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12-12-2019 Police Reports

Birkhead pleas in son’s death; sentenced to one year in jail

Gary Birkhead, 48, of Bangor will spend a total of 365 days in jail in connection with his son’s death from a drug overdose. Birkhead, who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, had the charge of second degree child abuse dismissed. He has been in the Van Buren County Jail since March of this year. He was being held on $1 million bond. With credit for 264 days served, he will only remain in jail for approximately 100 days. He was also sentenced by Judge Kathleen Brickley to five years probation.

Cole Birkhead, 16, died August 13, 2017 of a drug overdose while in his father’s care. The elder Birkhead was arrested on March 19, 2019 following a lengthy investigation by the Michigan State Police.

Hartford City drug house searched Van Buren County Sheriff Daniel Abbott reports that the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Unit conducted an investigation into illegal narcotics activities taking place at a residence in Hartford City and was able to obtain a search warrant for the residence. On Wednesday, December 4, 2019, at approximately 11:15 a.m., the Van Buren County SWAT Team executed the search warrant. Located at the residence at the time of the search were a 33-year-old male, a 31-year-old female and a four-month-old child. The location was searched pursuant to the search warrant and located inside the residence during the search was suspected methamphetamine, drug packaging materials, digital scales, paraphernalia for using methamphetamine and two firearms. The 33-year-old male was arrested on charges of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine, felon in possession of a firearm, felony firearm, and maintaining a drug house. The 31-year-old female was arrested on charges of possession with intent to deliver methamphetamine and maintaining a drug house. Both were lodged in the Van Buren County Jail. Child protective services was called to the scene and made disposition of the child. Any investigation into the child’s well being and living conditions will be conducted by Child Protective Services. The incident will be forwarded to the Van Buren County Prosecutor for review. Laesch named 2019 Partnership Award recipient At a recent presentation, the Berrien Regional Education Service Agency presented Berrien County Sheriff Deputy Kelly Laesch with the “2019 Partnership Award”. This award acknowledged prestigious achievement for her longstanding commitment for fostering relationships that encourages student development, growth and success. Laesch was nominated by Joe Rommel and Kevin Clark, both Berrien RESA employees. They nominated her for the county implementation of the “Handle with Care Program”, which is a national program. The program promotes a partnership between law enforcement and area school staff to better ensure that the children exposed to traumatic events in their home or community receive appropriate interventions. The ultimate goal is to help children be safe and achieve success in school despite any traumatic circumstances they may encounter. This awareness helps school personnel provide support when it is most needed. Berrien County Sheriff L. Paul Bailey was in attendance for the county “2019 Partnership Award” and stated, “I want to take this opportunity to thank the Berrien RESA for their support of community partnerships. Deputy Laesch is very supportive of the public schools throughout the county. Her work promotes safe and secure schools, as well as being an advocate for the social, emotional well-being of students and staffs.”


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A Hartford man is finally arrested after a year-long investigation into child abuse that led to the death of an 18 month old.


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