Latest Michigan news, sports, business and entertainment at 5:20 p.m. EST
Officials: Human error led to 2016 suburban Detroit sinkhole
FRASER, Mich. (AP) — Officials say a sinkhole north of Detroit that damaged homes and cost $75 million to fix was caused by human error that allowed the quick release of waste and water into a sewer line.
Macomb Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller said Wednesday that an assessment determined the surge fractured the pipe in Fraser which drew in sand and created a void in the surrounding soil.
The pipe collapsed and caused the Dec. 24, 2016, sinkhole which grew to football field-size.
But the problem started in 2014 when a gate was closed to hold back sewage for pipe maintenance. Miller said the gate was supposed to be gradually raised to allow the flow’s release over several hours. She said that wasn’t done properly on a number of occasions.
She said an insurance claim will be filed to recover some costs.
Girl, 13, wounds classmate with scissors at Michigan school
BERKLEY, Mich. (AP) — Authorities say a seventh-grader wounded a classmate with a pair of scissors at a suburban Detroit middle school.
Berkley Police say the incident Tuesday afternoon in an Anderson Middle School classroom involved a girl stabbing a boy in the back. Both are 13.
Principal Michael Ross said in a message to parents that Berkley Public Safety officers classroom responded within minutes. He says the wounded student was taken to a hospital for treatment and is expected to recover. Ross says the girl was taken into custody.
Details about what may have led to the stabbing weren’t immediately released.
Ross asked parents to remind their children “that if they ever hear or see anything suspicious or unsafe, to immediately report it to a trusted adult.”
Conviction stands after appeal in Halloween party death
MONROE, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan appeals court has affirmed a first-degree murder conviction in the case of a woman who disappeared from a Halloween party, rejecting arguments that DNA was illegally used.
Daniel Clay was convicted of killing a woman in Monroe County in 2014 and stashing her body in woods. Chelsea Bruck’s body was found after six months.
Clay made several arguments on appeal. He said his rights were violated when investigators matched his DNA on Bruck’s clothing to a sample obtained by police in another case in 2016. He says the sample should have been destroyed when the previous charge was dismissed.
But the appeals court says a DNA sample would have been available again when Clay was charged in yet another case.
At trial, Clay claimed Bruck’s death occurred during aggressive sex and wasn’t intentional.
NEW LEGISLATURE-FIRST BILLS
House leader, AG get behind bills to limit asset forfeiture
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republicans and Democrats in the Michigan House want to make it tougher for law enforcement to take ownership of property seized in drug cases that don’t result in convictions.
The first bills introduced in the 100th Legislature Wednesday relate to asset forfeiture. Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield joined Democrats, including Attorney General Dana Nessel, to back the legislation.
One bill would prohibit prosecutors from permanently confiscating assets thought to be associated with criminal activity unless a defendant is convicted of a drug crime, has entered into a plea agreement or no one claims any interest in the assets.
The measure wouldn’t apply in seizures of property and cash worth more than $50,000, excluding the value of contraband. The House passed similar legislation last year, but it died in the Senate.
Michigan State U. creating new fund for Nassar victims
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State University says it’s creating a new fund to help victims of sports doctor Larry Nassar, months after a similar program was suspended over fraud allegations.
Trustees responded to critics and voted unanimously Wednesday to help victims with the cost of counseling and mental health services. Trustee Dianne Byrum says a dollar amount and other details will be established later.
The previous $10 million fund was announced in 2017. But it was suspended and ultimately shut down by interim President John Engler, who said more than $500,000 was linked to fraud . Campus police said fraudulent claims weren’t made by Nassar’s victims.
Engler said the balance of more than $8 million would be put toward a $500 million lawsuit settlement with hundreds of women and girls. Nassar was sentenced to decades in prison for assaulting them with his hands.
Michigan’s 100th Legislature kicks off 2-year term
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s 100th Legislature has begun its two-year session.
Republicans opened the term Wednesday with smaller majorities in both chambers following the November election. They will have to contend with a Democratic governor for the first time since 2009-10, the last time Michigan had a divided government.
Legislative work is unlikely to progress much until Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivers her first State of the State address on Feb. 5 and proposes her first budget in early March. There are also a lot of new lawmakers who need to learn the ropes.
A record number of women, 53, are serving in the Legislature.
Families joined legislators during ceremonial swearing-in events. Republican Rep. Lee Chatfield of Levering was officially elected as speaker. Eight former speakers joined him to mark the historic 100th session.
McCormack is named chief justice of Michigan Supreme Court
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court has selected Bridget McCormack to serve as chief justice.
The court says the vote was unanimous Wednesday. McCormack, a former law school professor, has been a Supreme Court justice since 2013.
In a statement, McCormack says Michigan courts “must be accessible to all” and “independent of political pressure.” She is one of three Democrats on the Supreme Court.
The longest-serving justice, Stephen Markman, was chief justice in 2017 and 2018. Spokesman John Nevin says he didn’t seek the job again.
The court said Justice David Viviano has been named to a new post, chief justice pro tem. He will focus on technology and statewide administrative changes to improve service to the public.
Detroit man pleads guilty in daughter’s crash-related death
DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit man whose 7-year-old daughter was struck and killed when she went for help after he crashed a stolen van has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
The Wayne County prosecutor’s office says 47-year-old Wilburt Dion Thomas also pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree child abuse and operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated with an occupant younger than 16. He will be sentenced Jan. 24.
Thomas had been charged with second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, second-degree child abuse, operating under the influence, marijuana possession and having an open container.
DeSandra Thomas died July 15 after her father crashed into an abandoned vehicle along Interstate 94 in Romulus, southwest of Detroit. When she went for help, another driver struck her, killing the girl instantly.
STATE OF STATE-WHITMER
Whitmer to deliver first State of the State address Feb. 5
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver her first State of the State address on Feb. 5.
The Democrat’s speech is scheduled for 7 p.m. during a joint session of the Republican-led Legislature at the Michigan Capitol building. Her office announced the time and date on Wednesday.
The State of the State address is a chance for the new governor to unveil her policy agenda to lawmakers and a television audience.