Posted: Wednesday, May 23, 2001

Stabbing suspect wants new lawyer

ANCHORAGE - A man accused of trying to kill four children at an Anchorage school by slashing their throats refused to enter a plea at his arraignment Tuesday. His public defender did it for him: not guilty.

Jason Pritchard, 33, did ask Superior Court Judge Elaine Andrews to dismiss public defender Jeff Mahlen. Andrews refused Pritchard's request but told him he would have 15 days to pursue the idea.

Pritchard was charged with four counts of first-degree attempted murder and four counts of first-degree assault for allegedly stabbing the children May 7 at Mountain View Elementary School in Anchorage. He is being held at the Cook Inlet Pre-trial Facility on $2 million cash bail.

Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Bachman said Tuesday a fifth charge of attempted murder and three counts of third-degree assault have been added. A trial date of Aug. 13 was set.

The four children injured in the attack spent several days in local hospitals recuperating from surgery but now are back home.

Steller sea lion studies OK'd

KODIAK - Federal officials have approved 26 research projects to examine the decline of the Steller sea lion in the oceans off western Alaska. Money for the studies comes from a $15 million federal appropriation set aside for studies outside the federal government.

Jan Straley of the University of Alaska Southeast will research killer-whale predation in Southeast Alaska waters, where Steller sea lion numbers are increasing, and the proportion that eat marine mammals. She will then compare her data with that from concurrent studies from the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game will compile 20 years of notes taken by aerial surveyors during the Cook Inlet herring fishery into a database. Researchers can use the data to better understand the relationship between Steller sea lions, commercial fisheries, and their shared prey species.

A study by the University of Washington will look at whether sea lions in western Alaska, where the population is threatened, suffer from a lack of certain forage fish compared with the healthy populations further to the east.

The biggest project approved by NMFS will spend nearly $1.7 million to implant satellite transmitters in 60 juvenile Steller sea lions, plus a dozen captive animals at the Alaska SeaLife Center, to assess body condition, health and immune systems, and pollutant levels. That study will be conducted by the Texas A&M Research Foundation.

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