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Friday, December 19th 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Slain German teen's parents testify about ordeal

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The parents of a 17-year-old German exchange student who was shot to death by a Montana man say their dreams are broken.

Celal and Gulcin Dede (DAY'-Day) testified Thursday about the impact of their son Diren's death.

A judge will consider their comments when sentencing Markus Kaarma, who was convicted of deliberate homicide Wednesday in the teen's killing.

Celal Dede says his family no long has plans for the future and that he and his wife have been unable to work. He says their lives have been turned upside down since their son died.

Kaarma shot Diren Dede in the early hours of April 27 after being alerted to an intruder by motion sensors. Witnesses testified Kaarma fired four shotgun blasts at Dede, who was unarmed.


Judge orders ex-billionaire jailed for contempt

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A judge has ordered Tim Blixseth jailed after the onetime billionaire and embattled real estate mogul failed to comply with an order to pay $13.8 million to a luxury Montana resort's creditors.

At a hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon ordered the Yellowstone Club founder held until he can come up with an accounting for the money.

Blixseth's attorney Michael Ferrigno says he's unsure how long that will take because his client says many of the documents are in Mexico.

Haddon last year found Blixseth in contempt of court for selling a property in Mexico in defiance of another judge's instructions.

Blixseth delayed potential sanctions with an unsuccessful appeal.

He is blamed in the Yellowstone Club's 2008 bankruptcy. The resort's creditors want him incarcerated for not abiding the payment order.


Dog injures Wyoming man in accidental shooting

(Information in the following story is from: The Sheridan (Wyo.) Press, http://www.thesheridanpress.com/)

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) — Police in northern Wyoming say a rifle discharged after a dog apparently stepped on it, injuring a 46-year-old man.

Johnson County Sheriff Steve Kozisek (KAHS'-eh-sec) says the bullet struck Richard L. Fipps, of Sheridan, in the arm on Monday.

The injury is not life-threatening but Fipps is being treated in a hospital in Billings, Montana.

Kozisek told The Sheridan Press that Fipps and two others were in a remote area trying to move a vehicle that had become stuck. Fipps was standing beside his truck when he told his dog to move from the front seat to the back seat.

The sheriff says a rifle was on the back seat and it discharged toward Fipps.


Advocates seek grizzly re-introductions

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An advocacy group has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce grizzly bears into the Selway-Bitterroot area of Idaho and Montana.

The Center for Biological Diversity said Thursday that it hopes to revive a stalled recovery plan for the animals that was finalized in 2000.

The group says having bears in the Selway-Bitterroot would help connect grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park with other populations of the animals in Montana and Idaho. It says the 16-million-acre area could support 300 to 600 bears.

An earlier petition from the group called for grizzly recovery across a seven-state area that included the Selway-Bitterroot. Center for Biological Diversity attorney Andrea Santarsiere says the group is considering legal action after that petition was denied in September.


Chippewa Cree must pay up front for pipeline

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A federal investigator says the Chippewa Cree Tribe is being required to pay up front for work on a 50-mile water pipeline after tribal officials and companies were convicted on corruption charges related to the project.

Joe Waller is the resident agent in charge of the U.S. Interior Department's Office of Inspector General.

He said Wednesday the Bureau of Reclamation typically would release money annually for federally-funded projects such as the pipeline on Montana's Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. That changed in recent months in response to the corruption convictions on the reservation.

Waller says the tribe, through the Chippewa Cree Construction Corporation, is now required to submit invoices and receipts for pipeline costs. Only after those are validated do federal officials release money to cover the costs.


Corvallis company fined for workplace fatality

(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Corvallis asphalt company and its owner must pay $20,000 in fines and restitution for the 2012 death of an employee.

Martin Romano and MR Asphalt Inc. reached parallel plea agreements that were accepted Monday by Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

Romano was sentenced to three years unsupervised probation. He and MR Asphalt were each ordered to share equally $7,500 in fines and $12,500 in restitution to the widow of William Irby Jr.

Irby, of Corvallis, died Sept. 13, 2012, in a fall from an asphalt tank.

The Missoulian reports that a subsequent investigation found 16 health and safety violations at the plant and that Romano attempted to cover up violations.

The company was also ordered to implement various safety measures.


Former student sentenced for student aid fraud

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A 24-year-old former University of Great Falls student will spend six months in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining federal student financial aid.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Wednesday also sentenced Brenden James Leischner to five years of probation and ordered him to pay about $82,200 restitution to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Billings Gazette reported that Leischner pleaded guilty earlier to misdemeanor federal student aid fraud as part of a plea agreement.

Leischner's parents, Mark and Tammy Leischner, of Laurel, have pleaded guilty to multiple felonies stemming from a separate large corruption investigation involving the Chippewa Cree Tribe on the Rocky Boy's Reservation. The couple is to be sentenced in March.


Charter to hire 100 new workers in Billings

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Charter Communications has announced plans to hire 100 new employees in Billings.

Company officials said Wednesday that the new jobs will be primarily in sales and customer retention.

Wages would start at about $35,000 a year, depending on experience, and include training, benefits, incentive pay and free cable and Internet service.

The Billings Gazette reports that Charter has about 425 employees in Billings and a call center that handles 120,000 calls daily as the area's largest cable and Internet service provider. The company has 700 employees in Montana.

St. Louis-based Charter is one of the nation's largest cable, Internet and phone service providers.

Charter officials said Billings is a growing market where employees are needed.


Great Falls fatal victim identified

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The man who died in a single-vehicle rollover on Interstate 15 in Great Falls has been identified as 24-year-old Benjamin Thomas Ronnau.

The Montana Highway Patrol says the victim was from Great Falls.

The patrol says the crash occurred about 4 a.m. Wednesday when a vehicle traveling on the overpass apparently went out of control and landed on the interstate.

The accident remains under investigation.


Wyoming agency talks helping build coal docks

(Information in the following story is from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority says Wyoming could help finance the construction of a coal export dock in the Pacific Northwest.

Loyd Drain said he had a "serious" conversation with an unidentified party in the past six months about the possibility of financing a coal port.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that drain's comments come as state lawmakers ready a bill that would boost the authority's borrowing authority to $3 billion and allow the agency to work on projects outside Wyoming.

Coal companies mining in the Powder River Basin see docks in the Northwest as potential bridges to ship coal to Asia.

But there has been considerable opposition in the Northwest because of mostly fears about the environment.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, December 18th 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Montana man convicted in exchange student's death

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A jury has convicted a man of deliberate homicide in the shooting death of a German high school exchange student who trespassed inside the man's garage.

Markus Kaarma was found guilty Wednesday in the death of 17-year-old Diren Dede (DEER'-uhn DAY'-Day).

Kaarma's lawyers argued he acted in self-defense. Prosecutors maintained that after a previous burglary, Kaarma was intent on harming an intruder when he shot the unarmed teen April 27.

Kaarma faces a minimum penalty of 10 years in prison. His lawyers are promising to file an appeal.


Names released in NW Montana plane crash

POLSON, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have identified the pilot killed in a plane crash in northwest Montana as 33-year-old Brett Thoft of Wasilla, Alaska.

In addition, a passenger injured in the crash was identified as Tim Schauss of Lake County. He is listed in critical condition at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

The small plane crashed in Lake County near Flathead Lake about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday on a hillside northwest of Ronan.

Lake County authorities believe the two-seat Piper had taken off from the Ronan airport on a sightseeing flight.


Lawyers for Dale Eaton oppose new death hearing

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Lawyers for a convicted murderer want a judge to block Wyoming prosecutors from holding a new hearing on whether to reinstate the death penalty against their client.

U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson of Cheyenne last month overturned the death penalty against 69-year-old Dale Wayne Eaton. He was convicted in 2004 of the 1988 murder of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell of Billings, Montana.

Johnson ruled Eaton didn't receive a fair trial because jurors didn't hear personal details about him that might have persuaded them to spare his life. Johnson says prosecutors could ask another jury to consider the death penalty for Eaton or he would serve life.

Eaton's lawyers Wednesday asked Johnson to sentence Eaton to life, saying witnesses who could have testified about his background at trial are unavailable.


Montana prison inmate dies

DEER LODGE, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Department of Corrections says a 74-year-old inmate has died after an extended illness.

The agency says Eugene Corley died Tuesday at the Montana State Prison.

Corley was sentenced out of Lewis and Clark County for the driving under the influence. He was scheduled to be released in March.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, December 17th 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Jury in exchange student killing adjourns for day

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Jurors in the case of a Montana man who shot and killed a German exchange student caught trespassing in his garage have adjourned for the day without reaching a verdict.

The jury began deliberations Tuesday in the case against Markus Kaarma of Missoula. He is charged with deliberate homicide in the death of 17-year old Diren Dede (DEER'-uhn DAY'-Day).

Deliberations will resume Wednesday morning.

In closing arguments, a prosecutor said Kaarma was on the attack when he left the safety of his home and fired four shots into his garage April 27. Kaarma killed the unarmed Hamburg teen, who was trespassing inside.

A defense attorney says Kaarma had a legitimate fear of harm and was protecting his family and property as allowed under Montana's "stand your ground" law.


1 man killed, 1 hurt in NW Montana plane crash

POLSON, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say one man was killed and another was injured in a small, single-engine airplane crash near Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana.

Lake County Undersheriff Dan Yonkin tells KERR-AM the plane crashed while coming over a small ridge west of Pablo shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday. The names of the pilot and passenger have not been released.

The plane crashed in rugged terrain that is interrupted by farmland.

Yonkin, who confirmed the death Tuesday evening, tells The Missoulian the plane flew out of the Polson airport a few miles from the crash site.

The National Transportation Safety Board will be at the site Wednesday to investigate.


Keystone pipeline to top Senate agenda next year

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell says approving the Keystone XL pipeline will top the Senate agenda in January. The issue could set up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.

Congressional Republicans have been pushing for approval of the pipeline for years. Obama has resisted because of environmental concerns.

The pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Canada into the United States and eventually to the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Republican-led House has repeatedly passed legislation approving the pipeline. But the bills have died in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Republicans will take control of the Senate in January, and McConnell said approving the pipeline will be the first issue on the agenda.

McConnell said the pipeline would create jobs.


Daines gets Senate committee assignments

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Steve Daines says he'll serve on four committees when he moves to the U.S. Senate next month.

Daines said he will serve on the Senate Committees for Energy and Natural Resources, Indian Affairs, Appropriations and Commerce, Science and Transportation.

The Republican says the postings will allow him to focus on developing Montana's energy resources, managing public lands, jobs growth and supporting the state's American Indian tribes.

Daines was elected in November to replace U.S. Sen. John Walsh, who dropped out of the race following revelations he'd plagiarized a college paper.


30 rail cars derail in Missoula

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Thirty empty Montana Rail Link rail cars have derailed in Missoula.

Montana Rail Link says there were no injuries and no hazardous material involved. Mainline rail service has not been interrupted.

Officials say the derailment occurred about 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Montana Rail Link says it is investigating the cause of the derailment.


Seattle-Paris flight diverts to Montana over odor

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An official at a Montana airport says a Delta Air Lines flight heading from Seattle to Paris with more than 200 people aboard was diverted to Billings after an "electrical odor" was detected on board.

Billings Logan International Airport operations supervisor Shane Ketterling tells the Billings Gazette that the plane made a precautionary landing around 7 p.m. Monday. It landed safety in the Montana city after leaving Seattle on Monday afternoon. No injuries were reported.

Ketterling says the Boeing 767 carried 203 passengers and 10 crew members. He says an inspection of the plane didn't immediately find any problem.

Passengers were let off the plane and taken to the terminal.

A Delta representative didn't immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking additional details.


Funding, bison, access included in FWP bills

(Information in the following story is from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department Director Jeff Hagener says increasing license fees is a priority for the agency in the upcoming legislative session.

On Monday night, legislators, administrators and sportsmen met in Bozeman to discuss the agency's needs and how they might be affected by bills already being drafted.

The agency is reaching the end of a 10-year budget cycle and will soon be in the red without new authorization for fees.

Fish, Wildlife & Parks depends mostly on money from hunting and fishing license fees.

An advisory committee worked eight months to develop changes that will streamline the number of licenses available and how they're priced.

Republican Rep. Kelly Flynn, of Bozeman, tells the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that some lawmakers may be reluctant to increase fees.


Bighorn sheep dying of pneumonia near Gardiner

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana wildlife officials say a pneumonia outbreak has killed at least ten bighorn sheep near Yellowstone National Park.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks officials said Monday that the outbreak was in the Upper Yellowstone sheep herd near Gardiner.

The dead animals include a mix of rams, lambs, and one adult ewe.

Sheep in the Gardiner area have experienced smaller pneumonia outbreaks in the past few years.

There are domestic sheep in the same area.

State officials say research has shown that bacteria can be transmitted from healthy domestic sheep to bighorn sheep, causing pneumonia in the wild sheep.


Twin Bridge man sentenced in rollover death

(Information in the following story is from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A 20-year-old Twin Bridges man has been sentenced in a 2013 drunken-driving rollover crash that killed a passenger.

Tanner W. Eggers received a 20-year sentence Monday for vehicular homicide while driving under the influence, but 15 years were suspended.

The Montana Standard reports that Eggers had pleaded guilty to the charge earlier.

Authorities say Eggers was behind the wheel in a rollover crash in which 19-year-old passenger Michael Pfertsh died on Sept. 8, 2013.

Eggers also was sentenced to serve six months on three counts of negligent endangerment. That time will be served concurrently with the vehicular homicide sentence. He also was fined for a seat belt violation and ordered to pay restitution.


Bob Stitt new head football coach at Montana

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Bob Stitt is the new head football coach at Montana.

Montana picked Stitt, who has been the head coach at the Colorado School of Mines the past 15 seasons, to replace Mick Delaney, who is retiring. Montana athletic director Kent Haslam made the announcement Tuesday.

Stitt compiled an overall record of 108-62 at the Colorado School of Mines. His team finished the 2014 season with a 10-2 record and qualified for the NCAA Division II playoffs, where the Orediggers lost in the first round.

Montana is an FCS school.

The 50-year-old Stitt will be formally introduced on Friday in Missoula.

His hiring is pending approval from Montana's Board of Regents.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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