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Today’s highlights

Ralph and Geraldine Reifenberger live near Fairfield on farmland that has a 97-year-old barn on the property. They have been married for 63 years. SR photo/Dan Pelle

We packed a ton of news into today's Valley Voice, starting with a profile of new Spokane Valley City Councilman Rod Higgins. His background is mostly in the mining industry, but it includes detrours as a seed farmer, mail sorter and a broker.

Reporter Nicole Hensley has two reports from the East Valley School District. One story looks at the aftermath of the district's fifth bond failure. The second looks at the district's plans to take over the former Walker Army Reserve Center off Sullivan Road. The property was declared surplus and isn't costing the district any money to acquire.

The Spokane Valley City Council met to talk about road construction projects in 2013. The Mayor also gave SCOPE an award and key to the city in recognitition of their positive impact on the community.

Correspondent Cindy Hval tops it all off with a Love Story on Fairfield couple Ralph and Geraldine Reifenberger.  

Today’s highlights

A firefighter with the Spokane Valley Fire Department hauls a hose Tuesday through the front yard of a house at 9621 E. Empire Ave. that was donated to the department for a training exercise. SR photo/Tyler Tjomsland

Today is Thursday, so join me in celebrating the fact that it is almost Friday and there's a new Valley Voice to look over. I have to single out SR photographer Tyler Tjomsland for taking a great photo of a traning fire in Millwood. The house was donated to the Spokane Valley Fire Department, which spent Tuesday training in it before they burned it to the ground.

Reporter Nicole Hensley has a trio of stories today, one of them looking at the fifth failure of an East Valley School District construction bond. Superintendent John Glenewinkel said the bond lacked parental support and the district will look at whether to try again with a trimmed down version.

Nicole also talked to 89-year-old Newman Lake resident Lee Hutchison, who travels four times a week by bus to volunteer at the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She was recently named employee of the month in recognition of her tireless work.

Theater Arts of Children is getting ready to stage a production of “The Three Musketeers.” Nicole spoke to some of the actors preparing for opening night.

Today’s highlights

Liberty Lake Police Officer Jeff Jones. SR photo/Colin Mulvany

Another Thursday means more Valley Voice highlights to look over. The Spokane Valley City Council had to turn to a coin toss this week in selecting a new council member after three tie votes. Rod Higgins, who has served on the city's planning commission for the last year, won the toss and was sworn in as the newest council member.

There's a new police officer on patrol in Liberty Lake. Officer Jeff Jones joined the police department in January after working as a Pend Oreille County sheriff's deputy for eight years. He's adjusting to a busier pace and a much shorter distance between calls.

Reporter Nicole Hensley has a story on a flyer the Citizens for Responsible Taxation has sent out opposing the East Valley School District bond. The school district says the information on the flyer is incorrect. The group has opposed school bonds and levys throughout the county in recent years.

Saturday’s highlights

Luke Pillsbury, director of youth ministries for Opportunity Presbyterian Church on Pines Road, sits with some of the toys for the church’s toy store, where community members who are invited can get toys at a deep discount. SR photo/Jesse Tinsley

Welcome to a snowy, somewhat slippery Monday morning. We brought you some good stories in Saturday's Valley Voice, so lets look at some of the highlights. Opportunity Presbyterian Church opened its toy store for business Saturday, carrying on an annual tradition of providing extremely low cost toys to low income residents. The store, which is organized by the church youth, has been growing every year.

A Newman Lake woman was recently charged with animal cruelty after someone reported buying a sick puppy from her Iron Horse Kennel on Hauser Lake Road. An inspection by SCRAPS animal control officers reportedly showed other violations at the dog kennel as well. The woman, identified as Wilma L. Turner, also has a hearing scheduled for Wednesday on allegations that she has violated her probation after she pled guilty to two charges related to conditions at her kennel in 2011.

Reporter Lisa Leinberger has a story on East Farms Elementary School teacher Elisha Erickson, who was recently given an award by the Spokane Valley Fire Department for taking in two children that were dropped off at a fire station with little information. One of the children was a student of Erickson's. Lisa also has a story on a possible bond vote in the East Valley School District. The school board will meet Tuesday to decide whether or not to run a bond to modernize and repair several schools. Four previous attempts to pass a bond in recent years have failed.

The Spokane Valley City Council had several discussions during its Tuesday meeting, including a draft Shoreline Master Program restoration plan, fee amounts for 2013 and street maintenance and sweeping contracts.   

Suspect In Mall Attack Bails Out

A Spokane sex offender facing a potential life sentence for allegedly molesting a girl at the NorthTown Mall is out of jail. Richard Michael Payne, 55, posted $250,000 bond through a bonding company and was released from Spokane County Jail about 10 p.m. Wednesday. Payne is under court orders not to contact children or visit places where children gather. He's also wearing an ankle monitor that tracks his movements, said his lawyer, David Hearrean. “I just don't want people to go out and try to take the law into their own hands,” Hearrean said. “What happened to innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?”/Meghann Cuniff, Sirens & Gavels. More here.

Question: Would you let this guy back out of jail?

Newman Lake Fire special meeting tonight

Newman Lake Fire District 13 will have a special commissioner meeting tonight at 6 p.m. One of the biggest items on the agenda will be the failure of the construction bond at the polls this month and what steps the district should take next. It looks like there will be some discussion about the 2012 levy as well. The meeting will be held at Station 1 at 10236 N. West Newman Lake Drive.

District 13 special meeting

Spokane County Fire District 13 in Newman Lake is having a special public meeting tonight at 7 p.m. to give out information about the district's bond on the November ballot. The district is asking for $2.2 million to build a new Station 1. The meeting tonight is at the old Station 1, 10236 N. West Newman Lake Drive. If you have any questions about the bond, head on over and ask some questions.

Medical pot suspect released from jail

A medical marijuana advocate jailed for violating the conditions of his release on federal drug charges has been allowed to leave jail under strict conditions.

Jerry Wayne Laberdee, 57, was ordered to be released from jail on Monday but U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno, who imposed bond and called for frequent status conferences to ensure Laberdee complies with his conditions of release, which include drug tests and refraining from excessive use of alcohol.

Laberdee was required to post a $25,000 signature bond, meaning a friend or family member is responsible for the bond, and a $15,000 surety bond through a bonds company, said his lawyer, Doug Phelps.

Family members said Laberdee was on a hunger strike at the Spokane County Jail, where he'd been since he turned himself in last month.

Laberdee had been allowed to stay out of jail pending trial on federal charges related to his work with the Spokane medical marijuana dispensary Medical Herb Providers when Lincoln County sheriff's officials found marijuana plants at his home on Aug. 12.

Federal probation officer Richard Law contacted Laberdee on Aug. 16, and Laberdee  “made it very clear to this officer that he would not permit me inside his residence,” according to court documents prepared by Law.

Laberdee also refused to submit to a drug test as his release conditions require, documents allege.

Phelps described Laberdee as “kind of an old hippie.” Supporters say he views the case as a civil rights issue, and Laberdee has called on Willie Nelson for support.

A status hearing in his case is set for Oct. 4.
  

Ellington road-rage trial set for Aug. 29

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho (AP) — A North Idaho man whose conviction of second-degree murder was overturned will stand trial again on the charge this month.

The Coeur d’Alene Press reports that 50-year-old Jonathan W. Ellington’s three-week jury trial is expected to start Aug. 29 in front of 1st District Judge John Luster.

Ellington, of Hayden, was convicted in August 2006 after prosecutors said he was involved in a road-rage incident that turned deadly when 41-year-old Vonette Lee Larsen was run over.

But earlier this year, a unanimous Idaho Supreme Court threw out his convictions and granted him a new trial. The high court cited prosecutorial misconduct and the likelihood that an Idaho State Police officer committed perjury in its ruling.

Past coverage:

June 23: Ellington briefly leaves jail while awaiting new trial

Dec. 5, 2006: Ellington sentenced to 25 years in prison

Sept. 8, 2006: Ellington found guilty

Aug. 25, 2006: Daughter describes mother's death

Chronic prescription forger arrested again

A Spokane woman arrested on prescription forgery charges six times in one year returned to jail again this week less than two weeks after pleading guilty to four felonies.

Theresia L. Beckett, 56, was out of jail on bond awaiting sentencing when she was arrested for the same thing she's been arrested for six other times since last June: forging a prescription and trying to pass it at a local pharmacy.

She was arrested Wednesday at Deaconess Pharmacy, 800 W. 5th Ave., for allegedly trying to collect on a forged prescription for Ambien.

Beckett earned the ire of Superior Court Judge Michael Price last month when she was arrested for the sixth time.

“I've seen Ms. Beckett time in and time out,” Price said at the time. “I'm certainly not trying to be gruff or rude to her, but…every time she bonds out, arguably, she just goes right back out and does it again, possibly within hours.”

Beckett's bond was set at $150,000 Thursday.

She's expected back in court for four no-bail warrants for the cases she's awaiting sentencing on. Her lawyer, Tim Note, told Price he was “speechless” over her latest arrest.

Idaho road rage suspect freed for 6 days

A man who was released from prison last week after his second-degree murder conviction was overturned turned himself in Wednesday to the Kootenai County Jail to await a new trial.

Jonathan Wade Ellington, 50, was sentenced to 25 years in prison and 15 years each on two counts of aggravated battery charges for running over a woman in what prosecutors called a road-rage incident Jan. 1, 2006.

The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously May 27 that Ellington, of Hayden, should get a new trial. Ellington's attorney, Anne Taylor, said she will seek a reduction of her client's $1 million bond

. Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh, however, said he will request that the bond remain where it was set.

A status hearing has been scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Monday in 1st District Judge John Luster's courtroom.

Read the rest of Alison Boggs' story here.

Past coverage:

Sept. 8, 2006: Ellington found guilty

Aug. 25, 2006: Daughter describes mother's death

Drug fraud suspect arrested 6x in 1 year

A Spokane woman arrested on felony prescription forgery charges six times in one year has been jailed on an usually high bond of $125,000.

Theresia L. Beckett, 56, has at least eight pending felony charges related to alleged prescription forgeries at Spokane pharmacies since last June.

Beckett was arrested June 16, July 20, Sept. 26, Oct. 14 and April 12 but was out of jail on $60,000 bond when she was arrested again Wednesday at a Walgreens in Spokane Valley.

Beckett is accused of forging a prescription for hydrocodone at the pharmacy, 15510 E. Sprague Ave. Deputies said she tried to flee the business before she was arrested.

Prosecutors asked Judge Michael Price to impose the extraordinarily high bond after Beckett's latest arrest.
Her lawyer, Tim Note, said he “understands the state's frustration.”

Price said the prosecutor's request was reasonable.

“I've seen Ms. Beckett time in and time out,” Price said. “I'm certainly not trying to be gruff or rude to her, but…every time she bonds out, arguably, she just goes right back out and does it again, possibly within hours. I have some real concerns for Ms. Beckett.”

Beckett was convicted of six counts of prescription fraud in 2008 and given two years of probation.

Child luring suspect leaves jail on bond

A Coeur d'Alene man accused of offering a woman money in exchange for her granddaughters left jail just hours after he was arrested Wednesday.

Shan A. Anderson, 32, posted $1,106 bond on four misdemeanor charges, including attempted child enticing, Wednesday night, according to the Kootenai County Jail.

Police were called to 1034 N. 3rd St. at 3:58 p.m. Wednesday, where they were told that Anderson approached a grandmother and “attempted to give her money so he could have her granddaughters,” according to a Coeur d'Alene police news release.
 
While investigating that case, officers learned Anderson also attempted to lure a boy walking home from school just minutes earlier, police said. 
 
Anderson was booked on four charges, attempted child enticing, attempted child custodial interference, disturbing the peace and obstruction. Each is a misdemeanor. Suspects arrested on felonies in Kootenai County cannot post bond until seeing a judge.

Vote today to have a voice

Just a reminder to residents in the East Valley School District that ballots for the bond election must be postmarked today in order to be counted by the Spokane County Elections Office. Otherwise you have until 8 p.m. today to drop it off at the Elections Office at 1033 W. Gardner or put it in one of the special ballot drop off boxes located all public libraries.

The first results will be released at 8 p.m. tonight and you can check www.spokesman.com for information. Additional ballots will continue to be counted over the next week or two before the election results are certified.

Today’s highlights

East Valley School District Superintendent John Glenewinkel, second from right, listens as EV Executive Director of Operations Brian Wallace presents the fiscal future of the school district and upcoming bond at an informational meeting March 15. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

There's a nice fat Valley Voice today to keep you busy over your morning cup of coffee. There are two sides to any story and that is the case with the East Valley School District's upcoming bond election. Reporter Lisa Leinberger has the views from both sides today. Is new construction long overdue or is the timing bad?

The Spokane Valley City Council hit the pause button on awarding a bid for the Indiana Avenue Extension road construction project over concerns about the road's design. The issue has been tabled for two weeks while the council seeks more information. The project was scheduled to start in mid-April.

Those of you who are fans of Geno's Italian Restaurant on Spokane's north side take note - the restaurant is closing on Saturday. Reporter Pia Hallenberg has a story on the end of the popular restaurant. Apparently the crowds are huge this week as everyone goes for one final visit. One woman said she was flying in from Washington, D.C., for her last meal there.

The Liberty Lake Police blotter has news of several arrests in the last week, including one shoplifter who ran out of the Safeway directly towards a detective.

Coming Thursday

We've got tons of good stuff coming your way again in Thursday's Valley Voice. The East Valley School Board voted to take the plunge and ask residents to approve a bond on the April ballot. The Spokane Valley City Council had a fairly short meeting Tuesday, but did vote to approve a ban on selling e-cigarettes to minors.

The North Palouse Community Food Bank in Fairfield has been well supported by the community. It serves the towns of Fairfield, Rockford, Latah and Waverly and we went down there last week to so how they do it. Reporter Lisa Leinberger talked to some third graders at Pasadena Park Elementary who have been learning about the Iditarod sled dog race. The students made centerpieces that will be shipped to Alaska to decorate the tables of the mushers who will gather for a banquet.

There will also be another Spokane Valley campaign announcement for the November election. You'll have to check out the Valley Voice tomorrow for more details. 

Bits and pieces

There was some excitement after I left work last night. An armed man robbed the Dollar Tree store at 9211 E. Montgomery at 7:20 p.m. Witnessess said they saw him loitering around the front of the store for quite some time before he did the deed. Click here for more information, including a description.  

Reporter Jody Lawrence-Turner has a story today on why the local bonds failed, including one for the Central Valley School District. Theories include the economy and vote by mail. See more from Central Valley Superintendent Ben Small here.

Today’s highlights

Central Valley Superintendent Ben Small answers a question from a member of the Liberty Lake Kiwanis Club about the upcoming CV bond levy at a Jan. 12 meeting. SR photo/J. Bart Rayniak

Pour your coffee and settle in, it's time to take a look at some highlights of today's Valley Voice. Reporter Lisa Leinberger interviewed Central Valley School District superintendent Ben Small to get all the information you ever wanted to know about the district's upcoming bond, including a full list of what schools will benefit. Correspondent Cindy Hval has a story on a program called Safety Net, which helps youth who are aging out of the foster care system.

The Spokane Valley City Council voted Tuesday to advance an emergency ordinance to remove the City Center zone from SARP to a second reading. There was a lot of public comment on the issue that was almost evenly split. I didn't have enough space to include them all, but there's a representative sample in there. On a related note, check out my story in today's main paper about council woman Rose Dempsey's resignation.  

Bond information meeting tonight

If you're looking for something to do tonight and the zoning discussion at the Spokane Valley City Council meeting isn't your cup of tea, the Central Valley School District will host a bond information meeting tonight at 6 p.m. at North Pines Middle School, 701 N. Pines Road. A $69.6 million bond is on the Feb. 8 ballot and if it passes it will be used to pay for a long list of school expansion and remodeling projects. Check the district's web site for more details on the bond.

Coming Thursday

We have so many stories for Thursday's Valley Voice I'm not sure if we can fit them all in. Reporter Lisa Leinberger will score a trifecta, writing all three of the cover stories. She takes another look at the Central Valley construction bond issue by visiting Evergreen Middle School, which is scheduled for renovation if the bond passes. The East Valley School District board met again this week. Supporters of the district's “re-visioning” plan to combine grades pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade in the same building controlled the microphone this time.

An assembly was held recently at Central Valley High School to recognize the school's orchestra teacher, who is deploying to Afghanistan with the Army Reserves. The Spokane Valley City Council held a mostly uneventful meeting with a light agenda. Meanwhile, the Liberty Lake Police Chief believes a prolific garage buglar is back in town and up to his old tricks after being arrested last month.