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In brief: Day care shuts down in overbilling probe

A north Spokane day care center has shut down and its owner was disqualified from working with children amid a state fraud investigation.

Investigators searched the Little Lambs Learning Center, 1814 W. Northwest Blvd., on Tuesday for evidence that its owner has been overbilling the state for the subsidized day care, according to an affidavit for a search warrant obtained by the Department of Social and Health Service’s Office of Fraud and Accountability.

The search came after a five-month review of the center’s records that indicated its owner, Lori Crull, had overbilled the state more than $112,000.

In addition, the state Department of Early Learning notified Crull that she has been disqualified from working with children, citing the fraud investigation as well as inappropriate use of discipline and concerns about her ability to provide the necessary level of care to children.

Little Lambs Learning Center, which began operation in 2008, was licensed to care for up to 62 children ages 1 month to 12 years.

Under state law, Crull has the right to contest her disqualification and to request a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Man in fatal shootout with chief identified

A man shot to death by the Reardan police chief in what investigators say was an “exchange of gunfire” was identified Wednesday as John R. Merrick, 54.

Merrick, of Reardan, was shot by Chief Gary Redmond after Redmond responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle in the Reardan Cemetery Monday around 11 a.m.

Redmond is to meet with investigators this week, said Trooper Troy Briggs, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol. WSP is part of the multi-agency team investigating the shooting with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

Briggs said he does not know what Redmond told investigators in his tactical debriefing shortly after the shooting. Investigators have not said who fired shots first.

Redmond is on paid administrative leave, said Bruce Johnson, administrative assistant for the city of Reardan. Reserve officers are patrolling the city, and the Sheriff’s Office is available to assist, Johnson said.

Man pleads not guilty in apartment attack

A man upset about noisy upstairs neighbors in the South Perry Street area barged into their apartment and knocked one of them unconscious, prosecutors allege.

Joshua Gordon Swanson, 24, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in Spokane County Superior Court to first-degree burglary and second-degree assault.

His upstairs neighbors at 720 S. Laura St. called Spokane police Dec. 3 and said they were playing dice when they heard their downstairs neighbor pounding on his ceiling, which they said was normal. 

A few minutes later, they responded to a knock on the door expecting the arrival of a friend, but instead Swanson and another man who was armed with a machete barged in, according to court documents.

Swanson beat Alvin Commander unconscious until Commander’s son, Nicholas Commander, hit him over the head with a frying pan, documents say. Swanson then allegedly threw a glass object at Nicholas Commander’s wife and baby, which missed them and shattered against the wall, police said.

Police say Swanson had a gash on his head consistent with being hit with a frying pan.  He “admitted to being angry about the noise always coming from (the apartment),” documents say. Swanson remains in jail on $75,000 bond.