2013 in ‘Review’– Housefires and meth labs dominated

December 27, 2013

January 4:

Gregory named Clare Police Chief
Clare City Clerk Diane Lyon confirmed Thursday that Clare Police Sgt. Brian Gregory has been named Clare’s new Police Chief, replacing Dwayne Miedzianowski, who is leaving to become Clare County’s new undersheriff.

Fire destroys Farwell home
The Farwell home of Laura Canute on West Illinois Street in Farwell was destroyed by a December 30 fire. Surrey Fire Chief Dave Williams said he believes the fire started with an electrical problem in the kitchen wall.

January 11:

Grant seeks truck traffic limit
Grant Township is looking into an ordinance that would limit heavy truck traffic on township roads. Supervisor Dan Dysinger said he had contacted the township attorney about the best way to proceed.

January 18:

CMU kidnapper shot and killed
Eric Lee Ramsey, the man who abducted a woman in the parking lot of the Central Michigan University Student Activity Center Wednesday was fatally wounded by a Crawford County Deputy after ramming to State Police vehicles and the deputy’s car in his attempt to escape. Ramsey’s victim was able to escape.

January 25:

Harrison BOE treasurer shot and killed
Oanh Kieu Bass has been charged with Open Murder for the shooting death of 68-year-old Floyd Odell Dennis, Jr., of Harrison January 18. Dennis was the owner of Kern’s Grocery in Dodge City.

Hullihen murder trial begins
Jury selection began January 22 in the trial of Blake Daniel Hullihen, the man charged with the shooting death of Gabrielle Woodworth and Donald C. Feneis of Sears. Hullihen, who confessed to the December murders, turned himself in at the home of Sheriff John Wilson after the incident.

Suspicious fire levels Freeman Twp. home
Investigators believe the cause of a Freeman Township fire the burned an empty house to the ground on Wednesday was suspicious. The Gladwin Road home belonged to Shirley Snyder and her son Ricky VanBuskirk.

Weather closes area schools
Clare, Farwell, Harrison, Beaverton and schools all over the State were closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week due to snow and freezing rain the covered most of the State. The rain, complicated by frozen ground, swelled rivers and caused flooding in the Muskegon and Chippewa Rivers.

February 8:

Gunden resigns as Village President Pro-tem
Following some controversy at an earlier meeting, Farwell Village Councilmember and Village President Pro-tem Vicky Gunden resigned at the beginning of the regular meeting.
School threat leads to terrorism charges
A Farwell woman, Karen Marie Maxey, is facing a terrorism threat charge after she told a secretary at Beal City School that she was going to “level the building” last Friday.

February 22:

Explosion and fire lead Clare police to meth lab
A 32-year-old Clare man, Brent Mogg, critically injured in an explosion last Friday, may be facing charges for operating a methamphetamine lab in a Fifth Street Clare home if he recovers. While fighting the resulting fire, firefighters discovered chemicals in the home that are commonly used in meth manufacture.

Man with a gun prompts Clare school lockdown
A domestic dispute just outside Clare involving a woman and a man with a handgun prompted Clare City Police and Clare School Liaison Officer Al White to put all three of the Clare School buildings on a lockdown until the man could be apprehended Wednesday morning.

March 1:

URS out of business after 38 years
Last Friday evening the United Services Authority Board met and voted to close the garage down. Since 2010, United Rescue has been at odds with Mobile Medical Response, the non-profit Saginaw Based ambulance service, which had begun providing service in the northern part of Clare County after the County Commission let a territorial agreement with URS lapse as recommended by legal counsel.

March 8:

Hullihen sentenced to 75 years
Blake Hullihen, found guilty in February of the second degree murder of Gabrielle Woodworth and Donald Feneis in December last year, was sentenced in 49th Circuit Court by Judge Scott Hill-Kennedy to from 37 to 75 years in prison.

Fire destroys Krell home
A fire that firemen think started on the second floor of the South Clare Avenue home of Karen and Marve Krell destroyed the house last Saturday night. It took Clare firemen four hours to bring the blaze under control, which killed two family pets.

March 15:

Seven escape house fire
A house fire that may have been started by a woodstove completely destroyed a Harrison home Sunday morning. Four adults and three children were at home at the time. They lost everything in the fire, but they are all thankful no one was injured in the blaze, which was “fully engulfed” when the Harrison Fire Department arrived on the scene.

April 5:

Harrison Landmark burns
The Remedy Restaurant, owned by Dennis and Karen Douglass and a Harrison landmark for more than 30 years, was destroyed in an early morning fire April 2. Firemen fought the blaze for more than an hour before they could bring it under control. The cause was believed to be faulty electrical wiring on the exterior of the building.
Three arrested in Lake meth bust
A couple from Lake and an Evart man were arrested in a drug bust in the Play Land subdivision in Garfield Township March 28. William Murdock, Cheryl Murdock and Mark Wible face multiple charges of manufacture and sale of the drug.
Farwell couple face CSC, child porn charges
A March 7 complaint to the Farwell School Liaison officer led to the arrest of Angela Parrish and Darin Champine on charges of CSC and distribution of child pornography.

April 12:

CCRC tells Grant they won’t limit truck traffic
After attending a Road Commission meeting, Grant Township Supervisor Dan Dysinger told board members the CCRC is opposed to limited truck routes. “If this gets done,” he said, “the board will have to institute an ordinance. The matter came up after detour truck traffic damaged township roads.
Three charged with gun theft
After a four month investigation, Joshua Letts, Ryan Scherbaty, and Eric Lugo are facing charges in connection with a November 2012 larceny of guns in Garfield Township.

April 26:

BOE rescinds decision to close courthouse
At their April 17 meeting the Clare County Board of Commissioners voted to rescind an earlier decision to upgrade security and lock doors in the County building. Board members said their constituents felt the move would be inconvenient.

May 3:

Coleman coaches called heroes
Three coaches from Coleman High School have been lauded for their efforts to rescue a driver who had swerved off the road and into a deep pond. They witnessed the accident on their way to a JV softball tournament in McBain April 30.

May 10:

Justice for Payton
After nearly five months of investigation, McBain resident Bittini Grabon was arrested May 2 for the murder of her 14-month old son Payton Disbrow. Grabon and her boyfriend took Payton to Cadillac Mercy Hospital where he was dead on arrival.

Mobile meth labs found in Harrison
Clare County Sheriff John Wilson said twenty-five mobile meth labs were discovered April 27 in the ditch of Adams Road near Harrison. The area was cleaned up with the assistance of the Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team. Another meth lab was discovered May 5 in the woods on Harrison Avenue near Washington Road in Grant Township.

May 17:

CMDHD to build new health, dental clinic
Planning is underway for a brand new building to house the Central Michigan District Health Department and a brand new Dental Clinic on the south side of Harrison. The new facility will be built at the current side of the Mental Health Clinic at 816 North Clare Avenue.

May 24:

Brookwood 2.0 expected to meet $600K goal
Phase I of the Brookwood 2.0 project to upgrade the Brookwood Football field with artificial turf is becoming a reality, Committee Chair John Punches announced. The group has raised $554,701 towards the project since they began fundraising earlier this year.

Farwell ‘Safe Route’ dedicated to Agle
The new “safe Routes” sidewalk in Farwell was dedicated to Ellen Agle last Friday in a special ceremony. The new walkway between downtown, the schools and Surrey Road is now open and in use. Ellen Agle of the Farwell Public Relations Committee is credited with planting the seeds that led to the project.
Man with a gun prompts Clare school lockdown

A domestic dispute just outside Clare involving a woman and a man with a handgun prompted Clare City Police and Clare School Liaison Officer Al White to put all three of the Clare School buildings on a lockdown until the man could be apprehended Wednesday morning.

May 31:

Oanh Bass tells why she shot Floyd Dennis
In preliminary testimony Wednesday, Oanh Bass confessed she had shot Floyd Dennis because “I just wanted it to end. I just pointed and shot.” Dennis and Bass were “gambling buddies and sex partners,” she said. Bass is facing murder charges in the January 18 shooting of Dennis.

Rampaging rains wreak havoc
A sudden storm that dumped 3.5 inches of rain on Clare in less than an hour early Wednesday morning caused some flooding in the city and along the Tobacco River and Little Tobacco Drain.

June 7:

Farwell hopes to curb rowdy teens
Responding to citizens’ complaints in May, Farwell Village Zoning Administrator Rod Williams reported he had met with the Clare County Sheriff’s Department about the problems with teens near the Hall Street Bridge over the Tobacco River.

June 14:

Work begins on Grant Township roads
Work began this week on more than 17 miles of paved road repairs in Grant Township. The total project cost to the township will be $319,327. For crack seal, chip and fog seal and asphalt overlay on selected roads in the first year of a ten-year maintenance plan.

Nine convicted in health fraud scheme
P.A. John Roberts of Mt. Pleasant was one of three Mt. Pleasant PA’s and nine health officials across the state named in a U.S. District Court – Western District of Michigan indictment on fraud charges in connection with a $950K health care kickback scheme involving medical clinics owned and operated by Babubhai Rathod.

June 21:

Walraven passes away
Longtime Harrison resident and business owner William Walraven died Thursday June 13 after a long battle with cancer.

Onstott banned from Clare Schools
Rick Onstott, a parent of a 2013 Clare graduate, is asking the Clare Board to lift a ban placed on him from attending sports events. He said the incident the sparked the ban happened at a local restaurant because he made a comment to a coach and was told later it was also for “being emotional” in the stands. Superintendent Doniel Pummell said Onstott was banned for “several issues.”

June 28:

Four arraigned in Blare BAYANET raids
Four Clare residents, Joel McDonald, Michael Wright, Elizabeth Hicks and David Osborn, are facing multiple narcotics charges after Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team officer, Clare County deputies and Clare Police officer raided three locations in the City June 19.

July 5:

Hunters up in arms over proposed buck limits
About 90 deer hunters, area business owners and supporters attended and voiced their objects at an informational meeting at Clare Middle School June 27 to hear about a proposal by the Lower Peninsula Deer Management Initiative to require at least three antler points on one side on bucks harvested during hunting season in 2014.

July 12:

Buggies to be licensed?
Clare County Road Commissioner Dick Haynak reported to the Grant Township Board Tuesday about a proposed State bill by Representative Joel Johnson to license horse drawn buggies in Michigan. Haynak said Johnson was planning to introduce a bill in September, which would be modeled on ones in other states and would raise funds for repairing road damage caused by horse hooves and steel buggy wheels.

Hamilton dies at races
Long time Farwell resident, community member and Farwell Business owner Michael (Mike) Hamilton died Saturday evening at the Figure 8 Races in Farwell after an apparent heart attack.

Family seeks answers in daughter’s death
Seven month after the death of their only child, Thomas and Stacy Ellis are still looking for answers. Their 13-year-old daughter Katlynn died enroute to Saginaw’s Covenant Heath Care with breathing problems. The teen’s heart stopped and she was taken to MidMichigan Medical Center – Midland. “We can’t find out what happened after that,” her mother said.

July 19:

Top Hayes Twp. officials resign
Two Hayes Township officials, Clerk Kevin Breese and Supervisor Ray Augenstein submitted resignations at the meeting July 16. Breese gave personal reasons while Augenstein cited ill health and personal reasons.

July 26:

Hayes officials call payroll discrepancies ‘mistakes’
Despite rumors of misappropriation of Hayes Township funds and calls for criminal action, both the Hayes Township Supervisor and Treasurer believe a discrepancy in payroll funds discovered in April is just a “clerical error.” A payroll audit resulted in the discovery of a duplicate wage increase given to Deputy Treasurer Anna Breese. Township Clerk Kevin Breece reimbursed the township for the overpayment and paid for the cost of the audit.

Harrison couple face child abuse charges
Dale Bradburn and Samantha Demars, formerly of Harrison, are facing six counts each of child abuse and one count each of distributing sexually explicit material of two elementary age youngsters at a Harrison residence.

August 2:

Graham charged with embezzling over $100K from Fair Salvage
Todd Graham of Farwell has been charged with embezzlement from Fair Salvage Company in Vernon Township. He was arraigned on one charge of embezzlement over $100,000 and five counts of forgery.

Judge throws book at Smith
Melvin Smith and his father, also Melvin Smith were both arrested July 26, the younger Smith as a fugitive absconder and his father on resisting/obstructing police and harboring a fugitive. The younger Smith faces charges of resisting/obstructing police, absconding, forfeiting bond, domestic violence and malicious destruction of property.

August 9:

Field of Dreams a reality
After just over six months of fundraising and hard work by the Pioneers Are Leaders Committee and many other community members, Phase I of the Brookwood 2.0 project is nearly complete. The committee and community raised over $700,000, enough to complete the new field and add bleachers.

911, senior millage renewals pass easily
Both the 911 and Senior Citizens Service millage renewals passed in Tuesday’s Primary election by significant margins, the seniors’ renewal by 77 percent and 911 by 72 percent of County voters.

August 16:

Grant says ‘no’ to signing City grant application
Although board members were concerned that it could slow, or stop the process, Grant won’t co-sign Clare City’s Economic Development Grant application for funds to help develop infrastructure and a new water tower on the north side of the City. The EDA had required the township’s signature on the application. Clare City Manager Ken Hibl said he would go back to the EDA and see what to do now. “I don’t believe this is an automatic grant killer,” he said.

August 23:

Brookwood 2.0 committee cuts ribbon
A special ribbon cutting was held last Saturday at the Brookwood Field celebration.

August 30:

Former minister commits suicide
John Douglas White, the former minister convicted for the late October murder of Rebekah Jane Gay of Mt. Pleasant, has committed suicide in prison, according to information from the Isabella County prosecutor’s office. Reportedly he hanged himself in his cell.

Winning park sign will stay
The sign designed last year by Edwin Wilkes III will not be removed from its place in an area near the rail-trail in Farwell. The sign is located a short distance west of the Isabella Bank parking lot. Wilkes’s grandmother Dawn Bennett went to plead that the sign stay after she said she was told it would have to be taken down because the wording suggested a memorial. She was told at the meeting that the sign would not be removed.

Runaway teens still missing
Four days after they were reported missing, police are still looking for a 13-year-old Clare girl – Jayden Thomas, and a 14-year old Mt. Pleasant boy Braxton Wood. Police think they may have stolen a family vehicle and run away last Sunday morning.

September 6:

City says no vote on CIP
Clare City Commissioners voted 4-1 not to have a referendum vote on tentative plans to develop an industrial park on Colonville Road. The also voted not to withdraw the application for a $2.3 million Economic Development Administration grant, which would fund 60 percent of the costs for a new water tower and infrastructure in a new industrial park there.

September 13:

New Health Park to break ground
Construction of a new Harrison health care facility combining MidMichigan Health physicians and services, the Central Michigan District Health Department services and a new Dental Clinic will begin with a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, September 17.

Missing teens found near Chicago
After a two-week search, missing teens Braxton Wood, 14 of Mt. Pleasant and Jayden Thomas 13, of Clare, were found safe and unharmed in a parking lot in Wrigley, near Chicago last Sunday.

Despite tip, diver fail to find Taylor’s body
Sheriff’s Department officials received a tip September 5th that the body of Tim Taylor of Farwell, missing for the past five years, was in a pond in Redding Township. After a search by a Michigan State Police cadaver dog and dive team, no trace was found of the man.

September 20:

Clare approves resolution to clean Little Tobacco Drain
Clare and Isabella County Drain Commissioners met with the Clare City Commission Monday to discuss the need to “clean the Little Tobacco Drain,” an estimated $1.5 million project. The City, Michigan Department of Transportation, Railroad, Grant Township, both Counties and property owners affected by the drain would be assessed for the project. The drain regularly floods in Clare and has become a public safety issue for structures and bridges.

Harrison woman burned in house fire
Jodi Mata was critically injured in a Hayes Township house fire September 18. Firefighters arrived on the scene to find the home fully engulfed and Mata and another resident Keith Cornell outside the residence.

September 27:

Marshall orders hit on husband
A Harrison woman, Melody Marshall, is facing murder solicitation charges after she allegedly attempted to have her husband murdered. The couple were separated. Officers reportedly received a tip from an informant that led to her arrest.

Runaway teen found in Lake
Kaylee Smith-Sanders, 14 of Farwell was found two days after she went missing at the home of a 17 year-old Lake man.

Clare grad dies in motorcycle crash
Charlene Valletta, 24, of St. Clair Shores and formerly of Clare and Farwell died September 3 in a motorcycle accident in Roseville, near Warren. Both she and the driver of the motorcycle died when they crashed into freeway overpass fencing while attempting to exit I-696.

October 4:

Ballas charged for 3 B&Es
After posting bond more than once, only to be arrested again for breaking and entering, Michael Ballas of Clare is back in jail with a $251,300 bond set. There are five active cases against Ballas, including one for a break-in at Woods Household in Clare.

Acker to retire
After 14 years as manager of the Clare Municipal Airport, Dick Acker is hanging up that hat in favor of retirement. He will leave the position October 31.

October 11:

Three banks robbed by pair caught in Harrison
A Harrison man, Clinton Cole, and a Cadillac woman, Ruth Loomis, have been arrested on multiple charges on bank robberies. The pair allegedly robbed the Wexford Community Credit Union in Cadillac, and then fled to Harrison where they robbed two Chemical Bank branches. Clare County Deputies spotted the suspect’s vehicle and after a brief chase stopped and arrested the suspects. $19,200 of the $20,000 taken in the robberies was recovered.

Grower posts reward for pot thieves
After a theft of 30 marijuana plants from his outdoor grow facility in Frost Township, owner Clint Shears is offering a reward of free medical marijuana to any cardholder with information leading to an arrest and conviction related to Frost Township break-ins.

October 18:

Hamilton Township residents object to new gas plant
The proposed natural gas processing plant in Hamilton Township brought township residents to a July 29 meeting to protest the project. The new plant would be built by DCP Midstream and would process natural gas from a pipeline through the area. Citizens were concerned over emissions, DEQ monitoring and possible damage to their property.

October 25:

Consumers to build $4 million facility in Clare
The proposed development of a new Industrial Park on the north side of Clare, questioned extensively by some residents, would be funded by an Economic Development Grant and taxes collected on a new $4 million Consumers Energy Facility planned there. Consumers told the City Monday that they will purchase 17 acres and break ground early next year. The park will be on 60 acres of nearly 200 that are being annexed into the City as part of an Urban Cooperation Agreement with Grant Township.

Blast levels Dodge City home
A gas leak October 21 caused an explosion the destroyed the home of Stewart Nemeth on Lake Street in Dodge City. The explosion was felt as far away as a mile, destroyed one and damaged nearby homes and sent debris 120 feet into Haven Lake. No injuries were reported.

November 1:

Whistleblower claims harassment by senior complex
Clare Castle resident Sondra White says she may be losing her home in the senior facility. She believes she is being harassed because of her efforts to resolve residents’ complaints at the facility. The building is owned by PS Equities and Mid Michigan Community Action Agency. The managers of the facility KMG-Prestige Management responded that management has responded to the complaints and although White’s lease was “changed” to a month by month one, she is not being evicted.

November 8:

Farwell parents upset over loss of Moore
Linda Hallam, the parent of a special needs Farwell Elementary student said she is extremely upset over the coming layoff of Farwell Elementary Assistant Principal Tim Moore. Because of the loss of 58 students in the Fourth Wednesday count, the district is facing approximately $300,000 in budget cutbacks.

Harrison man leads cop on 15-mile chase
A 54-year-old Harrison man, Robert Leathers, was arrested last Saturday after he led County Deputies on a 15-mile chase. Leathers reportedly fled from an attempted traffic stop by a DNR officer and after 20 minutes was stopped at Sellinger street in Harrison.

November 15:

Lake mother found hanging from swing set
State Police are looking into the death of Emily Painter, 26, of Lake last week. A neighbor found the woman’s body hanging from a swing set in the backyard of her home. Police haven’t yet called the death a suicide. Painter, the mother of three toddlers, was apparently home alone at the time.

Bass bound over to Circuit Court
Clare County 80th District Court Judge Joshua Farrell found probably cause to bind over Oanh Kieu Bass to Circuit Court where she will be arraigned on open murder and felony firearm charges next week. Bass is charged with the January 18 shooting death of Floyd Dennis, well known in the Harrison community and a long-time member of the Harrison Board of Education.

November 22:

Sunday storm leaves path of destruction
A series of storms that ribbed through the mid-Michigan area Sunday left 296,000 homes without power including 11,272 in Clare County. Wind gusts as high as 75 miles per hour were reported by the National Weather Service in Grand Rapids.

Jessup saves officer’s life
The quick thinking of Clare Department of Public Works Superintendent Alan Jessup saved the life of Clare City Police patrolman Tom Brandon when he fell into a sinkhole created by flooding of Clare’s Orchard Street November 13.

November 29:

Storm damage estimated at $2.5 million
Damages from the November 17 freak storm reached an estimated $2.5 million as of Tuesday and are sure to rise more, said Emergency Management Director Jerry Becker. Hardest hit in the storm were areas of Garfield, Lincoln, Hayes and Hamilton Townships.

MMCC President Churchill to retire
After seven years heading up MidMichigan Community College, President Carol Churchill has announced she will retire June 30.

December 6:

Cops capture Lake bank heist suspect
For the third time in less than a year and fourth time in the last ten years, a bank has been robbed in Clare County. Kelly Randall, 44, of Sears, was arrested for robbing the Lake branch of Isabella Bank last Friday. Reportedly over $6,200 was taken. Clare County Detectives and State Police Troopers arrested Randall at his Sears home after a local citizen called in a tip.

December 13:

Four arrested for Farwell meth lab
While investigating a tip of a possible home invasion at Farwell’s Corning Apartments Monday, Detectives discovered a methamphetamine operation in an adjoining vacant apartment and arrested three suspects and another later. Their arraignment was delayed while Clare County Prosecutor Michelle Ambrozaitis waited for information from the Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team.

December 20:

Four arraigned for Farwell meth lab
Four suspects in last week’s Farwell meth lab arrests have been arraigned. Suspects include The suspects include Crystal Burns, 18, of Farwell; David Wright, 48, of Farwell; Joshua Vandyke, 22, of Harrison; and Samantha Pitt, 25, of Farwell. Investigating a tip of a possible home invasion in December 9, detectives from the Clare County Sheriff’s Department discovered not only a home invasion, but a Methamphetamine operation in the vacant apartment next door.

Hubel named new CHS principal for 2014
Clare School Superintendent Doniel Pummell announced Monday that Pioneer School Director Ed Hubel will be reassigned next year to take the place of High School Principal Lee Turner, who has announced his retirement at the end of the school year.

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