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NW today: Woman sentenced for scooter joy ride

Wed., Nov. 10, 2010, 8:24 a.m.

What’s news in the Northwest today:

MISSOULA — A transient who stole a Missoula meter-reader scooter and took it on a brief joyride before crashing it into a parked car has been sentenced to a year under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. District Judge Dusty Deschamps sentenced 43-year-old Carey Sterling on Tuesday. However, he ordered her to remain jailed until she can pay $500 in restitution and $240 in court costs. Sterling has been in custody since her arrest in May on the felony theft charge. She was unemployed at the time of her arrest. Sterling told the judge she is eligible for about $3,000 in benefits that she hasn’t applied for, partly because she hadn’t lived in one place long enough to file the paperwork and because she has been in jail.

Gun found in Keizer high school lost-found bin

KEIZER, Ore. — A gym teacher at McNary High School in Keizer was looking through the lost-and-found bin when he found a handgun and ammunition in a backpack. The Statesman Journal reports the teacher turned the gun over Monday to police who are trying to determine how and when it was brought to school. McNary Principal John Honey sent a letter home to parents Tuesday saying the school had no evidence of someone intending to use the gun at school.

Pasco aggravated murder trial beginning in Spokane

SPOKANE — Jury selection is under way this week in Spokane for the third aggravated murder trial of a man accused of shooting five men in 1987 at a Pasco auto body shop. The trial of Vicente Ruiz was moved from Pasco to Spokane because of news coverage of his first two trials. The first trial in 2008 was called off when more DNA testing was requested on evidence. The judge halted the second trial in June because the defense had not received some police reports. The Tri-City Herald reports a sixth shooting victim who survived identified Ruiz as one of two gunmen, but his lawyer says it’s a case of mistaken identity. One man already convicted in the case is serving a life sentence.

ISP: Man killed in crash had been “huffing”

BOISE — Idaho State Police say a 19-year-old Boise man who was killed in a one-vehicle rollover had been huffing from a canister of an Dust-Off to get high. Cameron Zaharioudakis died Monday night. His passenger was injured. ISP Capt. Steve Richardson said Zaharioudakis was speeding while he and his passenger were vying for control of a can of Dust-Off when the Jeep crashed. Dust-Off is a compressed gas used to remove dust from computers and other electronic equipment. Richardson says Boise-area ISP troopers do not recall investigating a fatal crash involving huffing. He says without toxicology tests, it’s unclear how much of a factor inhalation of the gas played in Monday night’s crash.

Idaho gets redder, but still not the reddest state

BOISE — Idaho Republicans had a great election, picking up five seats to control 85 of the 105 spots in the Legislature. Idaho GOP Chairman Norm Semanko called Nov. 2 a “tsunami” and “the biggest victory in the history of Idaho Republican politics.” Idahoans also re-elected all seven Republican state constitutional officers, and GOP Rep.-elect Raul Labrador ousted Democratic U.S. Rep. Walt Minnick. But that performance fell just short of the Grand Old Party’s showing in Wyoming. Cowboy State Republicans reclaimed the governorship, won all statewide races and picked up 12 seats in the Legislature. The GOP advantage in Cheyenne will be 76-14, or 84 percent, topping the next Idaho Legislature’s 81 percent GOP composition. “They have my condolences,” said Idaho House Democratic Leader John Rusche of Lewiston of his Wyoming colleagues.

Anonymous cowboy donates $5,000 to homeless shelter

MISSOULA — A silver-haired cowboy insisting on anonymity presented a Missoula homeless shelter with a $5,000 cashier’s check. The cowboy told case manager George Scherger on Monday that the Poverello Center helped him 10 years ago. He didn’t say how or why, and added, “Please tell the folks to keep doing what you do.” Poverello Center Director Ellie Hill tells the Missoulian the center gets cards and letters almost every day from former clients all over the country. She says they sometimes include donations of $5 to $20. Hill says the cowboy’s donation will be used to help pay day-to-day expenses such as utility bills and supplies at the center’s soup kitchen.

Parole hearing for convicted child killer Downs

SALEM, Ore. — Convicted child killer Elizabeth Diane Downs will have a parole hearing Dec. 10 at Salem. She was convicted in 1984 of one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder in the shooting of her three young children on a rural road at Springfield. She says the children were shot by a carjacker. Downs was sentenced to life in prison with a chance of parole in 25 years. She was denied release at a 2008 parole board hearing. Next month’s hearing will be held at Chemeketa Community College by video link. Downs is held at an out-of-state prison.

Storage group blasts Idaho for warehouse purchase

BOISE — A national self-storage association says Idaho is engaging in unfair competition by buying a warehouse facility in August to benefit the state’s public schools. Idaho paid $2.7 million to buy Affordable Self-Storage in Boise, to boost endowment fund investment returns. But Michael Scanlon, president of the Virginia-based Self Storage Association, said in a letter he is “very concerned” such purchases put government in direct competition with private businesses. Scanlon urged Idaho to invest in publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trusts that focus on self-storage businesses, if it wants to benefit from the sector’s performance. The state Department of Land said Wednesday it is drafting a response letter. It insists the purchase in August fits its mission: Boosting returns for schools and diversifying its investment portfolio.

Nevermind the dress code, here’s the Sex Pistols

FORKS, Wash. — About a dozen students were suspended Tuesday at Forks High School for wearing T-shirts with the name of the 1970s punk rock band Sex Pistols. The superintendent, Diana Reaume, says students caused a disruption by handing out the shirts just before classes started. One student, Devin Chastain, who was student body president last year, told The Peninsula Daily News it was a demonstration to support a student who wore a Sex Pistols T-shirt on Monday and was told to change.

Weekend fire destroys historic Hingham buildings

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — The state fire marshal is investigating the cause of a fire that destroyed two historic buildings in Hingham over the weekend. A bank built in 1913 and a community center built in 1922 were destroyed in Saturday’s fire. Both buildings were being used for storage. Walt Myers of Hingham tells the Great Falls Tribune he had an RV trailer, motor home, truck and farm tools stored in the old community center. Fire Chief Larry Horinek smelled smoke minutes before 5 p.m. Saturday and raced to the fire hall. He figures firefighters were on the scene in less than 5 minutes. Firefighters from nearby towns also responded, but Horinek says the buildings were gone within 20 minutes.

Mount St. Helens volcano experts go to Indonesia

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Three scientists from the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, which keeps an eye on Mount St. Helens, are heading to Indonesia to help officials respond to the eruptions of Mount Merapi. The Columbian reports the team of three U.S. Geological Survey volcanologists could stay through December. The three — John Pallister, Andy Lockhart and Jeff Marso — will work at an observatory in Jakarta as well as near the volcano.

Olympia transient hit by train has arms amputated

OLYMPIA — Police say a 22-year-old transient who was hit by a train while sleeping in an Olympia train tunnel had both his arms amputated at a hospital. Officer Shelby Nutter says the crew of the train involved in Tuesday’s accident was questioned but wasn’t aware it had hit someone. The bleeding man was able to go to a nearby home and yell for help. The Olympian reports the tunnel is frequently used by transients and is littered with liquor bottles and beer cans.

Man walking on sidewalk struck, killed by car

MISSOULA — Missoula police say a drunken driver crossed oncoming traffic lanes and drove his car onto a sidewalk, where he struck and killed a 24-year-old Washington state man. Sgt. John Webber tells KGVO-AM that the 51-year-old Missoula man who was driving the car faces charges for drunken driving. The victim and a friend were walking on the sidewalk shortly after 10:45 p.m. Tuesday when the car struck the victim and continued on until it hit two light poles. The victim was taken to a Missoula hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the car and his passenger were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The names of the driver and the victim have not been released.

Washington could ban alcoholic energy drinks

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire has called a news conference after Wednesday morning’s state Liquor Control Board meeting on alcoholic energy drinks. The board is considering a ban on the drinks, like Four Loko, which sent nine Central Washington University students to a hospital last month after a party. The makers of Four Loko — Phusion Projects Inc., of Chicago — say the partygoers may have been drinking other types of alcohol.

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