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Former Rockford rowing coach sentenced

Timothy Warren Vallier

Timothy Warren Vallier

A former Rockford rowing coach that admitted recording videos of female athletes changing their clothes will spend 22 years behind bars.

Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Byerly Birge announced Thursday, May 18, that Timothy Vallier, 31, of Plainfield Township, was sentenced on charges of attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography. U.S. District Judge Gordon J. Quist imposed a sentence of 22 years. In addition to the prison term, Vallier was ordered to serve 5 years of supervised release, to pay restitution, and to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

On September 28, 2016, Vallier pled guilty to producing approximately 86 hidden camera videos of girls changing clothes at two high school facilities: the Rockford rowing team’s boathouse and the Rockford Freshman Center. He made these videos between January 2012 and April 2016 while he was the rowing coach at Rockford High School. The charges followed an investigation by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, the Michigan State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and Homeland Security Investigations.

Rockford Public School Superintendent Mike Shibler contacted the Kent County Sheriff Department on the morning of July 8, 2016, after receiving a call from one of the crew (rowing) parents informing him that a video camera had been found in a crew vehicle with inappropriate footage.

Two assistant coaches in the vehicle reportedly saw the camera, and when one of the girls got curious and looked at it, found footage of two female athletes changing their clothes inside the changing room area of the Rockford Crew House located at 5501 Jupiter Ave., in Plainfield Township. Vallier was then arrested on July 10.

State charges were later dismissed since he was being prosecuted on federal charges.

“While no amount of prison time can adequately punish a child predator, this sentencing will hopefully begin the healing process for those impacted by Mr. Vallier’s depraved acts,” said HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis. “This was an excellent collaboration between HSI and its partners at the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police to bring this predator to justice.”

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196. Information concerning suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST. For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the suspect alerts page.

Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement. For more information about Project Safe Childhood in West Michigan, including resources for children and parents, visit: http://www.justice.gov/usao/miw/programs/psc.html.

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Double shooting near Sparta

 

A man is dead and another injured after a double shooting early Monday morning in the area of M-37 north of Sparta Avenue NW.

According to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, 911 callers reported at about 3:20 a.m. that two people had been shot and were laying on the ground near a stopped vehicle along the road in the 9000 block of southbound M-37 in Sparta Township. A 911 caller reported that the shooting was the result of some type of road rage incident.

When the Kent County Sheriff Department arrived, they found two men with gunshot wounds near the stopped vehicle. Donald Dudley, 20, of Bailey, Michigan, was pronounced dead at the scene. The other man, Benjamin Dudley, 18, also from Bailey, Michigan, was transported to Spectrum Butterworth Hospital and is in critical condition.

Police also found a third male subject who stated that he had shot both of the men. Robert Chipman Jr., 43 years of age, from Newaygo, Michigan, has a valid Michigan Concealed Pistol License (CPL). Police did recover a firearm from the scene.

A fourth person, a 22-year-old female from Wyoming, had fled in a vehicle from the scene but was located a short distance away after she also called 911 to report the shooting. She confirmed that she fled in the vehicle after hearing the gunshots and confirmed she had been with the two subjects that were shot.

Major Case Team Investigators interviewed the alleged male shooter and the female witness at KCSD Headquarters. Both are cooperating with investigators.

The surviving male subject, Benjamin Dudley, will be interviewed when his medical condition allows investigators to speak with him.

This case remains an active investigation and all subjects involved are accounted for and there is no public danger. An autopsy was conducted by Kent County Medical Examiners Officer Monday to determine an official cause of death. Investigators will present their complete findings to the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office to determine if any criminal charges will be brought against any of the subjects involved.

Assisting at the scene was the Michigan State Police; Sparta Fire/Rescue; the Kent County Medical Examiners Officer; and Rockford Ambulance.

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2017 Renaissance Faire 

photo by Perry Hopkins

photo by Perry Hopkins

Last weekend, May 20-21, there were strange goings on at Morley Park, as hobbits, orcs, elves, and other unusual people could be seen strolling throughout the Park, and all manner of entertainment graced the grounds, from sword play, to belly dancing, to musical minstrels. That’s because last weekend was “Fellowship of the Springs,” the 2017 Cedar Springs Renaissance Faire, put on by the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce.

“Without having a gate entrance we do not have an accurate number of attendees, but it is estimated over 400 attended between the two days,” said Chamber President Perry Hopkins. “Rain doesn’t stop a Renaissance Faire. It may have chased away a few patrons, but the faire still went on.”

E-Leesa Gypsy Enchantress and Steel Lotus Dance Troupe entertained everyone on the Gypsy Stage; Darkmore Colony of Larpcraft shared their battle skills on the hill by the north entrance to the park with their Larpcraft swords shields, and talent; Kingdom of Shiabruck took the flat ground and entertained with metal swords and their fenced in arena for patrons to dual with foam swords. The Wind Rose Minstrel, Bell Brook and Cantro, Joe Kid and Sheila Burke performed their musical talents in multiple areas of the park giving patrons entertainment as the shopped at vendor booths such as Belly Dance Costumes USA, Paracord Fashions, The Knotted Cloak, and Perry’s Place llc for herbs, teas, and more… Mother Earth Mehndi was set up doing Henna Art for passer byers.

A Royal Dinner (catered by The Grilling Company) with live entertainment was held on Saturday evening for those who wish to attend. Cast Co-Director Scott Schroeder emceed the Royal Dinner with a special toast from Cedar Springs Mayor Pro-tem Pamela Conley. Queen Victoria (Mandy Stephenson) and other cast walked the grounds mingling and entertaining people all weekend.

“We (the event committee) were happy to see more local people at this year’s Cedar Springs Renaissance Faire and more of them came in costume,” said Hopkins. “There was much positive feedback about us switching the date to May verses having the fair in June like previous years.”

He also said that because they didn’t have a parade this year, the vendors were able to do some shopping at local businesses before the festivities began. Many of them are eager to return.

“You know your fair went well when some of the new attendees comment about what they want to do for next year,” said Hopkins.

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Post travels to Branson

 

This week the Post traveled with the Hall family and we received a photo before they even returned home! Gerald and Amy Hall, of Cedar Springs, met up with Amy’s twp sisters and families in Branson, Missouri. “We are spending a week here and visiting sites close by,” said Amy. “It’s wonderful being with family from Richmond, Virginia and West Virginia. Lots of fun and laughs.  I even rode on a zip line!” They also went to see the Dolly Parton Dixie Stampede, and took a trip to the Lake of the Ozark, Arkansas.

Thanks so much to the both of you for taking us with you!

If you have a Post travels story and photo to send us, email it news@cedarspringspost.com, along with your contact info, or mail it to Post Travels, PO 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319, or drop it off at the office, 36 E. Maple Street, in Cedar Springs.

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Girl Scouts visit new library

Girl Scout Troop 4282 visited the new Cedar Springs Community Library on May 20 and donated several boxes of Girl Scout cookies to their local heroes—staff at the library!

I said, “Do you mean us??” remarked Library Director Donna Clark, who was tickled pink by the gesture.

The girls who dropped off the cookies were Trinity Besmer, Haley McDonald, Lindsey Washington, Ashlin Kreft, Lily Scott, Katie Porter, and Katie McDonald.

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School board member files complaint against Superintendent

 

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Board of Education meeting held Monday evening—where at least 10 people spoke against Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn during public comment—culminated with trustee Ted Sabinas stating that he was filing a complaint against her for bullying.

Sabinas read his complaint aloud during board comments and then gave it to Board President Matt Shoffner to process.

“During the board meeting of April 24th, I believe that Dr. VanDuyn made an inappropriate calculated statement in an effort to discredit me,” said Sabinas. “Her statement is clearly a violation of our Neola policy 1662 Anti Harassment. Making this comment by stating someone else originally made the comment cannot be considered appropriate.” He also asked for her to be put on immediate leave and an independent compliance officer be hired to investigate the complaint.

His complaint refers to the April 24 board meeting, when they were discussing the possible privatization of transportation, and Dr. VanDuyn made a comment about the bus drivers feeling stalked or intimated by Sabinas.

Prior to that meeting, Sabinas had attempted to attend a meeting between the bus drivers and administration to learn more about the privatization and speak to staff but was locked out of the building. (He had been given permission to attend during March’s board meeting by Board president Matt Shoffner but that was later rescinded.)

At the April 24 Board meeting, bus driver Becca Fisk was speaking about the bus driver vote and how it was done. Sabinas said that he had heard that there was more than one vote by the bus drivers. He said he was told that the vote was initially no, and that the Superintendent and Jerry Gavin (the transportation supervisor) then had a private meeting, and then went back into the meeting with the drivers and told them that if they didn’t privatize, Mr. Gavin would be done in June; but if they did privatize, that he would then work for Dean’s Transportation for 5-7 years. He said he was told that another vote was then taken and it had passed, out of loyalty to Mr. Gavin.

It was then that Dr. VanDuyn made the statement that Sabinas is filing a complaint about.

She said she could speak to this. “There was an issue—we had bus drivers who were very uncomfortable because they didn’t want you to enter their meeting, and you were insisting you would be at their meeting, and you had your truck backed in, and they felt stalked or intimidated by you sitting in the parking lot and so we had to check and see if things were safe for our drivers.” She then looked at Becca Fisk. “You can attest to what you said about anyone being in the meeting other than Ken, Jerry and I with the departments.”

“And so Jerry and I did step out,” she continued, “and talked about whether you (Sabinas) were still there, this was a problem for our drivers, and Becca you can attest to…”

At that point she was interrupted by VP Brooke Nichols, who said she thought they should stick to the agenda.

Dr. VanDuyn responded with, “Ken, Jerry, and I know what happened in the meeting and what the votes were.”

Sabinas said in his complaint that “for Dr. VanDuyn to make bullying comments towards one of her employers shows a total lack of respect for the board and is an act of insubordination. If we allow these types of actions by the district leader we are telling the staff and students that it is completely OK to make bullying and harassment comments to anyone they encounter. The example that Dr. VanDuyn chose to demonstrate does not represent the core values of our district.”

Sabinas asked that Dr. VanDuyn be placed on immediate leave of absence and be restricted from school activities until an independent compliance officer can be hired and rule on the harassment and bullying complaint.

According to the Board’s policy, the Superintendent is the compliance officer that would normally investigate complaints. But Sabinas said he consulted with the legal division of the Michigan Association of School Boards, and they advised him to request an independent compliance officer.

“You can’t have her or a close associate investigate a complaint about her. I know we’ve had other complaints about the Superintendent that she or someone who works for her has investigated. The school lawyer is also not the right person because he has the needs of the school in mind,” explained Sabinas.

Earlier in Monday’s meeting, there were many public comments supporting Sabinas and condemning Dr. VanDuyn’s statement about stalking. Staff also spoke about fear of speaking up about things, saying that they had felt intimidated and manipulated, and were afraid of being targeted or reassigned. Several speakers asked for an investigation into Dr. VanDuyn.

Board member Heidi Reed spoke up and said that if there were an investigation, she would bring forth evidence showing that Sabinas had also bullied Dr. VanDuyn.

Sabinas said that he is not the type of board member that just takes what he is told by administration at face value. “I ask a lot of questions. I don’t rubber stamp things,” he explained. “People expect me to do what I say. I campaigned on being thorough, investigating, and talking to people.”

But Sabinas said that right now, it’s hard to do that. “I’m being blocked. Various staff members have said they were asked not to talk to me, and were told they would be fired. So they won’t talk,” he said.

He said it’s not routine in a school district that board members cannot speak to staff or ask them questions. “We have a lot of uniqueness going on here,” he said.

During Monday’s board meeting, Dr. VanDuyn listened but did not respond to complaints from residents and staff.

The Post emailed Board President Matt Shoffner on Tuesday, May 23, asking for a statement on what he was doing with the complaint, but did not have a response by Wednesday evening at press time.

The Post also emailed Dr. VanDuyn and gave her the opportunity to make a statement, but did not receive a response by press time.

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Sheriff’s Office receives national traffic safety recognition

 

Alicia Sledge (left) and Julie Roth of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning present a national traffic safety award to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. Photo courtesy of OHSP.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office Secondary Road Patrol (SRP)/Traffic Safety Unit has received the Salute to Law Enforcement Officers Award from the National Association of Women Highway Safety Leaders (NAWHSL).

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) presented the honor during a ceremony on Thursday, May 18, on behalf of the association.

“The award recognizes Kent County’s continued strong commitment and dedication to traffic safety,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director.

The Secondary Road Patrol and Traffic Accident Prevention Program provides county sheriff’s offices with funding to patrol county and local roads outside the corporate limits of cities and villages.  The state grant program, managed by the OHSP, has the legislated primary responsibility of traffic enforcement and traffic crash prevention on secondary roads.

Deputies funded under the SRP program are responsible for traffic enforcement, traffic crash prevention and investigation, criminal law enforcement and emergency assistance to stranded motorists on secondary roadways.

In 2016, the Kent County SRP Traffic Safety Unit investigated 35 fatal traffic crashes, including alcohol- related crashes.

“Traffic safety remains a top priority in Kent County.  We are always seeking innovative ways to address this ongoing problem,” said Kent County Sheriff Lawrence A. Stelma.

The department has focused on drugged driving enforcement through its three Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) deputies.  A DRE is a law enforcement officer trained to identify people whose driving is impaired by drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.

Stelma said deputies in the Traffic Safety Unit also have the equipment and training to precisely measure and map crash scenes.  This data is a vital investigative tool for criminal prosecution.

The unit has also established an online school bus red light violating reporting system that is used by bus drivers.  Reports are investigated by a deputy with proper enforcement action taken.

“We are grateful to receive this national honor and appreciate the ongoing support of the OHSP,” said Stelma.

The NAWHSL disseminates information and educational programs to promote safe traffic behavior and advocates for effective public programs to reduce motor vehicle related crashes, crash severity and the resulting deaths and injuries.

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Next Generation 911 Legislation Introduced 

 

Texting, pictures, video and enhanced location information part of new 911 service 

As technology evolves, legislation to update Michigan’s 911 systems and improve communication was introduced in both the Michigan Senate and House this week. The bills use framework recommended by the State 911 Committee to move forward with Next Generation 911, also known as NG911.

Fully deployed, NG911 allows for callers to send text messages, pictures and videos as well as enhanced location information and crash data from systems such as OnStar and Sirius. NG911 is also more capable in connecting calls between emergency responders and law enforcement members in different areas.

“In an emergency, people need to be able to reach responders with whatever technology they have,” said Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the Michigan State Police. “We support these ongoing efforts to modernize the 911 system and remain committed to keeping our citizens safe and connected.”

NG911 replaces the current analog 911 network with a digital 911 network, allowing the 911 infrastructure to keep pace with increasing demands on the public safety communications systems and more in line with the methods people are using today to communicate. NG911 has been successfully deployed in the entire Upper Peninsula, parts of northern lower Michigan, and in the thumb. There are also many more counties throughout Michigan who have begun contracting to have their infrastructure updated to meet NG911 standards.

“Innovation continues to change the way people communicate and these innovations should be put to use saving lives, protecting communities, and making sure that Michigan’s 911 system serves residents well,” said Jim Murray, president of AT&T Michigan. “Leaders like Colonel Etue, Senator Jones and Representative Sheppard are right to make sure Michigan is prepared and our 911 system cutting edge.”

The State 911 Committee is composed of stakeholders from many areas, including: county and local communications center directors, law enforcement personnel, and representatives from both the national and local telecommunication industry. The State 911 Committee made recommendations to the Michigan Legislature as part of its annual report to the legislature in August 2016. This legislation is the culmination of many key stakeholders’ efforts to find a permanent solution to Michigan’s outdated emergency system.

“There is a significant cost to migrating our great state to Next Generation 911 but there is an even greater cost in the long run if we do nothing”, said Jeff Troyer. “It’s my goal as Chairperson for the State 911 Committee that our citizens and visitors have access to a reliable 911 network, regardless of their location and the type of device they are using to access emergency services, and I greatly appreciate State Senator Rick Jones and State Representative Jason Sheppard for taking a leadership role in making this happen.”

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Make traffic safety a priority for Memorial Day Weekend 

Michigan State Police make a traffic stop. Photo courtesy of MSP.

As Michiganders take to the roads to get to their Memorial Day weekend destination, Michigan State Police troopers will be on patrol to encourage safe and responsible driving.

Again this year, MSP troopers are joining their counterparts from across the country in the international traffic safety initiative Operation Crash Awareness and Reduction Efforts (C.A.R.E.) to promote traffic safety during this busy travel period.

“Our troopers will be on patrol as part of Operation C.A.R.E. and the statewide Click It or Ticket safety belt mobilization throughout the holiday weekend,” stated Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP. “In addition to looking for safety belt and child restraint violations, troopers will pay special attention to drivers who are under the influence of alcohol and drugs or are driving in a reckless and unsafe manner.”

Last year, there were five fatal traffic crashes that resulted in six deaths over the Memorial Day weekend.

Operation C.A.R.E. began in 1977 as a collaborative effort between the MSP and the Indiana State Police, and is one of the nation’s longest-running traffic safety initiatives. It focuses on deterring the three main causes of highway fatalities: aggressive driving, impaired driving and failure to use occupant restraints.

State police and highway patrol agencies from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, Quebec Police Force and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be participating in this lifesaving traffic safety initiative. Beginning this year, Operation C.A.R.E. includes participation from police agencies affiliated with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as well.

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Sheriff’s Office receives national traffic safety recognition

Alicia Sledge (left) and Julie Roth of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning present a national traffic safety award to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. Photo courtesy of OHSP.

Alicia Sledge (left) and Julie Roth of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning present a national traffic safety award to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. Photo courtesy of OHSP.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office Secondary Road Patrol (SRP)/Traffic Safety Unit has received the Salute to Law Enforcement Officers Award from the National Association of Women Highway Safety Leaders (NAWHSL).

The Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP) presented the honor during a ceremony on Thursday, May 18, on behalf of the association.

“The award recognizes Kent County’s continued strong commitment and dedication to traffic safety,” said Michael L. Prince, OHSP director.
The Secondary Road Patrol and Traffic Accident Prevention Program provides county sheriff’s offices with funding to patrol county and local roads outside the corporate limits of cities and villages.  The state grant program, managed by the OHSP, has the legislated primary responsibility of traffic enforcement and traffic crash prevention on secondary roads.

Deputies funded under the SRP program are responsible for traffic enforcement, traffic crash prevention and investigation, criminal law enforcement and emergency assistance to stranded motorists on secondary roadways.

In 2016, the Kent County SRP Traffic Safety Unit investigated 35 fatal traffic crashes, including alcohol- related crashes.

“Traffic safety remains a top priority in Kent County.  We are always seeking innovative ways to address this ongoing problem,” said Kent County Sheriff Lawrence A. Stelma.

The department has focused on drugged driving enforcement through its three Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) deputies.  A DRE is a law enforcement officer trained to identify people whose driving is impaired by drugs other than, or in addition to, alcohol.

Stelma said deputies in the Traffic Safety Unit also have the equipment and training to precisely measure and map crash scenes.  This data is a vital investigative tool for criminal prosecution.

The unit has also established an online school bus red light violating reporting system that is used by bus drivers.  Reports are investigated by a deputy with proper enforcement action taken.

“We are grateful to receive this national honor and appreciate the ongoing support of the OHSP,” said Stelma.

The NAWHSL disseminates information and educational programs to promote safe traffic behavior and advocates for effective public programs to reduce motor vehicle related crashes, crash severity and the resulting deaths and injuries.

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