2017 packed with plenty of news

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SANDPOINT — From shootings and a rare solar eclipse, to cancellations of the Long Bridge Swim and the Draft Horse Show, there was no shortage of news in 2017.

This is the sixth in a series taking a look back at the top stories from the year. Stories are listed in no particular order.

• A tragic accident on Aug. 1 claimed the lives of two local youth.

Isaac Grasser, 17, and Michael Grasser, 10, were swimming with their mother at Morton Slough when the teen began having difficulty staying afloat. His mother jumped in the water, but began to be taken under by her son’s struggles and swam to shore to summon help. Michael Grasser jumped in to try and save them, but ended up drowning.

Isaac Grasser was flown from the scene and remained on life support for three days. He died in the hospital on Aug. 4. In a press release, BCSO officials said the boys were inexperienced swimmers who started out wearing life vests, but took them off believing the water was shallow and were unaware of the current in the river.

• Katherine Rose Malone of Nashville was struck and killed by a log truck on Dufort Road on Aug. 3.

State police said Jesse R. Flory was negotiating a left-hand curve when he came across Malone in the roadway. The fully loaded log truck overturned and a portion of the truck struck Malone, who died at the scene, according to ISP.

State police said Flory, a 22-year-old Bonners Ferry resident, was not wearing a seat belt, but did not specify if he was injured when the 1992 Kenworth truck overturned. Malone was on a run near her family’s cabin on the Pend Oreille River, according to her obituary.

• Jason Johnson called upon an attorney after Dover Mayor Annie Shaha reportedly accused him and his 93-year-old grandfather of placing property on city right of way and threatened to show up with a flatbed truck to remove the offending items. She also pledged to enact additional city codes to address the situation, according to Johnson.

Johnson said he began the task of cleaning out his grandfather’s shop, and within days the mayor began calling wanting to know when the project would be finished. Johnson said the city also contended that the shop may be encroaching on the city’s right of way on Rocky Point Road, prompting him to consult legal counsel and call for the city to survey the property line if it thinks he is over it.

• An Oldtown woman who crashed a car filled with children into a tree was arraigned Aug. 11. Rebekah Marie Miller is charged with five misdemeanor counts of injury to a child, in addition to inattentive driving and driving without a valid license.

The charges stemmed from an April 1 crash on Lakeshore Drive. Miller, 21, told the deputy that she lost control of the Chrysler Sebring she was driving while rounding a corner and confusing the gas and brake pedals. The vehicle accelerated into the skid and struck a tree broadside, the affidavit said.

The car held two 15-year-olds, a 12-year-old, an 18-month old child and a 2-month old child. The affidavit further stated that neither infant were properly secured in child safety seats. The newborn was in a seat, but it was not attached to the vehicle, the affidavit said.

• As of August, 27 lawsuits had been filed by Priest Lake landowners who contend Bonner County is overvaluing their property. The suits were filed against the county’s Board of Equalization have been filed in 1st District Court.

Each of the actions seek judicial review of their assessments and questions whether the county assessed valuations reflected fair market value, whether the county failed to consider proper measures of applicable land sales and whether it relied on incorrect or incomplete information when setting values. It also challenges the method the county uses to calculate waterfront footages.

A recurring theme in the litigation is the 2016 auction in which the former Idaho Department of Lands-owned lease were sold to the public. The petitioners contend their assessed valuations should reflect the valuates at the time they were auctioned, according to court documents.

• A Bonner County man accused of accidentally killing a pedestrian on McGhee Road last year pleaded not guilty on Aug. 14 to a charge of vehicular manslaughter.

Peter Franklin Goullette’s plea cleared the way for a three-day jury trial on the felony charge in 1st District Court. Those proceedings were scheduled to start on Dec. 17, but were pushed back to April 2018.

The June 2016 collision killed Katherine K. Stelzer and seriously wounded Zualita Updike, resulting in an additional charge of reckless driving, a misdemeanor. Stelzer, 61, of Mead, Wash., and Updike, 50, of Clark Fork, were on a lunchtime walk while on their breaks from jobs at Litehouse Foods.

• Another bald eagle found injured in Bonner County was released back into the wild on Aug. 18.

The 8-week-old female was discovered on July 20 along Cocolalla Creek. The youthful eagle convalesced at Birds of Prey in Benewah County and was fed a steady diet of Lake Pend Oreille lake trout en route to its release. The bird suffered a fracture to one of its delicate shoulder bones, although it’s unclear how.

• On Aug. 21 North Idaho was fortunate to experience 92 percent of a total solar eclipse.

• A Washington state man was sentenced Aug. 18 to 15 years in prison for a stabbing that nearly killed a man on Easter Sunday in Laclede.

Shawn Montgomery Harp will have to serve at least seven years of the sentence before he can be considered for parole, according to the terms of the sentence imposed by 1st District Judge Barbara Buchanan.

• Adam Deacon Foster, accused of ambushing two Bonner County sheriff’s deputies in a hail of gunfire, was ordered on Aug. 23 to stand trial on two counts of attempted first-degree murder.

During his arraignment in 1st District Court on Sept. 5, he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. Foster’s pleas set the stage for a four-day jury trial, which is slated to start on Jan. 9, 2018, according to court documents.

Deputies Michael Gagnon, Justin Penn and William Craffey sought to arrest Foster on an outstanding warrant outside his home on Mountain View Road on Jan. 16. Gagnon and Penn were struck and severely injured by gunfire during the exchange.

• A Boundary County couple was arrested Aug. 24 in connection with the killing of a Bonner County man in Montana’s Yaak River Valley, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office announced on Friday.

Ezra Levi Skinner, 28, and Sarah Carpenter Skinner, 27, are charged with the deliberate homicide of Travis J. Gillett, who was reported missing from Bonner County in January. The Skinners are accused of killing Gillett sometime between Jan. 13 and Jan. 16, Lincoln County authorities said.

• A Washington state man was arrested in connection with the stabbing death of a cab driver in Ponderay on Aug. 29.

Jacob Corban Coleman was charged with first-degree murder after sheriff’s officials said in a news release that Coleman, a 19-year-old from Puyallup, flew from Seattle to Spokane on Monday with the intention of starting a new semester of college. Coleman was denied admission to Gonzaga University for unspecified reasons.

Coleman, sheriff’s officials said, grew angry and began to have homicidal thoughts. As his anger festered, Coleman hailed a cab and asked to be driven to a fictitious friend’s home in eastern Bonner County. Coleman’s homicidal thoughts increased and he asked the driver to stop at a store in Ponderay, where he purchased a knife, the news release said.

Upon reentering the cab, Coleman directed Gagandeep Singh, a 22-year-old Spokane Valley resident, to continue driving east on Highway 200, but it became apparent that Coleman had no legitimate destination or friend in northern Idaho. The cab stopped at the corner of Spokane and East Railroad Avenue and Coleman attacked Singh with the knife he had purchased earlier, the sheriff’s office said.

• The Bonner County Fair celebrated its 90th year in August with the theme of "Remembering Our Roots.”

• The city wrapped up work construction of the new stadium at War Memorial Field just in time for the Festival at Sandpoint.

While the public was able to take advantage of the new stadium seating during the Festival, they had to wait a bit longer to get a peek at the locker rooms and other areas underneath the seating. City officials held an open house for that purpose on Aug. 20.

• The first flight of the Zenith Zodiac built by students in the North Idaho High School Aerospace Program's Aces Aviation Workshop, was a success on Aug. 11. The students spent about two years building the kit plane and rebuilding the engine, both of which were donated to the program.

• The community rallied around a Clark Fork teen in August after she was hospitalized in Spain after becoming ill with a bacterial infection of undetermined nature.

Because her United States medical insurance will not cover Ali Sutton’s five-day hospital stay and multiple tests and treatments in Spain, the Clark Fork volleyball team is organized a car wash and bake sale to help out the family. Sutton was in the hospital from Aug. 9 until Monday, Aug. 14 and made it back to Clark Fork to begin her junior year in the fall.

• Sandpoint City Council adopted a $40.1 million budget in August for the 2018 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

Ponderay City Council members adopted a 2018 budget of just under $1.9 million, a decrease of $173,848 from the previous year.

Also during the city's Aug. 21 meeting, Ponderay council members approved ballot language for a 7-percent local option tax on hotel/motel stays, which will go to voters Nov. 7. The tax would be added to bills for hotel/motel stays of less than 30 days. The city already has a 5 percent "bed tax," so it is an increase of 2 percent over the current tax and will extend it out for eight more years.

• Idaho Rep. Heather Scott was again at the center of controversy in August after a post she shared on her personal Facebook page.

Scott, R-Blanchard, re-posted an article by Dave Hodges from "The Common Sense Show," in which he discussed how the “mainstream media is the using the term ‘white nationalist’ interchangeably with the term ‘white supremacist.’”

In a response to the Daily Bee on Aug. 22, Scott said her intent of sharing the story and the quote was to promote conversation. She also outlined her ire at being labeled as having "defended white nationalists" in a story in the Spokesman-Review the previous week.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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