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State hospital patient escapes

Hunter (The Spokesman-Review)
Hunter (The Spokesman-Review)

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office is seeking assistance in finding an Eastern State Hospital patient who escaped from the facility Sunday afternoon.

The escape is the second in the past month from Eastern State by 55-year-old Michael Howard Hunter, who is a suspect in connection with a number of area bank robberies.

Hunter was arrested in 2007 for the robberies. A Sheriff’s Office press release said he does not have a criminal record in Spokane County. His last listed address was in Everett.

After his arrest last year, Hunter was ordered to Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake and is considered a potential danger to others.

Hunter is 6 feet tall and weighs 175 pounds. He has brown, shoulder-length hair and blue eyes. He left the hospital wearing blue jeans and a hooded winter coat with orange lining.

He reportedly told friends he may travel to Seattle. Anyone seeing him is asked to call 911.

Deer Park

Elk man injured in two-vehicle crash

A 28-year-old Elk man was taken to Holy Family Hospital on Sunday evening after his car collided with a 2005 Chevrolet Suburban on Highway 395 north of Deer Park.

Washington State Patrol officers also said Jason B. Welch was driving his 1995 Nissan Quest under the influence of alcohol when he swerved off the right side of the road, overcorrected, then collided with the southbound Suburban, driven by Susan M. Burkhardt, 50, of Spokane.

The collision occurred about 7 p.m. about six miles south of the Stevens County line.

Burkhardt and her son, Tim Burkhardt, 21, were not injured.

Welch’s injuries were described as not life-threatening.

Both vehicles were totaled in the collision.

Belfair, Wash.

Girl, 16, boy, 4, died in house fire

The children who died in a house fire in the Beard’s Cove community west of Belfair have been identified.

The children’s mother, Linda Reece, said they were 16-year-old Margaret Ann Star Reece and 4-year-old Koen Isaac Daniel Reece.

Reece said Margaret ran back into the house to get Koen, who was in an upstairs bedroom, but was not able to make it back out.

The Mason County Fire District said Sunday that all five of the children living in the home had been adopted by the parents after being foster children.

Fire crews were dispatched to the two-story house near Hood Canal after Linda Reece called 911 shortly before midnight Friday to report the couch was on fire. The fire district said smoke detectors alerted the family to the fire.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Linda Reece says she and her husband, Robert, have been foster parents for 20 years, taking in children with special needs.

One year ago to the day the same home was damaged by several small fires, including one that started on a couch. No one was injured at the time.

Linda Reece said the fire a year ago was set by one of their children, who they knew had some problems. They worked with the child in therapy and Reece said she does not believe the child had anything to do with this fatal fire.


Boeing, machinists still negotiating

Negotiations to end a 51-day strike against the Boeing Co. continued Sunday with no word on progress.

Federal mediators called Machinists union and Boeing negotiators to the table in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Neither side has said whether any progress has been made, but both say it’s a good sign that the talks are continuing.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers went on strike Sept. 6, three days after Boeing’s last offer was rejected with an 87 percent strike vote. Two days of last-ditch talks to avoid a strike failed, and another round of negotiations this month collapsed on the second day.

The union represents about 25,000 workers in and around Seattle, 1,500 in Gresham, Ore., and 750 in Wichita, Kan. Key issues include job security, wages, retirement benefits and medical coverage.

Treasure Valley, Idaho

Search continues for missing woman

Police in southern Idaho are still searching for a 48-year-old U.S. Postal Service worker who went missing in August.

Rachael Hitesman Walsh, a mother of four, was last seen with her 2005 red Dodge Neon at a Falls Creek campground in southwestern Idaho.

The Elmore County Sheriff’s Office has carried out land, water and air searches for Walsh, and no evidence of her whereabouts has been found.

The American Postal Workers Union, of which Walsh is a member, joined renewed search efforts this weekend.

Family members say Walsh was born in Canada and could have left the campsite to travel north without telling them. Her sister, Karen Fitch, said the family is still “very hopeful” that Walsh will be found.

Chehalis, Wash.

Woman dead after fall from truck

The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office said a 20-year-old Winlock woman is dead following a fall from the bed of a pickup near Mossyrock.

Investigators said they don’t know why Emma Sparks fell out of the pickup early Thursday. She died Thursday afternoon after being flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

Cmdr. Steve Aust said Sparks was being taken home by friends when they realized she’d fallen out the back of the pickup. He said Sparks was the only person in the truck’s bed and that nobody saw what happened.

Friends took Sparks to Providence Centralia Hospital, and hospital staff notified the Sheriff’s Office of Sparks’ fall.

From staff and wire reports


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