Ex-corrections officer gets probation
BEULAH -- A judge sentenced a former Benzie County Sheriff's Department corrections officer to two years of probation.
Douglas Ray Randolph, 37, pleaded guilty in July to interfering with a police investigation. Benzie Sheriff Robert Blank fired Randolph in 2006 after an investigation into a relationship he had with a female inmate, and Randolph admitted during his plea that he lied to investigators as they probed the relationship.
He filed a union grievance after his firing, but an arbitrator eventually upheld the decision. Authorities charged him with the misdemeanor interference count shortly after.
New charges in pedestrian's death
GRAYLING -- A vehicle struck and killed Neil Pearce as he walked along a state highway more than 18 months ago, leaving grieving family members to wonder if and when anyone would be held responsible.
But last week authorities charged Grayling resident William Roger Gildner Jr., 47, with operating a vehicle under the influence causing death, a felony.
Gildner faces 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000, if convicted.
Pearce, of Mio, walked along M-72 west of Grayling late Jan. 18, 2007, when he was struck and killed by a vehicle allegedly driven by Gildner, who did not stop at the scene and told authorities he thought he'd hit a deer.
Gildner eventually was charged with felony failure to stop at the scene of an accident when at fault and causing a death, plus other misdemeanor charges, including driving without a valid license and without insurance.
But those charges were dropped in April this year because Gildner was to be charged with other crimes, court records show.
The new charges came after Pearce's family publicly complained about what they contend was a lack of progress on the case.
Axiom changes theme park plan
GRAYLING -- Would-be developers of a theme park in Crawford County want to alter their plans and buy a smaller chunk of state-owned forest at a lower price.
Axiom Entertainment, of Rochester, initially wanted nearly 1,700 acres for the Grayling Township project, but now wants to trim the purchase to 1,433 acres. The price tag also dropped from $5.2 million to $4.4 million.
State officials recently gave Axiom until February to prove they have the $161 million needed to buy the land and build the park, just south of Grayling near Interstate 75. The company will have nine months after that to gain all required state and federal permits.
The land sale is a discussion item on the agenda for the Michigan Natural Resources Commission meeting Sept. 11 in Lansing.
TCAPS eliminates Chinese program
TRAVERSE CITY -- Early childhood administrators in Traverse City Area Public Schools cut the preschool Chinese immersion program last month, replacing it with a uniform traditional curriculum.
They cited low enrollment figures as part of the reason for elimination.
Nine students were enrolled in the Chinese program when it was cut, said Angela Sides, the district's director of early childhood and special education.
The tuition-based program had 32 students at Traverse Heights Elementary last year, with state funding available for students who met income or other eligibility criteria.
Last fall, Bloomquist said the district intended to follow the program for at least two years, with the hope of adding sections in elementary and possibly secondary schools.
No foreign language will be taught in preschool this year, Sides said.
Instead, the district will emphasize mathematical thinking and literary and problem-solving skills in its classrooms.
Joe McManus quits Garfield job
TRAVERSE CITY -- Joe McManus' tenure as Garfield Township deputy supervisor ended as quickly and quietly as it began.
Township officials said McManus informed them Aug. 25 that it would be his last day on the job. He returned to his previous job as district sales manager for Frito-Lay.
Garfield Supervisor Lee Wilson in March appointed McManus, a township trustee since 2000, to a newly created deputy supervisor position at a $63,000 annual salary. Wilson did not post the position, solicit applications or interview other candidates.
The appointment became an issue in the August primary that swept Wilson, Treasurer Dennis Habedank and incumbent trustees from office.
School break-in under investigation
TRAVERSE CITY -- Police are investigating a burglary at Traverse City Central High School.
Police went to the school at about 5:30 p.m. last Sunday and found someone broke out a window on the west side of the gymnasium and entered the school. Once inside, the suspect or suspects entered the concession stands, but it wasn't immediately clear what was missing early Tuesday.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Traverse City Police Department.
Two in hospital after Blair crash
TRAVERSE CITY -- Two people were hospitalized after a two-vehicle crash in Blair Township.
The crash happened Aug. 30 at about 6:15 a.m. A Traverse City woman, 28, drove her car across the center line on West River Road near Keystone Road and struck the vehicle of a Traverse City man, 78, Grand Traverse Undersheriff Nate Alger said.
Both were taken to Munson Medical Center with serious injuries.
Group catches man who allegedly stole bag
TRAVERSE CITY -- A man who allegedly stole several items from a parked vehicle faces charges.
A group near Traverse City's waterfront volleyball courts discovered a backpack missing from their parked van at about 1:30 p.m. last Sunday. They spotted a man with the backpack and chased him, Traverse City Police Capt. Steve Morgan said.
One man said he saw the suspect throw a small bag into West Grand Traverse Bay during the pursuit, Morgan said.
Officers arrived as the victims caught up to the suspect at Clinch Park Marina. Officers later found the small bag, which allegedly contained 19 grams of marijuana.
The man, 31, of Jackson County's Grass Lake, was arrested and faces larceny and marijuana possession charges.
Man allegedly leads police on chase
TRAVERSE CITY -- Police arrested a man who allegedly led them on a chase in parts of two counties.
A Grand Traverse sheriff's deputy attempted to stop a Pontiac for improper plates near the intersection of U.S. 31 and South Airport Road at about 3 a.m. Tuesday. The driver allegedly wouldn't stop and eventually took off south on U.S. 31.
Police said the man reached speeds approaching 85 miles per hour. Police from multiple agencies used spike strips on four occasions and eventually deflated all the vehicle's tires.
The driver eventually pulled into a private driveway off M-115 in Wexford County. He was arrested for fleeing and eluding and operating while intoxicated.
Man charged with sexual assault
TRAVERSE CITY -- A Traverse City man faces a criminal charge after a woman told Michigan State Police he sexually assaulted her.
John Douglas Allen, 30, is charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct with an incapacitated victim. He hadn't been arrested Wednesday morning.
The woman told investigators she spent the night with Allen and another woman at a Traverse City hotel July 10, court records show. She was sleeping and allegedly awoke to find Allen sexually assaulting her, she said.
Mountain Jack's closes its doors
ACME -- A well-known local steak house on East Grand Traverse Bay closed its doors.
Mountain Jack's Steakhouse, 5555 U.S. 31 North in Acme, closed following the Labor Day weekend. A telephone message at the restaurant said it was closed "permanently" and thanked patrons for its 14 years of operation.
The restaurant's parent chain, Steakhouse Partners Inc. and wholly owned subsidiaries Paragon Steakhouse Restaurants Inc., including Paragon of Michigan, filed for Chaper 11 bankruptcy proceedings in federal bankruptcy court in mid-May.
The restaurant originally opened as the Embers by the Bay, owned and operated by Clarence Tuma and Keith Charters, who still own the property.
Man allegedly peeks into homes
TRAVERSE CITY -- Police arrested a Traverse City man for disorderly conduct after he allegedly prowled and peeked into houses.
Two residents on the 100 block of Beech Street reported a man looking into their windows early Wednesday morning.
The first resident called at about 1 a.m., but police didn't find the suspect until about two hours later, when another resident reported a prowler.
The man, 33, lives on the 100 block of Beech Street and is a registered sex offender. His arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 11.
Man allegedly embezzled $50K
TRAVERSE CITY -- Authorities believe a Traverse City man embezzled more than $50,000 from a local couple after promising them financial assistance.
Paul Steven Reszka, 50, stole from an Acme Township couple over a three-month period last year, they contend. Reszka was arraigned Thursday on felony charges of embezzlement of more than $50,000, but less than $100,000, and three counts of false pretenses.
The couple approached Reszka in May 2007 after meeting him at a local church. He taught a financial class at the church, according to a police report and court filings, and they asked him to help them overcome "financial difficulties."
The couple and Reszka were members at East Bay Calvary Church, Associate Pastor Dallas Dix said. Dix disputed police accounts that Reszka taught at the church.
GT County officials may tap fund balance
TRAVERSE CITY -- Declining revenues could prompt Grand Traverse County officials to use $870,000 from the county's fund balance to pay 2009 bills.
County Administrator Dennis Aloia proposed a general fund "maintenance" budget of $38.6 million, an increase of less than 3 percent. It could mark the second consecutive year the county must borrow from its $9.5 million fund balance to cover expenses; the county tapped the fund balance for about $350,000 this year.
Aloia said the county expects to earn more than $500,000 less in interest income next year and $355,000 less in permits and fees for new construction. Property tax revenue is steady, but uncertainties exist with state and federal funding, he added.
Anonymous tip leads to marijuana bust
TRAVERSE CITY -- An anonymous tip led to the seizure of 203 marijuana plants in the basement of a Leelanau County home.
The Leelanau County Sheriff's Department and the Traverse Narcotics Team served a warrant on the home in Cleveland Township Aug. 30 and discovered a marijuana-growning operation in the basement.
The sheriff's department has requested the county prosecutor charge residents of the house with dellivery/manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a drug house.
Divers fail to find drowning victim
MESICK -- A days-long search for a Mesick man who may have drowned in the Manistee River continued without success.
Crews on land, water and air searched for Donald Spoor since last Sunday afternoon, when he jumped from a wire line into the river near M-37 and Riverview Road. Spoor, 33, was with friends and may have hit his head as he in dove in, losing consciousness.
Dive teams covered up to a quarter-mile of the river, Wexford County Undersheriff Martin Dahlstrom said, and crews in boats, on land and in helicopters covered roughly 5 miles of river. Crews hadn't found Spoor Wednesday afternoon, and the search was scheduled to continue.