in tragedy for three Tri County High School teens, when one of the three drowned in Little Whitefish Lake, in Pierson Township. The three boys headed out to fish in an aluminum rowboat about 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 29. Awhile later the boat began to take on water and capsized. The three teens attempted to swim back to shore, but when two of them arrived on shore, they realized their friend, Dalton Gustinis, 15, was missing. Numerous agencies and volunteers helped to search for the missing teen all the next day, but he was not found until Saturday afternoon.
Parking is an issue: Parking on the road in front of your house in Cedar Springs became an issue in April. Beth Karafa was frustrated because under the city’s ordinance, she cannot permanently park in the gravel area between her yard and the road, in the city’s right of way. And Officer Nick Barbour, the city’s code enforcer, ticketed her on at least two occasions. The ticket last year resulted in a court order saying that she could not allow any vehicle to park on her property unless she installed a driveway. The parking ordinance has since been sent back to the planning commission for review.
Hit and run: A Sand Lake man was killed in a hit and run accident in April. Tyler Helton, 20, a 2010 graduate of Tri County High School, was reportedly walking along Stanton Road, between Jones Rd and Maple Hill Rd in Pierson Township, Saturday night, April 21, when he was struck by a white pickup truck about 9:12 p.m. The young man was airlifted to Spectrum Butterworth in Grand Rapids, but died of his injuries. The driver of the pickup, Ronald James Williams, 57, of Howard City, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident causing serious injury and death. He reportedly thought he hit a deer and turned himself in to police the next morning after hearing the news report. He took a plea deal in December and pled guilty to the charge of failure to report an accident and must pay restitution of $7,200 for funeral expenses. The law requires that the prosecution prove that Williams knew he hit a person, and the judge in the case didn’t feel that burden was met, so he recommended the plea deal.
Be Nice: Students at Cedar Springs Middle School received a wake-up call when a group from the Kent County Mental Health Foundation visited their school to present an assembly for a campaign known as be nice. The goal was to open the eyes of young students in communities across Michigan to help them realize how large of a problem bullying is. According to Christy Buck, Executive Director of the Mental Health Foundation, suicide is the second highest cause of death among teens and college students in Kent County. Students had brainstorm sessions to think of different events and activities that they could do at school to help eliminate bullying. To take the campaign to the next step, the Mental Health Foundation teamed up with Amway and Fox 17 News to fly a helicopter over participating schools. Students from middle schools and high schools across west Michigan were involved in this campaign. At CSMS, students gathered in the field on the west side of the school to form the words “be nice.” The helicopter then flew over the students to take aerial pictures of the words they created.
Girls track makes history: The Cedar Springs Red Hawk girls track team won their first conference championship in school history, on Friday May 11, at Belding. The team scored 128 points to finish ahead of West Catholic, who scored 112. The victory in the conference meet, combined with an undefeated league dual record, gave the team the outright OK Blue Championship. In regionals, they placed 8th and qualified six individuals for the state meet. Sisters Katie and Kenzie Weiler earned all-state honors at the state track meet.
All-Americans: Grand Valley State University senior Tyler Emmorey, a 2007 Cedar Springs graduate, finished eighth in the 5,000 meter run in March, to earn United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-American honors, crossing the line in a time of 14:28.66. He has earned the title several times, but this was his first All-American honor during indoor track season.
Justin Balczak, a 2011 graduate of Cedar Springs High School, and a freshmen (in April) at Lake Superior State University, earned the title of All-American for finishing third in the men’s decathlon at the NCAA Division II Outdoor Track and Field Championships hosted by Colorado State-Pueblo. Balczak competed in 10 events over a two-day period, setting six personal records. While in high school, Balczak was a state champion in the 110m high hurdles.
Please see more Year in Review in next week’s POST!