November 26, 2010 in Region

NW today: A robbery suspect walks into a police station…

Compiled from wire reports

What’s news in the Northwest today:

EUGENE, Ore. — Police didn’t have to go far to find a bank robbery suspect in Oregon. They say 23-year-old Nathan Alan Bramlage was spotted after walking into the Eugene police station Wednesday to use a public phone in the lobby. The Register-Guard reports an officer recognized the man from surveillance video of the bank robbery the day before. Detectives followed and arrested him about two blocks away. Detective Ralph Burks says Bramlage apparently assumed police wouldn’t recognize him. Bramlage was booked into Lane County Jail on a robbery charge and told police he had used the phone to call his parents.

Group posts reward in Poacher X case

BOISE — The Humane Society is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for anyone who can help Idaho authorities track down a rougue and boastful poacher. The case involves the self-described “Poacher X,” who claimed in a letter to Idaho wildlife officials earlier this month to have illegally killed a whitetail deer, a pronghorn antelope and a turkey. The Nov. 12 letter to Idaho Fish and Game officials also contained photographs of the dead deer and antelope and the promise to take more wildlife illegally. According to the letter, “Poacher X” writes: “I plan to do all my Idaho hunting like this now.” State investigators say the letter was postmarked from Everett, Wash. The reward is being offered by the Humane Society of the United States and The Humane Society Wildlife Trust Fund.

$1 million microscope for Richland scientists

RICHLAND, Wash. — A $1 million microscope is part of the new equipment at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at Richland purchased with $60 million in federal stimulus money. The Tri-City Herald reports the microscope gives researchers a tool to study nanoparticles in living cells. The federal money paid for a total of 31 instruments or upgrades. About 40 percent were custom built.

Oregon coin, Mount Hood quarter, enters circulation

SALEM, Ore. — A new view of Mount Hood National Forest is now available and it can be carried in your pocket — on a U.S. quarter released this month. The Oregon State Treasurer’s office said the newly minted coin went into circulation as part of the “America the Beautiful” series by the U.S. Mint. The quarter shows Mount Hood from the east, with Lost Lake in the foreground. The national forest covers just over 1 million acres and includes the mountain. State Treasurer Ted Wheeler said the coin is a complement to the image of Crater Lake on the Oregon quarter issued in 2005.

3 killed, 1 critical after Garden City crash

GARDEN CITY, Idaho — Garden City police say a head-on collision has claimed the lives of three people and left another person critically injured. The crash happened at about 2 a.m. today. Investigators say 25-year-old Noah M. Willhide of Boise was driving east in the westbound lanes when his car collided head-on with a car driven by 22-year-old Jamie L. Taylor. Willhide and Taylor were killed in the crash as was an unidentified female passenger of Taylor’s. Another woman in Taylor’s car, 22-year-old Rebecca A. Cross of Eagle, was taken to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for treatment. The Idaho Statesman reports police believe alcohol and drugs were a factor after interviewing people who were at a party with Willhide before the crash.

New avalanche director plans so use social media

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — The new director of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center in central Idaho plans to use social media to make avalanche information more easily available to the public. Chris Lundy tells the Idaho Mountain Express that the avalanche center’s videos on YouTube have received 32,000 views since being launched last year, more than 700 people have linked to the center on Facebook, and the center has a strong following on Twitter. Lundy describes himself as a computer nerd, and says the center is trying to follow trends of how people get their information. He says the center should help keep people safe in a region where backcountry recreation in winter is popular.

Road congestion down in Washington last year

SEATTLE — Believe it or not, the Department of Transportation says Washingtonians are spending less time stuck in traffic. In the department’s latest annual congestion study, researchers say that commuters spent on average 1 hour less in congestion in 2009 than in 2007, while travel times improved on 31 of 38 high-use routes in the Puget Sound area. The Seattle Times reports that the state partly attributes the drop in driving time to a drop in employment. Between 2006 and 2009, unemployment in Washington spiked from 4.9 to 8.9 percent, meaning less people are commuting to work.

Dangerous KingCo shooting suspect still at large

SEATTLE — King County sheriff’s deputies are still looking for a shooting suspect described as extremely dangerous because of her mental health, and she’s armed. Spokesman John Urquhart said Friday they had no leads in the hunt for 51-year-old Ayanna Shamari. She’s accused of an unprovoked attack Wednesday in the Skyway area south of Seattle. The sheriff’s office says she walked into the kitchen of the group home where she lives and started shooting. The owner of the home was wounded in the stomach and head. She was last reported in serious condition. Detectives believe Shamari also set fire to her bedroom before driving off. Police are looking for her 1996 Ford Windstar van, Washington license 477RNZ.

Kalispell man gets 10 years in prison for robbery

KALISPELL, Mont. — A 19-year-old Kalispell man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to a 2009 crime spree. Nathan Hunt was arrested in April after he and another man were linked to the Oct. 17, 2009 robbery of Super 1 Foods in Hayden, Idaho. After his arrest, he admitted to having a gun while he robbed Smith’s Foods in Columbia Falls on Oct. 25, 2009 and to stealing $1,900 in merchandise from the Army Navy Store in Evergreen on Dec. 10, 2009. The Daily Inter Lake reports District Judge Stewart Stadler sentenced Hunt on Wednesday to 10 years in prison for robbery and gave him a five-year suspended sentence for theft. Hunt is now expected to be transferred to Kootenai County, Idaho, where he faces a robbery charge.

Oregon AG sues Calif. loan modification company

SALEM — The Oregon attorney general has sued American Team Mortgage, claiming the California loan modification company charged more than $80,000 in illegal fees to Oregon homeowners. The lawsuit filed this week in Marion County Circuit Court alleges that American Team Mortgage charged 32 Oregon homeowners the fees before providing services. The complaint alleges the company obtained loan modifications for only a fraction of them and refunded fees to only two homeowners who paid them in advance. By June 2010, the lawsuit said American Team Mortgage effectively went out of business, leaving dozens of Oregon homeowners without a loan modification or refund. The lawsuit also alleges that Steve Hufstedler, the company’s owner and president, claimed in a website video the company got “great results more than 95 percent of the time.”

BPA pikeminnow program pays $1.2M to limit pest

PORTLAND, Ore. — A program to reduce the numbers of a salmon-eating pest called the northern pikeminnow paid $1.2 million to Northwest fishermen who assisted the effort this year. The Bonneville Power Administration runs the program, which earned one fisherman more than $81,000 during the six-month pikeminnow season. The BPA said just over 173,000 pikeminnow were caught, helping to increase survival rates for young salmon and steelhead. Fishermen get paid $4 to $8 for northern pikeminnow 9 inches and larger caught in the lower Columbia and Snake rivers. The more pikeminnow caught, the more the program pays. As an added incentive, specially tagged fish are worth $500. The annual program opened May 1 and was originally scheduled to close Sept. 30 but was extended 10 days this year.

Burley teacher seeks new venue for sex abuse trial

BURLEY, Idaho — A teacher accused of pretending to be a teenage boy to have online sexual conversations with a 14-year-old female student is seeking a change of venue for his trial. Michael S. Brinkerhoff, 42, a teacher in Burley, has pleaded not guilty to felony sexual abuse of a child under 16 and enticing a child over the Internet. His attorney, Kent Jensen, argued Wednesday in 5th District Court that news coverage of the case as well as nearly 500 comments posted on a website used to draw attention to bad teachers could taint the jury pool. Jensen said many of the comments seem to come from someone with inside knowledge of the case, The Times-News reported. Cassia County Deputy Prosecutor Blaine Cannon argued the issue could be dealt with during jury selection, and that the defense had not shown Brinkerhoff could not receive a fair trial.

UO senior chosen as 4th Marshall Scholar

EUGENE — A University of Oregon senior has been named a Marshall Scholar. The school said 21-year-old Josh Lupton will be only the fourth student from the University of Oregon in the history of the study program in England. The Marshall Scholarship was established in 1953 by the British Parliament to honor former Secretary of State George Marshall and his plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. Lupton, whose family lives in Joseph in Eastern Oregon, is a biology and human physiology major who plans to become a doctor. Lupton plans to work on a master’s degree in biology at the University of Cambridge biology department, in addition to studying for a master’s degree in public health.

Montana coal mine says it will address safety worries

BILLINGS, Mont. — A spokesman for Signal Peak Energy says the Montana coal company will provide a comprehensive plan to address safety lapses identified by government mine inspectors. The company’s Bull Mountain Mine in Musselshell County is among 13 mines in seven states that federal officials say have repeatedly violated safety rules. The mines last week were ordered to improve safety or face mining shutdowns. Signal Peak spokesman Mike Dawson tells The Billings Gazette the company takes the warning seriously and does not want employees to lose work. In December 2009, the mine was fined $49,500 for not immediately reporting a serious injury to a miner. Still pending are penalties in the January death of a mechanic crushed to death when a truck came off a jack stand.

2 hypothermia deaths reported in Seattle area

SEATTLE — Two men reportedly died of hypothermia in the recent cold spell in Western Washington. KIRO-TV reports a relative found 76-year-old Jerry Fitzgerald outside his Redmond home after she couldn’t reach him to make Thanksgiving plans. The King County medical examiner’s office says 66-year-old James Furseth froze to death in his trailer near Issaquah.

Montana State paleontologist wins international award

BOZEMAN, Mont. — A Montana State University paleontologist who worked for nearly two decades on legislation to protect dinosaur fossils on federal land has received an international award for his work. Pat Leiggi is administrative director of paleontology and director of exhibits at MSU’s Museum of the Rockies. He shares the Gregory Award from the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology with Ted J. Vlamis of Wichita, Kan. Leiggi’s work on the legislation began in 1991 when a Swiss team of commercial fossil collectors who wandered onto federal land discovered an Allosaurus dubbed “Big Al” near Shell, Wyo. The find raised questions about why there wasn’t stronger legislation to ensure such a fossil would remain in the public domain.

Carbon monoxide poisoning at Lynnwood apartment

LYNNWOOD, Wash. — Four people were treated at a hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning because a family was using charcoal briquets in a Lynnwood apartment fireplace without opening the damper. Police says the family realized there was something wrong Thursday night when a boy passed out. Firefighters assessed 14 people and took the boy and three others to Swedish Edmonds Hospital. All units of the apartment building were briefly evacuated while firefighters ventilated the building.

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