Downriver Year in Review

Photo by Tereasa Nims. Benny Morawa (left), Alex Sorenson, Chris Stonebraker and Libby Drotar discuss the closing of one of their favorite coffee shops and hangouts, Tongue’s Coffee. The downtown Wyandotte business closed after landlords raised their rent 60 percent.

Photo by Tereasa Nims. Benny Morawa (left), Alex Sorenson, Chris Stonebraker and Libby Drotar discuss the closing of one of their favorite coffee shops and hangouts, Tongue’s Coffee. The downtown Wyandotte business closed after landlords raised their rent 60 percent.

Sunday Times Newspapers

Here’s a look back at the first third of 2016 and the news that shaped Downriver.


Former Allen Park City Councilwoman Marcy DeGiulio questioned why the Police Department investigated allegations of a male officer harassing a female office instead of using an outside investigator, and was critical of the city manager and city attorney’s decision to not bring the matter to the council.

While Lincoln Park Emergency Manager Brad Coulter wasn’t present, the city greeted the new year with his final orders. The city used the orders to help get out of a difficult financial position. Most of the authority that Coulter was granted by the state fell to the office of City Manager Matthew Coppler.

A Melvindale school bus driver lost his temper and end up being charged with child abuse and assault and battery when he threw ice at misbehaving students and hit an innocent bystander, an 11-year-old girl, in the head.

Riverview Councilwoman Lynn Blanchette expressed anger at newly installed Councilman Bill Towle, whom she had removed as an alternate from the 27th District Court board on Jan. 19 at a study session. She reacted angrily when Towle suggested study sessions be televised for residents.

Riverview Community Schools Supt. Russell Pickell said at a Jan. 26 school board meeting that new state legislation that amounts to a gag order would make it difficult for explain to voters why it seeks 19 mills in a March 8 election to fund 8 percent of the school system’s $25 million budget.

Tongue’s Coffee, 2958 Biddle in Wyandotte, closed due to a 60 percent rent increase by landlords Janette and Annette Crossman, and Kathleen Gunther, owners of neighboring Total Health Foods.


Allen Park City Administrator Mark Kibby and Councilman Harry Sisko expressed frustration over the city’s inability to offer competitive salaries to attract new police officers, a problem also impacting hiring in the fire department.

Lincoln Park Historical Museum announced plans to ensure the landmark Verdin tower keeps time for years to come. Curator Jeff Day said plans for 2016 included the Historical Society’s first fundraiser in years to repair the iconic oversized timepiece.

A conflict Feb. 13 at Play Atlantis, 19400 Allen Road in Melvindale, turned deadly when a 45-year-old man died of a gunshot wound to the head. The suspected shooter — 23-year-old Lamar Alexander Carter of Detroit — turned himself in to authorities Feb. 25 in Alabama. He was arraigned in 24th District Court on first-degree murder charges in March.

Temporary lifting of state “gag order” legislation allowed Riverview schools officials to tell residents that the March 8 ballot proposal for 18 mills would not increase residential property taxes. The proposal is a continuation of a 1996 millage on commercial and rental properties.

A second suspicious fire at Wild Coney & Grill, 18818 Fort St. in Riverview, on Feb. 15 was quickly extinguished by Riverview and Trenton firefighters.

A 34-year-old Southgate man pleaded guilty Feb. 8, to two counts of second-degree murder in the June 2015 killings of a woman and her 10-year-old son. Antoine Terrail Beck was sentenced Feb. 24, to at least 45 years in prison. Beck is convicted of killing Courtney Marie Durr, 28, and her son, Sumari Keon Das.

One Taylor resident suffered minor injuries Feb. 23, when an apartment fire at Heritage Glen complex damaged 14 units. No one else was injured in the fire. Firefighters from Taylor and Allen Park responded to the blaze. The blaze was contained quickly, but not before several apartments had sustained damage.

Taylor School District chose Ben Williams as the next top administrator after a year-long search. Williams replaced Supt. Diane Allen. The school board offered the position to Williams, 46, who began service in June, after concluding his role as superintendent for Central Lake Schools.

A 27-year-old Taylor woman was sentenced to at least 12 years in prison in the shooting death of a man who was living with her. Gabrielle Yvonne Butler was sentenced to 12 to 15 years for manslaughter plus a consecutive, mandatory two-year term for felony firearms possession.

Six Wyandotte Wilson Middle School students won the Fan Favorite vote out of 1,200 middle and high school submissions for the Verizon Innovation App Challenge. The application they created, “Protect our Parks,” lets users take photos of park problems, like graffiti or broken equipment, which are then sent directly to city officials responsible for park upkeep.


An abandoned drone, discovered in an Allen Park resident’s backyard, was taken into police custody, with no one stepping forward to claim the unregistered device.

The Allen Park City Council approved the purchase of a new ambulance, a $160,000 expenditure. Fire Chief Doug LaFond said maintenance costs on the department’s medium-duty ambulance were straining the department’s maintenance budget.

An Allen Park man was held on bond after allegedly raping a woman at gunpoint. The man tricked the woman by texting her and pretending to be a former boyfriend. He was arraigned in April in 24th District Court.

Lincoln Park Mayor Thomas Karnes announced that the city was on the mend during his State of the City address. He said, “We don’t have a miracle cure, and we have to work together and live within our budget.” This was the first public address since the city exited state-mandated emergency management the previous December.

A Lincoln Park woman said she was repeatedly raped by two men who reportedly kidnapped her and took turns sexually assaulting her in her vehicle while the other person drove. Fernando Anderson IV, 19, surrendered in the company of an attorney after having been named a person of interest. The surrender came a day after Anderson’s alleged accomplice – his 22-year-old cousin – turned himself in

Riverview schools voters overwhelmingly approved the school millage request March 8, 75 percent to 25. The renewal will provide roughly 8 percent of the school district’s $25 million yearly budget.

The Riverview Police Department received funding, in a form of a grant, to increase road patrols to detect and remove drunken drivers from the area roadways. Police Chief Clifford Rosebohm said grants were distributed throughout the state at select departments.

Southgate police investigated what happened to a 32-year-old man found shot in the 14000 block of Longtin near Mercier. The man was shot in the shoulder and a neighbor found him in his driveway and called 911 about 9 p.m. The man was taken to a nearby hospital and had been medicated and unable to tell them what happened.

Taylor police identified a woman whose body was found lying roadside near Haskell Street and Wick Road. Police Chief Mary Sclabassi said Jessica Marie Thomas, 45, was pronounced dead at the scene, although foul play was not likely.

Several challenges remained between idea and realization of a Trenton medical complex again doing business on the former Riverside Hospital grounds on West Jefferson, but a March 21 meeting’s unanimous approval of a site plan marked the most significant step taken in years. A preliminary site plan for the Riverside Wellness Center affecting 2171 W. Jefferson Ave. and adjacent parcels next was later reviewed by the planning commission.

Wyandotte Police K-9 officer Ice was presented a $2,000 stab- and bulletproof vest, donated by an out-of-state non-profit, to help protect him on the job.

The Wyandotte Police Department promoted Officer Brian Zalewski, a Wyandotte native and 24-year veteran of the force, to second in command, filling the role left vacant when Inspector Jamie Pouliot retired in December.


State Police launched an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and assault between an Allen Park police officer and a sergeant. The woman, a 15-year department veteran, requested an external investigation after the incident was initially investigated internally.

Volunteers from Allen Park Animal Welfare donated 25 animal oxygen masks to the fire department. Deputy Fire Chief Ed Cann said the donation will let the department outfit all of it trucks with the masks, valued at $25 each.

Two men were arrested in connection with a brazen armed robbery at a charity poker game in Taylor. Police Chief Mary Sclabassi said two of the suspects allegedly robbed the Momo’s Charitable Poker Room about 1 a.m. April 1. According to police reports, the men had been playing at a poker table earlier in the evening and returned after midnight wearing masks and brandishing handguns. A third man was arrested for alleged involvement after the fact.

With regrets at the loss of a Trenton community tradition, city council approved a recommendation to cancel the Fourth of July fireworks display due to a lack of sponsorship. City Administrator Jim Wagner said the absence of a sponsor for 2016 would have left the city responsible for the cost of the spectacle, estimated as at least $25,000.

Wyandotte Mayor Joseph Peterson tried unsuccessfully to use Tax Increment Finance Authority money to buy a substandard house from a senior in the north end of the city. TIFA funds, from the state, are designed to help cities combat urban decay and encourage redevelopment.

The Wyandotte post office began evaluating a former Oakwood Hospital Urgent Care Facility at 211 Eureka Road for a building downsizing announced earlier. Mayor Peterson said he was glad the post office was looking to stay in the city.
(Next week, May through August.)