State Briefs

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2003

Murder trial may not be held in Juneau

KETCHIKAN - A Ketchikan man's third murder trial may not be moved to Juneau after all.

The Alaska Court of Appeals has vacated a ruling that would have moved Jose "Che" Mateu's trial out of Ketchikan. Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins, who had ordered the move, was told to provide the appeals court with more information about why she wanted the trial moved to Juneau.

Mateau's two previous trials in Ketchikan ended in hung juries. Mateu, 19, is charged with first-degree murder and tampering with evidence in the killing his father, Jose R. Mateu, on Jan. 13, 2000.

When Collins ruled that the third trial should be moved to Juneau, she said she was "not satisfied that Che Mateu would receive a full and fair trial" in Ketchikan. Collins said on two occasions during the second trial signs urging jurors to convict the defendant were placed in the courthouse and on a vehicle along the highway.

Collins made the decision after a week of jury selection for the third trial.

State law says a trial should be held in the city where the crime was alleged to have taken place unless "there is reason to believe that an impartial trial cannot be had" there.

Search continues for missing brothers

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage police have received numerous calls about the disappearance of two young brothers more than a week ago.

Police said they've received 30 new tips involving 8-year-old Malcolm Johnson and 5-year-old Isaiah Johnson. Police said they're checking each tip.

The boys have been missing since March 10. They were last seen walking by their home on Doil Drive near Dowling Road.

Police, who believe the boys were abducted, are urging the public to call (907) 729-7888 with information.

Four hurt as speeding car hits school bus

ANCHORAGE - Four people were injured when a speeding car crashed into a school bus near Wasilla, Alaska State Troopers said.

The crash occurred Tuesday afternoon on Knik Goose Bay Road, southwest of Wasilla.

Troopers said David Nelson, 37, was speeding in his 1978 Mercury Cougar when the vehicle struck the bus, which was carrying 33 elementary school children.

Nelson and his passenger, 35-year-old Karen Eaken, were taken to Valley Hospital in Palmer. The two, who are from Wasilla, were listed in stable condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Two students also were taken to Valley Hospital with minor injuries and released. After the other students were checked by medics at the scene, they were taken home on another bus, troopers said.

Engine fire forces emergency landing

ANCHORAGE - A state pilot and his passenger emerged uninjured after making an emergency landing on a sandbar of the Matanuska River.

Matt Tomter, a pilot with the Alaska Division of Forestry, made the landing Wednesday after an engine caught fire at 11,000 feet. The passenger's name was not released.

The twin-engine plane, an Aerocommander 500S, was damaged in the incident.

Division of Forestry officials said the mishap occurred at about 10:20 a.m. after Tomter took off from Palmer for a check flight. Both of the plane's engines had just undergone maintenance.

The plane is leased by the state for firefighting logistics work and for training those who coordinate air attacks during wildfires. The division and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the engine fire.

School bus service resumes after vandalism

ANCHORAGE - Regular school bus service for Chugiak and Eagle River students resumed Wednesday after mechanics repaired brake lines on 50 school buses that were vandalized sometime before Monday morning.

The buses belong to First Student, the company that provides the Anchorage School District with about two-thirds of its buses and drivers and exclusively transports Eagle River students.

District officials said Tuesday that the estimated cost of repairs and lost revenue for First Student was $36,000.

The vandalism left about 2,700 students without their normal transportation to school. More than 560 students were absent from Eagle River and Chugiak schools on Monday, which school officials said is more than normal. Bus service resumed Tuesday on some, but not all, routes.

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