In brief: Iraq, Afghanistan casualties honored
A new monument to U.S. military service members killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan will be dedicated today at the Kootenai County Courthouse campus in Coeur d’Alene.
A ceremony at 1 p.m. in the Ronald D. Rankin Veterans Memorial Plaza will formally add the new memorial alongside a black granite monument placed in 1998 honoring those killed in action in previous wars, according to a news release. The new piece will depict a soldier’s boots, weapon and helmet in a “battlefield cross.”
The project was funded by community donations, according to Rankin plaza curator Kerri Rankin Thoreson. North Idaho businesses Gargoyle Granite and Tumblestone worked together on the design of the new memorial, which includes the names of local residents killed in action, the release said.
Apartment fire blamed on stove
An accidental appliance fire at a retirement community run by Catholic Charities in central Spokane stretched thin a harried Spokane Fire Department on Friday morning.
When firefighters arrived at the four-story structure at 707 E. Mission Ave., several residents were standing on a third-floor balcony calling for help, Spokane Fire Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer said. The blaze was contained to a third-story apartment in the complex but was threatening adjacent rooms, he said.
A plastic laundry basket left on an electric stove top caused the fire, according to a news release from the Spokane Fire Department. Damage is estimated at $5,000.
Eight people – seven residents and one employee – were treated for smoke inhalation, according to a news release.
Department resources were split at the time between the fire, a rooftop rescue at a Purina Mills plant and a call of a cardiac arrest nearby, Schaeffer said.
Agency identifies spiked pension
SEATTLE – Washington’s retirement system has confirmed another case of pension spiking, officials said Friday.
Auditors at the Department of Retirement Systems say former Quincy Police Chief Bill Gonzales received a late pay raise and other benefits that were improperly counted toward his pension value. The state is seeking $5,506 from Gonzales to compensate for the overpayments, and officials project that they will save some $123,826 in the coming years due to reduced benefits.
Gonzales’ case was spotlighted earlier this year as part of an Associated Press series about a pension system for law enforcement and firefighters.
State officials have previously identified about $160,000 in past overpayments and future benefit reductions from three other pension-spiking cases in Lakewood. The state is also seeking more than $500,000 from the city of DuPont related to how it hired workers highlighted by AP.
U.S. Highway 12 pass reopened
YAKIMA – The Washington state Department of Transportation said it has reopened a single lane of U.S. Highway 12 across White Pass after a 45-mile stretch of highway was closed by a washout.
The department said flaggers and a traffic signal are directing drivers through the single-lane paved detour that opened Friday afternoon.
A contractor hopes to restore two lanes of travel before winter. A permanent repair will have to wait until spring.
After heavy rain last weekend, a 500-foot section along the highway gave way Tuesday, 3 miles east of the White Pass summit. The closure affected the highway between Packwood and Naches.
Search to resume for missing hikers
SEATTLE – An air search for a young Oregon woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in southwest Washington has expanded into a new county while a separate air search farther south found no signs of a missing Portland man.
Alejandra Wilson’s father reported the 23-year-old Portland woman overdue for a check-in last Monday. A search of the trail in Skamania County found no trace of her so the search moved Friday to Yakima County.
Yakima County sheriff’s Sgt. George Town said hopes were raised when tracks were spotted in the snow in the Goat Rocks wilderness about 15 miles south of White Pass. A Coast Guard helicopter crew landed Friday and talked to a male hiker, who said he’s encountered four other hikers in the area – none of them Wilson.
Town said more than 20 “experienced mountaineering folks” plan a ground search today in the Goat Rocks area.
Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox said a helicopter searched crevasses and tree wells Friday in the Big Lava Beds area of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest where 31-year-old Kristopher Zitzewitz was last seen Sept. 28.
Cox said another ground search is planned today in “very rugged” areas of the lava beds.
Judge rejects suit against No on I-522
OLYMPIA – A Thurston County judge has fined a group that filed a lawsuit seeking better campaign finance disclosure by the food industry in the ballot fight over a statewide initiative that calls for labeling genetically engineered foods.
The Olympian reported that Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham imposed a $10,000 sanction Friday on Moms for Labeling and rejected a lawsuit it filed last month against the group that opposes Initiative 522.
The No on 522 campaign has raised a record $17.2 million to oppose the initiative, and $7.2 million of it comes from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is not itemizing where the money is coming from.
Wickham said a similar complaint already filed at the Public Disclosure Commission was the appropriate venue. He issued the fine under terms of a law meant to shelter citizens against harassing and pre-emptive lawsuits.
Man admits to killing grandparents
SEATTLE – A man who killed his grandparents with a shoelace after they threw him a party to welcome him home from prison has entered a modified guilty plea to charges of aggravated first-degree murder.
Michael Chadd Boysen faces life in prison without the possibility of release when he’s sentenced Oct. 18. He admitted Friday in King County Superior Court that a jury likely would convict him in the March 9 strangulation deaths of 82-year-old Robert Taylor and 80-year-old Norma Taylor at their Renton home.
Boysen was arrested three days later after a standoff at a Lincoln City, Ore., motel. Boysen served time in prison for attempted burglary. His grandparents picked him up at the Monroe Correctional Complex and held a party for him that night.