crime

southernfried / MorgueFile

Organized gangs that steal from retail stores in Michigan are not only driving up prices, they're putting the public at risk. 

A screenshot from the cell phone video which shows Milton Hall being shot and killed by Saginaw Police officers.
CNN

Earlier this month it was announced the Saginaw police officers who shot and killed a homeless, mentally ill man would not face criminal charges. 49-year-old Milton Hall was killed by Saginaw Police July 1, after police say he refused to drop a knife. Six officers fired several dozen shots at Hall.

Now we hear that some officers will be disciplined internally by the Saginaw Police Department.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

The Flint Journal reports this morning about three killings over the weekend, bring the total number of homicides to 50:

Three homicides in as many days has brought the city's total to 50 slayings for the year.

The latest was a shooting and hit and run that left one man dead...

The city didn't record its 50th homicide last year until late October.

In 2010, the city set a record for the number of homicides at 66. That's in a city with a shrinking population.

Lead in text: 
The Detroit News followed a standoff police had with a gunman in West Bloomfield Township overnight. West Bloomfield Township Officer Patrick O'Rourke was killed.

MLive reports the Pastor of a church with around 750 members confessed to turning in receipts for reimbursement that were never approved.

More from MLive:

Lead in text: 
Current Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates is in the spotlight after the shooting that took place this morning. Oates was Chief of Police and Safety Services Administrator for the City of Ann Arbor for four years before he left for his job in Aurora in 2005. Prior to that, Oates served in the New York Police Department for 21 years.
Law
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint business and civic leaders sat down with Governor Snyder today to discuss possible solutions to the city’s problems.

The closed-door session focused on crime, education, economic development and other urban issues.

fire
Marcus Obal / creative commons

Some forensic science often used in police investigations is being called into question.

PBS' Frontline did an excellent series calling out the questionable science behind many arson cases.

In "Death by Fire" they showed how testimony from so-called fire experts led to the convictions of people for arson.

In one case, a potentially innocent man, Cameron Todd Willingham, was put to death in Texas based on questionable fire evidence.

Did Texas execute an innocent man?

Several controversial death penalty cases are currently under examination in Texas and in other states, but it's the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham -- convicted for the arson deaths of his three young children -- that's now at the center of the national debate.

Today, we hear the story of David Lee Gavitt from the Detroit Free Press. Gavitt, from Ionia, was convicted in 1986 of first-degree felony murder for the deaths of his wife and two young daughters in a house fire. He was sentenced to life in prison.

His conviction was overturned and he was released yesterday after spending 26 years in prison.

His first stop, the grave sites of his wife and daughters.

"It was a very emotional scene," said David Moran, a law professor and co-founder of the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, which fought for the release of 54-year-old David Lee Gavitt. Moran said 15-20 of Gavitt's family members also arrived to welcome him home.

Since Gavitt's conviction in 1986, fire science has advanced significantly. A fire science expert, John Lentini, reviewed some of the evidence in Gavitt's case for the Innocence Clinic:

He told the clinic that the burn patterns that had caused investigators to suspect arson weren't caused by an accelerant, like gasoline, but by flashover -- a then-misunderstood phenomenon in which a closed room fills with toxic gases and bursts into flames.

"In light of modern fire science, there is simply not one shred of credible evidence that the fire at the Gavitt residence was intentionally set," Lentini said in a 65-page affidavit the clinic presented last September to Judge Hoseth Kreeger.

As Frontline points out, there are several arson cases around the country being reviewed. And the case of Cameron Todd Willingham has caused experts to re-examine old assumptions:

These include assumptions about fire patterns on floors and v-shaped marks on walls, the identifying characteristics of an accelerant, and what happens to glass windows during a blaze. Gerald Hurst, who wrote a report discrediting the evidence used against Willingham in a last-minute death row appeal, declared: “One might well wonder how anyone could make so many critical errors in interpreting the evidence.”

Lindsey Smith/Michigan Radio

A group of former classmates is using art to try to solve one of Michigan’s most high profile missing person cases.

February 5th 1981 14-year-old Deanie Peters and her mom were watching a wrestling match. It was at a middle school in a suburb outside of Grand Rapids.

Peters told her mom she had to use the restroom before they headed home. 'I’ll be right back,' she said.

But Peters never returned.

Thirty-one years later police still haven’t made an arrest or found her body. Deanie’s little brother Will Peters was six-years-old when she disappeared.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - A Grand Rapids man has agreed to plead guilty to fraud after the government says he collected nearly $400,000 in disability payments despite working at a family business.

A document filed Friday in federal court say Donald Freybler collected the money for 16 years, although he may not be on the hook for the entire $400,000. His plea deal allows him to argue to a judge that some payments were legitimate.

The 53-year-old Freybler admits he worked at a family trophy business and put it in his wife's name and Social Security number to conceal income. He says he greeted customers, took orders and occasionally made trophies and plaques.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The haunting sounds of bagpipes echoed in the halls of the state capital this evening.

Police officers from across the state gathered inside the capital rotunda for the 19th annual  Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Service.

The ceremoney honored a half dozen police officers from Michigan or with ties to Michigan who died in the line of duty last year.   Nationwide, 163 law enforcement officers were killed on the job last year.  Already this year, 2 Michigan law enforcement officers have died on the job. 

“The loss of these officers is a testament to the dangers and realities of police work," says Colonel Kristie Kibbey Etue,  the director of the Michigan State Police. 

National Police Week begins May 13th. 

YouTube

Last week, the identity of "real-life superhero Bee Sting" was revealed at an arraignment.

Now we know that "Bee Sting" is actually Adam Besso of Sterling Heights. 

Besso was arrested after pulling a shotgun on a motorcyclist in a trailer park in Burton, Michigan.

Besso approached the man saying the man's motorcycle was too loud. A struggle ensued and Besso's shotgun discharged. Thankfully, no one was injured.

MLive spoke with Tom Carter, the man who was approached by Besso. Carter told MLive he was surprised when the masked man confronted him in the trailer park:

"I couldn't hear him, so I started to approach him and that's when the gun came out," said Carter, 38, about the incident with Bee Sting.
"As soon as I saw the gun I was thinking I didn't want my kids to get shot."

The use of a gun has not only offended law enforcement, it offended another real-life superhero.

user hyku / wikimedia commons

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - A federal appeals court has upheld the convictions of a man and woman from Michigan's Upper Peninsula who were accused of trying to blackmail actor John Stamos.

A three-judge panel in Cincinnati rejected challenges to the indictment Monday as well as claims that Allison Coss and Scott Sippola should have received a break at sentencing for accepting responsibility.

They were sentenced to four years in prison in 2010 after a jury convicted them of conspiracy and using email to threaten a person's reputation. Coss and Sippola threatened to sell old photos of Stamos with strippers and cocaine to the tabloids unless he paid $680,000. The FBI said the photos didn't exist.

Stamos met Coss in Florida in 2004 and had a friendship.

Pelle Sten / Creative Commons

new state law that mandates inmates give DNA samples is helping police solve dozens of cold cases.

Since the mid 90s, all inmates have had to give DNA samples when they exit prisons and jails in Michigan. They could volunteer the DNA before they were released, but they didn’t have to.

“Obviously when someone refuses to give a sample, something’s up,” Michigan State Police Captain Greg Michaud said.

Office of the Governor

During a press conference in Flint today, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder outlined points from his "Special Message to the Legislature on Public Safety." A press release from the governor's office quotes Snyder:

Gov. Rick Snyder says Michigan should fight crime by arresting more criminals while also steering youths toward school and jobs and sending some of the accused to drug and mental health courts.

In remarks prepared for Wednesday in Flint, Snyder says the state needs a system of "smart justice" that includes prevention and intervention.

That means making sure those who commit crimes get punished, whether they're involved in retail theft, drug trafficking or murder.

But he says it also means giving inner-city youths a chance to work in parks and receive job training. Under Snyder's public safety plan, ex-cons would get help with literacy and job skills.

Snyder also wants to require that all school-age children attend school in order for their families to receive welfare benefits.

The FBI ranks Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw among the ten American cities with the highest violent crime rates.

Kriste Etue is the Director of the Michigan State Police.  She says the lack of good jobs and the decline of police officers in the state has an impact on crime.

"The state of Michigan has lost nearly 3,400 police officers, so I’m sure that has some impact on the crime in our various cities."

The Michigan State Police is reaching out to returning veterans to join the state police force.

(courtesy of policemag.com)

 Governor Rick Snyder is expected to call for spending $15 million to improve police departments in some of Michigan’s most dangerous cities.    The governor will lay out his plan on Wednesday in Flint.

The FBI ranks Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw among the ten American cities with the highest violent crime rates. 

Gerald Cliff is the Chief of Police in Saginaw.    He knows what he would like to hear the governor say..

Earlier this week, while we were paying a lot of attention to the presidential primary race, many of the big shots in Detroit turned out for a baby’s funeral. Delric Waymon Miller died when a gunman riddled his home with bullets from an AK-47.

That was, by the way, the standard assault rifle used by our ancient enemy, the old Soviet Union. The USSR is as dead as a dinosaur, but its weapons are still killing Americans.

Theresa Flores is a social worker, and director of education and training for Gracehaven House, in Ohio. It's a long term faith based care and rehabilitation home for young girls who have been victimized by human trafficking.

Flores grew up in an upper-middle class catholic home. Many years ago she found herself in the same situation as some of the young women she now helps.

Flores says she moved around a lot. Her father had a good job, and her parents were very strict. They landed in Birmingham, Michigan.

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