Alaska Digest

Staff and Wire reports

Posted: Sunday, January 01, 2006

Anchorage mother arrested in connection with baby's death

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A 22-year-old Anchorage woman was arrested Friday and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of her infant daughter.

Sharon Marchetti was being held on $100,000 bail in connection with the Dec. 6 death of 7-month-old Esther Marchetti.

The woman called dispatchers the night of Dec. 4 to report her baby was having difficulty breathing after an apparent seizure, police said.

The child was taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center and died two days later of head injuries.

Authorities have not said how the child was injured.

The case was presented to a grand jury, which issued an indictment Thursday.

Home repair scammers plead guilty to conspiracy

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Two Texas men accused of targeting elderly people in home-repair scams in Alaska and four other states have pleaded guilty to conspiracy in federal court.

Edward T. McDonald, 44, and his brother-in-law, Edward J. Jennings, 43, changed their pleas Thursday to the conspiracy charge under a deal with prosecutors.

Besides Alaska, McDonald and Jennings are accused of operating in Oregon, Arizona, California and Kansas, according to court documents.

If approved by the judge, other felony counts for identity theft, Social Security fraud, trademark infringement and possession of documents for numerous fake identities will be dropped.

Both men are to be sentenced in late March.

Prosecutors are asking for three years and one month in prison, with credit for the eight months the men already have served. They face a possible maximum of five years.

McDonald's attorney, Hugh Fleischer, said his client was eager to finish the proceedings so he could get back to his wife and children in Texas.

"He and his brother-in-law, Mr. Jennings, are hardworking people," Fleischer said. "They made some serious mistakes, which is why they're here."

According to charging documents, those mistakes include charging an elderly woman $8,000 for a two-hour "rat extermination" on her Oregon home. They were accused of defrauding another elderly person, a Kansas man, out of $42,600 by convincing him the city was after him for zoning violations and he needed to clean up his property.

In another case, in Arizona, the men set a roof on fire while trying to do repairs and lied to the homeowners that they would cover the cost of the damage, charges said.

McDonald and Jennings came to Alaska in July 2004. Charges say they defrauded an elderly Ketchikan homeowner out of $1,800 by doing shoddy roof-repair work and lying that it was guaranteed under a five-year warranty. Similar episodes occurred in Valdez and North Pole, charges said.

Era Aviation files for bankruptcy reorganization

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A spokesman for Era Aviation said the regional airline expects no disruption to passengers as it reorganizes in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The company filed for bankruptcy reorganization this week after a dispute with its lender.

The Anchorage-based carrier serves Southcentral and Western Alaska. It will continue flying while it reorganizes, said company president Paul Landis on Thursday.

"We're flying the same schedule with the same equipment and fare structure," Landis said.

The bankruptcy filing became necessary when Capital Source Financing of Chevy Chase, Md., began restricting the airline's access to cash, Landis said. The restriction followed a dispute over whether Era met its target for third-quarter operating cash flow.

Era contends it hit the target and the lender disagrees, Landis said.

Era is mostly current on its debt to vendors and is in overall good financial shape, he said.

"From the company's perspective, things are going fine financially. We feel the company was in a solid position," Landis said.

Capital Source provided financing to a small group of California investors that bought Era last July from Seacor Holdings. The managing partner is Willie Gault, a former professional football player.

Besides Era Aviation, the investor group that purchased the airline also filed for Chapter 11. The group's largest creditor is Capital Source, which is owed $14.9 million, according to court documents.

Era is confident that the bankruptcy judge will find in its favor, Landis said, and that the company will emerge revitalized.

The airline has provided aviation service in Alaska since 1948. As of last summer, it employed more than 300 people.

Era Aviation is a separate business from Era Helicopters, which also operates in Alaska.

Fairbanks hospital plans upgrade of facilities

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Fairbanks Memorial Hospital will spend $35 million to upgrade its emergency facilities.

The hospital will build a larger waiting room, drive-through ambulance bays, more treatment rooms and a better radiology center for emergency and in-house patients.

"This really is a fantastic opportunity for our community," said hospital spokeswoman Shelby Nelson. "Our emergency department has been undersized for so long."

Construction will begin in spring. Emergency services will not be interrupted, Nelson said.

The planned construction follows several other upgrade.

Fairbanks Memorial finished a $12 million remodel of its clinical lab in 2003. The hospital recently opened a $34 million outpatient imaging center.

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