Kate Wells

Reporter/Producer

Kate Wells is an award-winning reporter covering general news for Michigan Radio. Her work has been featured on NPR’s Morning EditionAll Things Considered, and Weekend Edition, as well as on WNYC, Harvest Public Media, KUT (Austin Public Radio) and in the Texas Tribune.

Kate got her start as an intern with New Hampshire Public Radio before heading out to the Midwest, where she covered the presidential caucuses for Iowa Public Radio and won a regional Edward R. Murrow award for investigative journalism. She joined Michigan Radio in 2012. Kate enjoys hiking, the Muppets, and cake in all forms.   

Matthew Meagher, left, is undecided; but his buddies are Trump supporters.
Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

All of Matthew Meagher’s buddies at this rally are big Donald Trump supporters.

One of them even volunteers with the Oakland County Republican party after work each night – the kind of guy who’s wearing a wool blazer and button-down shirt to this Mike Pence rally in suburban Detroit, even though it’s 80 degrees outside.

But for Meagher, a Kettering University student who’s going into IT work, he just can’t make up his mind.

The Asian Tiger Mosquito is a carrier of Zika virus
flicker user coniferconifer / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Scientists have unlocked new information about the Zika virus that could eventually contribute to a possible cure – and in the shorter term, may help create faster, simpler tests for identifying if someone’s been infected with the virus.

That’s especially important with Zika, because the virus itself is thought to leave the body pretty fast; maybe after about a week, says Janet Smith, Director of the Center for Structural Biology at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute and a professor of biological chemistry.

Prison bars
powelli / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A Detroit man is going to prison for 25 to 50 years, after his 9-year-old son was accidentally shot by a sibling.

It's one of several cases where prosecutors are going after adults for leaving guns where kids can find them.

On November 9, the 9-year-old boy and his then-10 year old sister were playing in their dad's bedroom and acting out a video game.

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint's water rates are on track to double in the next five years – even though the city already pays some of the highest water rates in the country.

That was a big takeaway at a meeting today of the team charged with overseeing Flint’s recovery. 

Right now, the typical water bill in Flint is $53.84 a month. But it could be $101.95 in five years, if nothing changes.

That’s because of the growing gap between what Flint’s water system costs, and the city’s shrinking customer base.

prison cells
Thomas Hawk / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Janika Edmond was found lying in the prison shower with her bra wrapped around her neck.  

On November 2, 2015, the 25-year-old inmate at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility apparently tried to hang herself by attaching her bra to the shower head, but the bra broke and Edmond fell to the floor, landing on the back of her head.

She was rushed to the hospital, where she was eventually pronounced brain dead and, days later, taken off life support.

Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison last month after spending nearly nine years behind bars.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Tuesday was another surreal day in the Davontae Sanford case. 

First came the news that Judge Brian Sullivan was finally dismissing the murder charges against Sanford, more than a month after letting him out of prison.

(Quick explainer: Judge Sullivan already vacated the murder convictions against Sanford, and ordered him released from prison, which he was last month. But ever since, Sanford’s been stuck in limbo, still out on bond and at risk of being thrown back in jail until the charges were dismissed.)

Finally a fully free man

flickr user Joe Gratz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Two Grosse Ile High School students face up to four years in prison for allegedly torturing and killing a guinea pig, possibly as some kind of pre-game ritual before a varsity lacrosse game.

“The alleged facts in this case illustrate much more than a youthful prank or a pre-game antic. We must take these cases seriously,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement today.

flickr user FatMandy / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

State police are requesting a warrant as a result of their investigation into the death of Janika Edmond, a 25-year-old inmate who apparently hung herself last year at the Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility.

State police presented their findings to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office Thursday, said MSP spokeswoman Shanon Banner.

Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison last month after spending nearly nine years behind bars.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Davontae Sanford has been home for a little over a month now.

One month -- after nearly nine years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

Now, Sanford says he just wants to build a normal life. But he’s still got legal restrictions on his freedom.

After exoneration, hopes for normalcy

The waiter at this chain restaurant in downtown Detroit just came up to Davontae Sanford and asked, sorry, are you who I think you are?

This is, apparently, happening to Sanford a lot.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

This has been a hard week for Davontae Sanford.

Sanford, you may remember, spent nearly nine years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

But this week, he learned that one of the police officers who allegedly lied about evidence in his case, will not be charged. 

And for Sanford, this feels like just one more injustice.

The night of the murders: a police interrogation and a crime scene sketch

Here’s how Davontae Sanford says he remembers the night of the murders on Runyon Street in Detroit.

Davontae Sanford was wrongfully convicted of four murders at age 14. He was released from prison last month after spending nearly nine years behind bars.
Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The case goes back to a grisly quadruple homicide in Detroit in 2007.

Police interrogated 14-year-old Davontae Sanford, who says he was coerced into giving a false confession.

Former Detroit police commander James Tolbert was one of the cops who questioned Sanford. He testified in court that Sanford was able to draw a crime scene sketch for police of where the murders took place.

But later, Tolbert admitted to police that he actually drew most of the sketch.

Still, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced late Tuesday there's insufficient evidence to charge Tolbert with perjury. Her office says even if Tolbert changed his statements about evidence, it’s really hard to actually prove perjury, because you have to prove that somebody intentionally lied under oath.

James Tolbert
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Former high-ranking Detroit police officer James Tolbert won’t face perjury charges over allegations that he lied about evidence in the Davontae Sanford case.

Sanford was released this summer, after nearly nine years of wrongful imprisonment. He was convicted of a grisly 2007 homicide officials now say he didn’t commit.

Genesee County has its first confirmed case of Legionnaires' disease this year, but health officials say there’s no indication it’s connected with Flint water.

The patient isn’t being named, nor are officials disclosing where he’s being hospitalized, but Genesee County epidemiologist Christine Rygiel says it looks like he didn’t have any contact with Flint water when he got sick.

child's drawing on chalkboard
iRon leSs / flickr

One year after the death of a nine-year-old foster child, the foster care agency responsible for that child's placement is shutting down.

Alternatives for Children and Families in Genesee County repeatedly placed kids in foster homes with "significant violations … and safety issues," according to a state investigation following the death of Omarion Humphrey.

Humphrey was autistic, and apparently wandered away from his foster family at a park last summer. His body was later found in a lake.

A mosquito
flickr user trebol-a / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

In a normal year, Michigan sees about a couple dozen or so cases of West Nile virus: 18 cases last year, according to the CDC’s map. Just one in 2014. And 36 cases in 2013.

But the state saw some 200 cases in 2012.

And experts at the state health department are worried this year is shaping up to be another surge.  

For one thing, Oakland County just found West Nile virus in one of its testing pools, even though it’s still relatively early in the season.  

A fountain on the University of Michigan's central campus.
user VasenkaPhotography / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The University of Michigan says it's testing the drinking water on its Ann Arbor campus for lead and copper.

The school say it's just a precautionary measure, adding there’s no indication anything’s wrong with the water.

This kind of system-wide testing is becoming more common after the Flint water crisis.

Michigan AG Bill Schuette
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

With just 14 days left to charge former Detroit Police Commander James Tolbert for perjury, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says his office is “watching the case, and we’ll see what decision [Wayne County Prosecutor] Kym [Worthy] makes.”

Schuette declined to say whether he’d step in to press charges against Tolbert if Worthy doesn’t.

“I’m not going to speculate on what I might do,” Schuette said Tuesday. “The point is, we’re watching the case.”

lockers lining a school hallway
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Three Detroit charter schools are closing and two are merging this year, adding to the school turnover and churn families in that city are seeing.

One of the larger charters, Allen Academy, is being shut down because of poor academic performance.

“The test scores over the last several years, they’ve been outperformed by the resident district, Detroit Public Schools,” says Ron Rizzo, director of the Charter Schools Office at Ferris State University, which authorized Allen Academy.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Backlash against a state takeover of four East Detroit district schools is growing, with a lawsuit moving forward in court and the school board and city of Eastpointe signing a joint resolution against it.

“We’re at a point right now where our schools are under attack by the state, there’s no kinder way to put it,” says school board vice president Craig Brozowski.

Tens of thousands of water filters have been distributed in Flint.
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Volunteers will be going to thousands of homes in Flint this weekend, making sure everyone's got a water filter.

Some 25,000 Flint homes are already using filters, according to the state's count.

But local and state teams are going door-to-door this weekend, to check on some 2,300 homes they still aren't sure about.

Michigan State Police Captain Chris Kelenske is with the state's emergency management team.

Police lights.
J J / Flickr

Leroy Payne has apparently gotten out of Dodge.

The man State Police have identified as a suspect in a quadruple murder for which Davontae Sanford wrongfully spent eight years in prison – has “left town,” according to his lawyer.

“I believe he was moving,” says Mark Magidson, Payne’s attorney, possibly somewhere “down south.”

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Supreme Court

Michigan's ban on affirmative action still stands, despite the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Thursday.

That ruling upholds the University of Texas’ use of race as one factor in its admissions process.

But that doesn’t override the ban that Michigan voters approved in 2006, which amends the state Constitution to say public universities can’t discriminate against, or give preference to, anybody based on their race:

MI State Police website

Three possible suspects have emerged from a year-long Michigan State Police investigation into a quadruple homicide in 2007.

That investigation helped clear Davontae Sanford, who walked out of prison earlier this month after eight years of wrongful incarceration.

Two of the State Police suspects are currently behind bars for other crimes, but the third, Leroy Payne, is believed to be a free man.

The State Police investigation resulted in warrant requests for three homicide suspects. But the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office is asking for “further investigation.”

taliesin / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A suburban Grand Rapids police officer will not be charged in the fatal shooting of Lamont Gulley, the Kent County prosecutor’s office announced Tuesday.

In a 15-page report released along with disturbing audio and video footage, Prosecuting Attorney Bill Forsyth says “a review of the facts, and an application of the law to those facts” indicates that “the death was a result of an honest and reasonable belief in the need to act in defense of Officer Hoornstra.”

James Tolbert
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A Michigan State Police investigation into a nine-year-old murder case suggests Detroit police lied about evidence, and failed to follow up on big breaks in the case that might have freed a wrongfully imprisoned young man.

That man, Davontae Sanford, was finally released from prison last week, after serving eight years – largely because of what the Michigan State Police investigation found.

A brutal crime, a young teen, and a professional hit man

Davontae Sanford with family and supporters after his release.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Davontae Sanford's family is considering a civil lawsuit, sources close to the family tell us, after he was wrongfully imprisoned for eight years.

Sanford was arrested at age 14 for a quadruple homicide on Runyon Street in 2007. A recent Michigan State Police investigation shows Sanford is likely innocent, but was allowed to sit in prison for years -- well after convicted hit man Vincent Smothers confessed to the Runyon Street murders.

Kate Wells/Michigan Radio

Crowds packed Hill Auditorium Tuesday night in Ann Arbor for “Requiem for Orlando,” a community performance of Mozart’s “Requiem” to honor and mourn the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Orlando, Florida.

One of the organizers, Austin Stewart, says he was alone at his home when he first saw the news about the 49 victims gunned down at an LGBT night club. As a grad student at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theater and Dance, Stewart says he wanted a way to bring people together.

Eastern Michigan University
krossbow / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Union workers say they’re holding a press conference Tuesday at Eastern Michigan University to talk about their concerns over the school’s move to privatize dining services.

In a letter to students and staff on Monday, interim EMU President Don Loppnow says an outside vendor will pay the school enough to “expand and upgrade the dining facilities while maintaining high-quality food offerings and services.”

Only 17 miles from Lake Michigan's shore, Waukesha, Wis. wants to replace its contaminated drinking water with water from the lake.
flickr user Rachel Kramer / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Eleven of Michigan's 14 members of Congress are urging Governor Snyder – and the other Great Lakes governors – to deny a request from Waukesha, Wisconsin to divert water from Lake Michigan.

The city's ground water is contaminated with radium, which can cause cancer.

But 11 Michigan congressional reps signed a letter opposing the city's request, including U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn).

Attorney General Bill Schuette
(Courtesy of the Michigan Attorney General's office)

Attorney General Bill Schuette sent a letter to the Obama administration this week, blasting it for the recent school guidance over transgender students.

So far, 12 states have sued the Obama administration after the Department of Education sent out a letter earlier this month, telling schools their transgender students should be allowed to use the bathrooms that fit their gender identity.  

And a few Michigan Republicans say they want Schuette to sue, as well.

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