What’s news in the Northwest today:
TACOMA — As teachers in Washington state’s third-largest school district defy a judge’s order and continue to strike, negotiators for the schools, the teachers union and a state mediator will meet to restart contract talks. Tacoma school district spokesman Dan Voelpel says the negotiation session is scheduled for this afternoon. Teachers voted to strike earlier this week after talks broke down last weekend. Earlier today, the district canceled classes after teachers continued to picket. They ignored an injunction issued Wednesday from a Superior Court judge. The teachers walked out over issues that include pay and how teachers are transferred. About 28,000 students are being kept at home during the strike.
N. Idaho man wants new sentence in wife’s death
MOSCOW, Idaho — A North Idaho man serving up to 40 years in prison for the death of his pregnant wife and their unborn child wants a new sentencing. The Lewiston Tribune reports Silas Parks filed a petition for post-conviction relief in Idaho’s 2nd District Court earlier this week. Parks contends his sentence is cruel and unusual. He also argues in his motion that his attorneys gave him inadequate legal representation and that there is a possibility his wife died of “automatic suffocation,” which would mean the homicide was really an accident. Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson said Wednesday he was disappointed with the petition because Parks appeared to have accepted responsibility for the death of his wife and unborn child when pleading guilty to charges of voluntary manslaughter and arson.
ISU students vote to support campus smoking ban
POCATELLO, Idaho — Students at Idaho State University have voted to support a proposed smoking ban on the Pocatello campus. The existing university policy requires smokers to be at least 20 feet from buildings. School administrators sought feedback last year on the smoking policy and wondered if they should leave it unchanged, ban smoking or designate a few areas where smoking is allowed. The Associated Students of ISU voted to pass a resolution two weeks ago in support of making the campus smoke-free. The Idaho State Journal reports student president Shaun Stokes said the resolution was prompted by campus surveys and also driven by health concerns about secondhand smoke. Elsewhere in the state, the College of Southern Idaho, North Idaho College and Boise State University already have smoking bans in place.
Fourth Oregon faith-healing couple on trial
OREGON CITY, Ore. — For the fourth time in recent years, members of a Clackamas County church that shuns medical care are on trial. The Oregonian reports that the case centers on David Hickman, who was born prematurely with underdeveloped lungs and a bacterial infection and who lived less than nine hours. Prosecutors say Dale and Shannon Hickman didn’t take their son to the hospital even though he could barely breathe. Instead, they anointed him with olive oil, a common practice among members of the Followers of Christ church. The Hickmans’ lawyers told the jury Wednesday they would argue that prosecutors are persecuting the couple for their faith. The manslaughter trial is expected to last up to five weeks. In previous trials, five of six church members were convicted.
Python found at Billings restaurant claimed
BILLINGS, Mont. — A 12-foot python found in the parking lot of a Billings fast food restaurant last week has been claimed by its owners. The snake was kept at the Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter. KULR-TV reports the owners were afraid to report the snake’s escape from its cage in August because reticulated pythons are illegal within the city limits. However, they owned the snake before the rule took effect, so they can keep the snake dubbed Mr. T. The owners say they’ve made some improvements to Mr. T’s cage so he cannot escape again.
Former senior center leader pleads guilty to theft
RUPERT, Idaho — The former interim director of the Minidoka County Senior Center has pleaded guilty to felony grand theft after prosecutors said she stole nearly $3,000 from the center. Thirty-year-old Holly Anne Najera entered the guilty plea as part of a plea agreement in 5th District Court on Monday. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to drop a felony burglary charge. The Times-News reports that Najera worked at the center from June 2005 until August 2010. She was charged in May with allegedly using an unauthorized financial card issued in the center’s name to make withdrawals at an ATM.
Fruitland bar owner charged with tax evasion
BOISE — The owner of a Fruitland bar has denied federal charges that he ran an illegal gambling business and evaded paying federal taxes. The Idaho Statesman reports 66-year-old Thomas Dale Overstreet was arrested Wednesday on an indictment that includes 22 counts of money laundering and bulk cash smuggling out of the United States. He entered his not guilty pleas before a U.S. Magistrate judge in Boise. A trial is set for next month. The indictment alleges Overstreet earned substantial income from his bar, Club 7, including more than $1 million from an illegal gambling business between mid-2003 and 2010. He did not file an individual tax return during that time. The indictment also alleges Overstreet laundered gambling proceeds through an ATM and check-cashing service and transported cash into Mexico.
Suspect in Hoquiam car theft tries to hide in mud
ABERDEEN, Wash. — A 32-year-old man tried to hide in mud after being suspected of driving a stolen car in Hoquiam. KBKW News reports that a K-9 unit tracked the man to a ditch after he abandoned the 2002 Nissan Sentra that had been reported stolen Tuesday. Earlier, officers had spotted the car and began pursuing it. The man and his 31-year-old sister were arrested.
NYC chooses Oregon company for bike-share program
NEW YORK — New York City has chosen a Portland company to run an ambitious bike-sharing program that is scheduled to roll out next year. City officials announced Wednesday that they have chosen Alta Bicycle Share of Portland to run the program. Details still to be worked out include the exact locations of hundreds of bicycle rental stations. The city Department of Transportation website invites users to suggest locations for the kiosks. A bike rented at one station can be returned at any other. Officials said a yearly membership will cost $100 or less. When implemented, the program will put 10,000 bicycles on city streets and will be the largest bike-share effort in the country. New York City has installed 250 miles of bike lanes since 2007.