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Thursday, December 8th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MST
MEDICAL MARIJUANA-MONTANA

Judge rules to re-open marijuana dispensaries immediately

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a voter initiative that will re-open Montana's medical marijuana dispensaries should take effect immediately.

District Judge James Reynolds of Helena ruled Wednesday that an error in drafting the ballot measure should not delay patients' access to the drug until July.

The judge says the people who are the most in need are those who are seriously ill and are the least able to grow their own marijuana.

The initiative approved by voters last month struck down a law that limited medical marijuana providers to three patients each. But a mistake in the final draft of the measure delayed the effective date until July 1.

The three-patient limit has been in effect since Aug. 31. It forced the closure of marijuana dispensaries across the state and left thousands of registered users without providers.

GERMAN BIKERS KILLED

Man gets 2 years in jail for crash that killed German bikers

(Information from: The Cody Enterprise, http://www.codyenterprise.com)

CODY, Wyo. (AP) — A man who crashed his pickup into a group of German motorcyclists heading to Yellowstone National Park, killing three, has been sentenced to two years in jail.

The Cody Enterprise reports Manuel Defuentes, of Ontario, Oregon, was sentenced Wednesday and was given credit for 181 days he has already served. He pleaded guilty last month to three misdemeanor counts of vehicular homicide stemming from the June 9 crash that killed 53-year-old Tino Cachey, 52-year-old Ute Cachey and 37-year-old Erik Brecht.

Four other motorcyclists were injured.

The group was headed to Yellowstone from Cody when Defuentes' truck crossed the center line at a curve. An investigation did not reveal any drug or alcohol use or mechanical issues with the truck.

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SMALL PLANE CRASH

1 killed, 1 injured in small plane crash in northern Wyoming

BASIN, Wyo. (AP) — Authorities say one person was killed and another was injured in a small plane crash in northern Wyoming.

Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn said in a news release that two people were in the plane when it crashed in a rugged and remote area on Wednesday morning. The closest community to the crash site is Otto.

One person was taken to a hospital in Billings, Montana, and the other died at the scene. Their names have not been released, and Blackburn has only described them as "predator control specialists."

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been notified of the crash, which was hard to get to because of the rough terrain and bitterly cold weather.

No other information was released.

LIBERTY COUNTY DEATHS

CJI superintendent, wife dead of gunshot wounds in Chester

CHESTER, Mont. (AP) — The superintendent of CJI Schools and his wife were found dead at a residence in Chester.

Liberty County Sheriff Doug Riggin says the bodies of 47-year-old Francis LaBounty and 42-year-old Tanya LaBounty were found at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday. Both suffered gunshot wounds to the head.

Riggin said Tanya LaBounty had obtained an order of protection and was living apart from her husband since Dec. 1 when he was arrested following a domestic disturbance. The bodies were found at Tanya's residence. A .357 revolver was recovered at the scene.

Riggin did not release the manner of death pending complete autopsy reports, but he has said that the public is not in danger.

This was LaBounty's first year at CJI Schools. He was previously the superintendent at Brockton.

BUTTE-HOMICIDE INVESTIGATION

Sheriff: Man found dead west of Butte was shot in the back

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Butte-Silver Bow County law enforcement officials say a man whose body was found in his residence west of Butte died of a gunshot wound to the back.

Sheriff Ed Lester did not say what kind of gun was used or release any other information Wednesday about the death of 59-year-old Stanley Gene Becker. His body was found two weeks ago.

Lester says deputies are still interviewing neighbors to see if anyone heard gunshots or anything suspicious. They are asking anyone who had been in Becker's residence within the last month to contact police because they believe some items in Becker's home may have been moved.

Lester declined to comment on whether there were any suspects in Becker's killing.

ARLEE HOMICIDE-PLEA

Man pleads guilty to role in nephew's death in Arlee

(Information from: KERR-AM, http://www.750kerr.com/)

POLSON, Mont. (AP) — A former Montana man has pleaded guilty to his role in the beating death of his 18-year-old nephew in western Montana.

KERR-AM reports 24-year-old Stephen Seese of Osburn, Idaho, pleaded guilty Wednesday to accountability to negligent homicide in the February 2015 death of Richard Warner.

Lake County Attorney Steve Eschenbacher said he will seek a 40-year prison term when Seese is sentenced on Jan. 18.

Warner had been living in Arlee with Seese's family, including two young children, when he was killed. The family stayed in the trailer until May with Warner's body in the shower covered with clothing and furniture. Warner's body was discovered in June.

Seese and his wife blamed each other for beating Warner with a hammer. Kassandra Seese pleaded guilty to the same charge and received a five-year commitment to the Department of Corrections.

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Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, December 7th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MST
GREAT FALLS-SUSPICIOUS DEATH

Great Falls homicide suspect deemed unfit to stand trial

(Information from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A man charged with beating another man to death in Great Falls has been ordered to undergo another mental health examination to determine whether he's fit to stand trial.

The Great Falls Tribune reports Brett McDermott is charged with deliberate homicide, evidence tampering and elder abuse in connection with the January death of 60-year-old Bradley Boland.

District Judge Elizabeth Best ruled Tuesday that McDermott is not fit for trial at this time because he's unable to communicate effectively with his attorneys.

He's being returned to the Montana State Hospital for further assessment and mental health treatment

Court documents say McDermott, who previously identified himself as Boland's caregiver, killed the man at the victim's home.

McDermott's attorneys say their client suffers from mental illness that makes him incompetent to stand trial.

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GEESE-MINE PIT

Snow geese deaths from mine pit number in the thousands

(Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Mine officials say it's likely that several thousand migrating snow geese died after landing in the toxic waters of an old open pit mine in Montana last week.

Montana Resources and Atlantic Richfield Co. officials tell The Montana Standard (bit.ly/2g6q3Xa) that federal and state agencies are still verifying their counts, which are based on photos taken from drone and aircraft flights over the 700-acre Berkeley Pit in Butte that's now a Superfund site.

MR environmental affairs manager Mark Thompson said Tuesday the company expects the total deaths will be several times more than the 342 that died in 1995.

Mine officials estimate that that tens of thousands of snow geese landed in the pit during a snowstorm on Nov. 28. Mine officials have worked to haze the birds off the water and prevent others from landing.

The pit holds an estimated 45 billion gallons of acidic, metal-laden water.

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EAST HELENA DEATHS

Couple found dead in East Helena involved in murder-suicide

(Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Investigators say a man and a woman who were found dead in their East Helena home were involved in a murder-suicide.

Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said Tuesday that 56-year-old James Hart shot his wife, 49-year-old Kelly Hart, before turning the gun on himself.

The Independent Record reports the couple's bodies were found in separate rooms Monday morning after a caregiver who was supposed to be working in the home noticed the front door was locked and became concerned. Both were shot in the head, and a .357 revolver was recovered at the scene.

Dutton says Kelly Hart had serious health issues.

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METHANE GAS

Environmental groups seek to defend federal methane rule

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Environmental groups are seeking to defend a new federal rule that would restrict how oil companies burn off excess natural gas extracted from public lands.

Wyoming, Montana and North Dakota are pressing a federal lawsuit in Wyoming seeking to block a rule that President Barack Obama's administration issued in November.

The states argue that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management lacks authority over air quality issues and claim the rule would reduce state revenues.

Energy companies frequently "flare," or burn off, large volumes of natural gas at drilling sites because it makes less money than oil.

Fifteen groups including national environmental organizations are asking a federal judge in Wyoming to allow them to intervene to support the BLM rule. The judge hasn't ruled yet on the request.

AUDITOR-SENATOR

State senator resigning to take post in auditor's office

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Incoming state auditor Matt Rosendale says a Montana senator from Havre will join his staff when he takes office in January.

Rosendale said Tuesday that Republican Kristin Hansen will be his chief legal counsel.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reports Hansen will resign the Senate District 14 seat she won in 2014.

Hansen represents parts of Cascade, Hill, Liberty and Choteau counties. The counties' boards of commissioners will have to appoint a person from the same party to serve the remainder of Hansen's term.

Rosendale defeated Democrat Jesse Laslovich last month to replace outgoing auditor Monica Lindeen.

Rosendale also announced that former Montana State Fund general counsel Nancy Butler will be deputy state auditor.

INFANT DEATH-DEFERRED SENTENCE

Plains man gets deferred sentence in infant son's death

(Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

THOMPSON FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A Plains man has been given a six-year deferred sentence in the April 2014 death of his infant son.

The Missoulian reports (bit.ly/2hdV7nZ) District Judge James Manley sentenced Gunner Dye late last month after rejecting a motion to set aside the negligent homicide verdict in the death of Shane Gabriel-Leon Dye.

Public defender Ashley Morigeau argued the case was extremely medically and scientifically complex and was heard by jurors "who are below the average educational level."

Prosecutors argued the case was not complex and Morigeau had not raised the education issue during jury selection.

Dye told investigators that the baby was crying and he bounced him up and down and the baby went limp. A medical examiner testified the infant had been shaken.

Dye served over 15 months in jail.

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Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, December 6th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. MST
OFFICER-ASSAULT CHARGE

Officer convicted of assaulting man after car crash

(Information from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An East Helena police officer accused of punching a 70-year-old man after a car crash has been convicted of misdemeanor assault.

The Independent Record reports 27-year-old Robert Gutowski was found guilty Monday following a bench trial. He received a one-year deferred sentence and was ordered to pay a $340 fine.

Gutowski was off-duty when he was involved in a four-vehicle crash in Helena on Sept 6. He says he did not assault the man but "shoved him in the shoulder a few times" to get his attention.

Gutowski was put on unpaid leave for a week, then was reinstated by East Helena Mayor James Schell.

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MONTANA KNIFE ATTACKS

Man who stabbed landlord to death gets life in prison

(Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings man who stabbed his elderly landlord to death has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

The Billings Gazette reports 38-year-old Scott Austin Price was sentenced Monday for stabbing 78-year-old Ed Martin in the neck Dec. 14, 2015. Price pleaded guilty in September to deliberate homicide.

He also is scheduled to be sentenced later this month on several charges out of Missoula County that include deliberate homicide and attempted deliberate homicide.

In that case, he and his co-defendant, 32-year-old Sarah McKnight, were charged in two separate attacks that took place in Missoula a week after Martin's death. Price stabbed a woman in a grocery store parking lot and later killed Lonette Keehner, a 56-year-old housekeeper.

Prosecutors say Price was using methamphetamine during the week of the attacks.

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FATAL DRUG OVERDOSE-PLEA

Man pleads guilty to role in Bozeman overdose death

(Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A man has pleaded guilty to his role in the January overdose death of a Montana State University student at a Bozeman music venue.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports (bit.ly/2h0eYGH) Geoffrey Qualls pleaded guilty Monday to felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs for sharing a powerful synthetic drug that caused the death of 20-year-old Natalie Dietrich. Qualls needed medical help after ingesting the drug.

Prosecutors plan to recommend a two-year deferred sentence and community service when Qualls is sentenced on Jan. 23.

Another man, Daniel McGrail, has pleaded not guilty to felony criminal distribution of dangerous drugs.

Qualls has said McGrail gave him the drugs. Qualls said he and Dietrich went into a bathroom and took one snort of the drug and he didn't remember what happened after that.

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CRIME VICTIMS-MONTANA

Elections results for Marsy's Law have been certified

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The state Board of Canvassers has certified the passage of a constitutional initiative that establishes certain rights for crime victims.

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said Monday, per a Supreme Court injunction issued Friday, she did not certify an effective date for Constitutional Initiative 116, also known as Marsy's Law.

Language in the voter information pamphlet indicated the amendment would take effect immediately upon passage, but city and county governments argue that was a misinterpretation of the initiative.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana along with organizations representing city and county governments asked the Supreme Court Friday to hear arguments on the effective date. The governments say they need time and money to meet the requirements of the new amendment.

The court gave the state 14 days to file its response.

COAL MORATORIUM-UTAH LAWSUIT

Utah county sue over halt on new coal leases on federal land

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two Utah counties say in a lawsuit that a halt on new coal leases on federal land is blocking a mine expansion pump millions of dollars into their economies.

Attorney Peter Stirba said Monday the suit is the first challenging the moratorium ordered by the Obama administration in January. Kane and Garfield counties want to strike down the halt that they say could force the mine to close.

A U.S. Department of the Interior spokesperson said they can't comment on pending lawsuits, but the moratorium started after concerns were raised about the coal program, including climate change.

Utah is among the states most affected, along with Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico.

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to eliminated the moratorium.

SEX OFFENDER-PLEA

Sex offender pleads not guilty to rape charge

(Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A transgender registered sex offender has pleaded not guilty to charges that allege she had a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports (bit.ly/2gZmQWN) 28-year-old Aliea Rose Brown of Manhattan appeared in District Court in Bozeman Monday and pleaded not guilty to sexual intercourse without consent.

District Judge Mike Salvagni continued Brown's bail at $100,000.

Court records say the girl told investigators she believed the relationship was OK because she had her mother's consent, while Brown reportedly told investigators she knew it was illegal. The age of consent in Montana is 16.

Brown, who was previously known as Albert Brown, had been living in the same house with the girl, her mother and the mother's boyfriend. Prosecutors say the girl's mother knew Brown was a sex offender.

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Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.