Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 21, 2012

Michigan in Brief: 12/21/2012


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Schools close amid threats and rumors

DETROIT — Dozens of Michigan schools canceled classes for thousands of students to cool off rumored threats of violence and problems related to doomsday scenarios based on the Mayan calendar, officials said Thursday.

Public schools in Genesee and Lapeer counties, neighboring counties north of the Detroit area, started the Christmas break Wednesday night rather than hold classes the rest of the week. Meanwhile, police investigated whether students made false claims about guns at the high school in Grand Blanc, said John Potbury, a spokesman for the Genesee County prosecutor.

Last week's shooting at a Connecticut elementary school "changed all of us. ... Canceling school is the right thing to do," Genesee County schools said in a statement.

A Lapeer-area superintendent, Matt Wandrie, said rumors of violence had become a major distraction for students and staff and have disrupted learning. Additionally, he said in a message to parents, "rumors connected to the Mayan calendar predicted end of the world on Friday have also surfaced."

Friday is the day when some people believe ancient Mayan calendars predicted the world would end.

I-96 shootings suspect faces new charges

HOWELL — A man suspected in a shooting spree that targeted motorists along the Interstate 96 corridor in four Michigan counties was charged Thursday with seven new counts, including terrorism.

The new charges came three weeks after Attorney General Bill Schuette announced he was taking over the cases at the request of prosecutors in Livingston, Ingham and Shiawassee counties.

Raulie Casteel, 43, of Wixom already faced charges in Livingston and Oakland counties. The attorney general's charges supersede the Livingston counts, but the Oakland County prosecutor's office will continue to handle the 60 counts Casteel faces in connection with shootings in Wixom and Commerce Township, Schuette said.

"These were acts of domestic terrorism against Michigan citizens and we are prosecuting them as such," the attorney general said in a statement.

"I look forward to working with task force members and my colleagues from Ingham, Livingston, and Shiawassee counties to resolve this case and secure justice for the victims."

Casteel, an unemployed geologist, could be sentenced to up to life in prison if convicted of any of the eight attempted murder counts he faces in Oakland County, where many of the two dozen shootings occurred. The terrorism and attempted murder counts that the state filed Tuesday also carry a possible life sentence.

Most of the shootings, which were reported between Oct. 16 and Oct. 27, targeted cars near I-96, though authorities said one occurred while a man was taking out his trash. Only one person was hit, a man who was shot in the buttocks.

Ten shootings were in Wixom, where Casteel lived with his wife, daughter and in-laws.

Defense attorney Charles Groh had no immediate comment. Groh previously has described his client as a married, college-educated, stay-at-home dad with no criminal history.

Casteel originally was to be arraigned Thursday in Howell District Court, but that hearing was postponed.

On professional websites, Casteel described himself as a geologist and soil scientist with experience in environmental cleanup. He's a Michigan native who lived in Taylorsville, Ky., before returning to his home state earlier this year.

Judges in Novi and Howell have ordered Casteel to undergo tests to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.