What’s news in the Northwest today:
TWIN FALLS — The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s 2009 compilation of residents’ vital statistics shows an increase in negative aspects and decrease in positive aspects. The report says the number of marriages fell almost 6 percent compared to 2008, while the number of divorces increased by about that amount. The Times-News reports that the compilation also found that the number of births in the state fell almost 6 percent while the number of abortions went up 10 percent. Male suicide rates increased from 26 per 100,000 residents in 2008 to 30 per 100,000 in 2009. Among women, suicide moved from 12th to 10th among leading causes of death with 72 suicides. Almost 3 percent of Idaho’s deaths in 2009 were suicides.
Weyerhaeuser sells timberland in southwest Washington
LONGVIEW, Wash. — Weyerhaeuser has sold 82,000 acres of timberland in southwest Washington to Boston-based Hancock Timber Resource Group for $200 million. The Daily News of Longview reports the land is in five tracts in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties and has been for sale since August 2009. The Federal Way company said the timberland sold Friday no longer fits its long-term strategy. Weyerhaeuser still owns or manages more than 1 million acres of timberland in Washington and 6 million nationally. The Hancock Timber Resource Group, a division of Hancock Natural Resource Group, Inc., manages 5.3 million acres of timberland in the United States, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.
Money missing after Idaho bank robbery
LEWISTON — Police in Lewiston say the estimated $3,000 taken in a bank robbery last week is still missing. A nursing supervisor at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle told the Lewiston Tribune that the suspect remained hospitalized in serious condition. Lewiston police say David L. Payton of Clarkston was shot by law enforcement officers when he pointed a gun at officers about 15 minutes after the robbery was reported Thursday morning. However, officers have been unable to find the money taken from the US Bank branch. The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid leave. The Idaho State Police are investigating.
U.S. attorney general speaking in Missoula
MISSOULA — U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to speak at the University of Montana on Wednesday. Holder’s lecture titled “Justice Through Service: Extending America’s Greatest Tradition” is part of the UM School of Law’s Judge William B. Jones and Judge Edward A. Tamm Judicial Lecture Series. The event starts at 2 p.m. in the University Theatre. Holder is scheduled to speak for about 15 minutes and then will answer questions asked by Washington, D.C., attorney Robert Bennett, who helped found the Jones-Tamm series at UM. The questions were submitted by UM law students and faculty members. Holder was a U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and was named deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton. Holder was sworn in as attorney general in February 2009.
Billings man pleads guilty to stealing mail
BILLINGS — A former U.S. Postal Service worker has pleaded guilty to stealing mail in an effort to find cash and prescription painkillers. The Billings Gazette reports 36-year-old Tyler E. Blazina of Billings pleaded guilty Friday to theft of mail by a Postal Service employee. Sentencing is set for May 13. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Fehr says the Postal Service began an investigation last fall after receiving reports of missing parcels of prescription medication sent by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The packages arrived at the Billings Processing and Distribution Center but were not scanned after that point. On Oct. 24, law enforcement officers spotted Blazina putting letters and a small package in his pocket and socks. Blazina told investigators he was addicted to opiates and took mail to find pills and money.
Man charged with guiding anglers without a permit
SANDPOINT — A Washington man has been charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly guiding fishing trips in North Idaho without an Idaho outfitters license. Prosecutors charged 49-year-old Charles Osterholm last week following an undercover investigation by the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board. Authorities launched an investigation after getting a tip that Osterholm was guiding clients without a license. In November, investigators for the board posed as anglers and booked a trip with Osterholm to fish for a day on Priest Lake. A subsequent search of the licensing database failed to turn up a valid license in Osterholm’s name. The Bonner County Daily Bee reported that Osterholm characterized the charges as “absurd” during a court hearing last week.
New Port Orchard tobacco business for DIY smokers
PORT ORCHARD, Wash. — With a pack of cigarettes costing more than $7, a business in Port Orchard is helping smokers roll their own. At DIY Tobacco, customers buy bulk tobacco and use a machine that churns out cigarettes. The Kitsap Sun reports the cost for materials and the use of the machine is about $33 for 200 smokes — half to two-thirds the cost of commercially manufactured cigarettes. The business pays taxes on loose tobacco, but customers don’t pay the same level of taxes they would for name brands. A spokesman for the state’s Department of Revenue, Mike Gowyrlow, says it’s awaiting a federal court decision on whether such do-it-yourself businesses constitute manufacturing. That would increase the cost of the cigarettes.
Washington wine grape growers convene at Kennewick
KENNEWICK — The Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers is holding its annual convention and trade show this week at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. Executive Director Vicky Scharlau told the Tri-City Herald she expects attendance to top last year’s record of 1,300 growers and wine makers. She says one topic will be the amount of damage caused to 40,000 acres of Columbia Valley vineyards by the freeze that hit before Thanksgiving.
Girl, 14, killed by hit-and-run driver in Wapato
WAPATO, Wash. — A 14-year-old girl was killed in a hit-and-run accident in Wapato. KVEW reports Shaniah Jackson of Wapato died and a 16-year-old Wapato boy was injured when they were hit by a pickup truck Friday night while crossing a street. The Washington State Patrol found the pickup abandoned about a mile from the scene.
Memorial Tuesday for slain Monroe prison guard
EVERETT — Thousands of law enforcement officers and members of the public are expected to attend the memorial service for Washington State Reformatory Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl, who was killed Jan. 29 in the chapel of the prison at Monroe. The ceremony begins at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Comcast Arena in Everett. A moment of silence was observed at Washington prisons on Sunday, which would have been Biendl’s 35th birthday. An inmate from Spokane is suspected of strangling Biendl — 52-year-old Byron Scherf, a three-strikes offender serving a life term for rape convictions.
Southern Idaho man sentenced for beating child
TWIN FALLS, Idaho — A south-central Idaho man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for beating his then-girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter. Nathan D. Mort of Rupert was sentenced Friday in 5th District Court and must serve at least six years before he is eligible for parole. Judge Randy Stoker also fined Mort $5,000 and ordered him to pay $210,000 in restitution. The girl was injured on Feb. 19, 2010, and Mort pleaded guilty in June to aggravated battery. Mort initially told authorities the girl fell down some stairs. Authorities say the child was in a coma and in danger of dying after the beating. The Times-News reports that Stoker told Mort the crime warrants punishment for punishment’s sake.