Wire reports

Posted: Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Prosecutors rest case in murder trial

NOME - Prosecutors rested their case Tuesday in the trial of a former Nome police officer charged with murder and evidence tampering.

The state called 63 witnesses in presenting its case against Matthew Owens in the August 2003 death of 19-year-old Sonya Ivanoff. Owens, 29, also is accused of stealing a patrol vehicle to divert attention from himself as a suspect.

Prosecutors produced no motive or direct eye witnesses to the crimes. But they spent almost three weeks telling jurors there is substantial circumstantial evidence against Owens.

Among the links noted by prosecutors: Two women said they saw Ivanoff get into a police car shortly before authorities believe she was killed. Remnants of burnt clothing Ivanoff was believed to have last worn were found at a campsite Owens allegedly visited.

Ivanoff's body was found on the outskirts of Nome on Aug. 13, 2003. She had been shot in the back of the head

Defense attorneys are set to call their first witness Thursday.

Millions unclaimed by Alaska taxpayers

JUNEAU - Unclaimed refunds totaling more than $11 million are awaiting 8,100 Alaskans who failed to file an income tax return for 2001, the Internal Revenue Service announced Tuesday.

In order to collect the money, Alaska residents must file their 2001 return with the tax agency by April 15.

The IRS estimates that half of those who could claim refunds would receive more than $501.

In some cases, residents had taxes withheld from their wages or made payments against their taxes out of self-employed earnings, but didn't file in 2001 because they earned too little income to require filing a tax return. Some low-income taxpayers may also be eligible for the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.

In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund.

A 2001 return must be properly addressed, postmarked and mailed by April 15. There is no penalty assessed by the IRS for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

Refund checks will be held for taxpayers who did not filed 2002 or 2003 tax returns. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS and may be used to satisfy unpaid child support or past due federal debts such as student loans.

Current and prior year tax forms are available at or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM. Taxpayers who need help also can call the IRS help line at 1-800-829-1040.

Family found safe

ANCHORAGE - All six members of a family missing in a storm between two Western Alaska villages have been found in good condition, Alaska State Troopers said Tuesday.

Gabriel Tom and his son, Dale Tom, reached Kotlik on board their snowmobile at about 11 p.m. Monday night. Gabriel Tom later directed searchers to a makeshift shelter about seven miles southwest of the village where his wife, Nora, and three grandchildren, ages 4 to 16, had waited.

The family was reunited in Kotlik on Tuesday afternoon, troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson said.

"They're all fine except for a little frostbite with Gabriel," Wilkinson said. "Everyone is just cold and tired."

The Toms left Kotlik around noon Sunday on an Indy Polaris snowmobile and yellow toboggan sled headed for their home in Stebbins, about three hours away, authorities said.

After encountering a winter storm, they turned back to Kotlik but lost the trail and ended up driving past the village.

Realizing they were lost, they turned the toboggan on its side, set up a shelter with tarps and waited, Wilkinson said.

The men took advantage of a break in the storm Monday night and found their way to Kotlik. They were reported to be dehydrated.

Kotlik is 165 miles northwest of Bethel and 460 miles northwest of Anchorage. Stebbins is 65 miles northeast of Kotlik on St. Michael Island along the coast of Norton Sound.

Fire chief, family believed killed in fire

ANCHORAGE - A volunteer fire department chief, his wife and their daughter are believed to be the victims of a house fire that killed three people in Copper Center.

Positive identification has not yet been made, but troopers said Michael Voyles, 36, Ruthie Michelle Voyles, 34, and daughter Mary Allie Patterson, 12, lived in the log home.

Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said the victims died of smoke inhalation. The state does not expect results from DNA and dental records for several weeks, Wilkinson said. Family members told troopers the three family members were in the house.

Voyles was recently named chief of the volunteer fire department in nearby Gulkana. He also volunteered for the Copper Center fire department.

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