What’s news in the Northwest today:
BOISE — A De Smet woman has pleaded guilty in federal court for her role in a traffic crash that killed a pedestrian on the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s reservation last year. Federal prosecutors say 19-year-old Andrea George pleaded guilty today to one count of involuntary manslaughter in the April 2010 death of Patrick Gourneau. A grand jury indictment alleged that George was speeding and under the influence of alcohol at the time her car struck Gourneau, who was standing in the roadway. She faces a maximum penalty of up to eight years in prison and fines of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 7 before U.S. District Judge at the federal courthouse in Coeur d’Alene.
Chelan County firefighter died of heart disease
WENATCHEE, Wash. — The Chelan County coroner says the firefighter who collapsed at his home in Wenatchee died of heart disease. Garet Rasmussen was 38. The Wenatchee World reports he was a captain with Chelan County Fire District 1 and died early Sunday after coming home from an emergency call. He was still on-call when he died. Rasmussen is survived by his wife, Allyson Rasmussen, and two children. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee.
Figure in Haiti quake kidnapping case gets prison
BURLINGTON, Vt. — A man who acted as an adviser to a group of missionaries charged with taking children out of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake is going to federal prison. Thirty-three-year-old Jorge Torres was sentenced Tuesday in Vermont federal court to three years and one month in prison on charges he smuggled people into the United States from Canada in 2002. Torres had eluded federal authorities from 2004 until last year. He was extradited back to the United States last September. After the Haiti earthquake Torres acted as a lawyer and spokesman for 10 Baptists from Idaho who were detained on child kidnapping charges. The missionaries were later released. The Burlington Free Press says Torres was given credit for time served and will likely be released from prison in eight months.
Fireworks suspected in blaze that destroys church
LAPWAI, Idaho — Nez Perce County officials believe children playing with bottle rockets started a fire that destroyed a church in Lapwai. Fire Chief Ron Hall says that the fire started at about 7:15 p.m. Monday. When fire crews arrived, the building was fully engulfed. Hall says it took firefighters about an hour to contain the blaze. Hall says the building was being used as a church and no one was inside at the time. The fire also damaged a nearby building, which also was unoccupied. Hall says investigators found fireworks outside the house and witnesses saw children playing with bottle rockets shortly before the fire started.
Tacoma police officer kills armed man
GIG HARBOR, Wash. — A Tacoma police officer shot and killed a man during a traffic stop on the Key Peninsula near Gig Harbor. Police spokesman Mark Fulghum says the officer was on her way home about 2 a.m. today when she pulled over the driver on Highway 302. Fulghum says he came out of his car waving a gun and she fired. He says the man’s intention with the gun is unknown and the situation “went down quickly.” The officer was not injured. She’s a seven-year veteran. The man was taken to St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor and died. The Pierce County sheriff’s office is handling the investigation of the Tacoma police shooting.
Murder, rape suspect Isaiah Kalebu released from Harborview
SEATTLE – Murder and rape suspect Isaiah Kalebu was released from Harborview Medical Center after doctors removed a pencil he had swallowed. During a lunch break from his trial Tuesday, Kalebu reportedly swallowed a small pencil – similar to those golfers use – while he was in his cell. He was then rushed to Harborview. Kalebu has been watching the proceedings from a separate courtroom because of ongoing disruptive behavior.
Small crop-duster plane crashes near Pullman; pilot OK
PULLMAN — Whitman County sheriff’s officers say a small crop-dusting plane has crashed in southeastern Washington near Pullman. KHQ says the plane hit some power lines Tuesday night. The pilot was taken to a local hospital for treatment but reportedly did not suffer serious injuries. The crash is under investigation.
Idaho triple-murder suspect expected in court
MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — A man accused of killing his girlfriend and her two young sons, then burning their bodies in the southwestern Idaho desert before fleeing to Mexico is expected to appear in court for a preliminary hearing. A hearing for Jorge Alberto Lopez Orozco is scheduled today in Elmore County, where he is charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Authorities say he killed Rebecca Ramirez and her sons, age 2 and 4, in 2002. The FBI listed Orozco as one of its most-wanted fugitives that year after fishermen found the abandoned, burned-out shell of the car he had been driving near the Snake River in a remote area of Idaho. Orozco was captured in October 2009 as he delivered metal to a Mexican scrapyard. He was extradited in March to Idaho.
2 clouded leopard cubs born at Washington zoo
TACOMA — A Tacoma zoo that says it’s one of only three zoos in the country breeding endangered clouded leopards has welcomed two newborn cubs. Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium says a female called Chai Li gave birth to her first litter Tuesday as zoo staff maintained a round-the-clock pregnancy watch. She and the cubs’ father, Nah Fun, were born at a zoo in Thailand. Zoo biologist Andy Goldfarb says the cubs appear healthy. He adds “there is nothing cuter than clouded leopard cubs.” Point Defiance says the birth of these cubs brings the total number of clouded leopard cubs born this year in the United States to eight. The zoo says the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo and the Nashville Zoo also breed the cats. Clouded leopards live mostly in the forests of Southeast Asia.
Search suspended for stricken climber on Mount Rainier
ASHFORD, Wash. — A search for an ailing climber left high on Washington’s Mount Rainier was suspended late Tuesday due to strong winds and evidence that he likely fell 2,000 feet. National Park spokeswoman Lisa Lombard told The News Tribune of Tacoma that Rob Plankers, 50, of Olympia, would not have been able to survive such a fall. An aerial search showed a 2,000-foot slide path leading down a steep ice-and-snow-covered slope from the point where Plankers was last seen, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said. The aerial search found no sign of the man, although ground searchers found some of his equipment where his companions left him, at 13,600 feet on the 14,411-foot mountain. The operation “is now considered a body recovery,” Wold said in a statement.
3 men charged in illegal eagle trafficking case
BILLINGS, Mont. — An investigation into illegal trafficking of eagle and migratory bird feathers and remains has led to federal charges against three Montanans. The U.S. Attorney’s Office says 51-year-old William E. Hugs Sr.; his son, 22-year-old William E. Hugs Jr., and 33-year-old Ernie Lemuel Stewart pleaded not guilty to a variety charges in Billings on Tuesday. The Billings Gazette reports the indictment will remain sealed until other defendants appear. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted the investigation from March 2008 through February of this year. The Hugs, both of Crow Agency, and Stewart, of Wyola, are accused of violating the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Lacey Act, which regulates the transportation of wildlife. Stewart faces similar charges in South Dakota.
Office Depot workers allegedly got rich selling stolen goods
SEATTLE – An Office Depot manager in Kent and one of his former workers have been charged with stealing ink, toner and cameras and selling them on eBay for at least $500,000. King County prosecutors said the Office Depot warehouse in Kent had lost more than $2.1 million in missing ink and toner supplies since 2007. The company installed security cameras last year, and a camera caught Office Depot manager Dion Alexander taking ink cartridges from the warehouse and giving them to a man, who was later identified as Kenneth Ngugi, who used to work for Alexander, the King County charging document said. Ngugi told a detective that he and former boss had made at least $500,000 selling stolen Office Depot printer supplies since 2006, the affidavit said.
WSU’s Vancouver branch chancellor resigning
VANCOUVER, Wash. — The chancellor who has led Washington State University’s Vancouver, Wash., branch campus since its beginning in 1989 is resigning, effective Aug. 15. In an email Tuesday, WSU President Elson Floyd praised Hal Dengerink’s leadership and judgment and said the branch campus is a lasting tribute to his efforts. Floyd will assemble a search committee to look for a successor. In the meantime, the interim chancellor position will continue to be filled by Lynn Valenter. Valenter has held the interim position for the past 16 months while Dengerink has periodically taken medical leave.