Mark Williams, aka Batman, and girlfriend Brittany Scott, as Batgirl, walk the snowy streets of Petosky last month near their apartment. (John L. Russell / Special to The Detroit News)
East Jordan— Petoskey Batman and Bee Sting were as thick as thieves, getting baptized together in the Jordan River — in northern Michigan.
Now they’re archenemies.
The two men, part of a Michigan group that fights crime while dressed as superheroes, accuse each other of all manner of villainy.
It includes purported death threats and allegations of welfare fraud, probation violations and misuse of money from a fundraiser for the homeless.
Holy dirty laundry, Batman!
Their spat over leadership of the Michigan Protectors has split the dozen-member group into two parts.
“He is an abusive, neglectful, thieving, boastful, cowardly crook,” said Mark Williams, alias Petoskey Batman. “He belongs in jail and I will see him there.”
Adam Besso, aka Bee Sting, said Williams is obsessed.
“He has to tear others down to feel better about himself,” Besso said. “He’s like Lord of the Flies with a slightly better version of dirt bags.”
After the leadership argument, things escalated when Besso criticized Williams for having two girlfriends. Williams told Besso’s pregnant fiancée and mother of his two children Besso had cheated on her.
Fiancee Mandy Wilson was so angry she began spilling her own secrets about Besso. “He’s a pig,” she said about Besso.
Others say the dysfunctional duo need a time-out.
“This all baffles me,” said Matt Gannaway of Shelby Township, an acquaintance of Besso.
“I can look at any junior high- or high school-aged kid’s Facebook profile and read the same conversation.”
Williams and Besso became friends after Williams got into trouble with the law in 2011.
Williams, 34, a part-time landscaper from Harbor Springs, was patrolling downtown Petoskey as Batman when a bunch of drunks chased him to the roof of a hardware store.
Police discovered him hanging from the ledge of the building and charged him with disturbing the peace.
The arrest made headlines around the state and Besso, 37, a factory inspector, invited Williams to a superhero patrol in Flint.
A year later Besso had his own legal troubles.
Armed with a 12-gauge shotgun, he was patrolling a Burton trailer park when he got into an argument with a resident revving his motorcycle after midnight. The two wrestled for control of the weapon, which discharged as they fell to the ground.
No one was injured.
Besso, who said he is a twice-divorced Iraq war veteran who receives counseling for anger issues, served 102 days in jail for attempted assault, according to court records.
He was criticized by other costumed crime fighters in Michigan and the rest of the country for bringing a gun on patrol.
One of the only people who defended him was Williams.
“We were brothers,” Williams said. “I loved him as much as I love my own blood family.”
When Besso got out of jail in 2012, he rejuvenated the dormant Michigan Protectors and became the de facto leader. But members of the team chafed under his guidance, saying Besso rarely consulted them and didn’t like being second-guessed.
Several members wanted the more easygoing Williams to be co-leader but, when he approached Besso with the idea in October, Besso blew up.
Several weeks later, Williams announced to the group he had two girlfriends and hoped to bring them to a group dinner on Thanksgiving.
When Besso criticized Williams for having two girlfriends, Williams said Besso was a hypocrite because he had cheated on his fiancee.
Williams once meekly followed Besso. Now he says he wants to destroy him.
“It drives me insane,” Williams said. “I will scream from the rooftops until Bee Sting is shown for what he truly is.”
Wilson, Besso’s fiancée, told Williams Besso is driving with a suspended license.
Besso confirmed his license has been suspended since his arrest in 2012. He said he can’t afford the $850 cost of reinstatement and other fees, but needs to drive to keep his job.
He said his probation officer was aware of his driving, but a Department of Corrections official said it’s a violation of his probation for the 2012 assault.
Wilson also told Williams that Besso used Wilson’s social benefits card to buy food for the homeless. Besso confirmed he used the card for the homeless three or four times, spending $30 to $40 each time, along with $65 for the Detroit barbecue.
But a Department of Human Services official said only the cardholder is allowed to use the card and the food can’t go to a third party.
Wilson said she wishes her fiancé would give up his superhero work.
“The whole superhero fascination has always eluded me,” she said. “I think it’s a whole mentality where he wants to be involved with something bigger than himself.”
In October, Besso raised $671 in an online fundraiser for a Michigan Protectors’ trip to Columbia, S.C., to protest the city’s decision to outlaw homelessness.
Failing to get financing for a vehicle to transport the group, he postponed the trip and used $115 of the money for a trip to help the homeless in western Michigan in December.
He said group members and donors supported it, but several said they were never consulted.
“Adam is out of control,” said Ellen Eberhardt, a donor and former group member from Flint.
In December Williams wrote on Facebook Besso didn’t buy his children anything for Christmas but had bought presents for another woman’s kids.
One of Williams’ friends asked for Besso’s address, saying she had friends who lived in his town.
“take him out back and shoot him,” wrote Chandra Miller of Fort Myers, Fla.
Miller, contacted by a reporter, said she was serious about the threat but later changed her mind after talking with Besso.