What’s news in the Northwest today:
MOSCOW – A collaborative effort made by Washington State University and Avista Utilities helped put a baby owl back in its habitat Monday morning. The Great Horned owl chick returned to its nest at Pullman’s Lincoln Middle School after being found last week at the foot of a tree, too young to fly. Nickol Finch of WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine took the bird under her wing and conducted examinations and feeding while plans were made to place it back in its nest. Serviceman Tom Haeder operated a large Avista bucket truck and put the bird back into the tree, about 40 feet off the ground. The mother owl flew off when Avista arrived, but was seen circling nearby before returning to the nest. Bruce Howard, Avista’s director of environmental affairs, said the company puts protectors on top of poles where birds are known to frequent and builds nesting stations elsewhere. Bigger birds, such as larger owls and other raptors, have such wide wingspans that they can touch two power lines at once and be killed. Other risks include nests catching on fire and power outages.
Female teacher accused of sex with student
SEATTLE — The King County Sheriff’s Office is investigating allegations that a 37-year-old Kentlake High School female teacher had sex with a 17-year-old male student. Sgt. John Urquhart says the student’s mother went to school authorities with her suspicions after she found an unusual number of text messages between her son and the teacher on the boy’s cell phone. The Sheriff’s Office began investigating March 8 after being notified by the school officials. The teacher was booked into King County Jail last Thursday on investigation of sexual misconduct with a minor. She was released the next day, and is due in court today. School officials have placed the teacher on administrative leave. She has not been charged with a crime.
Idaho man accused of using air gun to punish minors
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — An Idaho Falls man is facing multiple child injury charges for allegedly using an air gun to discipline four children. Authorities say they have charged 29-year-old Joshua Alan Brotherson with four counts of misdemeanor minor injury to a child. The charges were filed after the children told state child protection officials Brotherson lined them up against a wall and shot at their legs with an Airsoft gun as punishment, leaving welts on their calves. Idaho Falls Police Sgt. Phil Grimes says the children were all younger than 10. The Post Register reports an investigation ensued after a school resource officer noticed the welts. If convicted, Brotherson faces up to one year in the county jail or one to ten years in state prison.
Senator proposes early release of some inmates
OLYMPIA, Wash. — To save money, Democratic state Sen. Adam Kline of Seattle is proposing the early release of some inmates from prison. Kline says that his proposal would be for non-violent inmates who have not committed sex offenses, murder, or have a certain type of drug offense. Under Kline’s proposal, an inmate with low risk to reoffend could see 120 days shaved off their sentence; a high risk, but nonviolent inmate would get 60 days off. Proponents say the state could save $6 million in the next two years. A study cited by Kline says that following this plan would result in a rise of non-violent crimes after the first year, but a decline later on. His proposal includes money for rehabilitation programs for the released inmates. Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge of the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, a lobbying group, says he’s worried about the proposal because kidnappers, robbers and convicts who have committed manslaughter would qualify for release. A Senate committee will consider Kline’s bill today.
Palouse man pleads guilty in 2010 fatal crash
MOSCOW — A 28-year-old Palouse man has pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter for his role in the November traffic crash near Potlatch that killed one woman and seriously injured three others. Jesse Lee Hewes also pleaded guilty Monday to one count of aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol stemming from the Nov. 21 accident that caused the death of 22-year-old Therra Alexander. The Lewiston Tribune reports Hewes is scheduled to be sentenced May 26 and faces a maximum of 15 years in prison for each count. Prosecutors say Hewes was driving at speeds topping 80 mph and failed to negotiate a right hand curve on a stretch of highway posted at 35 mph. Alexander was one of five passengers in the car when it slid, became airborne and crashed.
Idaho House panel rejects wind power moratorium
BOISE — A House panel took the wind out of the sails of those demanding a moratorium on wind power development in Idaho. In a close 11-8 vote, the House State Affairs Committee today declined to ban new turbine projects for two years. Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Erik Simpson was pushing the moratorium for residents of his eastern Idaho city who are unhappy with turbines erected a mile or so from their houses. Utilities including Avista Corp. also backed the ban, saying wind power is driving up customers’ rates. While even those representatives who voted against the moratorium conceded rapid development of Idaho wind farms was creating some concerns, they concluded the issue of whether to take a breather on new projects was best left to local county commissions to resolve.
Counties weigh sales tax hike for mental health
KENNWICK, Wash. — Benton and Franklin commissioners are weighing whether to increase local sales tax to pay for mental health services. Human Services Administrator Ed Thornbrugh told commissioners Monday that increasing sales tax by $1 for every $1000 spent would raise $3.7 million a year. He says it could help pay for a new crisis center and a mental health court that diverts people into treatment rather than jail. The Tri-City Herald says state law allows county commissioners to raise local sales tax by 0.1 percent to pay for mental health programs without approval from voters. But commissioners have been reluctant to do so, because voters in both counties have rejected similar tax increases to pay for criminal justice programs.
Man shot while driving, car crashes into house
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Idaho Falls police say an argument in a motel parking lot led to a chase and shooting that left one man dead. Officers are seeking two persons of interest. Sgt. Phil Grimes tells KIFI-TV that the victim was shot in the back while he was driving and his car struck a parked car and then crashed into a house at about 3 a.m. today. The man died at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center. His female passenger had minor injuries. Grimes says detectives have identified two “persons of interest” in the shooting — Jason Burns and Geoffrey Salem Elawadly, who Burns says should be considered armed and dangerous. Burns has a newer model GMC extended cab pickup. No charges have been filed. Officials have not released the victim’s name or age.
Tribal horsemen round up hundreds of Montana horses
BILLINGS, Mont. — Horsemen from the Crow Tribe in Montana gathered about 700 horses belonging to a Billings man charged with animal cruelty after the animals were found wandering tribal lands and nearby ranches without adequate food and water. Crow Tribal Vice Chairman Calvin Jefferson tells The Billings Gazette that Monday’s roundup went smoothly. The Bureau of Indian Affairs condemned the horses on March 1 because they were trespassing on tribal lands. The BIA contracted with the tribe to round up the horses and feed them until they can be sold in late March or early April. BIA regional director Ed Parisian says the owner, James Leachman, has five days to redeem his horses, if he can pay for the costs of their care and roundup and the damage they caused the rangeland.
Crews find missing Boise snowmobiler
BOISE — A Boise man who went missing while snowmobiling with friends in the mountains of Elmore County has been found alive. Idaho National Guard Col. Tim Marsano says the 54-year-old man was found this morning with the aid of a national guard helicopter. The man, not yet identified, has been missing since Sunday night but appears to be in good condition. The search focused on the Bennett Mountain area, about 30 miles northeast of Mountain Home, and the effort was aided by cell phone calls made by the man Monday. Search efforts were hampered Monday after clouds rolled into the area, reducing visibility in the region. Crews began looking for the man late Sunday after three snowmobilers were reported overdue. Two of the snowmobilers ultimately returned to their vehicle.
Data breach affects 120,000 Oregon customers
PORTLAND, Ore. — State officials says a recent data breach means the health histories of about 120,000 Oregon customers have been missing for more than a month. The Oregonian newspaper says Health Net, one of Oregon’s largest health insurers, disclosed March 14 that data servers containing personal financial information for nearly 2 million people has been missing from its California office for about a month. Oregon Insurance Division spokeswoman Cheryl Martinis says her agency first learned of the data breach in late February but didn’t alert consumers because the company had not yet identified those affected. She says the company has offered customers two years of free credit monitoring and identity-theft insurance.
Trustees warned of ‘consequences’ if reforms fail
BOISE — School trustees have been warned of “consequences” should they work to defeat legislation aimed at reforming Idaho’s public education system. The Idaho Statesman reports that in an e-mail Friday, Idaho School Boards Association Director Karen Echeverria told trustees many lawmakers supported the bill and said: “We have been warned that school districts will face some consequences should we work to kill this bill.” Echeverria listed forced school district consolidation and cuts to math and science programs as potential ramifications. The bill is part of a reform package authored by schools chief Tom Luna, with backing from Gov. Butch Otter. A new version of the legislation was unveiled Friday and would shift money from school funding used primarily for teacher salaries to fund classroom technology upgrades and teacher merit pay.
Man accused of killing brother-in-law
YAKIMA, Wash. — Authorities have arrested a 38-year-old Ellensburg, Wash., man in connection with his brother-in-law’s death. Fifty-four-year-old Russell Ray was last seen June. His body was discovered March 9 near Ellensburg, and it was identified last week. The Yakima Herald-Republic says Ray’s brother-in-law Christopher Foley appeared Monday before a Kittitas County judge Monday in connection with his death and disappearance. Foley was lodged into Kittitas County Jail in lieu of $2 million bail. Undersheriff Clayton Myers says Ray died of blunt force trauma. Deputies said Foley had been a suspect in Ray’s disappearance for some time. He was arrested Friday on a charge of second-degree murder after an interview with his attorney present.
Investigation into Butte plane crash begins
BUTTE, Mont. — The National Transportation Safety Board has begun investigating the weekend crash of a twin-engine plane near Butte that killed the pilot, NorthWestern Energy Vice President David Gates. Eliot Simpson, aviation accident investigator, said more than half of the Cessna 310 was incinerated, but what is left of the aircraft is being taken to a hangar in Bozeman to be reconstructed. He expects a factual preliminary report will be issued later this week. Simpson says Gates was returning to Butte from Great Falls on Saturday afternoon when he missed the approach to Bert Mooney Airport. It is not know why he missed the approach, but it was snowing in the area at the time. About two minutes after missing the approach, Gates radioed three successive “mayday” calls. The plane then disappeared from radar.
Foul play suspected in Bend woman’s disappearance
BEND, Ore. — Officers searching for a 72-year-old Bend woman missing nearly two weeks say they believe she met with foul play. Police Capt. Jim Porter tells the Bend Bulletin that Sandra Meyer was close to her sons and wasn’t likely to be out of touch for so long. Six days after reporting her missing, Meyer’s 71-year-old husband, John, was found shot to death in their house. A gun was found with him, but police haven’t said whether he shot himself. He told police on March 10 that his wife left the house the day before to go to a book club meeting downtown. Her car was found in a parking lot at Bend’s Old Mill District.
Washington Revenue Department: Beware of impersonators
OLYMPIA — The state Department of Revenue says that scammers are again impersonating its employees and directing businesses to a bogus international phone number that charges $7 for the call. The department says that an automated phone call tries to reach a business on the pretense of a tax inquiry. The automated message directs an employer to call a “1-800-631-4228” number, and then they are further instructed to call a “10-15-15-8000” number. If a business calls that number, a $7 charge is tacked on. The Department does call businesses, usually when they fall behind on filing state tax returns. The state’s number is nearly identical to the fake one: 1-800-631-4228. But anyone calling the state number is not prompted to dial an international number. A similar scam happened two years and authorities were unable to track down the perpetrators because they were in foreign countries.
Montana pilot who flew captured Nazi leader dies
HELENA, Mont. — Mayhew “Bo” Foster, the pilot who transported the top captured Nazi leader to Army headquarters for interrogation, has died. He was 99. Roy Korkalo, Foster’s son-in-law, says Foster died Monday night in a Missoula nursing home. A cause of death was not immediately given. Foster was brigadier general of the Montana National Guard from 1963 to 1971 and was awarded the French Legion of Honor for his World War II service. His mission flying Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering was the highlight of his military career. The one-time heir to Adolf Hitler had surrendered when World War II ended in Europe in 1945, and Foster flew him to an Army headquarters in Germany for interrogation. Foster said in a recent interview Goering acted as though he was on a sightseeing trip.