Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, May 01, 2005

Four plead in failed Fairbanks jail break

FAIRBANKS - A woman who was behind the wheel of a front-end loader that rammed into the Fairbanks Correctional Center in a failed jailbreak pleaded no contest to charges.

State prosecutors have reached plea agreements with four of the six people accused in the jailbreak attempt during the early morning hours of Nov. 20.

Misty Hoffman, 28, pleaded no contest to charges of third-degree criminal mischief, second-degree attempted escape and third-degree assault. She faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Deanna Eldridge, 23, pleaded no contest to charges of second-degree attempted escape and first-degree vehicle theft. She faces a maximum of one year in prison.

Joseph Gillespie, 24, pleaded no contest to the same charges. He could receive up to three years in prison, with 364 days suspended.

On Friday, James Willis, 18, pleaded to the same charges as Gillespie and Eldridge. Willis' prison time is capped at four months, under the terms of the plea agreement.

The four had been facing several other felony charges, all of which will be dismissed.

Hank Walker, 49, and Randy Watson, 29, are scheduled to appear in court Monday.

According to court documents and police reports, the group was attempting to free Watson, who had been in jail since he was arrested on drug and weapons charges on Oct. 23.

Authorities have said that the accused stole a front-end loader. Hoffman then drove the loader through the jail's double fence and rammed the wall of the jail two or three times but failed to break down the wall.

No inmates escaped and nobody was injured.

State officials have said the damage would cost more than $700,000 to repair.

Billy Creek fire springs to life

FAIRBANKS - The Billy Creek wildfire that helped to contribute to a record 6.7 million acres burned statewide last year has sprung to life.

The fire about 20 miles northeast of Dot Lake, which burned about a half-million acres, apparently smoldered all winter.

"It looks like a holdover from the winter," Tom Kurth, northern region fire management officer for the Division of Forestry in Fairbanks, said of the 112-acre fire that was burning about 175 miles southeast of Fairbanks.

The fire was reported on Thursday night. An eight-man crew was flown by helicopter to the scene Friday to attack the blaze, which was burning in a mixture of spruce and hardwoods.

Homer wildfire moves toward homes

HOMER - A wildfire in Homer grew Saturday with firefighters trying to keep the blaze from moving toward a more heavily populated area of town.

The fire, which was reported Friday afternoon, had grown to more than 800 acres by Saturday afternoon and was moving in a southwesterly direction toward Skyline Drive.

At noon, the fire was about 2 miles from the subdivision. Firefighters hoped to keep the fire from crossing a creek and moving uphill toward the area of homes.

No evacuations had been ordered. Fire suppression measures were taken to protect some homes.

Eight smokejumpers who arrived in Homer on Friday from Fairbanks stayed on the fire. Meanwhile, helicopters dumped water on the blaze at the direction of a fixed-wing airplane. Volunteer fire departments from Homer and Anchor Point also were helping out.



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