Archive for the ‘Race’ category

Dreading The Dredging: Lizzie Mae Collier-Sweet Follow-up

March 29, 2007

Since I posted my first story on the Lizzie Mae Collier-Sweet story (March 26, 2007), I have found myself becoming increasingly drawn to the story.

This blog also appears on the Fox2 News website and my column has generated several comments there. I have also received several emails since that time and one in particular was rather surprising. It was from my uncle. Turns out he was Lizzie Mae’s supervisor at her former place of employment. I met with him and found some troubling information. I will reveal more later, but it turns out that Lizzie had confided, before leaving her job to go on a medical leave in early December, that she had purchased a shotgun because she had become fearful of her abusive husband.

I have also since spoken with the lead investigator in the case, Detective Lieutenant Richard Grant of the Brownstown Township Police Department. I am meeting with him further on Friday, one day after the scheduled dredging of an area of the Rouge River nearby Ms. Collier-Sweet’s, and her husband’s, former place of employment. The river will be dredged on Thursday based on an informant’s tip that Ms. Collier-Sweet’s body may lie there. I plan to be there, but it is with a bit of uneasiness that I will be attending.

On the one hand you know if the unthinkable becomes reality, and her body is found, at least that part of the mystery will be solved. But it also would extinguish the sliver of hope that Ms. Collier-Sweet’s family holds out that she may still be alive.

Louise Collier, Lizzie Mae’s sister, told me that while the family is realistic, they still hope beyond hope that maybe she is “in Paris, France or on a beach somewhere.” Don’t misunderstand, Louise understands and expects eventually to have to deal with the most unwanted of news in her sister’s disappearance. But it doesn’t make it any easier and the unknown is taking its toll on the family.

So many questions surround this case. Not the least of which is why was Roger Sweet allowed to even walk the streets for these past 17 years. The 1990 death of his first wife, Marlene Sweet, is now widely believed to be a homicide but the investigation, thanks to mistakes by the medical examiner, allowed Ms. Sweet’s death to be classified as an accident. It took Lizzie Mae’s disappearance to bring this fact to the light of day. Also, Mr. Sweet is now accused of child molestation. So we not only have potentially another homicide victim in Lizzie Mae but a child has been allegedly harmed at the hands of Mr. Sweet when he should have likely been behind bars. 

These are areas I intend to address and get more answers in my investigation and it is gratifying that the media seems to have suddenly regained some interest in the case.

But right now my thoughts are on Thursday’s dredging of the Rouge River. I dread what may be found but I also wish nothing more than for Ms. Collier-Sweet’s family to begin to get some answers.

I know Louise waits by the phone. I don’t know however if any answer can begin to ease her pain.


Who Speaks For Lizzie Mae?

March 26, 2007

Tara Grant is being buried today in Escanaba, MI. The attractive, upwardly mobile young mom’s disappearance and the subsequent horrific discovery of her body parts (her torso was found in the garage of the family home and the rest of her was scattered througout a Michigan park) garnered nearly around the clock television news coverage.

In the days following her disapperance, and then with the the subsequent arrest of her husband in her murder, people across Michigan and the nation were mesmerized by the case. How could they not be? The media, from TV to newspapers to radio and yes the Internet, hammered away at the story. The Macomb Sheriff held numerous press conferences updating us on the search. Her telegenic sister became the family spokesman.

We followed the manhunt for her accused murderer, and husband, across the northern Michigan wilderness and watched him being arragined from a wheelchair, recovering from frostbite which was a result of his attempted escape through the frigid north woods.

Fox News picked up the story. America’s Most Wanted was ready to feature the case until Stephen Grant’s arrest on the very day AMW was scheduled to air, scuttled that plan. A tragic story played out in front of our very eyes.

But what about Lizzie Mae Collier-Sweet? Who you ask? Well, it’s understandable if her case does not sound familiar. But it is also a very sad indictment of our media that most people have not heard about her case yet sat transfixed by the gory soap opera that played out in the Grant case.

You see, Lizzie Mae Collier-Sweet’s case apparently just isn’t sexy enough for the press. But it is equally disturbing, if not more so than the Grant case.

But why has there not been the same degree of coverage? Where are the press conferences and constant “breaking news” updates. Breaking news being a pejorative term here of course.

Lizzie Mae has not been seen or heard from since the home she shared with her husband, Roger Sweet, in Brownstown Township, MI went up in flames on January 8. Strange thing was that police found her car with luggage packed inside, including her dentures. But no Lizzie Mae. Neither her credit cards nor her cell phone have been used since her disappearance. Her husband escaped injury, but oh, by the way, he has now been charged with murder. Not Lizzie Mae’s murder however.

Roger Sweet, age 58, has been charged in the 1990 death of his first wife who died under mysterious circumstances and thanks to a botched medical examiner’s report at the time of Mrs. Sweet’s death in 1990, no charges were filed. Police now indicate that the first Mrs. Sweet died from an apparent beating which they allege came at the hands of Roger Sweet who is currently being held in jail without bail. 

Pretty salacious stuff, right? So why has the media essentially buried this story to maybe a 20-second soundbite on TV news or sub-section newspaper coverage?

I am not one to play the race card, but did I mention that Lizzie Mae Collier-Sweet is black? Should that matter? Of course not. But when it comes to news ratings, even in death, it apparently matters greatly. 

To this day, Lizzie Mae, now presumed dead by her family, has not been found. We have not been treated to hourly updates on the status of her case, we do not have anybody speaking for her on the local news. We barely even know she existed. But she did,  just as Tara Grant existed. She is apparently dead, much like Tara Grant, a probable victim of domestic violence.

Tara Grant will be buried today in Escanaba, MI. TV crews from around the state and the country will flock to the funeral home for a final farewell to somebody who had so much more life left in her save not for the apparent actions of a sociopathic husband.

Today a body of water will be dredged near Brownstown Township in the search for Lizze Mae Collier-Sweet based solely on a tip from a jailhouse snitch. That fact received 15 seconds of coverage on the TV news.

Ms. Collier-Sweet, just like Mrs. Grant, was loved by family and friends. Unfortunately she or they may not be telegenic, may not be upwardly mobile, and are probably not wealthy . They are probably just ordinary, blue-collar folks. But of course we wouldn’t know for sure because we have not really been allowed to get to know her family.

We grieved for Tara Grant because TV brought her into our living room.

Lizzie Mae Collier-Sweet is more than another potential victim of domestic violence. She is also a sad representation of our unbalanced news coverage.

Who speaks for Lizzie Mae Collier-Sweet?

Shame on our media. Shame.