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State Briefs

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2003

Troopers issue 250 citations for seat belts

ANCHORAGE - Alaska State Troopers issued 250 citations statewide for seat belt violations during the first week of their "Click It or Ticket" campaign.

Troopers put in about 410 hours of overtime from May 19 to 26 and stopped almost 1,300 vehicles, according to trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson. He said 171 seat belt violations were for the driver of the vehicle not being buckled up, 65 were for passengers older than 16 not wearing seat belts and 14 for children younger than 16 not properly restrained.

"What most troopers I've spoken with are telling me is that we're seeing a lot of people wearing their seat belts," said Lt. Matthew Leveque, the Click It or Ticket program coordinator.

The seat belt enforcement effort will continue through Sunday.

Truck kills 18-month-old

SOLDOTNA - An 18-month-old girl was killed after she wandered into the path of a pickup and was run over, police report.

Dachande Murdock of Kasilof was struck by a 2001 Ford pickup truck driven by Michael Hackney, 57, of Clam Gulch, who did not see the child, according to Soldotna police.

The toddler had accompanied her father, Seth Murdock, 22, to the feed store where he works. She apparently wandered out through the warehouse area at the rear of the store.

Witnesses said Hackney's vehicle was traveling only one or two miles an hour after Hackney finished loading it and began to drive away from the store, according to police Sgt. Tod McGillivray.

Hackney was not cited.

"It was just a tragic accident," McGillivray said.

Former fugitive pleads innocent to bank fraud

ANCHORAGE - Thomas Miklautsch, a former Fairbanks banker and city councilman, has pleaded innocent to federal fraud charges.

Miklautsch, 77, entered the plea Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. He faces 15 charges related to bank fraud.

Miklautsch, a fugitive since 1994, was arrested in Los Angeles in late April. He was indicted in 1995 on charges of bank fraud, conspiracy and making false statements. He is being held without bail.

Prosecutors said Miklautsch and other officials of the now-defunct Alaska Statebank had planned to help chairman Ralph Whitmore buy a rival bank in the mid 1980s.

According to the charges, the bankers conspired to loan themselves the money to buy stock in the rival bank. But the bank failed in 1987 and the stock became worthless. Debts to Alaska Statebank were unpaid for years.

Miklautsch's attorney, Eric Sanders, said his client has traveled internationally as a Christian missionary since he left Alaska.

Church replaces troubled priest

JUNEAU - The Rev. Ralph Wagner, an Episcopal pastor from Wasilla, has been appointed as an interim rector at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. He replaces the Rev. Robert Bruschi, who was removed from his position after a church investigation into allegations of wrongdoing.

Mark MacDonald, Episcopal bishop for the state, said he received complaints in February that Bruschi misused his power and authority as a priest and spiritual director by attempting to develop sexual relationships with parishioners. He said the complaints did not necessitate legal action, but the church formed teams to investigate the allegations.

Though the church cannot release details of the investigation, it resulted in a pastoral directive that removed Bruschi from his priestly duties for at least three years, said MacDonald. Bruschi no longer lives in Juneau.

Wagner, a former military chaplain, will serve as the main priest at Holy Trinity for one year, during which time the church's congregation will find a permanent pastor, MacDonald said. The Rev. Kathleen Wakefield will continue to serve as associate rector.

Dogs in bad shape before leaving Alaska

ANACONDA, Mont. - An Anchorage animal control officer testified Wednesday he gave Jon Harman of Nikiski two written warnings about the dogs that Harman and Athena Lethcoe-Harman were trying to move from Alaska to Arizona late last fall.

He was one of three Alaskans who testified in the case against the Harmans, who face 181 counts of animal cruelty that arose after a U.S. customs agent inspected their truck a week later.

Earlier this year, another Montana jury couldn't agree on whether the Harmans were guilty. The Alaskans didn't testify at that trial

Anchorage animal control officer Richard Gamble testified Wednesday that he gave Jon Harman two written warnings on Oct. 24, a day after the Harmans began their trip. One directed Harman to clean the unsanitary conditions in the trailer, and another gave him 24 hours to produce proof the dogs had current rabies shots.

Gamble testified a collie had been struck by a car nearby minutes earlier, and Gamble wondered if that dog belonged to the Harmans, who had two dozen or more dogs out in a pen when he stopped by.

"The kennels were caked with dried feces from bottom to top," Gamble said. "I was concerned about the extensive matting on the dogs and even suggested shaving them."

The Harmans were charged after they were stopped at the Sweet Grass, Mont., border crossing on Oct. 31 with a semitrailer filled with collies, a few terriers and a handful of cats.

The dogs have since been fed and cared for by volunteers, first at a fairgrounds near Shelby, and now in Great Falls.



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