Man accused of killing wife, 2 others blames intruder
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A man accused of killing his wife and two of her relatives in a tiny Montana town has told authorities that a stranger must have broken into the house they shared and shot the victims.
The claim from 39-year-old Robert James LeCou was contained in an affidavit released Thursday by Carbon County District Attorney Alex Nixon.
Authorities allege LeCou shot his wife, his wife’s sister and a brother-in-law on April 5 in Belfry before fleeing. He was arrested in Washington state three days later.
LeCou’s public defender in Washington has not responded to requests for comment.
Nixon says LeCou won’t fight extradition to Montana to face charges.
Authorities have added a charge of tampering with evidence to the three counts of deliberate homicide that LeCou faces.
Montana still analyzing coal mine after sponsor shelves it
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana officials will continue to look at the potential effects of a major coal mine near the Wyoming border despite sponsor Arch Coal’s bankruptcy and its suspension of the 20 million-ton-a-year project.
Regulators want to determine to what extent streambeds need to be protected from mining at the site near Ashland.
Kristi Ponozzo with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality said Thursday that the work would prove valuable if the Otter Creek Mine is revived or another proposal takes its place.
Filings in Arch’s bankruptcy case reveal the company lost a key coal lease for Otter Creek in November.
That’s more than three months before the company publicly suspended the mine.
It also appears to contradict claims from a railroad co-owned by Arch that Otter Creek remains a viable proposal.
Boy dies from injuries in backhoe accident near Helena
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Officials say a toddler has died from his injuries after being pinned between a backhoe and a pickup truck near Helena.
The Independent Record reports that William Patrick Carter suffered blunt-force trauma to the chest in the Saturday incident. Lewis and Clark County Coroner Mickey Nelson says the 2-year-old was taken to a Seattle hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Nelson says Carter’s father had been operating a backhoe when the machinery slid into a nearby pickup truck, and Carter got caught in between.
Sheriff Leo Dutton says the boy’s father drove his son to the hospital, but the boy died later that night.
Authorities have ruled the death an accident.
Settlement reached in Montana Millionaire jackpot suit
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A settlement has been reached in the case of a convenience store employee who was sued by a customer who claimed they had a verbal agreement to split the $1 million Montana Millionaire jackpot.
Jeff Fallang had claimed the winnings in January 2015. A week later, Michael Hess sued and sought an order to prevent Fallang from spending half the million-dollar prize.
The Independent Record reports that an agreement was announced in the case this week, cancelling a scheduled two-day trial. Hess’s attorney says the settlement amount is confidential.
While the suit was pending, Fallang had been under a court order to keep at least $340,000 in a bank.
Court documents say other Town Pump employees saw Fallang and Hess make the agreement to share the prize money.
Helena man accused of killing 2 brothers denies charges
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Helena man accused of killing his upstairs neighbors because he thought they were being too loud has pleaded not guilty to two counts of deliberate homicide.
The Independent Record reports 43-year-old Tilmon Nungesser IV entered his plea Thursday in the Feb. 20 shooting deaths of 40-year-old Robert Mishler and 42-year-old William Mishler, who were brothers.
Officers found the Mishlers dead in the hallway near their apartment and Nungesser in the basement hallway with blood spatter on his face and clothes. Investigators say Nungesser confessed to the shooting and pointed out the shotgun used to officers.
On Thursday, public defender Chris Abbott said Nungesser was an honorably discharged Marine and past heroin addict.
Nungesser is being held on $500,000 bail.
Communication execs urge Montana to address rural needs
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Rural wireless and broadband providers are urging Montana lawmakers to address the needs of far-flung communities when it comes to phone service and the internet.
Industry representatives visited the state Capitol Thursday to tell lawmakers about the infrastructure needed to improve service in sparsely populated areas of the state.
Montana has among the slowest broadband access speeds in the country.
Mike Kilgore is the chief executive of Nemont. He came from Scobey to report on financial and other hurdles faced by rural companies like his to expand wireless service and connect rural residents to the internet.
Last year, the Legislature defeated a $15 million financing plan to expand internet, phone and cable services in some of the state’s most isolated areas.