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Woman gets leniency for accidental death of child

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) – Although a Kent County jury convicted Rebecca Joy Cotes of involuntary manslaughter for the accidental asphyxiation death of her special needs daughter, the circumstances do not warrant prison.

That was the determination of Kent County Circuit Court Judge George Jay Quist, who on Monday sentenced the 37-year-old Wyoming mother to 4½ months in jail.

A Kent County jury convicted Cotes in the March 2014 death of 18-month-old Hannah Hoag, who died after her breathing tube became dislodged as the child slept.

Hoag was a niece Cotes adopted in 2013. She moved from northern Michigan to the Grand Rapids area where the child could receive better medical attention, the woman's attorney said.

Space heater sparks GR house fire

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- An electrical issue with a space heater sparked a fire in home on Grand Rapids' Northeast Side, said a firefighter at the scene. 

The family was in the residence near the intersection of Plymouth Avenue and Michigan Street NE when they smelled smoke around 10 a.m. Monday. Dispatch reports indicated the fire was contained to the second floor of a home.

The fire did not leave the room in which the space heater was kept, a firefighter said.

Michigan Street east of Plymouth Avenue closed for a time while crews worked to extinguish the fire.


Girl made $1,100 selling nude photos of herself online

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- A 15-year-old Gaines Township girl admitted to selling nude photos and videos of herself on the Internet, earning more than $1,100 before her mother found out and contacted police.

"We don't come across it very often,'' Kent County Sheriff's Department Sgt. E.J. Johnson said Wednesday. "Anytime we come across it, we try to jump on it as soon as we can before pictures start circulating at school.''

The Kent County Sheriff's Department has investigated more than a half-dozen cases this year in which sexual predators have badgered kids to send sexually explicit photos. In one instance, someone posing as pop star Justin Bieber asked a 9-year-old girl to send him nude photos.

Business offers free New Year's Eve rides

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- A West Michigan business is working to make sure everyone celebrating on New Year's Eve gets home safe by offering to be your designated driver for free.

Employees at "First Assured Bail Bonds" and a team of volunteers will be designated drivers on New Year's Eve. All you have to do is give them a call at 888-203-4841, and they'll pick you up and drop you off at home.

They have locations in Kent, Muskegon, and Ottawa Counties.

You can check out their Facebook page for more information.

Family accuses GRPD of systematic racism

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The family of a Grand Rapids teenager not only wants the police to pay for beating the 15 year old boy, their lawsuit also demands the department change the way they treat young African Americans.

The suit filed in federal court says police beat up 15 year old "D-B" after the teenager ran from officers investigating a tip there was someone in the area with a gun.

Police say they found a gun in the vicinity, but the 15 year old was unarmed.

The charge "resisting and obstructing a police officer" was dismissed by a judge.

A jury found the teenager not guilty on a "carrying a concealed weapon" charge.

Family attorney Keeley Heath says police not only violated the teenager's civil rights, but the city condones this kind of unconstitutional treatment of young African American men.

Legacy of Ed Dobson: Pastor, teacher, writer

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Ed Dobson, the former senior pastor at Calvary Church, died on Dec. 26. He had been living with A-L-S for several years, but his impact on the West Michigan community will live on.

Dobson was a teacher, a pastor, a writer and a mentor.

Marvin Williams is the lead pastor for Trinity Church and was mentored by Ed Dobson: "We would consider Ed Dobson a pioneer," Williams said. "He did things nobody else did. He took risks nobody else would take."

He was one of the first to introduce a contemporary Saturday night worship service to try to reach people that might not feel comfortable with a traditional Sunday morning service.

Jail unlikely in fatal crash linked to marijuana

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- A Lowell man who had marijuana in his system when his car struck a tree, killing his girlfriend, will avoid jail under a plea agreement reached this week.

Brian Welch Jr., 22, pleaded guilty Monday to intoxicated driving causing death for an Aug. 19 crash in Lowell Township that killed Kristina Garza.

The victim's family has been supportive of Welch and indicated they did not want to see him locked up. He's scheduled to be sentenced before Kent County Circuit Court Judge George Buth on Feb. 3.

The Kent County Prosecutor's Office has agreed to recommend no jail time so long as Garza's family does not object. If they ask for some incarceration, Welch will be able to withdraw his plea and take the case to trial.