State Briefs

Posted: Sunday, June 29, 2003

Teen pleads guilty to attempted murder

ANCHORAGE - A Wasilla teenager pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of attempted murder, third-degree assault and stalking.

Andrew Lee Coffman, 19, was charged in January 2002 after he shot Mary Rogers in the face with a .22-caliber handgun, breaking her jaw.

Coffman went to Rogers' home to talk with Elizabeth Ingram, the girlfriend of Rogers' grandson, police said. Rogers, who was 75 at the time, confronted Coffman and was shot. She survived.

As part of the plea agreement, Coffman will serve 18 years in prison, said Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23.

Tongass supervisor heads for Montana

KETCHIKAN - Tom Puchlerz, the Tongass National Forest supervisor, has accepted a job with the U.S. Forest Service in Montana.

Puchlerz has taken a job as director of Recreation, Minerals, Lands, Heritage and Wilderness for the Forest Services' Northern Region office in Missoula, Mont. He is likely to leave for his new job in late summer.

Puchlerz was named supervisor of the 16.8 million-acre Tongass in 1999.

A process is under way to select a new supervisor, said Tongass spokesman Dennis Neill.

Settlement reached in four fishing cases

ANCHORAGE - The federal government announced Friday it has settled four cases against U.S. ships that were fishing for crab in Russian waters of the Bering Sea.

The owners and operators of the Arctic Wind, Fierce Allegiance, Ocean Olympic and Alaskan Beauty had been charged with violating the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and the Lacey Act.

The agreements call for the boats to forfeit all the illegally taken crab, which is valued at about $222,000, said Susan Auer, an attorney with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's office in Juneau. The settlements also require payment of penalties totaling $59,000.

Charges are pending against a fifth vessel, the Pacific Star, Auer said.

The violations appear to have been the result of the vessel operators using an out-of-date NOAA chart that showed an 1867 boundary line between Russia and the United States, Auer said. A 1990 agreement between the United States and the former Soviet Union replaced the 1867 boundary.

The Magnuson Act is a "strict liability statute," so ignorance of the boundaries did not protect them from legal liability, Auer said.

Man sentenced for assaulting infant

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks man convicted of causing head injuries to an infant last year was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison.

Ralph N. Wells, 22, received the minimum jail time Superior Court Judge Mark Wood could assign him in the case.

A jury convicted Wells of one of four counts of felony assault following a four-day trial in March. He was charged with causing extensive injuries to his girlfriend's 9-month-old baby while he was taking care of the boy.

The jury decided Wells caused bruising on the boy's head but that he was not guilty of causing bone fractures to the baby's ankles and arms.

Wells also was sentenced to 18 months of suspended jail time and three years of probation. He also was ordered to pay the boy's $2,486 hospital bill.

Wells contended the boy was injured when he fell from his crib.

Couple killed in crash near Skagway identified

JUNEAU - The victims in the small-plane crash near Skagway last week have been identified as Richard Ross, 70, and his wife, Leah M. Ross, 69, state troopers said. Both were from Sedgwick, Kan.

Their bodies were retrieved Thursday.

Their airplane took off from Juneau en route to Whitehorse, Yukon, when the crash occurred shortly after 11 a.m. on Wednesday. The airplane came to rest upside down in a crevasse about 500 feet above the Klondike Highway. The crash site is about 12 miles northeast of Skagway.

Witnesses saw the airplane strike trees on the side of the mountain and continue flying into a cloud bank before they heard an impact, said Clint Johnson, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Skagway Police said the area was foggy at the time of the crash. Investigators plan to retrieve the airplane for further analysis. The pilot's body will be autopsied in Anchorage, state troopers said.

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