Northwest Digest

Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2006

Police still probing N. Douglas beatings

JUNEAU - Police continue to investigate an alleged north Douglas assault and robbery but had not made further arrests as of Wednesday, Sgt. Troy Wilson said Wednesday.

Two men, 20 and 18, were beaten in an empty lot early Friday near the 6200 block of North Douglas Highway and later treated at Bartlett Regional Hospital, police said. The initial investigation concluded that three men assaulted the victims, and that one of them fired a handgun.

Juneau resident Jerald Hinchman, 27, was arrested Friday afternoon on a charge of first-degree robbery. He was lodged at Lemon Creek Correctional Center.

Police staked out an apartment near Lawson Creek for eight hours Saturday to execute search warrants in conjunction with the beating investigation, Wilson said. No one was arrested, he said.

"I'm not going to comment on what we found and the reason for that is because of the ongoing nature of the investigation," Wilson said. "We contacted the individuals in the house, and it took us eight hours to execute the search warrants."

Senate considers municipal dividends

JUNEAU - Rep. Carl Moses has been trying to get a community dividend program for almost a decade.

Every session he has filed a bill to create a system of sharing state revenues with local communities. Not one ever made it beyond the House Finance Committee.

But now, the Unalaska Democrat believes his idea has muscle behind it with legislation sponsored by Sen. Gary Wilken, R-Fairbanks. Moses just wants to raise the amount Wilken proposes.

"I'm excited," said Moses, "and I want to work with Gary on it."

The community dividend bill, heard Wednesday in the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee, is one of at least 11 separate proposals for spreading some of the state's wealth to its beleaguered communities. With the final demise in 2003 of an ever-dwindling system of state revenue sharing, many communities have struggled to stay afloat.

Jury hears tape in murder trial

KENAI - A jury in the trial of a Kasilof woman charged with murdering her boyfriend was played an audio tape revealing details of what may have happened prior to John Clark's death.

Betsy Hester, 53, is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly killing Clark, 49, of Kasilof, on Oct. 4, 2003, in their mobile home.

In the audio tape, Sgt. Barry Wilson with the Alaska State Troopers questioned Hester at the mobile home and while driving her to the trooper post in Soldotna.

Hester is heard explaining how the victim, her boyfriend, had slapped her, hit her and threatened more violence before she shot him.

"He slapped me a couple of times and he hit me a couple of times," Hester said.

Hester said her boyfriend then walked from the living room where he had been hitting her to the kitchen where he handled a knife and threatened more abuse.

"He turned around and said he was going to come over and teach me a lesson," Hester said. "I don't think he was going to stab me with the knife ... I think he was just going to beat me."

Wilson testified in court Tuesday. He said he recorded the interview with Hester shortly after Clark's death.

Virginia Sundvik of Kasilof, a witness who had Hester and Clark over for dinner the night before the shooting, also testified Tuesday. She said Hester and Clark displayed no signs of anger.

But Clark had been suffering from serious health problems, Sundvik said, and she had noticed changes in his attitude toward Hester.

Bond plan would pay for construction at university, prison

JUNEAU - Gov. Frank Murkowski wants to use tobacco bonds to raise at least $89 million for construction and maintenance projects at the University of Alaska.

Some $55 million of that money would be earmarked for the third phase of construction of new science center at the University of Alaska Anchorage. The Legislature last session approved $21.6 million to start building the center.

The rest of the money would pay for renovations and major maintenance at university facilities across the state.

The bonds would be paid with money Alaska receives each year from the state's legal settlement with three tobacco companies. The amount the state would be able to raise with a tobacco bond measure is uncertain, but state Debt Manager Deven Mitchell says it figures to be at least $89 million.

Any additional money the bond measure raises would go toward construction of a $240 million prison in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, according to the bills the governor filed with the Legislature.

The bills were introduced in the House and Senate on Wednesday.

Money from the tobacco settlement, which is determined each year by the number of smokers across the nation, is tied up in two other bond measures until 2016, Mitchell said.

Assisted-suicide backers say they'll push for Wash. law

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Now that the nation's highest court has upheld Oregon's assisted-suicide law, supporters in Washington say there's bound to be a push for a similar law here.

Washington voters narrowly rejected an initiative in 1991 that would have allowed doctors to write prescriptions to hasten death. Initiative 119 also would have allowed doctors to administer lethal injections to terminally ill patients who aren't able to take the medications on their own.

Oregon's law, the only one of its kind in the country, allows doctors just to write prescriptions for patients, who must administer the drugs themselves.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Bush administration's attempt to punish doctors who help terminally ill patients die.

Rep. Hans Dunshee of Snohomish and Sen. Pat Thibaudeau of Seattle are among the Democrats who have said they're considering sponsoring bills this session to legalize physician-assisted suicide.

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