Latest Michigan news, sports, business and entertainment at 9:20 p.m. EDT

FATAL CRASH-PREGNANT WOMAN

Woman, unborn child killed in hit-and-run crash; man charged

SOUTHGATE, Mich. (AP) — A 31-year-old old man has been charged following a hit-and-run crash southwest of Detroit that killed a pregnant woman and her unborn child. The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says Raymond Alkewich of Wyandotte was arraigned Tuesday on a failure to stop at the scene of an accident causing death charge. Police found the 35-year-old woman Saturday evening along a street in Southgate. The prosecutor’s office says she and her unborn child later died. Alkewich was ordered jailed on a $2 million bond. A probable cause conference has been scheduled for March 26. The Associated Press was unable Tuesday evening to determine if Alkewich has an attorney.

PUBLIC RECORDS

Group details ballot bill to open gov, lawmakers to FOIA

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Advocates for open government have unveiled the specifics of their ballot proposal to open Michigan’s governor and lawmakers to public-records requests. Michigan is one of only two to wholly exempt the governor’s office from the Freedom of Information Act and among eight where legislators are explicitly exempt. The liberal group Progress Michigan will have to collect about 340,000 valid voter signatures to send the bill to the Republican-led Legislature, which could make it law or let the measure go to voters in November 2022. Advocates say their ballot initiative is not riddled with “loopholes” like bills pending in Lansing are.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-HEALTH DIRECTOR

Republicans consider whether to block Whitmer’s health chief

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republican senators critical of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic are weighing whether to reject her appointee to run the state health department, which has issued orders restricting business capacity to limit COVID-19’s spread. Elizabeth Hertel took over the Department of Health and Human Services in January, when Robert Gordon abruptly resigned. Her appointment stands unless the Senate blocks it by March 23. Hertel’s nomination is drawing considerably more attention than usual. About a third of the 20-member Republican caucus oppose Hertel. But Republicans would need to be in near lockstep, which appears unlikely. Democrats support her.

TERRORISM THREATS-MICHIGAN

Man charged in alleged threats to Biden, Pelosi and Whitmer

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) — A 21-year-old western Michigan man has been arraigned after authorities say he made death threats to President Joe Biden, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office says Joshua Docter of Holland was arraigned Tuesday on charges of threat of terrorism and using a computer to commit a crime. Each charge carries up to 20 years in prison. The charges were filed Monday in Ottawa County District Court. Docter turned himself in on Tuesday. Nessel’s office says multiple threatening comments allegedly were made in January on iFunny, a social media platform.

AP-US-FORD-PLANT-OHIO

Union: Ford backs out on vow to add new model at Ohio plant

DETROIT (AP) — United Auto Worker officials say Ford Motor Co. has backed out on a contract promise to invest $900 million for a new product line at an Ohio assembly plant and will instead send production to Mexico. Around 1,700 hourly workers at the plant in Avon Lake west of Cleveland now produce Ford’s E-series vans and large Super Duty pickup trucks. Ford promised during 2019 contract talks to make the investment and add the new line in 2023. A plant official told workers conditions surrounding the new unnamed product have changed, but the company remains committed to producing heavy duty tracks in Avon Lake.

COLD CASE-BAR

State police reopen 1981 homicide of former bartender

SALINE, Mich. (AP) — Nearly 40 years later, police are asking for the public’s help to solve the death of a woman who was last seen leaving a Washtenaw County bar. Mary Alice Ellicott was at the Polar Bear Bar, on U.S. 12 between Clinton and Saline, on Oct. 11, 1981. Her body was found 13 days later in a grassy field, less than 2 miles away. The 29-year-old Ellicott had been killed. Ellicott was well known at the bar and had quit a job as a bartender just a week earlier. Det. Sgt. Larry Rothman of the state police says more resources — not a major tip — led to the decision to reopen the cold case. Anyone with information can call (313) 407-9379.

ABSENTEE BALLOTS-SIGNATURES

Judge strikes down directive on absentee ballot signatures

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A judge has struck down a state directive that encourages local election clerks to be very flexible when reviewing signatures on Michigan absentee ballots. The decision doesn’t apply to the recent fall election, of course, because it’s over. But the case is significant because the policy from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson apparently would have applied to future elections, too. Benson told clerks last fall that they must presume that a signature on an absentee ballot envelope or ballot application is valid. Judge Christopher Murray says Benson’s directive was illegal because it didn’t go through a formal rule-making process that involves the Legislature. 

VOTING-REJECTED BALLOTS

Voter outreach led to big drop in rejected mail ballots

ATLANTA (AP) — A surge of absentee ballots during last year’s election led to concerns that a larger percentage of mailed ballots could be rejected for arriving past the deadline, not having a voter’s signature or some other reason. An analysis by The Associated Press shows that didn’t happen. AP found the rate of ballot rejections was actually lower in November than during last year’s primaries in several politically pivotal states despite an increase in the total number of mailed ballots cast. Voting rights groups attribute the success to widespread efforts to educate voters and following up on those that got rejected.

GAS STATION CLERK-FATAL SHOOTING

Gas station clerk to stand trial in man’s fatal shooting

DETROIT (AP) — A 19-year-old clerk will stand trial in the fatal shooting of a 30-year-old man inside a Detroit gas station. The Detroit News reports that Mohamed Hizam faces arraignment March 29 in Wayne County Circuit Court on second-degree murder, manslaughter and using a firearm during a felony charges. Joshua Lewis was shot once in the chest with a rifle on Oct. 12 in the eastside gas station after he allegedly was seen using a hammer to break the glass of a coin-operated game of chance. Hizam was standing behind a see-through protective barrier when Lewis was shot. He called 911 and was arrested after Detroit police arrived.

ROBOTICS LAB-FORD-MICHIGAN

Ford partners with U-M on robotics research, new building

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — A grand opening has been held for the four-story, $75 million University of Michigan Ford Motor Co. Robotics Building. Three floors of the 134,000-square-foot complex house classrooms and research labs for robots that fly, walk, roll and augment the human body. On the top floor are Ford researchers and engineers and the automaker’s first mobility research lab on a university campus. The school and automaker announced Tuesday that together they will work to develop robots and roboticists that help make lives better, keep people safer and build a more equitable society.