What’s news in the Northwest today:
TACOMA — Police say they busted a Portland-based family theft ring at Tacoma Mall. During a chase Saturday, a 16-year-old dropped a handbag with 22 stolen bottles of perfume worth $1,600. She was found hiding in a trash bin. KIRO-TV reports the girl’s mother was found inside a store with $1,700 worth of stolen items. She was with another woman who had $1,200 in stolen items in her purse. Police arrested another juvenile hiding in a car in the parking lot and questioned two other women who were not arrested.
Ex-park leaders urge Waterton-Glacier protections
HELENA, Mont. — Eight former park superintendents are pressing the U.S. and Canadian governments to pass protections for areas adjacent to Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park. Monday’s letter by the former park leaders says that while progress has been made, more work remains for both governments to protect the world’s first international peace park. In Canada, a long-standing proposal to expand the Waterton park into the British Columbia’s Flathead Valley remains under government review. The ex-park superintendents also urged the U.S. Congress to quickly pass legislation that would prohibit new mining and fossil fuel leasing on the park’s western periphery. The bill also would also protect land in the Middle Fork of the Flathead River corridor.
OR suicide prevention line sees spike in calls
PORTLAND, Ore. — Staff at a suicide prevention line received more calls in a two-hour period last week than what they usually get in half a month. The Oregonian reports that Oregon Partnership’s staff is stunned at the unusual surge in which they received five calls within two hours of people thinking about suicide. On average, the nonprofit center gets about 10 calls a month. Supervisor Leslie Storm says that the upcoming holidays and the dour economy are combining to send many people to the edge. Not all the calls were from Oregon — one was from Idaho, and the other from Spokane. Each year more than 550 Oregonians die by suicide, and more than 1,800 hospitalizations are because of suicide attempts, according to a 2010 study by the Oregon Public Health Division. The center serves Idaho and eastern Washington.
Judge fines 3 people in elk baiting, poaching case
BOISE — A judge has fined two California residents and a North Idaho man for using bait to illegally hunt elk. Forty-year-old Barbara Johnson and 41-year-old husband Robert Johnson, both of Sacramento, Calif., pleaded guilty to a variety of charges stemming from their Dec. 13 arrest. Barbara Johnson was fined $3,000 for hunting without a license and using bait. Richard Johnson was ordered to pay more than $5,000 in fines and civil penalties for illegally killing elk and using bait. Both lost their hunting privileges for five years. The third person, Richard Raine, of Bonners Ferry, pleaded guilty to two counts of possession of unlawfully taken elk. He was fined $1,000 and lost his hunting rights for two years. Authorities say Raine is the owner of the land where the illegally activity occurred
County says Bothell church flagpole needs permit
BOTHELL, Wash. — Snohomish County code enforcement officers have a problem with a 90-foot flagpole at a Bothell church. The county is threatening the Park Ridge Community Church with a $1,500 fine if it doesn’t get a permit. The 90-foot tall wooden pole was erected about 10 years ago as a temporary cell phone tower. The pastor, Brad Sebranke, says when the phone company no longer needed the pole the church asked that it be left as a flag pole. The church put a cross on top and has a lighted star on top in the Christmas season. The Daily Herald of Everett reports the church is appealing the fine. A county hearing examiner is scheduled to consider the case Jan. 4.
Former tribal worker charged in theft case
LEWISTON — A former Nez Perce Tribe employee has been accused of using a government-issued credit card to make more than $30,000 in illegal purchases. A federal grand jury indicted Douglas R. Bisbee last week on a charge of felony theft of government property. The former tribal conservation enforcement program worker was assigned a vehicle and credit card by the U.S. General Services Administration for fuel and repairs from 2004 to earlier this year. He allegedly charged unauthorized items to the card over that period, but it was not immediately clear what types of purchases he made. The Lewiston Tribune reports Nez Perce Tribe representatives declined to comment on the case. Bisbee faces the possibility of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
4-month sentence for Aloha man who wounded wife
PORTLAND — An Aloha man who mistakenly shot his wife as she was trying to stop him from shooting himself was sentenced in Washington County Circuit Court to four months in the Community Corrections Center. The Oregonian reports 40-year-old Anthony John Taylor pleaded guilty to fourth-degree assault. He wounded his wife Jessica Taylor in the shoulder in October when he was suicidal over losing his job.
Idaho sees drop in foreclosures in November
BOISE — The number of home foreclosures in Idaho dropped last month, but the state still has one of the top rates in the nation. RealtyTrac, which monitors the national foreclosure market, says foreclosures notices, auction dates and bank repossessions were filed against 2,133 Idaho properties in November. The Idaho Statesman reports that number is down from 2,299 in October. But that still leaves Idaho with the nation’s eighth-highest foreclosure rate. Nationwide, foreclosures dropped 21 percent in November compared to October.
AG: Wash. commission can’t raise ferry fares
OLYMPIA — The state attorney general’s office says that the state Transportation Commission can’t raise ferry fares without a vote of the Legislature. In an informal opinion released Monday, Deputy Solicitor General Jeff Even says the passage of Initiative 1053 in November prohibits the commission from unilaterally approving a fare increase, as it did just a few weeks after the election. The commission approved a 2.5 percent ferry fare increase over the objections of I-1053 sponsor Tim Eyman. I-1053, which passed with 64 percent of the vote, requires the Legislature to get a majority vote on fee increases and two-thirds majority on tax-hike votes rather than the simple majority required for most legislation.
Couple shot in Florida suspected in Salem robbery
SALEM, Ore. — A couple who were shot by police last week after a bank robbery in Florida are believed to be the same pair who robbed a bank last month in Salem. Lt. Steve Birr told The Statesman Journal surveillance pictures showed 36-year-old Kevin Cyr and 30-year-old Sarah Gauvin robbing a bank branch Nov. 26 inside a Salem grocery store. Gauvin was killed and Cyr wounded on Thursday in a shootout with police and deputies after the latest bank robbery in Stuart, Fla. Birr says the two are suspected in a string of bank robberies that began in Massachusetts.
Caldwell man gets life for 2004 drive-by shooting
CALDWELL, Idaho — A 32-year-old Caldwell man has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in a drive-by shooting that killed a rival gang member. The Idaho Press-Tribune reports that Michael Alfaro was sentenced Monday after a jury convicted him in October of aiding and abetting a first degree murder, aggravated assault and unlawful discharge of a firearm at an inhabited dwelling. Alfaro was accused of driving the car in the shooting of 22-year-old Carlos Chavez. Alfaro will be eligible for parole in 20 years. Two other men earlier pleaded guilty to their roles in the shooting that hit Chavez in the neck as he stood in the kitchen of a Caldwell house. Richard Alaniz and Arandu Chavez Maceda are both serving 25-year prison sentences.
Man sentenced to 4 years in prison for bar fight
BILLINGS, Mont. — A judge has sentenced a Billings man to serve four years in prison for hitting a woman so hard during a bar fight that she required reconstructive surgery. District Judge Gregory Todd sentenced 26-year-old Dustin Lee Wolff to 12 years at Montana State Prison, with eight years suspended. The Billings Gazette reports the judge also ordered Wolff to pay $16,197 restitution. Court records say Wolff and the victim, Tiffany Law, did not know each other before the March 20, 2009, fight at the Reno Club. They were with friends at adjacent tables when an argument broke out. Records say Wolff punched Law from behind, then hit her several more times in the face. Law suffered a broken nose and required surgery to correct breathing problems and nose alignment.
2 teens accused of sex with 13-year-old girl
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Police have accused two Great Falls teenagers of providing a 13-year-old girl with alcohol and then having sex with her. The Great Falls Tribune reports the 17-year-old boys face the felony charge of performing sexual intercourse without consent, which carries a minimum of four years in prison. One of the teens is also charged with unlawful transactions with children for allegedly providing the girl with alcohol, plus misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and obstructing a police officer. Great Falls Police say one of the teens was an acquaintance of the girl’s family and she had been allowed to leave the house with him. The girl told police if there had been any sexual act, it was after she had passed out from drinking alcohol.
Robotic arm to clean out Hanford waste tank
RICHLAND, Wash. — Hanford cleanup workers say they’re making progress on new technology to remove sludge from radioactive waste storage tanks on the nuclear reservation. The Tri-City Herald reports they have cut a hole nearly 5 feet in diameter in the top of one tank, C-107. The hole will allow a robotic arm to reach every cranny inside the tank with a high pressure water spray to remove hardened sludge. An official with the contractor on the project, Kent Smith of Washington River Protection Solutions, says the new system will remove 99 percent of the tank waste. It’s left over from nuclear weapons production. Work starts next summer on moving 247,000 gallons of waste from the single-walled tank to a newer double-shell tank.
Oregon school district settles civil rights lawsuit
EUGENE, Ore. — The Creswell School District has paid $10,000 to settle its part of a civil rights lawsuit in which school officials were accused of coercing a student to falsely confess to shooting a neighbor’s dog in 2008. The Eugene Register-Guard reports that the father of Levi Dunn filed the lawsuit in February. The lawsuit alleges that Creswell Middle School principal Shirley Burrus and campus security supervisor Will Davey along with Lane County sheriff’s deputies interrogated Dunn until he falsely confessed, then paraded him in front of neighbors at the scene of the shooting. Ballistic tests later cleared Dunn. The lawsuit says Dunn was ostracized and threatened after the false confession. He later moved away from Oregon because of it.
Second suspect arrested in Tacoma shooting case
SEATTLE — The U.S. Marshal’s office in Seattle says that the last suspect on the run from a July shooting in Tacoma that left a bystander dead has been arrested. U.S. Marshal Mark Ericks says that Olujimi A. Blakeney was arrested Monday afternoon at an apartment complex in Carmichael, Calif., following an investigation by a task force of local and federal officers. Blakeney and two other men — 28-year-old Herman Jackson and 19-year-old Manuel Castillo — have been charged in the death of Lisa Marie Melancon. Pierce County prosecutors allege Blakeney fired the deadly shot as he, Castillo and Jackson drove away from a street confrontation that started over angry text messages. Melancon had stepped outside of her home after calling 911. She died at the scene. Jackson was arrested in Texas in August. All three men were wanted on first-degree murder charges.
Elderly woman attacked in popular Seattle park
SEATTLE — Seattle Police say that an 89-year-old woman was attacked by an unknown man around 5:30 a.m. on Saturday while jogging at a popular park. Saturday’s attack follows another two incidents in Seattle parks where joggers were targeted that police are investigating. Police say the 89-year-old woman was knocked to the ground while jogging around Green Lake park by a man. The woman kicked and screamed, scaring the suspect off. She was then able to flag down a passer-by and call 911. Police say the suspect remains at large. The woman was not hurt.