What’s news in the Northwest today:
The city of Spokane is considering shipping prisoners to Kennewick to save money. The Benton County Jail can house inmates for less than $60 a day while it costs $130 a day to house each inmate at the Spokane County Jail. KXLY reports Spokane gave notice to the Spokane County Jail more than six months ago, but the city still has to vote on an agreement with Benton County before moving inmates. Spokane is looking for 50 jail beds for misdemeanor offenders. Their average jail stay is between 11 and 30 days. The city estimates using the Benton County Jail would save nearly $400,000 a year.
Foster parents arraigned in child’s death
COEUR d’ALENE — The Post Falls foster parents indicted in the death of a 2-year-old girl in their care were arraigned in District Court in Coeur d’Alene. Amber M. Clark and Jeremy M. Clark remained silent during Monday’s hearing, so 1st District Judge Fred Gibler entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. The Clarks were indicted by a Kootenai County grand jury on two counts of felony injury to a child, conspiracy to conceal evidence of abuse and perjury. Karina J. Moore died in January 2009, days after the Clarks told police she fell down stairs. A coroner ruled the death a homicide caused by blunt force head injuries. The indictment alleges the Clarks abused another boy in December 2007 and January 2008.
GOP wants more slot machines for nontribal casinos
OLYMPIA – Republican lawmakers steadfastly opposed to any tax increases suggested by Democrats say they have other ideas for raising money to help plug a $2 billion state budget shortfall. Their biggest proposal on the table: Gambling. Republican leaders want to let nontribal casinos offer the same slot machines as tribal casinos, with the state getting a cut of the revenue. Advocates say it would bring in nearly $160 million next fiscal year and $380 million in the following two years, although the governor’s office questions those numbers. Republicans say they want to help level the playing field for small, nontribal gambling halls that are struggling to compete with the glitzy tribal casinos. Democrats, who’ve been saying ”everything is on the table” when it comes to balancing the state budget, seem inclined to leave this idea in the freezer. Democrats control the House, Senate and governor’s office. Gov. Chris Gregoire doesn’t see the proposal going anywhere.
Soldier from Idaho dies of injuries
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — A U.S. Army soldier from Idaho Falls has died from injuries sustained in an explosion in Afghanistan, family members say. Lisa Pardonnet said her nephew, 28-year-old Army Corporal Ryan Sharp, died Saturday at a hospital in Germany. Pardonnet said Sharp was scheduled to finish his third and final tour for the Army next year. He was taking part in a mission in the Kandahar province when the bomb exploded, wounding his legs, shoulder and head. Doctors in Afghanistan induced a coma and then transferred him to Germany for treatment. Sharp’s sister, Michelle Harrison, said Sharp is survived by his two young daughters, 6-year-old Mia and 8-year-old Sarah.
Jury selection continues in Lewiston murder trial
LEWISTON — Jury selection has begun in the first-degree murder trial of a former Nez Perce County deputy sheriff. Prosecutors say Joseph A. Thomas Jr. strangled his ex-wife, 28-year-old Beth Irby-Thomas, on May 1 at her Lewiston home. Attorneys for Thomas have filed a court motion saying he plans to give up his right to remain silent and will testify that he and his former wife engaged in autoerotic asphyxiation, and that he saw her engaging in the practice alone. The Lewiston Tribune reports that prospective jurors were asked several questions by attorneys on both sides of the case, including if they had any prejudice against law enforcement officers. The trial is expected to last about two weeks.
Washington ferries director says funding short
PORT TOWNSEND, Wash. — Washington State Ferries Director David Moseley says the system lacks funds to continue operating at current levels after 2013. He told the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce meeting Monday the system is not sustainable. The Peninsula Daily News reports Moseley predicted a task force will recommend a tax increase that could go before voters as early as next November.
USS Lincoln leaving Everett Wednesday
EVERETT, Wash. — The Navy has moved up plans a day for the departure of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln from Everett. It is scheduled to deploy Wednesday instead of Thursday, as originally announced. When the USS Lincoln returns from a deployment in the Middle East next year it will head for a new homeport at Newport News, Va. The Lincoln has been based at Everett since 1997. It will be replaced in January by the USS Nimitz, which has been undergoing maintenance at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton.
Vancouver council bans tobacco in city parks
VANCOUVER, Wash. — The Vancouver City Council voted Monday to ban tobacco from city parks and recreation centers. The council heard from at least one speaker who called the ban a form of discrimination. The council also debated whether to include smokeless tobacco in the ban. It did. Council member Jeanne Harris said, “It’s not about rights or discrimination. It’s about health.” The Columbian reports the tobacco ban takes effect in 30 days.
Final large group of JBLM soldiers from Iraq
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. — Joint Base Lewis-McChord says the final large group of its soldiers returning from Iraq will land this afternoon at McChord Field. The 170 soldiers are members of medical and artillery units who have been deployed since June and July. The Army says about 100 JBLM soldiers remaining in Iraq will be returning individually or in small groups on commercial flights.
Hunter pinned under ATV dies
REXBURG, Idaho — A 52-year-old Rexburg man who was pinned under an all-terrain vehicle for 31 hours after crashing during a hunting trip has died. Officials at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center confirmed his death Monday, but did not say when Groom died. Groom was injured on Nov. 28 in Clark County in an ATV crash while he was hunting. He suffered from blunt force trauma, frostbite and hypothermia after lying in the snow for hours. Rescuers say Groom had been dragging a dead elk tied to the ATV and after the crash, the rope prevented him from freeing himself.
Chubbuck man gets 10 years for role in beating
POCATELLO, Idaho — A 20-year-old Chubbuck man who pleaded guilty to his role in kidnapping and beating of a woman who was thrown, naked, into a river on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, faces at least 10 years in prison. Sixth District Judge Stephen Dunn sentenced Cody Childers on Monday to 25 years in prison with the possibility of parole after 10. Dunn was concerned about accepting the sentencing recommendations in the plea agreement for first-degree kidnapping and principal to attempted first-degree murder in the April attack, especially given Childers’ lack of remorse. But Dunn said the presentence report and Childers’ attitude indicated he likely would serve more than 10 years. Three others pleaded guilty to the same charges. The final defendant, 19-year-old Karissa Salaz, is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17.
Sumas teen with new motorcycle license dies
BELLINGHAM, Wash. — An 18-year-old died in a motorcycle crash in Bellingham a half-hour after passing his motorcycle license test. Police spokesman Mark Young says David Swift of Sumas lost control Saturday after passing a car. Paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene. Whatcom County Medical Examiner Gary Goldfogel says speed and inattention may have contributed to the fatality. The Bellingham Herald reports Swift was the youngest of seven children. He was a 2011 graduate of Nooksack Valley High School who hoped to join the Air Force in the spring. Swift and a brother, who was on another motorcycle, had decided to take a curvy road after he passed his motorcycle test. More than 200 people attended a spontaneous memorial for Swift on Sunday night at Riverside Park in Everson.
Idaho man gets life in prison for shooting officer
JEROME, Idaho — A 30-year-old southern Idaho man will serve life in prison for shooting a Jerome police officer during a February chase. Christopher Mark Taylor was sentenced Monday in 5th District Court. Taylor pleaded guilty to felony aggravated battery on an officer in August. He entered an Alford plea to second felony charge of aggravated assault on an officer. In an Alford plea, a defendant doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to gain a conviction. The Times-News reports Taylor was charged in February after a high-speed chase during which police officer Dennis Clark was shot in the face with a shotgun. Clark has testified that the shooting caused him to lose the sight in one eye. Taylor apologized to Clark during his sentencing hearing.
Gerry Pollet picked for vacant Wash. House seat
SEATTLE — A man who has led a watchdog group for the cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation has been appointed to a vacant Washington state House seat. The King County Council voted unanimously Monday to appoint Gerry Pollet to replace former Rep. David Frockt, who moved up to the state Senate to replace Scott White, who died in October from heart problems. Pollet will take over the seat in north Seattle’s 46th Legislative District. The Democrat ran unsuccessfully against White in 2008. A lawyer, Pollet is executive director of Heart of America Northwest. The Seattle Times reports Pollet promised to be a champion for the environment, education funding and open government. To retain the seat, Pollet will have to run for election next November.
Plan to expand Olympic National Forest wilderness
The process to expand wilderness protections in the Olympic National Forest is under way, but a spokesman for Sen. Patty Murray says there’s no timeline for legislation, Members of Murray’s staff and Congressman Norm Dicks’ staff are reviewing comments they received in four listening sessions last week in Port Townsend, Shelton, Port Angeles and Hoquiam. Murray spokesman Matt McAlvanah says it’s part of the process of engaging communities and building consensus. Dicks and Murray did not attend the sessions, but their staffers got an earful about the proposal. Among other things it would link existing wilderness areas near Olympic National Park and ban logging on more than 200 square miles.
Montana budget looking at $426 million surplus
HELENA, Mont. — The Legislature’s chief revenue forecaster says the state budget is projected to have a $426.7 million surplus by mid-2013, nearly three times the surplus estimated by the 2011 Legislature before it adjourned in April. Lee Newspapers of Montana reports Terry Johnson told the Legislative Finance Committee on Monday that higher individual income tax collections led to the increased surplus estimate. Democrats, including Gov. Brian Schweitzer, had insisted the revenue estimates were too low and failed to reflect an improving state economy. Republican leaders, however, wanted to be cautious and cut state general fund spending by 6 percent anticipating a $150.4 million surplus. Schweitzer had recommended a 5 percent cut.
Coach charged with “sexting” denies tampering
BOZEMAN, Mont. — A former Bozeman High School track coach charged with sending sexual text messages to young girls has denied a charge he tried to coerce the girls into deleting the messages. James Evans had earlier denied two counts of sexual abuse of children. On Monday, he pleaded not guilty to attempting to tamper with evidence. Three counts of obscenity were dropped last month after Evans’ attorney asked that the case be dismissed, arguing in part that the definition of obscenity is unclear. The tampering charge alleges Evans tried to obtain login information for one of girl’s accounts to erase messages and told another girl to delete anything from her cellphone that might get him in trouble.
14 arrested in gun, drug, conspiracy charges
BILLINGS, Mont. — The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has arrested 14 people on federal gun, drug and conspiracy charges, including five who are charged with conspiring to rob drug couriers. ATF public affairs agent Brad Beyersdorf of Denver says most of the defendants were arrested in the Billings area last week, while four others were already in custody. Beyersdorf wouldn’t say how the cases are related. Some of the indictments remained sealed because not all of the defendants have appeared in court. Five men are charged with interference with interstate commerce by threats or violence. Federal prosecutors allege three of the men plotted to rob a drug courier coming to Billings with $20,000 to $40,000 to buy cocaine, while two are charged in a separate complaint.
Hundreds mourn slain Oregon correctional officer
PENDLETON, Ore. — More than 700 friends, relatives and law enforcement officers turned out for a memorial Monday honoring an eastern Oregon correctional officer killed when he stopped to help a stranded motorist. The life and selflessness of 42-year-old Buddy Ray Herron should inspire others, Oregon Corrections Chief Max Williams said. Hundreds of Northwest police, firefighters, correctional officers and paramedics attended the ceremony. Herron was able to call 911 to report he’d been stabbed late on the night of Nov. 28. He was on his way to work at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution. He was pronounced dead at a Pendleton hospital. The Umatilla County district attorney’s office has charged Joshua Weeks, 22, with murder. Herron is survived by his wife, Kimberly, and three sons and a daughter, ages 11 to 20.
Oregon woodworker punctured by 2-foot piece of wood
FOREST GROVE, Ore. — Firefighters say an Oregon door manufacturing plant worker has been airlifted to a hospital after a 2-foot-long piece of inch-wide wood pierced his abdomen. The unidentified 33-year-old man was transported to a Portland trauma center after he was injured Monday afternoon while operating equipment at Woodfold Manufacturing in Forest Grove. Forest Grove fire spokesman David Nemeyer says paramedics reported the piece of wood had broken off inside the man’s body and was close to puncturing his back. He was reported to be conscious and talking to firefighters, although in extreme pain. No report on his condition was immediately available Monday evening. Nemeyer says the man had been operating a straight line rip saw when the piece of wood came out of the machine and hit him.
A brave girl jumps from the rocks on the west side of Tubbs Hill as her two friends watch. (Don Sausser/Facebook photo)
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