State Briefs

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2002

Former Marine pleads no contest in man's drowning

ANCHORAGE - A former Marine accused of drowning a man in Lake Spenard in 1998 has pleaded no contest to manslaughter.

Louie Crandall entered his plea Thursday in Anchorage Superior Court. He will be sentenced to no more than five years in prison. Sentencing was set for Feb. 7.

Crandall, 28, claimed that the victim, Gabe Jost, sexually abused Crandall's young daughter in early 1997. Police investigated the abuse complaint but didn't find enough evidence to prosecute.

Crandall said he planned to make a citizen's arrest and the two ended up struggling in the water.

Instead of calling an ambulance or police, Crandall sank Jost's body in the lake, where it remained all winter. It floated to the top with breakup and was recovered by police on May 5, 1999.

Body of shooting victim found

ANCHORAGE - The body of a man who had been shot was found Thursday inside the stairwell of a parking garage in downtown Anchorage, police said.

The man, who was not immediately identified, appeared to have been just shot. The death was the third homicide in the city in four days, according to police.

On Tuesday, a woman's body was found in a Mountain View apartment. On Wednesday, another woman was killed in the Chugach Way trailer park. The husband in that case was charged with second-degree murder.

Police seek info on stolen items

JUNEAU - Police are asking anyone who had property stolen from their unlocked vehicles in the Mendenhall Valley this summer to contact the police department.

Officer Paul Hatch said police still have items in custody recovered from suspects linked to a rash of vehicle riflings. The riflings and thefts took place between mid-August and mid-September.

Hatch said anyone missing items should contact the police with the description, make, model and serial number. He also encourages anyone missing low-value items to phone the police and claim the items.

To inquire about stolen property, call 586-0600.

Problem shuts down tanker in Prince William Sound

ANCHORAGE - Two tugs escorted a tanker loaded with oil to a safe harbor Thursday after the crew heard a loud thud in the engine room and stopped the tanker at the entrance to Prince William Sound.

The tanker, the Kenai, had nearly 800,000 barrels of crude oil on board when its engines were turned off late Thursday in preparation for towing to Knowles Head, about 18 miles northeast.

"This was completely a precautionary measure," said Anil Mathur, chief executive of Alaska Tanker Co., which operates the Kenai. "The first thing you want to do with a piece of machinery that's making an odd noise is to stop it."

The tanker was on its way to a West Coast refinery.

Coast Guard and ship inspectors and technicians were expected to board the tanker today to investigate the engine problem.

The 869-foot Kenai is a double-hulled tanker. The two tugs that towed it to safety will remain with it at Knowles Head to make sure it remains anchored.

The Kenai is one of three double-hulled tankers in the 10-ship Alaska Tanker Co. fleet, Mathur said. The company, based in Beaverton, Ore., hauls crude oil for BP, a major producer of North Slope crude oil piped south to the Valdez tanker terminal.

Mathur said the "rumbling noise" the tanker crew heard after leaving port seems to indicate a plugged turbine drain.

Ship captain Austin Britton decided the best move was to shut down the engine and get a tow to the anchorage, where the engine can be taken apart safely, Mathur said.

Mat-Su school district, staff agree on contract

ANCHORAGE - The Matanuska-Susitna School District and the union representing nearly 700 support staff have tentatively agreed on a two-year contract.

The deal, called a compromise by both sides, was reached Wednesday after months of wrangling. The contract offers a 2 percent annual salary increase as well as cuts in employee health insurance costs.

The pact still needs to be ratified by the School Board and a majority of Classified Employees Association union members.

The union represents support staff such as custodians, tutors and receptionists

Kenai gives emergency volunteers borough tax break

KENAI - Volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians in the unincorporated parts of the Kenai Peninsula Borough are now eligible for a partial exemption on their borough property taxes.

The tax break was enacted Tuesday by the Borough Assembly in a 7-2 vote.

The action grants the property tax exemption on $10,000 of assessed value. The law will lower the taxes of a qualifying volunteer by $65 a year.

To qualify for the borough exemption, a volunteer must be active in a state-recognized first-responder service, registered fire department or a certified ambulance service in the borough and be state-certified as a firefighter or EMT.

Assembly member Paul Fischer of the Central District suggested service areas consider paying volunteers stipends instead. He also noted that the ordinance makes no provision for extending the tax benefit to volunteers who rent, rather than own, their homes.

Noting a serious shortage of volunteers across the state, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 4 this year authorizing municipalities to provide such exemptions for qualified volunteers as an incentive to serve.

A similar measure already has been passed by the city of Homer, and Seward has indicated interest, according to Shane Horan, borough director of assessing.

Compiled from staff and wire service reports.

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