Posted: Friday, May 30, 2003

Wal-Mart not eyeing Kmart building

JUNEAU - Wal-Mart has no plans to make Juneau home to one of its more than 3,200 stores in the United States, a company spokeswoman said Thursday.

Some have speculated the chain store would move into the empty Kmart building in Juneau.

"It's just a rumor," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Amy Hill.

If Wal-Mart does decide to open a store in Juneau, it won't be for at least several years, she said. The retail giant opened five new stores across the United States on Wednesday. Those stores followed 21 stores opened earlier in the month.

Wal-Mart, The Home Depot and Kohls, a department store, bid on a number of Kmart buildings after Kmart announced Jan. 14 it was closing 326 stores. The consortium won the bid for the Juneau Kmart lease in an auction April 9, but none of the companies has signed a lease on the building.

Home Depot officials said the company is working with Kmart to determine the condition of the Juneau building and whether it is suitable for a Home Depot store.

"We're still talking to Kmart about building conditions, but we've got nothing new to report," said John Simley, a Home Depot spokesman.

Bodies of plane crash victims recovered

ANCHORAGE - The bodies of the four people killed in a plane crash were recovered from Mount Hunter in Denali National Park and Preserve, officials with the National Park Service said Thursday.

The bodies were removed from the crash scene Wednesday night and taken by helicopter to Talkeetna.

Killed in the crash were the pilot, Keli Mahoney, 35, of Talkeetna; climbers Bruce Andrews, 39, of Lafayette, Colo., and Mark Wagoner, 31, of Snow Camp, N.C.; and passenger, Carolyn Disselbrett of Salem, Ore., who had gone along to view the scenery.

The McKinley Air Service Cessna 185 was found at the 8,200-foot level of the mountain on relatively flat terrain, officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Coast Guard cutter retired in Kodiak

ANCHORAGE - The Coast Guard retired the cutter Firebush on Thursday in Kodiak after nearly six decades in service.

In 59 years, the Firebush served in three wars and called three ports home. The 180-foot buoy tender was based in Kodiak for 24 of those years.

The Firebush also was stationed at New London, Conn., and Staten Island, N.Y.

The Coast Guard held a decommissioning ceremony on board the ship Thursday. The Firebush and its crew will leave Kodiak over the weekend and head for San Pedro, Calif. The cutter will be sold to the Nigerian navy for tender work near that country's oil fields.

Prosecutor says pastor may face grand jury

ANCHORAGE - Palmer's top prosecutor said he'll likely ask a grand jury to decide whether criminal charges should be filed against a Big Lake pastor who fatally shot two men reportedly burglarizing his church.

District Attorney Roman Kalytiak said Wednesday he has seen no indication the men carried weapons when they were shot by Phillip Mielke on April 24 at the Big Lake Community Chapel.

Francis Marion Jones III, 23, and Christopher Lee Palmer, 31, died of their wounds.

Kalytiak said he is waiting for final reports from Alaska State Troopers, expected late next week. Troopers have refused to say publicly if the men were armed or if they were shot while inside the church.

Crews subdue Anderson fire, battle Tok blaze

FAIRBANKS - A 1,500-acre fire near Anderson is expected to be under control by Saturday, but firefighters continue to battle a steadily growing blaze southeast of Tok.

That fire grew from roughly 250 acres Tuesday night to an estimated 1,400 acres by Wednesday afternoon. Pete Buist, a spokesman with the state Division of Forestry, said the rapid growth of the fire can be attributed to a surplus of fuel. The fire, about six miles from Tok, is burning within the perimeter of a 1990 fire that left plenty of dead trees.

As the fire grew, helicopters towing buckets of water and air tankers with bellies full of retardant were diverted to Tok from the Rex Bridge fire near Anderson, which is southwest of Fairbanks.

The Rex Bridge fire burning near Clear Air Force Station had grown to 1,500 acres, but was estimated to be contained late Wednesday and should be under control by Saturday evening, Buist said.

Man cleared of murder

KETCHIKAN - A 39-year-old man who spent 14 months in jail has been cleared of charges he murdered another man on Christmas of 2001.

A Ketchikan Superior Court jury pronounced Brock Charles innocent of second-degree murder late last week.

"It was a long, long year," Charles said of the time he spent behind bars awaiting his trial in the death of Gordon Rasnick.

The jury had authority to find Charles guilty of a series of less serious charges, ranging from manslaughter to fourth-degree assault. The jurors returned innocent verdicts on all those charges.

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