KLTZ/MIX-93
The VOICE of northeast Montana!!!
| Local News | Montana News | North Dakota News | Obituaries | Valley Happenings | News Archives | Obituary Archives | Ag News | Live Under The Big Sky |
Latest Montana News
Monday, January 20th 2020

Associated Press Montana News

ICE JAM-FLOODING

Flooding from Montana ice jam raises foul water worries

MISSOULA Mont. (AP) — A central Montana town has issued a boiled water notice after flooding from an ice jam raised worries about residential wells being contaminated. KECI-TV reports about two dozen homes in Choteau that use private wells were asked to boil their water as a precaution. The ice jam along Spring Creek followed a severe cold spell last week and caused the waterway to rise above it's banks inside the city. Warmer weather over the weekend allowed local officials to clear culverts and take other steps to make sure the water flows freely.

WEATHER STATIONS

Army Corps studying weather network to help control flooding

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers is studying the possible construction of an $11.1 million network of weather stations to improve flood control across the Upper Missouri River Basin. The Billings Gazette reports stations are being upgraded for proof of concept in Bozeman and in Sheridan, Wyoming, and Brookings, South Dakota. After the systems and equipment demonstrate their capability, Corps officials propose installing 360 similar stations at a cost of more than $31,000 each. The details of the study are contained in a draft environmental assessment of updates to the three soil moisture and plains snowpack monitoring stations.

TRAIN VEHICLE COLLISION

Victim found near Montana site of train collision with car

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Rescue crews have located the occupant of a vehicle that was hit by a train and caught fire in Montana. KECI-TV reports the victim's condition was not immediately known following the accident Sunday night in Frenchtown. Officials say the initial investigation has determined the vehicle was not occupied at the time of the collision on the train tracks. Authorities say they believe the car drove onto the tracks and headed west before becoming stuck. The train continued for half a mile after hitting the vehicle before it could stop.

MASSAGE THERAPIST-SEXUAL MISCONDUCT

Former massage therapist sentenced for sexual misconduct

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A former massage therapy instructor who was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct has been sentenced. The Great Falls Tribune reports 48-year-old Gene Watson was sentenced Friday to five years in state prison and a year and a half in the Cascade County jail. The terms will run consecutively. Watson was first accused in 2014 while he worked at the Montana Academy of Salons, and about a dozen women made complaints that led to a lawsuit. Two other women came forward in January 2019 accusing Watson of raping them under the guise of legitimate massage therapy.

FATAL SNOWMOBILING ACCIDENT

Man dies in snowmobiling accident in southwest Montana

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have released the name of a man who was killed in a snowmobiling accident in southwest Montana. The Montana Standard reports 39-year-old Douglas Baker, of Butte, went missing while snowmobiling with a group of friends near Jackson on Jan. 12. Beaverhead County's coroner says Baker's friends started looking for him and found his body in an area she described as “off the beaten path." Baker was traveling up a snow-packed incline when his snowmobile rolled and trapped him underneath. He died of asphyxiation.

YELLOWSTONE RESCUE

Man rescued, cited after rappelling into Yellowstone canyon

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park officials say a 55-year-old Indiana man had to be rescued after he rappelled into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and then could not climb back up. A park ranger tells the Billings Gazette that the man, Dave Christensen, was uninjured in the Jan. 6 incident. He was cited for disorderly conduct and for going off-trail in a closed area. Officials say Christensen dropped his backpack and left his 360-foot rope to retrieve it in the canyon, which reaches depths of 1,200 feet in places. Officials say he could not climb back up again and the rescue took four hours.

Monday, January 20th 2020

Associated Press Montana News

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A former massage therapy instructor who was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct has been sentenced. The Great Falls Tribune reports 48-year-old Gene Watson was sentenced Friday to five years in state prison and a year and a half in the Cascade County jail. The terms will run consecutively. Watson was first accused in 2014 while he worked at the Montana Academy of Salons, and about a dozen women made complaints that led to a lawsuit. Two other women came forward in January 2019 accusing Watson of raping them under the guise of legitimate massage therapy.

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have released the name of a man who was killed in a snowmobiling accident in southwest Montana. The Montana Standard reports 39-year-old Douglas Baker, of Butte, went missing while snowmobiling with a group of friends near Jackson on Jan. 12. Beaverhead County's coroner says Baker's friends started looking for him and found his body in an area she described as “off the beaten path." Baker was traveling up a snow-packed incline when his snowmobile rolled and trapped him underneath. He died of asphyxiation.

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park officials say a 55-year-old Indiana man had to be rescued after he rappelled into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and then could not climb back up. A park ranger tells the Billings Gazette that the man, Dave Christensen, was uninjured in the Jan. 6 incident. He was cited for disorderly conduct and for going off-trail in a closed area. Officials say Christensen dropped his backpack and left his 360-foot rope to retrieve it in the canyon, which reaches depths of 1,200 feet in places. Officials say he could not climb back up again and the rescue took four hours.

UNDATED (AP) — Australia’s forests are burning at a rate unmatched in modern times and causing ecological changes that scientists say are likely irreversible. Amid heat waves and drought linked to climate change, some 40,000 square miles of the island continent has been charred this fire season. The blazes reached into jungles that don't normally burn and forested areas that already had burned at least once in recent years. Government officials plan a major reseeding effort. But scientists say the combination of high temperatures, drought and more frequent wildfires means even fire-adapted forests may not fully recover. New ecosystems would take their place.

Monday, January 20th 2020

Associated Press Montana News

MASSAGE THERAPIST-SEXUAL MISCONDUCT

Former massage therapist sentenced for sexual misconduct

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A former massage therapy instructor who was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct has been sentenced. The Great Falls Tribune reports 48-year-old Gene Watson was sentenced Friday to five years in state prison and a year and a half in the Cascade County jail. The terms will run consecutively. Watson was first accused in 2014 while he worked at the Montana Academy of Salons, and about a dozen women made complaints that led to a lawsuit. Two other women came forward in January 2019 accusing Watson of raping them under the guise of legitimate massage therapy.

FATAL SNOWMOBILING ACCIDENT

Man dies in snowmobiling accident in southwest Montana

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have released the name of a man who was killed in a snowmobiling accident in southwest Montana. The Montana Standard reports 39-year-old Douglas Baker, of Butte, went missing while snowmobiling with a group of friends near Jackson on Jan. 12. Beaverhead County's coroner says Baker's friends started looking for him and found his body in an area she described as “off the beaten path." Baker was traveling up a snow-packed incline when his snowmobile rolled and trapped him underneath. He died of asphyxiation.

YELLOWSTONE RESCUE

Man rescued, cited after rappelling into Yellowstone canyon

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park officials say a 55-year-old Indiana man had to be rescued after he rappelled into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and then could not climb back up. A park ranger tells the Billings Gazette that the man, Dave Christensen, was uninjured in the Jan. 6 incident. He was cited for disorderly conduct and for going off-trail in a closed area. Officials say Christensen dropped his backpack and left his 360-foot rope to retrieve it in the canyon, which reaches depths of 1,200 feet in places. Officials say he could not climb back up again and the rescue took four hours.

AP-SCI-AUSTRALIA-WILDFIRES-BURNED-FOREVER

Fires set stage for irreversible forest losses in Australia

Australia’s forests are burning at a rate unmatched in modern times and causing ecological changes that scientists say are likely irreversible. Amid heat waves and drought linked to climate change, some 40,000 square miles of the island continent has been charred this fire season. The blazes reached into jungles that don't normally burn and forested areas that already had burned at least once in recent years. Government officials plan a major reseeding effort. But scientists say the combination of high temperatures, drought and more frequent wildfires means even fire-adapted forests may not fully recover. New ecosystems would take their place.

GRIZZLY BEAR CLAWS

Man kills grizzly in self-defense, keeps claws as a memento

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man told investigators that he cut off a grizzly bear's claws after shooting it in self-defense because he was mad that the bear was going to eat him. The Flathead Beacon reports 35-year-old Bryan Berg was fined $5,000 and sentenced to probation on Thursday after pleading guilty to illegal transport of grizzly bear claws. Prosecutors say Berg shot the bear in self-defense in Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness in 2017. He cut off the claws and pushed the carcass over the side of a mountain. Berg told investigators he wanted to keep the claws as a memento.

SUPREME COURT-SCHOOL CHOICE

Justices taking up bans on state money to religious schools

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Supreme Court that seems more favorable to religion-based discrimination claims is set to hear a case that could make it easier to use public money to pay for religious schooling in many states. The justices will hear arguments Wednesday in a dispute over a Montana scholarship program for private K-12 education that makes donors eligible for up to $150 in state tax credits. Advocates on both sides say the outcome could be momentous. Montana is among 37 states that have provisions in their state constitutions that bar religious schools from receiving state aid.

Sunday, January 19th 2020

Associated Press Montana News

YELLOWSTONE RESCUE

Man rescued, cited after rappelling into Yellowstone canyon

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park officials say a 55-year-old Indiana man had to be rescued after he rappelled into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and then could not climb back up. A park ranger tells the Billings Gazette that the man, Dave Christensen, was uninjured in the Jan. 6 incident. He was cited for disorderly conduct and for going off-trail in a closed area. Officials say Christensen dropped his backpack and left his 360-foot rope to retrieve it in the canyon, which reaches depths of 1,200 feet in places. Officials say he could not climb back up again and the rescue took four hours.

GRIZZLY BEAR CLAWS

Man kills grizzly in self-defense, keeps claws as a memento

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man told investigators that he cut off a grizzly bear's claws after shooting it in self-defense because he was mad that the bear was going to eat him. The Flathead Beacon reports 35-year-old Bryan Berg was fined $5,000 and sentenced to probation on Thursday after pleading guilty to illegal transport of grizzly bear claws. Prosecutors say Berg shot the bear in self-defense in Montana's Bob Marshall Wilderness in 2017. He cut off the claws and pushed the carcass over the side of a mountain. Berg told investigators he wanted to keep the claws as a memento.

SUPREME COURT-SCHOOL CHOICE

Justices taking up bans on state money to religious schools

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Supreme Court that seems more favorable to religion-based discrimination claims is set to hear a case that could make it easier to use public money to pay for religious schooling in many states. The justices will hear arguments Wednesday in a dispute over a Montana scholarship program for private K-12 education that makes donors eligible for up to $150 in state tax credits. Advocates on both sides say the outcome could be momentous. Montana is among 37 states that have provisions in their state constitutions that bar religious schools from receiving state aid.

VA MEDICAL CENTER EXPANSION

Director: Montana VA wait times down, expansion underway

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Construction is underway on an addition to the VA Medical Center at Fort Harrison outside Helena. VA Montana Healthcare System director Dr. Judy Hayman says the 18,000-square-foot construction project is expected to be completed in December. Hayman also says wait times have improved significantly and the Montana VA is at nearly full staff. The Great Falls Tribune reports that wait times have been a long-running problem with the Montana VA. A 2014 audit found that patients had to wait and average of 48 days before their first appointment with a primary doctor.

ENERGY ROYALTIES

Judge says conservation group can look into energy panel

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A conservation group can seek details from the Trump administration on whether it used the recommendations of a disbanded committee to craft policies on oil, gas and coal extraction. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy says there is “a significant question" on whether the administration followed the advice of the Royalty Policy Committee. The industry-dominated panel was created under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to remove obstacles to natural resource extraction. It was disbanded last year, and Molloy later said it had been established illegally. The judge's ruling Thursday allows the Western Organization of Resource Councils to seek documents, depositions and other materials from the administration.

MONTANA FATAL CRASH

9-year-old boy dies after semi hits disabled pickup

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Highway Patrol says a 9-year-old boy was killed when a semi truck hit a disabled pickup on the side of the road in southwestern Montana. Officials say the pickup hit two elk on U.S. Highway 297 near Cameron on Thursday night and was sitting partially in the northbound lane with no lights on. A northbound semi hit the truck and caused it to go off the road. The 9-year-old boy died at the scene. A 44-year-old man from Harrison and a 12-year-old boy in the pickup were uninjured. The driver of the semi was also unhurt.

Saturday, January 18th 2020

Associated Press Montana News

ENERGY ROYALTIES

Judge says conservation group can look into energy panel

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A conservation group can seek details from the Trump administration on whether it used the recommendations of a disbanded committee to craft policies on oil, gas and coal extraction. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy says there is “a significant question" on whether the administration followed the advice of the Royalty Policy Committee. The industry-dominated panel was created under former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to remove obstacles to natural resource extraction. It was disbanded last year, and Molloy later said it had been established illegally. The judge's ruling Thursday allows the Western Organization of Resource Councils to seek documents, depositions and other materials from the administration.

MONTANA FATAL CRASH

9-year-old boy dies after semi hits disabled pickup

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Highway Patrol says a 9-year-old boy was killed when a semi truck hit a disabled pickup on the side of the road in southwestern Montana. Officials say the pickup hit two elk on U.S. Highway 297 near Cameron on Thursday night and was sitting partially in the northbound lane with no lights on. A northbound semi hit the truck and caused it to go off the road. The 9-year-old boy died at the scene. A 44-year-old man from Harrison and a 12-year-old boy in the pickup were uninjured. The driver of the semi was also unhurt.

ARMORED TRUCK THEFT-CONVICTION

Helena man convicted of taking $390k stolen from armored car

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Helena man has been convicted of taking $390,000 stolen from an armored truck and spending it on gambling, day trading and travel. A federal jury found 30-year-old John Gregory Alexander Herrin guilty of interstate transportation of stolen property and eight counts of money laundering. The money was removed from a GardaWorld armored vehicle in November 2013. Herrin worked for Garda from 2012 until 2014. An internal investigation by Garda was unable to implicate anyone in the theft. However, prosecutors told the jury that Herrin's financial situation changed drastically after the theft. Herrin was taken into custody Thursday and sentencing is set for May 19.

ICE JAM-FLOODING

Ice jams, inflexible regulation causing flooding in Montana

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — An ice jam that caused flooding along a creek in central Montana has nearly submerged a town park and is rising into residents' basements and crawl spaces. The City of Choteau declared a state of emergency on Friday. The ice jam followed subzero temperatures. City officials say the conditions are likely to remain until warmer temperatures thaw the ice blocking culverts and stream beds. City officials say the sewer lines are completely filled and crews have sandbagged manholes in the area to avoid further surface water infiltration. It was not immediately known how many houses could be impacted in the town of about 1,700 people.

MISSOULA STABBING-DRUG CHARGES

Missoula man denies drug charges after fatal stabbing

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — An 18-year-old Missoula man has pleaded not guilty to a drug distribution charge filed after an investigation found he stabbed another man to death in self-defense. Joshua Michael Paniagua appeared in court Wednesday via video from the Missoula County jail, where he is being held on $25,000 bail. Paniagua was arrested after 18-year-old Benjamin Mousso suffered fatal injuries when he was stabbed during a fight in a casino bathroom on Jan. 1. Paniagua and others said Mousso had tried to rob Paniagua of drugs and punched him several times before Paniagua pulled his knife. His public defender asked that Paniagua be released to his family, but the judge asked that he first be screened for pretrial supervision.

MONTANA HOUSE-NEW CHAIRS

Montana lawmakers, staff evaluate new chairs for state House

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Members of Montana's House of Representative and legislative staffers evaluated two chair designs to replace the seating that has been used by lawmakers for more than a century. House Speaker Greg Hertz of Polson said it was looking for chairs that fit the historic atmosphere of the House. The chairs were also evaluated based on their comfort and safety. Lawmakers tentatively selected a rounded back chair designed by Appleton Furniture in Helena over a high-backed one manufactured by Montana Correctional Enterprises, at the prison in Deer Lodge. The chairs are to be completed in time for the 2021 legislative session.

Follow us on Twitter