What’s news in the Northwest today:
OLYMPIA — State. Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood is sponsoring a bill to prevent the use of Washington’s welfare cash cards from being used at strip clubs, tattoo parlors, gun shops and taverns. Carrell says an investigation by Seattle TV station KING found the benefit cards are being misused. The station earlier found that about $2 million in welfare cash was withdrawn in one year at casinos. The Department of Social and Health Services asked casinos to block the use of the cards at their ATMs. Most have complied. Gambling with welfare cash is illegal. Now, KING has found the welfare benefits — known as EBT cards — are being cashed at strip clubs and sex shops. DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus agrees it’s time to tighten restrictions.
Suspect who fled into Oregon woods avid outdoorsman
WALDPORT, Ore. — A team hunting a man accused of shooting an Oregon police officer believe he’s holed up in a vacation home in a secluded neighborhood less than a block from the Pacific Ocean. It’s the latest theory by local and state police on the whereabouts of David Anthony Durham, a 43-year-old former landscaper who family members say slipped into a deluded state and at one point mistook a movie about space aliens for a documentary. Durham is suspected of critically wounding Lincoln City police officer Steven Dodds on Sunday night. Later, police said, he fired on a crab fisherman from a peninsula in north Waldport, and the search team has focused on vacant and occupied homes in a neighborhood close by. Dodds remained in critical condition late Wednesday night.
Budget cuts yield ‘disturbing’ trends at hospitals
BOISE — A state Department of Health and Welfare official says budget cuts at Idaho’s two state psychiatric hospitals have resulted in disturbing trends, including more assaults on staffers. Mental health services division administrator Kathleen Allyn told lawmakers today that part of the problem is the two hospitals are treating more seriously ill patients with fewer employees. The agency wants an additional $254,000 from Idaho’s endowment land fund to hire personnel and keep State Hospital South in Blackfoot operating at full capacity. The endowment lands were granted to Idaho at statehood and are managed to benefit public schools, higher education and the state hospital in Southern Idaho.
North Idaho students face lack of Internet access
SANDPOINT — North Idaho school officials say a lack of technological infrastructure in the region will put area students at a disadvantage when it comes to proposed state education reforms that call for students to take online classes every year to graduate. Dick Cvitanich is superintendent of the Lake Pend Oreille School District. He tells the Bonner County Daily Bee that many students don’t have Internet access at home and many others only have slow dial-up access. Cvitanich says that puts students in the district at a disadvantage compared with students in other regions with high-speed Internet access at home. An official with the Bonner County Economic Development Corp. says the group wants a fiber-optic network this year, but it likely won’t reach students outside of more densely populated areas.
Date set for long-delayed child porn trial
VANCOUVER, Wash. – After his case was stalled for more than four years in a dispute over evidence, a former church youth minister charged in a child pornography sting is now scheduled to go to trial on March 21 in Clark County Superior Court. Judge John Wulle set the trial date Wednesday after receiving the case back from the Court of Appeals, which was reviewing the evidence dispute. Michael S. Norris, also a former Bible camp counselor, has been in the Clark County Jail since August 2006, awaiting trial on 13 child rape and molestation charges. His case dragged on because prosecutors, citing a federal law precluding them from dispersing child pornographic tapes allegedly showing Norris abusing two young children, did not provide the tapes to defense attorney Clay Spencer, so he could not prepare a defense and move forward to trial.
Many Boeing workers getting bonus in February
EVERETT — Nearly 46,000 Boeing workers in Washington will receive a bonus in February averaging $5,000. The Herald of Everett reports the bonus — equal to about 14 days’ pay — is an incentive for last year’s production, when the company delivered 462 commercial aircraft. The bonus doesn’t go to nearly 25,000 Machinist union employees. They each received a $1,500 payment in November based on the contract with Boeing.
Eight names added to Lewis-McChord war memorial
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. — The names of eight soldiers killed in Iraq have been added to the 3rd Stryker Brigade’s war memorial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Families from all over the country attended Wednesday’s ceremony. The News Tribune of Tacoma reports there now are 104 names on the memorial. The 3rd Brigade is the Army’s original Stryker unit. It’s one of three brigades at the base near Tacoma that are built around the Stryker vehicle.
Siebel sells south-central Montana ranch
BILLINGS — Software billionaire and Montana Meth Project founder Tom Siebel has sold one of his Montana ranches. The Billings Gazette reports Siebel sold the historic 66,000-acre N Bar Ranch north of Billings to Frac Tech Services. Frac Tech is a Texas-based oil and gas well fracturing company principally owned by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks. The company that managed the N Bar for Siebel, First Virtual Group of Palo Alto, Calif., confirmed the sale, but the price was not disclosed. The ranch was listed at $45 million early last year. Siebel owned the ranch for a decade. He still owns the Dearborn Ranch near Wolf Creek north of Helena. Siebel is a former Oracle executive who founded the software company Siebel Systems, which he later sold to Oracle.
Two horses near Spokane had legs broken
SPOKANE — The owner of two horses at West Plains near Spokane says she had to put down the animals Sunday after she discovered each had a broken leg. Jodi Scolavino told KHQ a veterinarian told her the legs were severely injured and could have been broken by a sledgehammer. The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office wants to hear from anyone who has information about the attack.
Skin diseases shut down East Wenatchee wrestling
EAST WENATCHEE, Wash. — The school district in East Wenatchee has canceled all wrestling programs because at least half of the 36 wrestlers at Eastmont High School are infected with four skin diseases. The Wenatchee World reports Eastmont School District Superintendent Garn Christensen told students and parents Wednesday about the decision. He also says another school reported a wrestler has a skin disease the wrestler may have contracted from an Eastmont student. The four diseases are herpes simplex 1, impetigo, molluscum and ringworm. School nurse Kathy Robb says wrestlers can still attend school if infected areas are covered with bandages or clothing. The high school weight room and back gym are closed for cleaning. The district has also suspended wrestling teams at junior high and middle schools until their facilities are cleaned.
Vancouver man crashes tractor-trailer into river
VANCOUVER, Wash. – A Vancouver man crashed a tractor-trailer into the Calapooia River north of Brownsville, Ore., Wednesday morning. Patrick W. Smith, 54, received minor injuries in the crash and was transported to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis. The crash occurred at about 11:25 a.m. on Interstate 5 south near Milepost 221, which is about 5 miles north of the Brownsville exit. Smith was driving a 1995 Freightliner with no trailer attached, according to Oregon State Police. Smith was southbound in the right lane of I-5 when for an unknown reason he lost control of the truck, crossed through the center median and entered the northbound lanes. He then swerved back into the median, continuing south for about 50 yards before colliding with a culvert, according to police.
Agency fines Idaho National Lab in radiation case
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — The U.S. Department of Energy has levied an $85,000 fine against the contractor for the Idaho National Laboratory after a worker was accidentally exposed to a radiation generating device. Lab contractor Battelle Energy Alliance says its investigators identified several safety flaws that led to the exposure. The Post-Register reports that the federal agency praised Battelle for reacting quickly last March and recognizing the severity of the case after an employee’s hand was exposed to radiation. Energy Department officials say Battelle is re-examining operations and safety measures in high-radiation areas to ensure proper controls are in place. In a letter to the DOE, Battelle officials blamed a failure to follow existing procedures and failure to post and control entry to high-radiation rooms.
Bulgarian man to be sentenced in ID theft case
PORTLAND — A Bulgarian man who pleaded guilty to stealing the identity of a murdered Ohio boy is going back to court and says he’ll meet with the boy’s family. Doitchin Krastev will be sentenced in federal court in Portland on Thursday. He reached a plea deal with prosecutors that would send him to prison for two years and one day. The son of a prominent Bulgarian couple graduated from high school in the United States before dropping out of college and disappearing for more than a decade. Since 1996, authorities say, Krastev has used the name and Social Security number of Jason Evers, a 3-year-old boy killed during a kidnapping in 1982. Prosecutors report in a court filing that Krastev has agreed to meet with the Evers family.
Indecency case nears trial date in Yakima
YAKIMA – The indecency case against the owner of Dream Girls coffee stand and one of her baristas may be ready for jury trial next week in Yakima Municipal Court. On Wednesday, Judge Susan Woodard ordered both sides to return to court in a week for a last-second hearing before a trial date the following day. Dream Girls owner Cheryl Clark and barista Alyssa Hernandez are accused of violating the city’s beefed-up indecent exposure ordinance last year. Both women have pleaded not guilty. In January 2010, a special undercover police squad cited Hernandez for wearing a G-string that was allegedly too tiny under the ordinance. As the owner of Dream Girls, Clark also received a citation. The ordinance is a simple misdemeanor, subject to up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Dream Girls, on Yakima Avenue downtown, remains one of the busiest coffee stands in the city.