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Proposed change in stalker law would have allowed protection order in recent North End shooting case
Makaela Zabel-Gravatt, a Boise cosmetologist, twice sought a protection order against a former client who was stalking her, according to news reports, but was rejected because Idaho law allows such orders only against a spouse, relative or current or former romantic partner. A week and a half ago, the ex-client, Christopher Wirfs, went to the salon where Zabel-Gravatt works after threatening her by phone and was turned away; then, he went to her home and shot her twice in her North End backyard. She suffered serious injuries and is now recovering after being released from the hospital; Wirfs is being held in the Ada County Jail on two felony charges.
Now, Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, is proposing legislation to expand Idaho’s protection order statute to cover those who haven’t been in a domestic relationship with their stalker. “I’ve been working on this bill for over a year and I believe that there is a clear need for stronger protections against people who break the law by stalking or harassing others,” Burgoyne said. “Stalking and harassment are not limited to domestic relationships and the law needs to recognize this fact.”
Burgoyne called the recent shooting in Boise a “tragic” incident that highlights the need to change the law. “Of course, no law can stop all stalkers and harassers, but my bill will put these lawbreakers on the radar of law enforcement and the justice system, and give the police and judges leverage in dealing with them,” said Burgoyne, an attorney who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said he’s working with representatives of various advocacy and legal groups to ensure the bill can pass in the legislative session that starts in January.
KTVB-TV reports that friends and supporters of Zabel-Gravatt have started a GoFundMe page to help with her medical bills.
The Spokane man accused of sending threatening letters to a former neighbor alluding to his belief he was the Archangel of Death has been released under supervision to seek psychiatric evaluation.
Brent Russ, 33, had been in custody of the U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. Federal agents investigating letters and phone messages to Russ’ southwest Spokane neighbor, a tribal police officer, discovered guns and a journal outlining Russ’ beliefs he was the “embodiment of God’s wrath.” Prosecutors were charging him with one criminal stalking count and two counts of mailing threatening communications.
Those charges were suspended for five years by a federal judge Friday, who ordered Russ stay with his parents in western Washington, surrender his guns and seek psychiatric evaluation. Russ will also be supervised by federal court officials as part of the pretrial agreement.
The order puts the prosecution on hold so that Russ can demonstrate “good conduct,” according to U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice. The ruling leaves the door open for future prosecution or to dismiss the charges entirely.
The Spokane man accused of sending threatening letters to a tribal police officer that included allusions to his belief he was the "Archangel of Death" remains in custody pending trial after a federal judge shot down his contention the mailings were protected by the First Amendment.
Brent Russ, 33, argued earlier this month the letters he sent a former neighbor expressed his religious views, not an intimidating intent. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas O. Rice denied the claim, as well as a request from Russ that he be released from custody ahead of his upcoming trial after two mental health experts deemed he posed no threat to the community.
"The Court continues to harbor reasonable concerns about Defendant’s mental stability that prohibit it from releasing Defendant at this time," Rice wrote in an order denying Russ' release. Rice also found the language of the letter suggesting legal action, in which Russ wrote that he would "take everything you have, everything you ever had, and everything you ever will have through the courts," was not solely a legal communication and thus did not qualify for First Amendment protection.
Concerns about Russ' mental state were raised after a disturbing manifesto was found at his home by federal agents investigating the stalking claims. In the journal, Russ admits slaying nocturnal creatures by slicing through their brains with a Samurai sword and says he experienced a "download" in early 2013 that prompted him to file lawsuits against the nation's biggest banks. He also wrote about sending plans to dissolve the government to President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, according to court documents.
Russ has been in custody of U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. Defense attorney Andrea George has asked Rice to push the trial date from later this month to February to allow more time for experts to determine Russ' mental state.
Citing two mental health professionals who say his psychosis was a "one-time episode" that is now in remission, the attorney for the Spokane man charged with stalking a tribal police officer after federal investigators discovered a disturbing manifesto in his home is asking for her client's release.
Brent Russ has remained in custody of U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. At the time, federal agents following up on claims from a tribal police officer she was being stalked by Russ, a former neighbor, found modified weapons and a journal in the man's home that discussed establishing a "kill room" similar to that featured in the television program "Dexter" and a "download" that prompted him to file civil claims against the nation's biggest banks. He also wrote of being an agent of Azrael, the fabled Archangel of Death.
But with two doctors now writing after independent evaluations that Russ poses no threat to the community, attorney Andrea George is asking Russ be released pending his trial, scheduled for later this month.
George will make her case, and ask that the charge against Russ be dropped, at a hearing scheduled for later this week.
Though a clinical psychologist concluded he was not a danger to the community, a Spokane man facing a federal stalking charge who was arrested after a cache of weapons and a disturbing journal was found in his home will remain in jail until his scheduled January trial date, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Brent Russ, 33, has remained in the custody of U.S. marshals since his arrest in September. Federal agents searched Russ' southwest Spokane home and discovered several guns modified to inflict greater harm, as well as photos of weapons on the man's computer that have yet to be located, according to subsequent briefs from investigators.
The search was prompted by a complaint from a female tribal police officer and former neighbor of Russ'. According to a now-sealed affidavit, Russ allegedly made statements indicating he had the woman under surveillance and sent her a threatening package when she approached mental health experts about his erratic behavior.
Among the written materials discovered by investigators were claims Russ was slaying nocturnal demonic creatures by slicing their brains with a sword and the construction of a "kill room" like something you would see in the television show "Dexter," which details the exploits of a forensics investigator who moonlights as a serial killer.
Defense attorneys have elected not to pursue an insanity plea in the case, however they have signaled intentions to prove Russ was not fully aware of the consequences of his alleged criminal acts through a diminished capacity argument. United States District Judge Thomas O. Rice ruled the evaluation of Mark Mays, a psychologist who examined Russ, that the 33-year-old was not a danger to the community was not enough to release him from custody.
"… the Court still has reasonable concerns about the Defendant's competency," Rice wrote.
A trial date in late January has been tentatively scheduled. Russ faces a maximum five-year prison term and a fine of up to $25,000 if convicted on the stalking charge.
A Spokane woman who pleaded guilty to sending hundreds of sexually explicit and threatening text messages to a Spokane County Sheriff's deputy in 2010 allegedly chased a stranger in her car after he refused to buy her cigarettes.
"I guess it's game on then," the man reported Tina Blanchette, 44, said when he denied her the smokes at a Spokane Valley gas station on Sept. 2.
The man left the station after buying a newspaper, then noticed Blanchette driving a tan Mazda in his rearview mirror, according to court documents. Eventually, Blanchette rammed the man's truck, he said, and he ran away to hide in some nearby brush and call 911 while Blanchette returned to the gas station parking lot nearby.
Blanchette was granted two years probation after pleading guilty to a charge stemming from a series of texts she sent the law enforcement officer in 2010 after a marijuana growing bust she said put her life in danger. While vacationing in Hawaii, Blanchette sent the deputy texts that mentioned his family and her proficiency aiming a shotgun.
"U wanna tlk yet or u want me 2 make us all famous," one text read, according to court documents.
The deputy who interviewed Blanchette following the Spokane Valley incident in September wrote the 44-year-old was "acting paranoid and delusional" when he arrived at the gas station. She told him the man she chased was "a gang member and after her," according to the deputy's sworn statement.
Blanchette was arrested and booked on a charge of second-degree assault. She has undergone psychiatric evaluations and was released on her own recognizance last month. A trial in the case is tentatively scheduled to begin in late December.
A federal judge has given a Spokane man found with modified weapons and a journal proclaiming himself the embodiment of God's wrath one week to decide if he'll seek an insanity defense.
An order signed by U.S. District Judge for Eastern Washington Thomas Rice grants Brent Russ, 33, until Oct. 31 to decide if he plans to plead insanity after a grand jury indicted him on a federal stalking charge. Russ is accused of sending threatening communications through U.S. mail to a former neighbor, who is also a tribal police officer.
When FBI agents arrived at Russ' southwest Spokane home last month, they also found a modified handgun, shotgun and rifle designed to inflict greater harm to targets. A search of Russ' home also revealed a lengthy journal, now under court seal, in which Russ identifies himself as Azrael, the Archangel of Death, and states his willingness to die in battle against the forces of evil.
Rice ordered the timetable in an effort to speed the proceedings. Russ has remained in custody of federal authorities since his arrest Sept. 26. Rice described the evidence provided by the federal government illustrating Russ' erratic behavior prior to his arrest as a "strong showing" in documents filed Thursday.
A Spokane man found with a collection of modified weapons and an extensive journal detailing plots to overthrow the federal government pleaded not guilty to federal stalking charges last week.
Brent Russ, 33, was arrested last month after authorities say he sent a threatening letter and package to a former neighbor, who is also a tribal police officer. The woman reported suspicious activity, including comments made by Russ detailing her daily schedule that led her to believe she was being watched.
When federal agents arrived at Russ' southwest Spokane home to question him, they found reinforced steel plating on the doors and windows, tin foil lining interior walls and a lengthy journal dating back to February in which Russ identifies himself as Azrael, the Archangel of Death. Agents also found weapons featuring after-market modifications including a long-range scope, a fluted barrel to increase firing speed and a flash suppressor with chiseled points on the end, designed "to break glass and cause puncture wounds or lacerations to a target," according to briefs filed by the FBI.
In the journal, Russ apparently indicated his willingness to die in battle against the forces of evil.
"I will exact vengeance on the wicked, and will free humanity from these demons," Russ allegedly wrote. He also questioned the authenticity of evidence gathered against Adam Lanza, the shooter who killed 26 people, including 20 children, at a Connecticut elementary school in December.
At a lengthy bail hearing later in September, U.S. Magistrate Judge John Rodgers ordered Russ held by federal marshals in advance of courtroom proceedings. A grand jury formally charged Russ with one count of stalking on Tuesday, and Russ pleaded not guilty to the charge Wednesday. His trial has been tentatively scheduled for December.
Godzilla, a wild turkey, walks around the front yard of the home belonging to Edna Geisler, 69 of Commerce Township, Mich. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Eric Seals)
COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — An Oakland County woman says she's become a prisoner on her own property, stalked and harassed by a 25-pound turkey.
Edna Geisler calls the foul bird "Godzilla." The 69-year-old told the Detroit Free Press that the turkey wanders near her Commerce Township property each day from nearby woods. She recently couldn't get to her front door after a trip to the grocery store.
"I have to go to the post office at 6 o'clock in the morning to avoid him," said Geisler, who has been bumped and clawed.
She has tried changing her schedule but this turkey is no dummy. A friend, Rick Reid, said the turkey went after him, too, when he opened the door on his minivan.
"He tried to come right in the door," Reid said. "He bit me on the elbow."
Indeed, a video posted online by the Free Press shows Godzilla roaming the grounds like they're his own. State wildlife expert Tim Payne said adult turkeys are known to aggressively defend their territory, although most fear people.
"This bird has probably attacked, and the person retreats," said Payne of the Department of Natural Resources. "What it tells the bird is, 'What I'm doing is good.' It reinforces the aggressive behavior."
Payne suggested Geisler open a large umbrella to drive the turkey back to the woods.
"Make some runs at the bird and become the aggressor," he said. "The bird needs to learn who's the boss."
Geisler wants the turkey gone by summer so she can work in her garden. The hunting season opens in April.
"Every time I eat turkey I smile," she said. "I'd like to do that to him."
A man who tried to blow up his wife with a homemade bomb after transporting the device from Omak, Washington, to Kamiah, Idaho, in 2009 has pleaded guilty to three federal felonies.
Levi Wayne Mendenhall, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison and three years probation after pleading guilty Tuesday in Coeur d'Alene to stalking, transporting explosives with intent to kill, injure, or intimidate, and use of explosive material during the commission of a federal felony.
Mendenhall constructed the device using a three-inch plastic pipe filled with explosive powder, razor blades and BBs after buying the components at stores in northeastern Washington, according to the Idaho U.S. Attorney's Office.
He wired the device to a battery and placed it inside a box, then set the device to trigger an explosion when and items was removed from the box. He placed the box on the hood of a car outside his estranged wife's home. The homeowner found the box and called authorities after she saw wires.
The Spokane County bomb squad safely disarmed the device.
Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms nd Explosives recovered explosive powder matching the device and a receipt for two of the bomb components at Mendenhall's home in Omak. They also found video of him buying the components at four Washington stores, and located Mendenhall's fingerprint on the outside of the box that held the bomb.
Mendenhall is to be sentenced Aug. 2 before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge in Coeur d'Alene
“Women who end domestic relationships must be free from violence and fear of violence,” U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said in a prepared statement. “This defendant's conduct endangered many lives. His guilty plea ensures that he will not present a danger to his now ex-wife or any other person for a long time.”
BENNINGTON, Vt. (AP) — A Vermont neighborhood is being stalked by a renegade gray squirrel.
Several people in Bennington say they've been attacked by a squirrel over the last few weeks.
Kevin McDonald tells the Bennington Banner he was shoveling snow when the squirrel jumped onto him. He says he threw the animal off, but it twice jumped back onto him. A game warden says there have been other reports, too.
One woman is being treated for exposure to rabies, but Vermont Public Health Veterinarian Robert Johnson says there's never been a case of a squirrel passing rabies to a human.
Johnson says it's possible the squirrel was raised as a pet and lost its fear of humans. He says the squirrel might "go ballistic" when it encounters people it doesn't recognize.
A gang member already sentenced to 18 years in prison in a harassment case that included threats to a Spokane elementary school faces new harassment charges.
“I’m not saying nothing, your honor,” said Larry Glenn “Tiny Loc” Gatewood, 36, when Superior Court Judge Greg Sypolt asked him to enter a plea to new charges of making harassing telephone calls, harassment and intimidation of a witness during an arraignment this afternoon. Gatewood also faces new forgery and second-degree theft charges for an incident in July 2008.
Sypolt entered ‘not guilty’ pleas for Gatewood. Gatewood took issue with the public defender’s office and said he’s “trying to represent myself.”
Deputy Prosecutor Mark Cipolla emphasized that Gatewood’s requests need to be put in the form of motions supported by affidavits.
Gatewood is accused of making harassing phone calls to witnesses who testified against him at a court hearing in February. The calls came just after Gatewood was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Gatewood was wanted by police in fall 2008 for assaulting his ex-girlfriend’s children and making a threatening call that briefly locked down Logan Elementary School. He also for months made harassing phone calls to his estranged wife at home and at work, some in the presence of Spokane police officers.
The longtime felon’s past convictions include felony assault, possession of stolen property, riot and unlawful possession of a firearm.