What’s news in the Northwest today:
SANDPOINT — Prosecutors have dropped charges filed against a Bonner County man accused of breaking into the offices of the Bonner County Daily Bee and stealing money from the newspaper. Harold Lee Anderson was charged in December with burglary. But prosecutors agreed to drop the case after Anderson passed a polygraph test and investigators failed to gather enough evidence showing that the 32-year-old man who once delivered newspapers committed a crime. After his arrest, two witnesses told police Anderson boasted of stealing money from the newspaper to supplement his income by as much as $800 per month. First District Judge Barbara Buchanan approved the motion dismissing the case but did so without prejudice, meaning the case can be reopened if new evidence emerges.
Oregon deputy drops federal free speech lawsuit
EUGENE, Ore. — An Oregon sheriff’s deputy has dropped a federal lawsuit claiming his free speech rights were violated after filing a series of unsuccessful suits against local judges, prosecutors and attorneys. Lane County Deputy Ricky Dotson filed a $500,000 lawsuit in federal court last spring alleging retaliation by the county that included revoking his authorization to carry a firearm on duty, barring him from promotions and work assignments. The defendants included former Sheriff Russ Burger and former jail Capt. John Clague. The Register-Guard reported that Dotson voluntarily dropped the lawsuit and Lane County paid him nothing after his former attorney withdrew from the case. Court records show that Dotson’s previous lawsuits against judges and attorneys resulted from a five-year divorce proceeding with the mother of his two children.
Franklin County asks state for help in Ruiz defense
PASCO — Franklin County is asking the state Legislature to pay $373,000 in costs billed so far to defend a man convicted of killing five men and attempting to kill another in 1987. The Tri-City Herald reports the cost of Vicente Ruiz’s two murder trials in 2010 is expected to top $463,000. That’s less than expected, but more than the county can afford without state help. The county is asking for help to pay for Ruiz’s legal fees, interpreters, juries and travel for the two trials. A Spokane jury convicted Ruiz on Dec. 22 in the slayings at Medina’s Body Shop in Pasco 23 years ago. He was sentenced to five life terms and another 20 years in prison.
Oregon rancher killed by cow at cattle auction
EUGENE — An Oregon cattle rancher has died after some cows got loose in the parking lot of the Eugene Livestock Auction and one tossed him into the air. The Register-Guard reports that longtime Lane County rancher Mervin McCarl landed head-first on the pavement. The owner of the weekly livestock auction, Bruce Anderson, called it a “horrible, horrible accident.” Anderson said auction employees told him that three cows got loose as they were being loaded into a truck about 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Anderson said McCarl, who was in his 70s, probably had come over to help when one cow picked him up and tossed him. He died Sunday at a Springfield hospital.
Boy accidentally shoots friend in Oregon City
OREGON CITY, Ore. — Police say a boy was accidentally shot in the head by his friend while playing with a 12-gauge shotgun at a home in Oregon City. The 12-year-old boy was critically wounded Sunday and airlifted to Oregon Health and Sciences University hospital in Portland. Lt. Jim Band told The Oregonian the mother of the 13-year-old boy who fired the gun was in another room at the time. The boy and his father had been duck hunting the day before.
Filer woman accused in lottery fraud case
TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Police say they have charged a 53-year-old convenience store clerk from Filer with fraud for taking lottery tickets without paying and redeeming winning tickets for cash. Debra Lou Nelson was arraigned in 5th District Court Friday on felony lottery fraud. Investigators say she snatched Idaho State Lottery scratch tickets and cashed in winners while working shifts at a Twin Falls store. Authorities with the Idaho State Lottery began investigating the case in August. A detective for the agency told The Times-News he has surveillance video allegedly showing Nelson removing tickets without paying for them and cashing them in on Aug. 15. Nelson is scheduled to appear for her preliminary hearing Feb. 4.
E. Oregon ranchers worried about summer grazing ban
JOHN DAY, Ore. — Ranchers in Eastern Oregon say they’re worried about a summer grazing ban that a federal judge ordered to protect Columbia River steelhead. A Dec. 30 ruling by U.S. District Judge Ancer Haggerty in Portland prohibits ranchers from grazing their cattle on seven summertime U.S. Forest Service allotments on the Malheur National Forest. The Oregonian reports the ruling is the latest in a long battle over the effects of grazing on stream habitat. Environmentalists who filed the lawsuit that led to the ruling say the Forest Service must do a better job enforcing laws to preserve stream banks from roaming cattle. But ranchers say the ban will affect almost 4,000 cows and their calves, valued at $2.8 million — causing a big ripple effect on a struggling rural economy.
Cleanup continues at derelict barge in Columbia
VANCOUVER, Wash. — The Coast Guard says workers are trying to stabilize a derelict vessel leaking oil in the Columbia River near Camas in southwest Washington, so divers can remove all remaining oil. More than 50 responders from agencies that include the Washington Department of Ecology and the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality are on the scene. The Columbian reports about 1,200 gallons of oil have been recovered since work began last week. Washington Ecology officials have measured a small amount of PCB, about three parts per million, in oil from the engine room but say it is not an immediate health threat. The 431-foot Davy Crockett is a World War II Liberty ship that was converted into a barge.
Yakima police shoot, kill man who stabbed another
YAKIMA — Yakima police say an officer has shot and killed a 27-year-old man who was stabbing another man and ignored a command to stop. Lt. Mike Merryman said the officer fired two rounds at the suspect, who died at the scene Sunday morning. Merryman said the 21-year-old victim from Yakima was stabbed multiple times and was taken to a local hospital. Police said they would release additional details at a news conference today at 11 a.m.
Moving truck fire destroys artist’s paintings
BOZEMAN — Fire officials in Bozeman say a semitrailer fire likely destroyed many original paintings created by an artist moving out of state. Bozeman Deputy Fire Chief Greg Megaard told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that it took 15 firefighters and about six neighbors more than an hour to unload the 30-foot semitrailer containing paintings by an artist who had already left the state. He said the fire on Friday was at the front of the trailer where most of the art was located. He said the truck also contained household items and about three-quarters of the contents were saved. Megaard and a moving company official declined to name the artist.
Guilty plea in Mattawa triple homicide
EPHRATA, Wash. — A 25-year-old man who pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder for a 2009 shooting in Mattawa faces more than 38 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 14 in Ephrata. The Columbia Basin Herald reports Grant County prosecutors lowered the charges from first-degree murder in a plea deal with J. Guadalupe Martinez-Lopez. He said he shot the men in retaliation for a rape.
Restrictions sought on some ammo used by hunters
BILLINGS — Montana wildlife officials are proposing new restrictions on the use of some types of ammunition by hunters in developed areas. In the past hunters have been able to use shotguns, muzzleloaders, traditional handguns or archery equipment in so-called weapons restriction areas. But advances in ammunition technology for muzzleloaders and shotguns, such as sabots, have increased the range of some of these firearms, which officials say could compromise public safety. The proposal would prohibit the use of sabots and similar ammunition within the restriction areas. Sabots still could be used in the general hunting season in nonrestricted areas. Comments on the proposal are due by Feb. 5.
First megaload getting ready to roll
LEWISTON – A crew of 13 is converging on the Port of Lewiston as final preparations are made for the first ConocoPhillips megaload to begin a three-week journey to Billings. The oversized load, scheduled to depart Tuesday, is the largest cargo ever to travel on U.S. Highway 12, taking up both lanes of traffic at 226 feet long, 28 feet tall and a weight of about 650,000 pounds. The load and a convoy of support vehicles will stretch from two to five miles. It will be required to pull over every 10 minutes to allow traffic to pass, except in a dozen places between Lewiston and the Montana border, where it will go 12 to 15 minutes without stopping. It will only be allowed to travel between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., times when traffic is lightest. Getting across Idaho is anticipated to take four days, with stops near the Nez Perce/Clearwater County line, Kooskia, Bald Mountain and the Montana border. The convoy will include four uniformed Idaho State Police troopers who will be on duty in patrol vehicles, but on overtime paid for by ConocoPhillips; and a Lewiston ambulance staffed with at least one paramedic, also paid for by ConocoPhillips.
Fence project targets I-5 suicides
OLYMPIA – Starting in March, crews will install a nearly 9-foot fence along the Capitol Boulevard Bridge over Interstate 5, where at least four people have jumped or fallen to their deaths in the past five years. The $518,000 project by the state Department of Transportation is part of a statewide initiative to retrofit bridges, spokeswoman Lisa Copeland said. The state recently awarded the job, expected to take four months, to Cascade Bridge LLC of Vancouver, Wash. Workers will rebuild part of the sidewalk so the bridge deck can support the new fencing, she said. “The whole purpose of the project is to try to keep objects, debris, things from going off Capitol Way and onto I-5,” she said. “At almost 9 feet tall, that will make it almost impossible to do.”
Gates: Helping world’s poor is a good investment
SEATTLE — Bill Gates worries economic woes will force governments to cut foreign aid and hurt the poor worldwide. The co-chairman of the world’s largest charitable foundation spoke up for foreign aid in his third annual letter because he says the world’s poorest won’t be visiting government leaders to make their case, unlike everyone else expecting budget cuts to their programs this year. In the 24-page letter released today, Gates says not only is helping the poor with their medical needs and giving them the tools to be self-sufficient the right thing to do, but it’s also a good investment. He outlines the ways helping people saves money over the long term: From cutting the cost to treat the sick by preventing their illnesses to increasing a child’s earning potential and future contribution to society through education.