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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Aug 8, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Judge agrees to no new trials for Jeffrey Willis

MUSKEGON (AP) — A prosecutor says all remaining criminal cases against a West Michigan man serving two life terms for killing a jogger and a gas station clerk have been dismissed.

On Tuesday, a judge granted Muskegon County Prosecutor D.J. Hilson's motions to dismiss four remaining cases against Jeffrey Willis.

Willis, 48, was convicted last November of first-degree murder in the 2014 shooting death of jogger Rebekah Bletsch in Muskegon County and in May for the 2013 kidnapping and murder of attendant Jessica Heeringa from a gas station in Norton Shores. Heeringa’s body hasn't been found.

The dismissed cases include the attempted kidnapping of a teen and child pornography. Hilson said he consulted with the teen kidnapping victim, and she agreed it was best not to try the case.

West Michigan parents charged in neglect death of 10-month-old

SOLON TWP. (AP) — The parents of a 10-month-old girl who died of malnutrition and dehydration in Kent County have been charged with felony murder and first-degree child abuse.

Seth Welch and Tatiana Fusari, both 27, were charged Monday in the death of their daughter, Mary. The couple could face life in prison without parole if convicted of felony murder.

The Kent County Sheriff's Office said Welch called 911 last week and deputies found the child not breathing inside a home in Solon Township, north of Grand Rapids. One of the first responders noted the child's sunken eyes and cheeks, and lack of pulse. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy Friday ruled the cause of death as malnutrition and dehydration due to neglect by adult caregivers.

The Kent County couple admitted their daughter had been skinny and underweight for at least a month, an affidavit alleged. The parents didn't seek medical help for religious reasons, fear of having Child Protective Services called and a lack of trust in medical services, according to records.

The parents are being held without bond.

Welch and Fusari have two older children together, ages 2 and 4. On Monday, Child Protective Services filed a neglect case against the parents involving their two eldest children.

US Supreme Court may see Lake Michigan beach ownership case

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A years-long dispute over the ownership of Lake Michigan's shoreline may be headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Elena Kagan last week approved a request from Bobbie and Don Gunderson's attorneys to extend the deadline for seeking a Supreme Court review in their case to Oct. 5, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported.

The Gundersons alleged their Long Beach, Indiana, lakefront property should extend to the water's edge as shown on the deed to their property. Their attorney argued that landowners have the right to limit who uses the beaches abutting their properties.

In February, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the state owns the shoreline and holds it in trust for all residents. The ruling set the ordinary high-water mark as the boundary between the state-owned land and the interests of private property owners. The high-water mark is defined as the line on the shore created by the fluctuations of water.

In May, the state Supreme Court denied the couple's motion to reconsider the February decision.

Attorneys Aaron Van Oort and Nicholas Nelson said they're seeking additional time to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court because they've only recently been retained by the Gundersons and still are working to "familiarize themselves with the record in the case and to prepare the petition."

A petition requesting action by the U.S. Supreme Court must typically be done within 90 days of a final decision by a federal appellate court or a state court of last resort.

Tests find chemical contamination in Michigan school's water

ORLEANS TWP. (AP) — Tests discovered elevated levels of chemical contamination in drinking water for a Michigan preschool that's closed to children for the summer.

The EightCAP Orleans Head Start center in Ionia County's Orleans Township announced Monday that man-made chemicals called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances were found at a well. Bottled water will be provided at the facility.

EightCap President Dan Peterson said the school is on summer recess. During the school year, it's used by students ages 3-5 and staff members.

A charter elementary school, Threshold Academy, with about 150 students formerly used the building.

The contamination was discovered by the state, which is testing public water supplies and schools on well water. The substances, among chemicals referred to broadly as PFAS, are used in manufacturing, firefighting, and household and consumer products.

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