KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The St. Joseph County sheriff’s blood alcohol content level was above .1 when he caused a crash on US-131 south of Schoolcraft in February, the Kalamazoo County prosecutor says.
Earlier this week, the prosecutor authorized two misdemeanor charges against Mark Lillywhite in connection to the crash: a count of operating while intoxicated and a count of carrying a concealed weapon while under the influence of alcohol. The legal limit is .08.
Arraignment was expected to happen Friday, Lillywhite’s defense attorney Michael Hills confirmed to News 8, but it was delayed because the judge used to work with Hills. It has been rescheduled for April 24. Hills declined further comment.
Neither of the charges would lead the sheriff to lose his certification as a police officer under the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.
“He should resign. The people in St. Joe County deserve better than that,” Gordon Evilsizor, who ran against Lillywhite in the last sheriff race and said he previously worked with him, told News 8 Friday. “The sheriff is the most important job in the whole county… It’s quite obvious he doesn’t take the job serious.”
Both misdemeanor charges carry up to 93 days in jail and/or fines. If convicted of the weapons charge, Lillywhite’s concealed pistol license would be revoked.
The crash happened around 2:20 a.m. Feb. 26 on US-131 near West YZ Avenue south of Schoolcraft. Authorities say Lillywhite, 47, of Three Rivers, rear-ended another car, causing it to roll. No one was seriously hurt.
Data pulled from Lillywhite’s SUV showed he was going nearly 100 mph in the five seconds before the crash and that he never hit the brakes. The people in the car that was hit and witnesses said the SUV’s headlights weren’t on.
Troopers said Lillywhite was visibly drunk, eyes bloodshot, staggering and slurring his speech. He refused a roadside breath test and was taken to the hospital for a blood draw, which happened shortly before 5 a.m.
The SUV is registered to the St. Joseph County Sheriff’s Office and MSP said it is Lillywhite’s duty vehicle. There were three guns in the SUV: a loaded pistol in the center console and another pistol and rifle, as well as ammunition, in the back. Police reports show that Lillywhite told troopers he wasn’t driving, though he was the only person in the SUV.
“He could have killed somebody and then we find it’s a taxpayer vehicle he was driving. Got to be some common sense there to not do what he did,” Evilsizor said.
Lillywhite was appointed sheriff in St. Joseph in 2020, promoted from undersheriff. He ran for the job in 2021, promising accountability. His term is up in 2025.
For now, Undersheriff Jason Bingaman is running the day-to-day operations at the sheriff’s office, county board Chair Ken Malone confirmed to News 8 Friday. Malone did not know how long that would be the case.
When News 8 went to Lillywhite’s home Friday seeking comment, he wasn’t home.