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Year in review

Sun., Dec. 31, 2006


1: Jonathan Wade Ellington runs over and kills Vonette Larson of Athol in an apparent case of road rage that involved chases and gunfire. He is later sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison.

9: Rodolfo Arevalo is named president of EWU, becoming the first Latino president at a public university in Washington.

13: Developer Marshall Chesrown submits a formal plan for Kendall Yards, a 77-acre development between the Spokane River and West Central in Spokane.

17: Joseph Duncan asks for a jury from outside Kootenai County for his trial for murder and kidnapping because of extensive pretrial publicity. The request is denied.

27: Washington Legislature passes a bill outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Initiative promoter Tim Eyman promises to sponsor a referendum to overturn it.

29: Jail inmate Benito Sichiro fights with jailers, is beaten and shocked with a Taser, and later dies of a lacerated liver.


3: Spokane Transit Authority proposes putting a possible $300 million light rail system before voters.

6: A federal judge approves Kaiser Aluminum’s reorganization plan to get out of bankruptcy.

7: Former Columbia High School teacher Robert Swalstad is jailed for having sex with a former student, age 15 at the time, whom he later married.

8: Dennis Erickson is hired as head football coach of the Idaho Vandals.

16: FBI announces its investigation of former Spokane Mayor Jim West did not produce evidence to warrant federal criminal charges under the “very narrow” public corruption laws. West accuses The Spokesman-Review of creating a mob mentality.

23: Trial for Joseph Duncan delayed.

27: Families of victims Mark McKenzie and Brenda Matthews Groene reject plea deal for Duncan because he would escape death penalty. Steve Groene later announces he favors plea deal to keep daughter Shasta off the witness stand.


3: Bobby Frazier, 69, who friends say is dying of cancer, hijacks a city bus at gunpoint to take him to his favorite tavern in Hillyard. “I’m having a bad day and it’s about to get worse,” he told the bus driver.

10: Spokane Police Department says it will reopen the investigation of Spokane Firefighter Daniel Ross for taking sexually explicit photos of a 16-year-old in a fire station. Spokane police officers investigating the case told Ross to delete the photos, which later hampered prosecution; public outcry prompted the reopening.

13: A new Gonzaga University dormitory under construction is gutted by fire during the school’s spring break.

20: Otto Zehm, a mentally handicapped janitor, dies in police custody after an arrest at a Spokane Zip Trip.

23: GU Bulldogs fall to UCLA in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

24: A mental health advocacy group calls for video tapes of the Zehm encounter to be released; County Prosecutor Steve Tucker orders them withheld.

30: Spokane Shock arena football team debuts at Veterans Memorial Arena.

30: In an effort to raise money for a settlement with sexual assault victims, Spokane Catholic Diocese settles with one of its insurance carriers for $5.25 million.


3: Spokane rolls out the red carpet in an attempt to land the 2009 World Figure Skating Championships. The event later goes to Los Angeles.

5: Neighbors raise questions about the ability of streets and other infrastructure to support the Kendall Yards development.

8: Jo Ellen Savage dies after her car breaks through a barrier in the River Park Square garage and falls five stories onto the ramp. The city and the garage’s owner, Cowles Co., begin investigations.

11: Sheriff Sgt. Ozzie Knezovich is chosen by Spokane County Commissioners as sheriff to replace Mark Sterk. His chief rival for the job, Spokane Valley Police Chief Cal Walker, announces he’ll also run for the job in the September primary.

17: While hundreds demonstrate outside, Vice President Dick Cheney campaigns in Spokane at the Davenport Hotel for Republicans Mike McGavick and Cathy McMorris, defending the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. City officials later seek reimbursement for police overtime, which they don’t get.

19: GU basketball star Adam Morrison says he’ll skip his senior year and turn pro.

21: A federal judge rejects a $45.7 million settlement between the Catholic Diocese and 75 abuse victims, saying it doesn’t include all parties, such as the local parishes.

28: An attorney for Jo Savage says the River Park Square garage should be closed.


1: Coeur d’Alene will get a $65 million Kroc Salvation Army Center.

3: Mayor Dennis Hession calls for hearings on the safety of the River Park Square garage. The garage’s chief executive insists two days later the garage is safe, and a report from an expert hired by the garage says the barrier exceeds the building code. But a 1993 engineering report mentioned possible problems with garage walls.

15: Major reconstruction on the Interstate 90 corridor through Spokane starts and continues through the summer.

23: Kootenai County Commissioners Gus Johnson and Katie Brodie lose re-election bids in the primary.

24: Mexican President Vicente Fox visits Yakima.

26: Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne confirmed as secretary of Interior, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch moves into the job.

30: Otto Zehm’s death ruled a homicide by Spokane County coroner. The next day city attorneys file a “gag order” preventing the release of files and tapes of the incident.


1: Orville Moe is fired as general manager of Spokane Raceway Park.

6: The signature drive to repeal the Washington law against gay discrimination fails.

15: The parishes, not the Spokane Diocese, own their churches and schools, says U.S. District Judge Justin Quackenbush, who urges all parties to settle the case.

19: After several attempts to find a buyer, the city is unable to save the Mohawk and Rookery buildings, Mayor Hession says.

22-24: Hoopfest in Spokane and the Ironman Triathlon in Coeur d’Alene mean big crowds – and a shortage of portable toilets.

23: A homeless amputee is set afire near the railroad tracks in downtown Spokane by two transients. Doug Dawson, 50, dies of his burn injuries.

28: The Kendall Yards application is declared “technically complete.”


3: Two Spokane police detectives who ordered firefighter Daniel Ross to delete from his camera sexually explicit photos of a 16-year-old girl he was accused of raping are suspended.

3: U.S. Senate kills a Bush proposal to sell off National Forest land, including 26,000 acres in Idaho and 7,500 in Washington.

6: Kaiser emerges from bankruptcy after 4½ years.

12: Video of Otto Zehm beating is released and contradicts earlier description by police that he lunged at officers.

13: City of Spokane spills an estimated 53,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Spokane River. City later acknowledges previous spills.

14: Teen involved in firehouse sex incident files a $1 million claim with city.

18: Spokane Convention Center opens.

20: Anne Kirkpatrick chosen as Spokane’s police chief.

22: Former Spokane Mayor Jim West dies of cancer at a Seattle hospital.

26: Washington Supreme Court rules 5-4 against same-sex marriage, upholding current state law and tossing issue back to Legislature.


1: Kaiser announces it will spend $30 million to expand Trentwood rolling mill.

4: River Park Square garage to get upgrades, developer says.

11: Attorneys for sex abuse victims say the suit against the Spokane Diocese could be settled for $60 million.

22: Attorneys for Joseph Duncan ask a judge to keep his statements to police out of the upcoming trial. A judge later rules victim Shasta Groene will testify with Duncan present in the courtroom if she takes the stand.

25: Idaho Legislature in a special session approves acting Gov. Jim Risch’s tax plan to cut property taxes and raise sales tax.

25: Spokane Shock win the af2 Arena football championship.

29: Mayor Hession orders a review of the Spokane Police Department, the fourth such review since 1982.

31: Convicted rapist Kevin Coe arrives in Spokane for hearings on whether he can be released after serving his criminal sentence or face lifelong civil commitment at a facility for sexual predators at McNeil Island.


12: Metropolitan Mortgage begins mailing out a $38 million payback to investors, which amounts to about 6 cents on the dollar.

14: Spokane Valley leaders pick a site for a city center, a 20-acre area near the former University City mall.

19: In the Washington GOP primary, Ozzie Knezovich tops Cal Walker for sheriff.

19: Raceway owner Orville Moe, former Airway Heights Mayor Dale Perry indicted for public corruption.

21: City examiner OKs Kendall Yards plans.

22: New Police Chief Kirkpatrick sends a complaint about a police officer to the city’s citizen review board, the first complaint the panel has seen in more than a decade. The panel decides it doesn’t have jurisdiction over the complaint; Kirkpatrick calls the system worthless.

28: Joseph Duncan’s statements to police ruled admissible for his trial.


2: Former U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth Hage dies in an auto accident in Nevada.

3: County Prosecutor Steve Tucker says he won’t file charges in the Zehm death. The next day he says that decision is back on hold, pending an FBI investigation.

4: As part of its bankruptcy, Spokane Diocese sells Chancery Building for $2.05 million to an affiliate of Cowles Co.

10: Spokane has the highest gasoline prices of anywhere in the United States except Hawaii. The Federal Trade Commission later attributes the costs to refineries.

11: Cal Walker resigns as Spokane Valley police chief.

16: Joseph Duncan pleads guilty to three counts of murder and three counts of kidnapping from the 2005 slayings, sparing young Shasta Groene from having to testify in a state trial. He could still get the death penalty in Idaho if he doesn’t in an upcoming federal case.


1: Police Chief Kirkpatrick says Spokane police logs will be made public for the first time since the mid ‘80s.

2: Cabela’s confirms it will build one of its sporting goods megastores in Post Falls to anchor a 200-acre retail and hotel development.

2: Vice President Cheney campaigns for Republicans at the Coeur d’Alene Airport. The state GOP promises taxpayers won’t pay for the visit, but local government ends up footing $3,500 of the bill.

7: Congressional candidates in Washington and Idaho buck the national trend toward the Democratic Party, but not all Republicans survive. Spokane County Commissioner Phil Harris is ousted after three terms, and two Spokane legislative seats go Democratic. Republicans lose six seats in the Idaho Legislature, but Butch Otter is elected governor.

8: Nearly half of all Washington high school students haven’t passed the math portion of the WASL test, which is needed for graduation. Gov. Chris Gregoire later announces a plan for a three-year delay in that requirement.

9: Fred Russell is returned to Whitman County from Ireland to face charges in a 2001 vehicular manslaughter case.

16: Spokane Health Director Kim Thorburn is fired by the Health District Board. A survey earlier in the year showed she received high marks from the public but low marks from the board.

29: Kootenai County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rick Baughman and other county staff have sent sexually explicit e-mails back and forth on their county computers. Baughman later tries to block the release of his e-mails from the government computer, contending they are private.


2: The Spokane Catholic Diocese concedes that the bankruptcy case, which it hoped would be settled this year, will go into 2007.

4: Two amputees are arrested for multiple bank robberies. One hid the money in his prosthetic leg.

9: Dennis Erickson announces he will leave the University of Idaho after 10 months to become head coach at Arizona State University. WSU defensive coordinator Steve Akey is named UI head coach 10 days later.

13: Elson Floyd, the president of the University of Missouri system, is named president of Washington State University to replace retiring V. Lane Rawlings.

15: A windstorm knocks out power around the Northwest and caps a year of wild weather that included heat waves in May and June and West Side flooding in November.

19: Convicted rapist Kevin Coe is ordered to stand trial on whether he should be civilly committed as a sexual predator to McNeil Island.

28: The Spokane Tribe announces it has reached a tentative gambling compact with the state that could lead to development of a casino complex in Airway Heights.

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