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Orchard Lake, Keego Harbor, West Bloomfield, Sylvan Lake

January 1, 2014

2013: A year of tragedy, new birth

By Cari DeLamielleure-Scott
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
The Rev. Leonard Obloy presides over morning Mass at the Shrine Chapel of Our Lady of Orchard Lake March 13 in Orchard Lake. Many Catholics were praying for the selection of the new pope.
Accused killer Sandra Layne learns that she will spend 20-40 years in prison during her April 18 sentencing in Oakland County Circuit Court.
From left, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash; West Bloomfield Township Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste; Hal Fitch, from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; and Joe Curry, from the Michigan Ground Water Association, preside over a town hall meeting about hydraulic fracturing in West Bloomfield Feb. 27.
 

From the West Bloomfield grandmother sentenced for murdering her grandson to Keego Harbor approving the construction of the new Magnolia by the Lakes facility, residents in C & G’s coverage area were enveloped with both tragedy and new birth in 2013.

A POLITICAL WAR
West Bloomfield Township raced to sell a $2.86 million real estate mortgage investment conduit, or REMIC, investment involving pools of mortgage-backed securities at the beginning of the year, an action that would start a cyclone of political battles and an investigation into the township’s treasurer. 

Officials at the Jan. 28, 2013, board meeting said that Teri Weingarden’s decision to make the investment in the fall of 2012 broke the township’s rules on investing, and in February, the board voted to sell the investment by the end of that month.

But the debacle didn’t stop there. In June, Weingarden hired her fourth deputy treasurer since 2009, Jared Maynard from Harrison Township, in a move that widened the rift among officials. During his first meeting with the township board July 22, Maynard’s ability as deputy to handle bank transactions was stripped, and his pay was slashed one day later from $70,000 to $40,000. He was terminated effective Aug. 30. Maynard filed a lawsuit against township officials Nov. 25 in Macomb County Circuit Court for a breach of contract and alleged violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

Residents stopping at the West Bloomfield Treasurer’s Office Oct. 9 found the gates closed and a handwritten sign stating, “Closed due to Political Issues, Sorry for the Inconvenience.” Following Weingarden’s actions, the board voted on a list of duties for Weingarden to complete, including having the treasurer sign all checks invoiced to Johnson, Rosati, Schultz & Joppich P.C., the law firm hired to investigate Weingarden.

At the West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees meeting Oct. 28, the board voted 6-1 to expand an investigation to include irregularities in the treasurer’s office, and Weingarden stressed after the meeting that she would continue her post because she had made a commitment to the voters. Weingarden addressed her concerns during the meeting about using Johnson, Rosati, Schultz & Joppich P.C. and agreed that, from a cash management standpoint, the township was in a bad situation. She also stated that the treasury department was three months behind in work, which she said was due to understaffing.

Following an investigation report from the attorney firm — which highlighted issues with a $2 million REMIC investment, wire transfer mistakes, cash management irregularities and other miscellaneous items — the board passed a motion 5-2 Dec. 9 to petition Gov. Rick Snyder for the removal of Weingarden from office. Trustee Steven Kaplan and Weingarden voted against the motion.

MURDER AND GUILT
West Bloomfield resident Sandra Layne, 75, was found guilty of second-degree murder and using a firearm while committing a felony by a jury May 19. She will spend the rest of her life behind bars after being sentenced to 20-40 years in prison for the second-degree murder and two years for the possession of the firearm.

Layne was arrested for shooting and killing her grandson, Jonathan Hoffman, 17, in her condo May 18, 2012. An autopsy revealed five bullet wounds on Hoffman’s body.

During Layne’s July 2012 preliminary examination, a segment of Hoffman’s 911 call was played in which the teen told the responder that his grandmother had shot him. After pleading for help, Hoffman cried out that he was shot again.

Layne’s murder trial began March 4, 2013, in Circuit Court Judge Denise Lanford Morris’s courtroom. Enrobed in an orange jumpsuit, Layne took the stand March 14, testifying that she and Hoffman argued about Hoffman allegedly receiving a positive drug test for synthetic marijuana. She continued her testimony, stating that Hoffman feared going to jail for the test results and allegedly wanted to take Layne’s car and some money to flee the police. Layne said she fired the gun after Hoffman allegedly attacked and kicked her, but she said she never intended to kill him.

Following the trial, the jury deliberated and had the option of acquitting Layne or declaring her guilty of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

“What is troubling is why you didn’t call police first,” Lanford Morris said at the sentencing. “I wonder if you really felt violated and afraid, and a need to shoot. Why did you keep shooting, and how could you keep shooting?”

POPE FRANCIS: THE PEOPLE’S POPE
Catholics around the world rejoiced when Jorge Mario Bergoglio inherited the chair of St. Peter March 13. Taking on the name Francis after the humble saint from Assisi, he is the first non-European pope in 1,200 years, and his humility and call for a healing church landed him Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

Weeks after Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced his resignation effective Feb. 28, the College of Cardinals, or a papal conclave, deliberated his successor and new leader of the Catholic Church, a job that would come with the baggage of evangelization issues and sex abuse scandals.

Catholics around the world, including those who filled Shrine Chapel of Our Lady of Orchard Lake at a Mass in March for divine guidance, prayed for the cardinals in Rome to cast ballots for the next leader of the world’s estimated 1.2 billion professed Catholics.

Monsignor C. Machalski Jr. of SS. Cyril & Methodius Seminary said at the Mass that the new pope continues a long line of church leadership as the vicar of Christ on earth, starting with St. Peter, one of Jesus’ original 12 disciples.

White smoke billowed out of the Sistine Chapel March 13, and Patricia Zawadzki, director of advanced services at Orchard Lake Schools, professed the type of pope she hoped for.

“We need a pope who can hear a God who is still speaking and not just a God who spoke long ago — a pope who believes in miracles and helps us celebrate the saints that are ordinary men and women who dedicated their lives to build this church,” Zawadzki said.

BOSTON MARATHON
Local residents ran in the April 15 Boston Marathon, a day when tragedy struck, leaving three people dead and more than 140 injured after bombs exploded.

West Bloomfield resident Scott Goldstein recalled the event, down to the greasy hamburger he ate moments before the explosions and the evacuation from a restaurant four blocks from the finish line.

“I was sad because I knew the marathon would never be the same and shocked because the marathon is such a great day, and to have something like this happen was terrible,” Goldstein said. Goldstein finished the race approximately 50 minutes before the bombs went off, but he said he felt the aftereffects like the thousands of runners and attendees did. 

Prosecutors charged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the Boston Marathon bombings during a hearing April 22, one week after he allegedly detonated the pressure-cooker bombs, according to a published report.  He faces 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction and 16 other charges, which could lead to the death penalty, according to published reports. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is reported to make the decision of the death penalty. Tsarnaev’s older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, also a suspect, reportedly died April 18 and was named in October as a participant in a triple homicide from September 2011, published reports state.

TRAGEDY AND HOPE
Following a fatal boating accident that took place on Sylvan Lake July 14, Sylvan Lake City Council and the Oakland County Board of Commissioners approved in August for the Oakland County Sheriff’s Marine Division to patrol Sylvan Lake through 2015.

Eleven-year-old Alexander Mansour and 6-year-old Gabrielle Mansour were killed after their raft, which their father was towing behind a Jet Ski, was struck by a boat. Adriana Mansour, 10, was critically injured at the time and has been recovering since the accident.

“All I know is she’s back to school, but I think it’s just one day a week,” Pam Zajak said Dec. 18. Zajak is the public relations and marketing coordinator for the West Bloomfield School District.

John Mansour, the children’s 40-year-old father, was reportedly traveling on the lake when a 56-year-old Sylvan Lake boat collided with the raft. The case was presented to the Oakland County, and no chargers were issued in the accident.

Since the tragedy, the Alexander and Gabrielle Mansour Memorial Fund, a permanently endowed fund to support the West Bloomfield School District, has been established, and various organizations have created fundraisers to benefit the memorial fund. To donate in their honor, visit www.cfsem.org and search for the Alexander and Gabrielle Mansour Memorial Fund.

NEW STRUCTURES AND REVENUE
In a unanimous approval by the Keego Harbor Planning Commission and the Keego Harbor City Council, the city will be the home of Magnolia by the Lakes, a $40 million assisted and independent living facility and rehabilitation center at Cass Lake Road and Stapleton Drive.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place Sept. 27. Mayor Sid Ruben said the council approved the site plans in record time — 48 days to be exact. The facility, which is the dream of the accomplished Farideh R. Bagne, consists of three buildings. The first is an elder care and assisted living facility. The second is the already-in-place Mercury Building on Cass Lake Road, which will be renovated to include physical therapy services, a beauty salon and barber shop, a spa, a French bakery, a bistro, an Italian gelato shop, and an Irish pub.

The third structure will be a five-story building connected to the Mercury Building by an enclosed bridge. It will contain 155 resort-style villas, a formal dining room, an activity and conference room, a rooftop garden, a billiards room, a library, and a chapel.

The building plans are a slow process, Linda Voll, Keego Harbor’s interim city manager, said Dec. 18. “They have the sewage part that they have to go through yet, and then the water runoff that they have to finish up.”

Voll added that the city is hopeful contractors will begin laying the foundation soon, but it all depends on any additional information required for the project. 

C & G Staff Writer Sherri Kolade contributed to this article.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Cari DeLamielleure-Scott at cdelamielleure@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1093.