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Helena News and Sports


WorldMontana to move headquarters to Helena

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A nonprofit organization that promotes international exchanges and foreign leaders' visits to Montana is moving its headquarters from Bozeman to Helena.

 WorldMontana announced recently it will relocate from Montana State University to Carroll College.

Carroll President Tom Evans says most foreign delegations visiting Montana travel to Helena to meet with government officials, so it makes sense for WorldMontana to be based in the capital city.

The headquarters will be housed in Carroll's new Artaza Center for Excellence in Global Education.

WorldMontana was founded in 1987. Its website says it participates in the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program and hosts about 150 international leaders per year.

Arrest made after shots fired

A Helena man was  arrested Friday morning after reports of shots fired. At about 1:30 AM, officers were dispatched to the area of the 6th Ave parking garage after a report of a male firing a handgun at another male in the parking garage near the back of the Rialto Bar.

Officers from the Helena Police, Lewis and Clark Sheriffs Deputies, and the Montana Highway Patrol responded to the scene, and patrons of the Rialto Bar told them 30 year old Michael Dwayne Rhodes was carrying a handgun in the waistband of his shorts.

One of the patrons said that  Rhodes removed  the handgun from his shorts while they were in the 6th Ave parking garage, and fired the handgun into the one of the walls at the parking garage.

After the shots were fired, Rhodes left the area but was apprehended by Law Enforcement in the area of Broadway and Cruse a short time later.  He did not have a firearm on his person when he was arrested, but the HPD K9 dog "Dino,"was to locate the firear.

Rhodes is charged with  Criminal Endangerment (Felony)  Assault with a weapon (Felony) Carrying a Concealed Weapon in a Prohibited Place 4.  Carrying a Concealed Weapon 5.  Obstructing a Peace Officer

There were no injuries reported.

A Lincoln man has pleaded not guilty to felony intimidation and resisting arrest in Lewis & Clark County District Court.

43-year-old Robert Paris is accused of threatening a Lewis & Clark County Sheriff's Deputy and his family.

Paris was arrested on July 27 at Lambkin's Bar in Lincoln

As he was being driven to the detention center in Helena, the arresting deputy says Paris told him , "I know you live in Lincoln."

Paris is also accused of threatening the deputies family with physical harm when released.
His trial date has been set for December 2.

Paris has past convictions for criminal endangerment, stalking, and eluding law enforcement.

If convicted, he faces 10 years in prison and fines up to $50,000.

Meth arrest at V-A Hospital

A Helena man was arrested Wednesday and charged with possession of crystal methamphetamine at the V-A Hospital.

Police say they found 45-year-old Mark Joseph Sodja with the meth, and he admitted to a Lewis and Clark County deputy that he had smoked meth about two hours before he was arrested,

The deputy says Sodja was in possession of a bag of marijuana, a metal tin containing a "white rock-life substance" and a makeshift pipe.

He was arrested and charged with one count of felony possession of dangerous drugs, one count of misdemeanor possession of dangerous drugs and one count of misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia.

Rape case plea

The second of two suspects accused of having sex with an underage female has pleaded not guilty in Lewis & Clark County District Court.

Prosecutors say Jordan  Crooked Foot and Thorne Blackcrow, had sex with a 15-year-old female who had run away from home.

The victim told investigators that she believed if she tried to run away from the two suspects, they would "beat the crap out of her."

Crooked Foot told investigators that he did have sex with the female but that he believed she was 17 years old at the time.

Trial has been scheduled for November 17.

If convicted, he faces a maximum of life in prison and fines up to $50,000.

Blackcrow has already plead not guilty.

Stolen checks arrest

 A Helena man has been arrested  and charged with writing several bad checks to businesses in Helena and East Helena.

Court records say East Helena Police were investigating the use of a stolen check at the Town Pump and the attached casino , and they and Lewis and Clark County deputies arrested 33 year old  Bryan Charles Blankenship.

Deputies found two checkbooks in his backpack.  The victim had reported that his phone was stolen from his truck on Aug. 26, but was unaware that his checkbooks, a GPS unit and items of mail were also taken.

Blankenship was charged with one count of felony forgery, one count of felony issuing bad checks and one count of misdemeanor theft.

Chessman reservoir injunction denied

A federal judge has denied the request of two conservation groups to stop the Red Mountain Flume/Chessman Reservoir timber project.

Judge Dana Christensen in Missoula issued the ruling on Wednesday denying the Native Ecosystems Council and Montana Ecosystem Defense Council's preliminary injunction. The councils sued the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture over the decision to log 300 acres and build fuel breaks on 158 acres near Chessman Reservoir and the Red Mountain Flume south of Helena.

The lawsuit claims that the project will impact wildlife, including endangered species, that the chance of wildfire in a specific location is low and that the agencies failed to analyze the cumulative impacts from other logging in the area.

In the denial, Christensen said the councils are unlikely to succeed on the merits of their case.

"This is a case where the public interest factor is front and center," Christensen wrote. He continued "Plaintiffs fail to demonstrate that any such species will be measurably harmed by project activities. On the other hand, the threat of wildfire, a constant element of Montana life, is real."

Federal, state and Helena city officials have said the project is necessary to protect the water supply from Ten Mile Creek, which services 30,000 residents of Helena.

Police report cars rifled

Helena police are investigating a number of complaints about unauthorized people entering cars. Three complaints all reported that some time Wednesday morning, someone had entered their vehicle. In one case, some loose change was taken. Nothing was missing in the other two cars, but the contents had been disturbed.

Lt Tory Keltner of the Helena Police says there was a common denominators in the cases:

The cars were all unlocked.

The reports were from 513 State Street, 401 S Davis and 21 S Alta.

Historical Society expansion project receives grant

 The Montana Historical Society has received a $600 thousand dollar grant for the expansion of the Society and Museum. The Greater Montana Foundation  was  founded by legendary Montana broadcaster Ed Craney, and it is giving the money for the Montana Heritage Center, the expansion planned near the State Capital.
Montana Historical Society Director Bruce Whittenberg says the donation will help put more of the collections of the Society out in the open. "Right now the museum is able to exhibit about 8% of what's in the collection. 
Whittenberg says that the State Legislature  will need to approve funding. Governor Steve Bullock already supports the expansion project.

County allows open burning

After consulting with the fire Cordinator, fire behavior analyst and other stakeholders. Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton says he is opening up the debris burning for Lewis and Clark County. The Sheriff adds " We do caution you to use good judgment as a wild fire can still start. Please check the weather, and have fire fighting material close at hand. If your fire escapes, you are responsible for the suppression cost."

Dutton continues,  "We have received enough moisture to put the fire danger at a lower level, making it safe to burn. If fire dangers rises, we will again reevaluate the fire danger.

Clancy man denies charges in fatal crash

     BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - A 22-year-old Clancy man has pleaded not guilty to felony vehicular homicide for a fatal crash on Interstate 15 near Montana City.
     Cal Erickson Mullen appeared in District Court in Boulder Wednesday, where he also denied a felony and two misdemeanor counts of negligent vehicular assault.
     Prosecutors allege Mullen had a blood-alcohol level of 0.265 early on June 14 when he crashed his pickup truck. Court records say he left the truck on the highway and didn't warn oncoming vehicles or report the accident.
     A vehicle driven by 42-year-old Jason West struck the wrecked pickup. The collision killed 38-year-old Wyman Hewitt and caused severe injuries to 36-year-old Anne Boster, both passengers in West's vehicle.
     West also faces three counts of criminal endangerment after investigators determined he could have avoided the crash.

 Missing Lame Deer girl found safe

     HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A 14-year-old Lame Deer girl who was the subject of an Amber Alert on Wednesday, has been recovered and is safe.
     Northern Cheyenne law enforcement asked the state Department of Justice to cancel the alert at 3 a.m. Thursday.
     Officials were searching for Mariah Eileen Akeen, believing she had been kidnapped.
     State officials said Akeen was in the passenger seat of a pickup truck without license plates that was stopped at 2 a.m. Wednesday. Officers were arresting the driver when another passenger, 19-year-old Zachary Whiteman, jumped into the driver's seat and left with Akeen still inside.
     Tribal law enforcement didn't release any information about where Akeen was found.


Montana News and Sports


Mountain lion cubs rescued in Montana fire

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Firefighters in western Montana rescued two mountain lion cubs hiding under a burning log.

Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Tod McKay told the Missoulian that a crew fighting a blaze in the Sapphire Mountains was digging a fire line Friday when they heard noises coming from under the log.

The fire prevented the crew from reaching the log, so they called in a helicopter that dropped 600 gallons of water.

McKay says the soaked cubs came out when the flames were extinguished. He estimated they were just a few weeks old.

McKay says Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks took custody of the cubs. Crews did not see any other mountain lions in the area of the 48-acre fire they are battling about 9 miles east of Florence.


Convicted horse breeder begins sentence

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings horse breeder has begun a 120-day animal-cruelty conviction sentence after the Montana Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito says 72-year-old James Leachman turned himself in at the county's detention center Friday.

Leachman operated a horse breeding business before the U.S. Farm Services Administration foreclosed on the property in 2010. Leachman still kept more than 400 horses on the property after it was sold.

Investigators discovered five horses, some malnourished, with tight plastic bands that had caused severe leg injuries. Two died and two were euthanized.

The Billings Gazette reports Leachman was sentenced to five years in jail with all but 120 days suspended.

Leachman has asked a judge to allow him to serve his sentence at his home for health and other reasons.


Montana students to be tested on Common Core

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana students for the first time will take a test linked to the Common Core standards this school year.

Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Denise Juneau says education officials conducted field tests using the exam, called the Smarter Balanced Assessment, last spring.

Juneau says some schools are behind in curriculum development, teacher training and acquiring textbooks or other equipment to teach to the new standards. But, she says, the state is well situated to implement the standards.

The 2013 Legislature rejected proposals to allocate money for training and equipment.

State Sen. Roger Webb has requested that legislation be drafted for the 2015 session that would bar any funding for the standards.

Common Core standards emphasize critical thinking and state the reading and math skills students should grasp at grade levels.


Pickup truck driver dies in collision with train

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a 78-year-old Huntley man died when the pickup truck he was driving collided with a train.

The Montana Highway Patrol says the man was driving near Hysham Friday morning when he was distracted by another vehicle.

The Billings Gazette reports the driver froze and stopped his truck on the tracks when he saw the train approaching.

The train was unable to stop.

The highway patrol says the crash is under investigation.


Attorney general asked to intervene in access case

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — An advocacy group is asking Montana's attorney general to intervene after Madison County leaders took no action to improve access to the Ruby River following a state Supreme Court decision.

The Public Land/Water Access Association won its case against landowner James Cox Kennedy in January after 10 years of litigation over blocked access to the river.

The Supreme Court ruled the public could use easements the county needs to maintain and repair the road and bridge to reach the river, leaving it to the county to decide what is "reasonably necessary and convenient."

But the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports county leaders say they need little or no room on either side of Seyler Lane for maintenance. Without that additional room, fishermen can't access the river without trespassing on Kennedy's property.


WorldMontana to move headquarters to Helena

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A nonprofit organization that promotes international exchanges and foreign leaders' visits to Montana is moving its headquarters from Bozeman to Helena.

The Independent Record reports WorldMontana announced recently it will relocate from Montana State University to Carroll College.

Carroll President Tom Evans says most foreign delegations visiting Montana travel to Helena to meet with government officials, so it makes sense for WorldMontana to be based in the capital city.

The headquarters will be housed in Carroll's new Artaza Center for Excellence in Global Education.

WorldMontana was founded in 1987. Its website says it participates in the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program and hosts about 150 international leaders per year.


Elk rut begins in Yellowstone National Park

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Visitors are being asked to be cautious as the elk rut begins in Yellowstone National Park.

Park spokesman Al Nash says bull elk are much more aggressive toward people and vehicles this time of year, and visitors should keep a safe distance from the animals and look around corners before exiting buildings or walking around blind spots.

Several vehicles are damaged by elk every year, and people are occasionally charged and injured.

Nash says park staff and volunteers are patrolling areas like Mammoth Hot Springs when elk are present. Visitors should stay at least 25 yards away from most large animals in the park and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves.


Yellowstone officials: Worker died by suicide

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Officials investigating the death of a Yellowstone National Park employee say the woman died by suicide.

Park officials say the body of the 21-year-old woman from Twin Bridges, Montana, was found Tuesday. She was a park concession employee who had missed shifts at work and failed to meet a family member on Monday afternoon.

Her body was found in the Old Faithful Lodge area.

Yellowstone officials released a statement Friday saying an autopsy determined the cause of death was suicide.


Billings man convicted of fracturing child's skull

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A jury has convicted a 24-year-old Billings man of aggravated assault for fracturing the skull of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.

Stephen Edward Santillan faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.

The Billings Gazette reports it took a jury more than three hours Thursday night to find Santillan guilty.

Santillan was babysitting the girl and his son in July 2013 when the girl was injured. Santillan initially claimed she was injured when his 22-month-old son hit her in the head with a toy car.

He testified Thursday that he does not know how she was injured.

The injury caused bleeding on her brain and the child had other signs of abuse, including bruises, a blister and a bite mark.


Flooding hits Hi-Line, may affect crops

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Flooding has damaged bridges and blocked and washed out roads along Montana's Hi-Line.

The Billings Gazette reports storms dropped 4 to 8 inches of rain from Glasgow to Malta between Aug. 21 and Aug. 25.

Rivers spilled over their banks, onto roads and into basements.

National Weather Service meteorologist Tanja Fransen says the situation is gradually improving, though some areas are still under water.

She says the Milk River at Nashua was flowing at five times the previous record for this time of year.

Fransen says the biggest impact could be on crops. Up to 90 percent of Montana's wheat crop had not been harvested before the storms and flooding.

Officials say no homes were lost and no injuries reported.

Jay Scott wins two state awards

WHITEFISH (Montana Broadcasters Association) -- For the ninth year in a row, KBLL Radio's Jay Scott has won several awards from the Montana Broadcasters Association.
Jay finished second for three of the "EB's," the E.B Craney awards: one as Sportscaster of the Year, one for Sports Enterprise of the Year. 
The Enterprise award recognizes contributions both in radio play-by-play and other areas.
Jay has been either first or second for the Newscaster of the Year award for the past 8 years as well, but could not enter this year's contest because of a schedule conflict.
The “EB Awards” are named in memory of Montana broadcast pioneer Ed Craney. The “EB's” recognize excellence in local news, production, promotion and public service. The awards will be presented during the Montana Broadcasters Association convention on Saturday, June 21st in Whitefish.