Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2005

Second Craig murder defendant to enter plea

JUNEAU - A second man charged with conspiring with a 16-year-old Craig girl to kill her mother is scheduled to enter a plea agreement in Juneau Superior Court today.

Jason Arrant, 25, of Klawock, through his court-appointed attorney, requested a hearing to change his plea in the case concerning the death of Lauri Waterman, 48, of Craig. The plea would leave the victim's daughter, Rachelle Waterman, as only defendant remaining to stand trial in the case.

The hearing is scheduled for 1:45 p.m., by telephone before Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks, substituting for Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins, who was assigned the case.

Lauri Waterman's remains were found Nov. 14 in her family's burning minivan on Prince of Wales Island

Arrant faces felony charges of first- and second-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, first-degree vehicle theft, criminal mischief and tampering with physical evidence.

Brian Radel, 25, of Thorne Bay, who investigators allege killed Lauri Waterman, agreed earlier in June to plead guilty to first-degree murder with the other charges being dismissed. He also agreed to testify against co-defendants in the case.

Rachelle Waterman's court-appointed attorney, Steven Wells, has filed a motion to move the trial from Craig to someplace other than Ketchikan. He also has filed a motion to postpone it. Currently it is set for Aug. 22.

School Board takes in Montessori classrooms

JUNEAU - The Juneau School Board on Tuesday unanimously approved keeping the Montessori program in the district.

Organizers of a proposed Montessori charter school were not able to find rental space for classrooms, and they still needed to convince the Alaska Board of Education to approve the school.

Instead, the district plans to offer Montessori classrooms for elementary students and middle school students this fall. The locations haven't been determined yet.

The district expects 69 Montessori students in grades one through six, and 30 in grades seven and eight.

The School Board on Tuesday approved the expense of three elementary teachers and the equivalent of one and a half middle school teachers for the program.

The state and city funds generated by the students will pay for the staff, School Board President Mary Becker said.

The Montessori middle school students have been part of another school district's statewide correspondence program. As part of the Juneau School District, they will bring in new funds to the district.

Man found guilty of killing his mother

PALMER - A jury on Wednesday found a Palmer man guilty of killing his mother.

The jury deliberated for about two hours before finding Aaron Butler, 29, guilty of all charges, including first-degree murder, according to KTUU-TV in Anchorage.

Grace Butler died at her home the night of March 26, 2003. She was stabbed 88 times with a steak knife. Before dying, she said her son stabbed her, according to Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak.

Public defender George Davenport argued unsuccessfully that Butler did not stab his mother. He told the jury that a dangerous drug dealer got into a violent argument with Grace Butler and killed her.

According to Alaska State Troopers, Aaron Butler confessed to the crime. He told investigators that he killed his 54-year-old mother as they watched television. He also said he smoked pot and used methamphetamine during the day, and failed to take medication prescribed to treat his schizophrenia.

Wrangell men charged with illegal crab haul

ANCHORAGE - Two Wrangell men are charged with illegally catching more than 5,000 pounds of king crab in Frederick Sound near Kake, Alaska State Troopers said Wednesday.

Steven Thomassen Jr., 41, and Arlen Neyman, 57, were served summons to appear for arraignment on the misdemeanor charges Friday in District Court in Wrangell.

Thomassen is charged with taking king crab in closed waters as well as permit and gear violations. Neyman is charged with operating gear and possessing commercially caught king crab without permits.

The men could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The alleged offenses took place in March while Thomassen was in jail on an unrelated offense, said trooper Clint Songer.

Troopers said Thomassen hired Neyman to operate his vessel Marauder, which arrived in Wrangell with more than 5,403 pounds of king crab.

The crab was sold to a local processor for $23,232.90.

Songer said troopers seized the check and paid the processor. Authorities also seized 20 commercial king crab pots used after the area crab season closed. The check will go to the state if the men lose their case, Songer said.

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