March 7, 2011 in Region

NW today: Judge orders hysterectomy, patient appeals

Compiled from wire reports

What’s news in the Northwest today:

MISSOULA, Mont. — The Montana Supreme Court has stayed a District Court ruling ordering a cancer patient to undergo a hysterectomy to give the patient time to appeal the finding that she was not mentally competent to make such a decision. The Missoulian reports District Judge Karen Townsend issued a ruling Tuesday requiring L.K. to undergo a hysterectomy on Thursday to treat her cancer. A psychiatrist from the Montana State Hospital testified on March 1 that the woman suffered from the delusional religious belief that God had cured her, while a physician testified that without treatment, L.K.’s cancer could kill her within three years. Public defender Greg Hood filed an emergency petition on Wednesday arguing Townsend’s ruling violates L.K.’s religious freedom and constitutional dignity. The Supreme Court has agreed to expedite the appeal.

Lawmakers 4 percent increase for Idaho prisons budget

BOISE — State lawmakers have approved a 4.1 percent increase in funding for the Department of Correction, listing public safety among their top priorities as they work to balance Idaho’s cash-strapped budget for next year. The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee approved a $175.6 million budget today for the corrections department. That’s a $6.8 million increase compared to this year. Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, says the budget is “a little over target” as lawmakers work to fill an estimated $92 million shortfall in Idaho’s budget for the next fiscal year. But Bolz cited strides the state has made so far in reducing its prison population and says the state still has a long ways to go. The budget still needs House and Senate approval.

Washington prison officials knew Scherf was threat

EVERETT, Wash. — The Washington Department of Corrections warned 10 years ago that Byron Scherf was a threat to prison staff, especially women correctional officers. Scherf is charged with aggravated murder in the Jan. 29 strangling of Officer Jayme Biendl in the chapel at the Monroe prison. Scherf is already serving a life sentence as a three-strikes convicted rapist. The Daily Herald reports that a report on Scherf in 2001 said prison staff were concerned his next victim could be a staff member and that he would likely be a model inmate who will always be a danger to females because of rape fantasies.

Mental exam ordered in hammer attack

COEUR d’ALENE — A District Court judge has ordered a mental health examination for a man charged with attacking four Bayview residents with a hammer, killing one of them. The Coeur d’Alene Press reports 1st District Judge Benjamin Simpson on Wednesday ordered the state to examine 31-year-old Larry W. Cragun to determine his ability to understand the charges and assist with his defense. Cragun is charged with walking into his neighbors’ mobile home on Dec. 19 and attacking four people. Cragun is charged with first-degree murder in the death of 43-year-old Patricia Heath, two counts of attempted first-degree murder and four other felonies. Before the attack, Cragun was spotted putting up flyers suggesting there was an umbrella submerged in Lake Pend Oreille that, along with GPS tracking satellites, somehow allowed the government to read peoples’ minds.

Washing officials reviewing mental hospital escape

LAKEWOOD, Wash. — The Washington Department of Social and Health Services is reviewing how a patient was able to escape from Western State Hospital at Lakewood. Jonathan D. Wilson remained in Pierce County Jail over the weekend, and Department of Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis says officials are deciding today where he should be transferred. The 26-year-old was captured in Tacoma on Saturday, a day after he walked out the doors as he was escorted from the recovery center to the gym. DSHS Secretary Susan Dreyfus said Saturday that all security protocols were followed. She says the department will provide a full briefing Wednesday. Wilson was admitted to Western Jan. 18 on an involuntary civil commitment. He had previously been jailed in Snohomish County in 2008 in an arson case.

10-year-old boy shot, killed in Great Falls

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Great Falls police say a 10-year-old boy has been shot to death and another juvenile is in custody. Police tell the Great Falls Tribune the shooting was reported at 7 p.m. Sunday at an apartment complex. The 10-year-old was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police say no charges have been filed and the shooting remains under investigation.

County makes invasive species checkpoint permanent

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Leaders in Twin Falls County say they are making more permanent the invasive species checkpoint just north of the Idaho-Nevada border. The checkpoint is the first line of defense in the effort to guard against boaters infesting Idaho waters with zebra and quagga mussels. The mussels have many western states taking preventative steps because they can destroy food chains, threaten waterways and fisheries. So far, Idaho waters are free of the invasive species. But two years ago, the Legislature passed laws requiring that all boats be tested. Twin Falls County officials say they have signed a deal to lease a trailer from Mid-Snake Resource Conservation and Development to hold the inspections. Commission officials tell the Times-News the deal is another step toward making the checkpoint a permanent fixture.

Columbia-Snake River shipping resuming this month

WALLA WALLA, Wash. — The Columbia-Snake River navigation system goes back into operation this month after months of repairs to navigation locks. The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin reports the locks at Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite dams will go back into service March 15. On the Columbia River, the lock at McNary Dam will reopen March 17. The next two dams, John Day Dam and Bonneville Dam, will reopen March 19. The final reopening will be March 24 when The Dalles Dam goes back into service.

Idaho man takes lesser charge in 2003 crash case

BOISE — A Nampa man convicted of killing a motorcyclist seven years ago has agreed to a lesser charge as part of an appeal of his case. Thirty-year-old Shane McKay hit and killed a motorcyclist in October 2003, convicted in 2004 of vehicular manslaughter and ordered to spend at least four years in jail. But he appealed his case to the Idaho Supreme Court and won, claiming his lawyers were ineffective. The justices agreed and ordered a new trial, which was scheduled to begin last week. Instead, The Idaho Statesman reports McKay has agreed to plead guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter in the death of 50-year-old motorcyclist Ted Cox. According to the deal, the judge sentenced McKay to time already served. McKay was released on parole after serving the minimum.

Suspended sentence for man shot in drug case

KALISPELL, Mont. — A man who was shot four times and badly injured while trying to steal cocaine has been given a five-year suspended sentence. The Daily Inter Lake reports 27-year-old Bryan Keith Schloss was sentenced Thursday by District Judge Ted Lympus in Kalispell. Schloss pleaded guilty in January to accountability to criminal possession of dangerous drugs while an attempted robbery charge was dismissed. Prosecutors say Schloss and another man planned to steal cocaine from 23-year-old David Palumbo on Dec. 5, 2009. Court records say Schloss had a 9 mm pistol, but the gun jammed. Palumbo fled on foot after shooting Schloss. Bo Hanger dropped Schloss off at the hospital. He has nearly $1 million in medical bills. Palumbo has been sentenced to 10 years in prison while Hanger is still awaiting trial.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email