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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Jul 19, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Michigan unemployment rate falls to 4.5 percent in June

LANSING (AP) — Michigan's unemployment rate fell slightly to 4.5 percent in June.

Figures released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget show Michigan's jobless rate was five-tenths of a percentage point above the national rate of 4.0 percent last month and one-tenth of a percentage point higher than the state's June 2017 rate of 4.4 percent.

The agency said total employment in Michigan increased by 8,000 during the month while the number of unemployed fell by 4,000.

Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives Director Jason Palmer said payroll jobs in the state have increased nearly every month so far in 2018, growing by a total of 32,000 statewide, or 0.7 percent, during the first six months of the year.

West Michigan couple charged in dehydration death of young son

WYOMING (AP) — A Grand Rapids-area couple have been charged with murder, manslaughter and child abuse in the dehydration death of their 18-month-old son.

Alexander Birkenmeyer and Andrea Todd were arraigned Tuesday.

Authorities said Yurik Birkenmeyer's body was found March 16 in the family's home in Wyoming.

The boy had been in foster care for 10 months last year after a Child Protective Services investigator became concerned over his low weight, unsafe sleep environment and lack of proper care. Yurik was returned to his parents in October.

Court records show the couple had another child who died from sudden infant death syndrome in 2015 after sleeping alongside one of the parents.

Probable-cause conferences are scheduled July 25 for Birkenmeyer and Todd.

Couple die in Allegan County crash 3 weeks after their wedding

HEATH TWP. (AP) — A young husband and wife have died in a crash in West Michigan just a few weeks after they were married, police said.

The Allegan County Sheriff's Office said three vehicles were involved in Tuesday's crash in Heath Township.

The Sheriff's Office said 24-year-old Logan Thunderland Allbaugh and 22-year-old Hannah Mae Kwekel died in the crash. A statement from the office said they'd been married for two weeks, but a registry under their names listed a June 23 wedding had been planned.

Preliminary information indicates the Holland-area couple's vehicle was struck by a vehicle that apparently ran through a stop sign. The couple's vehicle then was struck by another vehicle. One of the other drivers had minor injuries and the other wasn't hurt.

The crash is under investigation.

$63,000 found in ceiling at home of priest accused of theft

WILLIAMSTON (AP) — State police said they have discovered $63,000 hidden above ceiling tiles in the home of a Michigan priest who is accused of embezzling millions.

The search was conducted Tuesday at the Rev. Jonathan Wehrle's luxury home in Williamston. Police said money was in $2,000 bundles secured with cash bands that said, "For Deposit Only-St. Martha Parish."

Defense attorney Lawrence Nolan declined to comment and said he was withdrawing from the case.

Wehrle is charged with six counts of embezzling $100,000 or more from St. Martha Church in Okemos. He lived at a property worth more than $1 million.

The trial is scheduled for Aug. 13.

Authorities have seized $1.1 million from Wehrle, although auditors say more than $5 million is missing. Nolan has said a bishop allowed Wehrle to use church funds for a home.

Judge rules Michigan cafe owner won't be deported

HARBERT (AP) — A Michigan restaurant owner from Turkey who has been facing deportation for more than a decade will now be allowed to stay in the U.S.

Ibrahim Parlak learned Tuesday he was granted a deferral of removal under the Convention Against Torture, an international law protecting refugees from being returned under threat of torture or death. Immigration Judge Katheryn Deangelis ruled that Parlak's fear for his safety upon deportation to Turkey is well-founded.

The owner of Cafe Gulistan in Harbert was granted asylum in the U.S. in 1992 after being convicted in Turkey of supporting the Kurdish separatist movement. But immigration officials began efforts to deport him in 2004 under claims he failed to disclose the Turkish conviction or ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party, which was classified as a terrorist group by the U.S. Department of State in 1997.

Parlak was arrested in 2004 and jailed for 10 months. A federal judge eventually ordered his release, and he has won multiple deportation deferrals since then. But efforts to send Parlak back to Turkey were renewed about three years ago.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, retired U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and thousands of community members pushed back against Parlak's deportation through a 2016 petition.

Man's final wishes on cellphone count as a will, court says

ST. JOSEPH (AP) — The Michigan appeals court says a young man's final words written in electronic form can count as a valid will.

Before killing himself in 2015, a 21-year-old Berrien County man said he had written a "farewell" that was accessible on his phone. He gave instructions for how to get to it.

He expressed personal sentiments, requests for a funeral and instructions about how to distribute his possessions.

The man's mother, who didn't inherit anything, appealed after a judge said the electronic wishes would be considered a valid will.

In a 3-0 decision Tuesday, the appeals court said evidence "strongly supports the conclusion" that the man wanted the note to be his will.

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