Man dies after sex-and-drug party at Ferndale police chaplain’s house

(Daily Tribune)   A Ferndale police chaplain and gay-community church pastor is under fire after a man overdosed and died at his house during a sex-and-drug party.

Steven Michael Fitch, 43, of Lincoln Park died about 5:30 a.m. Sept. 21 at the Rev. Mark Bidwell’s house in the 2700 block of Burdette, according to a police report obtained by the Daily Tribune under the state Freedom of Information Act.

Before Fitch died he injected Bidwell and himself with methamphetamine, known as “crystal meth,” and they had sex. Fitch later went to a gay online website and arranged to have a third man, 28, of Mount Clemens, join them at the house, police reported.

In a new incident, an item in the Ferndale police log on Tuesday shows a call was made from Bidwell’s house for emergency service. Police confirmed Wednesday that Bidwell was hospitalized as a result of the call and is expected to recover.

Bidwell met Fitch after contacting him through a gay online website and bringing him to his house. Fitch brought the crystal meth to the house with him, Bidwell told police.

The Mount Clemens man who was at the house told police he did not use the drug.

Shortly before 5 a.m., Sept. 21, Fitch used the bathroom and then sat on a bed. The Mount Clemens man noticed him slumped over a couple of minutes later and told police he started turning blue.

The Mount Clemens man told police he did CPR on Fitch, but stopped after Fitch started vomiting.

Someone at the house called 911. Fitch was still not breathing and had no pulse when police arrived. Officers did CPR on Fitch until Ferndale Fire and Rescue workers arrived and took him to William Beaumont Hospital. Fitch was officially pronounced dead at 6:53 a.m., police said.

Ferndale Police Lt. William Wilson confirmed the accuracy of the police report. Bidwell is one of several area clergy who volunteer as chaplains for the department. Police have terminated Bidwell’s position with the department.

“Based on the information we have it is sufficient to determine he is not a person we want associated with our department,” Wilson said.

No criminal charges are expected to be filed in the case. Wilson said only trace amounts of suspected drugs were found in two syringes at the pastor’s house.

Bidwell, 52, is the pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, which operates at the Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church on Pinecrest near West Nine Mile Road. The church’s adherents are mostly from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Bidwell for the past several years has officiated over commitment ceremonies for gay couples similar to marriage vows. Each June, he has conducted mass commitment ceremonies in front of Ferndale City Hall during annual gay pride festivals.

Al Stumpier, a Taylor retiree who was a friend of Fitch’s, told the Daily Tribune he notified Bidwell’s church Tuesday of the circumstances of Fitch’s death.

“Bidwell should not be a pastor at a church,” Stumpier said. “He is supposed to help people with their problems, not do drugs with them.”

Fitch was addicted to crystal meth, Stumpier said.

“He hid it real well,” Stumpier said. “He was real outgoing and friendly.”

Fitch was working at an animal clinic in Livonia and living in Northville at the time of his death.

Officials at Metropolitan Community Church could not be reached for comment early Wednesday.

Oakland County Commissioner Craig Covey, former mayor of Ferndale, said he was shocked to learn of Bidwell’s recent problems.

“Mark has been a community leader for years,” Covey said. “He did a lot of good work. He has been a fixture in the gay community and in the religious community.”

Covey used to run the former Michigan AIDS Prevention Project, since merged into the Michigan AIDS Coalition, where he developed the state’s first prevention program for methamphetamine abuse in the gay community.

“Crystal meth ruins lives,” he said. “It is one of the most dangerous and insidious substances out there.”

Fitch’s cause of death is still pending with the Oakland County Medical Examiner until toxicology reports are completed. Results typically take at least three weeks or more.

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