Hotel price gouging after ice storm • Man ordered to trial for WWJ reporter's murder • Dog saves toddler

After days of having no power, Omari Jackson walked inside his Roseville home Monday afternoon to find the lights are back on.

But being without power for several days came with a hefty price as Jackson and his wife turned to area hotels to find shelter.

"We looked on the website afterward, and we see that basically, we were charged double, for every night we were there, for a single room," he said.

That hotel was in Troy, and the couple then went to another hotel in Canton, which is closer to Jackson’s work.

"We went there, again more of the same, looking on Google afterward, we pretty much got charged double," he said.

Jackson says the hotel stays broke the bank.

"I estimated $1,200 to $1,300 range in total," he said.

"We’re going to come after the folks that took advantage of this opportunity," said State Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D). "I’ve been in communication with the attorney general’s office to see what we can do to protect those that were taken advantage of, at this vulnerable stage."

But Omari also lost many of his pet fish and food inside his refrigerator.

Aiyash and other lawmakers wants DTE Energy to pay up.

On Monday DTE announced an automatic $35 credit for qualified customers.

"We are going to be processing those credits proactively for customers who have been out of power greater than 96 hours - it’s a flat $35 that is the size of the credit," said DTE VP Ryan Stowe.

Some believe it’s time to Introduce legislation to protect Michiganders when the power goes out.

"I will be introducing legislation very soon that would give customers automatic credits for outages and reimbursements for food and medicine," Aiyash said,

Lawmakers also want to DTE to work on preventing widespread outages in the future.

"We only get to choose DTE or no energy - and oftentimes it’s DTE with no energy," Aiyash said. "And it is unacceptable."

Man charged in WWJ reporter's murder to stand trial

Arthur Williamson, 55, appeared before a judge Monday as the court sought to determine if he should stand trial for the murder of Jim Matthews, a regular reporter on WWJ. Matthews, whose real name is Jim Nicolai, died after being struck by a hammer and stabbed by a knife, both wielded by Williamson.

Nichole Guertin, who was dating Matthews at the time, said Williamson was her best friend at the time. He had come over the night of Sept. 23 to smoke crack and bring Guertin heroin. After she refused his suggestion to role-playing, Williamson slashed her throat and zip-tied Guertin. 

She heard Matthews screaming when he came home. "(I saw) Jim running towards the bedroom and the defendant was hitting him and stabbing him," she said. "Jim ended up in the bathroom and fell to the floor."

More disturbing details spilled out in court, including Williamson duct-taping Guertin's son to the bedpost. He later attacked Guertin's daughter before attempting to take his own life. Police arrived soon after. Williamson was ordered to trial and will be back in court in March.

Dog saves toddler from burning home

The remains of one Detroit family's possessions were turned to ash and dust after a fire tore through their home, charring everything in the process. But the family could have lost even more after the youngest of the four children staying at the apartment on Beniteau Street was stuck inside after the fire broke out. 

The toddler's savior came from an unlikely source: the family's dog. Named Blue, he sprang to the rescue to protect the child before alerting authorities - actions straight out of a movie.

The fire happened on Feb. 21 on 3456 Beniteau Street, on Detroit's east side near St. Jean and Mack. According to a gofundme that's since been organized by the family's mother, the fire started at 4:15 p.m. when a blaze caught fire from the tenant's home downstairs.

The fire made its way up to the family's unit. It left the home a total loss. The online donation system is the last option for the family, who has kids who are ages 9, 7, 4, and 1. And then there was the dog. Blue saved the toddler and refused to leave without the girl.The family is now living out of a mini-van with their only possessions being the clothes on their back.


Dog saves toddler from fire that torched Detroit apartment, left family of six homeless

Blue not only saved the youngest of four girls trapped in the home, but they also noted emergency authorities - actions fitting for a hero dog.

Guns enter the legislative arena

Two weeks after a mass shooting in nearby East Lansing spurred a new round of calls to action, Lansing will see the first series of gun safety-related bills in the legislature. The House Elections committee will hear testimony about banning weapons at polling places and election drop boxes.

Gun advocacy groups like the Great Lakes Gun Rights oppose the bills, calling them "a solution in search of a problem" and will lead to voter suppression of gun-owning residents. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and election clerks support the bills.

It's not the only gun-related legislation awaiting a hearing. The Committee on Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety was referred a package of 12 bills introduced in the state Senate - though no date has been set for the bills to be heard.

And the Michigan Capitol Commission is moving toward banning firearms at the capital building. A meeting Monday included a resolution introduced by the executive director that called for the ban - something the administrative body could vote on in the next few months. 

Michigan improved racial disparities during pandemic, report finds

The final COVID-19 Racial Disparities Task Force report was released Monday, with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist announcing the state's progress in eliminating disparities in deaths during the pandemic during a speech at Wayne State.

When the pandemic struck Michigan, Black residents died at a higher rate than white residents. The gap between the two groups shrunk as the state's response to the public health crisis continued, with Gilchrist saying the state "outperformed" other states in addressing the disparity.

Michigan improved access to health care for vulnerable communities with the help of mobile health units like what was offered at WSU. 

"These mobile health units, that was a Michigan invention and innovation," he said. "What that was about, is something our chief medical expert at the time, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun would describe as, the best public health being the health you take to the public."

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Daily Forecast

Weather will be a bit quieter Tuesday with some wind gusts and temperatures expected to reach the mid-40s this afternoon. It won't be the end of wintry precipitation this week with rain on Wednesday and potential snow on Friday - but it is a break from the tough conditions.

What else we're watching

  1. Did the number of power outages go back up in Michigan? It sure seems like it after another storm Monday knocked out electricity for homes around the state. DTE still has 50,000 homes without power. Consumers said 73,000 homes also don't have power.
  2. It's Rare Disease Day and Michigan is celebrating the holiday with the establishment of a Michigan Rare Disease Advisory Council. Or at least a proposal to - Rep. Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor) introduced a bill to create a governing body to address rare diseases.
  3. Corewell Health's inflatable colon is back at the Royal Oak location. The inflatable entrance comes out to raise awareness for colon cancer.
  4. How are Detroit's hybridized paratransit services working out? The city needed an emergency order after the city council failed to approve contracts that would have satisfied federal requirements to provide transportation for immobile residents. The director of transit will give an update this afternoon.
  5. The Furniture Bank of Southeastern Michigan is seeking donations for furniture and gently-used items like beds, dressers, and sofas.

Biden's student loan forgiveness plan goes before Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is taking up a partisan legal fight over President Joe Biden's plan to wipe away or reduce student loans held by millions of Americans. The high court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, is hearing arguments Tuesday in two challenges to the plan, which has so far been blocked by Republican-appointed judges on lower courts.

Arguments are scheduled to last two hours, but likely will go much longer. The public can listen in on the court’s website.

Twenty-six million people have applied and 16 million have been approved to have up to $20,000 in federal student loans forgiven, the Biden administration says. The program is estimated to cost $400 billion over 30 years.