Randy R. Cotton

Rockford father who caused fatal accident sentenced to a maximum of 180 months in jail

May 20, 2010 // 0 Comments

by RANDY R. COTTON A sentencing hearing in the case of People vs. Todd Michael Benoit took place Thursday, April 22 in a courtroom filled with emotion and tears in the 61st District Court of Grand Rapids before Judge Dennis Lieber. According to Kent County court records, the 36-year-old Rockford resident was charged with one count of operating while intoxicated (OWI) last December in the 63rd District Court and was released on a personal recognizance bond of $50,000. A fatal accident occurred at about 10:25 p.m. on Saturday, October 3, 2009, when Benoit was driving a red jeep northbound on White Creek Avenue before pulling into the path of a westbound pickup that had a flashing yellow light, according to Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent. Derrick Mitchell “Ricky” Holstege of Wyoming, who was Benoit’s 19-year-old biological son, later died at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids. Holstege was a 2008 graduate of Covenant Christian High School and had plans to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. He also liked to sing and was a member of the Calvin College Oratory Society. The driver of the other vehicle, a 33-year-old Howard City man, was not injured. An agreement between the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office and Benoit’s defense team was reached when Benoit agreed to plead guilty to the 15-year felony. Paul McDonagh, the Grand Rapids-area defense attorney who represented Benoit, approached the podium and argued, “I have reviewed the pre-sentencing report and current psychological report from the Department of Corrections and have no additions or deletions. I recommend that my client continue to receive Hope Network services to help highlight some of the stressors that Todd has faced throughout this horrible tragedy and that he continue some form of mental health services.” Leonard Holstege, the stepfather of the deceased, told the court during a crime victimization and impact statement, “I want to thank the court for giving us the opportunity to describe the impact this has had on two families.” As he sat in the witness stand, Holstege told the court, “Todd was not there to give encouragement when Ricky was sad. He was not there when Ricky did not make the basketball team.” According to Holstege, “October third was a good day for me and […]

Rockford man faces charges on alleged abduction

October 8, 2009 // 0 Comments

by RANDY R. COTTON A preliminary hearing in the case of People vs. Andrew Chezlek took place Wednesday, Sept. 30 in the 63rd District Court of Rockford before Judge Steven Servaas. The 22-year-old Rockford resident was initially charged and arraigned on charges of kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, criminal sexual conduct in the second degree and felony arms charges after he allegedly tied up and assaulted his “on again, off again” girlfriend at the home of his parents in Rockford. Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Monica Jeneske informed the court during the hearing that she was planning to drop the charges of kidnapping and transfer the case to the circuit court in Grand Rapids on several charges including possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony and criminal sexual conduct. She also argued that she would add to the list possession of methadone and cocaine and unlawful imprisonment. During the initial phase of the hearing, there was debate over the issue of sequestration when Jeneske argued that she would like to ask some of the potential witnesses who were seated in the courtroom. Both sides finally approached the bench and agreed to have witnesses leave. The 23-year-old Grand Rapids woman who was the victim in this crime was called to the witness stand and was subject to four hours of testimony by both the prosecution and defense. She initially stated, “I am a 23-year-old student and I met him at Grand Rapids Community College when Andrew and I had a class together.” She also testified that Chezlek and she “were in a sexual and romantic relationship since 2007.” Continuing her testimony, she said they both “used drugs together, including methadone and heroin” and that they “broke up in May of 2008.” Following their separation, she said that they continued to have occasional contact by phone and text message while Chezlek was out of the country. The victim testified, “[On Thursday, Sept. 3] I was planning to get together with the defendant and was going to hang out and watch a movie at his house.” She said she had been out drinking that night and showed up at the defendant’s home after midnight. According to her testimony, when she arrived at the Chezlek home, the defendant’s mother […]

Kent County Sheriff deputy sentenced

September 10, 2009 // 0 Comments

by RANDY R. COTTON  A sentencing hearing in the case of People vs. Keith Michael Kazelskis took place Wednesday, September 2 in the 61st District Court in Grand Rapids before Judge George Buth. The defendant, a 36-year-old resident of Cedar Springs and 12-year veteran of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, was initially charged and arraigned on a larceny of $1,000 or more and less than $20,000 when he stole a Sentry lock box containing a large sum of money and miscellaneous papers from a 71-year-old resident of Solon Township. The former Kent County Sheriff deputy was suspended without pay on July 7, and resigned from his position on July 8. According to Kent County court records, “On June 23, 2009, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Keith Kazelskis went to Dan Elves’ residence in Solon Township to install surveillance cameras in an attempt to identify kids that had been harassing him. Kazelskis arrived and came into the home carrying two grey suitcase-style bags. One of the bags was carried into the porch area.” After having his Miranda rights reread to him during an interview on September 8 Kazelskis admitted that he took the Sentry Box from Dan Elves’ residence on June 23 by placing the box in his grey bag just prior to leaving, According to Detective Lieutenant Charles Dewitt and Detective Ronald Gates, “The tan Sentry lock box partially hidden under some wet clothing was located in the basement in the dryer at the home of Keith Kazelskis.” There was approximately $1,200 in cash in the lock box . The detectives were able to open the lock box that also contained miscellaneous paperwork with the victim’s name on it. During the sentencing hearing, the assistant Kent County prosecutor accepted the plea deal that was negotiated between the parties. The defendant pled guilty to and was ordered to spend 180 days in jail and 60 months probation for the one count of larceny of $1,000 or more and less than $20,000. David Dodge, the Grand Rapids area defense attorney who represented the defendant, argued that there are no objections to the guidelines of the pre-sentencing report. Dodge asked the court to consider the humiliation and loss of grace Kazelskis suffered. The attorney argued that the humiliation Kazelskis […]