What’s news in the Northwest today:
SEATTLE — A man who was convicted of killing a Seattle police officer in 1984 has been released from Western State Hospital. KIRO-TV reports Michael Trott is one of 24 mentally ill offenders released after funding was cut for the Program for Adaptive Living Skills. Trott was convicted of killing Officer Nick Davis with his own gun in a fight after Trott left a restaurant without paying. He was first sentenced to prison but diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in 2003 and civilly committed to the hospital. He’s now living in a residential treatment facility in Spanaway. Western State CEO Jess Jamieson says the hospital followed all legal requirements and notifications.
Gophers suspected cause for Caldwell canal break
CALDWELL, Idaho — Officials investigating a breach in a Caldwell irrigation canal have identified a culprit: Pesky gophers. Pioneer Irrigation Company repair crews say fresh gopher holes were discovered in the area of Tuesday’s breach in the Phyllis Canal. Company secretary treasurer Dawn Fowler says gopher burrows on ditch embankments are nothing out of the ordinary. But she says it is unusual that a network of tunnels could weaken and ultimately cause a breach. Repairs have been made and crews are monitoring the area. The break caused irrigation water to spill into the yards and streets of a nearby residential neighborhood. Fowler said the company has received calls from property owners complaining of water damages. But so far, a financial estimate of the damage has not yet been determined.
Olympia man accused of promoting father’s suicide
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Lewis County sheriff’s office has extradited an Olympia man from Mexico to face accusations that he played a role in his father’s death so he could collect a life-insurance policy. Thirty-four-year-old Ken Varner is charged with theft and promoting a suicide attempt in the death of Jim Varner. He was a 49-year-old former state trooper and an investigator with the Department of Labor and Industries when he killed himself in February 2006 in a car on a Forest Service road near Packwood. The Olympian reports Jim and Ken Varner had been under investigation in insurance-fraud scheme involving a classic car. Ken Varner pleaded guilty to theft in the case but fled to Mexico before his sentencing.
Yakama members sentenced for selling eagle parts
YAKIMA, Wash. — Two people from Granger have been sentenced in federal court for conspiring to sell bald and golden eagle parts. U.S. Attorney Michael C. Ormsby said 39-year-old Ricky S. Wahchumwah and his wife, 40-year-old Victoria M. Jim, were sentenced on Thursday. A jury found Ricky Wahchumwah, a Yakama tribal member, guilty of conspiracy, three counts of selling or offering to sell eagle parts and one count of selling wildlife in violation of the Lacey Act. Victoria Jim, also a Yakama tribal member, was found guilty of conspiracy, two counts of selling or offering to sell eagle parts and one count of acquiring wildlife in violation of the Lacey Act. The man was sentenced to one month in jail, three months of home confinement, followed by two years of court supervision. Victoria Jim was ordered to serve two weeks in jail, three month home confinement and two years court supervision.
Test megaload will sit over the weekend
LEWISTON — ExxonMobil’s test module will be staying put near Kamiah over the weekend, after a difficult first leg in which power was knocked out to about 1,300 homes and business east of Orofino. Idaho Department of Transportation spokesman Adam Rush says the 500,000-pound test shipment is scheduled to move again Monday night. He says ExxonMobil and the transport company continue to investigate how the load snapped a guy wire for a high-voltage power line. Pius Rolheiser, spokesman for ExxonMobil subsidiary Imperial Oil, says the findings will help them adjust plans for future moves. The oil company is conducting a test trip from the Port of Lewiston, through northwestern Montana to an oil sands project in southern Alberta. Montana transportation officials say the load is now expected to travel over Lolo Pass early next Thursday.
CWU support group helps students battle alcohol
ELLENSBURG, Wash. — Central Washington University made headlines last fall when a group of the Ellensburg students became sick at an off-campus party after drinking an alcoholic caffeinated drink. The director of Central’s Wellness Center, Gail Farmer, says it has focused interest on a support group that helps college students recover and abstain from alcohol or drug abuse. One of the four students in the group, Jordan St. John told the Daily Record the support group is helping him stay on track toward graduation next year. It’s been more than 100 days since he had a drink and he attends the weekly support meetings on campus.
Fire burns landmark Tacoma park pagoda
TACOMA — A two-alarm fire has caused significant damage to the landmark pagoda building at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma. Fire Department spokesman Joe Meineck told The News Tribune firefighters were called about 4:30 a.m. today and they were still battling flames an hour-and-a-half later. Video from KOMO and KIRO TV helicopters shows heavy smoke and flames through the roof. The pagoda in the park’s Japanese garden is a replica of a 17th century Japanese lodge. It accommodated up to 200 people for weddings, memorial services and parties.
Senate proposal: Cut WSU by $112 million
MOSCOW – The Washington state Senate’s budget proposal calls for a $112 million cut to Washington State University for the 2011-13 biennium, $2 million more than what the House proposed, university officials said Thursday. Under this proposal, WSU, the University of Washington and Western Washington University also would raise in-state, undergraduate tuition rates by 16 percent in each of the two years of the biennium. Budgets proposed by Gov. Chris Gregoire and the House indicated tuition increases of 11 percent and 13 percent, respectively. The Senate’s proposal would reduce WSU’s net loss for the biennium to $44 million after tuition revenues are factored in, bringing in $9 million more in tuition than the House proposal would. Both the House and Senate budgets include a 3 percent salary reduction for state employees, but it’s still uncertain how those provisions would apply to higher education.
Portland man gets 7 years for beating death
PORTLAND, Ore. — A man who beat another man to death in Portland in a dispute over a dog was sentenced to seven years in prison. The victim’s mother, Barbara Gabriel, flew from New York to be in the Multnomah County court for Thursday’s sentencing. She told Patrick Fitzgerald Gurley that he caused “hurt and tears” beyond description. The Oregonian reports the 46-year-old Gurley pleaded no contest to a manslaughter charge in the January 2010 death of 49-year-old Mark John Chambery. Two witnesses told police they saw Gurley stomp on Chambery’s face. The dispute was over Chambery’s collie.
Oregon soldiers treated poorly at JBLM hospital
TACOMA — Military officials acknowledge that Oregon National Guard soldiers returning from Iraq received poor treatment as they were processed through Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The News Tribune of Tacoma used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain memos about an investigation requested by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon. In a letter this week to Wyden, Defense Undersecretary Clifford Stanley said an investigation found “training failures, benefits counseling errors and systemic deficiencies” last May when the 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team came home. The National Guard soldiers complained they were treated as second-rate soldiers and referred to as “weekend warriors.” The Army says the investigation has led to some improvements in the way returning soldiers are processed.
Washington L&I warns homeowners about paving scam
TUMWATER, Wash. — It’s spring — and the Washington Department of Labor and Industries is warning homeowners about a perennial of the season — the asphalt paving scam for driveways. Typically, a friendly representative approaches a homeowner offering to repave a driveway for a great price, often saying he has just enough asphalt left over from a nearby job. By the time the homeowner realizes the materials and workmanship were shoddy, the pavers are long gone. The department hasn’t had reports of traveling pavers in Washington yet this season — but it wants to send the message early. Labor and Industries says always check to be sure a contractor is registered, bonded and insured.