August 8, 2020

The hard stuff: Anne Stanton

May 30, 2011
The Hard Stuff: Anne Stanton’s ‘greatest hits’
By Anne Stanton
 My interview for my Northern Express job unexpectedly took place at a
Christmas party in 2003. I was about six months pregnant and nearly
suffocating from the warmth of bodies, packed like sardines in the tidy
Traverse City home of Jeannette and Bob Downes.
As I was trying to wriggle out of the crowd to the front door, I bumped
(literally) into Downes, who mentioned that he was looking for a crime
reporter for Northern Express. He wanted to “edge up” the paper, give it
more heft. Did I know of anyone?
“Yes, me,” I told him. “I could do that.” I had worked for five years at
the Traverse City Record-Eagle in the 1990s and had done some court and
police reporting. I figured that I could learn what I didn’t know, and I
liked the idea of having a week to dig into a story.
Ironically, I’ve never liked crime books or movies and, quite truthfully,
didn’t know if I’d like reporting on the dark side. But I was willing to
give it a chance, since our family could really use the health benefits
(the expense of which constitutes white collar crime).
I began freelancing after my son, Will, was born, but didn’t formally join
the staff until 2005, when the Express moved into its new offices in
Building 50 at the Grand Traverse Commons.
My crime beat, over the years, expanded to the environment and other
hard-edged news, but I always tried to keep an eye on the lawbreakers.
Sometimes it was hard to shake some of the more disturbing stories. As
journalist Sebastian Junger said in his speech in TC recently, a part of
your soul opens to the pain and terror as you do these kind of your
stories. I’d take a week off or do a feel-good story to recover. Another
hard part of the job was to say no to the many story ideas people gave me,
simply because there wasn’t enough time or space. Or the subject matter
was just too “nice.”
After six years, I felt it was time for a new challenge. A couple of the
stories over the years had given me some great ideas for a book, and I
also wanted to give a research hand to Doug, my author husband, on several
projects. So it was, with an ambivalent heart, that I resigned in March.
For this anniversary edition, Bob asked me to share some of my favorite
stories. Here they are.
The Dream … and the Nightmare: This story reported on a mom’s quest to
save her young daughter, Jessica, whom she discovered had hit double
jeopardy with a drug dealer boyfriend and a crack cocaine addiction (not
uncommon). Despite her mom’s pleadings, Jessica went straight only after
her boyfriend refused to accept their newborn daughter. (July 2006)
Jailhouse Medicine: No one can say for sure whether a cocktail of
anti-psychotic drugs killed Chris Morden during his short stay at the
Grand Traverse County Jail in 2001, but there’s no question the young man
suffered serious side effects. This story reported on a lawsuit filed by
his family. (June 2007)
Computer Cop: This story celebrates the skill of computer analyst Grand
Traverse County Deputy Todd Heller, who hunts down child pornographers.
But the article also lamented state laws that, in some cases, carry
harsher penalties for possessing pornographic photos than actual, hands-on
sexual abuse. (February 2009)
What Every School Should Know: How is it that a man, repeatedly arrested
for molesting teen boys (but never convicted) is allowed to closely work
with teens and even in a school? After discovering their son was
repeatedly raped, the Garcia family of Traverse City urged schools and
nonprofits to go beyond the typical background search and ask for arrest
records from the local sheriff’s and police departments. (March 2009)
An Unholy Childhood: This four-part series reported on the alleged sexual
molestation of nine Indian altar boys boarding at the Holy Childhood
School of Jesus in Harbor Springs in the 1960s and 1970s. The alleged
perpetrators? Two Catholic nuns. The series also examined the physical and
emotional abuse of Indian students. The boarding school is no longer open.
(Summer of 2008)
Extreme Court: This series detailed how the state Supreme Court closed the
door of justice to thousands of ordinary people who, despite grave
injuries, weren’t given the chance to see the light of a courtroom …
thanks to a political agenda that categorically denounced lawsuits.
(January 2007)
Battle over Biomass: In our Northern Michigan paradise, the idea of
burning trees for energy did not get a warm reception. (Spring of 2010)
Evicted at Christmas: An Elk Rapids woman learned she’d lose her apartment
because she used medical marijuana to relieve the pain of incurable brain
cancer. After the article ran, she was allowed to stay. (December 2009).
The Beauty and the Beast: The gorgeous Bay Harbor Resort is dealing with
an underground toxic legacy of a cement plant, costing millions to
contain. This article examined how it ever came to this. (September 2008)
Medical Marijuana: Archie Kiel and 3,000 others patients like their
medical marijuana... but the court system doesn’t like the confusing
medical marijuana law, which was overwhelmingly approved by voters. Kiel,
a long-time grower and patient, was
arrested and served several weeks in jail for growing too many plants. The
courts are still figuring out the law. (August of 2009 and on. And on.)
From One Prison to Another: After years of perverse sexual and emotional
torment with no perceived way out, a quiet, middle aged woman repeatedly
shot her husband, Michigan State Police Sgt. Melvin Holbrook, as he lie
sleeping in the early morning hours. Holbrook has since written to me,
through her lawyer, that she is much happier in prison and is committed to
help similarly tormented women. (August of 2010)
Journalists Under Fire: TC’s network of “good old boys” declared open
season on the Traverse City Record-Eagle, which sparked a counter-petition
drive that fully supported the paper’s aggressive approach to political
stories. After the dust cleared, Editor Bill Thomas remained at the
paper’s helm, but a new “feel good” paper sprang up, thanks to the efforts
of the paper’s opponents. (June 2006)
Watch Me!: A cry for help from a kleptomaniac. This story came from a trip
to a courthouse where I found a woman with big block letters on her
forehead that said, “Watch me.” It was her unique way of letting retailers
know she might steal from them. (June 2009)
Why the Dam Hurry?: The Traverse City dams can only make a small amount of
energy, yet some citizens think, why not? The source is completely
renewable. But other environmentalists believe nature is better served by
letting the river flow free again. Those arguments aside, this article
revealed that the financial analysis needed a re-do with the higher
electrical rate that renewable rates can now command, along with the 30%
federal subsidy. (June 2010)
The Good Fight: One needs a break from crime, and Express readers loved
the story of how Katherine Roth, a Traverse City doctor, helped husband
Greg Holmes survive sino-nasal cancer, one of the rarest and most
incurable of cancers. To protect him from the destructive side effects of
chemotherapy, she created a regimen of nutritional shakes and probiotics.
She also used acupuncture and low-level laser therapy to keep up his
energy flow. Holmes is cancer free after seven years. (March 2010)
Oh, the Things Those Men Do… Chris Morey free dives all year, sinking for
several minutes at a time into West Grand Traverse Bay in spring, summer,
fall and the sub-zero temperatures of winter. But why? Morey said he loves
the relaxation and focus it requires--a daily meditation from the stress
of raising an autistic son.  (September 2007)
The Wolf Man of Brethern: John Patrick Sullivan died after refusing to
allow an animal control officer on his property to micro-chip his 14 wolf
dogs in September of 2005 as required by law. A SWAT team arrived, and
hours later, Sullivan was shot by officers who believed he had shot a
deputy. After reading a brief report in the local paper about the shooting
, I drove down to the tiny town of Brethern and found Sullivan’s cluttered
encampment with the wolf dogs in large pens, along with friends who were
stunned by the shooting. The wolf dogs were eventually taken to a 34-acre
sanctuary in Muskegon. (October 2005)
Lyme Disease in Michigan: Never realizing that a disease could inspire
intense controversy and conspiracy theories, I dove headlong into this
issue after my friend, Lori Hall, told me she had been diagnosed. Although
infectious disease specialists in Northern Michigan still don’t believe
lyme-infested ticks exist here, I found the case of Donaldine “Dee”
Bourbeau of Grawn and Traverse City, who was diagnosed in 2008 with a
medically accepted blood test administered by a local family physician. An
avid hiker, she must have acquired it here because she has never left the
area. My friend later died, and her brother made a provocactive
documentary, Under the Eight Ball, in her honor. (June 2010)
To Be ... or Not to Be: Will Petoskey dig out of its hole? Apparently not.
(September 2007)
Anne Avery-Miller: Quite truthfully, I didn’t recognize Anne’s name when
she called me in the spring of 2009, asking me if I’d be willing to do a
story about her. She was going by a fake name and had moved to Traverse
City because life had become too difficult in Elk Rapids, after being
accused (but not charged) of killing her emotionally troubled 16-year-old
son in November of 2007. So began my research with a myriad of interviews
and hundreds of pages of court, police, and divorce court records. I wrote
the story, “Doubt” laying out the facts, letting the readers draw their
own conclusions.
A day after publication in November of 2010, Avery-Miller was charged with
murder and jailed. She committed suicide six months later—one day before a
court hearing to terminate her parental rights of her beloved 8-year-old
daughter. She hanged herself in an Antrim County jail cell. This, of all
the stories, was the most tragic. (November 2009 and May 2010) 


Listen Up: The Latest & Greatest Spins

So 2020 has not been a particularly great year for arts and entertainment. Film releases have been delayed. Concert tours ... Read More >>

The Libertarians are Coming

Something in the ether, maybe, brought together a bunch of people who over the last year or so declared themselves Liberta... Read More >>

The Other Summer Sounds

As with virtually all venues, the enchanting forest-circled amphitheater inside Michigan Legacy Art Park — like its ... Read More >>

Say You Were a Fan First

Who are the next big bright stars on the Michigan musical landscape? Who’s the next band to become a local favorite ... Read More >>