Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2001

Meeting on heliport selection tonight

JUNEAU - A city consultant looking at alternative heliport sites is sponsoring a public meeting tonight about what selection criteria should be used.

Screening criteria likely will focus on safety, noise, neighborhood impacts, environmental concerns, economic issues and traffic to the site, according to City Lands and Resources Manager Steve Gilbertson.

"We're approaching this scientifically and would like to have objective criteria to be used to exclude areas that aren't suitable and narrow down those areas that are. It's an important step for the public to be involved in," he said.

The work is part of the second phase of a city-sponsored flightseeing noise study and the heliport assessment should be complete by mid-September, he said. Contractor Michael Baker Jr. Inc. is working on the project. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Centennial Hall.

Yakutat resident missing in Monti Bay

YAKUTAT - The search continued today for a Yakutat man missing and feared drowned, Alaska State Troopers said.

David Joseph Johnson, 22, and his friend, Benjamin Benson, 45, were digging for clams in Monti Bay on Wednesday when their skiff drifted away.

Benson told troopers Johnson tried to swim after the boat but was only able to make it halfway. Johnson then turned around and began to swim to shore but disappeared in the water.

Benson tried to rescue Johnson but was unsuccessful. He hiked back to Yakutat and reported the incident.

About 21 volunteers searched the water until dark Wednesday night. Family and friends were searching the water again today.

Man pleads out in baby death

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage man pleaded no contest to manslaughter for the shaking death of his 8-month-old son last year.

Robert Samuel, 22, will be sentenced in October said Assistant District Attorney Adrienne Bachman.

The baby, Devonte Samuel, died April 5, 2000 at Providence Alaska Medical Center. Samuel was originally charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and two counts of assault.

Anchorage driver convicted in DWI crash

ANCHORAGE - An Anchorage man was convicted of murder Wednesday for the drunken driving crash that killed his best friend.

Michael Jeffries, 64, was found guilty of second-degree murder, drunken driving and driving with a revoked license for the Feb. 8 accident that killed Beulah Dean, 78.

It was his seventh DWI conviction. At the time the accident occurred, Jeffries' license had been revoked until 2018. Jeffries' blood-alcohol level was 0.270, nearly three times the legal limit.

Jeffries could be sentenced to up to 99 years in prison. His sentencing is scheduled for October.

Fairbanks man disappears in Chena River

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks man was missing and feared drowned in the Chena River, Alaska State Troopers said.

Aaron Keller, 28, and two friends fell into the river from a boat at the University Avenue River Park shortly after 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Troopers said the boat was tied up or near the boat launch when the accident occurred. Alcohol appears to have been a factor in the accident, troopers said.

Rescue personnel from the University of Alaska Fairbanks managed to rescue Michael Jamba, 50, and Susan Speranza, 49, both of Fairbanks but were unable to find Keller.

A helicopter flew over the river looking for Keller and Fairbanks police searched the river in boats. The search continued today.

Sex offender ruling appealed

JUNEAU - The state is fighting a recent federal court ruling that potentially could erase more than half the names on the Alaska sex offender registry.

The Alaska Department of Law has petitioned the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider an April ruling by a three-judge panel of the San Francisco court. The panel ruled Alaska's law requiring sex offenders to register with the state is unconstitutional because it applies to some people convicted before the law passed.

The state has requested a hearing before a larger panel of judges with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. If the request is denied, the state likely will appeal to a higher court, said Eric Johnson, assistant attorney general.

"I assume we'll be petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court," Johnson said.

State law requires convicted sex offenders to register with the Alaska Department of Public Safety, which posts their names, photographs and addresses on the Internet. The Legislature passed the law in 1994 but also applied it to sex offenders convicted since 1984. The federal court essentially said the law was unfair because it imposed extra punishment on people after they were sentenced.

If the state ultimately loses on appeal, it may remove 1,400 of 2,200 sex offenders currently on the list.

Ferry trains in channel

JUNEAU - The Alaska Marine Highway vessel Malaspina cruised up and down Gastineau Channel on Wednesday night, but it was only a training exercise.

"It's a routine thing we do when we have time to work on pilotage," said Capt. Norm Edwards, operations manager for the ferry system.

"The ships must safely transit those waters on occasion, and we do sometimes go into Gastineau Channel during emergencies. These are required trips for pilotage" training, where you must take the precise route you might need to transit on another occasion.

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