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.   

If troopers think they have to increase their stop and arrest numbers, the ACLU worries that could mean more poor, black drivers get stopped
Michigan State Police

Michigan State Police may be pulling over more low-income drivers and people of color, because of police quotas.

That’s a concern the ACLU of Michigan describes in a public letter to the MSP today.

“If a trooper finds that he’s deficient, that he’s not made as many stops as he’ll be expected to have made, then it creates a hazard that in his desperation … he will begin to make stops that really shouldn’t be made at all,” ACLU of Michigan attorney Mark Fancher says.

University YES Academy told parents and students this week that the high school was shutting down
Brett Levin / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Tregan Bradley, a rising senior at University YES Academy in Detroit, had been hearing rumors from his teachers over the summer.

“One of my favorite teachers, she told me that they’re not sure if they’re going to be opening up the high school, like around July or June,” he says. “I called her, I was checking in with her, because I was missing her and stuff.”

This year, just seven new charter schools are opening in Michigan.
flickr

This is an unusually slow year for new charter schools, according to the state charter association, which says the seven charters opening this fall are “among the fewest in history.”

“Only six schools opened last year,” the Michigan Association of Public Schools Academies said in its release today. “That was the fewest since 2008, when seven schools opened under the charter cap. (The cap on university-authorized schools was lifted by the Legislature and Governor Snyder in 2011.)”

Syrian refugee children in Jordan enjoy a concert.
CGFome MRE

The pace of refugees resettling in the state has picked up this summer, with more than 1,000 arriving in just the last couple months.

About half those were Syrian, according to the State Department, many of whom are coming to the Detroit area and Southeast Michigan.

In Grand Rapids, meanwhile, Samaritas refugee volunteer coordinator Troy Howley says they’re seeing a big increase in people from Congolese refugee camps.

A state police trooper making a roadside stop
MI State Police website

There’s “sufficient evidence” that “race was a motivating factor” when two black state police troopers were denied promotions, the Court of Appeals ruled this week.

The Court also unanimously upheld a jury’s decision to award the troopers a total of $5.2 million in lost wages, benefits and emotional damages.

250 investors lost money, the AG's office says.
TaxCredits.net / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Two brothers have been found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme in Lansing that defrauded 250 people out of $18 million.

For years the Mulholland brothers, James and Thomas, were buying up rental houses in college towns in Michigan.

But after the recession hit, they struggled to stay afloat and started recruiting new investors, promising big returns.

But the Michigan Attorney General’s office says that in reality, the Mulhollands were losing money, and using new investor money to pay back previous investors.

Then, they filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE: The EAA has released emails that appear to show the state and DPS agreeing to revise payments from the EAA. You can read those emails here.

Yesterday, the governor's office said this debt debate is "really an issue for the EAA and MDE to be responding to," while the Michigan Department of Education declined to comment and referred questions to the Treasury Department. 

Marc Edwards/Flint Water Study

Remember all that smelly, brownish-orange water that was coming out of people’s taps in Flint?

That was Flint’s water system – the actual pipes – corroding and breaking down, at a rate 15 times faster than they normally would have, says Virginia Tech engineering professor Marc Edwards. 

user jamiesrabbits / Flickr

An E. coli outbreak that's already sickened seven people is being tied to a dairy farm near Grand Rapids.

Grassfields Cheese is a family-owned, organic farm in Coopersville.

It has issued a recall, and Whole Foods has pulled the products from shelves in the Midwest and South.

One person has been hospitalized, though they've already been discharged.

Jennifer Holton of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, says the state’s investigation is still ongoing.

More than half a million people voted absentee in this week's primary election
Lars Plougmann

Just 1 in 5 Michigan voters cast a ballot Tuesday. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s actually close to a record high turnout for this kind of primary.

“There were a number of highly-contested congressional primaries across the state, so that helped drive interest,” says Fred Woodhams, spokesperson from the Michigan Secretary of State’s office.

The state will pay the full costs of bottled water and filters in Flint after the federal emergency ends August 14.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Free bottled water, filters and cartridges aren’t going anywhere. 

That’s the message the state is trying to send Flint residents ahead of the looming deadline of August 14, when the federal emergency declaration for Flint ends.

A photo of Paul Mitchell from his campaign website.
http://paulmitchellforcongress.com/meet-paul/

Businessman Paul Mitchell won the Republican primary in Michigan’s thumb – that’s the 10th Congressional District.

Mitchell, who lives in Dryden, loaned his campaign a LOT of money: more than $2.5 million in loans, plus straight up giving the campaign another half million.

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

More than 300 people will be laid off next month from Dow Corning in mid-Michigan, the company alerted the state workforce program in late July.

At the company’s Auburn site in Williams Township, some 238 employees will be affected by Dow Corning’s “restructuring,” the company says.

Paul Wasek says he saw this coming.

As township supervisor of Williams Township (population slightly under 5,000,) where Dow Corning is the biggest employer, the writing’s been on the wall since Dow Chemical completed its takeover of Dow Corning, which makes silicon products.

https://wmich.edu/news/2016/08/33779

The president of Western Michigan University announced today he’ll retire next summer, after 10 years on the job.

"I don't feel 71, but this fall I will be 71 years of age,” President John Dunn says. “And I’ve often counseled people, that I think there are opportunities that are places to begin, and there's sort of a time to know you've given a lot of energy and good hard work."

Dunn oversaw the launch of the university's medical school, its affiliation with Cooley Law School, and $500 million in construction projects, according to the university.

Adios, Adidas. Welcome, Nike.
flickr use Anthony Gattine / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Nike’s $170 million sponsorship deal with the University of Michigan officially launches midnight, complete with the marching band and cheer team, and the rollout on the this thing has been a year in the making.

It started the day after Michigan announced it would be leaving Adidas and reuniting with Nike, says Scott Hirth, the co-owner of The M Den.

“The customer drives this, and as soon as Michigan announced Nike, it was crystal clear to us that the customer was going to want this soon as they could get that,” he says. “To us that meant midnight [August 1.]”

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.  

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