Downriver 2015: May to August

Photo courtesy Sherry Huntington/Lincoln Park Historical Commission. MC5 drummer Dennis “Machinegun” Thompson keeps the beat for Timmy’s Organism during a tribute concert marking the group’s 50th anniversary July 12.

Photo courtesy Sherry Huntington/Lincoln Park Historical Commission. MC5 drummer Dennis “Machinegun” Thompson keeps the beat for Timmy’s Organism during a tribute concert marking the group’s 50th anniversary July 12.

By JAMES MITCHELL and TEREASA NIMS
Sunday Times Newspapers

Here’s a look back at the middle third of 2015 and the news that shaped Downriver.

MAY

A proposed millage designed to shore up under-funded pension and retirement funds for Lincoln City retirees was rejected by voters May 5. A local Public Act 345 millage was rejected by 55.4 percent of the voters during the special election in which 10.6 percent of the city’s registered voters cast ballots. The election notably saw the overwhelming defeat of a statewide road-funding proposal, which 84 percent of Lincoln Park voters rejected.

The Trenton Fire Department fell under new leadership with the appointment of Fire Chief Dean Creech, who had most recently served as deputy chief in Dearborn before retiring in 2013. The department remained under the direction of Director of Police and Fire Services James Nardone and the 2013 reorganization of public safety for the city. The restructured administration and cross-training of personnel had reported considerable savings as city officials explored cost- and resource-sharing services with neighboring departments.

More than 200 volunteers joined Taylor resident Jim Taylor’s campaign to give Heritage Park a spring makeover. City officials said Taylor’s initial effort the previous year helped spark dozens of community-clean projects at public gathering places. The extensive landscaping efforts at Heritage Park were matched by neighborhood spruce-ups of pocket parks, graffiti removal, intersection cleanups and other initiatives.

Michigan State Police investigated the shooting death of 18-year-old Kyle Baker during a confrontation with Trenton police. Officers responded to a disturbance in the 28000 block of Longmeadow, where a man was said to be highly agitated. Baker confronted police, who initially fired a stun gun that failed to stop Baker’s attack on police. An officer was treated for injuries sustained during the confrontation.

The Wyandotte City Council unanimously approved construction of a VFW Dog Park. The $65,000 endeavor at VFW Post 1136 Park, 11th and Cherry streets.

Riverview Community Schools voters rejected the district’s combined $25 million request for a fourth time. “Yes, it was pretty discerning for a lot of people, parents and those who worked on this,” Supt. Russell Pickell said of the two rejected proposals intended to improve the district’s schools. The first proposal asked voters for approximately $20 million for improvements, renovations and security to the district’s schools. Voters denied it 1,656 to 1,494. The second proposal sought $4.7 million to turn the Riverview Community High School pool into a health and fitness area and improve the Seitz Middle School pool. The pool would have been open to the community for swimming. Voters shot that one down 1,636 to 1,431.

More than 80 motorcyclists from around Michigan showed in Melvindale for the first Blessings of the Bikes at Faith Christian Church May 3, in memory of one of their own biker brothers and to help raise awareness. Johnathan Stanley was 29 when he was riding his motorcycle with a friend in Reed City in June 2014. He was killed when an elderly woman pulled out from a side road and hit him. Stanley’s aunt, Joann Baker, of Southgate said the woman was prosecuted, despite the family not pushing for it.

The installation of two micro wind turbines on land southwest of 8th and Grove streets in Wyandotte will let the city complete terms of a 2006 Department of Energy wind grant. Energy programs manager Valerie Hall said after the $1.35 million wind energy grant was awarded, studies showed industrial-sized wind turbines would not work for Wyandotte, and the project was adjusted to include two micro wind turbines, plus geothermal renewable energy projects and energy-efficient LED lighting throughout the city.

JUNE

Taylor welcomed the community to its first Farmer’s Market, sponsored by Oakwood Healthcare, at the Sheridan Center open-air pavilion in Heritage Park. The opening kicked off a series of weekly events to promote both a “Healthy Taylor” initiative and local food suppliers, artisans and crafters. Local businesses contributed to each week’s events with prizes and raffles in support of special events that included car shows and live music.

A 33-year-old man was charged with the murder of a 28-year-old Southgate woman and her 10-year-old son in the La Collonade apartment they’d recently begun sharing. Antoine Terrail Beck was arraigned on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Courtney Marie Durr and her son, Sumari Keon Das. Police and prosecutors said Beck had recently moved into the apartment and had been in a dating relationship with Durr.

A 27-year-old Taylor man was sentenced to a year in prison after racking up multiple felonies during a crash-filled January joy ride that included having briefly stolen a Taylor police vehicle. Derek Michael Wigington pleaded guilty to a single felony – unauthorized driving away of an automobile – and a second-offense drunken driving charge. Wigington crashed into numerous vehicles during a lengthy, frantic drive, and at one point took command of a squad car before driving into a snow bank. The sentence included strict probation restrictions and that Wigington receive mental health counseling.

Friends and city officials mourned the sudden death of former Lincoln Park Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause, who died June 12 while vacationing in Spain. Krause, 67, had served as mayor from 2011 to 2013, and was the city’s first woman mayor. Krause grew up in Lincoln Park, was involved in civic affairs for more than 40 years, and most recently served as president of the Lincoln Park Historical Society in addition to volunteer work for the Farmer’s Market, Memorial Day Parade committee and had organized a Garden Walk for the Community Improvement Commission. Krause was survived by sons Adam and Ryan.

Southgate City Administrator Brandon Fournier stepped down from his post while taking the next step of his legal career. Fournier had served the city since accepting the position in 2010 at age 26, and city officials said he was instrumental in revitalization efforts such as the Market Center Park pavilion at Southgate Shopping Center. Fournier expected to continue working with the city as a labor attorney, and was succeeded as administrator by Bryce Kelley, former Director of the Wayne County Economic Development Growth Engine.

Prosecutors charged Aaron Sydney Marshall, 35, with premeditated homicide and felony murder in the strangulation death of 65-year-old George Hite in Trenton. Beck had for several months been a person of interest to police, who determined that the two had known each other and shared visits to Detroit casinos. Investigators further said cell phone records indicated that Marshall had been at Hite’s Westwood condo. Marshall’s denial of having been in Trenton had resulted in charges of lying to a peace officer.

For the first time in several years city officials cited “substantial progress” at the site of the former Riverside Osteopathic Hospital. City Administrator Jim Wagner said a June agreement with representatives of property owner Dr. Iqbal Nasir had been reached to allow additional time for a new proposal, and that improvements at the complex had been made. Following a recommendation by the Dangerous Buildings Board for the city to consider demolition if a workable plan was not presented, contractors had made improvements at the site to include window repairs and landscaping maintenance. Further adjustments were expected in response to neighbor complaints that the buildings had become a hazard and nuisance.

A pickup truck that caught fire inside Lake Shore Services Inc., at 4354 Biddle Ave., in Wyandotte caused extensive damage to other vehicles inside the garage as well as the structure itself. Shortly after staff closed and left the business, an alarm company notified the Fire Department of a fire inside the facility. Wyandotte firefighters arrived about 4:45 p.m. and with the assistance of Southgate firefighters were able to put out the blaze within approximately two hours.

Melvindale police investigated a pipe bomb that was discovered behind the BP gas station at 18060 Allen Road the morning of May 30. A gas station employee discovered the bomb about 11:20 a.m. while cleaning up the alley, and called police. Officers immediately closed and evacuated the gas station and neighboring 7-Eleven store. Police evacuated residents of the nearby neighborhood and then closed off the streets for approximately two hours. The state police Bomb Squad used a remote controlled robot to evaluate the situation and safely removed and deactivated the pipe bomb from the gas meter to which it was attached.

Mother Nature took one final shot at the Allen Park Police Department before it moved to its new location this week. Torrential rains caused flood damage at the department, 16580 Southfield Road, which had to be shut down June 1. The department moved to its new location at 16630 Southfield the following week. Flooding and roof leaks had plagued the department for almost a decade.

Allen Park City Hall also found a new home at 16630 Southfield Road, alongside the Ford Breadboard Lab. The building is the former location for Stautzenberger Institute. The new location is a welcome change for city officials and residents, who dealt with a very dilapidated building, that was prone to flooding, for more then a decade.

Melvindale resident Charles Miller, who pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct second degree in Wayne County Circuit Court for a running child pornography studio out of his house, was sentenced to serve 20 to 30 years at the Michigan Department of Corrections. When and if Miller, 59, should happen to get out, he is subject to lifetime electronic monitoring and registering himself as a sex offender. Upon bestowing Miller’s sentence Judge Mark Slavens said, “Mr. Miller, I want you to know that your house of horrors is now officially closed. Your actions are despicable and deplorable in the eyes of this court.”

A Melvindale man believed to have a fatal illness killed his autistic son and then himself June 12 because he didn’t want to burden his family, police said. John Richett, 58, and his son Nicholas Richett, 20, were found dead in their house in the 3600 block of Caryn Street. Police said a note found in the house said John Richett suffered from an unconfirmed illness usually deemed fatal and that he did not want to burden his family with the care of his son, should he die. Nicholas Richett was severely autistic and it is believed that his mentality was that of an 18- to 24-month-old child and required 24-hour-a-day care.

Riverview Community Schools Trustee Allen Gaggini submitted his resignation via email June 22. He had been in office for six months. The resignation is affective immediately. No reasons were given for the sudden resignation.

JULY

Elected officials in Southgate voted to continue both length and limits of terms served in office, and remained one of a shrinking number of municipalities with two-year terms. City Clerk Janice Ferencz proposed ballot amendments to ask voters to approve a change to four-year terms – thus saving the costs of elections – and to limit officials to four terms served. Council members who rejected ballot placement for the amendments argued that two-year terms provides term limits by giving voters a choice every two years. The city confirmed that its November ballot – absent state or county issues – would for the third consecutive time feature uncontested races for mayor, clerk, treasurer and council seats.

Lincoln Park Police Chief Ray Watters officially accepted the position that he informally held for several months. City officials confirmed the retirement of Chief Brian Hawk, who had been on medical leave since November 2014. Hawk had served with the department for more than 20 years, including six years as a K-9 handler before succeeding Chief Thomas Karnes, who retired prior to his election as mayor.

For the first time in years the stage at Lincoln Park’s Kennedy Memorial Park hosted live music and marked the golden anniversary of the legendary MC5’s birth in the city. The Lincoln Park Historical Museum organized the special exhibit – which highlighted the band’s Downriver origins and rise to fame in the 1960s – and tribute concert that included a special appearance by MC5 drummer Dennis “Machinegun” Thompson. The July concert also marked the rebirth of the iconic Bandshell, which was restored through a combination of crowd-funding and volunteer contributions.

Two men who robbed and kidnapped a 69-year-old Southgate man were sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison. Alphonso Straughter, 31, of Detroit, and 36-year-old Tajick Jackson of River Rouge, in January confronted the man at his Brest Road home, forced him into the trunk of his vehicle at gunpoint and drove off. The man escaped on Telegraph Road by using the trunk’s emergency latch. Police and prosecutors said the robbery was arranged by the man’s 17-year-old girlfriend, who was given probation after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

A 19-year-old Lincoln Park man was charged with having shot a 44-year-old man – the father of an acquaintance – after a confrontation on Mayflower Avenue. Tobias James Catron faced a possible life sentence after being arraigned on four felony counts including assault with intent to commit murder. Catron allegedly exchanged several text messages with the man – a disagreement over use of a cell phone – before an encounter that ended in gunfire. Catron fled the scene, but turned himself in to police the following day.

Taylor School District Supt. Diane Allen delayed her planned retirement for up to a year after school officials voted against offering the job to either of two candidates who were interviewed. Allen earlier in the year said she would bring to an end a more than 40-year career with the district, but subsequently agreed to remain in office until a successor was identified.

A step toward Lincoln Park’s return to self-authority was taken with the appointment of Matt Coppler as city manager, a tenure that would begin in October. Emergency Manager Brad Coulter said Coppler – serving as town manager of Enfield, Conn., would transition into the job with hopes of the city ending state oversight by year’s end.

A 91-year-old Wyandotte woman on oxygen was robbed of thousands of dollars of jewelry as she lay bedridden in her home in the 2700 block of Ninth Street. Police arrested David Connole, 32, shortly afterward two blocks away on the 1100 block of Superior, with the jewelry in tow, after a man reported a suspicious person going through back yards. Connole, an admitted homeless heroin addict, was arraigned in 27th District Court on charges of first degree home invasion, strong arm robbery, larceny from a building, and habitual offender second offense. His bond was set at $1 million, 10 percent. He also was cited for malicious destruction of property, while incarcerated, as officers caught him on camera destroying a mattress.

Wyandotte Municipal Services investigated a sinkhole in the parking lot of City Hall/Chase Bank, that could put residents and workers at risk should it cave in. “It’s creating a void under the surface of the parking lot,” Assistant City Engineer Greg Mayhew said. He said there might be a connection between the old storm line on Second Street and the problem arising in the parking lot. In order to solve the problem workers dug a trench about 10 feet long, 2 feet wide and 4 feet deep in the boulevard that divides the parking area.

An Allen Park woman was raped and robbed about 3 a.m. July 6 on Ann Street near the intersection of Outer Drive and the Southfield Freeway. The woman was sleeping in her bedroom when the intruder entered through an unlocked window, police said. The woman woke, startled by the noise, to see an unknown man in her bedroom. The man informed her that he had a weapon and threatened to kill her if she attempted to fight him off or call the police. He then proceeded to sexually assault her. Afterward, he took the small amount of cash from her wallet, which was inside her purse, and left.

A Wyandotte man was robbed and then shot in the face while pumping gas about 8:30 p.m. July 20 at Marathon Gas, 1021 Inkster Road. Jonathon Bumgardner, 19, was rushed to Oakwood Hospital-Dearborn where he underwent surgery, and was released. Police arrested two suspects — ages 23 and 21 — who were arraigned July 25 in 22nd District Court. The two men were apprehended in the early morning on July 22, at a friend’s house because of a tips from Inkster residents. Police also were able to confiscate the gun that was used.

Photo courtesy of PDQ Photos. The team from Chinese Taipei takes a victory lap after winning its third consecutive Junior League World Series title in Taylor in August. The team didn’t lose a game during its three-year run.

Photo courtesy of PDQ Photos. The team from Chinese Taipei takes a victory lap after winning its third consecutive Junior League World Series title in Taylor in August. The team didn’t lose a game during its three-year run.

AUGUST

For the third year in a row a team representing Chinese Taipei not only won but dominated the Junior League World Series in Taylor. The Asian squad not only took top honors at the 35th annual tournament for the world’s best 13- and 14-year-old ballplayers, the boys dominated and kept alive an undefeated streak of three years’ standing. The Taiwan team topped the U.S. bracket winners from Virginia, who dominated American play during the week’s contests.

A man police considered a person of interest in the strangulation death of 64-year-old Trenton resident George Hite was charged with felony murder in Wayne County Circuit Court. Aaron Marshall, a 35-year-old Detroit man, was charged with first-degree, premeditated murder in the March death of Hite, who was killed in his Westwood condo.

The demolition of a building long considered an eyesore was a welcome sight for Taylor residents. Contractors demolished the old Ramada Inn on Eureka Road, the first of several razings expected to pave the way for new development along the corridor. The former hotel sat vacant for seven years, and property owners were working on plans for that location and the neighboring, former Taylor Tool site.

Taylor city officials approved an ambitious recreation project to bring summer fun to local children and honor the memory of former Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand. Plans for a relocated and expanded splash pad at Heritage Park’s Sheridan Center were finalized, a project that had been initiated during Lamarand’s tenure that ended in 2013. The former mayor died in October 2014, and Mayor Rick Sollars said the project would be dedicated to his memory.

Kevin VanBoxell’s appointment to Wyandotte City Council by Mayor Joseph Peterson, was approved by the council Aug. 3, after a lengthy debate by both residents and council members. VanBoxell ran for city council in the 2013 election and lost by 7 votes. It was because of this and his interview for the position that Peterson selected him to fill the spot vacated by Lawrence Stec.

The cities of Allen Park and Dearborn reached an agreement to have the Dearborn Police Department house Allen Park prisoners. The Dearborn City Council passed the resolution during its Aug. 11 meeting. The agreement authorizes the mayor and city to enter a lease agreement with the city of Allen Park for the use of lockup space at the Dearborn Police Department. Allen Park will pay Dearborn $27 per cell, per day including the cost of food with additional fees assessed when appropriate. The agreement comes after Allen Park moved its police department and city hall operations to a new facility July 9. The Allen Park City Council voted unanimously to approve the agreement during its July 14 meeting. The prisoners were still being housed at the former police department which has a leaky roof and flooding issues.

(Next week: September through December.)

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