What’s news in the Northwest today:
PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland woman who wanted to warm up a cold can of spray paint put it in her oven. KGW reports the can exploded Tuesday, shot out the oven door and through the kitchen ceiling. Firefighters found it smoldering in the attic. Firefighters reminded her to read the safety label; it’s a bad idea to heat products that are under pressure.
Oregon Zoo part of 3-year elephant study
PORTLAND — The Oregon Zoo is taking part in a three-year study of elephants at zoos across the nation to determine the best ways to manage and care for the animals. The Oregon Zoo will join six other institutions to begin the research next month. The study is being coordinated by the Honolulu Zoo Society and funded by an $800,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Officials said the study will involve the entire population of 290 elephants housed in zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums — including the Oregon Zoo’s Asian elephant herd. The director of the Oregon Zoo, Kim Smith, says there has never been such an extensive study on zoo elephants and the results will help improve their overall care.
Testimony begins in Pasco aggravated murder case
SPOKANE — Testimony began Wednesday in Spokane in the aggravated murder trial of a man accused of killing five people at a Pasco auto body shop 23 years ago. The trial of 46-year-old Vicente Ruiz was moved from Franklin County after two mistrials. The Tri-City Herald reports that prosecutors told the jury Ruiz was identified by the lone survivor of the 1987 shooting. Defense lawyers say it’s a case of mistaken identity. One man already convicted in the case is serving a life sentence. This is the third trial for Ruiz. His 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.
Radioactive mouse hunt at Hanford
RICHLAND, Wash. — After catching a radioactive rabbit on the Hanford nuclear reservation, cleanup workers are now hunting for a radioactive mouse. The Tri-City Herald reports radioactive mouse droppings have been found in the same area where the radioactive rabbit droppings were found earlier this month north of Richland. Todd Nelson of Washington Closure Hanford, the cleanup contractor, says no contaminated droppings have been found in areas open to the public. The radioactive rabbit was killed and disposed of as radioactive waste. Officials believe the animals ate or drank cesium at a Hanford site.
Burns man accused of church arson
BURNS, Ore. — A 21-year-old man was arrested Wednesday on arson and other charges for the fire that destroyed a church hall in Burns. Harney County Sheriff Dave Glerup says John Diaz of Burns is jailed with bail set at $1 million. The sheriff told KTVZ that Diaz is a member of the Holy Family Catholic Church and was intoxicated at the time of the Nov. 9 fire at the parish hall. The replacement cost could top $1 million. The sheriff says as a juvenile Diaz was arrested for setting fires on city property.
Jury trial set in Three Forks killing
BOZEMAN, Mont. — A jury trial is set in the case of a 38-year-old man accused of shooting his former girlfriend and burning her body in a barrel outside a Three Forks house in 2009. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports District Judge Holly Brown scheduled a seven-day trial for Jay J. Myran to begin May 5. Myran had pleaded guilty in July to deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence for shooting 53-year-old Gayle Brewster. But before he was sentenced, Myran’s attorneys successfully argued that the defendant should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. Myran has said the shotgun accidentally discharged after Brewster placed the barrel in her mouth.
Audit: Further restrict Ore. police Taser use
PORTLAND — A city audit says the Portland Police Bureau should consider changing its policy on Taser stun guns to further restrict their use. The Oregonian reports the audit released Wednesday also recommends the police bureau make clear that officers should fire a minimum number of stun cycles against a suspect. The audit noted that researchers are concerned about the potential for injury caused by repeated stun cycles. A review of 50 random Portland police firings of the Taser in 2009 showed they’re mostly effective in resolving incidents. But police fired multiple cycles in about one-fifth of those cases.
Hamilton man pleads in marijuana assault
HAMILTON, Mont. — A 31-year-old Hamilton man has pleaded guilty to his role in a vigilante-style beating of a man suspected of stealing marijuana and other items from a medical marijuana dispensary. The Ravalli Republic reports Kory M. Gassman pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony counts of accountability for assault with a weapon and conspiracy to commit assault with a weapon. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Gassman will receive a four-year deferred sentence, but will have to give up any claim to nearly $20,000 in cash found in a codefendant’s truck.
IRS has nearly $500K in undeliverable ID refunds
NAMPA, Idaho — The Internal Revenue Service is looking for 408 Idaho taxpayers — and it’s actually good news. The Idaho Press-Tribune reports the agency has tax refund checks totaling nearly $500,000 to deliver to those people. The average refund is just over $1,200. Nationwide, nearly 112,000 taxpayers had about $164 million in refunds returned to the IRS as undeliverable. Refund checks are mailed to the address listed on a taxpayer’s return. But those checks can be returned as undeliverable if a taxpayer moves without updating his or her address with either the U.S. Postal Service or the IRS. Taxpayers can update their addresses on the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS website. Those without Internet access can call 1-800-829-1954 for instructions on how to update their mailing information.
’Barefoot Bandit’ faces arraignment in Seattle
SEATTLE — The so-called “Barefoot Bandit” faces an appearance in federal court in Seattle, four months after an alleged cross-country crime spree ended with his arrest in a stolen boat in the Bahamas. Nineteen-year-old Colton Harris-Moore is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday on charges that include interstate transportation of stolen aircraft and being a fugitive in possession of a firearm. The charges stem from a crime spree that began after Harris-Moore walked away from a halfway house south of Seattle in 2008. He is believed to have hopscotched his way around the Northwest — and then across the country — in stolen planes, boats and cars, breaking into grocery stores, homes and ATMs along the way. Four of the counts carry maximum sentences of 10 years in prison.
Seattle officer shown on video kicking teen
SEATTLE — Seattle police say they have reassigned a plainclothes officer and launched an investigation after the officer was shown on a convenience store video kicking a 17-year-old boy in the groin during an Oct. 18 arrest. In a statement on their blog, police said they learned about the officer’s action Wednesday. They say Deputy Chiefs Clark Kimerer and Nick Metz viewed the video immediately, then reassigned the unidentified 10-year veteran officer to his home. Police say they briefed Police Chief John Diaz, who briefed the mayor’s office. KIRO-TV says it brought the incident up with police on Wednesday. The station aired the video Wednesday night, as did KOMO-TV.
More information released on grizzly bear death
KALISPELL, Mont. — State and federal wildlife officials are looking for a “vehicle of interest” that was spotted in an area where an adult grizzly bear was shot and killed near Troy. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden Phil Kilbreath says the bear was found several miles up a trail along Pine Creek Road and is believed to have been shot between Nov. 6 and Nov. 10. The Missoulian reports that wildlife officials are now looking for a green or blue Chevy that was seen in the area. The vehicle is described as an early 2000s extended cab pickup truck with a topper, or a Suburban, with Washington license plates. The man associated with the vehicle is described as in his 50s, in good physical condition and with a gray beard. Anyone with information can call Kilbreath at 406-291-6539, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Rick Branzell at 406-329-3000 or 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668).