Articles Posted in Arson

Original Case Details

Linda Stermer, 55, of Van Buren County has spent eight years in prison after being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for her role in the death of her husband in a house fire. She has spent the past 18 months outside of prison however, after successfully appealing her conviction and getting a new trial granted by a federal District Court judge.

Stermer was found guilty of setting a house fire with her husband inside and hitting him with a van after he escaped the burning house. The prosecution said that she intentionally ran him over while the defense contended that it was accidental as it happened as she was trying to drive to a neighbor for help. She was convicted of felony murder and arson in 2010. It took the prosecution two years to charge Stermer after the death of her husband.

On Friday morning April 22, a fire broke out at Myth Golf and Banquet Center in Oakland Township that ultimately resulted in nearly $1 million in damages, according to news reports. Police believe that two individuals are responsible for the arson fire, although no suspects have been named.

The fires are believe to have been set at around 4 in the morning. In all, a pole barn and 57 golf carts were destroyed by the blaze; investigators believe the arsonists set three separate fires, one to an area where more than 30 golf carts were parked, one to a single golf cart which was driven to a pond in the center of the course before being set on fire, and a large pole barn. The pole barn is said to have contained lawn maintenance equipments, about 25 golf carts, and numerous 55 gallon drums containing gasoline, fertilizer, oil, and other flammable materials.

According to Oakland Township Fire Chief Paul Strelchuk, there are no hydrants in the area, so crews used water from a nearby pond. Strelchuk also said that they had to put in an alarm for tankers, and that ultimately crews from seven fire departments came in to help fight the fires. These included firefighters from Addison and Bruce Townships, Washington Township, Rochester Hills, Oxford, Orion, and Rochester. HAZMAT was called in and worked to clean up flammable materials from the drums that had pooled in various areas of the pole barn, which was destroyed in the fire.

69-year-old Lola Atkinson, a 2012 recipient of a YWCA Woman of Achievement Award and the first vice president of the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP, recently pleaded guilty to conspiring with her handyman to set a rental home she owned on fire, according to a news article at

On Wednesday, August 6, Atkinson pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit second-degree arson.  Because of her guilty plea, prosecutors have agreed to dismiss a second count when she is sentenced in late September.

Atkinson and Elvis Patterson, Atkinson’s 57-year-old handyman, were arrested in February for allegedly plotting to burn down a rental home Atkinson owned at 1327 N. Park St.  Patterson pleaded guilty to the charges in June.

Bill Moorian, a Kalamazoo Public Safety detective, testified in court that he and another detective conducted surveillance in February when Atkinson, Patterson, and the tenant who lived in the rental home had a meeting in which the three allegedly discussed their plans to burn down the house.  Moorian told District Judge Richard A. Santoni that Atkinson gave money to the tenant to vacate the home so that she and Patterson could go ahead with the arson plan. Continue reading

Contact Information