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In brief: Grandson held in disappearance

Fri., April 8, 2011

The grandson of a woman missing from Kamiah, Idaho, has been named a person of interest in her disappearance.

Justin M. Hietala, 27, was arrested on suspicion of burglary on April 1 and is in the Lewis County Jail in Nez Perce, Idaho.

Police learned his grandmother, Lavina I. Hietala, 72, was missing then.

The two lived at her home in Kamiah.

Anyone who may have seen Justin Hietala in or around Kamiah, east of Lewiston, between March 28 and April 1 is asked to contact Idaho State Police Lt. Charlie Spencer at (208) 799-5020 or by email at charlie.spencer@

“We’re just trying to follow up on a bunch of leads,” Spencer said Thursday.

Judges vacate rape conviction

Appellate judges on Thursday vacated the rape conviction of a Spokane man after his attorney acknowledged a key legal defense should have been presented to the jury.

However, the car theft conviction of Joseph Earlystar Sam, 34, will remain in effect.

Superior Court Judge Annette Plese sentenced Sam to more than 20 years in prison in July 2009 after a jury convicted him of second-degree rape and car theft.

According to court records, Sam was drinking with a woman who lost consciousness and awoke to find Sam raping her. Sam argued that the sex was consensual. After the conviction, Sam appealed under the argument his attorney, Kenneth Knox, should have presented a defense on the reasonable belief that he had consent to perform the sexual act.

Appellate judges agreed.

“In this circumstance, our confidence in the verdict is undermined,” Judge Kevin Korsmo wrote. “Mr. Sam has established the counsel’s error prejudiced him at trial.”

The decision sends the case back to Plese for a new trial on the rape charge.

Hanford declares ‘unusual event’

RICHLAND – A spokesman for a Washington nuclear power plant says a small amount of hydrogen gas trapped in a pipe ignited in a brief, six-inch flame Thursday when workers cut into the pipe.

Energy Northwest spokesman Mike Paoli said no one was injured and no equipment was damaged in the “puff,” which he said lasted less than a second. Still, the Columbia Generating Station declared an “unusual event” and temporarily evacuated the immediate area. Plant officials also notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Paoli said the pipe is located in the plant’s main turbine building, which is a non-nuclear area. The plant is located on the Hanford nuclear reservation.

Paoli said an “unusual event” describes a condition at a commercial nuclear power plant that could potentially compromise normal safety levels.

The Columbia Generating Station began a scheduled refueling outage Wednesday that will keep the plant off line until mid-June.

Barefoot Bandit talks under way

SEATTLE – Prosecutors and defense lawyers are asking a federal judge for more time to work on plea negotiations that could resolve charges pending against Colton Harris-Moore in the so-called Barefoot Bandit case.

A motion filed Thursday in Seattle says both sides are involved in talks that may resolve the federal case, as well as cases pending in the Washington counties of Snohomish, Skagit, Island and San Juan “and matters in other jurisdictions.”

The Daily Herald of Everett reports the motion seeks more time to meet legal deadlines. Harris-Moore is scheduled for trial July 11.

Federal charges against the now 20-year-old Camano Island man include plane theft, boat theft and weapons violations. Sought in a two-year string of burglaries and thefts, he earned notoriety for his ability to evade law enforcement. He was arrested last July in the Bahamas.

Man with body in trunk sentenced

OLYMPIA – A Washington man who was pulled over with a dead woman in his pickup truck has been sentenced to nearly 27 years in prison for first-degree murder.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor gave 27-year-old Bernard Keith Howell the maximum penalty at Thursday’s sentencing. The Olympian reports Howell earlier pleaded guilty to killing 60-year-old Vanda Boone last August on the Yelm-Tenino Trail.

The Thurston County sheriff’s office said Boone died after her throat was slit. The coroner said blunt-force injuries to her head and neck and asphyxia from strangulation also contributed to her death. Detectives have said they think she was walking or riding a bike on the trail when she was attacked.

Boone moved to the Yelm area from the New York City area in March 2010 to work as a massage therapist. She worked at Radiance Herbs and Massage in Olympia and studied at Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment.


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