What’s news in the Northwest today:
SEATTLE — A man charged in a brutal rape and stabbing attack on a lesbian couple in Seattle two summers ago is expected to testify today wearing an electroshock device. Isaiah Kalebu has been so disruptive he has been barred from attending his own trial, which has been going on for three weeks. A guard is prepared to activate the stun device if Kalebu has a violent outburst when he testifies in his own defense. The 25-year-old is charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder, rape and burglary in the July 2009 attack. Teresa Butz was killed. If Kalebu is convicted as charged, he faces a sentence of life in prison without parole.
UPDATE: Kalebu admitted to the attack in court today, saying God told him to do it. Under questioning by one of his lawyers, Kalebu said God told him to attack his enemies. The testimony marks the first time in the three weeks of trial that Kalebu has appeared in court. He had been barred because of disruptive behavior. He was wheeled into court in restraints, wearing an electroshock sleeve and oversized white mitts to keep him from putting things in his mouth.
New armored vehicle for Tri-Cities will help protect officers
KENNEWICK – The Tri-Cities now has a new, state-of-the-art armored vehicle intended to protect officers and help community members during high-risk police situations. The BearCat, a $292,000 armored personnel carrier, was unveiled Tuesday at the Kennewick police station. The vehicle will be used by the Tri-City Regional SWAT team. “Before it’s out of service, it will have saved a life,” said Kennewick police Capt. Scott Child. “We are very thankful, and this truly does make our community a safer place.” The armored vehicle was purchased with State Homeland Security Program grant money. The vehicle has ballistic armor that will stop .30-caliber ammunition and has been tested to have stopped .50-caliber rounds, Cobb said.
67-year sentence in Pasco ‘onion fields’ murder
PASCO, Wash. — A man convicted of killing a Pasco man who arranged farmworker jobs in onion fields was sentenced Tuesday to 67 years in prison. Thirty-one-year-old Ramon Garcia-Morales was convicted June 8 of murder and attempted murder for the 2008 shooting that killed Alfredo Garcia and paralyzed his wife. Franklin County prosecutors said Garcia-Morales blamed Alfredo Garcia for his lack of work and financial hardship.
Oregon House to vote on disputed hookah bill
SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon House is scheduled to vote today on curbing the growth of hookah lounges that allow customers to smoke flavored tobacco. The measure would impose tough new restrictions on smoke shops, including a requirement that new they have no more than four seats, don’t serve food and allow smoking only for sampling purposes. The measure initially had strong support from health advocates concerned about the hazards of smoking. But some of the bill’s biggest supporters now want it killed because of last-minute changes made in the Senate. Those changes would allow an influx of new hookah lounges between now and the time the bill becomes law. Health advocates also oppose changes to the bill that also would allow cigar shops in strip malls in some cases.
Inmate says rights violated at pre-release center
BUTTE, Mont. — A Billings man who was convicted of hitting a girl while driving a school bus while intoxicated has filed a lawsuit claiming his constitutional right to religious expression was violated while he was being held at the Butte pre-release center. The Montana Standard reports former state legislator Timothy Whalen filed a lawsuit Monday against Community Counseling and Correctional Services, which oversees the center. The complaint alleges a CCCS counselor told Whalen “he was sick” because of his religious beliefs and ordered him to read books contrary to his religious beliefs. He also claims he was written up for refusing to participate in choir, which was singing a song that violated his religious beliefs. Whalen was ultimately sent to the Montana State Prison. CCCS chief executive Mike Thatcher said he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit.
Lawyer-stabbing inmate going to trial in Everett
EVERETT, Wash. — After a mental exam, a defendant who stabbed two lawyers in court with pencils has been found competent for his murder trial in Everett. A Snohomish County Superior Court judge signed an order Tuesday for the trial of Joshua Monson to go forward. The 27-year-old is accused of fatally shooting 30-year-old Brian Jones last January in an Everett apartment while he was talking on a cell phone. Monson also is facing a drug charge. The Daily Herald reports Monson made Tuesday’s court appearance from jail with his hands shackled at his waist. He wasn’t allowed to use a pen or pencil. Monson is on his third defense lawyer. The first two were replaced after they were stabbed with pencils last month in separate incidents. They were not seriously injured.
Helena man dies after fall at baseball park
HELENA, Mont. — Lewis and Clark County officials say a 78-year-old Helena man has died of injuries he suffered in a fall from the bleachers after an American Legion baseball game. Coroner Mickey Nelson says Wayne Fisher died Tuesday at a Great Falls hospital due to trauma suffered on June 16 when he fell over the bleachers, through a foul-ball screen and onto cement steps in the dugout at Kindrick Legion Field. Nelson says Fisher fell 8 to 10 feet. Fisher had been watching a family member play for the Helena Senators.
Lapwai man dies in all-terrain vehicle crash
LEWISTON — The Nez Perce County sheriff’s office says a 63-year-old Lapwai man died in an all-terrain vehicle crash in the east-central Idaho town. Officials say Jack Prince was traveling south in the northbound lane of a street in Lapwai late Monday afternoon when he overcorrected as he tried to get back into the southbound lane. The ATV overturned, throwing him off. Prince was not wearing a helmet. He was taken to the hospital in Lewiston, where he died of his injuries. The crash is still under investigation.
Train engine hits minivan, no one injured
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Jefferson County officials say a minivan was struck by a train engine at a crossing near Rigby, but no one was injured. The sheriff’s office says the driver looked just one way before starting across the tracks Tuesday afternoon. The Eastern Idaho Railroad engine was going between 40 and 45 mph when it hit the front of the van. KIFI-TV reports the three people in the van were wearing seat belts and were uninjured. The driver was cited for failure to yield.
Paper: Scherf was calm when found
EVERETT, Wash. — Prison inmate Byron Scherf was calm and tried to clean his fingernails shortly after he was detained in the strangulation of corrections officer Jayme Biendl in the chapel of the Washington State Reformatory. The Daily Herald of Everett today reported that Scherf was found sitting outside the chapel of the Monroe prison the evening of Jan. 29 as other corrections officers came searching for him after he missed a roll call. Scherf claimed he must have fallen asleep, and that Biendl had simply missed him while clearing the chapel. Scherf is charged with aggravated murder and faces the death penalty if convicted. Snohomish County prosecutors say he has admitted killing Biendl.
Jackson Hole could get ‘Modern Family’ premiere
JACKSON, Wyo. — Jackson Hole is reportedly in the running to be the setting for the premiere of “Modern Family.” The Jackson Hole News & Guide reported today that producers of ABC’s “mockumentary” sitcom named the resort town as their top pick but that network approval is still pending. The proposal would have the show’s characters on a family vacation at the Lost Creek Ranch, a lodge and spa. ABC officials declined to comment. The newspaper said Jackson emerged at the front-runner after the Snow King Resort offered to set aside rooms for the production crew and actors and the lodging tax board agreed to help pay for the rooms. The show has also considered sites in Tucson, Ariz., Bozeman, Mont. and Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Plans progressing for Hanford history museum
RICHLAND, Wash. — Plans are moving forward for construction of a $41 million museum at Richland that would tell the history of the Hanford nuclear reservation in World War II and the Cold War. The Corps of Engineers has approved the environmental review and a sublease for the site of the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center at Richland. The Tri-City Herald reports proponents still need to raise about $15 million for the museum. It also would feature information about the area’s Ice Age floods.
Oregon teen points gun at sister, gets 19 months
HILLSBORO, Ore. — An Oregon teenager has been sentenced to 19 months in prison for pointing a gun at his younger sister’s head and later firing it into the air. The Oregonian reports that 18-year-old Angel Alexander Negron of Hillsboro pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm. Hillsboro police said Negron had been pointing the gun at stuffed animals before he held it close to his 16-year-old sister’s face and asked her what she would do if someone pointed a gun at her and demanded money. Police said he then went outside their house and fired one shot into the air. Negron must also complete drug treatment and submit to a mental evaluation and possible treatment.
State approves medical marijuana ballot petition
HELENA, Mont. — Medical marijuana advocates can begin gathering signatures in their attempt to suspend a more restrictive medical marijuana law passed by the 2011 Legislature. Secretary of State Linda McCullough notified the Montana Cannabis Industry Association Tuesday that Attorney General Steve Bullock has found the proposed ballot language legally sufficient. Association spokeswoman Kate Cholewa tells Lee Newspapers of Montana that the group’s first task is to train volunteers who will be collecting signatures in an effort to let voters decide on medical marijuana regulation. She says they expect to have petitions on the street beginning this weekend. The group is also awaiting a judge’s decision on its legal challenge to the law.