Crime wave taxes policePublished 8:11pm Wednesday, December 28, 2011
BERRIEN SPRINGS — Chief Milt Agay can’t remember a busier time in 11 years with Berrien Springs Oronoko Township Police Department.
Since July his small force has been “taxed” investigating embezzlement, a massage therapist accused of sexually assaulting clients at his home, a fatal fire, a 19-car pileup, break-ins, vehicle theft and assault with a dangerous weapon when two suspects attempted to stab a pizza delivery man at Burman Hall on Andrews University’s campus.
Just this month there was a break-in at Family Dollar on M-139, an attempted break-in at Andrews’ book store, a second break-in Family Dollar and a second break-in at the Cass Street Shoppe.
Even the trophy case at Meier Hall on the Andrews campus was the target of a break-in attempt Dec. 21.
At a press conference Wednesday morning flanked by his partners in a flurry of joint investigations, including Berrien County Undersheriff Chuck Heit and FBI Special Agent Al DiBrito, Agay announced two arrests Tuesday night which may help clear up the case congestion.
Warrants were issued Dec. 22 for David and Jonathan Stefanovic for assault with a deadly weapon for the attempted stabbing of the pizza delivery man Nov. 29.
BSOPD officers arrested the Stefanovic brothers, who came here from Washington state, Dec. 27 on the AWDW warrants.
Following their arrests, Agay said, the brothers made statements to officers that they committed and/or participated in the Andrews incident, stealing a vehicle from Premier Tool and Die Nov. 22 that police recovered Nov. 24 in a muddy cornfield behind Maple Wood Apartments of Andrews, the two Family Dollar break-ins, the second Cass Street Shoppe break-in, the bookstore break-in and the trophy case.
Jonathan Stefanovic indicated he has also been stealing items from Rite Aid, Apple Valley, Dollar General, Express Mart and Harding’s on numerous occasions, Agay said.
Jonathan Andrew Stefanovic, 24, was lodged at the Berrien County Jail in St. Joseph on charges of unlawfully driving away an automobile, five B&E counts and the AWDW warrant.
David Filip Stefanovic, 19, was jailed on the AWDW warrant and one B&E count.
Agay recalled that on July 11 there was a blackout downtown. Speedway made its night deposit at Fifth Third Bank. When power was restored, the deposit was more than $3,000 short. Teller Kristy Smith was subsequently arrested and charged with embezzlement from a financial institution. Her Berrien Trial Court trial is pending.
Sept. 28 came the first report of sexual assault by massage therapist Johan Albert Abrahams at his home on St. Joseph Drive. He was arrested on a two-count fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct warrant.
Agay said Abrahams, 70, met some potential victims through an adult online dating program. Since news first broke with his arrest last week, “three to five” additional potential victims have come forward. “We’ve got to interview them in detail yet.”
The fire Nov. 15 at an apartment complex on Valley View Drive which killed a 3-year-old girl and severely burned her father remains under active investigation.
The 19-vehicle crash which caused U.S. 31 southbound to be closed for about six years also happened on Nov. 15, with Michigan State Police Post 53 as the primary investigating agency.
“All of our resources were severely taxed that day because of those two incidents occurring at the same time,” Agay said. “It takes a tremendous amount of work to close down any highway for that length of time. This crash extended for approximately a mile.”
Nov. 17 police responded to the first break-in at Cass Street Shoppe, where $1,000 worth of liquor taken, and at Russell’s Foreign Car Repair, though nothing appeared to be missing there.
With the vehicle stolen from Premier, Agay said, “We recovered that Thanksgiving Day in a cornfield behind Maple Wood Apartments at Andrews University. The car had been left running and ran out of gas buried in the mud.”
“If it weren’t for all of the agencies here working together, as well as tips we’ve received from the public, we wouldn’t have been able to put these cases together,” Agay said. “For a small community, we’ve been very busy for the past several months. It’s taxed our resources because we have other things ongoing as well. We still have two open burglaries, which we believe are tied into another group of individuals that may be hitting” other parts of Berrien County.
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