NEWLYWED MURDER TRIAL
Coroner: Newlywed had forehead fracture, no ring
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A Montana coroner says a man who authorities say was pushed off a cliff at Glacier National Park by his newlywed wife had an 8-inch fracture on his forehead was not wearing a wedding ring when his body was found.
Flathead County deputy coroner Richard Sine testified Wednesday in Jordan Graham's trial that Cody Johnson also had lacerations on his legs days after he was reported missing in July.
Graham is charged with pushing Johnson off the cliff during an argument about her doubts over their 8-day-old marriage.
She has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, second-degree murder and making false statements to authorities. She says she pushed him in self-defense.
IDAHO MISSING PLANE
Search for missing plane in Idaho winding down
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Family members say search efforts have mostly ended for a small private airplane that went missing over the mountains in central Idaho with five people aboard.
Alan Dayton of Salt Lake City is the uncle of Jonathon Norton, one of the passengers. Dayton told The Salt Lake Tribune that family members feel they've done everything they can.
Nadine Bird of San Jose, Calif. is a friend of the pilot's family and says a few family members were still searching on Tuesday afternoon.
A search by law enforcement ended Friday.
Fifty-one-year-old Dale Smith, a software executive from San Jose, Calif., was flying the plane from eastern Oregon to Butte, Mont., when he reported engine trouble.
Smith's son and his wife, along with Smith's daughter and her fiance, Norton, were on board.
CROW RESERVATION KILLINGS
Competency hearing delayed in Crow triple-killing
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A federal judge has indefinitely delayed a competency hearing for the suspect in a Montana triple-killing who has been unable to stand trial because of mental illness.
Sheldon Chase was arrested in October 2011 after his grandmother, cousin and cousin's boyfriend were shot at the family's house on the Crow Indian Reservation near Lodge Grass. His trial has been put off repeatedly for psychiatric evaluations.
U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon on Tuesday canceled a Dec. 17 hearing meant to decide if Chase poses a continued risk to the public. No reason was given and Haddon said the hearing date would be reset if appropriate.
Government attorneys have said Chase is likely to remain incompetent unless he is forcibly medicated with antipsychotics.
Grizzly committee recommends lifting protections
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A panel of wildlife officials says it's time to remove federal protections for grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.
Spokesman Gregg Losinski said members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of lifting protections. The committee's recommendation will now be considered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Losinski says that if the federal agency concurs, it could propose a rule by mid-2014 to end protections. A final rule is possible sometime in 2015.
Scientists have estimated that there are more than 700 grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. They have been protected under federal law since 1975.
Taking them off the threatened list would put the animals under state control and open the door to limited hunting.
MISSOULA DUI CRASH
Woman charged with DUI, car hit police car
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A Missoula woman faces a charge of driving under the influence after police officers say her car ran a red light and struck their unmarked police vehicle.
Sgt. Jim Klowitter says the car 36-year-old Heather Leane Bennett was driving struck the police vehicle at about 11 p.m. Monday.
Bennett faces a DUI charge as well as two counts of assault on a peace officer. Klowitter says Bennett is charged with assaulting a Montana Highway Patrol trooper who was investigating the crash as well as someone at the jail.
The police officers in the car received minor injuries as did the trooper and the jail officer.
Plains woman killed in crash near Moiese
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Officials in Lake County have released the name of a woman who died in a head-on crash on icy roads near Moiese.
The Missoulian reports 60-year-old Patricia S. McDougall of Plains lost control of her car on Montana Highway 212 and slid into the path of a westbound pickup truck at about 11 a.m. Monday. She died at the scene.
Two people in the pickup were treated at the hospital and released.
CHILD PORN SENTENCE
Anaconda man sentenced in child porn case
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A 64-year-old Anaconda man has been sentenced to more than 17 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to producing child pornography.
The U.S. Attorney's Office says Michael Dwaine Freeman was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen during a hearing in Missoula. Freeman earlier pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of children.
Prosecutors said Anaconda-Deer Lodge County law enforcement investigated an August 2012 complaint that Freeman had had inappropriate contact with children. Officers found sexually explicit images of a young girl on Freeman's his cellphone. He acknowledged taking the pictures.
More Montanans sign up for federal health care
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The number of Montanans to sign up for insurance on the federal exchange is going up.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday released enrollment figures through Nov. 30, showing about 137,000 people had completed the full process to get coverage across the 36 states using the federal website.
In Montana, 1,382 had selected a marketplace plan.
Problems continued to plague the website last month.
Federal officials say they expect the pace of enrollments to pick up around the country because many of the computer glitches were repaired within recent weeks.
More than 13,000 people in Montana have applied for coverage, and 9,600 of those were deemed eligible for a marketplace plan. And about half of those were legible for federal subsidies to buy the private insurance.
Western governors gather in Las Vegas for meeting
LAS VEGAS (AP) - Leaders from around the West are meeting in Las Vegas to discuss land use, wildfires and environmental conservation.
The Western Governors' Association is holding its winter meeting on the Las Vegas Strip on Wednesday and Thursday.
Among the governors in attendance are John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, C.L. "Butch" Otter of Idaho, Steve Bullock of Montana, Gary Herbert of Utah and Matt Mead of Wyoming.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell is expected to deliver a keynote address on Thursday highlighting the federal government's commitment to collaborating on conservation and water issues.
Established in 1984, the association includes governors from 19 states in the West, as well as Guam and American Samoa. Members share ideas, concerns and approaches to dealing with issues unique to the region.
OBAMA ADVISER-KEYSTONE XL
New Obama adviser will not work on Keystone XL
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House says a new senior adviser to President Barack Obama will recuse himself from deliberations on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
John Podesta, a former chief of staff under President Bill Clinton, has spoken out against the pipeline. Podesta founded the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, and has spoken out against the pipeline.
His hiring cheered environmental groups, who oppose the Canada-to-Texas pipeline as a major contributor to global warming.
Some Keystone supporters, including North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven, expressed alarm, calling Podesta's inclusion in Obama's inner circle a possible death-knell for the pipeline, which backers say would create jobs and boost North American energy independence.
The White House says Podesta suggested that he not work on Keystone because his views are well-known.
Horse rescued from spring north of Helena
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A 6-year-old horse that fell through ice into a spring north of Helena was rescued after spending about two hours in the chilly water.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton says the horse may have been in the water for up to an hour before Michael Harris spotted it at about 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Harris had been in and out of the water trying to rescue the horse when an animal control officer arrived just before 3:30 p.m.
Harris got back into the water to put a tow strap around the horse's head and shoulders, allowing rescuers to pull the animal out of the water at about 4:15 p.m.
The horse was covered in blankets and taken to Bridger Veterinary Hospital. A receptionist said the horse recovered and was released Tuesday evening.
GRIZZLY BEAR NUMBERS
Researcher: At least 42 grizzlies in Cabinet, Yaak
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Researchers have accounted for at least 42 grizzly bears in the Cabinet and Yaak regions of northwestern Montana.
The Missoulian reports research leader Kate Kendall reported her findings to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Tuesday in Missoula.
Researchers used scent-baited "hair corrals" where rings of barbed wire snagged hair as the animals stepped over or under it and collected samples in places where bears naturally stop to scratch their backs.
The count includes 38 grizzlies identified by their DNA and four collared bears whose DNA didn't appear in the samples. Including visiting bears and bears that died during the study, the figure could be as high as 54.
The number is important because the health of the grizzly population influences how much logging and mining can take place in the area.
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