Top 5 stories of 2014.

December 31, 2014

The following are the stories that we at Mason County Press believe have had the most impact on our community in 2014. These rankings are not just based on a decision by our editorial staff but also by you, the readers. We analyzed viewership of the stories based on statistics on and also on our social media pages. From those results came the Top 5 stories of 2014:

Paul T. Butterfield, father of Trooper Paul K. Butterfield II addresses the court.

Paul T. Butterfield, father of Trooper Paul K. Butterfield II addresses the court.

1. Trooper Paul Butterfield murder trial.

The story of the September 9, 2013 murder of Michigan State Police Trooper Paul Butterfield, and the man who killed him, was our top story for the second year in a row.

Eric Knysz with his public defender David Glancy.

Eric Knysz with his public defender David Glancy.

The trial against Eric John Knyzs, 19, of Irons, began in late February. Knysz was charged with first degree murder, among other charges. After a week’s trial he was found guilty. In Aprl, just three days after being sentenced, Knysz killed himself in prison, leaving behind an infant son and a wife in prison. On a more pleasant note, Gov. Rick Snyder recently signed legislation naming a part of M-116 in honor of Butterfield.

Charles Dillon, in center, listens to the board of trustees meeting.

Charles Dillon, in center, listens to the board of trustees meeting.

2. College president arrested for drunk driving, retires from position.

In early August, Charles Dillon, president of West Shore Community College, was driving  a college-owned vehicle from a personal singing performance in Elberta when he was pulled over by Manistee Police Dept. The Manistee resident was ultimately arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence. Because of his high blood alcohol level, he was charged under Michigan’s “super drunk” law. The next week, the college’s board of trustees placed Dillon on leave with pay. Eventually pay was revoked and soon Dillon chose to retire.

Scott Dumas looks at Keith Blackburn while Scott's wife Kathy speaks to the court.

Scott Dumas looks at Keith Blackburn while Scott’s wife Kathy speaks to the court.

3. Mason County Central teacher/local businessman Scott Dumas injured by hit and run driver.

On an April afternoon, Scott Dumas was walking outside of Shop-N-Save grocery store in Pere Marquette Township when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Brian Keith Blackburn of Ludington. Blackburn did not stop to help the 50-year-old Amber Township, but rather drove away. Within 30 minutes, Ludington police and Mason County sheriff’s deputies had located Blackburn’s vehicle at a residence in Ludington. He was arrested and charged on multiple counts. Five months later, Blackburn was sentenced to 2.5 to 5 years in prison. During sentencing in 51st Circuit Court, Scott and his wife, Kathy, expressed that justice needed to be served but that they had forgiven Blackburn for his crimes.

Dumas’ recovery became a rallying call for his MCC Middle School students, who adopted the campaign “Dumas Stong.” The students raised money to help Dumas through his recovery. In September, he came back to work full time in the classroom.

From left: Judges Wadel, Sniegowski, Cooper and Nellis.

From left: Judges Wadel, Sniegowski, Cooper and Nellis.

4. Susan Sniegowski becomes first female judge in Mason County.

For the first time since 1979, the 51st Circuit Court judge position had a vacancy. Judge Richard I. Cooper had served on the bench for 35 years but was required to retire due to his age. Initially, four local attorneys ran in the primary race, which narrowed the choices down to two: Mason County Prosecutor Paul Spaniola and former Mason County Prosecutor Susan Sniegowski. Sniegowski, who made history as the county’s first female prosecutor, made a second milestone by winning the general election. Days before Christmas, Sniegowski took the oath of office in front of her predecessor, and alongside her soon-to-be fellow judges, Hon. Pete Wadel of the 79th District and Hon. Jeff Nellis of Mason County Probate.

Ludington Fire Department

Ludington Fire Department

5. Applebee’s fire.

In the early morning hours of Jan. 3, firefighters from Ludington, Pere Marquette, Scottville and Hamlin fire departments were called to Applebee’s restaurant in Amber Township. Upon arrival of the first fire unit, the building was fully engulfed in flames.

Five months later, the national chain restaurant was re-built and re-opened.

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