Kalamazoo area Gold Star Family attends bill signing at state Capitol


LANSING—David and Laura De Roo of Paw Paw joined Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, (far left) and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson (far right) with Gov. Rick Snyder today as he signed legislation creating a “Gold Star Family” license plate that allows immediate family members of fallen servicemen and women to honor their loved ones. The couple lost their son, Army Sgt. Gabriel De Roo, on Aug. 20, 2006, in Mosul, Iraq.

Laura De Roo is founder and current president of Michigan Chapter 179 of the Blue Star Mothers of America and a founding member of Western Michigan American Gold Star Mothers of Kalamazoo. She was a featured speaker at the Michigan Senate’s 17th annual Memorial Day Service.

For a print quality version of this photo please visit www.SenatorTonyaSchuitmaker.com and click the Photowire link.

Senate passes Schuitmaker bill requiring DNA collection from prisoners

LANSING—All incarcerated criminals in Michigan will have to give a DNA sample to state Department of Corrections officials by Jan. 1, 2012 if legislation passed today by the Senate becomes law.

Senate Bill 346, sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, requires DNA collection from all currently incarcerated individuals who have yet to provide a sample, and from all new convicts within 90 days of entering the prison population.

“This bill, simply stated, is about making sure justice is done,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Far too many have suffered for far too long as their cases languished, unsolved, in the criminal justice system. Victims and their families have had to endure constant fear, not knowing when or even if their assailants will be brought to justice.

“By requiring the DNA collection of all state inmates, we offer valuable information to unsolved investigations and hope of ultimately providing answers for victims and their families.”

A rape victim testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee when the legislation was being debated and urged lawmakers to approve Schuitmaker’s bill. The victim was sexually assaulted in her home in 1998 at the age of 13. The case went unsolved until 2005 when DNA from the crime scene was matched to a man who had recently been paroled. His DNA sample was collected at the time of parole as is required under current law. The victim said the passage of SB 346 would help solve similar cases much more quickly, and bring justice to those who deserve it.

Schuitmaker also highlighted the potential cost savings to taxpayers that may come from collecting DNA samples up front. Tens of thousands of tax dollars are spent each year investigating and litigating crimes, and over an extended period those expenses can add up. By requiring DNA collection of all inmates at the outset, generally at less than $10 per test, the probability that a crime might be solved sooner greatly increases. Under existing law, DNA collection comes at the end of a prison term, and in some cases requires search warrants. In others, it requires the exhumation of a body because a prisoner has died while incarcerated.

“In addition to making no sense, collecting DNA samples at the back end of a prison sentence has proven costly, and far exceeds that of a $10 swab of the mouth when a prisoner is booked,” said Schuitmaker. “This is a simple, necessary reform that will save money and hopefully help bring some peace of mind to our state’s many crime victims.”

SB 346 now goes to the state House of for consideration.

Schuitmaker invites local veterans and Southwest Michigans own Laura DeRoo to Senates Annual Memorial Day Service

LANSING—The Michigan Senate will hold its 17th Annual Memorial Day Service in the Senate chamber Thursday, May 26, said state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker.

“I invite Kalamazoo-area veterans to join us in remembering the brave men and women of our armed forces who lost their lives in service to our country,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “I am honored to be a part of this Senate tradition and welcome local veterans to join us.”

The Blue Star Mothers and Gold Star Mothers will attend along with Laura Deroo, founder and vice president of Chapter 179 of the local Blue Star Mothers group. The DeRoos lost their son, Sgt. Gabriel G. DeRoo, on Aug. 20, 2006, in Mosul, Iraq, while he led a squad on patrol. He was serving his second tour of duty.  As the featured speaker, Laura will speak about the Blue and Gold Star Mothers organization. The Kalamazoo Pipe Band also will attend.

Lawmakers will honor soldiers from their districts who died during the past 12 months. Families who lost loved ones will also be recognized by the Senate.

The Michigan Senate held its first annual Memorial Day Service at the initiative of U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers, who was then a state senator.

Local veterans interested in attending the May 26 ceremony, scheduled for 10 a.m., should RSVP to Sen. John Pappageorge, who is coordinating the event, by calling his office toll free at 1-877-SEN-13TH. Veterans who plan on attending should check in at Pappageorge’s office, located in room S-2 on the first floor of the Capitol.

Senate panel votes to make not reporting a dead body a crime

LANSING—Michigan residents who fail to report the discovery of a deceased person for the purpose of hiding or concealing that death or cause thereof would face a year in prison and a $1,000 fine under legislation approved by the state Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

“Cases of not reporting a dead body have shocked the public’s conscience that there is no crime for failing to report one and it is important that we fix that,” said Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, who sponsored the Senate Bill 231. “These measures would make it a misdemeanor to fail to report a death, and a felony if the person not reporting it did so while committing another crime, like cashing the deceased's checks, for example.”

The legislation stems in part from a case in Grand Rapids where, after being unable to contact her mother for several days, a claimant arrived at their mother’s residence to discover the woman’s boyfriend at the premises. The man had locked the mother’s dead body in an adjacent room and concealed the knowledge of her death for many days.

Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, who represents the district where the incident occurred, introduced Senate Bill 380, which establishes the sentencing guidelines for those convicted.

“It is illegal in Michigan to hide or dispose of a dead body, but it isn’t illegal to not report one,” said Hildenbrand, R-Lowell. “This legislation corrects that oversight by making those who fail to report a dead body criminally responsible.”

Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Tim McMorrow testified in support of the measures during the committee hearing.

SBs 231 and 380 were reported with full committee support and now go before the Senate for consideration.

Schuitmaker to host tour of Kalamazoo drug court Friday


LANSING—State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker today welcomed local policymakers to join her in observing a session of the drug treatment court at the Kalamazoo County Court House on Friday, May 13.

The event runs from 7 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and will include a visit with Judge Stephen Gorsalitz, a review of a drug treatment case by judges Anne E. Blatchford and Robert C. Kropf and observation of a drug court session. A question and answer session will conclude the program.

The event is being organized in conjunction with the Drug Treatment Court Foundation of Kalamazoo County. Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger is also expected to attend.

Guests are asked to enter the courthouse from the west entrance located off of Church St. where they will register and receive a parking pass.

For more information, call 269-383-6468, or email owengroup@ameritech.net.

Schuitmaker media advisory: Judiciary Committee to decide on prisoner DNA bill

What: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on Senate Bill 346, legislation that will require all prison inmates to provide a DNA sample by Dec. 1, 2011.

Who:   Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, the bill sponsor;
            A rape victim for whom justice was delayed because of the flaw in existing law;
            Michigan State Police;
            Michigan Department of Corrections; and
            Judiciary Committee members.

When: Tuesday, May 10.
2:30 p.m.

Where: Room 110
            Farnum Building
            Lansing, MI

Brief:   SB 346 requires collection of DNA samples from all incarcerated individuals who have yet to provide a sample, and from all new convicts within 90 days of entering the prison population. Under current law, DNA collection can be enforced at the end of a prison term, however the vagueness of the law has prevented uniform DNA collection, which has delayed justice for many victims.