What’s news in the Northwest today:
WENATCHEE, Wash. — A homeless man who had been living in an abandoned vehicle in Wenatchee was found dead and frozen. The Wenatchee World reports 70-year-old Pablo Ramirez was found Tuesday by a welfare worker making a routine check. Police Sgt. John Kruse says it appeared Ramirez had been dead for several days in freezing temperatures. Kruse says Ramirez was well-known to police for minor liquor-related violations. He was offered help many times by social workers, took meals at a shelter, but preferred to live on the street.
Witness reneges on testimony at Spokane trial
SPOKANE — A convicted killer whose life was spared when he agreed to testify against his cousin reneged on the agreement at an aggravated murder trial in Spokane. The Tri-City Herald reports Pedro Mendez-Reyna asserted his right not to incriminate himself 29 times before the jury Thursday and was found in contempt of court for refusing to testify. The judge said he could not “plead the Fifth Amendment” because he had already pleaded guilty to his involvement in the slayings of five people at a Pasco auto body shop 23 years ago. Forty-six-year-old Vicente Ruiz is on now on trial in the case that was moved from Franklin County. The judge could not add any punishment to Mendez-Reyna for contempt because he’s already in prison.
Idaho rape by fraud law covers only married women
BOISE — A quirk in Idaho law that prevented an unmarried woman from pressing rape charges after she was tricked into having sex with a man she didn’t know could be overhauled in the 2011 Legislature. A rape charge can be filed if a woman is tricked into believing the person committing the act is her husband, under Idaho code. But the rape-by-fraud statute doesn’t protect the unwed. Republican Denton Darrington, chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee, says he wants to fix the statute so that it includes both married and unmarried victims. The law came under scrutiny last month after a judge dismissed rape charges against two Boise men. A woman was intoxicated when police say her boyfriend duped her into having sex with a man she had just met. Judge Cheri Copsey said what happened was “despicable” but under the Idaho law, she had to drop the charges.
Experts say badly injured whale not likely to live
OLYMPIA — Experts say a badly injured whale seen swimming in south Puget Sound is not likely to survive its deep wounds. They say the whale appears to be either a sei or a Brydes whale, two species rarely seen in the sound. John Calambokidis of Olympia-based Cascadia Research says the large chunk of blubber and flesh missing from the top of the 40-foot whales back probably is from a strike from the propeller of a fast-moving twin-engine vessel. There is also a second back injury. He watched the whale swimming and surfacing erratically in Totten Inlet on Wednesday. It’s been spotted since at least Nov. 25. Brent Norberg is marine mammal coordinator for the Northwest Region of NOAA Fisheries in Seattle. He said Thursday the whale’s prognosis is not good. Infection is a major threat because the larger wound is so deep.
Man suspected of shooting trooper a loner
BOZEMAN, Mont. — The 56-year-old Three Forks man suspected of shooting and killing a Montana Highway Patrol trooper Wednesday was a dog-trainer and hunter who mostly kept to himself, according to friends and family. Errol Brent Bouldin had been troubled since he was bit by a rattlesnake five years ago while hunting in Arizona, his sister-in-law Glynda Bouldin, of Belgrade, said Thursday. He had to be revived several times before reaching the hospital and suffered brain damage from the trauma. “That’s when his life sort of changed,” Glynda said. Bouldin is accused of killing 23-year-old Montana Highway Patrol Trooper David DeLaittre, of Three Forks, late Wednesday afternoon.
Portland leaves bill paying decision to residents
PORTLAND, Ore. — The city of Portland has mailed out bills for the first time to property owners in neighborhoods where leaves were picked up. Now it’s up to the residents to decide whether to pay. KGW reports the city will let residents opt out if they feel the $30 bill is unfair — for example, if they lacked advance notice. Mayor Sam Adams says the Transportation Bureau will absorb cost overruns if too many people opt out.
Wasden files in district court over cabin rents
BOISE — Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has filed a motion in district court to block a new rental policy for homes on hundreds of state-owned lake shore sites in North Idaho. A district judge has scheduled a hearing on Wasden’s motion for a preliminary injunction on Dec. 15, according to the attorney general’s office. The Idaho Supreme Court threw out Wasden’s case Wednesday. Justices on the high court did not dispute Wasden’s argument, that the policy sets rents too low and violates the state constitution, but found his lawsuit should go to the lower court. Wasden claims the policy approved by the Idaho Land Board, which he sits on, sets rents below market value when the state constitution requires the land to be managed for maximum profit over time.
Oregon man gets 10 years on drug charges
SALEM, Ore. — An Oregon man with a history of alcohol and drug problems has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. The Statesman Journal reported that 30-year-old Dallas Lee Welsh started using illegal drugs at 14 and has been in and out of the prison system twice. His mother, Wendy Welsh, sobbed when a Marion County judge handed down the sentence on Thursday. But his mother said she was glad her son will finally get help after the judge encouraged Dallas Welsh to take advantage of substance-abuse programs in the Department of Corrections. He was convicted of delivery of methamphetamine and heroin within 1,000 feet of a school, three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and two counts of menacing.
Pickpockets lift wallet in Milwaukie grocery store
MILWAUKIE, Ore. — Police say two pickpockets used cell phones to coordinate their actions as they took a wallet from a 92-year-old man inside a grocery story in Milwaukie. Store surveillance video shows one man blocking Stanley George as he pushes a cart out of the store Thursday afternoon and the other man walking up behind George and lifting the wallet from his pants pocket. George says he didn’t realize he had been targeted until he got to his car. He lost about $150, credit cards and his driver’s license. Police hope the surveillance photos lead to the arrest of the suspects.
Paradise Basin ski area to open Saturday
WHITE PASS, Wash. – More than three decades after it was first proposed, the long-awaited expanded area of White Pass Ski Area will open for the first time Saturday. Opening up Paradise Basin will add several hundred more feet of vertical skiing and 13 new named trails, accessible by two new chairlifts.
Operators expect large crowds of anxious skiers. The old area of the resort opened last Saturday to about 3,000 skiers. Goyette estimated they would come back with an additional 300 or so more this weekend. White Pass officials announced via Facebook and their website, www.skiwhitepass.com, the new area would be open Saturday.
Prosecutor: trooper who killed man was justified
PORT ORCHARD, Wash. — The Kitsap County prosecutor says an off-duty Washington state trooper who shot and killed a man on the trooper’s property during a Sept. 11 confrontation committed no crime. Prosecutor Russ Hauge announced that decision Thursday. State Patrol Corporal Jason Blankers had been hit in the head with a pipe by 30-year-old Brent Bayliffe at the trooper’s home in Olalla. Blankers fired three times, hitting Bayliffe twice and mortally wounding him. The Kitsap Sun says the trooper did not know the intruder. A patrol spokeswoman said Blankers is an 11-year veteran who had never used deadly force before.
Barkus pleads no contest to felony in boat crash
KALISPELL, Mont. — Outgoing state Sen. Greg Barkus pleaded no contest Thursday to felony criminal endangerment for crashing his boat into the rocky shoreline of Flathead Lake after a night of drinking, injuring all five people on board. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors would drop two other felony charges against the Kalispell Republican and recommend a three-year deferred sentence for the crash that injured U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, two of his staffers, Barkus and his wife. District Judge John McKeon, of Malta, said he will decide whether to accept the plea agreement after a pre-sentence investigation, which is expected to be completed in the next month. If the judge rejects the plea deal, he would allow Barkus to withdraw his plea and proceed to a jury trial. In the meantime, sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 20.
Police probe why 4 teens fell ill at Ore. school
HILLSBORO, Ore. — Police in the Portland suburb of Hillsboro are trying to determine why four 17-year-old high school students who know each other fell ill. Lt. Mike Rouches says police suspect the four male Liberty High School students may have taken some type of drug. The spokesman says one student did say he took brown pills but the teens are not commenting beyond that. The Oregonian says police found no drugs in a search of the school. Police and medics responded Wednesday afternoon after school officials reported that one of the students had stumbled in the halls and was slightly incoherent. Rouches says school officials then found a second student slightly incoherent. Those two teens were sent to a hospital. Two other students were checked by medics on scene.
Helena man who tortured, killed cats back in court
HELENA, Mont. — A Helena man who took part in the torture and killing of two dozen cats is accused of violating the conditions of his sentence. Andrew J. Welch was back in District Court on Thursday on a petition to revoke the deferred sentences he received on charges of felony aggravated animal cruelty and evidence tampering. He is accused of failing to pay $2,200 in restitution, not completing 100 hours of community service, failing to attend court-ordered therapy and not undergoing sex offender treatment to address underlying sexual deviant issues. Welch was 20 years old when he and two other men were accused of burning and torturing the cats stemming from their joint dislike of the animals. Welch received a six-year deferred sentence for the cruelty charge and a three-year deferred sentence for tampering.
Oregon regulators endorse plan to close coal plant
PORTLAND — Oregon regulators are endorsing Portland General Electric’s plan to close its coal-fired power plant at Boardman by Dec. 31, 2020. The state Department of Environmental Quality decided Thursday that the guaranteed early closure date justifies a smaller investment in new pollution controls between now and then. The Oregonian says the fate of Oregon’s only coal-fired plant now moves to the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission, which will vote next week. The closure is expected to help air quality from Mount Hood to the Columbia River Gorge to Hells Canyon.