What’s news in the Northwest today:
BOISE — Federal attorneys say they have reached a settlement with the developer of a Post Falls condominium complex that was built in a way that made it inaccessible to people with disabilities. Terms of the deal require that Riverwalk Condominiums LLC pay more than $18,000 and take proper steps to retrofit the building to make it more accessible to disabled residents and guests. The settlement still needs a judge’s approval. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Perez says there is no excuse for builders who ignore or fail to comply with federal fair housing laws, especially on new construction projects. The case was based on a complaint filed to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development by someone who sought housing at the complex.
Man plans to plead guilty to 49th killing
SEATTLE — One of the nation’s most prolific killers plans to plead guilty today to killing a 49th person. Green River Killer Gary Ridgway already is serving 48 life terms. He’s scheduled to enter a plea at his arraignment at the King County Regional Justice Center in Kent, Wash. Ridgway already confessed to killing 20-year-old Rebecca “Becky” Marrero in 1982, as part of a 2003 plea deal that spared him the death penalty. Her remains weren’t found until Dec. 21, when teenagers found a skull in a ravine at Auburn, south of Seattle. Ridgway was charged Feb. 7. He was brought from the Washington State Penitentiary at Walla Walla for the arraignment, where Marrero’s family will have the opportunity to confront him.
Feds give $20 million grant to study winter wheat
SPOKANE — The federal government has awarded a $20 million grant to universities in Washington, Oregon and Idaho that is designed to ensure that wheat farming in the Pacific Northwest will survive climate change. The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will study the relationship between climate change and cereal crops, primarily winter wheat. Wheat is the No. 1 export through the Port of Portland, the largest wheat-export harbor in the United States. The study will focus on northeastern Oregon, southeastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle. It includes the cities of Pendleton in Oregon; Pullman and Othello in Washington; and Moscow, Idaho. The area produces some of the nation’s highest yields of non-irrigated winter wheat.
Seattle utility repairs faulty light poles, plates
SEATTLE — Seattle City Light has repaired 158 light poles and plates with dangerous voltages. The utility began inspecting all streetlight pole and ground cover plates after a dog was electrocuted in November when it stepped on a ground plate near a faulty metal light post. KOMO-TV reports that at the time City Light told the public that it was an isolated case. City Light Superintendent Jose Carrasco told City Council members that he ordered a full inspection after realizing it wasn’t an isolated case. He said Wednesday the utility plans to update standards for installing and inspecting new streetlights and enhance routine testing of existing lights.
Boise robbers caught in their tracks
BOISE — Some old-fashioned police work combined with some newer technology helped Boise police track down three men suspected of stealing several cartons of cigarettes and cash from a convenience store. Police say two men in ski masks and carrying guns robbed a Boise Bench convenience store early Thursday. Officers followed shoe prints in the fresh snow to where the suspects’ vehicle had been parked. Officers used cell phones to distribute images of the tire tracks and footprints to other officers. One officer spotted a set of tracks leading to a vehicle parked at a residence. The tire tracks matched those of the suspected getaway car, the car had no snow on it and fresh footprints matched those outside the convenience store. The three men were arrested at the house.
Lewiston couple dies in apparent murder/suicide
LEWISTON — Police say an elderly Lewiston couple died in an apparent murder-suicide. Capt. Tom Greene said 85-year-old George R. Burns and 83-year-old Vera Burns were found dead in their home by a caregiver Thursday morning. Officials believe George Burns shot his wife and then turned the gun on himself. Both died of a single gunshot wound to the head. The gun was found in the house. Greene said checks were written out to housekeepers and a note was left that referred to Vera Burns’ poor health. Greene said she was terminally ill.
Man pleads guilty to confrontation with mail man
BILLINGS, Mont. — A Billings man charged with pepper-spraying a mail carrier after the U.S. Postal Service worker used the spray on his dog has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. The Billings Gazette reports Eugene Leonard Hobby pleaded guilty to obstruction of the mail, acknowledging his Aug. 10, 2010, confrontation with the mail carrier delayed mail delivery. The postal worker said he sprayed the Schnauzer because it ran toward him, barking aggressively and lunged. Prosecutors say Hobby was angry and grabbed the pepper spray and sprayed the mail carrier. Hobby argues both men had a hand on the spray can when it discharged. The postal worker is a throat cancer survivor and has a tracheotomy tube in his throat. He held his breath. U.S. Magistrate Judge Carolyn Ostby fined Hobby $125.
Documents: Guns traded among Redmond, Oregon police
REDMOND, Ore. — Court documents show that guns and equipment taken from the Redmond Police Department armory by a former officer now under investigation were sold or traded to other officers. The Bulletin newspaper in Bend reports that former police Lt. Larry Prince was described in the Deschutes County Circuit Court documents as a gun enthusiast with a “phenomenal” collection of rare and expensive firearms. The 48-year-old Prince was also described as an often disorganized manager of the police armory that he supervised for about 10 years. The court records also say he had an affair with a woman he met while on duty. Prince is under house arrest and faces more than a dozen counts of theft and official misconduct. He resigned earlier this week.
Woman pleads guilty to stealing from Boise bar
BOISE — A 45-year-old Boise woman has pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from the bar where she worked by pocketing money while she stocked the bar’s automatic teller machine. The Idaho Statesman reports Kristi L. Hurles pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of grand theft in 4th District Court. Hurles was arrested on Oct. 6 and charged with taking money from the Crescent No Lawyers bar in Boise. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors are recommending a prison sentence of two to 14 years. She would also be required to pay restitution, although the amount is not clear. Ada County prosecutors have said Hurles took tens of thousands of dollars, while Hurles’ former boss said he believes more than $150,000 was taken. Hurles and her husband filed for bankruptcy in October.
Northwest gets new regional forester
PORTLAND — The U.S. Forest Service has named a new regional forester for the Northwest. Kent Connaughton has been regional forester for the Eastern Region since 2007. He began his career as a forest economics researcher and has served as supervisor of the Lassen National Forest in California and deputy regional forester for the Pacific Southwest Region. Connaughton got his bachelor’s degree from Stanford, a master’s in forestry from Oregon State, and a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley.
Oregon death sentence reduced, man ‘delusional’
MEDFORD, Ore. — An Oregon death sentence for a California man convicted of murdering a lesbian couple in Medford in 1995 has been reduced to life in prison after he was diagnosed as delusional and unable to aid in his own appeals. The Mail Tribune reports that Robert James Acremant will remain in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder, kidnapping and robbery of Roxanne Ellis and Michelle Abdill. Acremant has complained for years that he hears voices and claims he has a transmitter in his head so others can control him. The murders alarmed the gay community because Acremant said he disliked lesbians and Ellis and Abdill had worked on a campaign that defeated a statewide measure to limit gay rights in the early 1990s.
Man found guilty of cutting grandmother’s throat
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — A jury deliberated for about two hours before finding an Idaho Falls man guilty of attempted murder for cutting his grandmother’s throat with a box cutter when she awakened to find him stealing her jewelry. The Post Register reports Steven M. Rankin, who is in his mid-20s, also was found guilty Thursday of burglary and robbery for breaking into his grandmother’s house on Sept. 8. Rankin’s grandmother has testified that her grandson knocked her down and cut her throat. Rankin’s attorney, Scott Davis, requested a psychological evaluation of his client prior to sentencing, which is scheduled for April 18.
Ellensburg baby who fell in cleaning bucket dies
ELLENSBURG — An Ellensburg baby who fell into a bucket of cleaning fluid at her home died at a hospital in Seattle. Police said Thursday they were called to the home Feb. 11 because the 8-month-old girl had stopped breathing. She was taken to Children’s Hospital in Seattle, where she died Monday. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that because of the death of Rosetta Bare, police are warning parents to beware of the drowning danger household buckets pose to very young children.
Outlook man given life sentence for killing teen
YAKIMA — A 23-year-old man was sentenced Thursday in Yakima to life in prison without release for killing a 14-year-old girl. Jesus Fabian Perales of Outlook was convicted last month of aggravated murder in the February 2009 slaying of a Francisca Hernandez-Ramirez of Sunnyside. Her body was found in the Yakima River and identified through dental records. Prosecutors say he slashed her throat in an orchard to prevent her from reporting she had been sexually assaulted by another man at a party. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports she had been reported as a runaway.