Man suspected in fatal hit-and-run near Dillon is arrested
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a man suspected of fleeing the scene after striking and killing a woman who was walking along Interstate 15 near Dillon.
State trooper Ken Klapan tells the Montana Standard the man, whose name has not been released, was arrested without incident in Dewey after the woman was hit early Wednesday morning. The Beaverhead County coroner’s office identified the victim as 32-year-old Mary Elizabeth Merino, of Divide.
Sheriff Franklin Kluesner says Merino’s vehicle may have broken down, and she was walking toward the town 5 miles away when she was struck.
Minnesota woman killed in I-90 rollover crash
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a Minnesota woman has died after she was ejected in a rollover crash on Interstate 90 in southwestern Montana.
The Montana Standard reports that Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Scott Bennett says 53-year-old Lynn Herda, of Maple Grove, died in the crash near Anaconda Wednesday. Herda had been a passenger in a vehicle driven by her husband, who sustained serious injuries in the crash.
Bennett says the couple’s vehicle drifted into the median, rolled and came to a rest in the eastbound lane.
Herda was thrown from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene. Her husband, who has not been identified, was transported to a Missoula hospital, where he remains in critical condition.
Bennett says there is no indication alcohol or excessive speed factored into the crash.
Man signs plea agreement admitting to abuse of infant twins
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A man has made a plea agreement with prosecutors over charges that he abused his 10-week-old twins, one of whom died in December.
The Billings Gazette reports 29-year-old Brandon Tory Edwards will plead guilty to felony charges of aggravated assault and assault on a minor.
Yellowstone County prosecutors have recommended a 30-year prison sentenced for Edwards, with 15 years suspended.
District Judge Mary Jane Knisely will consider the plea agreement Nov. 5.
The infants’ mother, Kayla Jean Edwards, has pleaded guilty to deliberate homicide in the death of Tavaris Michael Edwards and felony assault for injuries to her daughter.
The boy died Dec. 27 at a Colorado hospital after being taken off life support. His sister was treated for injuries at a Billings hospital.
US official: Congress shouldn’t control tribal recognition
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An Obama administration official says allowing Congress to decide whether American Indian tribes deserve federal recognition would add more delays to what was long a broken system.
Interior Department Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn said in remarks prepared for Wednesday delivery that the administration will oppose the proposal from Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah.
Bishop, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, wants to block a recent administration overhaul of the tribal recognition process. He says Congress, not the executive branch, should make such decisions.
There are 566 federally recognized tribes in the U.S., and groups in Louisiana, Michigan, Florida, California and other states want to join their ranks.
Some such as Montana’s Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians have waited years or decades for a decision.
Audit: Family services needs more supervision, documentation
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A legislative audit of the state Division of Child and Family Services finds the agency needs to improve the supervision of investigations, make documenting its efforts a priority and complete more investigations within the time frame required by law.
Auditors suggest the agency could do the work with existing staff and an updated computer system. The agency has updated training, but says it will eventually need more caseworkers.
The audit released Wednesday noted in one case the child abuse hotline received a report of a teenager with a plan for suicide, but intake staff did not refer the case for immediate investigation and did not say why.
In other cases, investigations were delayed because caseworkers were sick or on vacation and a supervisor did not reassign the work.
Labor secretary promotes paid family leave, wage hikes
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez says the lack of a paid family leave policy is hurting the nation’s global competitiveness and a low minimum wage amounts to corporate welfare.
The Missoulian reports Perez spoke Tuesday in Missoula at the consulting company Advanced Technology Group and a University of Montana conference.
Perez says employees should not have to worry about paying bills when they take maternity or paternity leave. He says not requiring paid leave for the birth of a child hurts the family structure and the nation’s competitiveness.
Perez says raising the minimum wage would remove up to 3 million people from food stamp rolls and save taxpayers money from what he called corporate welfare. He says people with higher wages would spend more money and create a “virtuous cycle” for the economy.
PSC seeks court affirmation of jurisdiction over water sale
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The Public Service Commission is seeking a court order affirming the regulatory panel’s jurisdiction over a Canadian company’s attempt to buy Missoula’s Mountain Water Co.
The Missoulian reports the PSC’s filing follows the city of Missoula’s August request for a judge to dismiss the PSC’s proceedings with Liberty Utilities Co., which is trying to buy the city’s drinking water system.
Liberty is owned by Ontario-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. It applied with the PSC to acquire the stock of Mountain Water’s parent company, Western Water.
The city is attempting to purchase Mountain Water itself through eminent domain.
City officials asked the court to reject the PSC petition, saying the commission has no jurisdiction because a judge already has granted them the power to purchase the water system.
Montana’s top coal producer expects to cut Asian exports
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s largest coal producer expects to reduce shipments to Asia next year through a West Coast port as exports of the fuel from the United States continue to slide.
Cloud Peak Energy announced Wednesday that it had re-negotiated its long-term agreement to ship coal through British Columbia’s Westshore Terminals. The Gillette, Wyoming-based company says production volumes at its Spring Creek Mine near Decker, Montana would be reduced accordingly.
Montana Coal Council director Bud Clinch says the lost shipments would reduce state tax revenue by up to $15 million in 2016.
Cloud Peak exported more than 4 million tons of coal from Spring Creek last year.
U.S. coal exports peaked in 2012. The most recent federal data shows they have since fallen by almost 50 percent on a monthly basis.
Meeting discusses future of Colstrip
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Officials from Montana urged their Washington counterparts to tread carefully when making decisions that will impact the future of Montana’s Colstrip Generating Station, a major electrical producer and employer.
At a work session in Spokane on Wednesday, government officials and utility representatives from Montana and Washington discussed efforts to wean Washington from the coal-powered Colstrip plants, which are located east of Billings, Montana.
The meeting of the Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee was called by Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, who is trying to protect Washington consumers in the event of a forced closure of two older Colstrip generating units.
Montana lawmakers urged their counterparts to consider the impacts on the hundreds of people who would lose their jobs of the two older Colstrip units were suddenly closed.
Women charged in connection to Amber Alert incident
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Two women charged in connection to an Amber Alert issued for two children have made their initial court appearance in Cascade County court.
The Great Falls Tribune reports 33-year-old Maria Sandoval appeared Tuesday on a $20,000 arrest warrant issued by Yellowstone County for custodial interference. She is accused of abducting her children, 2-year-old Gabriella Stratton and 4-month-old Abbigail Stratton, from a supervised visit in Billings.
Felicia Henderson is charged with accountability to custodial interference in Yellowstone County. A Cascade County judge signed her $20,000 arrest warrant.
Sandoval and Henderson were arrested Monday in Vaughn. Sandoval’s husband, Donald Stratton, was arrested Tuesday with the children in Great Falls.
Stratton is expected to appear in court Wednesday.
Police say the children were in state custody because of their parents’ drug use.
Panel identifies top problems to reducing recidivism rates
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A panel examining how to reduce crime by people released from prison says employment, housing, transportation and a lack of social support are the top challenges ex-offenders face.
The Montana Re-entry Initiative Task Force met Wednesday in the Capitol and identified those areas from which it will recommend how the state can reduce recidivism rates.
The 14-member panel is led by Department of Corrections Director Mike Batista and includes representatives from various state agencies and community groups.
Batista says there may be opportunities to train and license offenders to make them more attractive to employers.
He recommended looking at what other states are doing to address housing and transportation issues.
The group plans to present any potential legislation for the 2017 session to the Law and Justice Interim Committee next year.
Judge sets trial date for suspects in daycare owner attack
POLSON, Mont. (AP) — A district judge has set a trial date for a man and woman accused of attacking a Ronan daycare owner who refused to hand over the man’s children.
Daycare owner Martha McClure previously said she didn’t turn over the children to 31-year-old Francis Jackson and 21-year-old Tashiana Schlensker on Oct. 7 because he does not have custody of them and he appeared intoxicated.
Schlensker has pleaded not guilty to assault with a weapon, with prosecutors saying she hit McClure in the face with a snow shovel. Jackson is charged with aggravated burglary.
KERR-AM reported Wednesday that District Judge James Manley has set a March 14 trial date for Jackson and Schlensker.
Both are jailed in Lake County with bond set at $100,000.
Police seek vehicle responsible for fatal hit-and-run
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Law-enforcement officials say a vehicle fled the scene after striking and killing a woman who was walking along Interstate 15 near Dillon.
Beaverhead County Sheriff Franklin Kluesner tells the Montana Standard the woman’s vehicle may have broken down. She was walking toward the town five miles away when she was struck early Tuesday.
The woman’s name was not released pending notification of her family.
Montana Highway Patrol trooper Ken Klapan says authorities are seeking the vehicle that struck her.
The vehicle is described as a dark blue or blue GMC Sierra pickup truck or GMC Yukon sport-utility vehicle made between 1999 and 2007.