10-26-2017 Former Hartford firefighter admits to numerous arsons; Hartford and Watervliet seek gridi

Police Reports

By Annette Christie

Former Hartford firefighter admits to numerous arsons 

 A Hartford man has been arraigned on six counts of arson following a task force investigation into suspicious fires.  Kyle David Norden, 40, was arraigned on Monday, October 23 on three arson charges, 2nd degree and three arson charges, 3rd degree.

Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel E. Abbott reports that over the course of several months there were suspicious fires that the fire chiefs made him aware of. These fires all seemed suspicious in nature and it was believed to have had human intervention and deemed as arson.

A task force was set up by Sheriff Abbott on October 20, 2017 to look further into the fires. Deputies within the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office along with the local fire departments began to look more closely at all fires recently fitting a unique profile. The profile included abandoned residences and detached out buildings specific to the Hartford, Keeler, and Bangor areas.

On Friday afternoon, October 20, a subject came to speak with Sheriff Abbott personally about a possible suspect. The suspect was brought to the Sheriff’s Office and was subsequently interviewed by deputies.

Kyle David Norden confessed to lighting five fires in Van Buren and two additional in Berrien County. The locations of the Van Buren County fires are 41000 block of 66th, Bangor Township; 9000 block of Hagar Shore Rd., Watervliet Township; 46000 block of 60th St., Hartford Township; 70000 block of 62nd St., Hartford Township; 86000 block of CR681, Keeler Township; and 65000 77th Ave., Keeler Township.

The Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office reached out to the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and requested a specially trained K9. K9 handler Deputy Dekorte and his partner Ritzey responded to assist in the investigation. K9 Ritzey is trained investigating arsons and the presence of accelerants used in fires. Ritzey had several positive indications at numerous fire scenes related to these cases. Once K9 Ritzey indicated the presence of accelerants, evidence was collected and will be sent to the Michigan State Police Crime Lab for analysis.

Abbott said, “I am proud of this organization and the way all the deputies put in the extra effort to quickly bring this investigation to a close. The Sheriff’s Office worked well with local fire departments and organizations to protect the citizens of Van Buren County before someone was hurt.” He added, “I am grateful and humbled by the public safety sector that put in an extra effort, from the deputies, fire chiefs, Kent County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Dekorte and his K9 Ritzey, the Van Buren County Prosecutor’s Office and many others who brought this to a speedy conclusion.”

Norden was arrested in 2014 after taking a fire truck and fire gear from the Hartford Fire Department as a former firefighter.  He accepted a plea deal down to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of a firefighter badge or uniform.

Coloma man arrested for illegal entry

Watervliet City Patrolman Horton was dispatched on a report of a male subject that had entered into an adult foster care home on VanAtter St., where he should not have been. Upon arrival Horton was informed that the suspect had left.

While searching the area for the suspect, Horton was advised that the subject had entered a home on Western Avenue in which the occupants were home. Once again, upon arrival, Horton was informed that the suspect had fled.

The suspect, a 28-year-old male from Coloma, was ultimately located by Horton. The suspect was arrested on charges of two counts of illegal entry and possession of a concealed weapon. He was lodged at the Berrien County Jail. The investigation report will be reviewed by the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office.

Hartford man arrested for intoxicated driving

On October 20 at approximately 11:17 p.m., Coloma Township Police were informed to be on the lookout for a vehicle that may be driven by an intoxicated driver.  The on duty officer located the vehicle and made contact with the driver.

The officer smelled intoxicants while having contact with the driver and conducted an investigation. The driver, a 25-year-old Hartford man was subsequently arrested and lodged for operating while intoxicated, 2nd offense.

Michigan State Police offer flood prep tips

PANTHERS CELEBRATE 9-0 SEASON… Generous donations from the community provided fabulous fireworks following each Watervliet scoring drive and ensuing post-game celebration Friday night as the Panther varsity football squad celebrated their perfect 9-0 regular season. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)


After another round of several days of rain in a short period of time, the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division is encouraging residents to prepare for possible flooding.

The National Weather Service (NWS) is forecasting three to six inches of heavy rain which could lead to flooding in portions of western and mid-lower Michigan. The NWS is also predicting wind gusts of up to 65 mph which could cause power outages.

“Flash flooding has the ability to be life-threatening and damaging,” said Capt. Chris A. Kelenske, Deputy State Director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. “To be prepared and safe, residents should protect their property against any flooding hazards and double-check to ensure they are covered by insurance. If you must travel, please be careful and do not drive through any flooded roads.”

While flooding is most prevalent near low-lying areas and bodies of water, it can occur almost anywhere, including near small streams, creeks and even in basements. Flash floods are the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S., according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Residents can prepare for a flood by doing the following:

Create an emergency preparedness kit with a 72-hour supply of water, including three gallons per person.

Put important documents and valuables in a water proof container on the top floor of the home. Reconsider storing valuables in the basement.

Create an inventory of household items and take photos of the interior and exterior of the home. Keep the photos in a water proof container.

Consider installing sewer backflow valves to prevent flood water from backing up into the home through drain pipes.

Double-check sump pumps to ensure they are working properly. If possibly, have a battery back-up system.

Avoid camping or parking along streams, rivers and creeks during heavy rainfall. These areas can flood quickly and with little warning.

Make sure that neighborhood storm drains are clear of debris. Clogged storm drains contribute to flooding roadways.

Residents are reminded to not attempt to drive through a flooded road. The depth of the water is not always obvious. If a driver confronts a flooded road they should turn around.  Just two feet of water can sweep a vehicle away.

Barricades put up on a road should not be driven around. They are there for the driver’s protection and are there for a reason. Drivers should turn around and go the other way.

Drivers should be especially cautious driving at night when it is harder to recognize flood dangers.

Hartford and Watervliet seek gridiron glory as playoffs begin Friday

By Kristy Noack

The varsity football squads of Hartford and Watervliet will grind it out on the gridiron Friday, October 27 as the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoff season begins!

Hartford secured their position in post-regular season play after they beat Bloomingdale 57-27 last Friday. The Indians ended the regular season with a 6-3 record and earned an automatic berth in the playoffs.

Hartford who joined the newly-formed Southwest 10 Conference at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, tied for third in the conference with Decatur.

The inaugural SW10 conference championship went to Mendon, who posted a perfect 9-0 record.

Under the direction of first-time varsity football head coach Brad Manning, the Indians opened the season with a two-game win streak, including a 35-0 victory over Eau Claire and 60-7 drubbing of Bangor. Hartford’s game against Eau Claire marked their only shut out of the season, while the matchup against Bangor yielded Hartford’s largest margin of victory.

The Tribe suffered their first loss in early September after they fell 41-14 to Mendon.

Hartford returned to fine form with a three-game win streak, beating Marcellus 28-18, edging out Decatur 39-38, and downing White Pigeon 21-14.

The following two weeks were tough on the Indians squad as they were defeated in two consecutive losses at home. Hartford suffered their only shut out of the season at the hands of then-undefeated Cassopolis; the Indians lost 45-0. Hartford also lost to Centreville 36-14, which gave the Indians a 5-3 record with only one game left in the season.

The final matchup of the season, and Hartford’s last chance to earn an outright, automatic playoff spot, came last Friday against Bloomingdale, and the easy win propelled Hartford into the playoffs.

After an almost revolving door at the head coach position, Hartford seems to have settled in nicely under Manning’s tutelage.

“We all really wanted this [season] to go well and the support from [everyone] has been tremendous. I just wanted football in Hartford to be fun for everyone again, and I hope this is only further encouraging people to come out and be a part of our program.  I am really thankful towards our new athletic director Nick Blackmer for giving me the opportunity,” Manning shared.

The last time the Indians made the playoffs was 2015 but they lost in the first round.

The last time Hartford posted a winning season was 2013 when they went 7-3.

The Indians will take on Vermontville Maple Valley at home Friday, October 27 in Division 7 Region 3 District 1. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

Manning said, “This week we really need to focus on our assignments.  If we come out and attack them up front we will give ourselves a chance to win.

“[Vermontville Maple Valley is] a Wing T team and that really demands a unique attention to detail on defense. I can only image everyone’s excited about hosting a playoff game, but we are at that time in the year where players can lose interest. They’ve heard our coaches encouraging voices for a long time now. I’m just hopeful that they are ready for a new challenge mentally in preparing this week.”

VMV holds a 5-4 overall record this season and is under the direction of head coach Marty Martin.

The Tigers, who are part of the Greater Lansing Activities Conference, were 2-3 in the conference.  They were shut out once this season, losing 35-0 to Kent City. In their final game of the season, they defeated Comstock 50-21 but did not earn their playoff spot automatically; they made the playoffs based on playoff points and got the news Sunday night during Fox’s Selection Sunday television broadcast.

“It will be a challenge for us this Friday,” Manning continued. “I’m excited for the kids and their families. I just hope Hartford is proud of our team and what we’ve been able to do.”

The Panthers of Watervliet capped off an incredible 9-0 perfect season after they cruised to a 36-14 victory over the visiting Comets of Coloma Friday.

Watervliet secured their playoff spot three weeks ago, so the only surprise – which really wasn’t – in store for them on Selection Sunday was their opponent for the opening round of playoffs.

The Panthers will play host to the Division 6 Region 3 District 1 game 1 Friday night at 7:00 p.m. against Southwestern Athletic Conference – Valley Division foe Schoolcraft.

A community pep rally will be held Thursday, October 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Arclight Brewery on Main Street in Watervliet. Come meet and mingle with players, coaches and cheerleaders. Panther fans get your face painted and make a spirit sign or noise maker. Panthers Grill food wagon will also be open for business. The Watervliet Athletic Boosters will have Panther apparel on sale. This is a free event, there is no charge to attend or partake in activities.

“Drawing Schoolcraft was not much of a surprise,” Watervliet head coach Jeremy Andrews said. “[We] figured that was the likely opponent going in.  It will be the sixth time we have played them over the past five seasons [and] third time in the playoffs, so there will be a certain familiarity on both sides.”

Watervliet faced Schoolcraft already this season in week eight competition and won 36-14.

Andrews commented, “We will definitely take a hard look at our first meeting to see where we can improve.  They were able to get a lot of pressure on the passer, so we will need to shore up our protection scheme for sure.”

That passer Andrews referenced is, of course, talented senior quarterback Zack Pickens.  Pickens has put up some huge numbers this season. He is 137 of 187 for 2,891 yards and 29 touchdowns. Pickens has only thrown two interceptions all year and holds a .733 completion percentage.

Pickens has also rushed 174 times for 1,148 yards and 25 TDs.

The Panthers’ road to the playoffs hasn’t been complicated. They play a team, they win; decisively, overwhelmingly, in some cases.

Watervliet began their season with a 50-7 victory over non-conference opponent Lawton. From there on out, the “W”s continued to pile up.

The Panthers topped Buchanan 72-36, Maple City Glen Lake 52-26, Gobles 54-6, Kalamazoo Hackett 52-34, Delton Kellogg 58-44, Constantine 68-24, the aforementioned Schoolcraft, and Coloma.

Watervliet scored 50 or more points in seven of the nine games they played in the regular season. They were held to 36 points, the fewest points this season, by Schoolcraft and Coloma in the final two weeks of the season.

Andrews and the team celebrated their success Friday with the hoisting of the SAC – Valley conference title trophy. The Panthers were 5-0 in the conference and outdistanced runner-up finisher Kalamazoo Hackett by two games; Hackett recorded a 3-2 season.

Schoolcraft holds a 5-4 record this season and lost to Berrien Springs, Coloma, Kalamazoo Hackett and the Panthers.

“Practice wise, we will keep the plan similar to what we do all season.  We always make some adjustments based on our opponent as well as areas we need to focus on to get better,” Andrews stated.

On Monday, Andrews commented, “The biggest issue this week looks like weather. It appears it is going to rain all day today and at least parts of the next couple days. Getting in good practices while it is raining can sometimes be difficult, especially if it rains so much that field conditions [become] rough.”

This year marks the seventh consecutive year Watervliet has made the playoffs. They have reached the MHSAA state quarterfinals game twice – in 2011 and again in 2014.

So, football fans don your game gear and head out to your local stadium Friday night for playoff gridiron action. Kickoffs are at 7:00 p.m. for both Hartford and Watervliet. Weather forecasters are predicting a game time temperature around 42 degrees Fahrenheit with a 60% chance of rain. It’s high school football playoff Friday in Southwest Michigan!

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