Tuesday, March 21Welcome

Developments, changes in leadership and tragic events lead top local news stories of 2022

Here’s a look at eight more of our top local stories of 2022:

Local housing growth, need continues

The need for housing continues to grow in Montcalm and Ionia counties.

From current housing and condominium projects in the Hathaway Green Planned Unit Development to a proposal to revitalize development in the Forest View subdivision, additional housing in the Greenville community is underway and planned for the future heading into 2023. — DN file photo

Terri Legg, executive director of United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties, reported during an Ionia Area Chamber of Commerce meeting in April that the counties are 6,000 housing units short, and zoning is at least partly to blame. A housing study recently completed by the Upjohn Institute is available at liveunitedm-i.org/local-housing-study.

“What we need more than housing is we need zoning to allow for houses,” Legg said. “A lot of zoning is putting a burden on developers trying to come in.”

She cited a local example in Kent County’s Grattan Township, where only one septic system is allowed per one acre of property, even though there could potentially be room for more than one unit on that property.

However, more housing appears to be in the works locally.

While the city of Greenville’s Hathaway Planned Unit Development in the last three years has experienced growth through the construction of nearly 300 apartment units through the Central Park and Crescent View apartment complexes, along with more than a dozen condominiums units, additional construction has continued without missing a beat. 

In April, Hathaway approached the Greenville Planning Commission with a preliminary plan to alter the PUD with a goal to construct more condominiums and triplex units, which would replace currently-proposed single-family homes. 

In July, the Greenville City Council adopted three new city streets into its network of traffic —  Strauss Court, Hollyhock Drive and North Drive — and construction has already begun on a number of homes within the Hawthorne Park South subdivision. 

On North Drive, located in the northeast end of the city, one of six duplex rental units was completed, with the construction of the second unit underway. 

Even one development project that faded into obscurity during the Great Recession is currently on the table for a revival. 

In October and again in December, the Greenville Planning Commission received a preliminary site plan presentation from developer Michael West of Green Development Ventures LLC in Portage to re-engage the Forest View project off of Greenville West Drive. 

West has proposed constructing 114 dwelling units consisting of two six-unit buildings, two four-unit buildings, 29 two-unit buildings and 36 detached single-family homes, to be constructed in four phases over several years, with a proposed conclusion date of 2027.

While the Planning Commission has begun to request a number of conditions for approval, such as more sidewalks and potential for another ingress/egress out of the development, if the project were to come to fruition, it could see as many as 300 new residents call the subdivision home. 

Reynolds Township is among the many growing townships in Montcalm County, according to the 2020 census, and two major housing projects have been proposed for the Howard City-area community.

The township’s Planning Commission in April voted 4-2 to approve a special use permit requested by business partners Ryan Pitcher of Lakeview and Jon Cole of Cedar Springs who want to build 11 quadplex buildings on 16 acres at 7979 Brittany Place on the south side of Almy Road between Reed Road and Papke Road.

The property already has one four-apartment building on it and Pitcher and Cole want to build 11 more ranch-style apartment buildings, with four apartments 1,000 feet each in each building to create 44 new apartments to be added to the existing four apartments for a total of 48 apartments on the property. A total of 96 parking spaces will be added (two spaces for each apartment), along with 11 new wells.

Jonathan Soloway of Wood & Water Builders LLC appeared before the township Planning Commission in September to discuss his tentative plans for an estimated $15.5 million project to build up to 155 apartment units adjacent to the U.S. 131 expressway. He wants to build the apartments, along with a community building, fitness center, basketball courts and swimming pool — “all the amenities” — on acreage he owns just north of his business, On Your Way Self Storage on Amy School Road, where M-46 dead-ends into Amy School Road near the expressway’s southbound on-ramp at Exit 120.


ALDI, Animal Hospital, Planet Fitness all open in Greenville, Starbucks and IHOP on the horizon 

While the development of housing in Greenville continues to be on the upswing, so to have new commercial developments popped up within the city.

ALDI, a popular grocery store chain, celebrated the opening of a new store in Greenville, located at 2007 W. Washington St., in December. — DN file photo

In the past year, several business owners have either moved their business into the city or constructed a new business entirely. 

In June, Dr. Mary Kinser celebrated the opening of Greenville Animal Hospital at a new location at 2625 W. Washington St. (M-57) on the very western edge of the city limits, having moved her business from its prior location on M-91 in Montcalm Township. 

In December, ALDI, a popular grocery store chain, celebrated the opening of a new store at 2007 W. Washington St. 

Both the Animal Hospital and ALDI constructed new facilities on what was previously vacant land on the south side of M-57, furthering the physical commercial growth of the city’s west side. 

While not open yet, Greenville will soon see the return of a Starbucks.

After a 12-year hiatus from serving coffee in Greenville (a previous Starbucks at 1925 W. Washington St. closed in 2007) the popular chain coffeehouse will make its return at 1720 W. Washington St. in a newly constructed 5,321 square-foot, three-tenant building.

Construction of a new three-tenant building at 1720 W. Washington St. this year will feature the return of Starbucks to Greenville when it opens in early 2023. The two other tenant spaces in the building remain available for lease. — DN file photo

While Starbucks has committed to opening — “Coming Soon” signs now stand outside the building — the two other retail spaces in the building have yet to be claimed. 

With construction underway inside the Starbucks portion of the building, an opening in early 2023 is likely. 

While the newest gym in Greenville did not construct a new physical facility, Planet Fitness did transform the former JCPenney store, which closed in the summer of 2020 at 300 S. Greenville West Drive, into a spacious area for residents to work out in, officially opening for business in April. 

A number of other smaller businesses, such as Point Broadband and The White Lotus Boutique, also chose to call Greenville home, opening in and around the city’s historic downtown district.

Another commercial project that may come to fruition in Greenville is an IHOP. 

The one-story building at 1810 W. Washington St. (M-57), which contains a number of business suites, was previously occupied by Beltone Hearing Aid Center and Preferred Insurance agent Mark Schoenfelder. However, both businesses have since moved to other locations in and near the city. 

According to the Montcalm County Treasurer’s Office, a warranty deed for the Washington Street property was signed over on Sept. 23 by previous owner, Park West Greenville LLC of Caledonia, managed by Natalie Tran and Huynh Diem Thi, to JHG Real Estate LLC of Grand Rapids. 

JHG Real Estate is owned by Walid Jamal of Grand Rapids, who is also a franchise owner of four IHOP restaurants in West Michigan, managed under his company, JHG Restaurants. Those four restaurants are located in Cascade Township, Grand Rapids Township, Holland and Muskegon.  

A job listing for a full-time IHOP general manager, with the location listed as Greenville, was posted on multiple online job-searching sites in October.

Marijuana businesses continue to grow

Marijuana businesses continued to open and flourish in Ionia and Montcalm counties this year.

Lake Life Farms, the city of Stanton’s first adult use retail marijuana store, had its grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony on Sept. 16. In attendance were Lake Life Farms CEO David Kotler, Stanton City Manager Jake VanBoxel, Stanton Mayor Lori Williams and Lake Life Farms employees Tammy Kuipers, Kelsey Wood, Gavin Anderson, Kendra Godette and Erica Nelson. — DN file photo

Ionia County and Montcalm County each received $169,360 in state marijuana revenue, and Ionia County immediately designated half of its share to help offset almost $1 million in annual costs associated with county employee wage increases that were approved by the county Board of Commissioners in 2021 and implemented this year 2022.

The village of Edmore in Montcalm County has six marijuana businesses open or in the works — New Standard Dispensary and Pinnacle Emporium, both on Main Street; Grower Consultants in Sunrise Industrial Park; and three facilities which are pending but not up and running yet: HBSCru, Mitten Meds and Tru Gro, all in the Industrial Park.

In July, the Edmore Planning Commission voted to approve a special land use permit for a seventh marijuana facility, which caused some residents to complain to village officials that seven marijuana stores would be too many for the small village.

The village recently received requests from Travis Jensen and Nathaniel “Nate” Holmgard who asked the village to consider allowing a new marijuana retailer license and a new microbusiness license, respectively. The Village Council debated the requests at their November meeting, but didn’t take any action.

Edmore received $112,906 in state-regulated marijuana revenue this year, which Village Manager Justin Lakamper said represented about 17% of the village’s general fund revenue, making it the third-largest revenue source next to property taxes and state revenue sharing.

Lucky Buds remains open in Crystal Township, which saw that township enjoy state marijuana revenue totaling $56,453 for that shop.

The city of Stanton — the Montcalm County seat — saw three marijuana shops open this year: CHO at 100 E. Main St., Heritage Farms at 120 W. Main St. and Lake Life Farms at 207 E. Main St., the latter of which was the first adult use retail marijuana dispensary to open up shop in the city in September.

The city of Ionia received $112,906 in state marijuana revenue for Arcanna and Consume Cannabis, while Easton Township received $56,453 for Easton Craft.

Ionia City Manager Precia Garland said the city’s $112,906 in marijuana revenue represents 1.6% of total general fund revenues budgeted for the fiscal year, while Easton Township Supervisor Bill Patton noted his township is a rural community with few retail businesses, so $56,453 was a “significant” amount of revenue.

Easton Township also enjoyed a court victory this year related to marijuana. After the township board voted in April to give its sole marijuana retail license to BBSM LLC, another marijuana business vying to open within the township, Leoni Wellness, sued the township in June.

In August, Ionia County Circuit Court Judge Suzanne Kreeger granted a summary disposition of all counts in the matter.

While adult-use marijuana retail stores continue to be prohibited in Greenville, the Greenville City Council did pass new ordinances in February allowing for medicinal marijuana provisioning centers in the city’s new “North Lafayette” district, which encompasses properties on either side of N. Lafayette Street north of the Flat River. 

Three businesses — Green Medicine Shop, Cross Country Enterprises II LLC and Brisk Cannabis — have all come before the Greenville Planning Commission this year seeking special land use requests, a requirement of the city’s medical marijuana zoning laws. 

Both Green Medicine Shop at 500 N. Lafayette St. and Brisk Cannabis, located in the former Ponderosa building at 1015 N. Lafayette St., saw their zoning requests and site plans approved by the Commission this fall. They now must go through the city’s licensing process, and if approved, both businesses are anticipating to open in 2023. 

Cross Country, which proposes to operate in the former Mobile Audio building at 600 N. Lafayette St., is still awaiting special land use approval as it asked for a postponement following a misunderstanding between the company and the Commission over requirements for how much of the building’s parking lot would need to be replaced. 

Ionia County sees admin, commissioner turnover

Ionia County ended the year with a different administrator than it began with after a personnel situation at the Road Department went awry.

Stephanie Fox

The flashpoint was on March 2, when the county’s Personnel Committee voted to reinstate Road Department employee Bud White, who had been fired by County Administrator Stephanie Fox on Feb. 18.

A few hours after the committee’s vote, Fox and County Finance Director Linda Pigue — who had recommended White’s termination — both abruptly submitted resignation letters.

Fox said her decision to resign was based on the Personnel Committee declining to uphold White’s termination, which Fox said was made “in clear accordance with existing board resolutions, policies and the advice of county attorneys.”

“I cannot begin to express my disappointment that the board has chosen to reinstate Mr. White, an untrustworthy employee,” Fox wrote. “As interim Road Department director I found Mr. White’s performance as a supervisor to be unacceptable. As the finance director, it is imperative that I be able to trust the honesty and integrity of employees. As detailed above, I found Mr. White’s lack of integrity to (be) unacceptable and recommended to you that his employment be terminated. Since I believe I have shown Mr. White to be dishonest and untrustworthy, I will resign rather than continue trying to identify and prevent misappropriation of county and state resources.”

Linda Pigue

Commissioners in March voted to hire recently retired Ionia city manager Jason Eppler as interim administrator. Then began the months-long search for a permanent administrator.

In May, commissioners hired the Michigan Municipal League (MML) to conduct the search at a cost of $17,000. Commissioners then proceeded to work with with Jerry Richards, an executive recruiter for the MML, in determining what sort of candidates commissioners would like to see apply for the administrator job.

Commissioners agreed on a salary range of from $103,000 to $115,000 for the next administrator (Fox was earning $102,000 when she resigned).

In August, commissioners held a closed meeting to review the submitted resumes, then a public meeting where they interviewed the chosen candidates in September. The finalists were Escanaba City Manager Patrick Jordan, former Middletown, Ohio city manager Jim Palenick, St. Ignace City Manager Darcy Long and Dennis Durham, city administrator of Windsor Heights, Iowa.

After interviewing candidates, commissioners made an offer to their first choice, Durham, who turned it down in favor of an offer from Grandville.

In October, commissioners voted to extend a one-year offer to their second choice, Jordan. The agreement proposed a starting annual salary of $115,000, $150 monthly vehicle allowance, $50 monthly cell phone stipend, $1,000 contribution into a health savings account, 15 vacation days and up to $5,000 in moving expenses.

Jordan accepted and started as county administrator on Nov. 28. In an interview with the Daily News that week, Jordan said he did not yet have specific goals or projects in mind yet; instead he intended to spend his first few weeks “getting (his) hands around” the job.

The Board of Commissioners will see some major turnover in the new year after the August and November elections this year. Commissioner districts remain divided into seven areas, but redistricting effective in 2023 has redrawn some of the boundaries.

Commissioner Karen Banks did not run for reelection this year.

Longtime commissioner Georgia Sharp was ousted in the August primary to fellow Republican candidate Terence Frewen for District 7 (which includes Portland Township, the city of Portland, and a portion of Danby Township).

Democratic incumbent commissioner Ally Cook lost her November bid for election to Republican challenger Gordon Kelley for District 5 (which includes the city of Ionia and Berlin Township).

Phillip Lee Hesche, a Republican, defeated Judith Transue, a Democrat, for District 4 (which includes Boston and Campbell townships).

Republican incumbent commissioners David Hodges (who represents District 1: the city of Belding, Otisco Township and a portion of Orleans Township) and Larry Tiejema (who represents District 3: Keene Township, Easton Township and Ionia Township) both retained their seats against their respective Democratic challengers.

Fellow Republican incumbents Scott Wirtz (who represents District 2:  Ronald Township, North Plains Township, Lyons Township and a portion of Orleans Township) and Jack Shattuck (who represents District 6: Odessa Township, Sebewa Township, Orange Township and portions of Danby Township) also retained their seats against fellow Republican challengers.

Montcalm County agonizes over ARPA money

The Montcalm County Board of Commissioners awarded the majority of its $12.4 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds this year while struggling with many ideas and inconsistencies.

Montcalm County Board of Commissioners Vice Chairman Adam Petersen, at left, raises his hands in frustration as he confronts an equally frustrated Chairman Patrick Q. Carr, at right, about how the county was inconsistently handling American Rescue Plan Act money requests. Listening at center during a July meeting is Controller-Administrator Brenda Taeter. — DN file photo

In the spring, commissioners created an ARPA Committee to sort through requests — then proceeded to ignore most of that committee’s recommendations.

Commissioners asked for recreation-related ARPA requests from local communities — then randomly decided to give each and every community $50,000, whether those communities had requested money or not.

Commissioners agreed to hear all ARPA requests and refrain from voting on any until autumn — then awarded ARPA money to three agencies in three heated 5-4 votes in July.

One of the more agonizing meetings over the summer brought Commissioner Kathy Bresnahan of Pine Township to tears, and led to a argument between Chairman Patrick Q. Carr of Cato Township and Vice Chairman Adam Petersen of Montcalm Township regarding the county’s repeatedly inconsistent approach on the matter.

Carr made an unexpected motion to give $50,000 each to the county’s seven public school districts and to Montcalm Community College for a total of $400,000. However, his motion didn’t receive any support and so it died.

Commissioners eventually awarded the majority of their ARPA money to multiple county projects and other local government entities throughout this past year as follows:

• $2.5 million to the Road Commission to help offset COVID-related revenue losses, as well as to help fund multiple township road projects

• $1.8 million for new rooftop units for the county court and public safety complex, plus $242,238 for re-roofing labor, plus $231,714 for Tremco Roofing materials

• $50,000 each to all 29 municipalities within the county for a total of $1.45 million

• $1.1 million toward a pandemic readiness building as proposed by Emergency Medical Services and the Drain Commission

• $246,262 to purchase 104 new 800 megahertz radios for all 12 fire departments in the county

• $230,750 to the Prosecutor’s Office to implement a paperless functionality project

• $200,000 to fund Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) through 2024 (commissioners previously voted in November 2021 to give CASA an additional $140,000 in ARPA money for 2022)

• $189,405 for new windows for the county Administrative Building

• $172,150 for a touchless full body scanner for county jail

• $100,000 to help fund Have Mercy, a Greenville-based homeless shelter

• $150,000 to Belvidere Township for park improvements

• $150,000 to Pierson Township for handicap-accessible playground equipment (known as a GT Wave) plus pickleball courts

• $150,000 to the village of Lakeview for a walking trail expansion around Tamarack Lake

• $100,000 to Winfield Township for a new township hall

• $89,000 for a consultation fee for a new security camera system in the court and public safety complex

• $77,130 for four used vehicles for county maintenance, Animal Control and county administration

• $64,000 for county-owned park improvements

• $58,000 to Pine Township for park improvements

• $50,000 to Maple Valley Township for park playground equipment

• $50,000 to the city of Stanton for a new playground at Veterans Memorial Park

• $50,000 to the Ionia/Montcalm Secure & Friendly Environment Child Advocacy Center (I/M SAFE CAC) program based in Fenwick

• $41,000 to the Mid-Michigan District Health Department to cover half the cost associated with a flooring project

• $35,000 to Probate-Juvenile Court for digitizing records dating back to 2000

Commissioners voted in November to request an additional $100,000 in ARPA money being made available by the U.S. Department of Treasury to counties, meaning more ARPA-related decisions will likely continue to be made in the coming year.

In comparison, neighboring Ionia County commissioners voted without much debate this year to allocate $11 million worth of ARPA-funded projects in the coming year, including an estimated $2.5 million worth of upgrades to the Sheriff’s Office/Jail, $1 million worth of new equipment for the Road Department, a $1 million courthouse facade project, $600,000 upgrade to communication towers to support the use of 800 megahertz radios by county fire departments and more.

Greenville Public Schools welcomes 4 new board members, superintendent, 4 admins

When it comes to leadership at Greenville Public Schools, new faces was been the name of the game in 2022.

Wayne Roedel was selected as the new superintendent of Greenville Public Schools in September, succeeding Linda Van Houten, who retired after 38 years with the district (the last seven as superintendent). — DN file photo

The school district observed a number of changes in leadership, from positions in administration to elected officials on the Board of Education. 

The change has been so significant that a voting majority of the board — four members — will consist of new members who take office over a span of four months. 

In August, Jodi Petersen, formerly of Spencer Township, resigned as a trustee after three years due to moving out of the district. 

Her resignation was followed by Norice Rasmussen of Fairplain Township, the former board president who resigned in October after 15 years of service, citing “personal reasons.”

Stepping into Petersen’s seat in September was newcomer Michael Huff, a resident of Eureka Township, who was appointed out of a field of 12 candidates.

Then in November, newcomer Richelle Lentz of Montcalm Township was appointed to the board out of a field of eight candidates.

Maureen Wolverton, left, and Brian Gardner, second from left, were elected to the Greenville Public Schools Board of Education in November, filling seats previously occupied by Ron Billmeier and Rocky Hansen, who chose not to run for re-election. — DN file photo

Meanwhile, longtime trustees Rocky Hansen of Oakfield Township (12 years) and Ron Billmeier of Eureka Township (19 years) chose not to run for re-election in November, effectively retiring from the board. 

Six candidates came forward before voters on the Nov. 8 ballot — Bart Brown of Greenville, Brian Gardner of Fairplain Township, Joshua Franklin of Greenville, Michael Tharp of Greenville, Maureen Wolverton of Eureka Township and Lentz. 

The results of the election saw Wolverton and Gardner earn the most votes among the six and the pair will be sworn into office in January. 

The four newcomers join Board President Kire Wierda, Treasurer Jim Anderson and Trustee Charlie Mahar. 

The school district also saw significant changes in administrators, including new Superintendent Wayne Roedel (in October), Director of Finance, Matt Andres (in August), Director of Transportation Tim Nielsen (in May) Director of Food and Nutrition Dan Kuk (in November) and Walnut Hills Principal Jen Mahar (in May) — the wife of Trustee Charlie Mahar. 

The most high-profile hire was Roedel, who was selected via a unanimous vote of the board in September to replace former superintendent Linda Van Houten, who retired after 38 years in the school district (seven as superintendent) in October.

Pine Township shooting murder leads to eventful trial, unexpected verdict

Nicholas Bauer, 19, of Stanton watches a witness walk into Montcalm County Circuit Court to testify during Bauer’s murder trial regarding the shooting death of Destini Cunliffe 18, of Greenville. Bauer was 17 years old when the shooting incident occurred. Pictured, at far left, is Bauer’s defense attorney, Damian Nunzio. — DN file photo

A Montcalm County jury found a Stanton teen guilty of second-degree murder a year and a half after the shooting death of a Greenville teen girl.

The verdict came after a Montcalm County judge in the middle of the lengthy trial dismissed a first-degree murder charge and three counts of assault with intent to commit murder charges against primary defendant Nicholas Bauer, 19, who was charged in the January 2021 death of Destini Cunliffe, 18, of Greenville, as well as the shooting of a 15-year-old Greenville girl who sustained a leg injury.

Bauer was 17 at the time of the incident in Pine Township.

The reduced charges were just one of many surprises at the eventful trial in May.

Montcalm County prosecutors Andrea Krause and Chris Heckman clashed with Montcalm County Circuit Court Judge Suzanne Kreeger early in the first week, a youth disrupted the courtroom which resulted in a scuffle in the parking lot and a female juror expressed her fear that someone followed her home, which resulted in the entire jury being questioned by the judge and attorneys for two hours and the female juror being dismissed. As a result of the many disruptions, defense attorneys Damian Nunzio and his daughter Kristyna Nunzio made a motion for a mistrial, which the judge declined to grant.

Destini Cunliffe

After delivering for barely an hour and a half, the jury found Bauer guilty of second-degree murder, felony firearm, three charges of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and three charges of possessing a firearm at the time of committing assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder.

At Bauer’s sentencing in November, the judge in a rare action agreed to a “downward departure” request and sentenced him to a lesser prison sentence.

The prosecution described Bauer as “cold and calculating” and asked that he be sentenced to from 25 years to 60 years in prison. However, the defense pointed out that many bad decisions were made by all parties involved the night of the shooting — Bauer was the victim of an armed robbery and he was the one who called 911 when he found Cunliffe dying in the snow, while Cunliffe’s friends and acquaintances fled the scene, leaving her behind.

The judge sided in part with the defense and shared some blunt comments in her assessment that families and guardians appear to have failed Bauer, Cunliffe and their peers in this situation.

“I can’t help but wonder, what would the circumstances be here — the person pulling the trigger and the person driving away that night — if they would have been actively engaged in their community and had family members looking out for them that night,” Kreeger questioned. “I think we can all reflect that our society has effectively broken down and failed both Destini Cunliffe and Nicholas Bauer.”

The judge sentenced Bauer to from 15 years to 50 years prison for second-degree murder, plus an additional two years on the firearms charges, meaning he will have to serve a minimum of 17 years in prison.

Bauer’s co-defendant Kevin Bartz pleaded guilty in October 2021 to felonious assault, felony firearm and being a habitual offender second offense related to the shooting. He was sentenced in December 2021 to from 23 months to six years in prison.

None of the six surviving people who rode in a truck to Bauer’s house have been charged with a crime — three teenage girls (P.N., the 15-year-old girl from Greenville who was shot in the leg, J.S. and K.G.), an adult male (A.H.) and two teenage boys (J.M. and someone named D.). The Daily News is not naming the six people at this time as they have not been charged with a crime at this point and most of them are/were juveniles.

Five of the six surviving people in the truck testified at trial — everyone but D. Police testified that they are still looking to locate D. as part of an active investigation and police still hope to press charges against everyone who was in the truck.

The five people who were in the truck and who testified did so under “use immunity” on behalf of the prosecution, meaning that while they all still can be charged with a crime, the prosecution cannot use what they testify to at trial against them.

4 people killed in 2 alleged impaired driving incidents

Four people — two pedestrians and two cyclists — were killed in back-to-back incidents involving alleged impaired drivers over two days this past summer in Montcalm and Ionia counties.

Amber Martens

First came July 29 with Amber Martens, 34, of Gowen, who was allegedly three times over the legal limit for alcohol when she struck and killed two pedestrians in Greenville.

Martens was allegedly driving a 2013 Ford Edge when she struck and killed Myrtle Fuller-Hopkins, 45, of Stanton, and Jeremy Wabeke, 40, of Pierson around 10:30 p.m. in the 400 block of W. Cass Street. Martens allegedly fled the scene and was located and arrested in the early morning hours of July 30.

Marten’s blood results showed a blood-alcohol content of 0.23 — nearly three times over the legal limit.

She is charged with two counts of operating while intoxicated causing death, two counts of leaving the scene of accident causing death, four counts of felony firearms and one count of carrying concealed while being under the influence of alcohol (she allegedly had a pistol in her vehicle at the time of the incident and the Montcalm County Prosecutor’s Office issued one gun charge for each of the other charges).

Martens was bound over in September from Montcalm County District Court to Circuit Court for trial. A status conference is scheduled for Jan. 5, 2023, as, “There is a lot of evidence to sort through, so the defendant has asked for time to do that,” Prosecutor Andrea Krause said.

Just a day after the double fatal collision involving Martens, a double fatal collision took place in Ionia County.

Mandy Benn, 43, of Ionia, is charged with two counts of second-degree murder after allegedly plowing into a group of bicyclists on a Make-A-Wish tour on July 30.

Mandy Benn

The group of bicyclists were on day two of a three-day endurance ride covering most of the state of Michigan. They were traveling south on Stage Road in a single-file line around 11:15 a.m. when Benn’s northbound 2019 Toyota RAV4 crossed the center line while attempting to pass a UPS truck and struck them head-on.

Killed were Edward Erickson, 48, of Ann Arbor, and Michael Salhaney, 57, of Bloomfield Hills. Three others were severely injured.

As police were questioning Benn at the scene, she looked at one of the deceased men on the ground and remarked, “Wow, that almost looks real,” according to Ionia County Sheriff Det. Sgt. Phillip Hesche. “It was like she was on a different planet. She seemed to have no comprehension whatsoever of the scene that was going on around her. There was so much activity going on, and she was in her own world.”

Benn is alleged to have been intoxicated on a cocktail of prescription drugs at the time of the crash. Police found a variety of pills in her vehicle and her urine tested positive for a benzodiazepine (a tranquilizer, such as Valium or Xanax) and opiates.

Along with the second-degree murder charges, Benn is also charged with two counts of operating under the influence causing death, two counts of reckless driving causing death, two counts of operating under the influence causing serious injury, two counts of reckless driving causing serious impairment of a body function, three counts of possession of a controlled substance/analogues, one count of reckless driving and one second offense count of operating while intoxicated, meaning she is subject to an enhanced sentence.

After an all-day preliminary examination in Ionia County District Court in November, Benn was bound over for trial in Ionia County Circuit Court. A trial date has yet to be scheduled.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *