December 7, 2011 in Region

NW today: Acquittal in dead weasel assault

Compiled from wire reports
 

What’s news in the Northwest today:

MONTESANO, Wash. — A jury acquitted a Hoquiam man who was accused of breaking into a home and throwing a dead mink at another man during a confrontation that made weasel headlines across the country. Defense lawyer Chris Crew said Monday the Grays Harbor County jury found 33-year-old Jobie J. Watkins of Hoquiam not guilty of burglary. Crew said witnesses provided inconsistent accounts and the “prosecution failed to prove a link to the mink.” Watkins was accused of attacking his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend on June 6 in Hoquiam. The Daily World of Aberdeen reports court records say Watkins admitted finding the dead mink along the road, but never explained why he carried the carcass. The story spread partially because of Watkins’ reported insistence that the dead animal was a somewhat rare marten.

Tonasket girl found unresponsive in her tub

TONASKET, Wash. – A 3-year-old Tonasket girl who was found unresponsive in her bathtub on Friday afternoon was taken off life support and died this weekend at a Spokane hospital, authorities said. Okanogan County Undersheriff Joe Somday said he was not sure all family members have been notified, and declined to release the girl’s name. He said a 31-year-old man who was caring for the child told deputies that the girl was taking a bath, and when he checked on her to find out if she needed help washing her hair, she told him she did not. He then went outside to smoke a cigarette and ended up retrieving his dogs, which were barking at a neighbor on his tractor and wouldn’t return to his calls, Somday said. When he returned, he found the girl floating in the tub, in about a foot of water, the undersheriff said. He said the man tried to resuscitate her, but could not. An ambulance responded to the home, in the 800 block of Highway 7, at about 12:15 p.m., he said. The girl was flown to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.

Infant may become blind after assault; father in custody

WENATCHEE, Wash. – A 2-month-old Wenatchee girl may become blind after being assaulted by her father, Wenatchee police say. The child’s parents brought the infant into a Wenatchee emergency room about 9:30 p.m. Saturday, where a CT scan showed bleeding in the brain, said Sgt. John Kruse. The child was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Doctors there determined she had previous injuries, including retinal hemorrhaging. That, Kruse said, is an indication that the baby was shaken. Kruse said that doctors told detectives that the assault may lead to permanent blindness in the baby. Damon T. Claibourn, 20, Wenatchee, was booked into the Chelan County Regional Justice Center late Monday night on suspicion of two counts of first-degree assault of a child. Claibourn initially told Wenatchee detectives that he had been gently bouncing the child in the air to keep her from crying and he had no idea how she was injured, Kruse said. In a second interview, however, he admitted he was responsible for her injuries. ”He also said he had done it before, as well,” Kruse said.

Request for stay of Beach’s bail hearing denied

LEWISTOWN, Mont. — A district judge denied the state’s motion for a stay to prevent a bail hearing for convicted murderer Barry Beach. District Judge E. Wayne Phillips made the ruling this morning and said he would hold the bail hearing this afternoon. Phillips on Nov. 23 ordered a new trial for Beach for the 1979 murder of Kim Nees on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. He said there was enough evidence to raise doubts about Beach’s guilt after a court hearing last summer in which witnesses linked Nees’ death to an out-of-control fight among teenage girls. The state filed a notice Tuesday that it plans to appeal the order for a new trial and requested that Beach be kept in prison pending the appeal. Beach is serving a 100-year prison sentence.

520 bridge tolling to start Dec. 29

SEATTLE — The Washington Transportation Department says tolling on the Highway 520 floating bridge will begin at 5 a.m. on Dec. 29. The department plans to use tolls to help pay for a new bridge project that will cost more than $4 billion. Pontoons are already under construction to replace the 48-year-old bridge with a new six-lane bridge. The toll rates will vary depending on traffic, up to $3.50 during the peak commute. The toll will be automatically deducted from drivers with a Good to Go transponder. Other drivers will be mailed a bill with a $1.50 surcharge. The department has been running ads telling Seattle drivers that tolling will start this month on the Highway 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington.

High court hears Montana dam dispute

WASHINGTON — A Supreme Court dominated by Easterners tried to make sense today of a Western water dispute. The court heard arguments in a lawsuit between a power company and the state of Montana over who owns the riverbeds beneath 10 dams sitting on three Montana rivers. The state says it’s owed more than $50 million in back rent and interest from the company, PPL Montana. For an answer, the court is looking back as far as the travels of Lewis and Clark more than 200 years ago. The outcome could affect property rights, public access and wildlife management along Montana’s rivers, as well as those in other states. The power company is appealing a Montana Supreme Court ruling that the state owns the submerged land beneath the dams. The decision turned in large part on that court’s findings that the three rivers were navigable when Montana became a state, despite the presence of significant waterfalls on two of the waterways.

Public comment pouring in on mountain Jesus statue

KALISPELL, Mont. — Officials managing the Flathead National Forest have received more than 90,000 comments as they consider whether to renew a lease for a 25-square-foot parcel of federal land on Big Mountain that has been home to a statue of Jesus since 1955. The forest is hearing mostly from people who support the statue and the lease renewal, including 70,000 online comments from supporters of a letter written by the American Center for Law and Justice, the Daily Inter Lake reported today. On Tuesday, the agency received another 10,000 comments collected by U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg’s congressional website, also supporting renewing the lease for the statue, a memorial for World War II soldiers erected by the Knights of Columbus. The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Flathead Secular Association oppose the lease renewal, arguing that a religious statue on public land violates separation of church and state rules. Those comments are still coming in, as well, said Derek Milner, who is leading the public review project. Thursday is the comment deadline.

Suspect arrested in rape of Shoreline girl, 12

SHORELINE, Wash. — The King County sheriff’s office says detectives have arrested a 37-year-old man as a suspect in the rape of a 12-year-old Shoreline girl. Sgt. Cindy West says the Shoreline man was arrested around 6:15 a.m. today after a traffic stop. The girl was attacked early Sunday by a stranger who fled the apartment when her mother came home from work.

Idaho man convicted of sex abuse marries victim

OROFINO, Idaho — A man awaiting sentencing for the sexual battery of a 16-year-old girl has married his victim, according to court records. Idaho law allows 16-year-olds to marry with parental consent. Still, the law has left defendant Jeremy A. Simmons, 36, of Orofina in an unusual legal situation. He is not being accused of illegally marrying the girl but could be sentenced to life in prison for her sexual battery. Simmons appeared Tuesday before 2nd District Judge John Stegner in Clearwater County and was ordered to undergo a routine psychosexual evaluation before he is sentenced, The Lewiston Tribune reported. Court records state he was living with the teen in April, along with his ex-wife, Stephanie Damron, and her 12-year-old daughter. Damron contacted police after her daughter called her in tears, saying she heard loud noises from Simmons and the teen in another room. Police began monitoring phone calls between Damron, Simmons and the 16-year-old, and prosecutors say the teen and Simmons acknowledged having sex.

Oregon man convicted of killing girlfriend in Washington

PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon businessman and former police officer has been convicted in Washington state of murdering his girlfriend. The prosecutor in the Pacific County case, Mark McClain, said sentencing is set for Jan. 11, and 49-year-old Brian Brush faces a sentence that could amount to life in prison. Brush is charged with shooting to death Lisa Bonney on Sept. 11, 2009 in Long Beach. He is a former Medford police officer who was an owner of North River Boats near Roseburg. McClain says the jury returned the verdict Tuesday in less than two hours and included aggravating factors that could add up to a sentence well beyond Brush’s life expectancy.

Human Rights Commission says monetary damages due

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — The Montana Human Rights Commission has ruled that an autistic boy is due monetary damages for the harm he suffered in a special education classroom in the Great Falls school district. The Great Falls Tribune reports the commission’s Nov. 10 ruling returns the case to a hearings officer with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry to determine an appropriate monetary award. The hearings officer ruled in May that the school district did discriminate against the then 13-year-old boy, but that the district didn’t owe any damages. The family’s attorney, Randy Tarum, called the recent ruling “a tremendous reversal of the hearing officer’s findings.” The boy’s family filed a complaint alleging mistreatment, saying classroom aides held his head under water if he fell asleep in class.

Big news for Peninsula community: a new stoplight

GIG HARBOR, Wash. – A black signal light blinking yellow and red hung from an L-shaped stand at the corner of O’Callahan’s Pub and Grill’s parking lot while a crowd shivered in the afternoon cold. The flashing beacon had been Key Center’s only directional signal since the 1960s and will now find a new home at the Key Peninsula Historical Society. It has been replaced by a new stoplight at the intersection of Key Peninsula Highway and Olson Drive/Cramer Road at the entrance to Key Center. The gathering at O’Callahan’s celebrated the completion of County Road Project 5740, which installed the new light and other road improvements. Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy told the crowd, “There’s going to be more things to come in the future.”


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