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Local/Regional briefs
Local/Regional briefs

Man pleads guilty in attack on stranger

POLSON - A Ronan man pleaded guilty last week to allegations of robbery in what a prosecutor described in court as a "bizarre, unprovoked attack on a stranger."

The incident occurred March 18 in Ronan.

Deputy Lake County Attorney Mitch Young on Monday claimed the defendant, Michael Aron Reeves, 26, was "bombed out of his mind" and decided to obtain some money in the most direct way at hand.

In court documents, Lake County Attorney Robert Long alleged that Reeves confronted a stranger on a Ronan street, brandished a knife and demanded the keys to the man's car. The man fled, running through a Main Street business, out a back door and up an alley with Reeves chasing and threatening to cut the victim, court documents allege.

Reeves then allegedly entered the Club Bar, still displaying the knife, and tried to open the cash register. He shoved one person to the floor, kicked that victim in the head, and "used the knife in a threatening manner," court documents state.

Reeves was arrested by Ronan police responding to a call relating to the first attack.

Recently, Reeves signed a plea agreement that provides for a sentence recommendation by prosecutors for a total of 10 years in prison on two counts of robbery. The actual sentence, which must be accepted by the presiding judge at a hearing June 6, provides for 12 years in prison with seven years suspended on each of two counts of robbery to run consecutively, plus a variety of fines, fees and forfeitures. Reeves also must register a as a violent offender and submit a DNA sample to law enforcement.

John Stromnes, Missoulian

Theft charge dropped against Polson couple

POLSON - A charge of felony theft was dismissed against a Polson couple accused of stealing an elderly woman's grocery money while helping her run errands.

Lake County Attorney Robert Long filed the motion to dismiss last week in Lake County District Court.

"Due to mental and physical deterioration, the victim of the offense … is not able to assist in prosecution of the case," Long told District Judge Kim Christopher.

According to Lake County District Court documents, Toni Bybee, 38, an employee of a Polson nursing home, and William Fraley, 45, unemployed, were charged with felony theft for allegedly cashing the 70-year-old woman's checks for their own use, or for receiving substantial sums of cash back from checks made out for payment by the woman for groceries or other goods. The woman now resides in a nursing home in Choteau.

The woman kept a ledger of accounts, which was reviewed by an accountant last December. The accountant contacted the Lake County Sheriff's Office when he noticed discrepancies in the ledger.

John Stromnes, Missoulian

Rape charge against Kalispell man sealed

KALISPELL (AP) - An additional charge of rape was filed Monday against a man previously charged with severely beating and kidnapping a 2-year-old Kalispell girl.

Flathead County Attorney Tom Esch filed the additional charge against Christopher Wallace and asked District Judge Stewart Stadler to seal the affidavit containing details of the new charge. Stadler agreed to seal it without a hearing.

The Daily Inter Lake announced it would ask the judge to open the file as soon as possible. Managing Editor Frank Miele said, "The public's right to participate in court proceedings is a pillar of our system, and the state would have to prove special circumstances of a large magnitude in order to waive the public's right. We don't think that burden has been met."

Wallace, 25, reportedly met the mother of the girl on the Internet and moved to Kalispell from Minnesota to live with them more than a year ago.

Between last May 22-24, Wallace reportedly told the woman he was taking the girl for a drive. When he hadn't returned by 3:30 a.m., she called police.

Kalispell Police Detective Paul Jacobs reportedly tracked Wallace to a Kalispell hotel, where he found Wallace naked, taking a shower. The girl was also reportedly found naked.

She was taken to Kalispell Regional Medical Center with bruising "literally from head to toe," according to the criminal complaint. She suffered a ruptured spleen, bite marks and other injuries.

Wallace was originally charged with aggravated kidnapping and assault on a minor. He was scheduled to go to trial June 4, but changes in the charges will likely delay the trial, Stadler said.

Columbia Falls man killed in rollover crash

KALISPELL (AP) - A Columbia Falls man was killed Monday when his vehicle went out of control and rolled three times on a Flathead County road northeast of Kalispell.

Deputy Coroner John Christian identified the victim as Vincent J. Lawson, 37.

The Highway Patrol said Lawson was ejected as the vehicle rolled and speed was a factor.

Lawson was pronounced dead on arrival at Kalispell Regional Medical Center.

"If he would have been wearing a seat belt, he'd still be alive," Christensen said.

Officials on Monday also identified Bradley William Garsjo, 25, as the victim of a truck rollover crash near Nashua early Saturday.

The Montana highway death count now stands at 65, compared with 68 on May 14, 2000.

Hill is projects director on Gov. Martz's staff

HELENA - Betti Hill, wife of former U.S. Rep. Rick Hill, R-Mont., began work Monday as projects director on the staff of Gov. Judy Martz.

Hill served as transition director for Martz after she was elected in November and before she took office in early January, helping screen candidates for Cabinet and key staff jobs.

"She did such a great job with the transition that we've asked her to help set up the new economic development office, and she's also going to coordinate the activities for the Cabinet," said Shane Hedges, Martz's chief policy adviser.

Martz intends to renew the Capitol for a Day program that Gov. Ted Schwinden started in the early 1980s, Hedges said, and Hill will work on it. Under this project, the governor declares a particular town as Capital for a Day and she, her Cabinet and key staff visit that town for a day, meeting with people and fielding questions about issues.

Hill is no stranger to the governor's office suite. She was chief of staff for then-Lt. Gov. and now U.S. Rep. Dennis Rehberg.

She will be working three-quarters' time at a job that normally would pay $40,000 a year, so Hill will make $30,000 a year.


Police investigating attempted fire bombing

Missoula police are seeking information on the attempted fire bombing of a local convenience store.

Sgt. Gregg Willoughby said that sometime Monday during the early morning hours, someone threw a large firecracker attached to an aerosol can of WD-40 lubricant through the front window of Dale's Food Mart at 930 N. Russell St. The aerosol can did not ignite when the firecracker went off, he said.

"It didn't explode, but under the right conditions, there could have been a pretty good explosion," Willoughby said.

Anyone with information on the incident can call Crimestoppers at 721-4444 or the Missoula Police Department at 523-4777.

Gary Jahrig, Missoulian

Adopt a plot, help rid hill of weeds

Want to adopt a weed patch on Waterworks Hill?

Come to a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday and the land will be yours - to weed.

Save Open Space, a Missoula nonprofit group that holds a conservation easement on part of the hill, is looking for volunteers to help wipe out weeds in the lower ridgeline area.

At Wednesday night's meeting, ecologist Mary Manning will provide a lesson in weed and wildflower identification.

The adopt-a-plot program is financed by the Missoula County Weed District's Landowner Grant Program. For more information, call Janet Sproull at 549-6083.

Sherry Devlin, Missoulian

Jore Corp. delays filing of financial information

RONAN (AP) - Jore Corp. announced Tuesday it is delaying filing of its first-quarter results until May 22, in part to assess its future.

The maker of power tool accessories and hand tools is struggling to stay in business.

The company suffered a net loss of $8 million during the fourth quarter of 2000. It laid off 300 workers on Feb. 1 and 70 last week.

On May 3, Jore received a conditional extension from some of its lenders and said it was considering alternatives to folding.

That was just a week after the company's auditor, Deloitte & Touche LLP, raised doubts about Jore's ability to continue in business.

In a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Jore said that unless it could restructure, extend its debt or acquire operating cash it would be forced to liquidate assets.

The company's stock closed at 50 cents a share Tuesday, down from its 52-week high of $6.50.

Jore focuses its products on the do-it-yourself and professional craftsman markets. They are sold under the licensed Stanley brand, as well as under various private labels of the industry's largest retailers and power tool manufacturers, including Sears, The Home Depot, Lowe's, Menard's, Canadian Tire, TruServ, Black & Decker, Makita and others.

Public can comment on mills' permits

Officials from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality will be in Missoula on Wednesday night to take public comment on operating permits for two Missoula mills - Smurfit-Stone Container Corp. and Louisiana-Pacific Corp.

Called a Title V permit, the document lists all of the regulations that apply to an air-pollution source, and the monitoring and record-keeping required to show compliance with the regulations.

The Title V permit program was created in the 1990 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act. This is the first time the permits have been written for the Missoula mills. When complete, the permits will show how each plant controls its air pollution and how it monitors emissions.

Wednesday's meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. with a presentation on the Title V program and a brief question-and-answer period. The public hearing begins at 7:30 p.m.

Both programs are in Rooms 330, 331 and 332 of the University Center at the University of Montana.

Sherry Devlin, Missoulian

Library's summer sale coming this weekend

The Missoula Public Library is selling books ranging from romantic stories for adults and other books for teen-age and younger readers.

The Summer Reading Book Sale will be Friday, May 18, from 2 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 19, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the large meeting room at the library, 301 E. Main St.

The books will sell for 25 cents each or five for $1. Some may cost less.

Anyone who needs special assistance with the sale should provide advance notice by calling the library at 721-2665.


Airport forum will look at expansion

HAMILTON - A special airport forum will be presented by the Bitterroot GALS Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Bedford Building, 223 S. Second St.

A group of panelists will present factual information concerning various aspects of the proposed Hamilton airport expansion and business park.

Panelists will include Alan Thompson, Ravalli County commissioner; John Styba, the Federal Aviation Administration's representative in Montana; Betty Davis of the Economic Development Authority; Mike McKee of the Airport Authority Board; and James Brion of Mountain Air Insurance.

A question-and-answer session will follow. The forum is open to the public.

For more information, call the Bitterroot GALS at 777-3838.


Browning women plead innocent to drug charges

GREAT FALLS (AP) - Two Browning women arrested as part of a major investigation on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation pleaded innocent Tuesday to federal cocaine and marijuana charges.

Lashonda Tatsey Bird Rattler, 21, pleaded innocent to one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs. Her aunt, Tracy Tatsey, 36, pleaded innocent to the conspiracy charge and to four counts related to alleged illegal wire transfers.

U.S. Magistrate Richard Cebull did not set trial dates for the two, and conditionally released them on their own recognizance.

Lashonda Tatsey's parents, Lydia Tatsey, 40, and Nathan Bird Rattler, 39, also have pleaded innocent and will be tried June 25. Lydia Tatsey is in jail pending trial; Bird Rattler remains free in the custody of his mother.

A Sunnyside, Wash., man, Juan Zamora, 23, pleaded innocent last week and remains in jail.

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