State Briefs

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2002

Alaska Zoo gets rare snow leopards

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Zoo has a new celebrity-in-waiting - a rare snow leopard that is getting used to her new home and will soon be joined by a breeding partner.

The 4-year-old, 60-pound cat with the thick, furry tail - almost as long as her body - is called Molly. She's on permanent loan from the Denver Zoological Gardens.

Her breeding partner is expected to arrive today from a zoo in Grand Rapids, Mich. The two were paired to maintain genetic diversity among the captive population, which numbers around 700.

Zoo employees have waited for two years to bring the endangered species to Anchorage.

"This is a big deal for us," zoo director Tex Edwards said.

Molly will be hidden for several days so she can adapt to her concrete den. Then she will be on permanent exhibition. She probably will be let outside Saturday into a new, nearly finished $600,000 exhibit built in the old polar bear area, said Pat Lampi, Alaska Zoo curator.

The breeding of captive snow leopards in the United States is controlled by a national association. The zoo applied to become a breeding facility about two years ago and was accepted, Lampi said.

If the pair breeds successfully, the public will be able to view cubs for a year or two before the organization sends the cubs elsewhere, he said.

An estimated 3,500 to 7,000 snow leopards remain in the wild, according to the International Snow Leopard Trust. They typically live in the mountains of Central Asia around elevations of 10,000 feet.

"Our climate is more suitable than other parts of the continental United States," Lampi said.

Sitka couple faces drug charges

SITKA - A Sitka couple is facing charges for allegedly operating a methamphetamine lab on their boat, according to police.

William Wilhelm, 38, and Brenda Silvester, also 38, were indicted last week on drug charges. Police chief Bob Gorder said he anticipates additional charges will be filed.

Wilhelm and Silvester were being held in the Sitka jail. Wilhelm was being held on $50,000 bail and Silvester on $25,000 bail.

A hearing on the case is set for Nov. 8.

Sockeye price-fixing case set for trial

ANCHORAGE - Superior Court Judge Peter A. Michalski on Wednesday set a Feb. 3 trial date for a class action lawsuit alleging price fixing in the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery.

The trial is expected to last at least three months. "We look forward to justice for the thousands of fishermen victims," said Anchorage attorney Phillip Weidner, whose firm filed the lawsuit in 1995.

The defense had asked the court to set trial for Jan 19, 2004, and to allow additional discovery to include seafood marketing conditions for several years after the suit was filed.

"While we were somewhat disappointed, the defendants should be able to work with (Michalski's) ruling as we prepare for trial," said defense attorney Douglas Serdahely. "We were seeking only limited additional discovery anyway."

Lawyers for fishermen allege large Japanese corporations and Seattle-based processors conspired to depress salmon prices.

Michalski's move to set the trial follows an Alaska Supreme Court ruling May 31 that overturned a 1999 Michalski decision granting collective summary judgments to defendants.

The higher court found "the plaintiffs have presented evidence that raises material issues of fact as to the existence of an antitrust conspiracy involving some or all of the defendants."

The Supreme Court also ruled damages in the case be limited to the four years prior to filing of the suit. Justices also ruled to allow liability on those who use the corporation as an instrument in conducting their personal business.

Plaintiffs plan to argue defendant importers are liable for actions of their subsidiaries.

Academy student accidently shoots himself

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks police academy student accidentally shot himself in the right leg during firearms training Wednesday.

Kelly Shover was putting his handgun in its holster when it fired a .40 caliber round into his calf. The accident occurred at the firing range near the Fairbanks International Airport.

John Myers, who heads the law enforcement academy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Tanana Valley Campus, told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner the gun will be checked for mechanical malfunction. Shover was taken to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Myers said airport police are also looking into the incident. Shover is one of 23 students in a class scheduled to graduate Nov. 8. The students are in their fourth week of instruction.

Zutz murder suspect to remain in adult jail

ANCHORAGE - A Superior Court judge has refused to release an Anchorage teen, facing first-degree murder charges, from adult jail.

Branden Ling, 16, is being held on $500,000 bail, charged in the stabbing death of his friend and neighbor, 13-year-old Delaney Zutz.

Superior Court Judge Dan Hensley said Wednesday that the information available to him suggests Ling would pose a significant danger to others if released. Hensley rejected a request to lower Lings bail to $250,000 and to allow two relatives to serve as full-time custodians.

Ling was charged last month in the stabbing death of 13-year-old Delaney Zutz, a neighbor and friend.

Police say Ling convinced Delaney to sneak out of her parents home at about 1:30 a.m. on July 10 and killed her shortly after, leaving her body in nearby woods. She was found July 15.

Ling was charged with her murder a month later. Although a juvenile, he is being prosecuted as an adult and is being held at Anchorage Jail, an adult facility.

Defense attorney Julia Moudy noted that it could be a year before Ling gets to trial. Moudy asked Hensley to release Ling to the custody of his aunt and stepfather, who live in the Mat-Su valley. Ling would also wear an electronic ankle monitor, she said.

Quakes rattle Kodiak, Cook Inlet

PALMER - A light earthquake shook Kodiak Island on Wednesday morning but there were no reports of any damage or injuries.

The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer said the magnitude 4.5 quake occurred at 8:29 a.m.

It was centered about 80 miles southwest of the city of Kodiak.

A light earthquake shook the area west of Cook Inlet early today.

The Alaska Earthquake Information Center said the magnitude 4.0 quake occurred at 8:38 a.m. and was centered about 35 miles east of Port Alsworth on Lake Clark.

There were no reports of damage or injuries.

Anchorage OKs tax break for building

ANCHORAGE - The Anchorage Assembly has approved waiver of some fees to help a developer renovate the MacKay building. The 14-story structure has sat as an empty eyesore for nearly two decades on the east end of downtown.

The assembly has approved a waiver of plan review fees and permit fees to renovate the building. The measure will save developer Mark Marlow about $70,000. The assembly has already approved a five-year tax deferral on the property for Marlow, who has been working since 1998 to renovate the 50-year-old landmark tower.

Marlow is still seeking financing for a proposal to turn the building into 125 condominiums.

Assembly member Dick Traini said the latest tax break is needed to help revitalize the area surrounding the building.

Compiled from wire service reports.

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