3 Montana students expelled after arson at high school
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Helena school board has voted to expel three 13-year-olds charged with the arson of a high school that officials say caused close to $3 million in damage and canceled classes for two days.
The Independent Record reports that the unanimous vote to expel the two girls and one boy for one year came Wednesday.
Helena Public Schools interim Superintendent Jack Copps says the decision was in the best interest of all the district’s students. He says the expelled students will have to petition to re-enroll in the district following the one-year period.
The 13-year-olds were suspended from Helena Middle School following the Nov. 7 arson of Helena High School. They are scheduled for court appearances in March.
The fire damaged nine classrooms and caused flooding after a pipe burst.
Fracking disclosure rule challenged in Montana court
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Attorneys for a group of Montana landowners, health advocates and conservationists have filed a lawsuit seeking to force energy companies to divulge more about the chemicals they use in energy production.
Oil and gas industry regulators in September denied a petition to make companies disclose the details on chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
A lawsuit challenging that decision was filed Tuesday in state court in Lewis and Clark County.
During fracking, companies pump industrial fluids underground to release oil and gas trapped in rock formations. Harmful chemicals in those fluids can threaten water supplies.
Under a 2011 state rule, companies have the discretion to conceal the ingredients of chemicals they consider trade secrets.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Katherine O’Brien with Earthjustice says the trade secrets exemption violates the Montana Constitution.
Rabbis plan response to white supremacist threats in Montana
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A delegation of Orthodox Jewish rabbis from the U.S. and Canada is thanking Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and state leaders for defending a northwestern Montana Jewish community that was the target of threats and harassment by white supremacists.
The rabbis say they plan to counter the threats by sending four students from Whitefish to visit Poland’s Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial museum and by mailing the first five books of the Torah to every Jewish family in Montana.
The delegation met with Bullock and legislators Wednesday in the state Capitol. From there, they plan to travel to Whitefish and meet with Jewish community members.
The resort town became a focal point for white supremacist anger after the mother of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer said a local real estate agent pressured her to sell her property in town.
Avalanche victim triggered slide while testing snowpack
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A Kalispell man who died of injuries suffered in an avalanche in Glacier National Park triggered the slide while he was testing the stability of the snowpack.
The information was included in the Flathead Avalanche Center’s report on the Jan. 5 avalanche that killed 36-year-old Ben Parsons, an experienced backcountry skier and endurance athlete.
The report said Parsons and another man had climbed up a ridge, noting areas of weak snow. When they got to the summit of Stanton Mountain they decided to carefully descend the same ridge they had climbed.
At one point, Parsons down weighted his skis to test the snow stability, triggering an avalanche that broke uphill and immediately knocked him off his feet.
His skiing partner found him on the surface of the debris field against a tree and semi-conscious. He called 911. Parsons died during the rescue effort.
Trial begins in fraud case against former Vann’s CEO
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A trial is underway in Missoula in the case of the former CEO of Vann’s Inc., who is charged with defrauding the employee-owned electronics and appliance store, forcing it into bankruptcy.
Defense attorney Michael Sherwood told jurors on Tuesday that prosecutors could not prove George Leslie Manlove intended to defraud the company founded by his father-in-law.
The charges against Manlove and his co-defendant, Paul Lyn Nisbet, included allegations that they created real estate holding companies, bought property and had Vann’s lease that property at above-market rates to repay the loans used to buy the property.
Prosecutors allege Manlove used money from Vann’s for personal expenses, including $200,000 in tuition to receive a master’s degree in business administration.
Sherwood argued Manlove had the authority to spend that money.
The Missoulian reports Nisbet has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and is scheduled to testify during Manlove’s trial.
Fairview man gets life in prison for killing Kalispell woman
SIDNEY, Mont. (AP) — A Fairview man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a Kalispell woman that he had been dating.
District Judge Elizabeth Best sentenced Cody Wayne Johnston on Tuesday for deliberate homicide and tampering with evidence for the February 2013 disappearance of 31-year-old Nicole Waller. Waller’s body has not been found.
Johnston was charged in August 2015 and convicted in October 2016.
Prosecutors said Waller had contacted family on Valentine’s Day 2013 and said she was breaking up with Johnston and returning to Kalispell. Her vehicle was found abandoned near Poplar.
Investigators believe Johnston killed Waller and put her body in a barrel. A witness testified he helped Johnston move Waller’s vehicle to where it was found near Poplar.
Johnston has said he plans to appeal his conviction.