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2023 Year in Review: Michigan stories you may have missed

A lot of big news happened this year across the state of Michigan. It may have been hard to keep up. We've rounded up some of 2023's major stories.

Sentenced to die in prison, 'juvenile lifers' ask lawmakers to end life without parole for minors

From the new storefronts downtown to the demolished houses in the neighborhood he was raised in, Detroit is almost unrecognizable to Yusef Qualls. He grew up in the city but he was never supposed to see it – or anything else outside the walls of a prison – ever again.

Eight days after his release from prison in June, Qualls took in the view from a recently redeveloped park on the riverfront. “The whole city looks completely different,” he said. “But just like the city changed – completely – people also change.”

Qualls was sentenced to life without parole for a double murder he was involved in when he was 16. Evidence presented in court was inconclusive about whether he had a gun; he has maintained that he was unarmed.

Mandatory life sentences like the one Qualls received were part of a wave of so-called “tough on crime” laws enacted in the 1990s, a time when public panic over “superpredators” reached a fever pitch. In many ways, the fear that young people — especially Black teenagers — were conditioned for merciless violence persisted.

"We are responsible for them." Victim's sister wants life without parole outlawed for juveniles

Valencia Warren-Gibbs remembers the first time she saw the boys who killed her older brother.

Of the group, “he was the smallest,” she said of 15-year old Bobby Hines. He couldn’t have been more than 100 pounds soaking wet, she said. “You could clearly see that he was a child.”

Warren-Gibbs was devastated when her brother, James Warren, was murdered. There were five kids in their family, but Valencia says she and James were extremely close. Born a little more than a year apart, she says they’d connect their fists together and shout “Wonder Twin powers, activate!” like the brother and sister cartoon superheroes they watched on TV growing up. “He was fearless. I loved him dearly,” she said.

In an interview with Michigan Radio’s Beenish Ahmed, she shared how her brother struggled with drug addiction before he died. She recounted the events leading up to his murder one night in May 1989, and the agony of losing her Wonder Twin.

Oxford school shooter sentenced to life without parole

Oakland County Circuit Judge Kwamé Rowe sentenced the Oxford school shooter to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Judge Rowe said Ethan Crumbley — now 17 years old — is the rare case where a juvenile should not get a chance at release.

He made his decision after hearing from more than two dozen victims impacted by the shooting rampage that killed four students, injured six others as well as a teacher.

“There's a deep, deep loss: loss of safety, loss of loved ones,” Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald told the judge after several hours of emotional statements from the family and friends of victims, as well as survivors of the shooting. "But most importantly, what I heard was they lost themselves. And they're working very hard to find who they were with the acknowledgement that they will never be the same.”

The rains are coming. Metro Detroit is not prepared

Nick Hagen

Ready or not, the rains are coming, and Metro Detroit will be one of the most impacted high-population areas in the country, according to an analysis by First Street Foundation. It shows the region now faces what was once a 100-year storm every 34 years. In 30 years, that will increase to every 16 years.

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Paulette is a digital media reporter and producer for Michigan Public. She started as a newsroom intern at the station in 2014 and has taken on various roles in that time, including filling in as an on-air host.
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