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New hope for youth sentenced to life in prison

By Mary Kuhlman, Michigan News Connection

N-New-hope-for-juvenilesThere’s new hope for some Michigan offenders who were sentenced as juveniles to die in prison. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the 2012 Miller vs. Alabama decision barring mandatory life without parole for child offenders applies retroactively.

Michigan is one of the few states that uses life without parole as a punishment for offenders younger than age 18. Kristen Staley, deputy director of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, said the high court recognizes that kids lack the impulse control and judgment of adults and have greater capacity for reform.

“The court even goes to say that it’s always unconstitutional for a juvenile to be serving life without a chance of parole unless he or she is found to be so irreparably corrupt or some sort of permanently incorrigible status,” she said. “Frankly, it’s a rare circumstance and we should not be using it.”

About 360 people are serving life sentences in Michigan for crimes committed prior to age 18. Michigan also is one of a few states where 17-year-olds are automatically tried as adults. Staley said she hopes the ruling helps build momentum to raise the age to 18.

Nate Balis, director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, said the promise of the juvenile-justice system to help youth cannot be realized when they are treated like adults and exposed to harsh sentencing.

“The dual commitment to public safety and rehabilitation means that young people ought to be treated as young people,” he said. “They ought to be treated as youth who are changing and who are capable of changing, which means it should be about their development and not about punishment.”

The court held that those affected by the decision should be released or have their sentences reduced. Staley said re-sentencing by a trial court isn’t necessary.

“The court made it very clear that, frankly, a parole hearing could be an option,” she said. “This won’t necessarily clog all the cases with reopening and rehashing old wounds. Maybe we can just take a look at good behavior and parole options going forward. ”

Monday’s ruling impacts about 2,000 people incarcerated around the country.

The ruling is online at supremecourt.gov.

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Empty house catches fire, later torn down


The house at 157 N. Main, just north of Cedar Creek (on the west side of the street) was the site of fire on January 13. Post photo by J. Reed.

The house at 157 N. Main was torn down on January 19, as scheduled. Photo by M. Fraser

The house at 157 N. Main was torn down on January 19, as scheduled. Photo by M. Fraser

By Judy Reed

A house that was scheduled to be demolished was the site of a structure fire on Wednesday, January 13.

According to Cedar Springs Fire Chief Marty Fraser, the call came in about 8:28 p.m. on a structure fire at 157 N. Main, which is just north of Cedar Creek. When they arrived, flames were seen on the second story. Fraser said they cut in around the chimney on the south side to go in and stop the fire, which burned through the wall and floor.

The building, which was purchased by the Community Building Development Team in October, was scheduled to be torn down, and all utilities had been turned off.

 A reward is being offered for information related to the fire at 157 N. Main. Post photo by J. Reed.

A reward is being offered for information related to the fire at 157 N. Main. Post photo by J. Reed.

“We can rule out natural gas or electric as being a cause,” remarked Fraser.

Both Fraser and CBDT president Kurt Mabie said that there was evidence that people had been in the building over the last couple of weeks. “We secured it but they still got back in,” said Mabie.

A K9 searched the premises but found no traces of accelerant, and the Fire Marshal deemed the fire suspicious but undetermined. If you have any information about the recent fire, they are now offering up to a $5,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of anyone on arson-related charges. You can call the Kent County Sheriff Department at 616-632-6015 or Arson Control at 1-800-44-ARSON (27766).

The house was torn down on Tuesday, January 19. Mabie said they weren’t originally looking to purchase the house, but when it was offered, he thought it would be a good deal for the people of the community. The property is just north of Cedar Creek, and runs back to the White Pine Trail, to other property the team purchased on Pine Street. Mabie said they have no immediate plans for the property, but it will enhance the beauty and park-like atmosphere they are creating along Cedar Creek, which will eventually have a boardwalk and bridge, along with a new library just south of the Creek, an ampitheatre west of the library, and a Community building on the old Johnson Lumber property across the White Pine Trail.

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Man killed in crash after leaving work 

William Rowan and his wife, Coreen.

William Rowan and his wife, Coreen.

A man who was a longtime employee of Vitale’s Pizza in Cedar Springs was killed after leaving work Sunday evening, January 17, when another car hit him head on.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, William Rowan, 48, of Grand Rapids was headed southbound on White Creek Avenue, just south of 17 Mile Road, in an Oldsmobile Cutlass, about 10:24 p.m., when a Cadillac headed north on White Creek crossed the centerline and struck Rowan’s vehicle.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The 37-year-old Cedar Springs man driving the Cadillac sustained minor injuries and was treated on scene.

Police said that weather may have been a factor in the crash. It is unknown whether alcohol was a factor. The crash is still under investigation, and the name of the other driver has not been released.

A gofundme page has been set up for Bill’s wife, Coreen, who is also a Vitale’s employee, and their six-year-old son Levi. You can visit it at https://www.gofundme.com/a8jvycdg.

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Smokin’ hot wedding causes 911 call

The bridal party of Esther Couturier poses with the Cedar Springs Fire Department, who came and saved the day for Esther and her groom. Photo by M. Ellick.

The bridal party of Esther Couturier poses with the Cedar Springs Fire Department, who came and saved the day for Esther and her groom. Photo by M. Ellick.

Some unexpected, but not unwelcome, guests turned up at the wedding of a local graduate last weekend.

Esther Couturier, a native of Cedar Springs and a former Red Flannel court member, was marrying her fiancée from Zimbabwe at Pine Lake Campground last weekend, January 16. She had met him on a mission trip to Zimbabwe and many of his family had traveled here for the ceremony.

Just before the ceremony was to begin, the Master of Ceremonies lit the fire in the fireplace, but the vent was not completely open, and smoke filled the room, necessitating a visit from the Cedar Springs Fire Department.

According to Cedar Springs Fire Chief Marty Fraser, it first came across dispatch as a fire alarm, then that there was smoke in the building. He said they took two engines, and ventilated the building with fans.

The bridal party joked around with the firefighters and had the photo above taken to commemorate the unusual event.

The wedding then went on as planned.

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CS Historical Society receives award from city

Sharon Jett and Fred Gunnell, of the Cedar Springs Historical Museum, listen to Mayor Jerry Hall read the “Making a Difference” award proclamation. Photo courtesy of S. Wolfe.

Sharon Jett and Fred Gunnell, of the Cedar Springs Historical Museum, listen to Mayor Jerry Hall read the “Making a Difference” award proclamation. Photo courtesy of S. Wolfe.

Cedar Springs Mayor Jerry Hall presented the Cedar Springs Historical Society Representatives Fred Gunnell and Sharon Jett with the “Making a Difference Award” at the January City Council Meeting.

Hall cited the museum’s contribution to our community in maintaining our history.

Gunnell and Jett noted the many long hours of hard work put in by the volunteer board of the Historical Museum.

Jett also explained the Rockford Museum Board plans to hold their monthly meeting here in Cedar Springs to learn more details from our museum.

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Michigan sees lowest gas prices in nation


Several gas stations in Houghton Lake waged a price war last weekend, bringing gas to well below $1 a gallon for the first time in years. Gas Buddy reported on Sunday that the lowest price was 78 cents/gallon, but it fell even lower to 47 cents, before rising again. On Wednesday, the price was $1.31 in Houghton Lake, which is in central northern Michigan.

In Cedar Springs, gas was at $1.67 Wednesday (at press time), which was also the average in Michigan.

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Resolve to become a lifesaver this year


Celebrate National Blood Donor month by becoming a regular blood donor

“This picture shows my sons Ben, Sam, and Jesse from left to right.  Ben and Jesse both needed blood as kids. Even though I was a fairly regular donor, they are both alive, in part, because of blood donations.  That makes giving blood on a regular basis now a no-brainer to me.”—Gregg Franjione, longtime blood donor.

“This picture shows my sons Ben, Sam, and Jesse from left to right.  Ben and Jesse both needed blood as kids. Even though I was a fairly regular donor, they are both alive, in part, because of blood donations.  That makes giving blood on a regular basis now a no-brainer to me.”—Gregg Franjione, longtime blood donor.

From Michigan Blood

Back in 1986 when he first became a blood donor, Gregg Franjione didn’t realize how much impact blood donation would have on his life. Gregg just knew that giving blood was “an easy way to help out others,” but admits he “never thought about the recipients much.”

Gregg and his wife Laurene had three sons over the course of eight years. It was at the birth of their youngest son, Benjamin, they received the frightening diagnosis that baby Ben had Tetralogy of Fallot—a combination of four congenital heart defects. Newborn Ben needed open heart surgery in order to survive, and the multiple blood transfusions Ben received were a key part of his surgery and recovery.

As if one health scare in the family wasn’t enough, the words, “Hodgkin’s Lymphoma” took the family down another frightening path in 2004 with middle son Jesse’s diagnosis. With the loving support of his community, Jesse and his family geared-up for many chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Jesse also needed multiple blood transfusions to keep his blood counts at a safe level, which helped bring him into remission.

Gregg has donated more than 11 gallons of blood over the course of his life, and yet he openly says that there is no amount he could ever donate that would offset what he and his family received through generous donations of both time and blood.

“Today, my wife and I would be the parents of only one child—not three—if it wasn’t for the gift of blood donations from others,” says Gregg.

The Franjione Family has experienced a lot, and now wants to help others. They pay it forward as often as they can. Blood donation is something they advocate for, even if some are medically unable to donate on their own.

January is National Blood Donor Month, and Michigan Blood thanks the Franjione family for their dedication to the mission of saving lives through blood donations. Michigan Blood joins the Franjione family in their challenge to others to become regular blood donors. What better time than now to make a new resolution to donate blood?

Michigan Blood wants to remind the public that they are the sole provider of blood and blood products for the majority of hospitals in Michigan, including Spectrum Health, Metro Health, and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Donations that are given outside of Michigan Blood do not stay local or have a direct impact in your local community. Donate blood at Michigan Blood and help save the lives of patients in Michigan hospitals. Any healthy person 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) who weighs at least 110 pounds may be eligible to donate. Blood donors should bring photo ID. For additional information on donating blood, and to make an appointment, visit www.miblood.org.

Mobile blood drives coming up nearby:

2/8 – Rockford Area Donor Site at the Community Cabin, main room, 220 N Monroe St., Rockford, 12:00 pm to 7:00 pm

2/16 – Cedar Springs Area Donor Site at Cedar Springs United Methodist Church, Gym, 140 S Main St., Cedar Springs, 12:30 pm to 7:00 pm

2/17 – Greenville American Legion Post 101, Community Room, 1320 W Washington St., Greenville, 11:00 am to 7:00 pm

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Trader Joe’s Raw cashew pieces recalled

N-raw-cashew-recall1If you’ve bought raw cashew pieces at Trader Joe’s, you will want to pay attention to this recall.

Heritage International (USA) Inc. of Compton, Calif., is voluntarily recalling one lot of Trader Joe’s Raw Cashew Pieces with the following code “BEST BEFORE 07.17.2016TF4” because of potential contamination with Salmonella. Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The front and back of the Trader Joe's Raw Cashew Pieces which have been recalled. The photo above show the lot code location.

The front and back of the Trader Joe’s Raw Cashew Pieces which have been recalled. The photo above show the lot code location.

The recall only affects one specific lot of Trader Joe’s Raw Cashew Pieces. The product comes in a 16 ounce, clear, non-resealable plastic package (with a barcode number of 00505154) and with the following lot code, “BEST BEFORE 07.17.2016TF4.” The “BEST BEFORE” information can be found on the backside of the package above the barcode.

The product was distributed only to Trader Joe’s stores in Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C. and Wisconsin.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

The voluntary recall was initiated by Heritage International (USA) Inc., after routine testing by an FDA contract laboratory revealed the presence of Salmonella in one lot of Raw Cashew Pieces. Other lots tested by the FDA contract laboratory and further testing of this lot by Trader Joe’s resulted in no additional findings of contamination.

Customers who have purchased the specified lot code (BEST BEFORE 07.17.2016TF4) of Raw Cashew Pieces are urged not to eat the product, and to dispose of it or return it to any Trader Joe’s for a full refund. Customers may call Trader Joe’s Customer Relations at (626) 599-3817 6:00AM-6:00PM PST, Monday-Friday, with any questions.

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Suspect charged in Rowland purse theft


A Nelson Township woman has been charged with the theft of another woman’s purse at a local business.

The theft occurred at Rowland Surplus Outlet, 130 W. Muskegon Street, on December 23. A regular customer was shopping there on December 23, and set her purse down. When she realized it was missing, employees in the store and many of their customers searched for it. They finally found it, stashed in the bathroom, with a large amount of cash missing from it.

“It (the money) had been taken out of the bank that morning to give to her kids for Christmas,” explained Rowland’s office manager Jane Wieda.

According to Sgt. Jason Kelley, of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department Cedar Springs Unit, Rowland’s staff checked surveillance footage during the time period and saw a female carrying the customer’s purse into the bathroom. The female was identified by witnesses as Kristina Marie Houck, 39.

She was interviewed by the investigating deputy, and, during the interview, the suspect admitted to taking the money and turned the money over to police. The deputy was able to return all of the missing money to the victim.

Houck was charged by the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office with a felony, larceny in a building. She was arrested by self-turn in on January 9, and is currently out on bond, pending court.

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Prevent auto theft: Drivers reminded to Lock It or Lose It 


From the Michigan State Police

A vehicle is stolen every 44 seconds in the United States, and surprisingly nearly half of those thefts occur because a door was unlocked or the keys were left in the ignition.

In addition to locking your vehicle and taking your keys with you, there are many other precautions you can take to lessen the likelihood you will be a victim of auto theft, including:

  • Closing windows when your vehicle is parked
  • Avoiding leaving valuables in your vehicle, especially where they can be seen
  • Leaving your vehicle running unattended
  • Parking in well-lit areas
  • Keeping your vehicle in your garage, if possible
  • Keeping exterior house lights on at night
  • Installing a car alarm or using a theft deterrent device like a steering wheel lock or gear shift column lock.

Below are some current trends that may be occurring in your neighborhood:

Wheel and tire theft. Watch for suspicious vehicles in your neighborhood that may be scoping out the area. Report suspicious and out-of-place persons to law enforcement.

Vehicle sale scams. If you are purchasing or selling a vehicle on Craigslist, make the transaction at a Secretary of State’s office during business hours or at a police department. Don’t invite strangers to your home or meet them in non-public places.

Fraudulent vehicle titles. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. Inspect the vehicle title closely before purchase and if anything looks odd, postpone the sale until you can confirm the legitimacy of the title.

Over the last 10 years, Michigan’s Automobile Theft Prevention Authority (ATPA) has assisted in the reduction of motor vehicle thefts in Michigan by 57 percent. The ATPA awards grants to law enforcement agencies, prosecutors’ offices and non-profit organizations for the investigation, apprehension, prosecution and prevention of motor vehicle thefts. During the 2015 grant year, ATPA grant-funded motor vehicle theft teams recovered 5,350 stolen vehicles and parts worth approximately $41 million.

For more information about the ATPA, visit www.michigan.gov/atpa.

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