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Wednesday, September 17th 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary

Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

US senator to ask Congress to suspend coal sales

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. senator says he'll ask fellow lawmakers to halt further coal sales on federal lands in the West after a senior administration official declined to suspend the troubled government program.

Sen. Ed Markey said Tuesday the Interior Department is moving too slowly on promised reforms. The Massachusetts Democrat has said undervalued coal sales might have cost taxpayers $200 million or more.

Government investigators earlier this year found a widespread lack of competition in coal lease sales. Markey wants companies to pay a fair price for the right to mine.

In a letter first reported by The Boston Globe, U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze agreed reforms are needed. But he says a suspension of sales is not necessary while the changes are being considered.


Justices seek to uphold partisan endorsement ban

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Six of the seven Montana Supreme Court justices have asked a federal judge to uphold a rule that prevents judicial candidates from pursuing or accepting partisan endorsements.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reported former Justice William Leaphart filed the friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justices Jim Rice, Michael Wheat, Patricia Cotter, Beth Baker and James Jeremiah Shea. Justice Laurie McKinnon is not part of the action.

The brief was filed in response to a federal lawsuit filed last month by Sanders County justice of the peace candidate Mark French. He sued to challenge the partisan endorsements rule in the state's Code of Judicial Conduct. He said he intends to seek the endorsement of the Sanders County Republican Central Committee, which is led by his wife.


Man arrested in Colorado in 1999 Montana death

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a 46-year-old man has been arrested in Colorado and charged with homicide in the 1999 drowning death of his wife in southeastern Montana.

The Montana Department of Justice said Tuesday that Brian David Laird was arrested on Sept. 11 in Fort Collins by agents from the FBI and Montana Division of Criminal Investigation.

Court documents show Laird is charged with deliberate homicide in the July 31, 1999 death of 28-year-old Kathryn Laird in Big Horn County. The victim's body was found in the Afterbay Reservoir of Yellowtail Dam a day after she had been reported missing.

Brian Laird's bail has been set at $500,000 while he awaits extradition to Montana. A Thursday hearing in the case is scheduled in Colorado.

It could not immediately be determined if Laird had an attorney.


Report released on plane crash near Great Falls

(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Investigators say a small plane that crashed southeast of Great Falls, killing one person and injuring three others, hit a group of trees as the pilot approached a ridge.

The Great Falls Tribune reported Tuesday that a preliminary finding by the National Transportation Safety Board notes the pilot "attempted to climb over the ridge, but the airplane wouldn't climb." The pilot, 55-year-old Christopher Wilsey, turned the airplane toward the valley before it struck the trees and crashed.

Authorities say 67-year-old Susan Majerus, of Great Falls, died of burns suffered in an intense fire after the plane crashed Sept. 2.

The crash injured Wilsey; Majerus' husband, 68-year-old Robert Majerus; and 11-year-old Rachel Lukasik. All three suffered burns.

The Cessna 177 took off from Great Falls International Airport and crashed in the Little Belt Mountains.


Fort Collins police officer charged with stalking

(Information in the following story is from: Fort Collins Coloradoan, http://www.coloradoan.com)

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — A Fort Collins police officer was arrested and fired after investigators say he used agency resources to stalk a woman.

The Coloradoan reports 29-year-old Jarett Branson was fired Tuesday after he was charged with stalking, criminal trespass and official misconduct.

Police say a Fort Collins woman reported "inappropriate behavior" by Branson, telling investigators he contacted her multiple times at work and home while he was on duty. Branson allegedly used police resources to find out where the woman worked and lived in an effort to start a relationship with her.

Branson worked as a police officer in Butte, Montana, before being hired in Fort Collins in January.

The Montana Standard reports that in 2011, he received the department's award for helping victims of domestic and sexual abuse.


Billings man charged with assaulting 4 women

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings man is charged with assaulting four women in five instances over the past six months, causing injuries that required medical care and left one woman hospitalized for six days with a brain injury and a collapsed lung.

The Billings Gazette reports 29-year-old Todd Michael Johnson faces eight felony assault charges. His bail is set at $250,000, he has been appointed a public defender and he is scheduled to enter pleas later this month.

Prosecutors allege Johnson assaulted a 23-year-old woman over a period of four days in April; punched and choked a 24-year-old woman; punched another woman in the face, knocking her unconscious; beat and pistol whipped a woman, and assaulted his April victim again on Sept. 14. She was able to get away by stabbing him.


Slaying suspect to be extradited to Montana

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A transient accused of torturing and fatally shooting a man in Missoula is expected to be extradited to Montana this week to face charges.

The Missoulian reports 27-year-old Kevin Joseph Lino was arrested in Shreveport, Louisiana, in August for the July 30 death of 36-year-old Gilbert Barry. Lino is expected to appear in court by Friday on charges of deliberate homicide and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Prosecutors say Barry was beaten and gang symbols were cut into his skin. Lino is accused of urinating on the man and shooting him in the head at an encampment under a Missoula bridge.

Barry's body was then dumped into the Clark Fork River.


1 debate set in US House and US Senate races

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana's U.S. Senate candidates have agreed to a debate next month in Billings.

The Billings Gazette reports the one-hour debate between Democrat Amanda Curtis and Republican Steve Daines will be held at 6 p.m. on Oct. 20 at Montana State University Billings' Petro Theater. It is scheduled to be broadcast by Montana Television Network stations and Yellowstone Public Radio. MSUB and the Gazette also are sponsors.

The state's major party U.S. House candidates — Democrat John Lewis and Republican Ryan Zinke — earlier agreed to an Oct. 4 debate in Bozeman. The hour-long debate also is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. and will be aired on MTN stations.

A forum with Lewis will be held in Billings on Sept. 29. Zinke was invited but has said he will not participate.


Woman files lawsuit over jail rape

(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A former inmate at the Jefferson County jail in Boulder alleges the county created circumstances that "allowed its staff to rape the inmates in their custody."

The Great Falls Tribune reports the woman filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Helena on Monday. She is seeking unspecified money damages.

The lawsuit alleges former part-time jailer Rodney Mortimore raped the woman while her cellmate was asleep after taking a sedative.

Attorney Amy Burns of Helena said the woman didn't report the attack because she didn't know how long she would be in jail before being transferred to a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program.

Mortimore has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of sexual intercourse without consent. Prosecutors said he bribed three inmates with cigarettes in exchange for sexual favors.


Idaho man dies after Montana motorcycle crash

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 66-year-old man from Lewiston, Idaho, has died of injuries suffered in a weekend motorcycle crash in Montana.

The Montana Highway Patrol tells The Billings Gazette the man died at a Missoula hospital on Monday.

The patrol says the man was injured at about 10 a.m. Sunday when his westbound motorcycle struck a guardrail and then a cement divider on Interstate 90 near Deer Lodge.

He was taken to the hospital in Deer Lodge and then flown to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula. Officials say he was wearing a helmet. His name hasn't been released.

The patrol is still investigating the crash.


Man injured, van fell off jack during tire change

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A man was injured after a minivan fell off a jack during a roadside tire change on Interstate 15 northwest of Great Falls.

Vaughn Fire Chief Jason McAllister says a woman with the man flagged down a passing motorist at about 8:30 p.m. The motorist used a jack from his vehicle to lift the minivan and then dragged the man out from under the vehicle.

McAllister says emergency responders performed CPR and the man was talking to rescuers prior to being taken to Benefis Health System in Great Falls.

Meanwhile, a 10-year-old Helena boy who was injured when a sport utility vehicle slipped off a jack and landed on his head and chest on Saturday was hospitalized in serious but stable condition in Seattle. A family Facebook page included a post from his father saying the boy's breathing tube was removed on Monday

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

Tuesday, September 16th 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary

Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Corps halts review of Oregon coal export terminal

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has brought its review of a proposed coal export terminal to an immediate halt, a blow to the Australian company trying to get coal from the Northern Rockies to an eager Asian market.

Last month, Oregon state regulators rejected the proposed terminal on the Columbia River because it would potentially interfere with tribal fishing rights.

On Monday, the Corps announced it had put its review on hold while a judge considers an appeal of the state's decision.

An Australian company, Ambre Energy, proposed to have coal shipped by rail from Wyoming and Montana to the terminal in northeast Oregon.

There the coal would be loaded onto barges headed for another terminal closer to the mouth of the river and then exported.


Montana man dies in Glacier National Park

WEST GLACIER, Mont. (AP) — A 22-year-old Montana man has died, possibly after attempting an illegal BASE jump in Glacier National Park.

The National Park Service was notified at Saturday night that Beau Weiher, of Missoula, was overdue from a solo day hike in the Many Glacier Area.

Family and friends say he likely planned a hike in the Piegan (PEE'-gun) Pass and Mount Siyeh (sy-EE') areas. They say he might have planned a BASE jump, an activity that involves leaping from a ledge or other fixed object with a parachute.

Searchers began looking for Weiher on Sunday morning and eventually found tracks in the snow that indicated he might have been in an area below the summit of Mount Siyeh.

At about 6 p.m. searchers in a helicopter spotted what they believed to be a parachute. Weiher's body was found at the base of Mount Siyeh on Sunday night.


Montana lawmakers aim to avoid government shutdown

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana lawmakers say they plan to work this week on preventing a federal government shutdown at the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester on Monday said avoiding a shutdown is the most important issue lawmakers have to deal with this week.

A short-term funding bill has been introduced in the U.S. House and it's likely to be voted on this week. The legislation would continue funding for government services and programs at the current level until Dec. 11.

Tester says the bill was written without contentious provisions and as long as none are added, he believes the bill should pass.

U.S. Rep. Steve Daines said Monday that Americans expect and deserve their elected officials to work together to find solutions on the issue.


Tribal officers detain state game warden

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Fort Belknap tribal officers detained a state game warden for over five hours on Saturday, apparently because the tribe believes the agency has unfairly focused its enforcement efforts on tribal members.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Deputy Director Mike Volesky tells The Billings Gazette that Warden Dirk Paulsen of Chinook was patrolling about 12 miles west of Hays on Saturday morning when tribal officers blocked his vehicle.

Last year, the tribe passed a resolution denying wardens access to tribal lands without authorization. Volesky says some interpret it as meaning nontribal members need permission to travel across tribal lands, even on public roads.

Volesky says tribal officers threatened to impound Paulsen's vehicle. Fort Belknap Indian Community Council president Mark Azure says the warden was cited for criminal trespass.


California residents sentenced after pot bust

COLUMBUS, Mont. (AP) — Two California residents who were arrested after 115 pounds of marijuana was found in their car during a Montana traffic stop have been sentenced to the supervision of the Montana Department of Corrections.

The Stillwater County News reports District Judge Blair Jones sentenced Rick and Dawn Voight of Hayward to five years with the department for possession of dangerous drugs with intent to distribute. He suspended two years of Rick Voight's sentence and three of Dawn's.

Last week's sentence means the DOC will determine their placements. Both remained jailed in Yellowstone County Monday, where they have been held since their arrests in late April.

Charging documents say the couple had $736,000 in vacuum-packed bundles of marijuana in their rental car when they were stopped for speeding on Interstate 90 in south-central Montana.


Montana wolf hunt begins; activists shadow hunters

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana's six-month general hunting season for gray wolves is underway after just one of the predators was reported taken during an early-season archery hunt.

It's the fourth annual hunt since Congress revoked the animals' endangered species protections in 2011. Yet it continues to stir debate.

Activists opposed to killing wolves outside Yellowstone National Park said Monday they were shadowing outfitters in a wilderness area next to the park.

Rod Coronado with the recently-formed Yellowstone Wolf Patrol says the group's members will use a video camera to document any wolves killed to raise public awareness.

Coronado says there is no intention to directly interfere, which would be illegal.

Hunting units north of Yellowstone are subject to a six-wolf quota. Montana does not limit how many wolves can be killed statewide.


Mother and daughter sentenced for hammer attack

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings mother and daughter have been sentenced to prison for breaking into the home of the daughter's ex-husband and his new wife, stealing items and hitting the new wife with a hammer when she returned and tried to stop them.

The Billings Gazette reports District Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced 55-year-old Kimberly Paulk to five years in prison and 32-year-old Cheri Schiedel to three.

Paulk and Schiedel were arrested in January by police responding to a burglary. Schiedel said she broke into the house to get her clothes back.

Assistant public defender Clark Matthews said Monday the women made the poor decision to take property that didn't belong to them. The victim said she was hit at least four times with a hammer. Police say some of the injuries required staples.


Woman who died in Billings car crash ID'd

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have released the name of an 85-year-old woman who died in a car crash in Billings over the weekend.

Yellowstone County Coroner Lt. Bill Jones says Darlene Oblander was killed when she crashed her car into a parked pickup truck at about 7:30 a.m. Sunday. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police Sgt. Ronda Fox tells The Billings Gazette a medical condition contributed to Oblander's death.

No one was in the pickup at the time of the crash.


Petition challenges Yellowstone bison slaughters

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife advocates have filed a legal petition to stop the capture and mass slaughter of wild bison leaving Yellowstone National Park during their winter migration.

Friends of Animals and the Buffalo Field Campaign filed Monday's petition with agencies including the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, which manages lands adjacent to the park.

Thousands of Yellowstone bison have been shipped to slaughter in recent decades to keep them from coming into contact with livestock. Many bison carry the disease brucellosis, which can cause pregnant animals to abort their young.

Friends of Animals attorney Mike Harris says the regular removal of so many bison is destroying the animals' gene pool.

Yellowstone administrators say 900 bison could be removed during the upcoming winter through hunting, slaughter and for research purposes.


State taking comment on Missoula hospital sale

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The state attorney general's office is taking public comment on the proposed sale of Community Medical Center in Missoula to a partnership between Billings Clinic and a Tennessee-based hospital management company.

Last week, Community Medical Center announced the $67.4 million asset purchase agreement. Because Community is a nonprofit, the attorney general's office must review the proposal and ensure its charitable assets are protected.

The state has hired a Missouri company to determine the fair market value of the hospital's assets. The state expects its review to be completed before the end of the year.

Comments can be submitted online or mailed to: Montana Attorney General, Office of Consumer Protection, P.O. Box 200151, Helena, MT, 59620-0151.


Wash. reports new wolf pack found

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Wildlife officials are reporting that a new wolf pack has been discovered in northeast Washington's Ferry County near Profanity Peak.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife says the range of the Profanity Peak pack is east of the town of Curlew. Remote cameras show the pack includes at least three adults and three pups.

The Diamond M livestock operation, grazing on U.S. Forest Service land, reported finding wolf-killed cattle in the vicinity of the pack last Friday.

Fish and Wildlife staff have confirmed that a cow and calf had been killed by wolves.

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

Monday, September 15th 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary

Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Montana turtles to be collected for Texas release

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Humane Society is offering to take people's unwanted pet turtles and release them in Texas.

Red-eared slider turtles are now illegal to own in Montana without a permit. Red-eared sliders are popular pets but they're also an invasive species.

Several waters in Montana have been invaded by red-eared slider turtles. Allison Begley with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks says red-eared sliders are listed among the world's 100 most invasive species.

The Billings Gazette reports Dave Pauli with the Humane Society plans to collect red-eared sliders from people who don't want to keep them as pets any more.

He says the turtles will be trained to live in the wild before being released in a lake in Texas, where red-eared sliders are a native species.


Report: Development could pinch Bozeman-area water

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A new report says continued development could lower the water table and reduce flows in the Gallatin River and other streams west of Bozeman.

The Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology Groundwater Investigation Program has spent five years measuring and modeling surface and groundwater in the Four Corners area.

The Bozeman Chronicle reports home and commercial development have been replacing agricultural land in that area.

The report released Wednesday says the changing land use has two effects. Less irrigation seeps into the groundwater and a growing number of household wells are drawing off that groundwater.

Stream gauges show flows in the Gallatin River have been decreasing since the 1950s. The report says that trend likely will continue as temperatures rise and mountain snowpack decreases.


Blast destroys rural Roberts home

ROBERTS, Mont. (AP) — No one was hurt when a rural Roberts home exploded.

Firefighters suspect the cause was a propane leak at a water heater.

Roberts is a small community about 45 miles southwest of Billings. Fire Chief Hunter Bell says neither the owner of the home nor a tenant was home when the explosion happened Friday evening.

Firefighters got the call just before 9 p.m. Friday. Bell says neighbors reported two loud explosion and firefighters could do little once they arrived except protect other structures nearby.

He tells the Billings Gazette the blast threw debris as far as 60 feet from the house. The home was a total loss.


Daines seeks to woo Indian Country voters

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Steve Daines of Montana has spent much of his term trying to win over the support of Native Americans.

The Bozeman Republican has pushed legislation to promote energy development on reservations, invited leaders to testify in congressional hearings and even hosted a meeting between the Crow tribe and Israel's ambassador to the U.S.

Now that Daines is running for U.S. Senate, it remains to be seen whether those efforts will bring votes from Indian communities that heavily skew Democratic.

But with Democratic U.S. Sen. John Walsh out of the race and Amanda Curtis building a new campaign, Daines may have an opportunity to chip away at the Indian vote.

Crow chairman Darrin Old Coyote says he will support whatever candidate will be the voice for Indian Country.


Recent solar flare too early for Rockies auroras

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Meteorologists say a powerful solar flare that struck the Earth arrived too soon before dark to make the Northern Lights visible in the Northern Rockies.

The National Weather Service says Friday's flare struck around 6 p.m. Mountain Time. The Idaho Statesman reports the resulting aurora borealis was about 6 hours too early to be visible in this region.

Low-latitude auroras were visible in the night sky in places farther east, including Maine.


Groups eye lawsuit against predator control agency

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Four conservation groups that contend federal officials in Idaho are violating environmental laws by killing predators and other wildlife to protect livestock and crops have taken the first step to file a lawsuit.

Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project and three other groups sent a letter to the Idaho office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services that is a 60-day notice of their intention to sue in federal court.

The letter sent last week requests that the agency cease activities and conduct an environmental analysis or a more involved environmental impact statement.

The groups say Wildlife Services is relying on outdated or uninformed information in killing wolves, bears, coyotes, beavers, badgers and other animals.

Wildlife Services says it can't comment specifically about pending litigation.


Remains of POW to be buried in Montana

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The remains of a World War II prisoner of war will be returned to his Montana home some 70 years after his plane was shot down.

The remains of Army Air Forces 1st Lt. William D. Bernier were uncovered by a U.S. team in 2001 and were recently identified.

Bernier, along with 11 other B-24D Liberator crew members, were shot down April 10, 1944, over New Guinea.

Four of the crew were able to parachute from the aircraft but were reported to have died in captivity.

Bernier's remains will be buried in his hometown of Augusta next Friday.

His niece, Sandra Jones, tells the Independent Record that she had the option of burying him at Arlington National Cemetery, but decided to bring him home to Montana instead.


UM gets $1.5M donation for education program

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The University of Montana has received a $1.5 million donation for its gifted education program.

The money was donated by Missoula residents and UM graduates Suzanne and Dave Peterson to UM's Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences.

The money will allow for a professorship that will specialize in gifted education and advanced learning in the classroom. The donation will also fund research into how best to motivate gifted children to succeed.

The school plans to fill the position as early as March 1.

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

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