Local news

Deputies won’t be charged in death of theft suspect


A North Idaho prosecutor says deputies involved in a fatal July shooting of a liquor store theft suspect will not face criminal charges.

Bonner County Prosecutor Phil Robinson said the deputies, who have not been identified, followed proper procedures and were justified in shooting Mark Eric Betts.

Betts, 49, of Hope, was killed July 7 north of Ponderay.

Betts, accused of stealing bottles of whiskey from a store in the Bonner Mall, was pursued by Ponderay Police Department officers and the Bonner deputies on U.S. Highway 95.

After hitting a police cruiser and coming to a stop, investigators say, Betts left his vehicle and opened fire on deputies, who fired back, killing him.

Kent, Wash.

Alfalfa sprouts linked to salmonella outbreak

Alfalfa sprouts from a Kent, Wash., company have been tied to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 13 people in Western Washington and Oregon.

State Health Department officials say people should avoid eating products from Sprouters Northwest that contain alfalfa sprouts. Salmonella can cause diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Symptoms develop within one to five days of eating contaminated food.

Spokane valley

Man blames lung disease on flavoring on popcorn

A Spokane Valley man says he ate four to six bags of microwave popcorn each day for more than 18 years before being diagnosed with a lung disease last month.

Now Larry Newkirk, 54, and his wife, Ruth, are suing the company that makes the popcorn, claiming it should have warned of the potentially harmful aspects of the product’s butter flavoring chemical, diacetyl.

Filed Thursday in U.S District Court, the suit names as defendants ConAgra, maker of “Act II” popcorn, and Shopko Stores, where he bought the popcorn, as well as several companies involved in the production of the diacetyl-based flavoring. The suit claims inhaling the flavoring led to Newkirk’s lung condition, bronchiolitis obliterans.

The disease has been dubbed “popcorn worker’s lung” after eight former popcorn factory workers in Missouri were diagnosed with it in 2000.

Newkirk is represented by Spokane lawyer Richard Eymann and Missouri lawyer Kenneth McClain.

ConAgra announced last year that it would no longer use diacetyl in its popcorn.

Spokane valley

Sheriff’s helicopter helps nab hit-and-run suspect

A Spokane County Sheriff’s Office helicopter searching for a missing ATV operator helped catch a hit-and run-suspect Friday, police say.

An Spokane police officer saw a 1990 Honda Civic rear-end another vehicle near Garland Avenue and Pittsburg Street about 8:30 p.m. but stopped pursuing the car because of public safety concerns, said Officer Matt Rose.

But a helicopter searching for 21-year-old John Wipf, last seen riding his ATV Wednesday morning, overheard the pursuit and was “essentially overhead immediately,” Rose said.

The helicopter followed the suspect as he snaked through side streets, keeping the officer informed of his location, Rose said. The officer had to end the search again, but the helicopter operator followed the suspect as he crashed near Shadle Park High School and again in a ditch near Heroy Avenue and Driscoll Boulevard.

Police arrested Spokane resident John P. Luna, 22, about 8:45 p.m. as he fled on foot, Rose said. Luna faces charges of eluding an officer, possession of a stolen vehicle, three counts of hit-and-run – he allegedly hit two occupied cars and one unoccupied one during the chase – and second-degree assault on an officer for allegedly ramming a police car.

The helicopter began searching for Wipf on Thursday. He was seen riding a green, newer model Honda 4-wheeler in the 5300 block of east Stoughton Road while wearing a dark tank top and light camouflage pants. He’s 6 foot 2, 185 pounds and has shoulder-length brown hair. The Sheriff’s Office asks anyone who has seen Wipf to call 911.


Murder suspect will receive new lawyer for third time

Justin W. Crenshaw will get new legal representation, the third switch since his February arrest in connection with the slayings of 18-year-old Sarah A. Clark and 20-year-old Tanner E. Pehl in north Spokane.

The 20-year-old successfully argued in July to move his death-penalty case from the Spokane County public defender’s office, citing an office investigator’s relationship with Clark’s family. On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen approved a motion by Richard Sanger, of the Counsel for Defense, to leave the case.

Citing a heavy workload, Sanger said he couldn’t devote the time needed to fairly represent Crenshaw, according to the motion. Sanger was to act as second counsel to lead attorney Judith Mandel, of Tacoma, an anti-death penalty lawyer. Mandel is to find a replacement for Sanger.

Woman, boyfriend accused of embezzling $500,000

A media and advertising company owner has accused a former bookkeeper and her boyfriend of embezzling more than $500,000 over more than two years, according to a new lawsuit.

The suit alleges that Michelle Wing and Kenny Marsh stole from Eric Hixson’s advertising company Centaur Group LLC from January 2006 through July 2008 before Wing left her job as a bookkeeper.

The couple embezzled the money through forged checks and unauthorized use of company credit cards and accounts, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Spokane Superior Court.

Hixson, Centaur Group, E-Media Inc and Power Marketing Services Inc., are named as plaintiffs in the suit. The three companies share a building on Pittsburg Street in central Spokane, according to business listings.

Neither Wing nor Marsh could be reached for comment, and Hixson did not return a phone call.

From staff and wire reports


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