Trial set for Niemisto park vandalism

MARQUETTE — A pre-trial conference was held for Alex David Wiitanen on Monday.

Wiitanen was arrested Jan. 25 for his alleged involvement in the vandalism of the Phil Niemisto statue in the downtown Marquette pocket park named for Niemisto, which is located along West Washington Street. The incident occurred on the night of Jan. 19 or early-morning hours of Jan. 20.

On Jan. 20, it was discovered that the Niemisto statue had been damaged, with the hat portion removed from the statue, and the cloth scarf taken.

Since the incident, the hat and scarf have been recovered by police. The statue, crafted in Niemisto’s likeness using concrete and steel by Earl Senchuk, now wears a knitted-purple hat. Since Niemisto’s passing on Sunday, the statue has been adorned with flowers and tributes, celebrating Niemisto’s life and positive influence upon the Marquette community.

Wiitanen had pleaded not guilty to one count of malicious destruction of tombs and memorials, less than $200 and one count of larceny, less than $200 on Feb. 8 in 96th District Court. He is now scheduled for a final pre-trial conference on April 12, with a jury trial scheduled for April 17.