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In brief: Whale pod returns to Puget Sound

Sun., March 20, 2011, midnight

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. – A small group of gray whales is back in Puget Sound.

The Orca Network said the group of about 10 whales returns every spring to the waters near Whidbey and Camano islands from its breeding grounds off California.

One of the whales, named Patch for the large white patch on its side, has become a favorite of local whale watchers. Patch has been spotted off Whidbey Island within the past few weeks.

Official downplays marijuana raids

BUTTE – The U.S. attorney for Montana said recent raids by federal and local authorities on medical pot businesses does not mean the Obama administration has abandoned its policy of leaving legitimate medical marijuana patients and providers alone.

Mike Cotter made the comments Friday in Butte to a gathering of the Montana Bar.

Federal agents raided medical marijuana operations across Montana on Monday.

Warrants unsealed Tuesday named seven medical pot businesses as targets of an 18-month investigation into large-scale trafficking and tax evasion.

The Obama administration has said it would not prosecute medical marijuana users who comply with state laws.

Family reunited with lost dog

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – An Iowa family has been reunited with their dog, stolen four years ago when they were living in Washington state.

The Hodsons welcomed their 4-year-old Labrador mix, Gretchen, Saturday at the Eastern Iowa Airport.

Margaret Hodson, of Wayland, said the family went door-to-door and posted signs when their puppy was stolen in 2007. The family moved to Iowa after Travis Hodson’s deployment to Afghanistan.

The dog was recently found wandering near a lake in Fort Lewis, Wash. A microchip helped authorities there find her owners, and the dog was shipped by plane to Iowa.

Man fined $11,345 in poaching case

DAYTON, Wash. – A Kennewick man has been fined $11,345 after admitting he poached a trophy-size bull elk in the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington.

Jason Locke pleaded guilty in Columbia County District Court. Game officials said he killed two elk and wrongly used his wife’s permit tag to claim one of them.

Locke also faces charges in Benton and Chelan counties. He’s accused of guiding commercial steelhead trips on the Columbia River without a license, making a false report to Fish and Wildlife, and unlawful big game hunting.

Man with body in car pleads guilty

OLYMPIA – A Tenino, Wash., man who had a dead woman in his pickup when he was pulled over last August has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

Bernard Keith Howell, 27, faces more than 26 years in prison for Vanda Boone’s murder.

No sentencing date has been set.

The Thurston County Sheriff’s Office said 60-year-old Boone died after her throat was slit on the Yelm-Tenino Trail. The coroner said blunt-force injuries to her head and neck and asphyxia from strangulation also contributed to her death. Detectives have said they think she was walking or riding a bike when she was attacked.

Boone moved to the Yelm, Wash., area from New York in March 2010.


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