Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, August 15, 2005

DUI-enforcement team fans out

FAIRBANKS - Four Alaska State Troopers in special black cars converged on Fairbanks over the weekend. They took a crash course in local geography, then hit the streets to write speeding tickets and arrest drunken drivers.

The troopers based in Palmer are dubbed the DUI Enforcement Team, and they respond to beef up enforcement when Alaska communities host special events.

They traveled to Fairbanks to help with law enforcement during the Tanana Valley State Fair. The previous weekend, they traveled to Talkeetna to patrol during a bluegrass festival. Next weekend, they are scheduled for Delta Junction and the Deltana Fair.

On Friday, Sgt. Steve Adams, commander of the DUI Enforcement Team, patrolled a loop that included the Steese Highway and Goldstream Road. A map of Fairbanks was tucked beside him.

Adams had little trouble finding reasons to pull people over. Many drivers were speeding, especially on the Steese Highway.

"I don't know why anybody would want to speed," he said. "There's so many frost heaves out here."

Search continues for Denali Park hiker

ANCHORAGE - More than 50 people were part of a weekend search effort at Denali National Park and Preserve seeking a missing mentally disabled man.

Family members said Richard Hasbell, 34, dealt with his illness by taking strenuous hikes and bike rides.

He began a trip in the park July 10 without notifying relatives. He stated on his park registration that he intended to be out by July 18. He rode on a park bus to near Wonder Lake, but he never returned.

Park authorities spotted his abandoned camp Aug. 5, about five miles northeast of Wonder Lake. The camp is 80 to 90 miles from park headquarters.

Man gets 50 years in asphyxiation death

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks man has been sentenced to 50 years in prison for the 2004 death of a 13-year-old girl.

Demetrio Hernandez, who was accused of killing Brandi Martinez while he had sex with her, pleaded no contest in March to first-degree murder. He was sentenced Friday by Superior Court Judge Richard Savell in Fairbanks.

It was the maximum sentence allowed under the terms of the March plea agreement.

Hernandez, 42, said he and Martinez had a consensual sexual relationship, court documents state. According to the court papers, the girl invited him to her house on the evening of March 10, 2004.

The two began having sex in her bedroom and moved to the bathroom after a noise startled them, according to the court documents. During the encounter Martinez was "on her back with her shoulders pinned to the floor and with her chin tucked to her chest" while Hernandez rested most of his weight on her, court records state.

Martinez' father, Jose Galindo, found the girl the following morning.

"I hurt and I'm gonna hurt," said Galindo, who spoke to the court Friday with Martinez's 8-year-old sister sitting next to him. "Nobody knows how I feel unless they opened the door and found her how I found her."

Glow-in-the-dark miniature golf to open

FAIRBANKS - A pair of businessmen say they have a bright idea for Fairbanks' long, dark winters - a new glow-in-the-dark indoor miniature golf course.

Partners Mike Shultz and Darwin Thompson on Wednesday will open Glow Putt Alaska in the Sadler's Building on Cushman Street. The glow-in-the-dark miniature golf course is one of several new businesses and improvements on the block.

Glow Putt Alaska will feature 18 glow-in-the-dark holes. Black lights throughout the course will give equipment an ethereal, fluorescent glow - glowing balls, glowing putters, glowing holes, glowing obstacles, glowing decorations and glowing scorecards.

The course was designed and construction overseen by Jim Bertoncino and Gerry Houser, who have designed 12 other glowing golf courses across the country.

Group says oil leases endanger geese

ANCHORAGE - A migratory bird coalition is urging federal officials to drop plans to expand oil and gas leasing north of Teshekpuk Lake in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska.

The land is crucial for black brant, a goose whose population is in steep decline, according to a letter from the Pacific Flyway Council to Interior Secretary Gale Norton.

Drilling, roads and other industry activity could disturb the geese at a critical time when they're trying to feed and grow new feathers, the letter says. Already, regulators are imposing drastic cutbacks on sport and subsistence hunting in Alaska, down the West Coast and into Mexico to protect the brant, according to the letter.

"This is a very critical piece of habitat and we're very concerned," said Terry Crawforth, director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and chairman of the Pacific Flyway Council, an 11-state organization.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials in Alaska have sent a proposal to Norton calling for expanded oil and gas leasing in the northeast corner of the petroleum reserve. Officials say land with high potential for millions of barrels of crude oil was placed needlessly off limits to drillers during the Clinton administration in 1998.

The final decision on whether to move forward with the leasing now rests with Norton, who has given no indication when she might decide.

Environmental and birding groups, as well as some Alaska Natives, have voiced objections to the plan to lease 389,000 acres, including seven tracts totaling 372,000 acres squarely in the middle of goose molting country north of Teshekpuk Lake.



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