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NW today: Tiny town tops in medical marijuana

What’s news in the Northwest today:

WILLIAMS, Ore. — In Oregon, big city Portland has cafes where medical marijuana users smoke pot while singing karaoke. But it is in the small rural communities of southwestern Oregon where medical marijuana has really taken root. The Associated Press analyzed the locations of people registered to grow medical marijuana as patients, caregivers or designated growers based on their ZIP codes and found that Williams in Josephine County has the heaviest concentration. More than 400 of the town’s 2000 residents, approximately 20 percent of residents, are authorized by the state to grow up to six plants each. That creates stark contrasts in a bucolic burg where children still ring the bell to start the school day and pancake breakfasts draw a crowd at the local community center.

Spokane firm picked for New Mexico welfare-to-work program

SANTA FE, N.M. — The Human Services Department has selected a Spokane company to help needy New Mexicans get jobs through the state’s welfare-to-work program. The agency awarded an $8.7 million, one-year contract to SL Start and Associates of Spokane. The company was selected through a competitive bidding process, and the department said the firm has provided employment services for programs in Idaho and Washington. New Mexico State University previously had the state contract to provide job services to low-income residents in the welfare-to-work program.

Date set for North Idaho man’s road rage trial

COEUR D’ALENE — A North Idaho man whose conviction of second-degree murder was overturned will stand trial again on the charge this month. Jonathan W. Ellington’s three-week jury trial is expected to start Aug. 29 before 1st District Judge John Luster, the Coeur d’Alene Press reports. Ellington, 50, of Hayden, was convicted in August 2006 after prosecutors said he was involved in a road-rage incident that turned deadly when 41-year-old Vonette Lee Larsen was run over. But earlier this year, a unanimous Idaho Supreme Court threw out his convictions and granted him a new trial. The high court cited prosecutorial misconduct and the likelihood that an Idaho State Police officer committed perjury in its ruling.

Woman found fit to stand trial in St. Maries death

ST. MARIES — A psychologist has found a North Idaho woman is fit to stand trial in the shooting death of her uncle in May. Daniel Hayes of Hayden Lake found 28-year-old Melisa R. Bates could both understand the charge against her and help her attorney with her defense, the Coeur d’Alene Press reports. Bates is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Robert D. Marek at his house eight miles south of St. Maries. Court records say Bates had been staying with Marek. Benewah County Prosecutor Douglas Payne said Marek was shot with a handgun and beaten with a metal rod and an attempt was made to burn his body. Bates is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 22 in St. Maries before Magistrate Patrick McFadden.

Missing Meridian couple spotted in Cascade

MERIDIAN, Idaho – Police in Meridian say they have credible information that a missing couple was spotted at a flea market in Cascade over the weekend. Family members last saw Charles and Barbara Rigg of Meridian on Friday, but someone reports seeing them and their white schnauzer Sassy at a flea market in Cascade at 3 p.m. Saturday. Police are urging the public to be on the lookout for the couple or their dark green 2001 Dodge Dakota bearing Idaho handicap license VNAM. Anyone with information should contact police. Family members reported them missing when they did not show up for a picnic as planned on Saturday. Investigators have found no signs of foul play at their house. He is 81 and left his heart medication behind. She is 77.

Hanford nuclear plant outage extended again

RICHLAND — A delay in replacing a key piece of equipment at the nuclear plant on the Hanford nuclear reservation has extended its outage into September. The Tri-City Herald reports that’s three months later than planned and could cost more than $60 million in lost power production. The Columbia Generating Station shut down April 6 for a planned 80-day outage for refueling and to replace the condenser, which turns steam back into water. The outage was extended in July. Energy Northwest sells the plant’s electricity through the Bonneville Power Administration. The 26-year-old nuclear plant accounts for about 3 percent of the region’s power supply. The Energy Department’s John Dobken told KONA most of the 1,800 workers involved in the refueling part of the work have already left the Hanford site.

Woman injured in falling elevator in Seattle

SEATTLE — Firefighters responded to a report that a woman was injured when an elevator dropped four floors at a building in Seattle. Spokesman Kyle Moore says firefighters were dispatched at 7:20 a.m. today to help an injured woman in her 20s.

Longview couple plead guilty in servitude case

TACOMA — A Micronesian couple living in Longview pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Tacoma in a human trafficking case. Prosecutors said the couple, 29-year-old Edk Kenit and 31-year-old Choimina Lukas, forced an 18-year-old woman from their homeland to work for them. The Daily News of Longview reports the two pleaded guilty to document servitude and face up to five years in prison when they are sentenced Oct. 21. The two admitted they recruited the woman in March 2010 to care for their three children and forced her to cook and clean seven days a week without pay. The also forced her to get a job and took her wages. The servitude lasted until the woman escaped in February.

Kelso man was beaten to death

KELSO, Wash. — The Cowlitz County sheriff’s office says a 48-year-old man who was found dead Monday outside his sister’s home near Kelso was beaten to death. Detectives continue to investigate the death of Serhiy Anatoleivich Ishchenko as a homicide but have not made an arrest. The Daily News of Longview reports he was a member of an extended family from the Ukraine who live in four households in the same neighborhood. A relative told the newspaper that two men in the family fought Sunday night. Chief Criminal Deputy Charlie Rosenzweig said it’s a complex investigation and too soon to draw conclusions.

Californians caught in Craigslist scam at Pasco airport

PASCO, Wash. – A Southern California couple involved in a Craigslist scam buying airline tickets at a reduced price for strangers admitted Tuesday that they used a stolen credit card number to get boarding passes in the Tri-Cities. Barry Steven Hammock Jr., 27, and Taylor Kai Lambert, 25, were turned away at the airport in Pasco when a Horizon Air agent recognized that the tickets were purchased fraudulently just hours before the scheduled flight, court documents said. But the couple quickly bought two new tickets for an Allegiant Air flight to Los Angeles, departing around the same time June 26. Once they had passed through security at the Pasco airport, officers had probable cause to question the pair and search their carry-on bags, documents said. That’s when Franklin County sheriff’s Deputy Marcus Conner discovered their complex scheme.

Oregon man sentenced in used-car insurance scheme

EUGENE, Ore. — A Eugene man has been convicted of an insurance scheme in which he bought and insured used cars and staged accidents between them, claiming money for the damage. The Eugene Register-Guard reports a judge has sentenced Timothy Huntley to more than five years in prison for the fraud, in which he collected almost $200,000 in insurance money. Huntley’s defense attorney says unknown, unnamed people came up with the scheme and convinced Huntley to carry it out. Huntley was also ordered to pay back the 11 car insurance companies with which he filed claims.

Idaho man waives hearing in wife’s death

POCATELLO, Idaho — Defense attorneys for a Pocatello man charged with murder in connection with his estranged wife’s death say they’ve reached a plea agreement with prosecutors. Michael Lane Sparks was arrested in May on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of 41-year-old Judith Rachel Johnson. Police said Johnson was beaten with a rifle and a baseball bat. Sparks was scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Tuesday, but the Idaho State Journal reports that at the proceeding Sparks’ attorneys, public defenders Randy Schulthies and David Martinez, told the judge that a plea agreement had been reached. The attorneys declined to discuss the details of the agreement. Sparks will now be arraigned in district court, and that judge will decide whether to accept the terms of the plea agreement.

Shakespeare Festival theater reopens in Ashland

ASHLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Bowmer Theatre has reopened after six weeks of structural repairs. KDRV reported the first play Tuesday was “Measure for Measure.” Since a cracked beam was discovered in June at the 600-seat theater, 62 performances were moved to a tent in Lithia Park and other locations.

Kids with lighter started fatal Warren fire

WARREN, Ore. — Children playing with a lighter started the barn fire that killed a 3-year-old boy at Warren. KATU reported Scappoose Fire Department investigators found bits of the lighter in the debris. Oregon State Police identified the boy who was killed Monday as Nathan Hines. Firefighters say he was with three other children, ages 4 to 8, who made it out of the burning barn.

Humanitarian Bowl to get new corporate sponsor

BOISE — Executives with the Humanitarian Bowl say they have a new corporate sponsor for the Boise-based game. The Humanitarian Bowl is typically one of the first bowl games in a busy postseason schedule. This year will mark the 15th game played at Bronco Stadium on the Boise State campus and the first in a new four-year television contract with ESPN. Humanitarian Bowl executive director Kevin McDonald is expected to announce today a new, Idaho-based company has signed a multi-year naming rights agreement. Bowl officials have scheduled a 2 p.m. press conference in Boise to share details of the new deal. Over the next four years, the game will feature top teams from the Western Athletic Conference and the Mid-American Conference. Last year’s game featured Northern Illinois and Fresno State.

Washington to celebrate 100-year-old Capitol campus

OLYMPIA — Washington leaders are celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the state’s Capitol campus. It was on this day in 1911 that a state commission selected a winning design concept for the campus. State officials will gather today to celebrate that moment, beginning several days of centennial activities in Olympia. New York architects Walter Wilder and Harry White were the ones to propose the plans for the state’s major government buildings, including the domed Capitol and Temple of Justice. Construction began in 1912.

Cup stolen from art gallery returned weeks later

HELENA — A one-of-a-kind teacup stolen from a Helena art gallery and traded to some young sidewalk musicians for cash is back with its rightful owner after a strange twist of fate. The teacup by artist Akio Takamori went missing July 8, shortly after two men had been in the Turman Larison contemporary art gallery, the Independent Record reported. Two boys, Kalob Craig and Gabe Selting, were playing music downtown when a strange man approached them, holding an armload of books and mumbling. “He was like, ‘These books are worth more than that guitar,’ ” Selting said. “Then he said the words ‘200 dollars’ and ‘this cup’ and put it in (the guitar case).” The boys said the man took a handful of their cash, maybe about $4, and left. But they said he came back a bit later and seemed intoxicated. The boys decided the cup was “cursed” and ditched it in a nearby bush. On Sunday night, the boys were at the home of Lisa Cordingly, who had purchased one of the 42 cups that were sold at the gallery and had it on display at her house. The two told Cordingly the story about the “cursed” cup, went back to the shrubbery where they left it and brought it back to Cordingly’s house. Cordingly took a picture of the teacup and sent it to Larison. The cup has been returned to the man who bought it.

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