Student found in snow bank testifies
Nine months after a Ferris student was found nearly dead in a snow bank, another Ferris student was found guilty for furnishing alcohol to him.
Robert Calangelo, 22, of Saginaw, was found guilty in a bench trial in Mecosta County 77th District Court on Nov. 8. Nicholas Suttles, 19, of Grand Rapids, testified that Calangelo bought alcohol for him in the evening hours of Feb. 14.
Suttles was discovered by students walking to their morning classes on Feb. 15. After being outside all night, he was extremely hypothermic and had an irregular heartbeat when police arrived on the scene at the 800 block of Division Avenue.
Following the incident, Suttles, who no longer attends Ferris, was hospitalized for nearly three months and spent a significant amount of time in a coma. During his testimony, he told the court about his minor head injury and other medical problems, which resulted from being exposed to the cold.
Suttles described his relationship with Calangelo as more acquaintance than friend. Both lived in residence halls at the time of the incident.
“I knew him as the kid who bought my alcohol,” Suttles said. “He was the kid I went to parties with.”
Officer Miguel Galley, of the Big Rapids Department of Public Safety, testified about the scene where Suttles was found in the snow bank. Law enforcement arrived at approximately 7:45 a.m.
“We found him blue and snow still on him,” Galley said. “He was unresponsive and did not have a pulse at the time.”
Galley told the court about the investigation that ensued. He learned Suttles had been at a party.
“I was fact-gathering and trying to determine where Suttles got the alcohol,” he said.
Video surveillance from Bulldog Party Store showed Calangelo buying alcohol around 10 p.m. the night before Suttles was found in the snow bank, Galley added.
Former Ferris student Briena Bushong, 19, testified Calangelo had purchased the alcohol for her and Suttles upon their request. Bushong, who also no longer attends Ferris, was dating Suttles at the time of the incident.
According to Galley, Bushong lied to law enfocement in the days following theincident regarding who provided Suttles with alcohol.
“I was afraid of getting someone in trouble,” she said, acknowledging her changing accounts.
After misleading police on several occasions, Bushong decided to tell the truth because she believes everyone should face the consequences for what happened to Suttles. Bushong was issued a minor in possession ticket in February.
In closing arguments, Calangelo’s attorney Ellisia Schwartz argued Bushong’s testimony couldn’t be trusted because the witness had a history of changing her story.
“We actually do not know the truth at this time,” Schwartz said. “She lied four times before and now she claims she is telling the truth today.”
District Court Judge Susan Grant said the prosecution met the burden of proof and ruled Calangelo guilty despite Bushong’s multiple stories.
“I understand (Bushong) was covering her tracks at the beginning of this case,” Grant said. “I can’t imagine what these young people must have gone through when they found out this young man was found dead or almost dead. I’m not surprised the testimony changed, but I am convinced she was telling the truth today.”
Calangelo will be sentenced on Dec. 9 for the misdemeanor offense of furnishing alcohol to a minor. He faces up to 60 days in jail with $1,000 in fines and community service.