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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

In brief: City Council adds gender identity to list of protections

From Staff Reports

Gender identity discrimination now is prohibited under Spokane’s civil rights ordinance.

City Council members added the protection Monday night on a 5-2 vote as part of an update that also included new protections against discrimination based on military status and disabilities. Council members Mike Fagan and Mike Allen opposed it.

The move was largely symbolic because gender identity discrimination already is prohibited under state law, but the city’s Human Rights Commission recommended the update to the local ordinance.

Several people, including former state Rep. John Ahern, testified against the change, with many warning of increased sexual assaults and other deviant behavior in public restrooms. Council members and others testifying in support Monday called the concerns “offensive.”

“It is not changing the law,” said city Human Rights Commissioner Blaine Stum, “it is clarifying it.”

Man gets five-year term for stealing from ATMs

A Las Vegas man who stole $124,000 from ATM machines around the West, including in Spokane Valley, was sentenced Monday to more than five years in prison.

Clarence Edward Lancaster, 57, admitted to 21 ATM thefts in Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon and Arizona between June 2012 and January 2013. He stole $124,000 in cash and caused nearly $92,000 in damage to ATMs, buildings and equipment.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge in Boise sentenced Lancaster to 63 months in prison, three years of post-sentence supervised release and $222,305 in restitution.

Lancaster said he hit four ATMs in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area in September 2012, resulting in the theft of $26,780 from ATMs at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center and $25,913 in ATM damages at the fairgrounds, Spokane Community College and North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene.

He was apprehended in January 2013 for a burglary on the campus of Eastern Arizona College northeast of Tucson. Lancaster pleaded guilty to one count of bank larceny for stealing an ATM from the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls in July 2012. As part of a plea agreement, he admitted to 21 ATM thefts in all.

The case was investigated by the FBI and several city and campus police departments in Idaho.

Vigil, memorial fund set up for girl in crash

A candlelight vigil is planned for Wednesday in Manito Park for Gracie Snider, a 10-year-old Spokane girl who was killed in a car accident on Interstate 90 over the weekend.

Snider was returning to Spokane from a soccer game in Yakima on Saturday night when the car she was riding in collided with a commercial truck near Ritzville. One of her teammates on the Spokane Foxes, Ayla James, was also in the car; she was taken to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane in critical condition.

The vigil is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will feature live music. Organizers hope to raise money to pay for Gracie’s funeral expenses as well as to establish a soccer scholarship for kids who can’t afford to play, according to the Gracie Snider Memorial/Scholarship site on (

Chemist who fired laser in plane agrees to deal

An out-of-work chemist who accidentally fired a laser inside the cabin of a jet bound for Seattle last fall and caused the plane to be diverted to Spokane may avoid jail time in a plea agreement reached Monday.

Alex Philip Langloys Miller was arrested by federal agents Sept. 5 after the Boeing 737 he was traveling in from Minneapolis to Seattle had to be diverted to Spokane International Airport on reports of a fire. Investigators discovered two lasers in Miller’s luggage, which he said he shot at airplanes in the sky for fun. Burns were found on the seatback in front of him and several of his neighboring passengers reported smelling smoke.

Miller had initially been charged with destruction of an aircraft but pleaded down to possession of an incendiary device.

Prosecutors recommend a jail sentence of no more than four months, and Miller may escape jail time completely based on a determination by a federal judge. He will have to pay a fine of no more than $5,000, as well as the costs to replace the seat and for fuel to divert the plane. The plea deal also calls for Miller to serve three years of probation.

Spokane man charged with attempted murder

A Spokane man faces an attempted murder charge after he allegedly drove armed with a shotgun and an assault rifle to the home of a man he thought was sleeping with his fiancee, according to police.

Kenneth R. Nelson, 23, was booked into Spokane County Jail on multiple charges just after midnight Monday. He was arrested by Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies, who found a loaded shotgun and AR-15 assault rifle in his car after reports he was walking armed around a Spokane Valley home.

The man’s fiancee later told investigators he’d penned what appeared to be a suicide note. The woman followed Nelson to the Spokane Valley address, where she told him she’d try to find her sister to defuse the situation. Nelson allegedly told her she’d only return to “dead bodies.”

The man who lives at the address saw Nelson on his home surveillance camera and hid his wife and child in the basement, while arming himself with a handgun and calling 911. Nelson left and was stopped by deputies while driving away.

Nelson, who has no listed felony record, faces a domestic violence charge in addition to attempted murder.

CdA Tribe re-elects Allan as chairman of council

PLUMMER – Chief J. Allan was re-elected chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council on Monday. Allan has held that position since 2005.

“It’s a job I take seriously and work hard at every day to do the best for the Coeur d’Alene people,” Allan said in a statement. “We have some challenges in the years ahead of us but we’ll keep moving in the right direction.”

Tribal members over the weekend re-elected longtime council member Ernie Stensgar and elected Cindy Williams to her first term on the seven-member governing council. Stensgar retains his position as vice chairman.

Man faces five years in child pornography case

A Spokane man caught by the Secret Service engaging in online trading of child pornography faces a five-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to a federal felony charge Monday.

Ryan Raymond Joseph Comerford will have to register as a sex offender in compliance with a plea deal reached in U.S. District Court. Comerford was indicted in September on multiple child pornography counts after a Secret Service sting revealed evidence he was using a peer-to-peer network to receive explicit images and videos featuring children.

Comerford pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released pending trial, which had been scheduled for next week. He admitted using marijuana in violation of his release conditions and was arrested again in January. Defense attorneys were provided with the digital evidence in the case last month.

As part of the agreement, Comerford will remain on probation for 20 years after his release and be barred from contact with minors. A judge is expected to rule on the agreement in July.

Colville man, 56, killed in collision near Creston

A 56-year-old Colville man died in a two-car collision Sunday afternoon northeast of Creston, the Washington State Patrol said.

Thomas Boynton was driving east on Miles Creston Road around 3:15 p.m. when his Nissan SUV was struck by a Dodge pickup truck driven by John Helton, also 56. Helton’s truck crossed the centerline before the collision, according to the WSP.

Helton, who was wearing a seat belt, was airlifted with injuries to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center. Boynton was not wearing a seat belt. He was declared dead at the scene, the WSP said.

Alcohol is not believed to be a factor in the crash, according to the WSP. Criminal charges are pending.