Dearborn, Dearborn Heights: A look back at 2015

Photo by Zeinab Najm. Visitors fill the Museum Plaza at the Henry Ford Museum to get a look at the Lincoln rocking chair, out of its usual glass case. The museum commemorated the 150 anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination by displaying the chair in open air April 15.

Photo by Zeinab Najm. Visitors fill the Museum Plaza at the Henry Ford Museum to get a look at the Lincoln rocking chair, out of its usual glass case. The museum commemorated the 150 anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination by displaying the chair in open air April 15.

Times-Herald Newsapapers

Here’s a look back at the the first half of 2015 and the news that shaped Dearborn and Dearborn Heights.


The Minneapolis non-profit Artspace began renovations on the former City Hall complex Jan. 5. The completed City Hall Lofts $16.5 million arts campus project will include 53 apartment units made up of affordable live and work space for artists and their families.

Dearborn Heights signed up for Ping4Alerts to improve the online communication between the city and its residents. The cellphone application allows public officials and agencies to send emergency updates, crime alerts, community events information and road conditions to residents. Law enforcement agencies can also send safety alerts to residents.

Two new Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education trustees and one incumbent were sworn in at the Jan. 12 meeting. Mary Petlichkoff, Mariam Bazzi and Michael Meade all won seats on the board during the Nov. 4, 2014, election after incumbents Pam Adams, Hussein Berry and James Schoolmaster did not seek reelection.

Dearborn Public Schools updated its swipe identification cards for the entire district as part of the 2013 SMART Bond approval. When employees enter the building they now swipe their identification cards past a sensor on a control panel near the door.

An autopsy completed on Jan. 12 of a Dearborn Heights man found dead in a pond at Central Michigan University Oct. 5 while visiting friends revealed that Michael Hartnett accidentally drown when he became submerged in cold water.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Robert Ziolkowski ordered Julie Hultgren (formerly Pucci) be paid $1.18 million resulting from her 2006 wrongful termination case against 19th District Court Judge Mark Somers Jan. 16. Hultgren filed a complaint with the court administrator alleging Somers was bringing personal religious beliefs into the court’s business and his judicial proceedings. The following year, Hultgren filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against Somers, the 19th District Court and the city of Dearborn alleging the violation of her due process rights, and claims of religious, marital-status and sex discrimination.

Westland police arrested four men in connection with the badly beaten body of Westland woman Diedra Akins found Jan. 19 on Powers near John Daly Road in Dearborn Heights. Terrance Johnson and Randy Batts were charged with first-degree and Michael Bashlor and Joshua Hurston-Herron were charged with helping to dump the body.
Dearborn Heights District 7 Supt. Todd Thicken resigned from his position due to health and personal reasons. The D7 Board of Education accepted his resignation during its Jan. 20 board meeting.


Dearborn resident, Darlene Hider was harassed on a Delta Airlines Flight because of her Islamic head scarf and Islamic faith. Hider, her husband and four children were on a flight from Florida to Detroit on Feb. 2 when the incident allegedly occurred. Hider said another passenger on the plane told her to calm her children down before the plane took off. The agent asked Hider and her children to move to other empty seats on the plane, which she agreed to.

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. and City Clerk Kathy Buda received pay increases Feb. 5. O’Reilly’s salary went from $131,133 to $137,690 in 2015 and $144,575 in 2016; Buda also saw an increase from $72,555 to $76,183 in 2015 and $79,992 in 2016.

A fire broke out at AK Steel in Dearborn Feb. 9, causing a thick, black smoke to fill the air. Firefighters spent three hours dealing with the fire that was caused when housing unit rubber fell off the conveyor belt that feeds the furnace.

A federal corruption investigation into Wayne County government that cleared former County Executive Robert Ficano Feb. 9 also cleared one of his top aides, a Dearborn resident. Ficano, former Deputy Wayne County Executive Azzam Elder of Dearborn, and former Chief Development officer Turkia Awada Mullin, whose $200,000 severance deal in 2011 eventually upended the Ficano administration, would not face charges in the more than three-year probe.

Police investigated an alleged assault Feb. 12 at a Dearborn Kroger as a possible hate crime. Police responded after receiving calls of a fight in progress inside the store about 6 p.m. An Arab American man and his family were physically and verbally attacked by two white men while shopping at the store, yelling racial phases at the family.

The Dearborn City Council Feb. 10 unanimously passed a new ordinance allowing only hookah lounges with a state exemption to conduct business in the city. With the new ordinance, businesses that want to continue serving food and hookah in the same building will have to obtain the state exemption and a city-approved license. If they cannot, they can serve only food with a food license.

The League of Women Voters — Dearborn/Dearborn Heights commemorated the LWV’s 95th anniversary with an Empowering Democracy dinner Feb 19. The nonpartisan organization has been dedicated to educating voters and advocating the public on the issues over its 95-year history.
More than 50 deer on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus were killed due to safety and public health problems over the weekend of Feb. 23. The university received permission from the city of Dearborn, Wayne County and the state of Michigan allowing for the deer cull to take place.

D7 voters rejected a technology bond for schools on Feb. 24, 382-346. The bond the district was seeking was worth $4.6 million to allow for safety and security upgrades, technology and wireless access to district facilities.


A collision March 11 between a vehicle and a tanker caused an explosion on eastbound I-94 near Wyoming Avenue and Michigan Avenue, and closed the expressway for several days for repairs. Police and firefighters received the call about the fire just after 11 a.m. and closed the expressway in both directions upon arrival. No injuries were reported from the incident.

Dearborn resident, Bassel Saad was sentenced to 8 to 15 years for involuntary manslaughter March 13 after he punched a soccer referee during a soccer game in Livonia in June 2014. Referee John Bieniewicz was preparing to give Saad a red card during the game when Saad punched Bieniewicz in the neck which cased the ref to collapse with his death coming a couple days later.

Beaumont Hospital-Dearborn reopened its emergency rooms after completing renovations on March 12 with a ribbon cutting ceremony. The emergency room was damaged in the August 2014 flood causing hospital staff to reorganize its patients.

The city of Dearborn ended user-paid parking at parking decks and surface lots in downtown west Dearborn March 15. A majority of the parking meters on the streets were removed with 40 remaining along Mason, Howard and West Village Drive to encourage customer turnover.

Dearborn Public Schools decided March 16 to end the program for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at the end of the school year. Ultimately, issues with the Total Communications Program led to the decision by the district.

The city of Dearborn began filling in the pond in front of the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center because of various issues. The city eliminated the pond because of costs involved with making it structurally sound and to get rid of invasive plants that had taken over its shores.
Former Dearborn Public Schools Supt. Brian Whiston was offered the State Board of Education superintendent position on March 18. The board voted 7-1 to choose Whiston after two days of interviews.

The Arab American National Museum launched its 10th anniversary celebration with the opening of the annex to the east of the museum on March 27. The 4,700-square-foot annex serves as a flexible space for activities, concerts and youth programs along with artwork, music or visual arts or performing arts and educational and cultural programs.


The Wayne County Airport Authority voted to name its future headquarters after Dearborn attorney Michael Berry when it is completed in 2017. The decision was made at the April 15 WCAA meeting when the board passed a resolution to name the new WCAA headquarters in Berry’s honor. The airport’s international terminal had carried Berry’s name until it closed.

Police arrested and charged Ezra Rodriguez Jr., 17, of Detroit April 14 in connection with carjacking, kidnapping, armed robbery, felony firearm and criminal sexual conduct. A woman was approached by Rodriguez who demanded money and her wallet and forced her into the passenger seat of her car on April 7. Rodriguez than drove to several locations where the woman was able to escape at Patton Park in Detroit where she called for help.

Hundreds of visitors crowded Henry Ford Museum for a chance to view the chair in which President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, but without its regular glass case. The museum commemorated the 150 anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination with an open display for one day only April 15.

D7 hired interim Supt. John Frazer as its permanent superintendent. The board unanimously voted to hire Frazer during a special board meeting April 28 finalizing a three-year contract.
The Dearborn High School video program WDHS ended its feature film making on April 30 with the premiere of its final feature films, “Spread Thin,” “Floke” and “Insanity.” The program now focuses on creating short films.


Ali Saad of Dearborn killed his 29-year-old wife, Heba Saad May 3 and then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. The incident occurred in a vehicle at a house in the 7500 block of Indiana when Heba was exchanging the couple’s two children.

Dearborn and Dearborn Heights voters reject Proposal 1 during the May 5 election 9,110 to 2,428 and 6, 278 to 1,041, respectively. Proposal 1 would have increased the state retail sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. The increase was projected to raise almost $1.3 billion in new transportation money beginning in 2017.

The Islamic Center of America accepted the resignation of Imam Sayed Hassan Al-Qazwini on May 9 after 18 years of leading the ICA. Al-Qazwini said he no longer could stay at the ICA because of issues with board members and their plans for the center.

Dale Van Dorp, the man known as “The Voice of Dearborn” died May 10 after a long battle with cancer at the age of 62. Van Dorp was known around Dearborn through his involvement in various jobs and activities, including the Dearborn Homecoming festival.

The Dearborn Heights ordinance department received new tablets n May 12 to allow ordinance officers to increase efficiency while handling calls in the field. The new tablets will allow field ordinance inspectors to check on construction project permits, dog and cat licensing, house tenant checks and more instead of calling back to the office.

Dearborn Heights police found two men dead in a garage in the 8500 block of Lochdale on May 15 from a drug overdose. Dearborn Heights Police Sgt. John Burdick, 46, and Dearborn Heights resident James McEwen, 45 were discovered by the homeowner and pronounced dead on the scene.

The Dearborn Police department launched its Lock it or Lose it campaign May 27 with the goal of decreasing thefts from vehicles during the summer and beyond by reminding residents to simply lock their cars. Easy tips for residents included, not leaving valuables in an unattended vehicle, locking materials in the trunk of the car or out of clear view and always locking unattended vehicles.


An off-duty Washington, D.C., police officer and his brother-in-law were shot on June 1 after leaving the Pantheion Club in Dearborn. Investigation by Dearborn police indicated that two vehicles were stopped at a traffic light on eastbound Michigan Avenue at Miller Road. While stopped, the passenger in a four-door sedan yelled something at the victims. The suspect driver then fired an estimated four to eight shots into the victims’ vehicle, striking both men.

Dearborn Heights police arrested and charged Heights resident Gary Earl Oliver, 65, with first degree murder and felony firearm after he shot and killed his 60-year-old neighbor. The shooting occurred June 3 at a house in the 6400 block of Fairwood after a dispute between the two neighbors.

The Littlefield Presbyterian Church celebrated its 85th anniversary on June 7 with a traditional service, special speakers and friends, and the oldest living member of the church. Littlefield Presbyterian Church was congregated in 1930 with 95 members as a neighborhood church to serve the surrounding neighborhoods.

Detroit police arrested and charged Ali Alriashi of Dearborn in connection to several sexual assaults on Detroit’s southwest side. The 31-year-old was charged June 9 with two counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct, third degree criminal sexual conduct, felony firearm possession and kidnapping.

A settlement was reached in the civil case against Theodore Wafer, 56, who shot and killed Renisha McBride, 19, on his Dearborn Heights porch in 2013. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Hathaway approved the civil settlement June 12. The attorneys for Wafer and McBride did not release the financial information of the settlement due to a confidentiality agreement.

Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education approved a $187 million general fund budget during its June 22 meeting for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Included in the approved budget was a $25 foundation allowance per pupil from the state amounting to $1.5 million in additional revenue. There is also an estimated extra $250,000 for collections of local taxes.

The Rev. Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., planned a march to Dearborn June 26 to win souls and hand out DVD copies of the Arabic dubbed version of “Marching To Zion.”

The DPS Board of Education unanimously selected Glenn Maleyko as its new superintendent during its June 22 meeting. Maleyko worked for the district for 12 years and earned the position after former Supt. Brian Whiston accepted the State of Michigan superintendent job.

A Dearborn woman who said Dearborn police forced her to remove her hijab during booking procedures last September sued the city, Police Chief Ronald Haddad and specific police officers June 30. Maha Aldhalimi, 48, said she was arrested in September for a parking violation warrant when she was stopped by police for parking in a no parking zone outside of Walmart, 5851 Mercury Drive. During the booking process at the Police Department, Aldhalimi said she was forced to remove her Islamic hijab for her booking photo in front of male officers. In Islam, women who wear the hijab must keep their hair and neck covered in front of men who are not part of their immediate family. Aldhalimi claims she pleaded with officers to allow her to keep her hijab on or have a female officer take the photo but both of those requests were denied by officers.

(Next week: July through December.)