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NW today: DOC faces $26,000 fine in officer’s death

Wed., July 27, 2011, 12:04 p.m.

What’s news in the Northwest today:

OLYMPIA — State regulators have proposed a fine of $26,000 for the Department of Corrections because of safety violations in connection with the January death of an officer. The Department of Labor & Industries said today that the agency failed to oversee proper training programs and failed to enforce existing policies at the Monroe Correctional Complex. Officer Jayme Biendl’s body was found in the prison’s chapel, and regulators say staff could have noted her absence much sooner if the agency had certain policies or followed existing ones. An inmate is accused of strangling her. The Department of Corrections will have 15 working days to appeal the citation. Seven workers at the agency could face disciplinary actions in connection with Biendl’s death.

‘Last journalism professor’ dies

MOSCOW – Bert Cross, known by many as the “last journalism professor” died Monday morning at the age of 92 from age-related causes. The former professor taught at the University of Idaho for 24 years, where he was chairman of the journalism department before it became a part of the School of Communication in 1973. Despite the change, Cross wanted to remain a “professor of journalism” instead of one of “communication” like the rest of his colleagues. “He was an institution,” said Roy Atwood, one of Cross’ former UI colleagues. “He represents the end of an era — of the old inky-print newspaper tradition.” Atwood worked with Cross in the UI School of Communication for a few years before Cross retired. In 1992 Atwood wrote a textbook, “Mass Communication Law in Idaho” and dedicated it to Cross for being the last journalism professor.

Dead whale on Bremerton beach very emaciated

BREMERTON, Wash. — A gray whale that washed up on a Bremerton beach was alive when the stranding was reported this morning but it was dead when a National Marine Fisheries employee arrived on the site on Dyes Inlet. Spokesman Brian Gorman says the whale was very emaciated and may have been old, injured or loaded with parasites. A necropsy is planned to determine the cause of death, but the whale may first be towed to a more-secluded beach where it will be left to naturally decay. Gorman says the gray whale death is not surprising. He says a half-dozen typically die each year in Puget Sound or on the Washington coast.

UW eco-arson suspect in federal court in Tacoma

TACOMA — A man accused in the 2001 arson at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture is scheduled to make his first appearance in federal court this afternoon in Tacoma. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Seattle says Justin Solondz built the firebombs that started the $6 million blaze in Seattle. He faces charges including conspiracy and arson. The 31-year-old was arrested in Chicago on July 6 following his expulsion from China, where he had been serving a prison sentence on drug charges. The UW fire was part of a string of 17 arsons across the West by the radical environmental groups, the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front. Fourteen people have been convicted of crimes related to the fires.

Fire burns dozens of cars at E. Idaho salvage yard

POCATELLO, Idaho — A fire engulfed between 40 and 50 cars at a salvage yard in southeastern Idaho as crews fought to keep the blaze from reaching dozens of nearby propane tanks. Authorities say a small brush fire was reported to the Pocatello Fire Department at about 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Fire crews arrived to find the blaze had quickly spread and was burning about 10 feet away from nearly 60 propane tanks. The fire was contained at about 4 p.m. and forced closure of nearby U.S. Highway 30 for several hours. Two buildings at the salvage yard were destroyed, along with dozens of vehicles. No one was injured. Investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire.

Former Idaho non-profit leader faces theft charges

POCATELLO, Idaho — The former leader of an Idaho nonprofit group that helps people with disabilities has been served a felony summons after law enforcement said she embezzled more than $100,000, resulting in some employees losing their benefits. The Idaho State Journal reports that 35 charges are possible against Nancy John, former chief executive officer at New Day Products and Resources, after a 11/2 -yearlong Pocatello police investigation. John turned herself in to authorities on Tuesday afternoon and was allowed to remain free. She’s scheduled to make her initial court appearance Aug. 9. Bannock County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney JaNiece Price said she declined to pursue John’s arrest based on her record and because she likely won’t take off. “In dealing with embezzlement cases, you have to do a pretty thorough investigation,” Price told the newspaper. “It’s a detailed process that takes a lot of time verifying information on both sides.”

Ada County deputy shoots pit bull that charged him

BOISE — Ada County officials say a sheriff’s deputy responding to a report that two dogs had cornered a boy shot a pit bull terrier that charged him. The department says a Meridian-area homeowner reported her teenage nephew was cornered by dogs she believed were pit bulls. The teen got away from the dogs. A responding deputy was standing by his patrol car when one of the dogs ran around the back of the car and ran at the deputy. A witness said the deputy “had no other options” than shooting the dog. The Idaho Statesman reports animal control responded and was eventually able to get the second dog contained. The sheriff’s department says the owner will be cited for having a dog at large.

Oregon woman: Walmart said cover up or leave

EUGENE, Ore. — An Oregon woman says she was told to put a shirt over her bikini top while shopping at Walmart or leave the store. Sandy McMillin told The Register-Guard she was shopping at a Eugene Walmart with her sister last weekend when a store employee confronted her and claimed she may be violating health regulations. An attorney for the 51-year-old McMillin said the experience was embarrassing but he is more concerned about the way McMillin was treated because she is disabled from injuries suffered in motorcycle crashes. A spokeswoman for the Arkansas-based retail giant said the employee was responding to customer complaints and McMillin was not asked to leave the store. McMillin says she’ll probably still shop at Walmart — but at a different store.

Billings man denies kidnapping, assault charges

BILLINGS, Mont. — A Billings man remains jailed on $300,000 bail after being charged with kidnapping and torturing a woman over a period of about three days. The Billings Gazette reports 31-year-old Matthew Ryan Bertagnolli denied seven felony charges during his arraignment Monday before District Judge Gregory Todd. Bertagnolli is charged with two counts of aggravated assault, two counts of partner or family member assault and one count each of aggravated kidnapping, intimidation and tampering with evidence. Bertagnolli was arrested July 14 after a woman fled a house and reported she had been held against her will and beaten since July 11. Prosecutors say Bertagnolli repeatedly beat the woman, threatened to kill her, burned her with a cigarette and urinated on her.

Victim, suspect identified in Central Oregon shooting

WARM SPRINGS, Ore. — The FBI has identified a fatal shooting victim on the Warm Springs Reservation in central Oregon as a tribal member. The FBI and Warm Springs police said today the victim was 24-year-old Delmer Davis. Investigators said Davis was shot Tuesday afternoon while he was sitting in a vehicle holding his young son outside a home in the Greeley Heights area of Warm Springs. The FBI said federal charges were pending against another tribal member, 23-year-old Ted Barney Jr., after he surrendered to authorities. An FBI spokeswoman said an attorney was expected to be appointed at a federal court hearing this week.

Fisherman lands fat trout in Idaho

AMERICAN FALLS, Idaho — In the midst of a 15-minute, man-against-fish fight, Pocatello angler Mark Adams knew he had a lunker on the line. The rainbow trout Adams eventually pulled from the depths of American Falls Reservoir weighed in at 34.74 pounds, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, breaking an old state record by nearly 15 pounds. Adams said fishing buddies thought it was a carp when they pulled it from the Snake River into their boat on Monday. Fisheries Biologist David Teuscher told the Idaho State-Journal he was stunned by the sight of the fish, which he’s now checking against records from elsewhere in the continental United States. Teuscher says everybody stood around the trout during the weighing with their jaws open. The fish was just over 41 inches long.

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