Photo by Scott Bewick
Dearborn police officers and helpers prepare to search the railroad tracks that run through the woods just south of Michigan Avenue for evidence after finding the body of Brenna Kathleen Machus was discovered July 18. Machus was one of two west Dearborn Family Dollar employees killed in mid-July. Lavere Bryant of Dearborn was later arrested for Machus’ murder as well as that of Joseph Orlando.
By BOB OLIVER
DEARBORN — Last week we reviewed the most important local stories of the first half of 2013, here’s a look back at the second half.
After conducting a national search for a new director, the Arab American National Museum instead chose to promote its deputy director, Devon Akmon, to the lead role. Akmon has been with the museum since it first opened in 2005 when he was the curator of community history. He became deputy director in 2009 and had overseen the daily operations at the museum for the past year before being promoted to director.
A tradition in east Dearborn, the 2013 Jazz on the Ave kicked off in City Hall Park to a packed house on July 10 for the first of six shows held on consecutive Wednesdays in July and August. On three of those Wednesdays, the “12 on 12” pop-up art gallery was open across the street from city hall.
The gallery turned an unoccupied office space at into a showcase that featured 12 professional artists from around southeastern Michigan demonstrating their art forms, answering questions about technique and displaying their artwork.
Dearborn police were called to investigate a suspicious scene at the Family Dollar in west Dearborn and discovered the body of employee Joseph Orlando, 20, in the back of the store. Orlando was killed by a fatal gunshot.
A second employee, Brenna Kathleen Machus, was missing from the store but her body was found two days later after a 911 call led police to the wooded area just south of Michigan Avenue and just east of the Southfield Freeway, where they discovered her body. She also was killed by a gunshot.
A week later, Lavere Bryant, 34, of Dearborn, was arraigned in front of 19th District Court Judge Sam Salamey on eight felonies in connection with the crimes, including two counts each of first degree murder and felony murder (one count for each victim), armed robbery, unlawful imprisonment, felon in possession of a firearm, felony firearm and being a habitual offender.
At the last meeting of July, the city council authorized the mayor to enter into a purchase agreement and covenant deed with Artspace to sell portions of the City Hall complex. The complex was sold “as is” for $1.65 million, the price at which the complex was appraised.
A primary election was needed to finalize the candidates on the November general election ballot, as too many individuals pulled petitions to run for elected office before the deadline in May.
In the Dearborn mayoral race, five candidates were vying for one of the two available spots, with incumbent John O’Reilly Jr. and Edward Binkley, a handyman, garnering the most votes. Nofila Haidar, Ziad Abdulmalik and Tahir Hassan Alaragy rounded out the mayoral race but did not make it onto the November ballot.
In the race for city clerk, incumbent Kathleen Buda led the field of three with nearly 68 percent of the total vote. She was opposed by Khalil Dakhlallah and Mark Jess Dawdy, with Dawdy not receiving enough votes to move on.
The race for city council included 21 candidates, seven more than the 14 allowed on the November ballot. Current Councilors Mark Shooshanian, Brian O’Donnell, Robert Abraham and David Bazzy and Council President Thomas Tafelski received enough votes to make the November ballot, as did Mike Sareini, Susan Dabaja, Patrick Melton, Tarek Baydoun, Sharon Dulmage, Jane Ahern, Kristyn Taylor, Colette Richards and Stephen Dobkowski Jr.
The candidates who ran but did not make it onto the November ballot were Steven Guibord, Mary Petlichkoff, Michael Albano, Mo Berro, Bob Bochenek, Maureen McIlrath and Robert Watson.
Former Dearborn Heights state Sen. David Plawecki passed away in Dearborn on Aug. 4. He was 65. Plawecki, served as state senator for the 12th Senate District from 1971 to 1982 and also served as the majority floor leader. He was also the youngest state senator to be elected in Michigan at 22 years old.
As a legislator, he was influential in the passing and creation of several state laws and bills, including the Open Meetings Act, Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right to Know Act and Freedom of Information Act.
The Dearborn Public Schools received both good and bad news from the Michigan Department of Education as it learned that several of its schools were dubbed “reward” schools while Edsel Ford High School was labeled as a “priority” school. A priority school is one that ranks in the bottom 5 percent of the state in terms of academic achievement.
If EFHS does not improve their rating over the next year, the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan can assume operations of it, something DPS Supt. Brian Whiston said would not be allowed to happen.
After months of discussion and training, the merging of the Dearborn and Melvindale fire departments became a reality as the mayors of both cities sat down and signed a contract to officially merge the departments.
Though the plan was a merger, Dearborn effectively took over the operations for both cities, with Dearborn Fire Chief Joseph Murray running the consolidated departments and former Melvindale Fire Chief Steven Densmore serving as the deputy chief.
All 13 Melvindale firefighters were brought into the DFD, as was Melvindale’s fire station, which became Dearborn’s fifth station.
Dearborn police captured a man with a loaded rifle in the Dearborn Police Department’s vehicle lot. Michael Pierce Ferriter, of Inkster, was observed circling the lot in his vehicle several times by a witness before stopping, removing a long package from the truck and crawling under the security gate.
Officers responded to the area and found Ferriter under a police vehicle with the package nearby. They apprehended Ferriter without incident and discovered that the package was a Winchester .30-30 caliber rifle concealed in a green shirt. The rifle was loaded.
The Dearborn City Council gave the first reading to an amended ordinance addressing garage usage and appearance, an issue that had been before the city Planning Commission for several months. The current zoning ordinance allows a garage only to be used for the parking of automobiles, but the city wanted to amend it to allow the storage of household items and so that hobbies, parties and other things can legally occur inside of a garage.
Dearborn Assistant City Attorney Bill DeBiasi, who helped author the changes to the ordinance, said that in changing the ordinance the city hoped to make garage use consistent with the current zoning ordinance with regards to the parking of cars, make sure that Public Service Day requirements can be met and promote safety in the streets and neighborhoods.
The ordinance did not receive a second reading to be put into law at the council’s next meeting and was instead sent back to the city Legal Department for more work.
Former Dearborn City Councilman, City Clerk and charter commissioner John Jay Hubbard passed away in Dearborn on Sep. 11. He was 78. He was the second youngest son of Orville L. Hubbard, who served as Dearborn mayor from 1942 to 1978.
The Arab American National Museum learned it had achieved accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums and that it was approved by the city Zoning Board of Appeals to go ahead with plans to expand the museum by 4,200 square feet. Only 1,005 of the estimated 17,500 museums in the United States are accredited by the AAM and only 25 museums are in Michigan.
The AANM joins fellow Michigan museums The Henry Ford, Detroit Institute of Arts and Cranbrook Art Museum on the AAM accreditation list.
The expansion takes the museum into neighboring buildings immediately to the east, formerly the Zamboni Room sports bar and A to Z Medical Equipment.
A rumor of an upcoming vote to put breed specific legislation against pit bulls in the city charter prompted many from Dearborn Heights and the surrounding communities to attend the Sep. 24 city council meeting and address the council on the matter. No decision was made by the council, but several audience members spoke for and against BSL.
The idea of new legislation had been brought up by a Heights couple after their dog was attacked and killed by a pit bull that had gotten away from its owner earlier in the month. One of the owners of the small dog told police he was walking on Monroe when his dog was attacked. He said he struck the pit bull with a small wooden bat that he carried when he went on walks but the bat broke. He also attempted to kick the dog to scare it off but tripped and fell in the street.
When he realized his dog was dead he went to a nearby house and called police. Officers who arrived on the scene shot the pit bull for safety reasons and made contact with its owners, who said they were unaware that the dog had left their yard.
Oct. 1 marked the first day of enrollment for residents into the Michigan Health Insurance Marketplace, the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act.
ACCESS, which was designated as a navigator for the program by the state, reported a good turnout as the first days unfolded and community members visited the group’s Community Health and Research Center to speak to staff members about enrollment options. The enrollment period ends March 31, and individuals who haven’t been given exemption from signing up for health care as part of the ACA may face penalty fees each year for not having coverage.
The defendants in two different cases were bound over trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court in October.
Lavere Bryant, 34, the man accused of killing two Family Dollar store employees in July, was bound over following the preliminary examination of the evidence against him before 19th District Court Judge Sam Salamey on Oct. 4.
Cheneka Gardner, 28, of Detroit, and Wilma Jean Gissantaner, 51, of Detroit, were bound over following a preliminary examinations of the evidence against them before 19th Circuit Court Judge William Hultgren on Oct. 18. The two women were charged in the 2012 drowning death of a 5-year-old boy at a Dearborn hotel where they were chaperoning.
A hayride accident at Camp Dearborn sent nine people to area hospitals and left the tractor driver facing a reckless driving charge on Oct. 27, the last night of hayrides at the park. The incident occurred in Area B of the camp when the driver attempted to navigate a small hill. The tractor was turning to the left, toward a row of campsites, when the trailer turned over, landed on its side and righted itself again. All 16 passengers were thrown from the trailer and nine were taken to local hospitals for injuries ranging from back and neck pain to a possible broken jaw.
Following the incident, Adam Forehand, a part-time employee at the camp, was suspended without pay by the city of Dearborn, which owns and operates the camp in Milford.
Charles Jackson Jr., 27, the fourth suspect arrested for the 2012 murder of Dearborn resident Hassen Jaber, was found guilty of first degree murder, armed robbery and conspiracy and sentenced to life in prison without parole by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Callahan. Jackson was the last suspect to be sentenced, as Detroit residents Zelda Taylor, 29, Iashia Knox, 29, and Kristen Holmes, 30, had already pled guilty to charges of second-degree murder and were already sentenced.
Jaber was found dead in his house in the 6200 block of Williamson July 15, 2012, though police believe that he was killed three days earlier.
The general election was good for incumbents in both Dearborn and Dearborn Heights as all who ran for re-election to keep their seats were victorious.
In the Dearborn mayoral race, incumbent John O’Reilly Jr. defeated challenger Ed Binkley 13,883 votes to 3,102. O’Reilly has been mayor since 2006 and will serve his second full term as mayor.
In the race for city clerk, incumbent Kathleen Buda received over 75 percent of the total votes with 12,347 and defeated student services liaison Khalil Dakhlallah. Buda will serve a fifth term as city clerk.
The tightest race was for city council, where newcomer Susan Dabaja received the highest number of votes and will begin her first term in office as council president. Sitting Council President Thomas Tafelski was second in votes and will become council president pro tem.
Incumbents Mark Shooshanian, David Bazzy, Robert Abraham and Brian O’Donnell were re-elected, and the last member of the new council will be Mike Sareini, son of outgoing Councilwoman Suzanne Sareini.
In the Dearborn Heights mayoral race, incumbent Daniel Paletko defeated City Council Pro-Tem Janet Badalow 4,505 to 2,465. Paletko has been mayor since 2004 and will serve his third full term in office, while Badalow had been on the council since 2001. Badalow could not run for both mayor and city council in the same election, so her seat expired at the end of the year.
There were five candidates running to fill four open spots in the city council, and incumbents Margaret Horvath, Joseph Kosinski and Thomas Berry all received enough votes to keep their seats. The last seat went to Bob Constan, who previously served on the City Council before leaving in 2006 after being elected as state representative for the city.
City Clerk Walter J. Prusiewicz and City Treasurer John J. Riley ran unopposed for their positions.
All of the proposals included on the general election ballots were approved by the voters in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, with the DPS’s SMART Bond, HFCC’s millage renewal and hike and the .95 mills for the Dearborn Heights Libraries all receiving enough support to pass.
DPS Supt. Brian Whiston was selected as the 2014 Michigan Superintendent of the Year by the Michigan Association of School Administrators. Whiston’s name also will be automatically entered as a nominee for the American Association of School Administrator’s National Superintendent of the Year, which will be announced in February.
A Dearborn Heights man was charged by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in the shooting death of a Detroit woman on his front porch Nov. 2. Theodore Paul Wafer, 54, was charged with second degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm for the shooting and killing of Renisha McBride, 19, with a shotgun at his house in the 16800 block of Outer Drive.
McBride’s family believe that she approached the house after being involved in an early morning traffic accident that occurred in the area and that she had gone to house seeking help because her cell phone battery was dead. Assistant Medical Examiner Kilak Kesha ruled McBride’s death a homicide following an autopsy.
Darrius Demarr Greene, 28, of Detroit, was arraigned before 19th District Court Judge William Hultgren on Dec. 10 on the charges of assault with intent to murder, assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, possession of a firearm by a felon, carrying a concealed weapon, discharging a firearm in or at a building, assault with a dangerous weapon and felony firearm. Greene is accused of shooting another man inside Benihana, 18601 Hubbard, on Nov. 12.
A group of 13 Community Emergency Response Team volunteers from the Uniter Arab Emirates were in Dearborn for a week to run through training drills over a variety of situations including downed power lines, animal control, traffic control and how to respond to automobile accidents.
The UAE and Dearborn CERT members have been partners since 2009 and have trained together a few times, including two trips by members of the Dearborn team to the UAE in 2009 and 2010.
Artspace was granted an award of low income tax credits from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which they will use to renovate parts of the city hall complex to artist lofts. The group was notified in November that it was being conditionally awarded the credits but also was informed it still had to submit additional items to complete its paperwork, which it did.
Artspace will be awarded credits up to $792,101 annually for 10 years, which it can sell for equity that will be used to pay for the construction costs of the project, which is roughly $15.7 million, though only $10.5 million of that total cost is eligible to be done with tax credit money. Over the 10 years that Artspace will receive credits from the award, it will sell them for approximately $7.4 million in equity.
After listening to two days of testimony, 20th District Court Judge David Turfe bound Theodore Wafer over to the Wayne County Circuit Court on the charges of second degree murder, manslaughter and felony firearm for his role in the shooting death of Renisha McBride on his front porch in November. The second degree murder charge carries a penalty of any term of years up to life in prison, the manslaughter carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison and the felony firearm charge carries a penalty of two years mandatory consecutive.
At the last meeting of 2013, the Dearborn City Council took time to say goodbye to outgoing Councilwomen Nancy Hubbard and Suzanne Sareini, both of whom had sat on the council since 1990. Both Hubbard and Sareini announced that they would not seek re-election earlier in the year, Sareini in February and Hubbard in May.
(Bob Oliver can be reached at [email protected])