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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • Apr 4, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Michigan officials planning controlled fires this spring

LANSING (AP) — If people in rural Michigan see smoke in the sky this spring, it won't necessarily mean there's a problem.

The state Department of Natural Resources is planning a number of "prescribed" fires around the state. They're typically ignited in spring and fall.

The staged burns are done to help control invasive species and create wildlife habitat. Officials say they remove potential fuel for wildfires while promoting growth of some forest types, especially pine, along with grasslands and prairies. They also provide a good training opportunity for firefighters.

The DNR says it works closely with local officials in areas where burns are planned. Weather is carefully monitored and burns are canceled if conditions are unfavorable.

Police identify skull of 2014 Craigslist killing victim

WYOMING (AP) — A skull found in West Michigan is that of a man shot and decapitated in 2014 by a man who also abducted and killed his pregnant girlfriend, police said Wednesday.

The Wyoming Department of Public Safety said dental records identified the skull of 25-year-old Charles Oppenneer, who was slain in Wyoming in July 2014. A farmer found the skull March 26 in rural northern Kent County.

Oppenneer was found decapitated in a park a day before the body of 18-year-old Brooke Slocum was found in the trunk of a car belonging to 31-year-old Brady Oestrike of Wyoming. Slocum was eight months pregnant.

Oestrike fatally shot himself after crashing the car while fleeing police.

Police said Slocum connected with Oestrike for a sexual encounter through the online service Craigslist.

Grand Rapids police looking for Ford gravesite vandals

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — Police said they're looking for two people who are suspected of defacing the gravesite of former President Gerald Ford and first lady Betty Ford in Grand Rapids.

Police released a photo of a man and a woman sitting on a wall. The man appears to be marking or digging into panels that say, "Lives Committed to God, Country and Love." The woman kicked her skateboard into the panels.

The incident occurred March 27.

The Fords are buried outside a museum that is dedicated to Gerald Ford's presidency. He died in 2006. Betty Ford died in 2011.

Authorities identify man found dead in submerged vehicle

LAWTON (AP) — Authorities have identified a man found dead inside a vehicle submerged under water in a southwestern Michigan lake.

The Van Buren County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday identified the man as 59-year-old John Salvatore Catalino of Lawton.

Sheriff Daniel Abbott said deputies responded to Clear Lake on Tuesday afternoon after receiving reports of a fully submerged vehicle approximately 20 yards from the shore. He said members of the Lawton Fire Department were able to extract Catalino, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The vehicle was later removed with assistance from the Van Buren County Dive Team, WWMT-TV reported.

A witness who called 911 reported seeing the vehicle moving in backward into the water and watching it sink.

Michigan's top court rejects appeal of Nassar sentence

CHARLOTTE (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by Larry Nassar, which means a 40-year prison sentence for assaulting gymnasts will stand.

Nassar is under two identical sentences from judges in two Michigan counties. The Supreme Court's brief order covers the sentence for molesting gymnasts at an Eaton County gym, near Lansing. The court declined to take Nassar's appeal.

Separately, the state appeals court is reviewing a 40-year sentence handed down in Ingham County. The court is considering whether Nassar's rights were violated by provocative remarks from Judge Rosemarie Aquilina.

Nassar worked at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains elite gymnasts. Even before his state sentences begin, he's serving decades in federal prison for possessing child pornography.

Governor signs bill to clarify handling of eviction

LANSING (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill to define who is allowed to serve eviction orders in the state.

The bill signed Wednesday establishes which officials can be ordered by a court to evict a tenant, including court officers, bailiffs and local law enforcement officers.

Whitmer said the bill "provides needed clarity and reassurance that individuals involved in evictions or restoring possessions are given the authority of the court and proper training." The Democrat said that specifying who can serve eviction orders is a matter of public safety.

The bill was sponsored by Republican Sen. Peter Lucido of Macomb County's Shelby Township. It takes effect 90 days after its enactment.

School drops some questions from online form after complaint

SOUTHGATE (AP) — A suburban Detroit school has dropped some questions from its online application after a complaint that it asked for information including proof of citizenship and residency.

The Detroit News reported the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan sent a letter Tuesday to the headmaster of the Creative Montessori Academy in Southgate saying the questions were unconstitutional and the process can stigmatize children and deny them an education.

The school says it was using an outsourced system to collect information. Creative Montessori Superintendent Laura Moellering said it appears that all available feeds for collecting information were being used, but the school doesn't need "nor did we intend to collect this information for any purpose."

Moellering said the application has been changed "so that no one will be prevented from enrolling online."

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