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In brief: Mother dies after falling into hole in marshy forest

A woman in her late 30s died after falling into a hole near Copper Creek in the Coeur d’Alene National Forest on Saturday afternoon, the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department reported.

The woman, who has not been identified pending family notification, was looking for frogs with her children in a marshy area when she fell head-first into a hole, Sgt. Ryan Higgins said. The hole was 2 or 3 feet in diameter and filled with water, he said.

The incident occurred around 2 p.m. Saturday. Family members were unable to pull the woman out of the hole, which appeared to have been formed by burrowing animals, Higgins said.

“There are holes in that area that are not visible until you step or fall into them,” Higgins said, adding the grass is knee-high in areas.

The department’s Backcountry Unit was in the area and was flagged down by a member of the hiking party. Deputies used an ATV to reach the woman, but were also unable to pull her out. Kootenai County Fire & Rescue extricated her and she was pronounced dead at the scene, Higgins said. The official cause of death has not been determined; Higgins said suffocation is likely.

Kip Hill

Officials seek information in lewd conduct case

Coeur d’Alene police are looking for additional information related to the arrest Friday of Justin Wheeler, 31, on suspicion of lewd conduct, including unlawful touching, with at least five minors under the age of 16.

Police didn’t specify where or when the conduct took place.

Sgt. Brett Walton said Saturday detectives are investigating leads and looking for help from the community. Parents who think their child may have had contact with Wheeler should ask about suspicious behavior.

“Detectives believe there might be additional cases,” Walton said.

Walton asked anyone with information to contact the department at (208) 769-2320.

Kip Hill

Killing of father-in-law considered self-defense

Charges will not be filed against a Sandpoint man who killed his father-in-law during a fight in February, Bonner County Prosecuting Attorney Louis Marshall said Friday.

Anthony Viola, 35, acted in self-defense when he killed Alberto Tuinzing, 36, of Spokane Valley, in his garage on Feb. 6, Marshall concluded. A news release from the attorney’s office said the two men were playing darts and began fighting when Tuinzing pulled out a handgun and shot Viola in the arm. Viola responded by stabbing Tuinzing with a pair of scissors and striking Tuinzing’s head repeatedly against the concrete floor. Both men were taken to the hospital. An autopsy listed brain hemorrhaging as Tuinzing’s cause of death.

The release said the two may have met for the first time when the fight occurred. An investigation showed Viola and his wife, Amy, may have objected to Tuinzing’s marriage to Rebekah Gonzales, also of Spokane Valley.

Kip Hill