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NW today: Boy impaled by branch while sledding

What’s news in the Northwest today:

BUTTE, Mont. — A 7-year-old Billings boy is recovering from surgery in Butte after a New Year’s Eve sledding accident northeast of Whitehall. A.J. Wagner was injured when he hit a small pine tree and a 1-inch diameter branch penetrated his left buttock, The Montana Standard reports. His mother, Victoria Wagner, says the branch penetrated 6 inches into his body, reaching his abdomen. A.J. suffered bruises to his intestines and stomach. Wagner says A.J. underwent two hours of surgery on Friday as doctors removed the branch. No vital organs were punctured. A.J. was released from intensive care on Monday, and should be out of the hospital in a few days. Wagner says as they waited about 45 minutes for the ambulance, A.J. wanted her to go to the car to get her camera so he could see what all the fuss was about.

Sun Valley man reported missing

BOISE — Sun Valley officials are searching for a 21-year-old man who has been missing since early on New Year’s Eve. Police chief Cam Daggett says Dexter Gannon had spent Thursday night at a friend’s house in Sun Valley. They had planned a morning ski trip, but when others woke up at about 7 a.m. Friday, Gannon was gone. Daggett says Gannon didn’t have a vehicle and left his wallet, cell phone and a duffel bag behind. He did not leave a note. Gannon is described as 5 feet, 10 inches tall, 170 pounds, with blonde hair and blue eyes. He was wearing snow boots and a yellow and teal snowboard jacket.

Runaway Idaho patient has February court date

SANDPOINT — A North Idaho man accused of commandeering an ambulance from emergency workers who were responding to reports that he was having seizures now faces a felony at a February court hearing. A preliminary hearing for 25-year-old Cody Wayne Mills on a charge of operating a vehicle without consent has been scheduled Feb. 2 in 1st District Court. Mills has pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor resisting an officer. Police say Mills became combative with emergency workers while being loaded into an ambulance on Dec. 13 and was stunned by an officer’s Taser before he managed to flee in the ambulance. Police say Mills drove about 35 feet, crashed, and then fled into the nearby woods on foot. Mills, of Sagle, was soon arrested and treated for hypothermia.

Glacier sets attendance record in centennial year

KALISPELL, Mont. — Glacier National Park’s centennial year was also its busiest as the park saw more than 2.2 million visitors and held more than 130 centennial events. Glacier’s centennial coordinator, Kass Hardy, tells the Daily Inter Lake that the park’s relationships with four major park partners were solidified as they celebrated the park’s 100th anniversary. Glacier hosted nine alumni reunions throughout the year, including one of former park employees, one for former red tour bus drivers as well as reunions for former employees of Many Glacier Hotel and Belton Chalet. She says some of them hadn’t been back to the park in 20 to 30 years. The park also began raising money for and working on seven “legacy projects,” many of which will make permanent improvements to the park.

Taser-toting robber hit 2 Bellingham stores

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Bellingham police say a man toting a Taser may be responsible for two robberies in one week. The first happened at a bakery outlet on Dec. 29. The second was at a gas station on New Year’s Eve. Police spokesman Mark Young says in both incidents a man approached an employee working a cash register, showed a Taser and demanded money. No one was injured.

Twin Falls man enters plea in fatal crash

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — A 36-year-old Twin Falls man has pleaded not guilty to vehicular manslaughter for a Sept. 26 car crash that killed a woman. The Times-News reports Homero Garibay-Alvarez entered his plea Monday in 5th District Court. Prosecutors allege Garibay-Alvarez was driving drunk when he crossed the center line of U.S. Highway 93 and collided with a car carrying Mountain Home Air Force Base residents 23-year-old Samantha K. Leonard and 27-year-old Kevin Leonard. Samantha Leonard died of her injuries on Oct. 3. Garibay-Alvarez appeared in court in a wheelchair. He suffered two broken legs, broken shoulders, a broken arm and a broken back and has undergone several surgeries since the collision. Court records say Garibay-Alvarez is an illegal immigrant who was previously deported.

Audit: Early prison releases saved Oregon $25 million

SALEM, Ore. — A new state audit says the “earned time” early release program for Oregon prison inmates saved an estimated $25 million in the 2009 fiscal year. The Statesman Journal reported the audit by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office also called for some improvements in the Department of Corrections program that allows time off for good behavior. Auditors said corrections officials should clarify earned-time rules, and review procedures for assigning inmates to rehabilitation programs and disciplining them before release. Corrections Director Max Williams says his agency agreed with most of the audit findings.

Twin Falls man pleads guilty in gunpoint assault

TWIN FALLS — A 26-year-old Twin Falls man has pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for a July 24 attack on a female acquaintance. The Times-News reports Justin Robert Wicklund entered his plea in 5th District Court Monday. Wicklund had originally been charged with rape, but pleaded to the lesser charges as part of a plea agreement in which he acknowledged causing the victim “great bodily harm.” Wicklund faces up to 20 years in prison when District Judge G. Richard Bevan sentences him on March 18. Wicklund pleaded guilty in September to violating a no-contact order with the woman.

No I-5 fire wall planned after Oregon homes burned

ASHLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Department of Transportation says it will not build a fire wall between Interstate 5 and an Ashland neighborhood where a fire destroyed 11 homes last August. The Ashland Daily Tidings reported that homeowners have been pushing for a concrete wall since they started rebuilding their houses in the Oak Knoll neighborhood. Transportation officials say they’re sympathetic but the state only builds walls to buffer noise from highways. Fueled by strong winds and low humidity, the August 24 fire started in a brush field and consumed an abandoned barn before it jumped the freeway and burned the 11 houses. Officials say even if a wall was built, it wouldn’t be high enough to prevent similar conditions.

Portland wants variance from treatment plant rule

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Water Bureau says it tested 750 samples from Oregon’s largest drinking water source and has not found the potentially lethal parasite cryptosporidium. The Oregonian reports the bureau plans to use the data to request a variance from a federal rule requiring it to build a $100 million treatment plant by 2014 to kill the parasite. The city sampled 3,500 gallons over 12 months at the Bull Run reservoirs near Mount Hood, which serves nearly 900,000 customers in Portland and its suburbs.

Corvallis man charged with crash with police car

HAMILTON, Mont. — A 30-year-old Corvallis man is charged with assault on a peace officer and drunken driving after his car crashed head-on into a Hamilton police car after a New Year’s Eve bar fight. The Ravalli Republic reports Brian J. Kinyon is also charged with criminal endangerment and assault. His bail was set at $100,000. Kinyon was arrested shortly after midnight on Jan. 1. Court records say officers responding to a report of a fight spotted Kinyon’s vehicle pulling away from the bar. Officer Jake Auch attempted to stop the vehicle, but police say Kinyon swerved around the patrol car and drove into an alley. The officers drove their vehicles into either end of the alley and court records say Kinyon crashed his car head-on into Auch’s.

Yakima County to get courthouse upgrade

YAKIMA, Wash. — The Yakima County Courthouse will get a $3.7 million upgrade this year. The Yakima Herald-Republic reports that county commissioners on Monday approved an energy-efficient design that will save the county about 28 percent on its annual energy bill. Federal grants and proceeds from the sale of bonds last year will pay for the renovation.

Washington state patrol warns of police impersonator

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. — The Washington State Patrol is warning drivers to be aware of a man impersonating a police officer in Kitsap County. Troopers say a man attempted to pull over a female driver Monday afternoon by driving alongside her and holding up a sign with the word “Sheriff” written on it. Authorities say the same vehicle, a 2007 gold Ford Expedition, was involved in a similar situation several months ago.

Auburn man charged with vehicular homicide

SEATTLE — Prosecutors have filed a vehicular homicide charge against a 35-year-old Auburn man accused of driving through a red light and killing a 21-year-old man. The Seattle Times reports Lagrant Pegram was charged Monday in King County Superior Court. Charging papers show he had a blood-alcohol content greater than 0.24, more than three times the state limit, when he killed Emmanuel Franco in the morning crash Wednesday. Prosecutors say Pegram drove around two cars stopped for a red light at a Federal Way intersection and struck Franco’s car. Authorities say Pegram was driving with a suspended license.

Oregon man gets 35 years for kidnap, assault

EUGENE, Ore. — A 31-year-old Creswell, Ore., man has been sentenced to 35 years in prison for kidnapping a Eugene acquaintance last summer, driving her to a remote location and repeatedly sexually assaulting her. The prison term imposed Monday includes Matthew Phillip Williams’ penalty for leading police on a car chase and manhunt at the base of the Coburg Hills before his capture last July. The Register-Guard says Williams entered Alford pleas to 12 felony charges in the case. In such pleas, a defendant does not admit guilt but concedes there is likely enough evidence for conviction. The victim urged Lane County Circuit Judge Karsten Rasmussen to impose the maximum sentence. The woman escaped from Williams’ vehicle six hours after her capture, running for help to a gas station along Oregon Highway 58.

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