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Archive | February, 2021

Dog rescued after missing for six weeks

Near-frozen cat gets new lease on life

Milo, before being rescued from the hole under the silo. Photo from Kent County Animal Shelter Facebook page.

By Judy Reed

Milo after being reunited with his long-lost family. Photo from Kent County Animal Shelter Facebook page.

There are a lot of animal lovers in Cedar Springs, and several good animal rescues in northern Kent County. They do great work all the time, but there were two incidents in the last week that really stood out.

According to the Kent County Animal Shelter Facebook page, Kent County Animal Control Officers received a call on Sunday, February 21, regarding a dog possibly stranded near an old grain elevator in Sand Lake. The dog had been heard barking for a few days per town residents. The caller had investigated the area and believed him to be stuck under a silo so contacted Animal Control for assistance. 

It goes on to say that the Animal Control Officers were met by two more caring citizens who had located the dog stranded in an old bunker style silo. Due to the smooth 10’ walls, there was no way for him to climb back out. 

With the help of town citizens, one who happened to be a previous Animal Control Officer, a long rope was able to be looped around the dog. He was quickly pulled out from the silo and placed on secure ground. 

Lost Paws, LLC, located a posting for a similar dog that had been missing from Howard City since January 8. They contacted the missing dog’s owners and were able to confirm the found dog was in fact, Milo a Springer Spaniel, that had last been spotted in early February. There had been no sightings of him for nearly two weeks.

Milo’s owners rushed to meet the Animal Control Officers and their beloved dog. He remembered them immediately and many tears were shed from everyone. 

“What all Milo experienced during his journey will never be known. However, we do know he survived frigid temps, snowstorms, hunger and dehydration. He lost 33 lbs and traveled nearly 20 miles over the past 43 days. What he nor his owners never lost was hope and hope is what finally reunited them.”

Finian fell asleep in his bowl. Poor boy was exhausted. Photo from Crash’s Landing Facebook page.

The other incident involved a stray cat that was found nearly frozen next to a Cedar Springs resident’s tire last week.

The person who found the cat posted about it in a social media post early last week and a reader of the post then contacted Crash’s Landing, a non-profit cat rescue in Grand Rapids. The cat rescue took the cat in. He was in very poor shape and not expected to make it through the night. What happened was a miracle. 

Here is how he was described by Dr. Jen at Crash’s Landing:

“His body temp won’t register after warming him gently and pushing 500mL of warm fluids. He is beyond dehydrated. His nose was pouring pus and his eyes glued shut, well there is no left eye and the right is scarred. He weighs 4.64 lbs. His mouth is rotten and his tongue ulcerated. He’s intact. He has fleas and horrible ear mites with nubs for ears. His tail is half missing – I don’t dare attempt to remove the encasing on the top tonight. He smells like a sewer. His paws are frost bitten. He’s barely moving but he’s still trying to live. He’s a miracle. He rode all the way to the clinic in my coat nestled close to my chest. He is here now as my husband Brian takes us home.”

She named the cat Finian, which means “handsome warrior.” And he has been a warrior! He’s getting healthier every day and is now up to 6.88 pounds. If you’d like to follow Finian’s journey, visit Crash Landing’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/crashslanding.bigsids. If you’d like to donate to help with his and other cats’ care, visit www.crashslanding.org.

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Man dies in standoff with police

A Montcalm County man who engaged in a shoot-out and standoff with police met a tragic end Sunday when he refused to drop his weapon and instead pointed it at officers.

Troopers from the Michigan State Police Lakeview Post were dispatched to the 9700 block of N. Wyman Rd, near Edgar Rd, in Home Township, on Sunday, February 21 at approximately 4:32 p.m., for an armed subject exhibiting irrational behavior.  

Andrew Allen Courser, age 38, from Edmore, was reportedly firing his weapon near residences and yelling at passing motorists. When troopers and an assisting officer from the Home Township Police Department arrived on scene, Courser fired his weapon at the officers. Troopers returned fire and Courser then fled north on Wyman Road for approximately ¼ of a mile, where he barricaded himself in a nearby barn.

According to Spl/Lt. Michelle Robinson, members of the MSP Emergency Support Team, Aviation, and Canine were dispatched to the scene. After about a four-hour standoff, Courser came out of the barn with the firearm and was confronted by Emergency Support Team members. Courser did not obey commands to drop the weapon and instead leveled it at troopers, at which time Courser was shot and pronounced dead at the scene.  

This incident remains under investigation by the Michigan State Police 7th District investigators from Gaylord.  

Assisting MSP Lakeview Troopers at the scene was MSP Mt. Pleasant Troopers; MSP Emergency Support Team; Aviation; K9; Edmore Police; and Home Township Police.

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Red Flannel Festival theme for 2021

The Red Flannel Festival recently announced that they plan to move ahead with plans for the 2021 festival, and that they have selected this year’s theme.

The theme chosen for this year’s festival is “Bringing Back Red Flannel Fun in 2021,” which was suggested by Red Flannel Board Trustee Andrew Bartoszek. 

“The Festival Board reached out to the Cedar Springs community for logo suggestions, and once again the Cedar Springs community did not disappoint!” said Red Flannel Festival President Nancy Deyman.

The winning logo was submitted by Lucy Baker. The second place winner was Ella Grifhorst, a 6th grader from Red Hawk elementary; and the third place winner was Felicia Smith.

“A big thank you to all of you who contributed your thoughts and ideas! We loved them all!” said Deyman.

The 2020 festival was canceled due to limitations on gatherings under the COVID-19 emergency orders. But Deyman is hopeful they can bounce back.

“Like everyone else, the festival has been hit hard financially from the effects of COVID 19, but we hope that with the continued support from our sponsors and Cedar Springs Community, we will be able to bring the traditions back.”

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Freezin’ for a reason

An icy plunge into Pine Lake helped raise $4,200 for North Kent Community Enrichment last Saturday. Courtesy photos.

The frigid temperatures finally broke for a crazy fun group that took the chilly plunge on Saturday, February 20. Around 20 brave jumpers plunged into the icy water of Pine Lake to raise funds for North Kent Community Enrichment (NKCE).  

According to Executive Director Jaime Gunderson, this year’s success is credited to having great business sponsors and great community involvement. “With the help of our sponsors and all of the donors, we raised around $4,200,” she said. “This money will help maintain affordable pricing for programming in our community for youth and adults.”

For more info on events held by NKCE (both virtual and in-person), please visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/csapr and click on events; or their website at http://www.mynkce.com/programs/

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Warning: Con artists using new tricks

The Michigan State Police (MSP) Houghton Lake Post sent out a scam warning this week that our local Rockford MSP Post asked us to share with residents.

The Michigan State Police (MSP) Houghton Lake Post reminds residents that scams can take many different forms, and recently two victims of the same scam have contacted the post to make a report.

Most scams involve obtaining a victim’s personal information under false pretenses or gaining access to their computer or bank information. The scammer usually portrays a sense of urgency, pretending to be an official of a legitimate organization to fool a victim into providing personal information.

In a new twist, the suspect contacts the victim advising they have a subscription to something that will be automatically renewed for a couple hundred dollars. When the victim advises they have no subscription or do not want to renew the subscription, the caller tells them they will walk them through cancelling the subscription. The suspect then gets access to the victim’s computer by sending them a link to click on and fill out. The suspect now has access to the victim’s computer.

One of the victims was told they were supposed to get a refund of $600 and that they were accidentally refunded $6,000 instead. The suspect requested gift cards to refund them the difference. One victim reported sending $4,000 in gift cards.

If you believe you have been the victim of a scam you can contact your nearest MSP Post.

From the editor: I recently received one of these in an email. Mine had to do with an antivirus program it said would be renewed for $600, and I knew it was false because I didn’t have the program. If you receive something like this, DO NOT CLICK on any link or attachment in it, and don’t respond to it. Just forward the email to the anti-phishing working group at reportphishing@apwg.org and then delete the email. 

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Local firefighters honored

The Cedar Springs Men and Ladies of Honor recently honored the Cedar Springs Fire Department for all of their sacrifice for our community. They were presented the Thin Red Line Flag, which represents the courage firefighters find to conquer their darkest fears in order to save and protect the lives and property of others. The Men and Ladies of Honor also presented them with bags of treats and drinks to enjoy.  

Men and Ladies of Honor teaches biblical character to middle school and high school young men and ladies in the public schools.  Due to the pandemic, MLOH has not been able to meet in the schools so have been doing the best they can by meeting at City Impact on Main Street.  The students have been learning about biblical leadership and have been putting their new skills to use by honoring groups and individuals in our community.  

The Cedar Springs Men and Ladies of Honor meets after school at City Impact on Thursdays at 2:45 p.m. and is for 6th, 7th, 8th and high school students. They end at 4 p.m. For more information, call MLOH Regional Director Randy Badge at 616-799-5776 or email him at randy.badge55@gmail.com.

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Police seek suspects in home invasions

By Judy Reed

The Kent County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the suspect(s) involved in several home invasion/burglaries in northern Kent County last week.

The Post was contacted by a reader last Wednesday afternoon, February 17, who said they had come home to find their house broken into and several valuable items taken. They reported that a neighbor’s house had also been broken into.

The Post contacted the Kent County Sheriff’s Office to find out if there had been other break-ins as well.

Sgt. Joy Matthews confirmed that they were investigating a few homes that were broken into in the 6000 block of 18 Mile Rd in Nelson Township, and the 13000 block of Shaner, in Courtland Township. She said the incidents occurred during daytime hours and items were taken from the homes.

Forms of entry varied. At least one home was reportedly broken into through the garage, and another had their front door kicked in. Items taken included cash, jewelry, and a handgun.

“Please remind people to lock their houses (day and night) and call us if they see any suspicious persons or vehicles,” said Matthews. 

If you see anything suspicious, don’t hesitate to call 911. If you know anything about the break-ins and thefts, you can call non-emergency dispatch at (616) 632-6100, or leave a tip with Silent Observer at (616) 774-2345. You can also submit a tip through the Kent County Sheriff Office app, or the Silent Observer app, or online at www.silentobserver.org.

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Silent Observer: A year in review

What a year it was!

From Silent Observer

2020 certainly was a challenging year as life changed for us in a blink of an eye. Some of us became ill, some lost loved ones, businesses were shuttered until it was deemed safe enough for reopening. Schools went virtual which has fostered isolation, and crime increased. We all are aware of the challenges, but we hope you saw some of the blessings that came out of this too. More time with family; a reassessment as to what is really important; new creative ways to spend your time; reinvention of our businesses to stay relevant and successful; and the list goes on and on. 
What we will address though is the increase in crime in 2020, which gave us great pause and concern. The number of tips Silent Observer received regarding shootings, homicides, armed robbery, and drug dealing increased and although our resources were stretched at times, we worked diligently in giving community members the opportunity to report information about crime safely and anonymously.  

Silent Observer received 2,400 tips in 2020, which is an all-time high. Some of our crime-solving tips led to:

Four people responsible for beating up and assaulting multiple victims while two of the four carried an assault rifle and a handgun. They were charged with Armed Robbery and Assault.

A suspect wanted for the murder of Ernest Griffin.  A tip led to this dangerous felon’s location. 

A 13-year old was sexually assaulted and impregnated by someone she knew but this young girl was afraid to tell anyone. This criminal act may have not come to light had a tipster not decided to speak up on her behalf, which alerted authorities as to who was responsible and also got this young girl the help she needed.

Mark Toliver was murdered in May of 2016 and Silent Observer received a tip shortly after naming the person involved. It took a few years for police to develop the case, but the suspect was arrested and charged last spring, thanks to an anonymous tipster. 

Dangerous people with felony warrants including shootings, parole absconders and drug dealers selling heroin, meth, and cocaine.

Nine weapons were removed from our streets thanks to Silent Observer tipsters.

Silent Observer received a record number of tips that led to the identities of 12 individuals who vandalized our beautiful downtown area, doing $2.1 million dollars in damage.     

In 2020, Silent Observer addressed the violence by:

Increasing rewards regarding violence, gun crimes, and burglaries of car dealerships, gun stores and cell phone stores.  

You Know Who Killed Me Billboard Campaign – We ask anyone with any knowledge of unsolved homicides to share their information with Silent Observer to bring the killers to justice.  A $3,000 reward is offered.

Offering rewards for information leading to those who vandalized our beautiful downtown doing $2.1 million dollars in damage.  We received a record number of tips which led police to arrest many of the people involved.

Silent Observer uses state of the art tip taking technology where users can contact us via phone, web, and mobile app.  Someone is always on-hand to deliver the crime-solving information to police, 24/7.  

Silent Observer Promises Anonymity

With crimes occurring in our city so fast and furious, our citizens need a safe place to share their important crime-solving information without fear of retaliation from criminals. The Code of Silence is a strong force, and you all know, the only beneficiaries of the code of silence are the ones who make life difficult for us.  Silent Observer is there for the community; not only does tip information help police remove criminals from our streets, but victims of crime also get answers and see justice being served. That’s why a functional and efficient Silent Observer Program is more important than ever. Silent Observer is a non-profit organization that guarantees those who provide tips to us will remain anonymous. We don’t have caller ID and we do not track IP addresses. And if a tip leads to an arrest, the tipster is eligible for a reward.  

State law protects Silent Observer tips from discovery and FOIA so you can be assured, that those who use our many anonymous tip lines will never, ever be identified. See the graphic that explains how a tip is handled from start to finish.  

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Innocence Project earns release of man after more than 15 years in prison

Kenneth Nixon hugs his mother after being released from prison after 16 years.
Kenneth Nixon after being released from the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia, MI.

On Thursday, February 18, Wayne County Judge Bruce Morrow set aside the conviction of Mr. Kenneth Nixon. Nixon, now 34, was wrongfully convicted of murder, attempted murder, and arson in 2005.

Assistant Prosecutor Valerie Newman, Director of the Wayne County Prosecutor Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, moved to have Nixon’s conviction vacated and requested dismissal of all charges. Nixon is represented by the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Innocence Project (WMU-Cooley Innocence Project).

“Mr. Nixon has worked tirelessly over the last 15 years to regain his freedom. Thanks to Mr. Nixon’s persistence and the collaboration between the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project and the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit, Mr. Nixon will finally be reunited with his loved ones,” said his attorney, David Williams.

On May 19, 2005, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into a home on Charleston street in Detroit, causing the deaths of a 10-year-old boy and a 1-year-old girl. The mother and other children, including her 13-year-old son, were also in the home and sustained injuries.

Nixon, then 19, and his then girlfriend, Latoya Caulford, were charged with two counts of felony murder, one count of arson and four counts of attempted murder. Caulford, accused of driving Nixon to the Charleston house, was acquitted after a separate jury trial on Sept. 21, 2005. But Nixon was convicted on all charges.

The main issue at trial was the identification of the person who threw the Molotov cocktail. Nixon always denied his involvement in the crime and presented evidence that he was with Caulford at her home during the time of the fire. Two alibi witnesses were presented to support his defense, but Caulford could not testify due to her own pending charges. The identification of Nixon was based upon statements made by the 13-year-old witness, who was at the home at time of the fire, and the testimony of a jailhouse informant, who was housed at the same jail as Nixon after his arrest. On Aug. 29, 2005, the informant received special consideration in an unrelated case. On Aug. 30, the informant gave a statement to police incriminating Nixon. At trial, the informant testified that he did not see news reports of the fire. But, in 2018, the informant was interviewed by the Medill Justice Project and the informant admitted that he had seen news coverage of the case before speaking to Nixon.

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project worked with the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit to DNA test the Molotov cocktail used to start the fire. Unfortunately, no DNA results were obtained. However, there was other new evidence that supported Nixon’s innocence and the Cooley team requested the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit to reinvestigate the case.  Based on their own investigation and findings, the Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit requested a new trial and the dismissal of all charges.

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project is the only post-conviction DNA innocence organization in the state. Since its inception, the office has screened over 5,800 cases and is responsible for the exoneration of five men: Kenneth Wyniemko (2003), Nathaniel Hatchett (2008), and Wayne County residents Donya Davis (2014), LeDura Watkins (2017), and Kenneth Nixon. This past year, the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project supported the exonerations of Ramon Ward and Lacino Hamilton by contributing its DNA expertise and grant resources to obtain testing.

In 2018, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project received a $451,238 Bloodsworth grant from the Department of Justice to screen claims of innocence and conduct DNA testing of material evidence in appropriate cases. Since 2018, the two offices have been partnering on forensic casework.

Kenneth Nixon (center) with WMU-Cooley Innocence Project team members. Pictured (left-right) Tracey Brame, Innocence Project director; Lori Montgomery; Nixon; David Williams, staff attorney; Matthew Smith, team member.

At the end of the hearing, after learning that 28 cases have resulted in exonerations since Wayne County Conviction Integrity Unit was formed, the Hon. Bruce Morrow asked, “If there were more schools like Cooley that participated in the innocence project, how many more individuals could be exonerated?”

The WMU-Cooley Innocence Project has a similar grant partnership with the Michigan Attorney General Office, Conviction Integrity Unit, assisting its office with the evaluation of innocence claims.

Established in 2001, the WMU-Cooley Innocence Project provides legal assistance to persons who are claiming factual innocence. Their work focuses on obtaining post-conviction DNA testing and challenging unreliable forensic practices. 

For more information visit www.cooley.edu/academics/experiential-learning/innocence-project.

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Kent County Health Department administers 20,000th dose of COVID-19 vaccine

From L to R: Mary Wisinski, Immunizations Supervisor at Kent County Health Department was the first to receive a dose at KCHD on December 18, 2020; and Shelley Grissom received the 20,000th dose on February 19. 

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) administered dose number 20,000 the morning of February 19 at its vaccine clinic located at 700 Fuller NE. The milestone comes almost two months exactly since the first dose was administered on December 18, 2020.

Shelley Grissom of Grand Rapids was the recipient of the landmark dose when she received her first dose of the vaccine around 10:30 a.m. She was presented with balloons and a crown by KCHD staff to celebrate the event.

“This is the best birthday present I could have ever asked for,” said Grissom whose birthday was Monday, February 22. “I have been wanting the vaccine for a long time and now I have it.”

Grissom’s husband of 28 years, Robert Grissom, received his first dose on Thursday, February 18.

KCHD Immunizations Supervisor Mary Winsinski, who received the first dose administered at the KCHD clinic on December 18, was on hand to witness the moment.

“This achievement shows what public health is all about. Our staff has been working tirelessly for the past year to get to this point. Today they are able to start seeing the tangible results of those efforts and they deserve to celebrate.”

The KCHD clinic is open by appointment only and is currently working to vaccinate people over 65, and prioritized frontline workers as identified by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service.

As of February 19, 2021, more than 136 thousand doses of COVID-19 Vaccine have been administered to Kent County Residents. Of this amount, more than 85 thousand have received their first vaccines and more than 50 thousand have now received their second doses.

“This is a significant moment in Kent County, not just for our clinic at KCHD but for everyone who lives in Kent County,” said Dr. Adam London, Director at KCHD. “Everyday we are one step closer to containing this virus and getting back to our normal lives.

To learn more about their vaccine efforts, visit www.vaccinatewestmi.com.

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