NW today: N. Idaho man to stand trial again for murder

What’s news in the Northwest today:

LEWISTON — A man accused of killing a North Idaho woman in 2001 is expected to get a new murder trial later this month. The Idaho Supreme Court ordered that David J. Meister be retried last year after finding 2nd District Judge John Stegner erred when refusing to allow evidence that someone else might have pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Tonya Hart. The 21-year-old Moscow woman was shot twice at point-blank range after opening the door of her trailer home. The Lewiston Tribune reports jury selection started Monday in Meister’s new trial, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 24. Meister has maintained his innocence, although police said he initially confessed to the crime. He was sentenced to life in prison after his first trial in 2003.

Ceremony to honor State Patrol officers

UNION GAP, Wash. – A Washington State Patrol communications officer and two troopers who died in a house fire will be remembered in a dedication ceremony Friday. Communications manager Anne Miller-Hewitt, 54, her husband, Trooper Gary Miller, 55, and Trooper Kristopher Sperry, 30, died July 16, 2010, when a fire ripped through the couple’s home outside Zillah. Sperry was staying as a guest. Investigators have never been able to determine what started the fire, but have said it was not intentionally set. The State Patrol plans a dedication ceremony featuring three rose bushes and a plaque at 11 a.m. at its Union Gap headquarters at 2715 Rudkin Road. An estimated 2,000 people attended a memorial service for the trio at the Yakima Valley SunDome 11 days after the fire. This story has been updated to correct the day of the ceremony. It is Friday.

Police say popcorn vendors likely casing houses

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Police in Twin Falls doubt there’s even a kernel of truth to the line used by two men going door-to-door claiming to be offering free popcorn samples. Officers say the vendors’ request to use a homeowner’s microwave is likely a ruse so they can case houses prior to burglarizing them. The Times-News reports police received several calls Tuesday reporting the men and their unusual request. Police are warning residents against letting strangers into their homes and say they should call police if the vendors become aggressive. In this case, the vendors are described as an older male with a round face and one younger male in his 20s with a dark complexion and short hair.

More seal pups spotted ashore in Seattle

SEATTLE — A bumper crop of chubby, adorable harbor seal pups have been hauling out on rocks and beaches of West Seattle in high numbers in recent weeks. The local group Seal Sitters have counted 37 pups in the southwest Seattle neighborhood so far this season, compared with 33 from August to December last year. The latest was a white pup with brown speckles dubbed Sly. This morning, the pup rested on seaweed-covered rocks, protected behind perimeter tape set up by volunteers. State biologist Dyanna Lambourn says there’s a healthy population of seals in Puget Sound. The high number of pups reported may also be because more people are looking for them. The pups are also drawn to pilings found in urban settings where they feed on bait fish.

E. Oregon teen accused of shooting bus heater

PENDLETON, Ore. — An 18-year-old student at an alternative high school in Pendleton has been accused of shooting a hole in the heater at the back of a shuttle bus. Police say footage from a camera aboard the bus shows a young man taking a pistol from a backpack Friday night. The owner of the shuttle says the bang sounded like a gunshot or a firecracker, but after a warning to the passengers, the driver continued on the route until somebody reported the heater core leaking. The East Oregonian reports another bus completed the run to the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The owner found the bullet casing the next day and called police. Police arrested Stephen Michael Jim at the school Monday and confiscated a 9 mm pistol.

Soldier from Enumclaw killed in Afghanistan

TACOMA — The Defense Department says a soldier from Enumclaw died Monday in Afghanistan of combat-related injuries. Thirty-four-year-old Sgt. Nathan L. Wyrick, was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y. He formerly was based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The News Tribune reports he leaves a wife and four sons. He was a 1996 graduate of Franklin Pierce High School who played football. Wyrick was a supply specialist who deployed to Afghanistan in March. He had two previous deployments to Iraq.

Crew of seized vessel getting deported

JUNEAU, Alaska — The crew of a seized vessel suspected of illegal fishing is being deported. A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice says the 22 crew members are being held at a detention facility outside Seattle while arrangements are made to return them to their native countries. She didn’t know how long that process would take. She says 10 of the crew members are from Vietnam, seven are from Indonesia, four are from China and one is from Taiwan. The Coast Guard seized the Bangun Perkasa Sept. 7, about 2,600 miles southwest of Kodiak, after a report that the ship was fishing illegally with a drift net. A Coast Guard spokeswoman has said the crew initially claimed the vessel was from Indonesia but that authorities in Indonesia didn’t claim it.

Cattle found dead near salty reservoir

GREAT FALLS, Mont. — The Blackfeet Environmental Office suspects toxic concentrations of salt in a reservoir led to the deaths of more than two dozen cows on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation last week. A rancher on the east side of the reservation reported the dead cattle to the environmental office last Thursday, Shawn Lahr told the Great Falls Tribune for a story published in today’s editions. Lahr and others visited the site Monday and counted 29 dead cows. He said the animals apparently died after drinking water in a stagnant reservoir. Samples of the water and the cows’ blood have been sent to a lab for testing, Lahr said. Aerial photos of the site show areas of white in the soil indicating high levels of salt, he said. At high concentrations, salt water can be deadly to cattle said Jan Holzer, program director of the Montana Salinity Control Association in Conrad.

Ill. to try Wash. man for cold-case rape, murder

SYCAMORE, Ill. — Northern Illinois prosecutors say they’ll try a Washington man for sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the 1960s before they try him for the 1957 killing of a 7-year-old girl. Prosecutors said today that 71-year-old Jack McCullough will be tried on charges of rape and indecent liberties with a child for the abuse of a girl in Sycamore from 1961 to 1962. The (DeKalb) Daily Chronicle reports the trial is scheduled for Jan. 9. A grand jury indicted McCullough last month in the rape case. He was indicted this summer on murder, kidnapping and abduction charges in the death of Maria Ridulph, also of Sycamore. In a July jailhouse interview with The Associated Press, McCullough denied killing Ridulph, and he’s pleaded not guilty to her killing.

Oregon salmon eggs appear to survive ditch failure

MEDFORD, Ore. — Biologists in Southern Oregon say that spring chinook salmon eggs they thought might die after an irrigation ditch failed appear to have survived. Earlier this month, water from the ditch washed into a tributary of the Rogue River and the river itself, carrying a plume of red clay. Biologists feared the clay would smother the eggs. But surveys have turned up no dead eggs. The plume appears to have passed over the beds. The Medford Mail Tribune reports that more surveys are planned. Scientists have been working to restore wild salmon runs in the Rogue, and the wild spring chinook have struggled.

Convicted killer walks away from prerelease center

MISSOULA, Mont. — Officials with the Missoula Prerelease Center say a 43-year-old man convicted of mitigated deliberate homicide for a 1997 killing in Yellowstone County has walked away from the center. Manuel Red Woman was last seen shortly after midnight Monday. He is a Native American who is 5 feet, 11 inches tall and weighs about 180 pounds. He came to the prerelease center in December 2010 and had been working as a janitor. Officials say he did not exhibit violent behavior while in the prerelease program, but people are advised not to approach him but to call law enforcement if they see him.

Seattle mayor tells demonstrators to follow rules

SEATTLE — Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn issued a statement saying the police and Parks Department have been told to enforce the rules — starting this morning — at Westlake Park where dozens of Occupy Seattle demonstrators have been staying. The statement says this includes prohibitions against camping and unpermitted activity. The city will provide permits for First Amendment uses during regular park hours. McGinn says he received a list of demands from the group Tuesday in response to his invitation to move to City Hall Plaza. The mayor says they would have to follow laws for using public resources. Demonstrators wanted approval for tents to use as a kitchen, infirmary, storage area and information center. They wanted written approval of long-term occupancy, access to City Hall restrooms and parking for supply vehicles.

Homeless advocates sleeping near Gates Foundation

SEATTLE — A group that operates homeless shelters in Seattle says members will continue sleeping outside the Gates Foundation headquarters this week, seeking more funding for their SHARE-WHEEL organization. The reports dozens of people slept on plastic on the sidewalk Tuesday night, for a second night. A member of the SHARE-WHEEL board of directors, Monty Smith, said the demonstration will likely continue for the rest of the week. In a statement, Gates Foundation Pacific Northwest initiatives director David Bley says the foundation has committed more than $100 million in the region to address the problem of homelessness.

Authorities: ‘Moss Man’ fails to show up for trial

HILLSBORO, Ore. — Authorities say an Oregon burglary suspect dubbed “Moss Man” failed to show up at his trial, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. Gregory Liascos of Portland earned the “Moss Man” moniker after police say he was arrested in full-body camouflage last October outside the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. Police say the 36-year-old Portland man had cut a hole in a museum wall and was trying to break in. Officers found a bike and a backpack, but they didn’t find the suspect until a police dog bit what appeared to be the ground. It was Liascos in a “ghillie” suit, a head-to-toe camouflage outfit used by military snipers to blend in with vegetation. Liascos later said the whole thing was a mix-up, and that the outfit was a Halloween costume from his kids.

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