What’s news in the Northwest today:
VANCOUVER – Some 20,000 ambassadors from the global counterculture are making their way to Skookum Meadow, high in the Cascades east of Swift Reservoir, for their annual July Fourth celebration of nonviolence, peace and sustainability. Organizers of the Rainbow Family of Living Light are working closely with Gifford Pinchot National Forest managers on traffic and environmental issues and holding community meetings to address local concerns. Since 1972, the Rainbow Family, a loosely affiliated group of individuals committed to principles of nonviolence and alternative lifestyles, has held its annual U.S. gathering on national forestland. The group had initially considered the Colville National Forest in Northeastern Washington for this year’s meet-up, but reportedly shifted its sights to the southwest after learning that this year’s cool, wet spring promised a bumper crop of mosquitoes on the Colville. The Rainbows instead will congregate at the 40-acre Skookum Meadow site, a large wetland, part of which is still under deep snow at an elevation of 3,200 feet. An advance “seed crew” is at the site hand-shoveling snow this week, she said.
Lolo area residents guarded, return to activities
MISSOULA, Mont. — More than a week after a former militia leader fired at sheriff’s deputies in western Montana, life is slowly returning to normal for residents of the initial search area. Officials with Missoula County, the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service have been unable to locate 47-year-old David Burgert since the June 12 shooting. No one was injured. Petty Creek-area resident Karl Joost tells the Missoulian he’s started to work outside again, but they’re cautious at night and he keeps his gun close at hand. Burgert was the leader of a militia group accused of plotting to assassinate judges and law enforcement officers in Flathead County a decade ago. Sheriff Chuck Curry says he’s concerned with Burgert’s statement that he’d never be taken alive.
Vancouver calls off talk of ban on pit bulls
A ban on pit bulls is no longer on the table for the Vancouver City Council. During city council communications Monday night, a majority of the council’s seven members said they’re not interested in hearing about breed-specific legislation to ban pit bulls. Rather, the council said its interest lies in adding more bite to the city’s dangerous dog laws. Vancouver’s ordinances regarding dangerous dogs aren’t as strong as Clark County’s, City Attorney Ted Gathe said. In the county, most dogs that bite receive a Potentially Dangerous Dog label, along with citations for violations that occurred during the event, Animal Control Director Paul Scarpelli told the city council in an email. That label does not exist under current Vancouver city code.
Ex- state worker sentenced in school bus scam
BOISE — A former state employee arrested last year in the Caribbean will serve 30 months in prison for using his past position with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to illegally secure a contract to work on school buses. Jorge Garcia and his wife, Karen, were sentenced Monday after each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in October. She will serve 10 months house arrest. Federal prosecutors say Garcia was a project manager for the state agency when he helped a company win a contract to install devices on buses aimed at lowering emissions in 2008. The state later learned the company was operated by Garcia and his wife. Garcia’s scheme was discovered only after some schools started to complain about problems with buses spewing smoke and leaking oil.
Death penalty out for Shackelford resentencing
MOSCOW – Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson says he won’t seek the death penalty in the resentencing of convicted murderer Dale Shackelford. Thompson filed a notice in Latah County 2nd District Court on Monday indicating a U.S. Supreme Court case prevents him from seeking the death penalty following an order by the Idaho Supreme Court for resentencing Shackelford on two counts of first-degree murder without setting another trial. Shackelford, 49, was convicted in 2000 of killing his ex-wife, Donna Fontaine, and her boyfriend, Fred Palahniuk, and then burning the Kendrick home where their bodies were recovered May 29, 1999. Second District Judge John R. Stegner had imposed the death penalty for the first-degree murder convictions with various fixed sentences for one count of first-degree arson, preparing false evidence, first-degree conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree conspiracy to commit arson. Thompson’s notice states a decision by the Idaho Supreme Court on June 1, 2010, reaffirmed all convictions and sentences in an appeal filed by Shackelford except for the death sentences for the murder convictions. This was due to a U.S. Supreme Court case (Ring v. Arizona) that made it so a jury “must find statutory aggravating circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt” to impose a death sentence, according to the notice. The state Supreme Court decided the jury in 2000 had not done this. Thompson will now seek consecutive life sentences for each count of first-degree murder.
Idaho Marine badly wounded in Afghanistan
FORT HALL, Idaho — Family members of a Marine from Fort Hall say he was badly injured in an explosion Saturday morning in Afghanistan. The Idaho State Journal reports that 21-year-old Cpl. Phillip Baldwin lost his right leg up to his hip and his left leg above the knee when he stepped on an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol near Helmand Province. Baldwin is a radio operator with the First Battalion Fifth Marines out of San Diego. His mother, Vickie Baldwin, says Phillip Baldwin is recovering in a hospital in Germany and will next be taken to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. She says her son told her his injuries were the worst pain he’d ever felt, but fortunately he was wearing the best available helmet and body armor.
Homicide suspect arrested in Woodland
WOODLAND, Wash. — A man wanted for investigation of homicide in Seattle was arrested early today in Woodland after a manhunt. Police from several southwest Washington departments, Cowlitz County deputies and state troopers began searching Monday night after a stolen car was found. They alerted residents with reverse 911 phone calls. About 4:30 a.m. a citizen who had been alerted by a call reported seeing a man who matched the description of the suspect. Officers closed in and arrested the man, Mussie E. Weldeyohhanes, near Horseshoe Lake Park in Woodland. Police had been looking for the 43-year-old since Sunday when he disappeared from a Seattle house where a 25-year-old woman was found dead.
E. Idaho woman charged in hammer, knife attack
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — An eastern Idaho woman has been charged with two felonies after police say she threatened a man with a hammer and a box knife. Court records show 31-year-old Tiffany S. Williams faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and a second charge, which is use of a deadly weapon in commission of a felony. A preliminary hearing has been scheduled for July 1 in Bonneville County. Police responded to an Idaho Falls home at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday after a man reported Williams had pushed him into a closet and tried to hit him with a hammer during an argument. He also says Williams came at him with a knife. Williams remains at the Bonneville County Jail on a $50,000 bond. She has been appointed a public defender.
Eugene council may compromise on pledge
EUGENE, Ore. — The Eugene City Council discussed a proposal Monday night to say the Pledge of Allegiance before every regular meeting. Council members only agreed to talk more about a compromise in which they would say the pledge at meetings close to holidays such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Flag Day and the Fourth of July. The Register Guard reports that Councilor Mike Clark wants the council to say the pledge regularly “to celebrate something that unites us.” He says Eugene likes to celebrate the “strange and weird” but there is less tolerance and sometimes hostility for traditional customs. Mayor Kitty Piercy and some other councilors worry the pledge would be divisive. Councilor George Brown told Clark he should say the pledge at his home or with friends.
Arguments to conclude in medical pot hearing
HELENA, Mont. — A judge is expected to finish hearing arguments on whether to block Montana’s new medical marijuana law from taking effect July 1. The two-day hearing continued today before Helena District Judge James Reynolds. The Montana Cannabis Industry Association says the law is unconstitutional and is asking Reynolds to issue an injunction to prevent it from taking effect. The new law eliminates commercial pot operations by banning profits on marijuana sales. It also asks for additional proof from patients seeking a medical marijuana card for a serious illness and adds checks to doctors who recommend medical pot for their patients. State attorneys say the law will eliminate medical marijuana abuses. On Monday, several doctors and patients testified that the new law would make it difficult for people to obtain medical marijuana.
Oregon rancher compensation for wolves bill revived
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon lawmakers have revived a bill to compensate ranchers for livestock killed by wolves. The Oregonian reports the measure was revived Monday after lawmakers heard emotional testimony earlier this year on several proposals addressing the migration of the gray wolf back to Oregon. House Bill 3560 would direct the Oregon Department of Agriculture to establish and implement a wolf depredation fund providing $100,000 to be used for grants to counties dealing with wolf issues. The proposal was a top priority for agricultural groups but had been sidelined in committee since April. It was revived following negotiations involving conservationists, cattlemen, the Oregon Farm Bureau, tribal officials and the governor’s office. To date, state officials have confirmed 41 livestock losses due to wolves, with the last confirmed kill on June 5.
Man gets 4 years for assault on ex-girlfriend
BOISE — A 31-year-old Nampa man has been sentenced to four to 15 years in prison for brutalizing his former girlfriend over a period of two days last year. The Idaho Statesman reports Darren Carmouche was sentenced Monday by 3rd District Judge James Morfitt. A jury found Carmouche guilty in November of second-degree kidnapping, domestic battery, aggravated battery and attempted strangulation. The woman testified Carmouche punched her, ran her head into walls, tried to strangle her and hit her in the legs and body with a baseball bat. Canyon County prosecutors had sought a sentence of 15 to 55 years because Carmouche has three previous felony convictions and violated a no-contact order after he was convicted. He will receive credit for the year he has already spent in jail.
Unusual dolphin sighting in south Puget Sound
OLYMPIA — One or two dolphins common to the waters of Southern California have been spotted in Puget Sound since early June near Olympia. A biologist with the Cascadia Research Collective in Olympia, Annie Douglas, told The Olympian it’s very unusual. She says the chance of survival for the subtropical marine mammals in the south Sound is not good.
Yellowstone snowmobile plan gets Colo. hearing
LAKEWOOD, Colo. — The National Park Service is coming to Colorado to gather opinions about a proposal to restrict the number of snowmobiles allowed in Yellowstone National Park. The proposal would vary the number of snowmobiles between 110 and 330 daily. People who can’t make it to public hearings on the plan can learn more about it through Web-based meetings. Webinars are scheduled today at noon Mountain time and on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Mountain time. Another hearing will be held Thursday in Washington, D.C. Public comments will be accepted through July 18.
Fire officials say blaze at UI ROTC accidental
MOSCOW — State fire officials say it appears the fire that damaged the University of Idaho’s World War II-era Naval ROTC building was caused accidentally, most likely by charcoal briquettes that were not properly extinguished. University officials are still trying to calculate the cost of from Saturday’s blaze that caused extensive smoke and water damage to the 70-year-old building. The investigation by the Moscow Fire Department and Idaho State Fire Marshal’s office is ongoing. But for now, officials say hot embers from smoldering briquettes left near the building ignited landscape bark and plants before burning into the building’s wooden foundation. The fire then spread into the attic and roofline through a plumbing system.
Man sentenced for shaking toddler, injuring brain
POCATELLO, Idaho — An eastern Idaho man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for violently shaking a 2-year-old boy in January, causing severe brain trauma. KIFI-TV reports Dennis Timberlake Jr. of Pocatello was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty last month to felony injury to a child. He is eligible for parole after five years. Timberlake told the court he became aggravated on Jan. 3 because the toddler kept spilling things and that he shook the boy harder than he should have. The boy was treated at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City. The boy’s mother says her son has difficulty using the left side of his body.