Northwest Digest

Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2007

Truck dumpedin Aurora Harbor

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JUNEAU - Juneau Police found a late model Chevrolet truck submerged below an embankment in Aurora Harbor early Saturday morning.

Police said the truck intentionally was pushed into the harbor from the parking area.

The U.S. Coast Guard assisted police in recovering the truck, said Sgt. Tim Bates.

The Coast Guard estimated five or fewer gallons of petroleum products leaked from the vehicle. Bates said the tide should carry the small slick away with no cleanup required.

Police are investigating the incident.

Whalebone mask found in Unalaska

ANCHORAGE - Archaeologists working in Unalaska have found the remains of a whalebone mask believed to be about 3,000 years old.

The partial mask was discovered earlier this month while archaeologists were unearthing an ancient village.

The mask, stained brown by soil, is about 2,000 years older than any known Aleut mask, according to archaeologists.

It was created around the time Homer was producing the Iliad and Odyssey. The Earth had suddenly cooled, and ice surrounded the Aleutian Islands almost year-round, according to Rick Knecht, an archaeologist and University of Alaska Fairbanks professor.

Residents of the ancient site - a village marked by unprecedented stone houses and ivory carvings - ate polar bears, ice seals that no longer visit the island and a whale that's never been documented in North American waters, Knecht said.

The mask might have been worn and broken at a funeral, said Mike Yarborough, lead archaeologist at the dig.

"It's speculation to say what happened 3,000 years ago, but it was broken when we found it," Yarborough said. "It very well could have been (a funeral mask)."

Record 20 bears killed by cars at Lake Tahoe

TRUCKEE, Calif. - A record 20 bears have been killed by vehicles in the Lake Tahoe area so far this year, including two struck last week on Highway 89 near the Truckee River.

One bear was hit and killed on Thursday while trying to cross the highway to reach the river between Truckee and Tahoe City.

Another was struck and injured on Wednesday. A sheriff's deputy euthanized him because his wounds were too severe, said BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant.

The previous record was 19 bears hit in 2005.

"It's real high for this early in the year," said Bryant, noting that seven bears have been hit on Highway 89 this year.

"Usually, we have that number in September and October," she told the Sierra Sun.

Bryant said more bears are coming down to the Truckee River or Lake Tahoe because mountain creeks and streams are drying up.

"The animals have not evolved to know how to stop and look both ways," Bryant said. "For right now, we have to be responsible and realize that we're tampering with nature here."

Serial killer handed another life sentence

SAN JOSE, Calif. - A convicted killer who stalked the Pacific Northwest was handed another life sentence after pleading guilty to strangling a woman in California and dumping her body near a highway overpass in 1993.

Keith Hunter Jesperson, who is already serving two consecutive life terms for murders in Oregon and Wyoming, entered the plea Friday in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

Hunter is known as the "Happy Face Killer" for drawing happy faces in letters in which he boasted of his crimes to authorities and an Oregon newspaper.

Prosecutors said Jesperson sent them a letter from prison confessing he had strangled a truckstop prostitute and dumped her body in Santa Clara, but they held off charging him while they tried to identify the woman.

Prosecutors charged him with murder in June 2006, even though the woman has never been identified. The body was so badly decomposed that authorities could only determine she was a white woman in her 20s or 30s.

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