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OSHA fines UP Company $2800 for summer deaths at Tomahawk plantSubmitted: 01/17/2013

Ben Meyer
Executive Producer
bmeyer@wjfw.com


TOMAHAWK - Last summer two men died in a Tomahawk manufacturing plant.

Now, an Upper Peninsula company is being punished for it.

Dustin Hale and Dennis Gougeon were killed after being hit by fly ash at the Packaging Corporation of America plant in Tomahawk July 17th.

The men were cleaning contractors working for Inland Systems of Ontonagon, Michigan.

OSHA gave Inland Systems a serious citation.

The government agency says Inland Systems failed to provide proper protection and training for the workers. They've been fined 28-hundred dollars.

Inland has indicated they're willing to accept responsibility, and will need to take action to correct problems in protection and training.

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The two-day trial for Mark Spietz, 39, of Kaukauna, finished up Thursday afternoon, following a morning of the defense arguing it was all part of Spietz's job.

Spietz was a contract worker for a company called TruAssets, which secures abandoned or foreclosed homes throughout the country. The company is based in Arizona.

On Thursday, Spietz testified that in September and October, he took ATVs, bows, a John Deere tractor, a trailer and Jennifer Ayers' purse from the house to try and secure it for his employer.

"My experience with the work order is that it is our job to make sure the property is secured," Spietz said. "Obviously if I can open the doors and get into it, anybody can open the doors and get into it. So I ended up removing the ATVs with the trailer and them bringing them back to Kaukauna to lock up in my storage facility where they would be under lock and key for the future for whatever the bank decided they wanted to do with their property."

In the criminal complaint, however, Spietz told investigators he took the purse because he thought his wife would like it.

But the state argued Thursday he technically didn't have permission from the company to be at the house after the first visit. Oneida County District Attorney Mike Schiek presented Spietz with the original work order form TruAssets assigned him. The document specifically stated not to remove any personal property from the house, and that contract workers should submit a bid for the property if they do take it from the house.

Schiek then argued Spietz specifically targeted the empty house because he knew its owners were dead.

"Looking back, what did you think you saw?" Schiek asked Spietz during his cross examination.

"Couple spots on the floor, large, dark spots," Spietz responded.

"Knowing what you know now, do you know what that was?" Schiek asked.

"To the best of my knowledge that's where they were killed," Spietz replied.

Spietz's attorney Brian Bennett said since Spietz is not from the area, he wouldn't have known the homicides happened at the house. He argued there was no sign saying no trespassing, nor had he had any knowledge the house was in probate.

"He used his best judgment based on his experience," Bennett said during his closing argument. "Which makes him quite possibly, if he's a burglar, the worst burglar in the world."

Bennett added Spietz gets little supervision from TruAssets, as Spietz testified he has never met a person from the company.

"It seems like a burden to have to come up here, pick up the stuff, store it, mess around with it, hold onto the titles, make sure it doesn't get stolen," Bennett said during his closing argument. "That's not a jackpot, that's a burden." 

Spietz will be sentenced in October. 

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