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In brief: Crabtree again faces charges

A chronic drunken driving suspect was arrested on new drug charges early Monday. 

A warrant already had been issued for James L. Crabtree after he was caught driving on July 3, which violates his release conditions on drug and DUI charges from his last arrest April 22.

A sheriff’s deputy arrested Crabtree, 50, in Spokane Valley about 4 a.m. Monday after an anonymous caller reported Crabtree as a possible domestic violence suspect.

Deputies learned of his arrest warrant and located him at 10500 E. Broadway Ave., where they say he had a cigarette pack containing meth and a glass pipe with burnt methamphetamine residue.

It’s Crabtree’s third felony arrest since November, when he was picked up on suspicion of drunken driving after motorists noticed him passing out at the wheel of his car. Police found an open can of Four Loko in the car, but his blood-alcohol level was under the legal limit for driving, and he hasn’t been charged.

Crabtree was convicted of vehicular assault in 2003 for causing a crash that nearly killed sheriff’s Lt. Earl Howerton.

NIC to receive $1.8 million more

BOISE – The Idaho Board of Education voted Monday to approve $7.5 million in additional funding for the state’s cash-strapped community colleges.

The extra funding comes from the surplus Idaho is carrying forward into this fiscal year.

Of the $7.5 million, the board approved more than $5 million in one-time funding for enrollment growth at the College of Western Idaho in Nampa. Nearly $1.8 million was approved for North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene and about $667,000 for the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls.

Redistricting panel at SFCC

The Washington State Redistricting Commission, which is redrawing the lines for the state’s congressional and legislative districts, will be at Spokane Falls Community College this evening.

The five-member board has a special commissioner meeting at 5 p.m. to discuss its budget and a schedule for releasing and taking public comment on map proposals. A forum for the public to comment on possible changes to the districts starts after the commissioner meeting ends. The meeting and forum are in SFCC Lounges 1 and 2.

Petition seeks megaload review

BOISE – A group of North Idaho residents has asked a hearing judge to reconsider his ruling in favor of Exxon Mobil’s plans to haul dozens of oversized loads of equipment along U.S. Highway 12.

Last month, hearing officer Duff McKee handed the oil company a victory when he recommended that the Idaho Transportation Department issue travel permits for the shipments.

Exxon Mobil wants to haul the giant shipments of oil refinery equipment from Lewiston into Montana en route to the oil sands in southern Canada.

But opponents say the travel plan threatens public safety and the environment.

On Monday, they filed a petition asking McKee to reconsider his decision, claiming it’s based on flawed law and facts.

Governor names new chief of staff

OLYMPIA – Marty Loesch was named chief of staff for Gov. Chris Gregoire on Monday, filling an opening created by Jay Manning’s resignation.

Loesch, 46, is currently Gregoire’s chief of external affairs and senior counsel. He previously worked as inter-governmental affairs director and tribal attorney for the Swinomish Tribe. He takes over for Manning on July 18.

Manning announced he was stepping down last month, shortly after Gregoire announced she would not seek a third term.

Death penalty still on table in killing

EVERETT – A judge has denied a defense attempt to remove the death penalty as a sentencing option if a Washington prison inmate is convicted in the January death of a corrections officer.

Lawyers for Byron Scherf tried Monday to get the death penalty off the table on a technicality, arguing that prosecutors earlier jumped the gun by minutes in announcing they’d seek that sentence in the death of Officer Jayme Biendl.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne sided with prosecutors in Everett and denied the defense motion. Scherf is charged with aggravated murder, accused of strangling Biendl in the Monroe Correctional Facility’s chapel. The 52-year-old serial rapist already was serving a life sentence when Biendl was killed.

An aggravated murder conviction in Washington is punishable by either death or life in prison without parole.

Goat-chasing dog survives cliff fall

HOODSPORT, Wash. – A Bernese Mountain dog that raced off after a mountain goat in Washington’s Olympic Mountains and fell 150 feet down a cliff survived for nearly three days until a volunteer mountain rescue team managed to find her.

Gwen Hall, of Olympia, said her 5-year-old dog Sasha suffered only an injured paw and a broken tooth.

Sasha took off last Wednesday after climbing with her owners, Hall and Jim Krieger, to the summit of 5,944-foot Mount Ellinor.

They got in touch with Olympic Mountain Rescue, and six volunteers offered to help. It took them five hours Friday to find Sasha – motionless on a narrow shelf on the side of a cliff. The team brought the dog to safety using ropes and a litter.